What you see is what you get

I woke up this morning feeling frustrated, and I hate that, because when I wake up feeling that way, I know that what I’m going to see all day are the frustrations facing me.  Because let’s face it, if you’re looking for them, there are frustrations everywhere.

Like today is the first school day of daylight savings time.  That means getting out of bed when my body thinks it’s still 5:30. And kids are starting ISTEP today – what crazy person decides middle school kids should take a state mandated test on the first day of daylight savings?? And the kid I’m trying to mentor/parent back on track didn’t show up today, or check in with me about why he wasn’t showing up.  I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.

So anyway, I’m going on and on about my frustrations when I looked over my shoulder and one of my former students was there. Home on spring break, he stopped in to say hello.  And that’s all it took. My day turned around. Suddenly, I was seeing the successes of the day instead of the frustrations.  My papers are all graded. All of them! Every last one. Anyone who knows me knows what a big deal that is.  A few minutes later another former student showed up – with a Diet Coke and a thank you card.  And I remembered that Thursday is the one day all year I get to spend with my dad, just the two of us, watching basketball.  And it’s going to be almost 60 degrees today, so there’s that.

Everything really is a matter of perspective.  You can focus on the frustrations, or you can focus on the gifts.  I’m going to try to focus on the gifts.  Because, right now, that McDonald’s Diet Coke cup is for sure half-full!

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Mother’s Day: Growing My Garden

My Mother’s Day began today much like many others – my children served me a delicious breakfast in bed of fresh warm cinnamon rolls. Yum! I woke up slowly, sipping my Diet Pepsi and reading my e-mail. My husband asked me how I wanted to spend my day. I decided on gardening.  Now, gardening is not a typical Mother’s Day activity. In fact, it may be one of the chores that many mothers seek to avoid on the one day they are allowed to avoid chores each year.  In years past I certainly wouldn’t have chosen this particular activity.  This year though, I’ve been anxious to get the flower boxes filled and the tomato plants going. So, we headed out to the local home improvement store where I loaded down the back of the van with Martha Washington geraniums, petunias, tomatoes, peppers, and more.

Back at home, I reveled in the cool breezes, the damp earth, and the beauty of the new plants. I tenderly placed each one in its place, and filled in with the potting soil specifically formulated to help them grow. And as I planted, I couldn’t help but think about the women – the mothers – who had come before me. 

I thought about my own mother, who fed us home grown and canned green beans and corn for so much of my life that  I didn’t know it came in metal cans from the grocery store. I thought about my dad’s mom who had a big, beautiful garden but who most enjoyed the flowers that she planted everywhere in her yard. I thought about my mom’s mom, who didn’t have big gardens, but always managed to have a little plot of green onions or fresh tomatoes when I was little. And I thought about their mothers, and the mothers who came even before them. The ones who planted gardens in foreign soil. The ones who planted gardens on hillsides in Kentucky. The ones who counted on those gardens to feed their families through the long, harsh winters and who mourned when they didn’t.

Gardening on Mother’s Day was a joy to me. In a very real way I celebrated not just my own life as a mother, but I communed with the mothers and grandmothers of my past. After all, gardening is much like being a mother. We nurture, we tend, we feed and care for, but ultimately we sit back and watch as the lives we have cared for become lives of their own. I hope that today as I gardened I planted roots for the futures of my own children, and honored the roots of my mothers.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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A letter from the outside

I know, I know… I said this blog was going to be letters from the inside, what I’m thinking or feeling.  So what’s up with title?  Well, the title is what I’m thinking about – a letter from the outside that I’m waiting none-too-patiently for. 

Back in September a colleague approached me with a postcard – the first letter from the outside, really.  It was for a teacher creativity grant.  Honestly, I had never heard of such a thing.  We started talking, and at first my dreams were small.  I could take the genealogy trek I’d been dreaming of around Virginia.  We could take our children to visit Washington D.C.  And then we hit on my real dream, the destination that could truly spark my creativity – I could use the grant to travel to Italy! 

Suddenly, this hypothetical idea for a grant I had never even heard of became my obsession.  I wanted it so badly I couldn’t even write the application letter.  I kept trying, but failing miserably to convey the passion I felt for this potential opportunity.  Finally, with less than a week until the deadline and after many tears, I put down in print what I so desperately wanted, if only I could persuade the foundation to fund my idea.

More than two months later I continue to wait.  The mail comes and I shuffle through the piles of bills, hoping and praying for word that I have been accepted.  I know that there are no guarantees, but I hope.  And really, that hope is almost enough.  It sparks and inspires.  It brightens and lightens.  I dream.  And that dream is really the prize after all.

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A letter from the inside

It’s my first entry in my first blog.  I sit down and type furiously, willing the words onto the page.  Just as furiously, I click the backspace key to erase, start again, and repeat the process.  I wonder, does everyone who blogs start out this way?  I have so much I want to say, so much that goes unsaid every day.  I’m trying to remember the last time I sat down and really wrote anything and I think it must have been nearly thirteen years ago, when I was pregnant for the first time, had nothing but time and dreams, and thought it would be sweet to record the pregnancy in letters to my unknown child.  That’s when everything changed.

I remember being pregnant like it was yesterday.  Pregnant women get so much attention.  Strangers approached me in the grocery. Some wondered if I knew the gender of my bulging blessing (I didn’t).  Others shared advice, old wives tales, and (eek) their own birth stories.  The strangest ones couldn’t seem to keep their hands off my stomach.  It drove me crazy!

I should have learned then to cherish those moments of attention from friends, family, and strangers alike because it wasn’t until much later that I realized that was the last time I would ever be recognized as a person.  Let’s face it, if you go out in public with an adorable infant, no one has any idea what you are wearing, when you last combed your hair, or even if you are speaking English.  That’s a good thing, since, if you are out in public with an infant, you are probably wearing poop or spit-up, don’t remember the last time you combed your hair, and don’t know yourself if you are speaking English. 

To make matters worse, I am not only a mom.  I am also a teacher.  Have you seen the episode of Family Guy where the little kid stands next to his mom’s bed and the conversation goes something like this:

Stewie: Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Momma! Momma! Momma! Momma! Momma! Ma! Ma! Ma! Ma! Ma! Ma! Mom! Mom! Mom!”

Mom: “What?!”

Stewie: “Hi!”

That’s my life.  All day.  Every day.  Three kids at home.  About a hundred and fifty at work.  All day.  They may vary it.  The students don’t call me mom – very often.  I’m lucky, they call me by name.  Sometimes I’m not so lucky.

So, if you’re still reading, I suppose you are probably wondering why you’re still reading.  Is there a point here?  For me, the point is that I have something to say.  I’m not sure what yet, but I know that if I have the chance to work through it I’ll figure it out.  There’s still a person in here with thoughts and ideas and emotions.  I just have to get them out.  I guess that’s really the point.  I want to get past this fear of writing again and find my own identity.  I want to share my thoughts with someone.  I want to send a letter from the inside, from my heart, to you.

Love,

Melissa

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