I actually didn’t freak out.

My kids have finally reached the age where my guy and I can take off for an hour or two for dinner. So we do. Every Saturday in the ol’ E house is date night. We have been doing this really for about the last 6 months. It is a great time for us to catch up from the week and to reconnect.

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Our conversations are usually centered around work. Teachers talking shop, you know? Sometimes we offer one another advice and sometimes we share frustrations. But a few weeks ago in our corner booth my guy decided to change the topic of conversation. It starts with, “Don’t freak out but…”

A moment that felt like a lifetime passed. I was mid chip in salsa mode and I looked up at his face. I didn’t have to hear the end of the sentence because I already knew it. The TN. It is always the TN. He said, “My TN. My pain. It is back.” I took a deep breath and ate my chip. A lump came up into my throat and I truthfully wanted to cry…not freak out.

There is one thing I am certain of. He doesn’t complain about his pain, so when he does I know it is serious. I asked how he knew. He said he had been getting the shocks for the last two weeks. That was with his upped dosage of his two TN meds from last May. He said since the surgery the shocks would happen and then he could feel it go numb. He said that is not happening anymore.

He said he added in the third med. The dreaded third med. The one that causes bad side effects. It makes him irritable, tired and like an 80 year old man more than he already is.:D He said he wasn’t getting much relief.

My lump left. I didn’t freak out. We made a plan because he had to go the neuro soon anyway. We go from here. We have had three years to plan for the worst case scenario. We have situated ourselves with work that we can handle whatever comes our way. No I am not sure this is worst case.

I worry more about my girls seeing him struggle. His facial contortions when he has these pains are noticeable. It makes me feel like a lightening bolt shooting through me threatening my safety and security. They scare them too. I have seen them. He has done well hiding it from the girls.

But I didn’t freak out. I am nervous for what this winter brings. He struggles bad when the weather is chaotic and they are predicting chaos this winter. But I feel in control this time. I feel like we are much more educated. We know at what point to take the pain more seriously. I truly worry about the side effects of the med stealing my guy away from us more than anything.

Our public schools and teachers are not the problem. 

I know our politicians and media want to tell you that our teachers and schools are failing our kids. It is every where that us greedy money grubby mediocre teachers and the buildings we are housed in are failing America’s youth. They are trying to convince you that we need more charters and vouchers and business in education. These people (basically an unknown entity with a very predictable agenda) need to convince us via fear that the system is broke. That our educational system is broke and it is the educators who seek tenure, more pay and enjoy summers off that are to blame. 

Can I tell you where the real problem lies? It is the narrative. Quit listening to the stories of politicians who think just because they have been a student in a seat that they know what is best for our children. Remember that it was their idea to test our youth to death. They are creating the narrative. But I have a story I want to tell. If you are looking for one where I complain about just how much testing encroaches on my classroom or how mad the politicians make me. Look somewhere else. That same old tired played out story won’t be happening here. Education already has enough negativity in it without me adding my two cents. 

I would like to tell you my story if you will listen. It is the one of a starry eyed teacher with a hope, bravery and hard fought for naïveté. I have taught for 7 years. I have had roughly 800 students in front of me at this point. I taught 2 years at a public university. I have taught the next five years at a public school. I am a public educator. From the beginning, I have always looked at my job and treated it as a public servant. I work for the public. I take that honor seriously and yes it is an honor. I am grateful for every single person who made the decision that put themselves or their children in front of me. I am venturing to guess that any student who has been in front of me can vouch for that. 

I love what I do and in my classroom it shows. That isn’t some full of myself bravado. There are stories upon stories of my love for my kids and yes they are my kids. But one story in particular is hitting my heart hard tonight of a student who would have walked into most classrooms and fallen behind or into the cracks as they say.  The world. The people in the students life. They gave up. They decided the student’s story was already written. The world does that to our youth you know? Dangerous assumptions and false narratives. The world gives up on them and they sometimes give up on themselves. I try and never read those narratives and stories. 

It is a hard and fast rule I have. You walk into my room…clean slate. Write your new story. Use your voice. I want to hear you. Rarely do I hear your class is so hard. But I know we do hard work. They are pushed and pulled because for years they are told what to think. Do what I say. They come in my room and suddenly I say, “What do you think? It doesn’t matter what I think.” I don’t need to have kids fail to know I am doing something right. The way I know I succeed is the days, weeks, and years removed and they tell me the impact my classroom had on them. Maybe it was a lesson. Maybe it was something I said and did. 

But back to my narrative I have worked in the real world. In fact, I did so for many years and never did I work the overtime like I do now. Never will there ever be a day I lock the door to my classroom and just walk away. Some teachers can do that. Not me. I stay after school. I wait for parent rides with them. I go in early and let them get to a computer. I probably check my email too many times at night. And yes I do shut down. In fact, I would say as the years pass I get better and better at it. I have to for my family. I have to for me. 

But back to that one student from before. They had a chance to rewrite their story and they did. I had no idea the impact at the time, but the longer I teach the more I learn of that impact. My impact isn’t a narrative that is easy to write, but it is one that is felt and seen. You can’t capture it in numbers or evaluations. It doesn’t show itself in a paper or portfolio. I feel it. My family feels it. My school feels it. My classroom feels it and my students feel it. 

