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Yo.

Hi, y’all!

I’m Christy.  I’m a 4th grade teacher from Wisconsin, where I live with my husband (also a teacher) and my 6 year old daughter, A, and my 4 y ear old son, E.  I have always loved to write and make people laugh, and lately it seems combining the two has brought some joy!

Before I had A and E, I got pregnant with twins after suffering from infertility. They were born too early and died when I was 24 weeks pregnant.  Since then, I have looked at life so differently-I try to be grateful for the little things.  When things get overwhelming, I also try to remember that I have lived through that, so I should just take a deep breath and keep going.

I love life, even though it’s messy, and I like laughing at the really silly parts of it.  Almost always when something is happening to me that feels really awful, I think to myself, “Well, at least this will make a good story later!”

So, that’s what I’m here to do: tell you those stories.  Hopefully you can relate to one, or something I say resonates with you and you think,”Oh, if this is happening to me, at least it’s happening to Christy, too.”  I think there is such a big power in just having that, “Oh, you too?” moment.  With everything going on in our lives, it’s nice to just have that connection.

I’m a busy mom and I work full time, but I care about you-so drop me a message or a comment whenever you can!

In the meantime, it’s nice to meet you!  Let’s get to know each other!

“Life is too short to…

see yourself as anything but beautiful.”

A friend of mine sent this quote to me recently.  I saw it and my heart sank.  My first thought: Ugh, I’m talking about how ugly I am too much.

So many of my friends are so beautiful.  They wear gorgeous clothes, and they are thin or they have beautiful hair and skin, or they have picture perfect athletic bodies, complete with abs.

I have spent so much of my life thinking about how ugly I am.  In 4th grade, I had a pool party at my house (we had an in-ground pool that my father later paid someone $100 to bury with a BobCat, but that’s a story for another day) and I refused to take my t-shirt off.  In all the pictures, I have my soaking, drooping t-shirt hanging off me, looking ridiculous.

In my journal from 7th grade, I wrote, “This week I am starting my new diet.  I will not eat any desserts and also I promise to walk around the block at least 3 times a week.”

In high school I was voted homecoming queen, and I ran right to my friends and asked them point blank if I was voted in as a joke.

It wasn’t anything anybody said made me feel less than beautiful, though.  It was in college, when my friends wanted to go to a frat party that I suddenly realized just what it meant to not be “hot.”  I realized that I was the girl that literally no one would look at.  What is that called, the designated fat friend?

Let’s be real:  I did NOT want to be at those frat parties.  I never wanted to.  I didn’t even really want to go to the bars drinking.  I’m one of those people that just never got into the party scene-I always had way more fun doing something silly, or watching movies, or whatever.

But I would go, because my friends did, and I would leave there hating myself.  I would leave there feeling like the most disgusting, awful person on the planet.  No guys were lusting after me.  I was 30 pounds overweight and wore jeans and t-shirts and no make-up and I was definitely not a girl you “took home.”

So many times I went to the bars with my girlfriends, but walked home alone.  And when I got home alone, I would lie in bed in wonder why nobody wanted me.

I am SO happy with my life.  I have NOTHING to complain about.  I am truly so, so grateful.  But still, every day…and I mean EVERY DAY, I think about what I look like.  How much I weigh.  I watch all the skinny people at work eat all different ways-some healthy, some all junk, and I just want to be them.  I want to be able to fit in the clothes at Gap.  I want someone to tell me they like my shirt!

A couple of times, a stranger has asked me when I’m due.  I carry a lot of my weight in my belly, and I do look pregnant if you don’t know me.  But, when it happens, I get so depressed.  All I want to do is not look like a giant when someone takes a picture of me.  All I want to do is have the fat magically disappear into nowhere.

I think people are so vain.  I’ve never worn make-up because I honestly think it’s dumb.  I think it’s ridiculous to cover up our faces and try to look like someone else.  I think it’s totally annoying how much time people spend buying clothes and shoes and fretting over outfits and trying to make themselves look like a (fake) magazine.

