Monday, December 23, 2013


Lessons abound, I'm grateful for these opportunities but also overwhelmed. Simplicity, please! 




It seems my swirling mound of straw needs to release before it will let me slip away to snore land. 

So it goes.

Today had peaks and valleys. The peaks were uplifting, but today was a day where no matter how elevated I was, what hit me hardest was how low the valleys were. Antagonist had a mic today and a mouthful of venom. She stabbed at all of my soft spots and sent me down a shame spiral. I have to be patient with myself and feel sympathy for the mean girl who dwells in my head. Clearly she needs a cookie and a hug. Not in that order.

Things out of my control are just that--out of my control. Not my problem. Not my fault. Not my place to dwell.

A new friend/teacher has recently entered my life, bringing light + wisdom + joy. Effervescent soul! 

This sparkling friend took a tumble and landed in the hospital. We aren't close enough for me to do anything. I can't send a card, I don't even know where I'd send it. I know where my energy went as soon as I heard the news. The gears in my mind clicked into overdrive, darkness fell. I didn't realize it until tonight but I related this trauma to the living nightmare Kev was recently in. When he told me he fainted, I wanted to scoop him into my arms and carry him to safety. I can't think of a time I've been happier to see him, as I was the day I picked him up from the hospital. I adore that man. I carry him in my heart and I name him in every prayer and expression of gratitude. He's a treasure and I'd do anything for him. It's funny how people can be in my life for years and make such a tiny impact, and others can enter boldly and swiftly command my adoration. Kev is an example of the latter. It's been 4 years now, and I've felt significant compassion + love since I first laid eyes on him. He didn't do anything to earn my trust, he somehow had it immediately. The last 4 years have confirmed he's worthy of any and all of what I have to give.

Tonight we went to our ritual change of the seasons event. I enjoy it, he basks in it. I love being around him. He lights me up. Paralyzes me, sure... It's such a blessing to see him happy. He seemed different tonight. Clearer. Cozy. Comfortable. 

I'm grateful for these two teachers who are in my life. One recently admitted (to the hospital and to my world), and one who has been cracking me open for 4 years. I pray for their health and happiness. I wish for more time with both of these amazing gentlemen. 

Ease. Grace. Peace.

And sleep!! 

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Listening to intuition pays off. Things happen for a reason. Pulls. Nudges. Guidance. It's all there. I'm grateful for the nudges. I want to be a more trusting listener. Truly.

A little over a month ago I saw police officers outside of a former student's house, which led to an absolutely lovely Sunday with a darling young lady. I arrived at Zoe's this morning around 11. It must have been 2 years since we saw each other, and I hadn't seen her father in...6 years?? Has it really been that long? I wouldn't have recognized him on the street. Never ever. While shaking hands with him today and saying, "Nice to see you" I was second guessing myself. Have I ever met this man? Or is this an uncle...? I know some of my students' families intimately, but not him. He was very pleasant, it was nice to see him. Truly.

Zoey and I started our outing with pampering. There's nothing like quality girl time over mani/pedis. We left the nail spa and one of my favorite little people and I headed to the Huntington. My happy place. A place of complete joy and love. Learning. Blossoming. Listening.

She'd never been, and I thought she'd enjoy it, but one never knows for sure. I'm glad I trusted my gut. We had a delightful lunch in the Chinese Garden, and she couldn't wait to check out the Japanese Garden. She looked at pictures online ahead of time, how cute!

Aside from the obvious tour of gardens and art, we had some really good conversations. I learned a lot about Zoey, I'm hoping she got some insight into the world. I may have revealed some teacher secrets. But it was because I trusted my gut and believed it would help Zoey with her perspective. She's such a fantastically dazzling human being, it's so sad she has to be plagued with mind demons. I wish she could see how she appears to others, instead of her warped self-view. It's truly okay to be multi-faceted. That doesn't make you fake, it makes you adaptable. Teenage years and self-discovery are such a hard time, with or without a mother. I'm so glad she had a good relationship with her father. I also grateful she's interested in hanging out with her second grade teacher. She's a great kid and I'd like to be a part of her success. Beyond subtraction with regrouping.

The whole day was highlight worthy. A couple of standout moments . . .

* Z recalling staying after school to help and telling me she appreciated having that time. Although she couldn't be her true self, she was as close to her true self as she could be at school and it was the best time of her day. Better than when her mother finally picked her up. If she picked her up.

* Standing at the illusion mirror with the strange reflective heads. A baby shrieked on cue as Z turned the head to a bizarre, Medusa-esque head. We fell over laughing.

On a teacher note, there were oodles of proud moments throughout the day, but one moment on the way back to her house absolutely melted me. She told me she remembers the way I made concepts into a song or found helpful rhymes and she really appreciated it. She cited the grammar rap I taught them, and told me she still uses it to keep the parts of speech straight. I'm glad she tucked that into her mental toolbox. My teacher's aid told me the same thing a few years ago, after she froze on a basic grammar question on her CSET. She said she heard the grammar rap in her head and got it together. What can I say, it's a musical world and we're all just humming along.

