Diapers and Dragons

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Beware the Teachermommy, My Readers! The Eyes that Glare! The Brows that Rise!

I am a dork. I am a geek. I am even, upon occasion, a raging nerd.

Monday night I saw the new Tim Burton Alice movie, the one with Johnny Depp...

--Side note and SPOILER ALERT (kind of): this is the second Alice-based movie I've seen this year (the other being the two-part mini-series the syfy channel did this fall, which was also quite excellent) in which the Mad Hatter was selected as the love interest for Alice. Hmmm. What do you think? Make sense? Discuss!--

...and was struck very quickly by its inspiration from the marvelous Lewis Carroll poem "Jabberwocky". I do so love that poem. In fact, it is displayed in poster form on my classroom wall. I mean, how can you not adore something like this:
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought--
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Not only is it just plain FUN, the grammar geek in me LOVES that the poem is grammatically correct despite containing numerous nonsense words. I have used the poem in the past as a grammar exercise for identifying parts of speech.

And here's where I am proven a true nerd: just for fun, and because I'm a freak this way, I am in the slow and laborious process of diagramming the poem.

Oh yes. Cuz that's how I roll, peoples.

(And holy cow, it's been a while since I've diagrammed. And of course I'm doing it with something as complicated as this. THIS IS NOT EASY. I mean, there are elliptical phrases all over the place, not to mention complex sentence structure. Oy. And how crazy am I that I'm getting really excited about this? My students are mocking me. So are other teachers. And friends. IT'S OKAY. I EMBRACE MY INNER FREAK.)

Just for you, and because I love you, and because I am, after all, a teacher, I have underlined and numbered the nonsense words in the poem. My challenge to you: correctly identify the basic parts of speech used (select from noun, verb, adjective, adverb, or interjection). You get bonus points for correctly identifying additional roles in the sentences (select from subject, action verb, predicate adjective, direct object, object of the preposition)! I may even come up with some Actual Prize (TBD) for the winner.
`Twas brillig(1), and the slithy(2) toves(3)
Did gyre(4) and gimble(5) in the wabe(6):
All mimsy(7) were the borogoves(8),
And the mome(9) raths(10) outgrabe(11).

"Beware the Jabberwock(12), my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub(13) bird, and shun
The frumious(14) Bandersnatch(15)!"

He took his vorpal(16) sword in hand:
Long time the manxome(17) foe he sought--
So rested he by the Tumtum(18) tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish(19) thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling(20) through the tulgey(21) wood,
And burbled(22) as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack(23)!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing(24) back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish(25) boy!
O frabjous(26) day! Callooh(27)! Callay(28)!'
He chortled(29)* in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Oh, and darling Heidi (who is also a language nerd and therefore chomping at the bit) says there should be a deadline. She's right. So let's say...submit your work before midnight on Friday (this Friday, the 2nd). And it occurs to me that you should probably NOT do so in the comments, because there may be some DIRTY DIRTY DIRTY CHEATERS out there. So EMAIL them to me: teachermommyblog [at] gmail [dot] com (or click the "Email Me!" button over on the left there), then leave a comment letting me know you entered and, well, commenting. Or you can just comment if you don't want to enter and instead want to praise and/or mock me.
*Yes, I know we now use the word "chortle" for realsies. Here's the thing: this was the first place that word existed! It's a real-life demonstration of how literature directly affects language. Carroll created this word. Almost a century-and-a-half later, it is a legitimate part of our language. I LOVE THIS STUFF.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

To Whom It May Concern: Social Paradigm Shift Edition

Dear Should-Be-Creepy-Man-Who-Smokes-His-Pipe-Next-to-the-Apartment-Entrance,

There's something about you that says you should be creepy. Your subtly twisted and malformed face; your shifty eyes that never quite meet my gaze; the fact that you always seem to be hovering around the entrance to the apartment building when I get there in the afternoon. And yet...you're not. You open the door so I didn't have to fumble with my bags. You always nod a silent hello. Your pipe smoke is aromatic and comforting.

You seem nice.

I'll go with my intuition on this one. Smoke on, dude, smoke on.

The Half-time Occupant from B-1


Dear Formerly-Jackass-Students-from-First-Hour,

I wasn't sure whether it was going to happen, and boy did it take it's sweet time. But that shift from OMG you are so frickin' annoying (me) and OMG she's such a bitch (you) to us suddenly joking around and you visiting my room during other hours...Yeah. You two are suddenly part of that group that stretches back over nearly a decade of teaching. You have become My Boys.

Congratulations. Now get out of my room and get back to class!

Ms. TeacherMommy-and-No-I-Will-Not-Be-Your-Boi!!!!


Darling Friend-of-the-Heart and Sole Soul Sister,

When did we switch roles? How is it that I'm the one kicking your ass about relationship woes instead of you kicking mine?