But…if I’m even a little more honest…if I dig a little deeper, I don’t do any of that, because then people would notice that I tried, and that I do want to look “beautiful,” and that I failed.  Because, in my mind, when you are fat, you just look like a fat person trying to wear fashionable clothes.  Or someone will tell you, “You’d be so pretty if you just lost weight.”

I will never know what it feels like to have a man give you a second look.  Men don’t even hold the door open for me (except my husband!  love you, babe!), they’ll wait for the skinny, pretty girl to arrive.  I won’t know what it’s like to have men fighting over me, or know that someone secretly wishes I was theirs, just because I’m beautiful.  I will always be the one that is overlooked at face value.

I won’t be able to wear a gorgeous dress for a night on the town without worrying about chafing and spanks and sucking it in for pictures.  I will always try my hardest to get to the back row so no one sees my stomach.  I am hardly ever in the pictures with my kids, even though I read that one article just like everyone else did about the mom that got sick and wished she had been in more pictures.  If I’m not in them, I can’t spend all night with a pit in my stomach, hating myself.

I don’t know what it takes to heal, or to learn to love myself.  Body positive, right?  Or is it fat shaming?  I feel disgusting.  Hideous.  Un-worthy.  Like I don’t quite fit with everyone else.

Here is what I know:

I am a loyal, caring wife and friend.  People love me for ME.  My husband loves me unconditionally, and he thinks I’m beautiful (well, he better!)  My heart is bursting with love-from my friends, my family, my kids, my students.  This has to be enough.  What I have is something SO many people would give their arm for.  I am so freaking lucky.  I do not need to have it all.

I can’t really understand why I think it’s so stupid to think about looks, yet it’s really something I also do, all the time.  I’m on high alert, relishing if I notice a weight gain on someone else (yes, I do realize that is despicable, but honesty is where I’m at, yo).  I look at the other women at Zumba, or while I’m running, and I think, I’m working just as hard as they are, why am I still fat?

I think what I’m getting at, is that being thin and pretty is just the one thing I don’t get to have.

All of us, there is at least one thing that we just don’t have.  The one thing that feels out of reach.  I can’t make my breasts larger, or my nose smaller or my waist smaller, and so I want it.  I work and work and work at it, but I fail, over and over.  My body wants to be fat.

What is it that you want, that is out of reach for you?  Have you tried and failed?  Is it a good relationship, friendships, career-oriented, or something with your family?  I’d love to hear!

 

 

The Hate U Give (or don’t)

the hate u give

As a 35-year-old, I am old enough now that 1) my knees creak when I walk up stairs, and 2) I can really start to look back and reflect on my life so far.  I’m a serious reflector.  I over-analyze and I think a lot (too much) about who I am and if I am where I should be.

My life has definitely not been perfect, but it has been pretty freaking great.  To clarify, here’s what I classify as pretty freaking great:

My kindergarten teacher was the best ever.  We got to play in the sand and water table whenever I wanted, and I had my first kiss that year.  I even got married, I’m pretty sure.  I fell and broke my wrist trying to be a ballerina and missed my first music program, but we made it to school in time to play in the sand box (I guess I must have really loved the sand, you guys).

Throughout elementary school, I had a best friend who went to a different school, so we were able to be BFF without people fighting over us at school.  This friendship lasted through middle school until she humiliated me by putting my underwear in the freezer at a sleepover with her “school friends” and I got pissed and stopped going to her house.  I loved having her has a BFF, and even though it ended, I’m so glad I had her and she taught me about a lot of things.

I had THE BEST friends in high school.  There were 6 of us, and we did things like play mini-golf, watch movies, cook dinner together, and try to pretend like we were adults.  The worst thing we ever did was buy cherry flavored Swisher Sweets and smoke them behind the tennis courts. And by smoke them, I mean, I put it in my mouth, declared that I looked awesome, took one puff, coughed for 5 minutes and then we were done.  I’m beyond thankful that I could come into my own without my friends pressuring me to drink or do drugs or do all the other things I never wanted to do.

