30 days of thankfulness…

Last year at this time, I wrote all about my past teaching experiences, but I didn’t tell all the stories.  I think sometimes people go about their day-to-day lives and they don’t realize how hard it is for “others” to acclimate.  Let me explain “others”.  Others are the people who have seen more.  War veterans, drug users come clean, homeless, recovering alcoholics, people from poverty, cancer survivors, empaths, police detectives, people who live with invisible diseases, counselors, teachers and many, many more.  “Others” try to blend in, but it’s really hard sometimes.  They carry around the knowledge that there are bad things out there…bad things that perhaps normal people don’t notice.

So for my 30 days of Thankfulness on my, ahem, slightly larger Facebook Fan page,  I have paired with people from all walks of life.  Yes, all of the above types of people and I dearly LOVE them all.  They have the biggest hearts of anyone I know and they also hurt the most when things don’t quite go as expected.  The funny thing about the inspirational page owners is that we are people too, and sometimes, real life tries to kick us when we are down, but because we know, just know, others are counting on us to get up again, we do.

So I made a post and kicked off my 30 days yesterday, and the one word I used was “Life” because I am very thankful for it even though it does not always go as planned.  I am also thankful for my readers here because you guys have been with me for a while.  You know more than my FB fans do, because to them, it’s just pretty quotes.  But to me, and you, we know there are always stories behind every quote.  Always LIFE behind every quote I make.  So here’s to the life behind the quotes.

Thankful

Tune in Thursday all month long for Thankful Thursday here on the blog.

 

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The ghetto…

I’m a 5’2 white girl.  What do I know about the “ghetto” you might be thinking.  It’s cool.  We’re all good.  You can think that way.  By definition, the “ghetto” is a part of the city in which members of a particular race or group live, usually in poor conditions.  Weird fact, the word was first used around 1611.  From Venetian dialect, where the Italians made Jews live on a ghèto island.  Outcasts.  Now, let’s get back to “modern-day.”

Police tape.  Dark shadows in alleys where you do NOT want to go.  Trash littering the ground.  People hanging out on the corners in broad daylight…shaking hands while passing things off.  Run-down buildings and tenements that need to be condemned, but folks call that home.  Crack houses.  Shots fired.  Police on the scene.  Made the news for another murder, but folks around these parts just think it’s another day.

My first job as a teacher was here.  That’s right.  Because I “survived” student-teaching in the east-end, I was offered a job there.  I accepted.  The above was what I passed on my first day student-teaching.  No lie.  Police tape on the ground.  I still went back.

The first year I was a teacher, I was so full of hope and excitement.  I was going to change the world.  I just knew it.  I will never forget that year, or the next, or the one after that.  I was the one who was changed.  Not the world.

I was the new “white” teacher.  I didn’t think it mattered what color I was.  Apparently, I was wrong.  I made some great friends with the other teachers, but I truly was different.  I was white, married to a white man.  Couldn’t get any whiter.  I was a newlywed, with no children of my own.  My principal was a short, stout, black woman who had a smile I was drawn too when I interviewed for the job.  She hugged me on my first open house and could tell I was ready.  I looked like every typical teacher vision you could imagine.  I had on ahem, a dress with teachery things all over it.  I remember that night.  I only met about 6 parents.  I had 15 on roll because it was a Title 1 school.

To tell this correctly, you would have to know that most phone numbers didn’t work.  I still had not met some parents by January.  The guidance counselor became my friend and we talked about home visits.  I became a mentor to a child from another room, and the other “white” teacher and I signed up to take the boys we were mentoring on a school sponsored bowling event.  At night.  You see, I didn’t think that the time of day mattered.  All I knew was we were taking the kids somewhere they probably never went.  We had pizza and sodas. And my little boy had a great time.  We took him home first, it was getting pretty dark.  I walked him up to the door, and knocked and someone let him in.  They waved at me, but didn’t say anything.

