Do you have an amazing writer in your life? Are you looking for that special gift that honors their work and shows your unwavering support? Has your house been taken over by notebooks, colored pens, and the like? Fear not! I’ve got suggestions that will earn you serious points with the novelist you love!Read More
We didn't solve all the problems of our worlds. We didn't even solve all the problems in our book. But we took a break from everything that drains our creativity energy and took a chance to refuel.Read More
Today is the first Friday of this school year. It's the day teachers release a collective sigh and head home in a near delirium state of exhaustion. We've made it through the first week. The routines will settle in on Monday and we've only got 35 more weeks to go.
For me, the first Friday of last year was my last day of "normal".
I remember the sound of the dismal bell for last period and calling to my students to, "have a great weekend!"
I remember leaving piles of paper on my desk but still shoving some in my bag to take home.
I remember still feeling slightly sticky from the weak AC in my room and the first pep rally of football season as I locked the classroom door behind me and exited the building.
Having no idea I'd never walk back in that room as a teacher again.
I don't remember if I cooked dinner that night or if my husband and I left the kids with my mom and ate out.
I can barely remember driving to Oklahoma the next day for a birthday party and driving home Sunday afternoon.
What I do remember about Sunday is before I sat down to go through those papers or gather my lesson plans for the week, before I cooked dinner for my kids or really even had a conversation with my husband, I went into my mom's room.
I guess not everyone can pinpoint the minute their life changed. For most people, it's probably a gradual shift that sneaks up on you like those extra pounds on your hips or needing reading glasses after 40. I know the exact moment my life changed.
August 30, 2015 4:30pm.
Mom and I were sitting on her bed, talking about the birthday party. That's when her head dropped to her chest as if she'd fallen asleep. That's the moment that triggered 36 hours of her being incoherent, a 13 day hospital stay, a devastating diagnosis delivered by a teary-eyed surgeon, folding his mask over and over in his hand and a decision.
I would leave teaching for 12 weeks.
But 12 weeks wasn't enough. So, I resigned. I packed up the personal things from my classroom, leaving any materials I thought my replacement could use until I could collect them at the end of the year.
I became a full-time caregiver until March 10th when I became Executrix of the estate.
I didn't return to teaching this year. I wasn't ready. I have too much reassembling of my life that needs to happen first.
I thought it would hit me on the first day when my daughters headed out to their new classes and my husband left for work. I thought that's when I'd miss it. I didn't.
Not until today.
I don't miss teaching, yet. I've missed my students and my co-workers but not teaching itself. I'm sure that will come.
What I miss today is the me who walked out of those high school doors on the first Friday last year.
The one who didn't know what was coming. Didn't know to be worried and didn't know everything in her world was about to change.
I love spring! Texas is amazing this time of year because the weather is absolutely gorgeous (until it's not-see below) and every thing feels fresh and new. For me, spring means hope. When I was teaching, spring break was the tiny glimmer of light at the end of the torturous tunnel that is January to March. Spring meant I'd made it. The dreariness of winter and the dredge-like monotony of those school days vanished.
The sun is out. The air is warm. We're going to be okay.
This year, I'm investing in that hope more than ever. Fall and Winter were a blur of endless care-taking and the deep suffering of the soul that comes with watching someone you love in pain.
The pain is over. The sun is out. And, eventually, I'm going to be okay.
And then, there's this:
A reminder that, as my dad would say, "We ain't running nothing around here."
Spring in Texas is always punctuated by the unpredictability of the weather. In the afternoon, it's sunny, warm with just a hint of cold air in the breeze. Just enough to make you wonder if you should throw on a sweatshirt. Within a few short hours, you're standing in your kitchen listening to what might be hail or might be aliens launching an invasion through your skylight. Could really go either way. I could make another life metaphor here but it's way too obvious.