Also in high school, I got to travel the world, experience books and theater and music, realize that I had NO idea what I wanted to do with my life, or where I wanted to go to college.

My first love treated me with respect.  He taught me what romance is, and what it feels like to be put first, before anyone else.  Truthfully, I was totally in love with one of my friends (who was not in love with me) when I met him and shouldn’t have started dating him, but I totally fell head over heels.  We danced in the kitchen, walked along the railroad tracks in the summer, went to cheesy country music concerts, and cuddled in his parent’s basement.  I lost my virginity in a loving, calm, respectful way and was never forced or pressured in any way.  Sure, he cheated on me and lied to me a bunch when I went away to college, but no one’s perfect, right?

College started off rough (see above) but I had gotten into several schools and ended up transferring.  I was in marching band and met a ton of people and got to continue all the things I loved.  I found AMAZING friends.  We drank, but (usually) not too much.  The only trouble with law I had was a disorderly conduct ticket for dancing in a fountain.   We mostly went to Perkins late at night to write papers and dance and laugh and annoy everyone in the restaurant.  We duct-taped strings of lights to the top of the car and danced at stoplights to make people laugh.  We went on a crazy road trip and watched Friends every Thursday night and ate too much ice cream.  My parents were getting divorced, but it was what they needed to do and even though my dad and I were fighting and stressed, I made it through.  I worked a lot, but had the money I needed.

I got offered the first 3 jobs I applied for.  I met my husband when I was 20, and I am telling you there is NO better husband on this planet.  We lost my father-in-law to cancer shortly into our marriage, and battled infertility.  But we did it together, and grew stronger.  My first two babies, twins, were born at 24 weeks and they died.  That pain is like nothing I ever imagined feeling.  But again, we grew closer together.  We are best friends, and the worst thing he’s ever said to me is that the carrots I made were disgusting.  For real.

I have a fulfilling job, if we save up we can take a vacation, and we can take our 2 kids to the movies every once in a while.  My 6 and 4 year old are beautiful, wild, strong-willed, and loving and they make me so proud I can’t handle it.

Ok, so, if you’re still here, you’re probably wondering, um, are you done bragging yet?  What the heck?  Get to the point, yo!

So, here it is.  Lately, I’m lost.  I’m full of despair.  Is it all because I’m white?  Born into a working-class family?  Born in the mid-west to parents who weren’t college educated, but knew the value of college and never questioned when or if I would go and helped me get the loans to do it?

Is any of it because I’ve made great choices?  Because I worked really hard?

But…even though I worked really hard, would it have even been possible without the white, class part?

Should I feel guilty?  Guilty is not the right word.  I don’t feel guilty.  But, I feel sad.  I worry that I don’t deserve it.  I worry that my luck causes other people suffering.

My whole life, all I’ve ever wanted was to love people.  I DO love people.  But, if I’m completely honest, my life has not been very diverse.  I don’t have much experience with people from different cultures (with the exception of the culture of poverty), and I don’t think I tried hard enough to get it.  I wish I had.

Things are getting rough out there.  Social media makes me squirm.  I feel so helpless, so unable to do anything that might make a difference.  I want to stand and scream, “Will everyone that’s hateful just pick a state and you can all go live there?”

I want to really, truly understand what systemic racism is capable of in our country and get to the core of why it’s not going away.

I recently read a book called The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas.  The story is from the perspective of a young black girl who is in the girl with her friend who is murdered by the police.  The girl must stand up for what she believes in, but she has all sorts of obstacles in her way.  Drugs, gangs, family structure, going to a private school and being treated different by both parts of her life.  Obstacles that I never had to face, simply because of the luck of the draw.