I almost feel Grown Up. And I love you. Don't make me come over there and do it for real.

Your Forever Friend

Monday, March 29, 2010


On Friday, just after school let out, one of my tenth graders tried to do a backflip in the hallway. He was not successful. His neck was broken in two places. By a true miracle, the bones that should have broken and cut off his airway were flicked back into place when his head bounced.

He should have died.

As it is, he is lying in intensive care, scheduled for surgery today, with no feeling from the neck down. He cannot make sounds, but is awake, alert, and mouthing words. He was able to move a hand, although he could not feel himself doing so, or the sensation of his sister holding that hand.

On Saturday about fifty students showed up to visit him. When his sister told him they were there and asked if he would like to see them, he mouthed to her, Send in the ladies. 

I laughed when I heard that story. That is so him.

My class, the one he's in, cannot send cards or flowers or anything while he is in the ICU. So they scrawled messages of love on the white board, gathered in front of it, and posed for a cell phone picture which is being sent to his family. His sister holds the cell phone up for him to see all the messages and pictures pouring in, the love sent his and their way.

It only takes a split second. One decision made, one moment of youthful exuberance. We pray he will recover fully, but there's no way to know right now. In the meantime, we're left reeling in the wake, struggling to grasp what happened, thanking God for miracles, praying for the doctors who hold his body in their hands, praying to the Master Healer who holds his future in His hands.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different. Like Shoes.

Oy. My stomach hurt all afternoon yesterday because of that post. Yeah, yeah, it was brave and resulted in good dialogue and yada yada yada, but as I said, OY. I'm way too thin-skinned for that kind of stuff.

Maybe it's very silly and insecure of me, but I seriously get freaked out that I'll lose friends over things like that. Fortunately, those kinds of  expectations about people are usually proven wrong. (I big puffy heart you people. Seriously.)

So. Let's "dialogue" about something completely different. Like shoes. Because with my back and hip pain (which is slowly being worked through--more on that another time--but still very present), I have been unable to wear my usual fabulous heels. Not only would doing so be Not Smart, but it hurts too much. The thing is that I really don't like wearing ordinary sneakers, and I think the vast majority of flats are just plain Ugly. With the weather warming up, I don't have the option of wearing my lovely Boots with the Furrrrr every day, either.

This meant I had to go shoe shopping.

I know. The sacrifices one must make.

DSW ended up being the place to go, with not only quite a few cute options, but Sales and Clearance, Oh My! And while if this whole stupid no-heels thing becomes more long term I will most definitely need to expand my shoedrobe, I have a small collection that Will Do For Now. I thought, for fun, I'd show you what I found. Here are four out of the five pairs I bought (not pictured: cute brown sneakers that didn't come along for the weekend) (also, I apologize for the poor lighting--they're way cuter than they look in these crappy photos):

First up: black flats with little tan--yes, that's tan--stitching and faux buckles

Next: cocoa brown flats with faux buttons. SO COMFY.

On the more casual front: black and taupe slip-on sneakers. They don't go up as far as they look--I wore these with black anklet socks. My feet look adorably small and cute in these. Heh.

And finally (not counting the brown sneakers not shown here, which are more sneakery and less slip-on): these awesome blue-grey sneakers with white stripes and chartreuse accents. Adorable. LOVE. Rapidly becoming my favorites.

So--what do you think? And if you know of some super-cute (and especially more dressy) styles that are available at DSW, Famous Footwear, and/or Payless (because that's where I shop, peoples), let me know.

My former chiropractor would be so proud. He was so against heels he once paid for a pair of flat boots as my Christmas present, when I was pregnant with DramaBoy. I kid you not.

Of course, with all this pain I'm having, maybe he had a point....

I'm going to pretend I didn't just think that.

Love, peace, and shoes to you all!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Unto the Least of These

All that will do is raise taxes and give free shit to those lazy welfare people who sit around and let other people work to support them. --J. Q.

I'd like to excuse him on the basis of being sixteen and stupid. He's never had a day of hunger in his life. He's never had to work to put his Abercrombie & Fitch clothes on his back. He doesn't pay the bills for his funky little I-Phone and the I-Pod that's constantly plugged into his ears.

At least he has that excuse, if you consider it one. There are plenty of others who don't.

I don't get into political crap on my blog, generally speaking. I'm an independent, somewhat left-leaning, somewhat middle-of-the-road reluctant voter who hates conflict. I have friends spread out all over the political spectrum. Some of them would fight like cats and dogs if put in the same room. They're all good people. They all have what they believe are good reasons for their stances. Sometimes, I agree. Sometimes, I don't. Usually, I keep my mouth shut.

