S&H green stamps

The car pulled to a stop and I felt relief come in waves throughout my body. While it wasn’t physical relief, knowing that the car was stopped and I could step outside, brought me sheer happiness.

The drive to Presque Isle was always a challenge. Windy roads. Neverending hills. And the back seat. All these led to a nausea like none other.

We opened the door to the S & H green stamp store. One of my absolute favorite places to visit. I had carefully placed all the stamps in the books with my mom. I had waited for this day to trade them in for whatever household items my mom wanted was a treat I waited for. All of that was now lost. I couldn’t focus on any of the joy… rather I just wanted to find a bathroom with cold water and fast!

My mother walked to the front register briskly, like a woman on a mission.

“Excuse me, do you have a restroom we could use?” she asked.

“Sorry. Restrooms are not for customers,” the woman replied with a barely a lift of her head or a glance at my mother.

“I truly am so sorry to bother you with this, but my daughter is really not feeling well and we were just in the car, and we truly just need the restroom to splash some water on her face. It will just take a moment,” my mother pleaded.

Not missing a beat and not giving my mother a moment of her time, she replied, “There is a restroom at Pizza Hut across the street.”

“Mom, we should go.” I said. I felt the waves coming. You know the ones. Where the feeling grows and grows and you know that it can only end with one thing.

“PLEASE,” my mother begged. “We won’t make it across the street.”

The woman stopped. Looked up at my mother. Looked down at me. Her disdain was radiating from every fiber of her body.

“I told you. There is no bathroom for you here. You can go across the-“

I pulled on my mother. I grabbed at her coat. And then, I turned and tried to run. But it was just too late. I vomited all over the front of the counter where the cash register was situated. The relief was immediate. I looked up at my mother with tears in my eyes.

“Oh my gosh, what is she doing?” the woman yelled glaring at my mother.

“I told you we were not going to make it across the street.” my mother said while taking my hand and walking out of the store.

I looked up at my mother with shock.

Is this the woman who would help anyone?

Is this the woman who would be the first to clean up a mess? Not walk away from a mess.

This is the woman who forever put her children first and would do anything for them.  The definition of a mama bear. And I love her for it.

Difficult decisions

I wrote the other day about struggling with a decision to have surgery. Needless to say it’s never an easy decision for anyone to have surgery. I do not take these things lightly.

I don’t want surgery.

I NEED surgery. A very different thing.

Then there is the added struggle of being a teacher. We are…

the ones who drag ourselves to work when we are sick.

the ones who leave our children with our spouses or others so we can ‘not miss a day’.

the ones spend hours of our nights and weekends working.

All… for the love of the job. And I do love my job.

I also love walking. I love moving without pain. I love a life without struggle. I love walking up the hallway to take my students to specials and visit with friends. I love participating in the teacher-student basketball and volleyball games. I love bopping around my room checking in with kids. I love sitting on the floor with them.

However, for the past 18 months, I have not been able to do much of what I love. I have missed important events with my family. I have missed walks with my dog and friends. I have sat by watching everyone ‘do’ while I ‘do not’.

And I’m done. Some may say…

perhaps I could wait until the end of June.

perhaps it isn’t necessary.

perhaps I should seek another opinion in addition to the three I have already been given.

perhaps I should wait so I won’t miss out on all of the big events for my students this spring.

I know and understand all of that. And if I could do both, I would.

But I can’t. And I need to take care of me right now. So I can be my BEST self in August when a new year begins and a new group of students belong to me for 180 days. I hope that these students will forgive me for missing 30 of their days.

Trash to Treasure

He pulls up with the truck.

I can see there are items in the back, but can’t quite make out what it is.

He walks in with a desk. It’s perfect. It has seen better days. It has the attached seat and the lid that flips open. It even has the ink well where many students dipped for ink to write in.

He places it in the basement and I look at it in awe. He turns and heads back up the stairs.

When he is gone, I run my hands over it. I boldly sit in it and spin back and forth.

Then I hear the door. What could else could he have? I hear him clamber down the stairs. It sounds big, cumbersome. What on earth could it be?

He enters the basement, but all I see are his legs. The work boots, the denim of his well worn jeans.

He turns and I can see. My eyes blink. Once. Twice. It can’t possibly be.

It is a chalkboard.

“They told us that we could take what we wanted. They were going to throw it all away. I thought you would want these.”

Yes, yes I would want these. More than any gift before and many gifts after. It was perfect.

I hugged him with all I had in me… but it didn’t seem like enough. I climbed up on my tiptoes and kissed his stubbled cheek.

“You are the very best dad there was.” I said.

“It really was just trash, but I thought you would like it. Now get on up to bed.”

I gave him one last squeeze and bounded up the stairs two at a time.

The next morning, I ran down the stairs as quickly as my slippered feet could take me and there, on the wall, mounted at the perfect height, was my chalkboard, and in front, placed perfectly centered was the desk.

