Save this momentĀ 

this is a perfect moment in time. 

Windows open, slightly cool fall morning spilling into stuffy rooms, sliding along rays of light. Harmonious good-mornings and cooking breakfast together, something high-fat and filling to begin another weekend. Took the trash out and on the way in, admired the garden, seeing for once mostly possibilities amid the magnificent mess of tomato plants that are sprawling, cascading, out of beds because they were never staked up, and tall grass crowding among rose bushes and basil plants. Usually I only see all the work I should have done this summer. But even with so little of my effort, the garden bore fruit. Chew on that a bit, amor. 

Is it awkward writing here abruptly after such a long hiatus? Maybe so. But this moment will slip by quickly and writing is the only way I know to save it, make it last a little longer. 

for mom

We will all shout for joy when you are victorious

we will lift up our banners in the name of our God

There must be some things

that the heart understands

when the mind does not

well of course we know that

I think that is why I cried when I saw you

over the phone tonight

and all the

(is memorabilia the right word?)

the precious things

the mile posts

the rewards

the symbols of struggle

the art produced through it all

it may be you would never have produced such

ART

had it not been for the darkness

sorrow

tears

wailing

pain

which seems horrid

and some people would look at that and ask…

does God really exist then?

surely God would not allow suffering like thisĀ 

but you have looked at it

boldly

or sometimes shaking

between fingers-covering-eyes

but looked at it all the same

all the time

every time

and asked instead

where’s Jesus in this story?

because you know

Jesus is always right there

in the story

with us

with us.

and that’s what I’m learning

from your story

to look for Jesus

every where

when

how

and even though I don’t know many details

that’s why my heart cries

when I see the

ART

which is, to borrow dad’s word,

glorious

in the truest sense of that word.

Glorious because it points my heart

straight back to

the real Glory

because

seriously people

have you seen what God can do?

So

well-deserved congratulations

on anniversaries

on victories

and on beginnings

and may God grant you

many

many

many

years

to tell this story of His victory

your victory

and even a little bit our victory.

(and now I think there’s a favorite song your granddaughter would like to sing for you…)

When I’m not who I thought I was…

write this down:

what you thought was normal was actually your ideal

your real self is not your ideal self

do you know how I know this?

I notice now and I’ve noticed before

I’m always sorry for being late

and I’m late a lot

maybe 70% of the time? Hard to calculate

but still, it’s a lot.

Which is strange considering what I believe about lateness

that it show disrespect

lack of care or concern for another’s time

lack of organization

all things I value

deeply.

yet

I’m late a lot

and it isn’t because I don’t care about your time

or I don’t respect you

or anything like that

and if you’re late, I won’t hold it against you

at least not very much

or very long.

Also, I am messy.

I mean, I’m capable of great organization

and I love organization

almost as much as I love…

well it’s hard to compare

but I really love it.

and I think maybe I love it a little bit

because it looks like control

i expect that when all your papers are filed properly

you must be super on top of things

i assume that at some point

in the not-too-far-off future

I’ll have it figured out too and then

of course

my desk will be tidy

all. the. time.

And also, good people have tidy homes

which is why I respect her so much because

she never lets the dishes overtake the kitchen

like I do.

All of this really makes me wonder

Who the hell I am?

And what kind of person am I, anyway?

And I’m not upset about all these revelations

because we all know by now

that if anything is really good, it’s this sort of

frank truth-telling

even if that means kind of

standing in front of the mirror naked for a second

and realizing you weren’t ever really

who you thought you were anyway

and that’s pretty much okay.

So

there it is.

not terribly tidy

not terribly punctual

what I thought was normal might actually be ideal.

Goodness,

what other revelations could next week hold?

“Careful the things you say…”

Careful the things you say,
Children will listen.
Careful the things you do,
Children will see.
And learn.

Children may not obey,
Buit children will listen.
Children will look to you
For which way to turn,
To learn what to be.

Careful before you say,
“Listen to me.”
Children will listen.

(Stephen Sondheim, from Into the Woods)

“We need a new game plan,” I told him. I love this child. I get so frustrated with this child. I feel manipulated by this child. At the 11th hour, he is staying after school to finish work, finally, asking for help, finally. Its too late, I think. He is downcast, anxious. I can only imagine what his parents have threatened if he gets bad grades. Not to be all “judgy” or anything, but they need a new game plan too. It is clear to me that keeping this precocious and highly energetic child inside – “grounding” – is not producing the desired results.

“I had a group of girls in my 6th grade class one year,” a colleague tells me, “and my primary goal for them was that they would make it to high school without becoming mothers.”

I am relieved and terrified when I realize that I too have such low and heart-rending goals for my students. I just want you to make it, I think. And I tell some of them, “This is a game, like football, like soccer. It doesn’t come easy for you, but I know you’re good at playing other games. Learn this one. Play by the rules, win, graduate, then do whatever you want.”

This is why some of the academic goal-setting and evaluating seems so empty to me. I don’t actually care how many of my 6th graders get into college. There are a few that I would actively discourage from pursuing college if they were at that point with this set of skills and gifts. Amidst the endless meetings to plan, reflect, evaluate, comply, no one is able to give me a template or plan or common core standard for helping these children flower into honest, hardworking, kind, confident people.

Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics shatter my anger and tear at my heart. Every day, every day, I say what feels like a thousand times, “Listen to me!” I whisper it, shout it, laugh it, speak it, sing it, glare it. I assume that half the time, they don’t. But what if I’m wrong?

I don’t expect to teach forever. But there are a lot of children in my life, regardless.

I just can’t get this out of my head, this refrain that keeps circling back around.

Careful the things you say
Children will listen…

2015: Without complaining

2015: Without complaining

I know it’s been a long time. That’s the strange thing about a blog: even if I use it as a glorified journal, I still feel indebted to my few readers and mildly guilty when I fail to write for long periods of time. So. Sorry! And hello again.

