Dear Teachers, Yes. It is, in fact, the 367th day of May. There is a full moon, I just saw 17 black cats, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to rain every single day this… 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.
I love my students. LOVE. THEM. Every single day they make me smile, they make my heart dance, they make me frustrated, they make me laugh hysterically and make me roll my eyes so hard I can see the back of my head.
I love my school. I love hearing children read. I love watching them run and sing and dance and play. I love feeling like I have a family away from home and I love emails from students 5 years later that ask me the title of a book I read to them when they were 9. I love knowing that my words and encouragement could change a whole kid’s day around.
The career of an educator has changed so much, though, even in the 15 years I’ve been in the profession. The expectations put on us are insurmountable, yet I don’t go a week without hearing about how easy our job is because we have summers off.
It is alarming how many educators that I know suffer from mental health issues (anxiety/depression). We are faced with feeling that we are NEVER adequate enough. That we are NEVER caught up. That we can do the right thing 1,000 times and it’s not noticed, but we mess up once, and we’re called out immediately.
We are facing classrooms full of kids with myriad issues: not just divorced parents, but parents with restraining orders against them, victims of abuse and neglect, kids whose parents are incarcerated, kids who are homeless and hungry. And this is all in my small town-we have a population of less than 10,000.
I am not naive to think that these issues didn’t exist always, but I insist that we are now responsible more than ever. Social and emotional issues are affecting all of us, and in a world where test scores are more important than anything, I get quite literally stuck on the fact that kids whose minds are wandering to the worries of their life aren’t exactly trying their very best on the multiple choice tests in front of them.
My 4th graders will embark on another round of state testing next week. We spend TWO weeks of class time taking these standardized tests. I’ve been stocking up on granola bars to feed hungry kids, and gum and hard candy as a teeny tiny gift. We’ll plan extra recess and a movie day at the end, but, you guys—it is SO.MUCH.TESTING.
It makes me physically ill to think about going to school during testing week. Because I know that in the middle of it all, someone might be pulled to talk to Child Protective Services, or miss school because they were at the parent’s house who drinks too much and forgets to bring them to school. They might rush through the test just to get done because they think they’re dumb anyway.
I used to spend quite a bit of time judging parents. I couldn’t even imagine what was wrong with them that they would treat their children like they did.
I know better, now, and so now I do better. I know that the support systems I have in my life are most definitely NOT in a lot of other people’s. I know that parents, with few exceptions, love their children and want them to do well. I know that they are human and they make mistakes and sometimes there are substance abuse issues and sometimes there are a lot of things we don’t know about.
And this is a biiiiiigggggggg but. Teachers are being expected more then ever to step in and support and comfort the children in their class. To help teach social and emotional skills that are not being taught at home. To make sure that kids are fed and have clean clothes and personal hygiene products. To answer phone calls and emails from parents immediately, and with a “customer is always right” attitude, although sometimes they are so far from right.
Perhaps you can see the cycle now. Parents are not healthy, which affects the child’s life. Teachers want to help but really cannot, and the issues seep in, causing the teacher to feel extra stress and worry.
I’ve been told I need to keep in mind the child’s home life. I’ve been told I’ve gotten “too close” to students who come to me for advice or for that extra connection (in other words, I need to be there for them, but not too often, because then they maybe won’t connect enough with other adults).
I’ve been treated SO horribly by parents – here’s a lesson plan for you since you don’t know how to teach writing (that one is extra ironic now), how dare you tell me my child needs this or that, complete harassment from a parent when I declined to be a part of their custody fight (as I only ever heard from one parent, I didn’t feel qualified), and on and on.
I’m telling you this because before if I were not a teacher I would have no idea. I’m telling you this because teachers need your support. I’m telling you this because we need you to stick up for us, whether it be with your drunk Uncle Bob, or in the online comments on the newspaper article about teacher salary.
I’m telling you this because it is referendum time. Schools need your support now, more than ever. I’m telling you this because we need YOU. Email your child’s principal and tell him/her how much you appreciate your child’s teacher. Email your school board and ask them what their plan is for rising student numbers in classrooms. Please stop complaining about school supply lists. Shift your mind to the knowledge that there is NOTHING more important than our children and those that take care of them. Vote yes in your referendums.
If you are able, send in some Ticonderogas and some goldfish crackers to have on hand in a classroom. Trust me, we always need them.
Write a sweet note to a teacher you’ve always loved. Encourage them to keep fighting. Some us are ready to give up and give in.