I stopped at a YGB benefit in Santa Monica on the way home. Hummed along to the Krishna chants, ate some yummy Govinda's dinner, chatted with fellow yogis, and floated home.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Kid

Nothing drove me as crazy as that first year. For the first two months I cried on the way in and sobbed on the way home, which was usually more than 12 hours later. Sometimes I cried during recess, too. Teaching second grade was a dream come true. A scary dream. My credential program didn't prepare me to teach anyone, let alone the gifted population. Don't let the tears fool you, I was full of enthusiasm and I adored the children. I wanted nothing more than to make each day of school the best they'd ever had. I wanted to be a good teacher and make a difference in their lives. I wanted to be the kind of teacher who had an impact beyond academics. The kind of teacher who listens. Sometimes kids just want to tell someone about their dream. Or their turtle. Sometimes it's heavier and they need to tell you dad is getting his own apartment. To be there for my students on those heavier things, I had to be present for the smaller things. I had to give up some of my sobbing time (recess) to watch them act out their favorite music video, gush over the random pictures they spent their free time drawing for me (usually of me, and let's just say 2nd graders don't tend to draw the most flattering likenesses), and make sure their shoelaces are tied, they have lunch, they know how to open their lunch, etc. Unless you're a teacher, you have no idea how comprehensive the job is. It's like being a mom, a ninja, a professor, and a cartoon character. Each of those personalities must have a passion for clerical work of some sort. Two of them need to be good at crafts. 

"Oh my gosh, you're beautiful. She could be your baby!" cried a mother at Back to School night, as she came into the room to take her seat and hear my shaky 45-minute speech I'd been rehearsing since junior college. Truly.

To be honest, I was equal parts flattered and embarrassed, but I totally agreed with her. Well, about the true compliment the mother gave--she thought her daughter and I looked alike. I thought so too. There was something familiar and striking in Zoey's eyes. She looked like me when I was a kid. Not a ringer, but there was something there. Now my thought was legitimized by the woman who knows and loves her more than anyone on earth. It was one of the most genuine compliments I've ever received. I reminded her of one of her favorite humans. 

All of my students are special and important to me. I have been praying for their health and well-being since...well, again, that was something I started doing in junior college. I started praying for the health of my future students. And practicing my Back to School speech. Positive thinking and having goals came naturally to me then. I miss that girl. Point is, teachers are human and we do and don't have favorites. Favoritism is as complex as teaching is a career. Favoritism manifests itself in many different ways. Sometimes my "favorite" isn't really my favorite, but it's the kid who requires the most work. The one with the most quirks, the ones who get under your skin, they drive everyone crazy, but you live for that kid. One might assume the so-called "good kids" who are easy to teach and easy to be around would be the favorites. Those kids often go under the radar. Since you don't spend as much time fretting over how to teach them, they can slip by if you're not careful. 

Zoey is a kid who could go right under the radar. She's a terrific actress and she could convince everyone around her things are under control, even if they are not. Lots of big life stuff happened in her little world that year. She lost her beloved grandfather. Her oldest sister bounced back and forth from home to reform school. Then her parents separated during my first year of teaching. They patched things up a few times over the next year or two, and eventually had their big split. Despite living down the street from school, Zoey was often late in the morning, and one of the last kids to go home. I remember one day her mom didn't come pick her up, I drove her home when I left since it was on my way. I could have gotten in big trouble for that, but I had a bigger problem with what the alternative would have been. When I called Zoey's mom to see if she was on the way, she was out and didn't know when she'd be able to get there. She said Zoey's older sisters were home and they would watch her, and pleaded with me to give her a ride. I was happy to help out, and nothing bad came of it, but technically I could have lost my contract over it. Depending on who you ask at the district, I probably shouldn't have gone to see her in all-child production of "Beauty & The Beast" either, but when a kid invites me to something, I try to attend. I've been to horse shows, birthday parties and all sorts of fun things. Sometimes that means more to a kid than anything that happens in class. I remember how important it is to have adults pay attention to you. I remember how much my teacher's attention meant when I was in school. 

Zoey was a bright shining light in my class. Aside from being a survivor with a winning smile and beaming facade, she was genuinely sweet, talented artistically and dramatically, a great reader, and a happy student. I remember what it was like to lose yourself and forget your worries at school. Elementary school was magic. It was my turn to provide that magic to someone else.

Her mother was sweet. Her mother is mentally imbalanced. I can relate. 

I drove past Zoey's old house a little over a month ago. Two cop cars were parked and several officers were standing at her gate. My heart sank into my socks. I hadn't talked to Zoey in far too long, I think the most we'd communicated was photo comments on facebook. Yet another thing the district wouldn't approve of, but since I was laid off and turned into a sub, I stopped caring about those idiots, I'm back to common sense and doing the right thing. Fakebook is another topic entirely, I'll leave it alone. I sent Zoey a message, trying to be as lighthearted as was appropriate. I said something about how it's been too long since we talked and I happened to drive past her house and it looked like things might be rather intense. Her reply spawned a series of messages that broke my heart. Something bad went down about a year and a half ago, she and her sisters moved out of Bel Air and into an apartment with their father. She hasn't been in touch with her mother since.

I die.

How did I let a year and a half go by and not know Zoey was dealing with such a major life crisis? She's in 8th grade now. I haven't seen her since she was in 6th, when she came back to visit the little old elementary. Those visits are always fun, kids gush over how tiny everything is and tell the wackiest memories. It's darling.

I'm a blast from the past, I guess, but I'm not content to just be that. As her mother said, "she could be your baby!" They all are. If any of my students ever needed me, I'd be there. They may not be my blood family, but they're my school family and they'll always be in my heart. 

Zoey and I are going on an outing Sunday. We're getting our nails done and having lunch at the Huntington. Chinese Tea Garden! I'm really excited to see her. Part of me reached out and asked her on an outing because it seemed like the right thing to do (she sounded like she could use a female role model / friend) but I also asked because I'm genuinely looking forward to listening to her talk about whatever it is she wants to talk about these days. Dreams. Her favorite music video. Her science teacher. Whatever is going on in her world. It's important to listen. It's important to be present.