Did you know that the state of Wisconsin is shaped just like your hand? Whenever I try to explain to people where I grew up, I simply turn my hand to them and point. (See,… More
Hello! I’m Christy.
In a nutshell, I am a:
- Soon-to-be published author (March 29, 2018!)
- Grief survivor
I think you’ll love it here if you have ever tripped up the stairs, if you love to read, if you love true crime, if you have any kind of emotional baggage, if lots of people stress you out (or don’t), or if you have at least one child who is obsessed with Halloween. 🙂
At any rate, I’m glad you’re here.
On any given day, I fail to meet expectations of SOMEONE.
On every given day, I fail to meet the expectations of MYSELF.
My goodness, as a teacher and a mom of two young kids and a wife and a board member and a writer and a friend and a sister and a daughter and this list could go on and on and on and on, there is no way to keep up.
Phone calls go unanswered, text threads are picked up days later, I have 92 unread or unanswered emails in my inbox which is SO NOT LIKE ME, I can’t keep up with Facebook notifications, I’m missing contest deadlines, and my husband is reminding me I promised him I’d edit something for him, and my daughter is asking me when I will go watch Anne with an E with her like I said I would.
And the minute–the very minute I let one thing slip, I hear about it. In no uncertain terms, I am told that I have failed.
I carry this around with me. I carry the unmet expectations and the fear of messing up and the knowledge that no matter how hard I try, I am letting somebody down.
But–BUT–you guys. It is all worth it. It is. Because every once in a while, something comes along that reminds you that your struggle matters. Your struggle to keep up has paid off because somehow along the way you have made an impact. You’ve touched someone. You’ve given someone hope or strength.
I teach 4th grade, and I get Christmas gifts. I’m very lucky. It’s not every kid, but it’s most of the kids, and they get me incredibly thoughtful things like gift cards and candy and classroom decorations and my coveted Harry Potter Pop figures.
They are seriously so thoughtful, that sometimes I just can’t handle how much they listen to what I say and they remember it and pass it on to their parents. It’s humbling.
But then, every so often, there are gifts that just wreck me. On the day before break, one of my students came up to me and handed me this box:
He grinned at me, and stood there waiting for me to open it. This boy, he’s incredible. He’s sweet, and kind and smart.
I have to say that I was surprised to get a gift from him. Why? Because kids don’t have money, parents do, and parents are who give gifts to teachers (based on what their kids pick out sometimes, sometimes not). And in this family, like a LOT of the families at my school, I just happen to know that they don’t have extra money for spending. At all.
So, he hands me this box and says, “I think you’re going to love these. They are so pretty!”
And then … and then, I opened it up to see this:
I managed a thank-you, and gave him a hug and as soon as he was in the classroom, I started ugly crying and had to go hide in the computer lab.
You and I both know that this box of candle sticks came from a rummage sale. The yellowing newspaper (the date on one of the pieces was 2008). Or from the dollar tree, or just wherever. They were yellowed and full of dust, and one of them had a half-burned candle still inside.
And yet, it was the most beautiful gift.
The gift of knowing that this child wanted to do something kind for me so badly that he (I’m inferring here) scoured the house, found these old candle holders in a shoebox, and decorated it for me.
There was a note inside, too and it simply said:
“Merry Christmas, Mrs. W. You are my best teacher. You make me feel safe. Love, …”
The love of a child. The very best gift that there ever could be. So simple.
That makes the struggle worth it. A million times over.
Hang in there, teachers and mamas and wives and daughters and pastors and uncles. You might mess up. You might let people down. But you gotta keep going, for all the ways that you make change. For all the ways that you fill hearts of little people. For ALL the ways you give hope.
You got this!
A few years ago, I had a student in my class who was one of a set of twins.
This particular kid – he is so awesome: funny, and kind, and just one of the ones that when he smiles, you smile. His brother is equally as awesome.
Anyway, we were coming up on a meeting about this boy. We often have meetings of this type at my school, when we gather everyone together and just make sure we are doing everything we can to help students succeed.
This one had been called by his mom, who was worried. I had tried to reassure her that her son is doing fine, but she just had a gut-feeling. We listen to those in my line of work.