We need you now more than ever!
I’ve been thinking lately about how so much of life is about misunderstanding. A lack of clear communication. An absence of the ability to say how we feel and why. A tendency to jump to the defense when someone tells us we’ve hurt them, instead of actually listen to what it is they’re saying.
Have you ever been in the “middle” of a terrible fight? By that, I mean, two people are in a horrible disagreement, but they are both confiding in you?
For whatever reason, this has happened to me more than once. It’s, of course, extremely difficult because you can’t tell the other person what the other one said, and it’s so important to stay neutral, but more than anything it is so interesting to see how one thing, one problem, can be seen in two totally different ways. You know, the whole “two sides to every story” problem.
One of my biggest faults, and it’s gotten even worse since the twins died, and then amplified by two kids who NEVER stop talking, is that I have a complete phobia/hatred of speaking on the phone. I used to pace around in circles, wishing and wishing for the phone call to be over so I could move on. I’d pretend that we lost connection or my phone was about to die (but never with you, if you’re reading this! LOL). I hate how when you tell people you have to go, they continue on anyway. I hate how once you’ve said what you need to say, there’s a feeling that you should keep talking anyway.
When I first got married, I had no idea how much it bugged/angered/hurt my mother-in-law that I never answered the phone. I loved my mother-in-law so, so much, but I couldn’t stand having phone conversations with her, when she lived 4 minutes away and I always thought, why don’t you just come over?
So, anyway, a ton of my communication is done over text and email and social media. This is the way I like it, because I like using written words. I like having time to think about what I’m saying, and go back and reread and make sure I don’t sound like an asshole. I like being able to set aside the time to respond in a meaningful way, instead of answer the phone while I’m also cooking, doing laundry, reading to my kids, and brushing the cat.
Like everything in life, though, there is always a downfall. And first of all, my choice to not answer the phone or return phone calls puts out a message, even when it’s not intentional, that I don’t want communication. And sometimes, when a phone call is absolutely necessary, I still flake out and I don’t make the call.
Sometimes, as they say, silence speaks volumes. Even when all I really mean it to say is, I will totally answer you if you text me. (HA)
This summer, when my mother-in-law died, my husband was in France and un-reachable, and my children (and myself) were distraught. I had suddenly added a cat to my household, and I was in total and complete shock. I was on auto-pilot, going about my day to plan a funeral and play with my kids, then put them to bed and weep. If my mom hadn’t come for a few of the days, I don’t know what I would’ve done (thanks, Mom!).
But during this time, one snap decision that I made to not pick up the phone (not at all because of any animosity or to cause pain, but because I just couldn’t. I just could. not.) turned everything into this big horrible mess. Of course, when someone has died, you should answer the phone. I knew this. I know this. I messed up.
Next, my poor husband who was stranded abroad with high schoolers and hardly being able to function, should have made some phone calls himself. After all, someone had died. But that someone was his mom, and he was so worried about everything that he could barely function. And so he didn’t pick up that phone, and he sent a text instead (I mean, maybe I could add here that I texted him like 10 tens telling him to call, so I get a little credit, LOL).
What happened next was right out of a novel, of course. One thing after another and soon I was, quite literally, SCREAMING into the phone like a lunatic, my rage and fear and grief all combined into one huge toddler-like fit in the middle of the night and through that enabling a situation to tumble down the mountain like an avalanche.
Y’all know that funerals don’t exactly bring out the best in people. There is so much judgment. People get misinformation. There are misunderstandings. There are people who we forget to thank, or people who we feel have let us down. There’s money, and paperwork, and lawyers, and decisions. But most of that is just happening in the fog of grief, and unless we can talk openly and honestly about how we’re feeling, it’s just going to be a mess. A dumpster fire, if you will.
As I get older, I just have come to realize that relationships are more difficult than we ever knew as kids. My mother-in-law always tried SO hard to not suffocate us (like she had felt), that we spent years hurt that she didn’t want to be around us. Had we talked sooner, I think we could have saved a lot of tears. But her experience was different than ours, we were of different generations, and while she loved to talk, she wouldn’t (and probably couldn’t) express her feelings very well. She was often in riffs with her friends and, boy, was she stubborn!
One summer, I shared with my husband that I just felt it was so silly that all of us were adults and we were having all these hurt feelings across the board, when we really all wanted the same thing: to be together. So we called her up and said, “Listen. We are having family dinner every Wednesday. If one of us has to cancel, we reschedule for the next night. End of story.”
