Honesty

Today I am teaching Family Studies and students were asked to write an essay on a time  they experienced the consequences of honesty….I was reminded of that time …. we all have that time….

We all know that person that is just “too honest” but I am not talking about the “that dress makes you look fat” kind of honesty. I am talking about the kind that is good intentioned and somehow, unintentionally, bites you in the arse.

It was 8th grade and three months in, I was still known as “virgin ears.”  After spending the last eight years home-schooled, sheltered, and naive I had become the “goody-two-shoes” of the private christian school I had just begun attending.  I entered Mrs. Thompson’s history class and we had a sub.  As I entered I saw Leigh Blair go through the ceiling tile, jump across a desk, and elbow drop Jim Ashely.  I had to get help!

Running to the office, asking for a teacher, I felt so proud of my honesty and desire to do the right thing.  That night, as I recounted the event to my mom, the horror on her face was lost on me.  Weeks later, as I was getting relentlessly teased, the effects of my honesty was still lost on me.  Today, as I witness “that kid,” I cringe, finally aware of honesty’s effects.

Better late than never.

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On Mothering

The last twenty some weeks of mothering have offered me joy and moments of pure  ecstasy along with the ever looming “can’t do it all” ghost, but this week is different.

Balance has always be a struggle for me. I find myself often overindulging. One is never enough.  

After 3 days teaching kindergarten, I have renewed sense of purpose in my mothering. 

Today, I make a case for mothering. 

Whether 5 or 6 or 66, we all need a mother at points throughout our years. This week, I saw young children needing mothering in a very real well. Granted, the ones that are desperate for it have non-traditionally absent parents or just absent ones altogether. The mothers who think it is a 5 year olds responsibility to remember his lunch, backpack, books, and socks are little different from the ones who cannot be bothered to get out of bed to come get their sick child so they send a relative stranger instead.

Today we suffer from both too little and too much mothering, with all the talk of millennials and helicopter parents, we know it goes both ways.  I would, however , argue that there is a huge difference between mothering and smothering which is what I would define as a parent who cannot allow their child to succeed or fail on their own or without involvement.

To me, mothering is care. Mothering is patience. Mothering is putting my damn phone down and looking my daughter in the eyes. I am not great at all of these, but they are the core of connection. Connection, attention, safety, love is what each child craves and needs in order to learn, grow, discover themselves. 

Today, we could use a little more mothering, a little more care, a little more time payed to what our thoughts and fears are. 

Yesterday a child who is often treated like an after thought, drew a picture of a rose for his momma and wrote how much he loved her. I cried. I was angry. How could she not see the perfect love this little boy had for her and return it ten fold? It didn’t matter. Regardless of her mothering, he was going to love her fully.  

I hate to judge but when I see children being hurt by blatant carelessness, I take it personally. Maybe that is why I became a teacher. Maybe that is why being a mom has been my biggest dream.  

I try not to get blinded by the love. I want to support my daughter and help her develop the skills that will take her running from me and into her future. I want to teach her to be a good person as well as a good student. I want her to question and love with out boundaries. 

She cannot do any of this with out love.

So today, I beg you, love your kids. Put your phone down when they are around. Look them in the eye. Put a damn pair of socks on them before they leave for kindergarten. Maybe then you would see the blisters on their feet, the cracked open sores, the love in their eyes when you notice them: this is the case for mothering. 

*photo by Misty Crites  

 

Middle School Compliments

Who knew middle schoolers could boost your confidence.

I really don’t have this working mom thing down at all….but apparently I am sexier than I remember.

Thank god for the little things.

I may have burnt every thing I have tried to cook for the last two weeks, my daughter and I may have a nasty cough that provided us a day home today, but dang it…I am bringing sexy back!!!

I didn’t have a choice.

Yesterday was my first day back to work. After having a baby 16 weeks ago today,I am one of the fortunate ones to just be going back now.

While working, I ran into a young teacher and mother who had recently substituted in my old position for an extended period. In a quick conversation I made the comment,“I don’t know how you did it!” 

“I didn’t have a choice.” She replied.

This statement stayed with me all day.

I had originally planned to be home for this 16 week period of time; with saved and generously donated paid time off, I would return to work in February, finish out the school year, and decide from there how to manage career, family, and bills.

As life, Lyme, hyper gravidarum would have it, I couldn’t do that and blew through my sick leave within 5 months of a debilitating pregnancy. I spent months building up strength and finally decided to make a push and try to go back to my classroom that fall. I made it 5 days (2 with 163 students) before collapsing physically and mentally under the load.

I didn’t chose to be sick, get bit by a tick or be unable to get out of bed. I did choose to become pregnant and often times I confused that choice with a misguided responsibility to “fulfill my duties” to my work and students. I continued teaching a course online for 9 weeks after going on full FMLA, even though I could barely function, had to have my husband read me the emails half the time, and was typically vomiting at the time I was supposed to be “with” the class and lecturing.

But I made a choice.

I felt like a failure. After months with out a pay check, we had learned to live on less. Like ALOT less. It felt really good. We had done this before, living in a cabin in the woods on a 1/2 time teachers salary.

