Who can relate to the excitement to a visit to the local dollar store? What is it about the dollar store, not any particular store? They all have their special deals and personalities. It can bring one generation to another together just like last Saturday. My mother, Peggy, is eighty-three years old.Our usual Saturday visits include a quick trip to Wal-Mart for about eight items if she is willing to get out. Well, this past Saturday was a beautiful sunny day and I was determined to find something different than our usual grocery stop. We were definitely getting into a rut. Well, the passengers for the day started with my teenage son (15), then next stop Mom (83), my brother (62) and myself (47). Wow, what could we all find a little pleasure from all together? Who knew we could find some common ground at the local dollar store. At first, we weren’t all on board, but we all gave it a try. My son resisted as one foot slowly went in front of the other one as we all walked through the door with the ringing bell. I whispered quietly in his ear, “C’mon, let’s do this for grandma!” My mom couldn’t hear over the bell and all the customers crossing the street. I helped my mom inside, cane and all. My brother headed to the shelves overflowing with books, Alex to the area with the lastest shipment of Cardinal gear, and I accompanied my mother to her favorite spot, the perfume for one dollar. It was a find this Saturday…Jordache and Passion. She started to laugh and say, “You just can’t beat one dollar, even if it doesn’t last long, it is worth it.” Well, I had to find something, so I headed to the office supply area and found two lanyards I could use in my classroom. The dollar deal store contained something for everyone and it brought a smile to everyone’s face, well, maybe not the teenager. But hey, I don’t think he was frowning. Thanks dollar store for bringing all of us together last Saturday. It is in the simple things, even dollar deals!!!
I never knew a love so strong…yes, I am referring to my dog crush – her name is Bailey. She is small with black curly hair and those adorable bangs…you know tufts of black curls jetting out from above her eyes. She walks around like she is looking for a spare headband, barrette, or even a bobby pin. Bailey has taught me more lessons about love, giving, and companionship than any of my other human relationships. It is the weirdest thing. It is different than any other pet relationship I have ever encountered. Maybe it is because she is an inside dog, and my other dogs have always been outside. It just didn’t seem like a huge commitment with my other dogs. With an inside dog, it feels real. She is in our space and observing as a family all of the time. Bailey has seen me at my best and worst times with family members, when I am relaxing and chillin’, and when I am running late, stressed, or extremely sick, she has always been there.
I remember the sick moments when I had to rest for two days after I returned from the hospital with chest pain. She knew how serious it was, she laid by my side for those two whole days. When I slept, she slept. When I got up to go to the bathroom, yes, she did go to the bathroom (on her pad). When I ate, she ate. It was amazing and comforting. I remember the exciting times like coming home after a vacation and seeing her rush to the door like I was the most important person in the world. AHHHH, dog love can be good!
All day long, it was a nagging, but exhilarating feeling and then, suddenly an unusual word popped into my head…rusty. That’s how I felt – rusty with my thinking just a few days ago. I had been feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and underappreciated before we left for the conference. This energy was being transferred to my students. It was the perfect day to get away, last week Wednesday. We slipped out just before the students were leaving for the day and it felt good to pull away, the school memories floating farther and farther away.
Just a few days ago, I returned from that writing conference with four colleagues. I returned with four renewed and new friendships. We cried, told stories, and more importantly laughed. Today I felt the energy after a return from an amazing writing conference, my students were feeling the same excitement with our renewed writing workshop time in the classroom, but as I sit down to write for a few quiet moments, it was almost as if I was the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. My brain seemed slow and my hands did feel timid to start thinking and creating words on a page. What did they do to the Tin Man or what about that old door that creaks every time you open it, or my mom’s joints after a painful day of sitting on a cold wintery day? Lubrication, practice, a change in viewpoint. That is what I needed literally for my writing to take off again, and figuratively with my career. As students, parents, teachers, we all feel rusty at times in our lives.
When I was six, I left my bike out over a six week period in the dead of winter. It was leaned up against dad’s machine shed behind the house. When the first few warm days of spring came along, it had those pesky little brown spots. I ran into to tell my mom and she tried to explain the science behind it. I didn’t care, I just wanted my bike to look normal again. A few little wipes and it started to look new again. As I think about my 47 year old self and my teaching career,not just my time to write, the word rusty seems to fit. I need someone to lubricate (an oil of sorts) to rejuvenate my thinking and give me back that renewed energy that somehow went away over the past few weeks. You know all the deadlines, paperwork, meetings that seem to cover up some of those enjoyable teaching moments. Well, I got that magic oil while listening to some amazing educators at the Write to Learn conference. Now as I sit here and start to get back in the groove of writing, clearing any rust from my mind, body, and spirit.