Sitting in a professional development meeting yesterday, the idea was sudden and stuck. I’m always a bit late to the reflective train, it seems. Others are so meticulous in their reflection with thoughtful end-of-the-year lists and turns of phrase. I must be too busy too often because when I received all those posts to my email this year, I was in a frenzy of moving and travel and trying not to yell at my students every 10 minutes. Oddly enough, last year was similarly frenzied although the circumstances were different.

That sudden idea was this: Perhaps this could be a year of no complaining.

Of course, I’m aware that I will fail at this resolution as often as I succeed, but I sense the effort could be worthwhile. I think I’ll also take on Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare and count 1,000 gifts. Seriously, why not?

Some micro cultures breed that habit of complaining. Teacher culture seems to be that way in my extremely limited experience. The teachers I work with on a daily basis seem to feel unappreciated by students, principal, parents, society. There is always much weight to groan under: another form to fill out, another confusing way to try and track teacher effectiveness, another test to prepare students for, students who don’t care, parents who don’t understand, legislators who are too far removed from the grind of education to form accurate policy. I am barely darkening the door of this profession, but I sense none of this is new. Better for me to choose rose-colored glasses from the get-go.

Choose to embrace reality and all it’s nitty-gritty beauty. Choose to welcome the bright and the shadow.

So there it is: a resolution for the year I’ll turn 30, 2015. A year without complaining. A year of daring to gather 1,000 joys, 1,000 gifts.

october freewrite (hey there, it’s been a while)

At some point, you just have to start writing again. And it’s helpful to stop worrying about what you can’t do and ask what in fact you can do. And that applies to everything. Everything.

So hello there, little corner of the interwebs where I have written in the past. Yes, it has been a while. It’s hard to explain, but I think the new job is mainly to blame for the long hiatus. Yep, new job. And not just any job, but a job I felt barely qualified for and yet was hired for anyway. A job with the learning-curve-of-a-lifetime, another job where I’ll always work too many hours and make too little, but hey! I actually like it. It feels like a tremendously perfect fit for my self – skills, talents, all that jazz. And that is amazing.

I’ve been teaching 6th grade since August 19th. Twenty-one adorable infuriating 6th graders are my life companions for 30 hours a week. It’s delightful. Invigorating. Maddening.

And so on a night when I could be using this extra-long weekend to fit some extra planning in, I’m surfing the web and deciding to head back this way after quite a while.

I’m supposed to teach them how to write. But that’s difficult to do, isn’t it? And what do I really know about writing? We’re using this lovely curriculum by Lucy Calkins and in her teaching script, she insists on calling the students writers. She tells them, When writers like you do this-and-such, they often use this technique. In other words, I am channeling this epic writing instructor and speaking these confident words over children and myself – hey, y’all are writers! So do what writers do!

***

So we’re living in this weird slice of in-between life. We were both looking for jobs, then I got one out of the blue. He started school and is learning Latin names for plants and basic genetics. I’m relearning basic pre-algebra and the science of light and sometimes getting a little ahead, but mostly scraping together lesson plans as I go. We’re looking at houses, ready to buy if we find the right one. This is both scary and exciting. And we’re getting ready to move out of this house…but it’s unclear to where at the moment. There are a couple options. I’m commuting an hour and a half round-trip each day and listening to Spanish-language podcasts to practice my language skills.

We’re living together again in the same country, same house even, and it feels totally normal, except for sometimes when I realize I actually still don’t really know how to do this marriage thing well. Go figure. One friend is moving to Finland and invited me to come visit, another family member is moving to SLC, maybe to live with us. The holidays are coming right around the corner again and, yet again, I am caught unprepared, scrambling to weigh and decide on travel plans and gift ideas at the very last minute. My circle of friends and acquaintances is producing precious new humans at an unprecedented rate (at least in my experience), which is thrilling and heart-flooding and distracting. There are so many choices to be made each day and I hardly pause to wonder if I’ve made the right ones. There just is so little time.

***

And that’s where I am tonight. Maybe this will start a new season of a bit more writing here…

(96) belong {five minute friday}

This word – belong – it feels appropriate, meaningful, after weeks of being in and out of the homes of family and extended family and strangers-who-are-actually-family and friends. We’ve driven miles upon miles of late, through a handful of massive western states, and hashed and rehashed conversations, trying again and again to be the ministers of reconciliation that we’re called to be. Well, that doesn’t quite sound right. But that line from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians has come to mind at least a time or two for me – isn’t that what it’s all about, the ministry of reconciliation? Ultimately reconciliation to God, but these past few weeks have been filled with many opportunities, some grabbed onto and others lost, for reconciliation between people.

What does it really mean to be part of a family? I’ve wondered this as well. I’ve married into this family I’ve been visiting and I’m still an outsider in many ways. Going through the photo albums means weeding out handfuls of pictures that don’t belong anymore because that person isn’t part of the family any more. (Divorce seems like such a terrible thing.) I’m a recent addition – just 3 years – and in some ways, I feel the shortness of that period of belonging. I hear the reminiscing, the stories, the nostalgia, the anger, the hurt, the bitterness, the resentment, the longing, and I know I have barely scratched the surface of this family’s collective story. But I want to belong and so I listen closely, I balance in the awkward tipping point between my comfort zone and their modus operandi. Going forward, I am part of the writing of this family story. I belong in it, even if I don’t quite all the time feel that I belong yet.

***

(After about a bajillion years of blog silence, okay, just a month, I’m breaking the ice with a post in response to the writing prompt courtesy of Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday writing challenge – 5-minute free write, free of editing and self-critique. Check out her blog at lisajobaker.com).