I got back into my new white SUV.  It was my dream car, by the way.  It had just come out.  It was an Xterra.  Up until that point, I had always had small cars.  So my friend and I went to take the next child home.  She knew where he lived, but for some reason she said she wasn’t sure anyone was going to be home.  It was a pretty scary drive down a back alley to this place.  She jumped out and went up to the door.  I was looking around…with the child in the back.  Next thing I know some young men come up to my car.  I only had two seconds to ponder what they wanted.  He knocked on my window and flashed me the…peace sign.  I rolled the window down a bit.  He said “Peace, I like your car.”  I’ll never forget it.  I said thanks and my friend jumped back in the vehicle.  No one was home so we had to try a babysitters.

We were driving down small roads, and we went to a group of  tenements that had lights on.  My friend got out and went up to the door of this place.   She knocked and someone yelled and the door flew open.  I couldn’t really make out what was going on, but she came back and got him.  When she got back in the car, she said, um, I have to leave him there because his brother is there, and that’s where his mom will look, but after the cloud of smoke rolled out, I could see a bong on the table before they pulled the door to.  I asked her if she was crazy to leave him there, and she said that’s what she was supposed to do.  There were no numbers that worked, and this was 16 years ago.

I’m not sure what kind of mentors we made, but eventually, the parents stopped thinking of me as that “white” teacher, and started thinking of me as their child’s teacher.  I was requested even.  I have 3 girls on my social media site who sent me FR after they graduated High School.  I kept in touch with one family all this time and check on those girls, and they know they better behave or I’ll have a talk with their momma.

There are so many stories like this that I could tell you.  But that will have to wait.  Do what you can.  It does matter.

Empty Pockets

Rules are to keep us safe…

So my daughter got into a bicycle accident at a friend’s house.  I was almost there.  Almost.  There.  I got a call from a number I didn’t know while standing on the porch of her friend’s house.  Now, be warned.  We have rules at our house.  What do you get when you have a military raised dad and a teacher mama?  You get a few rules.  Wear closed toe shows at all times when riding a bicycle.  Wear a helmet.  Simple enough.

What do you get when you go to a friend’s house with perhaps not the same kind of rules.  You get a phone call.  On the porch.  Then they said come in and your child is bloody.  Not cool.  I tried really hard to be cool.  But I was so not cool.  I was way beyond not cool.  I was furious.  Furious at this other momma for letting my child get hurt on her watch because my child rode her daughter’s bike without closed toe shoes and a helmet.  Furious at my child for forgetting our rules at another person’s house.  Furious at the blood.  Furious at the toenail that was no longer on her foot.  And furious I had to do this alone because my husband was in a class all day.

It was all perfectly rational in my head.  But at that moment, all I could do was be calm.  I could only say “What happened?”, and thank you. I’ve got it from here.  We never let her ride a bike without a helmet and closed toe shoes so I am taking her to urgent care.  Thank you.  I think I did a pretty good job of being cool.

She knew I was mad.  My daughter knew I was mad.  But mostly I was worried.  Upset and worried.  I could not let that show through because there was so much blood.  When it was all said and done, my daughter’s knees were torn up.  One so bad I could hardly look at it.  Her toes were all damaged on her right foot and she was missing a toenail.  I hope you can read this…sorry.  But you have to know.  Please, please, please understand that if anything happened to another person’s child at my house I would never forgive myself.  So I had to calm down.

The momma called me later and I said, it’s ok.  She knew better.  She did.  She was upset as well, so I felt better.  I also felt better knowing the momma was going to buy helmets for all 4 of her little children.  How did they not have them already?  I have no idea.  So I extended grace because I needed to come at this from a place of mutual understanding.  She did not want my child to get hurt.  I know this.  I know how I would feel; however, she did need to remember that wearing a helmet is a law for a reason.  So maybe I saved her children’s lives.  I don’t know.  All I know is I had to be calm.  Look at my hurt child.  And tell her it’s going to be okay.  She’s going to have one heck of a scar on her knee, but we all have scars.  They help us remember. 