My husband and I have been going to this festival since we were dating. It only runs from Easter to Memorial Day but you want to go early in the season so you don't risk heat stroke. The first year we went, we sat down to watch one show and I was instantly sunburned from my thighs to my knees. Being the chivalrous type, Scott immediately took me to the first aid tent. The lady eyed my red hair and pale skin that borders on translucent then produced the biggest container of sunscreen I've ever seen in my life.
"Use as much as you need and come back whenever you can."
Now, we take our teenagers (and our own sunscreen). I always look forward to a day of hanging with my family as well as the people watching. It is an endless well of inspiration.
So, that's what spring means to me!
To find out more about the #ListifyLife Challenge, check out Roni Loren's Blog.
As most of you have heard, my mom passed away March 10, 2016. She'd been on dialysis for two years. In September, she was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure. She died from a heart attack at the dialysis center. There's no doubt in my mind she closed her eyes here and opened them to see my dad, smiling and welcoming her to heaven.
We had a celebration of her life Saturday, March 19th. It was very "mom". A boy I grew up with who is now a preacher officiated, he had first hand experiences with mom. Her best friend spoke about how she didn't know what to do now since Mom was the person she'd call to figure out what to do and I spoke. Here is what I said:
I want to thank everyone for coming. You are all here because you knew mom and loved her or because you love me and my family. I appreciate it either way. In case you are here to support me and you never really got to know mom.
There are two things I want you to know about her. The first one is: She hated people. She'd freely tell you that. Didn't like people at all. Which is why she did certain things, like make frequent donations to a church she didn't attend so they could pay someone's bills or arrange a hotel room for a fellow dialysis patient when she found out he was sleeping by a pond. It's why she spent hours shopping for the school-age parent program at the career center where I worked, buying baby clothes and other necessities for girls with children who were trying to finish their education.
Once the director of that program approached me and explained that one of their students had a son that was too old for any of the clothes in the donation closet. He needed a winter coat and tennis shoes. Could mom possibly help? Not only did she get the boy a coat and shoes (which she stressed out over because she hated that the boy wasn't getting to pick out his own shoes.) When she found out all the teenage mother had was a light jacket, she bought her two coats because, as mom said, she deserved to be warm and to have a choice in what she wore. That's how much mom didn't like people.
She brought individual bouquets of flowers to the dialysis clinic and gave them to all the patients and the staff because it was a depressing place and people needed a reason to smile. Right after she became a hospice patient, a friend who works in a Pediatric ICU, causally mentioned they were running low on hairbows for the children because the nurses usually purchased them out of their own money. That put mom on a mission. She gathered hairbows, nail polish and other assorted items for weeks to donate to the hospital because, as I said, she hated people.
Mom's one condition for all of this was anonymity. The man who got a hot shower and a warm bed to sleep in had no idea who paid for the hotel room. The friend who worked at the hospital offered to attach little "Donated by" tags to the hairbows. Mom rolled her eyes and said, "Absolutely not."
She didn't do it for recognition. She did it because it was something she could do. If there was a need that she had the ability to fill, that's what she did. As far as she was concerned, it was nobody's business where the help came from.
The other thing I want you to know is she didn't wait to live. From being a bartender to repossessing cars to traveling all over several states as a consultant, she always had great stories of things that could only happen to her. Some of you here are familiar with the "Universe of Connie". After her illness slowed her down, she'd say. "I'm really glad I was wild when I was younger because if I'd waited until my golden years to have some fun, I'd be really mad." Well, mom used a different word than mad…but, you get the idea.
When the doctors told us that there was nothing else to be done, she looked at me and said, "Let's go home and make some memories." Which is what we did. We went shopping, we visited friends, we watched a lot of Judge Judy and QVC. We laughed. We told stories and made the best of the horrible situation we were facing.
As most of you know, mom didn't want a service. She kept saying she didn't think anyone would come. But, she's not here and we are. Sooo, sorry about that, mom. Since mom got sick, and especially in the week now since she's been gone, everyone has been asking me what they can do? How can they help? Here is my answer: Go fill a need. Go make a memory. Go love someone as fiercely as mom loved those close to her. Love them to the moon and back.