Something she said in an email, though, sent shivers down my spine and had me in a fit on anxiety. It said (I’m paraphrasing), “I know it’s easy to forget, but he was born at only 23 + 3 weeks gestation, and I just want to make sure we’re intervening when we need to.”
My heart stopped. You see, my very own twins had been born at 23 + 3.
But they are both dead.
And so, I will admit, with some shame, that I got suddenly very angry. How did she, this woman, get BOTH of her twins, and I got none? How could I now look at this boy in my class every day and know that Aiden and Sophie could have been just like him?
The day of the meeting arrived, and my mind swirled with anxiety. I didn’t want to talk about prematurity. I didn’t want to talk about how far he’d come. I didn’t want to face any of it.
And then, this beautiful, wonderful mom, she walked in carrying a photo album.
A photo album of her son’s entire stay in the NICU. She
wanted needed us to see just how incredible it is that her son is who he is. But, I panicked. Everyone jumped to see how they could help me, but I knew I had to do it myself – and I asked the mom to follow me outside the meeting.
I looked her right in the eyes and said, “I had twins, too.”
She grabbed my hands.
“They–they were born at the same age as your boys. But they died.”
And she burst into tears, and pulled me into a giant, loving, tough hug.
“I’m afraid to look at the photos,” I said. “I just wanted to tell you so you know that I’m going to leave the meeting for a while. I’m sorry I’m not brave enough.”
Still crying, she hugged me harder. “No photos. I got it. Let’s go.”
I often think about what life would be like if one or both of my twins had survived after being born at such an early gestation. I often think about what their struggles might be like. But, I cannot know what it is like to mother a preemie, although I have had glimpses into the hardships.
That same mom, later in the year, shed light on something I couldn’t believe. We were on our way to our big field trip, about 2.5 hours away by bus, and we stopped at a rest stop. Her other son, my student’s twin, had much more severe Cerebral Palsy, and was in a wheelchair and diapered.
I was in the bathroom of the rest stop with her at the same time, and I watched her as she, reluctantly, was forced to lie her 10-year-old son on the floor of a public restroom in order to change him. You see, there are no changing tables that are for anyone bigger than a toddler.
I got back on the bus and cried. How had I never realized?
We might see the big things that come along with prematurity. We celebrate the fact that even though babies are born too early, they survive and thrive. We might see that there are disabilities or financial hardships, or career issues.
But today, I want you to see that there are no changing tables for older/bigger children who cannot use the bathroom on their own. I want you to see a mom forced to lie her child down on an unsanitary restroom floor to change the diaper of her 4th-grader.
I want you to zoom in on one thing we can do to help the change the world for parents of preemies.
Today, on world prematurity day, I want you to see. And hope. And believe. And, if you want to help, click here to find out how to contact your local representative to urge that special changing tables be installed:
Please share-let’s make a difference today!
How I write:
I start out with something on my mind. As I type, the words take shape. They meander, but somehow they all meet up in the end.
When I’m finished, I read back what I wrote and I often cannot believe that I was the person who strung those words together, the one who had those thoughts.
Not because I think they’re anything incredible, but because I’m not always sure where they came from. It’s a weird feeling, as though my brain is telling my fingertips what to do, but leaving the rest of me out of the process.
I’ve lately really wished that my strength in writing wasn’t so personal. That my voice didn’t ring out the best when I am writing about the often mundane things that happen to me. I’m so glad to help people, but I’m also acutely aware that I’ve hurt people along the way (and that’s with being very careful).
At a writing workshop recently, I was with a bunch of memoirists and we talked about this quote by author Anne Lamott who said,
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.”
For whatever reason, during this workshop all sorts of stuff about my father started coming up. This is difficult for me, as it would be for most anyone who has a strained or non-existent relationship with an immediate family member.
The guilt of it is sometimes crippling, the wonder and the worry and the (at least perception of) judgment.
And, I want to write about it. I’m pretty sure I’m ready. I want to help other people who are making similar decisions and having to live with them.