That is the narrative I want to tell because my narrative isn’t any different than any of my colleagues. We all have those stories of that one student that eventually turns into a handful, a dozen and a 100 students. Yea I am sure somewhere along the line there was/is a teacher that got into it because the pay was so lucrative, the respect was so high, and they loved the summers off. But I have not met them yet. I am a toddling toddler in teaching age, but not so young to think these people don’t exist. If they do though I imagine they are long gone and I can tell you now that I haven’t taught with them. Our narratives need told. We are not the problem. Public schools are not the problem. The narrative is the problem. 

I said no.

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Here is the dealio. I am 18 months into my “less of me” campaign and I think the one lesson I continually have to teach myself over and over and over and over is making myself a priority. I am a wife. Mom. Family member. Friend. Teacher. Student. A human. Many times the lines are not clearly defined on where I start and the rest begin and it is very easy to let them bleed. Ultimately what happens is I end up dead last and exhausted.

I think, “Oh I am still taking time for me by watching netflix.” Then two weeks pass and I am not eating as good as I can be or a I am half assing my work outs. I have to actively say no. I have to say it over and over and over. I have to practice it. My family is the hardest because I know they love me and want to see and be with me.

But the reality is this started as MY REVOLUTION with the base idea that I deserved a half an hour where I am out of commission to everyone else but me. I worked out because the half an hour of sweating, meditating, listening to music gave me the ability to show up 100% every where else.

Moral of the story here to have success you have to demand it. That means don’t give your precious time to people, things and places that don’t give you the same. Give yourself permission to say no. Your family will survive for a half an hour. You friends if they love you will make time when it works for you. Your family the same. Your everything else will fall where it will and you just gotta find a way to be okay with it.

I have been uber stressed, not because of bad things, but because it is the beginning of the school year. Because I have a high schooler, middle schooler and a elementary kiddo. I work a lot. I am a student. Yes I am stressed. But I MUST carve out time because if I don’t take care of me, who will?

Saying NO on the regular, -MR

I can’t forget. 

I read a news article the other day that said we have reached the point in time where 9/11 is no longer something young people remember where they were. Instead it is a historical event they read about in a textbook or talk about with my generation. 

I knew this was coming. I have brought it up the last seven years of my teaching in my classroom and year by year the eyes get glossier and glossier and I quickly turn into that old person who tells stories of “Remember when”. 

I am a part of that story though. Still 16 years later this day can’t come without some tears shed by me and my heart feeling extremely heavy. My connection to that day is briefly random, but also I grieved in a way only a nation that has experienced a historical event has. 

I took my girls to dinner last night and #2 proclaims, “Thinking about 9/11 scares me.” I launch into the diatribe they probably hear every 9/11. The one where we were scared and the world stopped and the feeling of your country being at war. The one where the TV stopped and had a 24 news cycle and stations shared coverage to give us info. 

After that long story I said, “I didn’t know it at the time, but that was my world and the world of so many others changing forever. Of course it happens to all of us personally, but this was the kind of sadness and grief that you can’t explain or write. You just have to feel it. You feel it every time you think of it.” 

My #1 said, “Yea, I felt like that….” And goes on to list all the terrorist attacks that have happened. I was heart struck. This is the world I am raising my children in struck me. A world where these breathtaking moments happen regularly. 

Their 24 hour news cycle barely lasts that long anymore and life no longer stops in its tracks for long. I wonder if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I wonder what it does to this generation we are raising? Do they realize the scope of massive causalities in the same way because it is their way of life? 

Or could we possibly be raising the next generation to stop the craziness of mass murders? I see hope in their eyes and hear it in their voices. I see acceptance of ideologies and diversity like I never have before in my generation and generations before mine. 

God, I have hope. -MR

There was a time it was fun!

I remember in 2nd grade I had Mrs. Capps and I remember very vividly her telling us that we were going to do something cool in her class in a couple of months and I am sure there were great moments that led up to this surprise. However, I struggle now to remember those parts. I do remember when the day finally came because she told us to spread ourselves out all over the floor. She said stretch out and get comfy. She made us take two pencils with us and turned the lights on low. Then before us she sat a piece of paper and a bubble sheet. 

She told us then we would be taking the Indiana State Standardized test. She made the idea of it and process of it fun and natural. We didn’t all cram in some computer lab or get some randomized password. We didn’t really even talk about this test as anything more or less than a test, so we all approached it just like any other test. I am sure you had little Johnny would couldn’t sit still and little Linda who liked to talk her neighbor. 

I do remember the reason we all stretched out on the floor was because the test would take a couple of hours. But I also knew each break had a dancing party, a snack and a drink. It included hugs from her and giggles from my friends. That couple of hours was a break from our usually hectic and academic driven day. The only request ever made of me in this test was that I showed what I knew. 

I love this story and recognize it is not the narrative playing out in classrooms today. I don’t know if what changed was big business got involved in testing or if politicians put too much weight on what this snippet of a child’s academic career actually means in a classroom and to a students success or sadly a teacher’s failure. I remember it looking vaguely familiar for the next few years I made my way through the elementary. 