After my daughter was born, I realized that I could live with being the most beat up house on our very nice street, for a few more years. I am cool with the rust on my car, as long as it will pass inspection and keep on driving. I am ok with juggling bills, hurting my credit, and relying on the goodness of family occasionally.

We can’t be too prideful. We can’t have the perfect car or image. I have done some major damage to our credit in juggling bills in the last 4 months…

…but that was a choice I made.

I make a choice to swollow my pride. I quit my full time teaching job to work as a substitute.

I choose to be the shittiest house on the street.

I choose as many mornings as I can swing with my little one.  Does that mean that the phone rings and people sometimes want money? It does. As it turns out, that job I could have gone back to was cut this week. It is affirming to see that had I chosen to go back, the universe would have simply reversed my course a little less gently.

This is not to dog working mothers.

We are all working mothers.

What I am asking each us to do is to stop belittling each other by making statements like “I wish I could do that.” Or “I just don’t have a choice.”

The only result produced by these types of statements is to further divide us as a group of women who are each  fighting the same battle, juggling what we can and cannot live  without, and wishing desperately for a maid, nanny and/or fairy god mother.

We each have a choice and those choices will define who we are as women, no doubt. However, Let’s choose to cheer each other on. If you are gonna go be that BAMF exec and show your little girl she can do anything! Do it! Own it! Rock it! I am taking a slightly different path. But I own it. This path is mine. I have been led here by my choices.

There are many things we each wish we could do, but we all have a choice.

Today I applaud your choice!

This whole living in the moment thing…

I was supposed to go back to work this week but Martin Luther King Jr., winter storm Jonas, and forgotten doctors appointments have conspired against me … or for me as the case may be.

Tuesday morning, she almost said “mama” and that was supposed to be my first day back.

My dad, generously, had promised to be here to spend the whole day with her on my first day, so that I didn’t have to take her to day care AND be away for 8 hours simultaneously.

I am lucky.  She would have been with my dad.

But, instead, she was with me when she tried to form the word over and over again, not quite able to force the sound out from behind those perfect pursed lips.

I am TRULY lucky.

The money I could have earned that day would have been AMAZING, especially considering our refrigerator chose this week to stop working, but the reward of seeing her try to form her first words was worth more.

Today I am thankful for coolers, back up refrigerators, neighbors, slow cookers, first words, living in the moment and snow days.

Currently listening to Jon Bellion “ooh” courtesy of my amazing little brother who is teaching me to follow my dreams.

I am a coward. Why I hate Facebook and being friends with my students. Or “F*** you Caitlyn Jenner, you lucky B****!” 

Spend 10 minutes on anything related to social media and you will inevitably end up seeing someone being mocked, serially lying, and/or berating others for not sharing their world view.

Where did our humanity go?

Are we all that scared of someone finding out our secret?

When Caitlyn Jenner, first made public her transition, I watched, curious. To me it wasn’t a matter of gender; it was a desire to live as who she felt she was.  It was to stop living in personal judgement of herself.

After watching, what I am left with is a deep sense of sadness for those who cannot or feel they cannot live out their true selves.

Now…call the waaambulance because here it goes.

I am an incredibly irreverent person.  I, however, am facebook friends with such a WIDE range of people, students, family members, etc. that to put myself out there in any “true” since would lead to stigmatization.

When I saw Caitlyn putting herself out there, when I see others who aren’t afraid to let their freak flag fly,  I applaud them!

I stand up and applaud!

I am deep green with envy.

The deficit is certainly in me.  I care what others think.  The cost is just too high.

 

Why I am Facebook friends with my students. 

There is a reason why we are told to keep our personal and private lives separate; we need look no further than Hillary Clinton for an example of work/personal technology gone awry.  The public is opinionated, angry, and ignorant. This lethal combo is destroying our ability to communicate in an ethical and authentic way.

My first professional job was working for WVU and supervising both student and regular employees. In my experience, inappropriate use of social media led to more terminations than any other reason (with social justice issues following for a close 2nd).

I spent a couple years in the mental health field after that before transitioning back to the classroom. At first, I refused to add students. I told them, when you graduate and I stuck to my guns the first year.  After spending more lessons than I care to remember discussing professionalism, appropriateness, and audience, it dawned on me…”why am I telling them this. I should be showing them.”

It was then I decided to allow the requests  I had received.

With the exception of a couple months spent overseas, I have lived the duration of my life within 3 distinct regions of Appalachia.  This place has a life and characteristics all of its own.  I LOVE my “home among the hills,” don’t get me wrong, but amidst these incredibly brave, hardworking, imaginative people is the demon of poverty and it has wrecked our lives.  Many of my students are the age their parents had been when they had them. Most of my student have parents or grandparents who both work multiple jobs to support them; those that don’t, are often left to their own devices to survive.

In this kind of environment, who is there to role model appropriate behavior?

I am NOT judging parents for working. I am soon to be a working mother myself.

What I am saying is that our students are now learning how to be adults both in the classroom and online.

If we aren’t there to participate in the conversation, how will they know to grow?

To be continued…