Scar

Words of a poet…

On the Facebook fan page today, I salute the writer Maya Angelou.  There are so many beautiful quotes from her, that I really would have a hard time choosing just one; however, the one I decided to make was something many people struggle with.

Keep your head held high and do your thing.  You know the truth of a situation in your heart, and that is all that matters.  If you truly keep replaying the events, write them down on paper, and burn them.  YES.  BURN them.  I DO know how hard this is, trust me, but I often counsel many friends about things beyond their control.  The number one thing is to be able to move forward and to remember some people come into your life to teach you things.  It might be a lesson you were not ready to learn, but now that you have learned it, let go and keep going.  Rest in peace Dr. Angelou.  You taught us many things.

 

Motivational Monday…

I’m going to take you back a few years today.  Okay, maybe more than a few, but according to the bartender the other night, I don’t look my age, and it was a GIRL so don’t give me a hard time:)  Where was I?  Oh, going to Spain.

So when I was just 16 years old, an opportunity came about that was something I could not pass up.  A trip to Spain.  Now, before we get there, you need the whole story.  In high school, you make friends, and you make enemies.  There really didn’t seem to be an in-between.  There were cliques of all kinds.  I seemed to be in some sort of middle one.  I wasn’t actually sure where I fit in.  I did NOT go out of my way to fit in mind you.  I just simply was there.

When I got to go to Spain, I knew that it was going to be life changing even at that young age.  I was a ballerina turned soccer player and I was in the middle of my first type of almost relationship.  I wasn’t even sure what that was at the time…except for the fact that my momma warned me not to get hung up on “one guy”.  Ha.  I’ll show him, I’ll go to Spain.  Take that.  Maybe you will value me half-way across the world.

The girls who went on the trip were friends in a “What’s up” kind of head nod way.  There was a goth girl, and a girl who was Cuban and I roomed with them.  I thought they were fascinating.  We were all from different kinds of “cliques”.  I loved it.  I really did.  I loved putting myself in odd situations or places where I don’t know a soul.

Anyway, the trip itself was so full of magic that I wish I could close my eyes and remember all of it.  The sights, sounds, and tastes of another culture.  The AGE.  Why did we not all see how young and fresh we were?  The language.  I was almost fluent at the time.  Bah.  I have lost too much.

My favorite place was Palma de Mallorca.  Oh it was exquisite.  We stayed in a hotel that was near the beach and everyday we would go to this little restaurant.  It became my favorite place to go.  There was a blonde haired blue-eyed Spanish boy working there and we could get the best pitcher of sangria I have ever tasted.  He and I made eye contact quite a bit.  Ah, teenagers.  We visited Madrid, Barcelona, Toledo and Mallorca…what a whirlwind!

Anyway, the last night we were in Spain the girls all bonded quite a bit.  We went to one room, ALL of us, and there were quite a few of us, I don’t remember how many, without our chaperones, but the “apartness” of teens vanished.  We realized we were just American girls having the time of our lives away from home.  It was an experience I will not forget and it was brought up by a letter sent to my daughter.  She will only be in 8th grade next year, but she got the letter about a trip to Spain.  Ahhhh.  The memories.

We even created a secret list on this trip and all signed it.  And perhaps I brought back some alcohol that was totally allowed in my suitcase at the time.  I can’t recall.  Hugs to my girls from this trip…and I wish I still had my tiny sombrero:)

Travel

 

Extending grace…

I think this is the perfect follow-up to the last piece on shame.  I have friends I have not met and sometimes they are looking for a particular quote for their fans.  Often times I have read just the right thing so I will do a blog piece on it for them.  Today, I want to talk about extending grace to people in your life.  This one is very difficult, but it should not be.  I was raised to do my best.  To give love without attaching strings.  To try my hardest and if it was good enough, but earned me a “D” on a math test, well that was fine.  I was never really good at math and I tried so hard, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t keep all those numbers in my head.  They had a way of just not working out.  But reading, oh reading.  I could read for hours.