She agreed. And I’m telling you—it didn’t fix everything, but it came darn near close. I learned so much from that. I am so grateful to my mother-in-law for everything she taught me, and for her fierce love and her pride in everything I did. I’m grateful that she loved me like a daughter and gave me all sorts of second chances. I’m so sad that I never got a chance to say that I was sorry for any of the ways that I made her sad or mad.
Losing her has taught me so much about living my best life. It has reminded me that I need to be open, and honest about as many things in life as I can. It has hurtled me back into this space where I feel uncomfortable and I want to fight the grief that has crept its way back in.
We’ve lost some other people along the way since she died, not because of death, but because of misunderstandings. Because nobody wanted to own up (including me!) to the mistakes that had been made. Because we let history get in our way. Because we really didn’t mean it when we said, “I’m sorry,” or we just thought it was easier to ignore the problem.
I read recently that as soon as you start caring for yourself and for what you want, you start pissing people off. I have clearly done at least a little of that in the past 2 years, since I started Um, You Guys and published my book. I’ve hurt people, I’ve made mistakes that I have learned so much from, but I do sort of feel that that’s what life is about. I’ve tried to use my experiences to connect with others, but really people just see it as me flaunting my personal problems/struggles all over the Internet(s). Sigh.
I never, ever imagined that I would be the “toxic” person in someone else’s life, someone who needs to be removed, like a pest, but it appears that I’ve not been able to escape that particular label. Removed without a second thought, my toxicity having leaked too far in.
I guess that’s helped me learn that the people who are toxic to me probably don’t mean to be-and I’ve removed them, too, without the wish to hurt them, but just to have my heart back and safe. Maybe some of them have been a misunderstanding- and maybe not. But for what it’s worth, it’s never been personal.
Dang, y’all, that got long. If you’re still with me, thanks so much. Keep on living that best life, yo.
You got this.
Most of you are here because you appreciate my vulnerability and my honesty, even when it, quite frankly, paints me in a bad light. But part of what I think my platform is, part of the reason I think I’m here, is because I need for people to know that life is so messy and so unpredictable and so roller-coaster-y!
Just this week I had someone confide in me that she was nervous about her child because she has been sneaking things and lying. I was like, “Girl! That’s what kids do!” I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone look so relieved. And yes, I’m sure there are kids who don’t lie or cheat or sneak, but as a 4th grade teacher for almost 10 years? Yeah. Most kids do.
And that’s totally developmental and normal, and what do I think you should do about it? I think you should talk. Talk to your kid. Model. Show empathy and kindness. Show love and show logical consequences.
But…you guys. I still totally lose my mind sometimes! And I’m an educator, who is literally trained to work with children.
This school year has been a huge challenge for me. I’m gonna be honest and say it’s been the most challenging school year I’ve had. But that’s probably because I have blocked out several of them 🙂 But, really, it has been challenging. And not necessarily because of my students (I love them ALL, for real!) but because of adult relationships and growing pains and pressure and stress. I mean, and also my students, because some of them just need SO much of me.
Not because they’re “naughty.” Not because they’re “bad.” But because they have these extraordinary personalities or learning abilities that make them this giant puzzle that I have to constantly move around to try to piece together.
When I say I’m struggling, I’m saying that little things turn into big things really easily. I’m saying that I’m pulling back, pulling in, and wanting to stay home where I feel the most safe. I mean that my anxiety has cranked itself up a notch and when I’m anxious, it comes out as irritability and lack of patience, and I mean that I am sad.
I am sad.
But, you know, I’ve learned over these past almost 10 years that it is ok to be sad. And I am still putting my all into teaching and my class is a community, and that’s what matters most to me.
What I can’t get is that even though I KNOW this, there is always, always this voice in the back of my head telling me I’m a loser.
Today, I lost a follower on Um, You Guys. I spent $50 of my book money (which isn’t that much to begin with) on a contest that I shared like crazy and only 25 people entered, and I didn’t gain any new followers.
Right now, you’re thinking, oh, wahhhh, Christy. Not a big deal.
And it’s not!
But really, just about 10 minutes ago I had pretty much decided it’s time for me to shut down the Um, You Guys Facebook page. It’s been 2 years and although I think long and hard about what I post, and I love the comments I do get, I’m just not getting anywhere that I want to get. I still have less than 2,000 followers, and people don’t comment or share, and it takes up a LOT of my time. If there were a way I could even make a little money, or grab someone’s attention….I don’t know. Right now it feels very much like I’m not making the difference I hoped I would.