It’s a book written for young adults, but it gives this glimpse into a life that is so foreign to me.  This is what literature does.  It helps those that are seeking to understand.  It is why I teach.  It is why I write, and read every book I can get my hands on.

But, I read this book and I couldn’t imagine.  It’s tiresome to feel so helpless, but it pales in comparison to actually living it.  I feel like we’re in this never-ending cycle of knowing the problem, even knowing the root cause, but having no idea what to actually do to fix any of it.

The only thing that makes me feel like I’m doing anything at all is that I work so hard on building a community in my classroom.  I work on making each kid know that they are loved no matter what and no matter when or who.  But it doesn’t feel like it’s enough.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  What are you doing out there to battle for social justice?  Not just about race, but about any -ism that’s out there?

 

Kids, These Days

Kids these daysAround late September, a student put in a note in my mailbox (my mailbox is there just for them, in case they have something important to tell me that they don’t want to say) that said, “At lunch, *boy* was talking about penises and sex and other nasty things.”

I sat at my desk, folding the note back up, as if maybe if I couldn’t see it, I could pretend like it didn’t happen.  Of course, I had to figure out what was actually said, and let me tell you…I was shocked, to say the least.

Later in the year, another 4th grader at my school said at lunch that he wanted to “put his penis in *girl’s* butthole.”

The thing about being an elementary school teacher, at least for me, is that these little children become mine.  Not in a, you’re-a-freak-going-to-show-up-on-CNN kind of mine.  But I feel like they are a part of me.  I feel a responsibility to them, and a fierce need to protect them.

Contacting the parents for something like this, is never fun.  I prefer e-mail contact with parents, usually, simply because I’m better with written words.  I feel like I can get my point across better and not sound judgmental.

Having my own children has opened up a whole new world of compassion and empathy for me.  I have watch these little people that CAME FROM ME do things that I CANNOT UNDERSTAND.  My 4 year old?  He’s a hitter.  Like, everyday at daycare he hits someone.  I have tried so many things, but he still hits.

My 6 year old?  When she was 4 she went to pre-school and told everyone it was her birthday. She let them sing to her and give her a sash and she got a special prize and when she pulled up on the bus everyone was yelling, “Happy Birthday!”  Her birthday is in July!

Now, these are small things, I know, but we have a LONG way to go.  What I”m saying is, parents play a big role in children’s behavior, but they still are kids and do kid stuff.

As I sat there, I tried to figure out if this was kid stuff, or if this was a problem.  The biggest question in my mind was, “Did this kid KNOW what he was saying?  Did he know what all of that meant?”

When I was in 4th grade, I played with barbies. Sometimes I’d make them kiss and live in an apartment together.  I still remember the day in 7th grade when I found out what French kissing was when I saw my friends do it in the hallway outside our lockers.  I walked home slowly, trying to french kiss my hand, wondering how in the world that would even feel good.

I was a junior in high school, talking to one of my friends in the band room when I found out you were supposed to TOUCH someone’s penis.  I sat there and gaped at the girl who told me, my mouth hanging wide open.  “You mean….you touch it?” and she answered, “Yep.  It does totally weird things!  They really like it!”

Now, I didn’t have brothers, and my friends and I were the group that played mini-golf and watched movies and made dinner together, so I’m positive that this puts me in a category all on my own, and most of you are thinking, you probably should have known that, girl.  But, still.

What I didn’t have, though?  What I didn’t have was the internet.

We have strong filters on our internet at school, but still when my students research for their projects on extreme WEATHER, ads pop up with naked women or little character people simulating sex.  Ads pop up in their google drive and in their email with links to nasty things.

My students can go home, and spend the night largely unsupervised, clicking on WHATEVER THEY WANT on the internet.  They watch “YouTubers” who tell them all sorts of things.  They play Xbox Live where they hear older kids talking about penises and buttholes.