I was not made to feel guilt, or shame when I was clearly already upset enough over the grades.  I don’t remember ever being chastised for not getting it.  However, if I wasn’t listening, well that would have been another thing entirely.  I did my work, as best I could, and finally, by the time I got to college, I got math.  I know that seems a long time, but when I graduated from a 2 year college summa cum laude, my parents were thrilled.  I then went on to my next college, and continued to make all A’s and B’s.

The thing is, if my parents hadn’t extended me some grace while growing up, maybe I would have given up.  I struggled with that side of my brain because it wasn’t wired that way…even though I read well beyond my grade level my whole life.  It was truly torture to sit down and do math homework.  Unfortunately, my little one is the same way.

She has a bazillion and one things that are more interesting than any math problem.  The only thing that is difficult about her situation is that her older sister just gets it.  It clicks.  And of course, all the teachers remember having her sister before her.  However, one of her teachers was so honest about her personality and always took responsibility if my child did not get something.  It was quite funny.  She said things like “Maybe I didn’t set her up to do her best that day, I moved her near the window.”  It was refreshing to see a teacher get her, and not compare her to her sister at all.  So the next time you are dealing with your own child, or teaching one, think back on something that was hard for you to learn and remember to extend grace.  Try a new approach to something difficult and see if that works.grace

 

Narrow-mindedness…

nar·row-mind·ed (năr′ō-mīn′dĭd)

adj.  Lacking tolerance, breadth of view, or sympathy; petty.  Sometimes you find this word with intolerance – unwillingness to recognize and respect differences in opinions or beliefs.

When I was teaching, I could always tell which children were told that not everyone is alike, and therefore, you shouldn’t treat them the same.  I don’t know if parents mean to do this to their children, or if it just comes from years of being told the same thing.  Their parents did it to them, so therefore, it must be the way that children should be raised.  However, at some point, your inner voice starts telling you that maybe it’s okay to make friends with people who are not like you.  As a matter of fact, not only is it okay, but it is good for you.  You become a more well-rounded person and your view of the world starts to become smaller actually, as you realize that on the inside, we are all the same.

Teaching tolerance will always be something I value.  Like Daryl Davis.  If you are unfamiliar with this man, let me tell you a bit of his story.  Daryl is a black musician and in 1983, well after the Civil Rights Movement, he was playing in a all-white (informally of course) lounge.  A man approached him after his set, and said he liked his piano playing.  That started a relationship between the two…the black man and a member of the KKK.  This was one of the coolest stories I had heard in a long time.  I wish this story was made part of the curriculum in high schools all around the country.  You can read more about Daryl Davis: A Black Man Amidst the Klan or in this interesting piece here.

Of particular interest to me is how he was brought up:
I was raised overseas in integrated schools. I had had a racist experience already but I didn’t know people organized into groups whose premise was to be racist and exclude other people. It seemed unfathomable to me. My parents were in the Foreign Service and I was an American embassy brat, going to international schools overseas. My classes were filled with anyone who had an embassy: Japanese, German, French, Italian. It was multicultural but that term did not exist at that time. For me it was just the norm. Every time I would come back (to the US,) I would see people separated by race. When my father was telling me about (the KKK) at the age of 10 it didn’t make any sense to me. I had always gotten along with everyone.
With a diverse background, he came to the United States.  He had some pretty funny conversations with one of his friends in the Klan about the brainwashing prejudice causes.  When people are confronted with images of something they don’t understand, be it other religions, race, or ways of life, they react as if they are brainwashed.  This is another line I like from one of the articles I read above: When asked about the fear many people feel when confronted with images of KKK members, he says “It’s just material. You have to address what’s in the person’s head and in their heart.”
Indeed you do.  Shame on you for doing otherwise.
ignorance