I wonder if my mom told me I was special too many times, because I always have this idea in the back of my head, that I will be successful at whatever I do. And I DO feel successful with my book, but, and you can laugh at me right now, I was honestly convinced that someone (read: Colleen Hoover) would share my book to her bajillion followers and I’d be on Good Morning America reaching ALL THE BEREAVED MOMS EVERYWHERE and then I’d start a foundation and lead retreats.
Yeah. For real.
But, instead, I can’t even figure out how to record my own audio book, although it’s not for lack of trying, and I’m quite often too tired to write, and my self-esteem is probably at an all-time low.
I think-and correct me if I’m wrong-that this breaking point is where we get divided. I think this is where people give up, or they decide to power through and give it their ALL to see if they can “make it.”
So, I guess it’s time to see what I’m really made of. Can I reach a little deeper down and grab all the strength I have left so I can keep going? Can I find a way to keep trying? Because, yo, the reality is that I’ve barely even been in this “business.” I have SO MUCH more time I need to put in. This shiznit doesn’t happen over night, ya know!
I think so, because I just had a really good idea of what I want to put on our Um, You Guys T-Shirts and Tote Bags. LOL.
We’ll see! In the meantime, thank y’all so much for being here. For reading. For giving this girl from a tiny town in Wisconsin a chance.
In my final installment of Authors Turning Pages Spotlights, I am THRILLED to introduce you to Todd Olson.
Todd is our director/producer. If you’re local, he is also the director of Heart of La Crosse, an improv comedy troupe that will make you laugh SO HARD your jaw will hurt. Seriously.
I don’t even remember meeting Todd. Not in the way that he is not memorable, but in the way that I just feel like I’ve always known him. As a businessman, he is, without a doubt, the man you want in your corner. He’s smart and level-headed, he can make a decision without being wishy-washy but also without being brash.
He owns this INCREDIBLE videography company called Cine1Productions and if you take a look at his projects, you’d think these are coming straight from Hollywood. I mean it-no matter what I do, everything I make LOOKS like it was made on my mac. He has an enormous talent in making a clean, organized, crisp, HIGH quality video. He made us a few commercials for this event and it was SO fun. One day, we literally bounced a ball down the street from Onalaska all the way to LaCrosse.
He is also SO FREAKING FUNNY. Whenever I’m down, he’ll do or say something to make me laugh. Oh, hey, did I mention he’s married to Lisa David Olson? Sometimes I just sit and imagine how they live in their house together without just peeing their pants from laughing so hard all day long. He can do ANY accent you want, and you’ll believe you are talking to someone from Scotland, or Australia, or a German with a bad English accent.
He can also make the best faces I’ve ever seen. Case in point:
As a human being, you would LOVE him. It is so easy to see why he and Lisa are perfect together. He hasn’t had it easy in this life—but you’d never know it. He takes everything in stride and stays true to his integrity and high moral code. As a father, I can see just how much he loves ALL his kids, and when I’m frustrated about my own children or a situation at school, he listens and gives great advice. When that day comes that you need to bailed out of jail, he’s the guy that will bail you out first, and THEN let you know exactly what he thinks about that.
I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone, but one time I brought these tiny little (seriously, miniature) water color paints and mini notebooks and just because it would make me happy, he painted a little bit for me. This is the kind of guy you want on your side, right?
You’ll see him/hear him in our show, but also know that he’s in charge of the line up, the lighting, the sound, and basically pulling us to our full potential (hopefully).
Go like his production page, and if you need a video made, he is SO your man. We ALL can’t wait to see you on October 24th or 25th at the Pump House. Get your tickets now!
Continuing in my series of highlighting authors for my upcoming event, I’d like you to meet a lovely lady named Laura Mausolf.
Event: #bewhoyouneeded presents Author Turning Pages at the PumpHouse in LaCrosse on Weds 10/24 or Thurs 10/25. Tickets available at https://www.thepumphouse.org/about/tickets-box-office/
I met Laura first on Facebook, so when I ran into her at my son’s T-Ball game, I wasn’t sure if I should go up to her or not. As it turns out, she came up to me the instant she saw me and IMMEDIATELY made me feel like we had been friends for years.
She and her husband Bob are the most adorable couple. She is tiny, but FIERCE, yo, and she cracks me up with her innocence coupled with her tendency to use swears. LOL! As the weeks went by, I realized that my absolute favorite thing about her is how absolutely GENUINE she is.