Then they come to school.  These babies are coming to school and they are using words correctly, in context, to describe awful things.  And it’s hurting them. These kids, they are knowing things that they shouldn’t know yet.  They are seeing things that confuse them, make them feel unsure and probably sad, and even angry.

In my class, we talk about things as much as we can.  I’m very up front with my students, telling them that even if THEY know about these things, they shouldn’t say them because the rest of the class doesn’t, and they probably don’t want to.

Of course, this is my first time as an adult, and maybe I just lived this totally sheltered life.  I mean, I know people hid Playboy magazines under their mattress or whatever, but did they do this when they were 9?

Maybe.  But at this point I would take a booby magazine over the words and images that these kids are seeing and hearing.  They are singing along to songs on the radio with lyrics like, “I didn’t know that I was starving ’til I tasted you.”

I am frustrated.  I am a little scared. Everything feels so heavy lately in our world, doesn’t it?  

I know that I sound like the older people when we were young, talking about Elvis gyrating and the “Rock” songs and I know time moves on.  But for some reason, this feels bigger. We have had SO many issues with kids this year, having these dirty conversations and I just fear it will continue to get worse.  Shouldn’t we at least try to stop it?

I’m interested in your thoughts.  Do you try to supervise your child’s internet viewing?  What age did you let your kid have a tablet?  What about a phone?  Do you have filters?  Do you see any of this with your own kids?

What’s next?  What do we do?

Patience is a Virtue…

Impatient

That I do NOT have.

It’s never been one of my strong points!  Actually, is it anyone’s strong point?  If you are patient, I bow down to you! (For real, I’m bowing down to you right now).

So I maybe should tell you just how much I struggle with patience.  When I was in 4th grade, I knew my mom bought me roller-blades for my birthday, and I wanted them SO BADLY and I did NOT want to wait for my birthday.  So, one day when my mom was not home, I went into my mom’s closet, unwrapped the box, took a spin on my new blades, and then put them back in the box and re-wrapped it.

Oh, yes I did.  And on my birthday when I opened the box, the wheels were all scratched and covered with dust and little pebbles and my mom was NOT happy with me.  Not.happy.at.all (Sorry again, mom!)

For the past 17 months, I have been writing a book (gee, have I mentioned this? LOL).  It’s all I can really think about.  I’m obsessed.  I’ve been working so hard, and I’m so proud of it.  So, a few weeks ago, I went to a big, weekend-long writer’s institute in my state, and while I was there I pitched my book idea.

Here’s the scoop:

There are basically 3 “ways” of publishing your book:

  1.  Traditional Publishing- A big publisher from NY.  You get this by getting lucky, or having a reality show.  I think.  No, it’s not just luck.  But you do need an agent.  You can’t just contact the publisher yourself.  And getting an agent so far sounds really hard.  Like winning American Idol, I think.
  2. Hybrid Publishing- You pay for your own book to be published.  This can be anywhere from like 3,000 to upwards of 15,000 bucks.
  3. Self Publishing- There are sites where you can do this completely for free.  You can publish anything this way.  Anything.  Like, you can publish “Your Complete Guide to Becoming the Best Bitch Eva,” a 3 page long book with pictures of your ex-friend.  There are definitely, definitely some beautiful, amazing self-published books out there.  And there are definitely some that are really terrible.

So, I pitched my book to a hybrid-publisher.  Except, I’m not actually sure.  So, the deal is there are publishers who truly want to help authors get a high-quality book out there.  They only take certain manuscripts/authors and they provide all the services you need-marketing, publishing, editing, cover design, etc.

The owner of the company loved my book.  She asked me, “What do you want your book to do in the world?” and I had no trouble coming up with my answer, which was, “I want grieving mamas to know they are never alone, and that there is always hope.  I want my story to show them that grief is work, but they can make it through this.”