But, in order to do this, I’d have to share personal things about my family. Personal things that are from MY perception only, and to them might not be their truth. I’d have to tell things that could cause more hurt and pain, even though that is not my intention. I actually don’t blame anyone. Dysfunction is just that–dysfunction.
My life is just a compilation of stories. Stories that I can make interesting. Stories that I can weave into something that comments on our humanity, or our choices, or helps us feel less alone.
Yet, I hesitate. Although I swear I am not a hateful person, but I’m sure I do end up hurting people by telling my stories. I just want to help lift people up, but not at the expense of others. I am definitely not as confident as Anne Lamott, as you can see. 🙂 Also, I make mistakes ALL THE TIME. We all do. I certainly wouldn’t want to be called out in print (which I have done before, to people I love, in a very general way but still-boy, did I mess up).
What do you think? For writers to tell about their lives, it seems they end up throwing some people under the proverbial bus. Do we keep going? Is it worth it?
I’d love your comments!
Life is giving me whiplash lately.
Every time I think I have something figured out, I realize I’m completely wrong.
But, wait-am I?
I am more convinced than ever that there is so little that we actually know for sure. We spend our time arguing and convincing and then coming to a conclusion that this is what we believe and this is what we know and that is that.
People have this perception of each other that is shaped on so many things. Ways we have been treated in the past by others, our assumptions, pet peeves that cause us to dig in our feet and decide that what we believe is what is real and true.
Up until recently, I truly believed that WHO I am could stand up on its own. That if I just led my life trying to be the best person I could be and if I used kindness and gratitude that people who love me would believe that.
I listened to a podcast on my drive this weekend (I’m at a writing retreat a few hours away from home) about a woman, a real estate agent, who suddenly found a viral post about her online. In the post, someone claimed that she and her husband hired this woman to help them buy a home. She couldn’t go to a showing one day, so she sent her husband, but then ended up being able to make it at the last minute. When she got there, she found the realtor and her husband in a … let’s say, precarious position.
This was untrue, and the realtor began searching to figure out who would say this. Her business and reputation were ruined, and in the end it turned out that a total stranger had written a post on a website called “Homewrecker.” The reason? She had seen a comment that the realtor made on an online news article and assumed she was a racist, and decided she deserved to have her life ruined.
It turns out that the comment was sticking up for a teenager, saying we should show her some grace since she is a kid.
This = she is a neonazi, according to the woman who decided to tell a story about her being a home-wrecker.
The quote that got me in this podcast was that she said (I’m paraphrasing), “I always just thought if I was good, if I tried my best, that I would be ok.”
I have said this so many times. I’ve practically screamed, “BUT IT’S ME, CHRISTY! YOU KNOW ME! I WOULD NEVER DO SOMETHING HORRIBLE ON PURPOSE! HOW COULD YOU THINK THAT?”
If I had to pick one thing in life that I feel I’m really good at (besides singing the theme song to the Fresh Prince of BelAir) it is getting to know people. I share my innermost thoughts and feelings and I admit things that I’m not proud of to show others that they’re not alone. I have a way of getting people to share things, and I love to learn about them. I truly LOVE human beings. I love their good and their bad.
With my friends, I share my worst traits. I share that sometimes my anxiety causes me to look like a giant grump or like I’m stuck up, when in reality, I panic and I just want to be alone. I share that I feel like I am never enough, that I can never be enough, that no matter what I do, I fall short. I fail. I share that when someone yells or snaps at me, I cry. I can’t help it (definitely more therapy on the way, don’t worry) and it’s just ingrained in me. It’s part of who I am. For now.
The other day I said to my husband, “I know my heart. Why doesn’t anybody else?”
And I guess that’s because it’s my job to know me. It’s my job to stay confident in the fact that I don’t hurt people on purpose. I have to stay strong in the knowledge that I am doing my best, setting goals to become a better person, to learn and to change, and to grow. It’s my job to let that shit go.
I. Am. Enough.
This is what I will whisper to myself, 20 times a day if I have to.
I. AM. ENOUGH.
I believe this, and that has to be the only thing that matters. Oh, and hey–you are enough, too.