Today I made a promise to myself, find time to exercise. I have every excuse in the book … laundry, school work, writing, reading my book, watching my favorite rerun “Matlock”, hanging out with my family, etc. I coaxed myself into thinking-just start off slow. Ten minutes is a good place to start. It is always one of the first things I want to cross off my “to do” lists over the years.
What me really starting to think why it should be bumped up towards the top of the to do list. My seventeen-year-old daughter and I attended a college orientation day yesterday. We had to walk a short distance and climb several steps to attend some of the meetings. I was clearly winded and it scared me inside. I was too embarrassed to tell my daughter, but I know I want to feel healthier, be healthier, and be happier.
Today I sit here and write this commitment to me. I promise to take better care of myself by walking on the treadmill every day this week. I can try to flip things, read my book on the treadmill, watch t.v. while walking, hang out and exercise at the same time; ahhhh! You need to know I am not great with multi-tasking. I will start off slow…ten minutes and gradually increase the time. One statement that stuck with me from all the orientation sessions yesterday was “what you do most, you do best!” Gotta go, headin’ towards the treadmill. I might not exercise most, my goal is to exercise more and I might not do it best, but I can do it better.
Three generations gathering together at least once or twice a week.
Grandma P.’s small apartment in a town not too far away.
We come together, always searching for something to bind us closer,
A bridge of sorts to connect our souls.
Today we did feel some success, cell phones tucked away by the two teenagers,
not escaping out. My directions stepping out of the car, give Grandma your
undivided attention, she deserves it!
I find myself as the mother, and the daughter, the one in the middle of this gap.
It can be a very snug spot to sit, but I made a huge realization today.
I am the bridge, the stepping stone of sorts to connect us…our three different generations.
Writing workshop in fourth grade is always a happy time for me. I teach three classes of fourth graders throughout the day. It always amazes, surprises, and excites me to learn more about my teaching through the experiences of each class. Each class has a different personality comparable to siblings. I don’t love one more than the other. It is always interesting to me when I find similarities and differences in how they interact, learn, and teach me each day. Let me take you into a glimpse of this during our lesson on opinion text writing yesterday. The students had just listened to a mentor text, “I Wanna Iguana” and they had returned to their desks to do an agree/disagree chart. The task was to read each opinion, then mark strongly agree, mildly agree, neutral, mildly disagree, and strongly disagree. Students responded to the task in a serious, thoughtful way.
After a few minutes of forming opinions and adding a few of their own on the chart, we focused on number four: chewing gum should be allowed. I asked the students to stand reminding them to be confident about their opinions and speak freely on the why of their thoughts. We proceeded to the line-up. We formed a line including me in order from strongly agree to strongly disagree with neutral in the middle. I encouraged any neutral thinkers to make a decision on one of the sides. This is the part that amazed me, in each class, there was two to five on the mildly/strongly disagree side. After we formed the line-up, we took a few minutes to support our thinking. On one side, we heard reasons like, “gum helps you focus and learn!” Another student said, “Gum will raise test scores!” On the opposite side, we heard, “Kids will smack, and blow bubbles.” “It will be distracting!” and “They will bug other people asking for pieces of gum.”
With each class, I was grinning bigger and bigger. I know I was amazed with the similarities I noticed. I was even happier on how thoughtful the students were. They were excited to share their thoughts and opinions. It renewed those feelings many years ago on why I became a teacher. I wanted students to be thinkers, confident problem solvers, and respect each other. I witnessed that today and I am proud to be a teacher.
Waiting can be hard….an approaching ice/snow event for our area has propelled almost all the schools in the area to close. It is just raining now, but we are all waiting for the raindrops to change to icy hard pieces of sleet. Sleet is supposed to change into snow…waiting. We all do this throughout our life. Waiting can be boring, exciting, full of anxiety, and full of hope. I look back over my life and it is full of those expecting moments. This slice is dedicated to short glimpses into those waiting periods of life.
I remember being six and looking out the window waiting for my dad’s headlights from the pickup to appear moving down the driveway.
I remember being a second grader and waiting at Grandma G.’s house to eat dinner.