What I mean by that is I’m positive that everything she says, she has taken the time to reflect and be sure that she isn’t hurting anyone with her words. She is careful, and takes her time. Laura has this absolutely kind spirit and exudes a sort of peace about herself.
It’s so hard for me to believe that Laura has struggled through anything-mostly because of that happy, joyful, peaceful spirit, but she has–and she is now dedicating her life to spread awareness about anxiety and postpartum depression. PPD is one of those things that nobody ever talks about, and she doesn’t want anyone else to feel as alone as she did.
Watching her with her adorable boys now is an amazing testament to how sometimes it takes a lot of hard work to get where you want-but you will make it if you believe in yourself. She is an incredible mama and loves those children without abandon.
She can teach you anything-she not only works in the cath lab as a nurse, but she knows meditation, yoga, how to tell you what all those crystals are supposed to do, and more! 🙂
During our show at the Pump House, you’ll fall just as in love with her as Lisa and I have, and you’ll laugh hysterically at her “wild” side. Oh yeah, there is one, yo. I’m serious.
It’s no secret I want to be Brene Brown. Or Rachel Hollis. I obviously know the chances of that are about the same as me making it in the NFL. (By the way, maybe message them and suggest my book to put on their TBR list? It can’t hurt, just sayin’).
HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean I can’t do the things I love. And I LOVE speaking to people. I love doing my best to lift people up, make them laugh, and remind them that it’s ok to not be ok.
In the last year, venturing into the book publishing industry, joining writing groups, and networking my little tushy off, I have met SO MANY incredible people. And even though we kinda throw words like incredible and awesome around, I seriously mean INCREDIBLE. As in, you look at someone and you just wonder, how can someone be so freaking awesome?
Tonight I want to tell you about a lady I know. She, along with one other superhero (who I will introduce to you next week), is doing a show with me in a few weeks at this amazing arts center called The Pumphouse. Oh, and our director, who I will also introduce next week is her hubby. They’re kinda sickly cute, though, be warned.
For over a year now, people have been saying to me, “Omg, you need to meet Lisa David Olson. You and she would totally hit it off. You will be besties.”
And, of course, I didn’t meet her. Not on purpose, yo. I just didn’t run into her.
And then, one night, like magic, she showed up at my writing small group. And I went home that night and thought:
- Everyone was right, I DO love her.
- We need to collaborate because we both JUST released books and they’re about humor and overcoming our tough experiences.
And so, without any hesitation, when I asked her if she wanted to work with me (think you’re inviting a new friend to a sleepover in 7th grade), she said, “Absolutely!”
A summary of Lisa:
*She is FREAKING HILARIOUS. Like, should be on Saturday Night Live hilarious (Um, anyone out there with connections? Because, for real, she is legit the funniest person and can keep a totally straight face when she’s making you practically pee your pants laughing).
*She has been through some stuff, but she NEVER whines or complains about it. She’s like, “Yo, we got this. Bring it on.”
*She LOVES kids. And not just like, “Oh, kids are awesome,” but, more like, “OMG I see a child over there, I wonder if it wants a sucker?” Ok, that sounds on the creepy side, but you know what I mean. She is SUCH a mother and a nurturer, which is really quite incredible considering her recent book is about surviving an abusive, alcoholic mother.
*She means business. She’s a hustler. She shows up. She’s responsible. She takes everything seriously. She will make you want to work harder.
*Have you ever known someone who can’t show up empty-handed? I have another friend, Pete, who is like this too. Basically, anytime we meet for anything, she has some sort of little trinket for me. Last time I saw her she gave me a wrapped crystal-thing that I now keep on my nightstand and touch right before bed. She thinks ahead and wants to just spread the love.
At our show at the Pumphouse, she will make you laugh so hard you pee. Well, almost pee. I don’t want you coming thinking you’ll have to wear a diaper. She will inspire you to DO better and BE better but somehow at the same time remind you that you are PERFECT just the way you are.
Can’t wait to see you there!
Link to tickets: https://www.thepumphouse.org/product/authors-turning-pages/
October 24 or 25, 2018.
OH! And if you can’t make it to the event, you can find her book here:
Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM!
I love my children. They are awesome.
I love my job. There isn’t one better.
I love my husband. He could teach how-to-be-a-good-husband class.
I know I’ll “miss it someday.”
I know it “goes so fast.”
I know I’m so lucky because I have what so many others don’t.
I know lucky isn’t even really the word because I have SO MUCH.
Sometimes, I still need to plug my ears.
That is all.