We had a meeting after she read my manuscript (it was SO terrifying to send that to her) and she told me that she loved it.  That my writing was beautiful, and that she loved my detail and my use of dialogue and that she could really feel my emotions. She told me that she wanted to help me get my book out in to the world.  That our first step would be a big marketing meeting and….

I got SO FREAKING EXCITED.  I felt like I had won the lottery.  My dream!  My whole life’s dream of getting a book published was coming true!!!

And then (duh duh duhhhhhhhh).

And then she sent me the “Proposal.”

For $7,665.  That’s SEVEN THOUSAND.

And that didn’t even include the books themselves!

I immediately said “Nope. I can’t do this.”  I told her so.

She replied, “It’s ok, we’ll use crowd-funding, and you can raise the money!”

I talked to my husband.  You guys.  You won’t EVER meet a more supportive person than him.  I could tell him, “Yo, I need $75,000 so I can buy special kangaroos to send to kids in Alaska, it’s my dream.”   And he would say, “Well, that sounds absolutely freaking nuts, but if it’s your dream, let’s talk about it and figure it out.”

So he starts crunching numbers and we talk about using the money we’ve been saving to take our kids to Disney World, about we could both teach summer school (we’d have to figure out daycare) and how I could have the money he’ll get for his National Boards, and we won’t do any work around the house, and…..

Yeah. Basically, we do not have this money.  And he’s going to find it for me because he is so proud of me and he wants this for me as much as I want it for myself.

And all my friends?  They’re all, “Yo, Christy,  you’ve got this, do it!  I’ll donate!  You can raise the money!”  This is because I have the best friends on the planet and they want this as much for me as I want it for myself.

My finger hovered over the “accept” button SO many times.  At the beginning of the day, I would decide, “I’m doing this!  I’m gonna have a book by January!” and by the end of the day, I would have decided, “There is NO WAY I can risk this money, because what if I get nothing from it.  What if there are hidden fees.  What if I don’t like what they want to do. What if…”

One night, I google my *best friend Colleen Hoover’s sister who helps Indie authors publish books.  On her services list, a cover design cost $225.  My proposal?  $2,500.  Editing?  Around $900.  My proposal?  $2,500.  You see where I’m going here?

So, with a lot of research, talking to my Aunt from Italy, talking to my husband, I finally hit the decline button.

And I am SAD.  Like, so sad.  I know I did the right thing.  I know I need to S-L-O-W down.  I need to actually TRY to send my query letters to literary agents.  I need to remember that this is MY dream, and that I owe it to myself (and my family) to take my time with this.

It felt SO good for someone in the publishing business to tell me my book is worth it.  She hugged me and cried with me.  I like her a lot.  I wish I could afford her and not have to put it on my family and friends to donate to get it.  But, I know this is where I should be.

But, um, yeah.  Patient?  Not so much.

*Colleen Hoover may or may not be aware that she is my best friend*

Risky Business

RISK

I had a conversation earlier this week with a friend who was frustrated with her boss.  I’ve heard plenty of stories about this particular boss, most of them anecdotes about how terrible she is at running her business, but then her employees step up and save her when it gets really rough, because they want to keep their jobs.

“Ugh!  It’s so unfair that she totally stinks at her job, yet gets to be the boss.  You could run it so much better.”

“Well,” she replied, “She’s the one that took the risk!  You have to take risks to succeed in life.  She put the money on the line to get the business, not me!”

That really got me thinking.  Do you need to take risks in order to succeed?  And, what kind of risks?  Does it have to be a monetary risk in order to catapult you to success?