I remember being a third grader and waiting for the song to end at Grandma’s funeral at the Assembly of God Church.
I remember being twelve and counting down the days waiting to be a teenager.
I remember waiting for the day dad would drive me to go get my license to drive.
I remember being a very shy high school freshman waiting to give my first speech in a club election.
I remember waiting with butterflies to give my salutatorian speech on high school graduation night.
I remember waiting with such excitement for my parents to help me unpack my belongings my first year of college.
I remember waiting every Sunday night with tears to call my mom and dad, tell them how great college was going, when my heart ached for home.
I remember being 18 years old and finally telling my parents, “College is great and mean it.”
I remember waiting to hear I had my first grown-up job as a teacher.
I remember waiting for my husband to propose after five long years of dating.
I remember waiting for my dad to wake up after a 10 hour heart surgery.
I remember waiting with a heavy heart after shaking hands with hundreds of people at the funeral chapel honoring my dad.
I remember waiting another two weeks after nine months of waiting for my first child to be born.
I remember waiting for my husband to get Burger King after the doctor told to head straight to the hospital for the birth of my son, he did arrive one and half hours after the B.K. stop.
I remember waiting three long weeks for my daughter to leave the hospital after a tragic accident.
I remember waiting for the call that school will be closed for the snow.
Isn’t he funny how smells can take you back to a memory of a different time and place? My husband cooked one of those big bone-in hams today in a large roaster. The ten pound ham was the traditional gift from the company that he received each year. The smell started drifted throughout the house around 10 a.m. right after church, yummy pineapple mixed with red maraschino cherries. My son came up the steps saying, “Smells like Thanksgiving!” The smell of that delicious ham seemed to just make the house happy and everyone inside feel happier. It took me back to Christmas as a young girl when mom baked using her old blue pan. We had a dark brown oven in the wall that screeched every time you pulled the door down. Of course, today we all had to sample a piece included our little black poodle. She enjoyed the bone for about 15 minutes until it was making quite a mess on our white linoleum kitchen floor. The only way to pry her away from her real piece of thick juicy pink meat. Well, all the ham is all bagged up now, roaster put way until next time, and I am smiling with the relief of leftovers for supper and no more cooking for the day.
“I wonder if I am going to lose my foot?” kept coming into my heard. It was first day at the hospital and I was scared. Dr. P. had admitted me that afternoon after visiting the emergency room. They told us it was cellulitis and it could be serious. What really upset me was when I looked over to my roommate, and I realized she did not have her left leg. That fear scared me tremendously.
It all started on a Sunday in April when I woke up. My left foot hurt so bad, and I couldn’t stand. It was all raspberry red and hurting. It was bad enough to ask my mother-in-law to take me to the emergency room. Several tests were taken and the end diagnosis was cellulitis. I still am not quite sure what it is or what caused it. I did know at the moment it was painful and serious. They sent us home and that night, a red scribble line started to run up my leg. I should have returned to the hospital earlier, however, we waited. The next day, we visited Dr. P. and entered the hospital in a wheelchair. I left in a wheelchair five days later. I promised myself to never take my body for granted. Four years later, I feel like I am taking my health for granted again. As I ran across “my foot” journal entry today in my box of journals, I vow to never take a foot for granted again!
We live in a small town, just about two hundred human beings all ages included. The centerpiece of our little town is a huge cathedral of a catholic church dating back to the 1800s. The church holds one Sunday service at 8:30 a.m.every week. Today was a pretty sunny day, just bitter cold. My daughter and I were walking to church in spite of the cold. As we crossed the street to enter the main street in town, I looked at my daughter and said, “It is good to belong to a hometown.” She grinned and said, “Yea.”
This five minute journey from our house to the church house was filled with melodies of music coming from the church tower. Every Sunday morning the church calls out to everyone as if to exclaim, “Come to church, come to worship, I am open!” As we looked both ways to cross, I think to myself..our town is so busy now when it is church time. People were walking from all directions and multiple cars and trucks were waiting at the intersection.
Today was a special day for our church family, it was also our annual spring parish dinner. We had our whole church working together to provide a delicious meal of fried chicken, chicken and dumplings and all the side dishes. As I worked in the dining room along with my daughter I smiled and thought to myself, “It is good to belong to a team, a bigger group of people that I call my church family.” So the next time I hear the church bells calling, I will thank God for all my blessings including my family, my church and my church family.