My very own classroom. There could be no greater treasure. Or perhaps the man who got it for me is.

New Normal?

When is it OK to accept a ‘new normal’? When you are fine with the way in which things are going? When you figure that you have no alternatives? When there is nothing else to do? When there appear to be no solutions?

I refuse to accept that the pain I feel daily is my ‘new normal’. I know that the alternative is scary and surgery is not something to be taken lightly. But…

Being a mother, how can I struggle to walk with my family every time we are together? How can I always be looking at their backs because I simply can’t keep up?

Being a teacher, how can I struggle to stand daily? How can it be a challenge to walk my kids to the cafeteria every day? When does it become too much?

Being an active person, how can I give up on walking the dog? How can I decide not to do anything that impacts my knee? (By the way, that’s everything!)

Currently… I am simply ‘being’.

I am tired.

I am tired of the pain.

I am tired of trying to keep up.

I am tired of waiting to feel better.

So I am not going to accept this as my ‘new normal’. I am going to take the only step I can take and create a better alternative for myself that allows me to do everything I have been missing out on for months… rather years.

That will be my ‘new normal’.

Best Laid Plans

When my husband told me that my son would be playing in a baseball tournament this past weekend, I thought ‘wonderful, let’s go’. A weekend away together as a family. Six hours south… so warmer weather.  A hotel on the beach… morning sunrises and beach walks. Report cards and conferences were done. Relaxation. Sounds like a fabulous plan.

Friday- we arrive in Delaware at 10 pm after a long drive and a full day of work.

Email from coach: Field arrival time: Saturday: 8 AM. Wake up time: 6:30 AM. Hmmm… feels a bit like a work day. Stay positive.

Arrive at the field, coach says “Didn’t I email you? He’s going to play with the other team, starting at 1:00 PM.” Alrighty then… Back to the hotel. Hang out.

Back to the field where the feels like temperature is 34 degrees. With a whipping wind. Curled up in my winter coat, hood up, car blanket wrapped around me. Not enough coffee or hot chocolate to warm my body. Until 6:00 PM.

Boys win two games. Back to the hotel. Showers. Dinner. In bed at 11:00 PM.

Hmmm… didn’t see the sunrise or set. Didn’t rest. Didn’t relax with my family. But that’s OK. There is tomorrow.

Sunday: Field Time: 8:00 AM. Wake up time: 6:30 AM. Hmm… this feels quite familiar. Today’s game play… win- you move on. Lose- you go home. Temperature: a balmy 40 degrees.

9:00 AM game… a win… Coffee from the snack shack.

11:15 AM game… a win… Salad from the snack shack.

1:15 PM championship game… for the loss.

We all pack ourselves back into the car for the six hour drive north. 3:00 departure… means a 9:00 pm arrival. The exhaustion begins to set in.

Back in the car…  Rest stops. Traffic on the George Washington Bridge. Getting work done on my husband’s laptop.

8:00 PM  “Patrick, did you have a good time?”
“Of course, mom, this was the best weekend ever.”

Best laid plans.

For the love of books

At age 4, listening to books on my small record player, turning the pages as the ‘ding’ tells me to.

At age 6, converting my closet shelf into a library… with cards to check books out and books for all the readers who would visit. (me)

At age 8, carrying the Scholastic book order home with circles around the many books I would order.

At age 10, receiving a large box, wrapped in Christmas paper, filled with books from my godfather (a middle school English teacher)

At age 12, visiting the Bookmobile as it pulled into the schoolyard for us to borrow books since our town did not have a library.

At age 14, receiving books, in the mail, in large green fabric envelopes, from Augusta, with books inside to borrow from the state library.

The experiences of my childhood led to the love of books I have today.

The need to buy books every time I walk into the book store.

The need to place books in the hands of my sons’, and in their rooms, and on their shelves, and in the family room, and in every place they can go in our house.

The need to fill my classroom with books- old and new- and to share the love of these books with each group of students that comes through.

The need to pile two stacks of books on my nightstand… the books to read professionally and the books to read for pleasure.

And it’s all for… the love of books.

Making my writing public

So here’s the thing… I have been a lifelong writer.

Little journals. Letter writing. List making.

Perhaps it was the paper that drew me in. Loose paper. Journals. Drawing paper.

Perhaps it was the many writing instruments. Pencils to pens to my beloved Sharpies to my current fave~ PaperMate flairs.

So here’s the thing… I needed to be convinced to make my writing public.

I’ve been asked, by a dear friend, for a few years now to put it out there. I’ve never shied away from sharing writing with and for my students. Writing in front of them. Writing in front of colleagues for professional development purposes. That was all ok.

But writing for the world… forget it.

But then, a few days late to the party, I did it… I jumped in.

I have made my writing public to this community BUT I haven’t made it public to anyone else.

I haven’t posted it on Twitter, on Instagram.

I haven’t told any of my family or friends or colleagues other than the two slicers here.

I want to, but I don’t want to.

Courage. Courage is what I need.