This weekend, I was at a writer’s institute (you know, the one you saw me crying about in that video) and I was learning about all the different ways I could try to publish my book.  To summarize, there are 3 basic ways a book can be published:

  1.  Self-publishing:  You do everything yourself. You edit, proofread, design your own cover using an online website, and then you upload it to Amazon.  Anyone can do this, and it costs you nothing (except your time.)  You make most of your royalties, with Amazon taking a chunk.  Your book is not in physical bookstores (usually).
  2. Hybrid publishing:  There are publishing companies out there who want to help authors publish high-quality books, but don’t have the means to necessarily take the risk on you. So they take your pitch, and if they like you, they’ll work with you to get a great book out there.  However, the risk is yours because you have to pay money for their services.  This can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars, all the way to $10,000, depending on what you need.
  3. New-York publishing:  This is like trying to win American Idol.  The publishing business is WAY different from what it was, thanks to a lot of different things (e-books, self-publishing, the economy’s depression).  Nobody gives you a huge advance anymore (unless you’ve already proven you can sell a trillion books), they don’t pay for you to travel around on a book tour and go on the Today Show.  You have to be ok with risking a lot of your time, because it takes forever.  And before you can even do this, you have to find an agent who not only believes in you, but believes that your book can make money.

The book I wrote (still untitled) is a book about loss and hope.  It’s a memoir about losing my twins, and all the horrible, crappy things that came after, and then how I used my grief to find a community that helped me through.  I tell about how I flew from Wisconsin to LA to meet a stranger from the internet that had become my best friend I know, crazy, right?).

I’ve read a lot of books about grief, and I don’t find any of them to be particularly honest.  As I was writing mine, I was thinking about the things that made me feel crazy when I was dealing with loss and my subsequent pregnancies.  I wrote about them in detail.  I included photographs, texts, emails, and artifacts from that time that may really surprise you (emails from funeral directors explaining how you can’t cremate infants by themselves because they burn too fast, a relative who told me my babies died because they would have been serial killers, and ALL THE TIMES someone told me that it happened for a reason)

When my twins had just died, the only books about infant loss I could find were written by PhDs, or they were so focused on being “literary” that they left out a lot of the grit, which is what (I think) we need.  We need honesty, and transparency.  Someone to tell us that we are not alone, and that there is hope.

I don’t think I”m necessarily destined to become a New York Time’s Best-Selling Author.  However, I am so passionate about this book being read, and not just by loving friends and family who support me in whatever I do.  There’s a place for this book on the shelf.

So, what am I willing to risk?  My family’s money?  More of my time?  How far am I willing to go?

What say you?  What risks have you taken in your life?  Have they mostly worked out for you?

 

You’ve got this, yo.

BeanBag

I recently posted this photograph on my Facebook page, with a little story that went along with it.  Basically, I was refilling my bean bag chairs, when a student sat on one, not knowing it wasn’t zipped and this happened.  For a few minutes, it actually looked like it was snowing in my classroom.  There was so much laughter and everyone jumped in to help clean up.

I received lots of comments and laughs about this picture, and just so you know, beans are still floating around in my school.  In the library, in the hallway, even in kids’ backpacks.  But, a few of the comments stuck with me.  Things like:

“I’d want my kid in your class!  I’m so glad you let them have fun!”

and

“This is what’s missing from school today:  fun.”

And you know what?  They are SO RIGHT.  Fun is important, and it’s missing from our schools these days.  So much is.  But fun can’t happen unless you are a community first.  In my opinion, neither can much work.

My goal as an educator is two-fold, to build a community and to inspire to learn.

That’s it.  That’s what I’m trying to do.  And let me tell you, it’s SO HARD.  Teaching 22 9- year-olds how to be a family, when some of them don’t have a family of their own?  That’s hard.  Inspiring kids to learn who go home and play video games until they are actually sick to their stomach?  That’s tough, too.

But, the thing is, it’s what gets me up in the morning.  It is NOT test scores, or reading levels, or interventions, it’s the connection that I make with the kids in my class.  I take my job seriously, and I look at the data and I do everything I can to help kids get what they need.  My primary focus, though, is showing kids that when you work together, you can do anything.