Somewhere it changed. Somewhere educators, politicians, parents and education training grounds let down our gaurd and we convinced ourselves that this testing madness equates to better schools, better classrooms and better students. But I have to wonder if the younger version of me understood what we all aren’t. I thought standardized testing was fun because it didn’t have its high stakes monikers that we now attach to it. We didn’t have teachers afraid. We didnt have students with test fatigue. We didn’t have inappropriate conversations with small children that included domain specific vocabulary (see what I did there) that makes them uneasy. 

Shame on all of us. Where did we get so off track? 

Sincerely a very frustrated Momma, MR

If I can be honest for just a second.

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God sometimes I just want to keep myself in check. Never ever do I want a reader to walk away thinking this life…my life is easy. I mean losing weight is easy as hell. And here is the but…..there is always a but. In concept. In theory. In its idea it is easy. But the making it happen is hard. We complicate it. I complicate it. I bring to my healthy table years of bodily abuse. An emotional human being that uses food to connect with herself and others.

Today a student and I ran through all the foods we loved. I admitted. I am hungry. I felt mad and deprived. But the worst feeling of all was the thought going through my head. You are fat. You will always be fat. I sometimes wonder why I care so much? My girls love me for who I am not what they see. They see my daily struggles. My husband loves me so why do I make it so hard. It is hard because it isn’t about them. It is about me. It has never been about others…it has always been about me.

Then I remember the story I accidentally told my girls last week. The one where I admitted to my two older ones that as a junior in high school I “flirted with bulimia”. It was one of those moments where your mind leaves your body and tries to tell you stop, but by then it was too late. I giggled it off and told them my story of hiding puke throughout my bedroom. I made it seem like no big deal, but I went to bed and chastised my foolishness because nothing about the phrase “flirted with bulimia” is never not a big deal. My fears went from I gave them an idea then to my own doubt that I didn’t give the topic the seriousness it deserves.

I want a mom do-over. I am honest with my girls, brutally honest sometimes. I just feel like I want to talk to them about the things I wanted to talk about when I was younger. That girl “flirting” with an eating disorder was clearly crying out, so before they can I hope to at least let them know why I did this and we can talk about it. However, before that can happen I have to be brutally honest with myself.

I went on Spring Break in my junior year and my most beautiful beloved best friend and I wore our bikini’s proudly. We came back with rolls of pictures to be developed. My size 2 body was bloated apparently because I overheard a popular boy I was currently “dating” tell someone he was worried about me getting fat and he wished he picked my friend. He never knew I heard him. But I heard him and what happened next was three weeks of binge and purge.  I was truthfully fearful of how much power I felt I had in that moment when I could eat and then throw it up.

Thankfully, one date with him and he drooled everywhere (and no I am not joking) the germs grossed me out so bad from the drool that I never went out with him again. But his voice did its damage. So after thinking about that this weekend and my reasoning for allowing myself to remain where I am weight wise is always, “Well he is okay with it or they are okay with it.” I can see the flaw in my own body image thinking.

See this is the easy part….I have to be okay with it. I have to not give anyone that kind of power in my life or over me…even the people I love most on this planet. I didn’t flirt with an eating disorder. I flirted with absolute danger. It isn’t funny and it isn’t a story you tell your kids in passing. I need to correct it.

I still struggle you guys. I am struggling. The exercise is never the issue. I love it and I do it every day except for my faithful one rest day. But the eating isn’t always easy. Some days aren’t a struggle and other days all I can think about is what to eat next. You will not find perfection here. In fact, two weeks ago I was so gun-ho to tackle this last ten pounds. I did amazing and then I didn’t.

The wreck for me is my sleep and my own self doubt. When my sleep gets disrupted it all goes to hell in a hand basket. Then add in my own doubt and ability and anger that I even feel like I have to lose the 10lbs and it is a recipe for a mess. I am not gonna lie usually I refuse to beat myself up for the lapses, but the reality is that isn’t the case this time. I have been so damn hard on myself. Today when I was running all I could think of was how my fat jiggled or checking constantly to see if my clothes are too tight or I have gained. This behavior is just as dangerous as that junior puking in her bedroom.

But again my flaw is I worry so much about how I look on the outside to others. Never once did I think about how good I felt on the inside. The smile I had. The way I felt running and how far I have come as a runner, and I didn’t think about being proud of myself for the work I was putting in. Instead, I was in utter panic to tear myself down and all to eager to whisper worthlessness into my own ears.

So yea I am broken people. We are all broken. We spend so much of our lives finding others to put us back together when really all we need is to see we can put ourselves back together. That doesn’t require a number on the scale, a healthy salad for every meal, a sweat session that burns 350 calories every day. It doesn’t require anything from us other than to accept ourselves and love ourselves. It is simple….yet utterly complicated.

I know and hear over and over again it takes persistence, consistency and showing up every day. I just keep trying to remind myself that sometimes showing up every damn day may just mean the simple act of not hating what you see in the mirror that day and deciding to face the world.

What it does take though is a whole lotta love, grace and forgiveness.

Today I hate hate what I see a little less….I guess,  MR