Every other Friday afternoon, my class does acknowledgments.  So, we sit in a circle, and someone starts, and we say things like, “I acknowledge Joey for helping me with my math project,” and “I acknowledge Sam for playing 4 square with me when no one else wanted to.”  And then, at the end, I go around the circle and I acknowledge every single kid in my class.  I tell them how they inspired me this week. I tell them how proud I am of them.  I even tell them that though they messed up this week and got in trouble in music class, I’m proud of how they handled it, and I’m sure it won’t happen again.

And, you know what?

There is a clear dichotomy in my classroom.  The kids who are told this at home, told this by their parents and family members, and truly believe that they are good, they grin from ear to ear while I talk about them.  Their eyes dance and their cheeks turn pink with pleasure.

The other half, though.  The other half, they are the ones that never hear this.  They are the ones who have no idea what they are worth.  And they don’t smile when I talk about them.  They cry.  Tears spring to their eyes and they lock eye contact with me, and they don’t let go.

Those every-other-Friday acknowledgments (which I’m technically skipping social studies to do, so don’t tell anyone) are why I stay in this job, even though I am EXHAUSTED and so tired of the politics and people who don’t understand at all what it’s like to be responsible for these little lives making all the decisions.  I stay because I can make my class a family. We have inside jokes, and they know lots of stuff about me.

They know I’m writing a book about losing twins, and they think it’s awesome.  They checked in with me every day to see if I got my audition for Listen to your Mother.  They ask what silly things my kids have done lately. And in turn, I know that one boy’s mom just got a new boyfriend, and he’s kinda mean. And a girl who never sees her mom is getting to spend Easter with her and she’s excited.  I know who wants a hover-board for her birthday, and who likes to draw dragons.

This is what life is made of, folks.  Having fun, sure—but mostly, building relationships.  It’s more important than anything else.  Certainly more important than how they do on a math test, but we care about that, too, because we are in it together.

Our schools are missing this community building.  We’re stuck to teaching a certain amount of minutes of each subject, barely leaving time for recess, let alone a morning meeting to welcome your class.  We need to be responsive to our classrooms, because when we’re not…we’re not being responsive to kids.  We aren’t teaching them the skills they need to get along in this crazy world.

Teachers out there, you keep doing what you are doing.  We will get through this, somehow.  And don’t forget to have fun, although I do not recommend refilling bean bags to achieve this.  🙂

You’ve got this, yo!  

 

Listen to Your Mother

You guys!!!!

Remember the thing I auditioned for?

Well…my story was chosen!  I am full of mixed emotions about this.  Grateful, of course, and like I told you before, it’s something I really, really wanted to happen.

But I’m also extremely nervous.  The story I wrote is about losing my twin babies, and as much as I want other moms to hear this story, the fact that I have to tell it is seriously scary.

I guess it’s like they say, if it doesn’t make you totally freaked out, it’s probably not worth it!  Right???

Does it make me brave?  I’m not sure.  I’m told pretty often by people who know me that I’m brave for sharing my story, which has always kind of confused me.  I don’t feel brave.  I certainly don’t feel strong.  The only thing I feel is this strong urge to help other people remember that they are not alone.  That their story is unique, but their grief can be shared.

So much of what happens in this world we keep for ourselves.  We own it and we think we are being brave by “handling” it ourselves.  There’s a sort of pride in doing it by yourself, alone, and not “bothering” anyone.  I wish this would change.  I wish it were the strong thing to do to reach out and tell someone what you’re going through, instead of trying to go it alone.

We need each other.  We can’t forget the power of “Me, too!”  We are all searching for that feeling of belonging, whether it has to do with the things we love, or the things that scare us, or the feelings we have.

I teach 9 and 10 year olds, but I’ve taught high schoolers, and middle schoolers, too, and at every age level it’s so easy to see that the things we struggle with as kids never really do go away.  No matter what kind of life we lead, there is pain, and longing, and there is an ease and comfort in knowing that we are not alone.

We are never alone.  That’s what I am hoping to share with my story about my twins.  I need your luck, ok?  April 28th will be here before I know it!

Xo