I do, however, believe in social justice. I believe that we are commanded by God to care for the poor and abandoned, the orphan and the widow, the persecuted, the least of these. So do most, if not all, of those friends I mentioned. How that is to be done? Ah. Well, that's where the debate begins, isn't it?

I'm not here to debate that point. I am here to speak out about the reality of poverty, a reality that far too few of those outspoken people know first hand. Today I read an amazing guest post by Mad over at Frog and Toad are Still Friends. This is the reality of poverty in America, a form of poverty that is overlooked by so many of the smug White Tower WASPS. (And yes, I know they're not all actual WASPS and and this is a generalization, but you get what I'm saying. Let's move on.)

I have been fortunate in my life. My parents were never wealthy, and apparently there were times that were lean indeed, but I never remember going hungry or without. We always had presents at Christmas and dinner on the table. I was able to go to college, although I racked up debt doing so. I earn a good wage and can provide for my own children in turn. My boys are well-dressed, well-fed, and have toys up the wazoo. I don't worry about whether they have enough; I worry about whether they have too much.

There was a year in college when I had very little money. I did not have a job, and I was getting by on macaroni and cheese, cheap frozen salisbury steak, bread, and tater tots. I became ill after a few months, and the doctor at MSU's Olin Health Center told me that I had no choice but to get some vegetables and fruits into my diet. We scrimped and sacrificed to add some canned vegetables, to add just enough nutrition that my body would not shut down.

And even then...I had a roof over my head. I had food in my belly. I was still going to school. I knew it was a temporary situation. If push came to shove, there was family that would help. I was still fortunate.

I have witnessed true poverty. My parents earned less combined than I did alone my first year of teaching. Compared to the vast majority of people where I grew up, however, we were wealthy. We were surrounded by the least of these.

About five years ago my parents received news about a small family they had taken under their wings: a widow with many health issues who had two children and no support whatsoever. No one took care of them. Her children were bright and hard-working. They wanted to get educations, but the cost of schooling was prohibitive (no "free" public education over there, you see). The mother earned a few francs here and there by picking mangoes from the trees in my parents' yard and selling them in the market. Abou, her son, who was one of my brother's best friends, and Giisongi, her daughter, would work around my parents' house. They would bake bread and cookies, clean, do odd jobs. There still often was not enough to pay the school fees, which ran around $200 a year. Nothing much to us Americans, but astronomical to a family that lived on a few dollars a week, if they were lucky. I remember doing a fund-raiser with one of my classes to raise the money to send them to school for one year. We were able to raise enough in one month, mostly through bottle returns. That's all it took.

When civil war broke out and my family was evacuated, then lived here in Michigan for three years before it was safe enough for my parents to return, that little family was left without even that much assistance. Every now and then they would hear from Abou, who would call them on a friend's cell phone. But it wasn't until a mutual friend called and talked to my father that my parents found out just how much that family was struggling.

Do you know what "chaff" is? It is the papery husk that covers certain kinds of grain, such as wheat and rice. It has no nutritional value. It is removed during the threshing of grain. Since it is worthless, it is often abandoned on the ground.

This little family no longer had money for even the most basic of foods. So they were going to the areas where women would thresh grain, and they would gather up the chaff left in piles on the ground. They then would put the chaff in a pot with water and boil it into a tasteless, gritty porridge. If they were lucky, perhaps there would be a little bit of vegetable to add.

They may have been tricking their bellies into thinking they were being fed, but the truth was that they were slowly starving to death.

Ah, but that's in a third-world country! you say. It's not that bad here!

Want a taste of reality? Go read this. Or this. The reality is that poverty is alive and well (so to speak) in America too.

This is the harsh truth, folks. As a species, we haven't been doing too well on the social justice front. The wealthier and more comfortable we are, the more distanced we become from the reality of those who are less fortunate. We sit in our ivory towers and mutter about the laziness of the poor, how only the deserving should receive.

Those weren't the commands given to us by Christ. He didn't say to do good unto the least of these--if they've shown they deserve it. And Paul didn't qualify his words in James 1 as caring for widows and orphans who have worked hard enough to be rewarded.

I think a lot of us--and yes, this includes me--need to reread Matthew 5 a few hundred more times. Because we may find that our ivory towers are no more than crumbling plaster and all our self-righteous words are no more than worthless babbling when exposed to the light of the Son.


Because apparently I'm in a self-flagellating mood today and want to invite conflict (dear God, my stomach hurts now), I'm going to go ahead and Flog My Blog on this post of all posts. My darling Brenda over at MummyTime does Flog Yo Blog Fridays, and I've been meaning to do this, and so, whatever, I'll be brave and do it now. Click on over and check it out!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

letting go

you strip away my armor
peace by peace
i find myself exposed in raw newness of skin
anticipated pain instead soothed
by understanding

you know me well
as though my mind is linked to yours
i should fear this
i do not do vulnerable well
but you smile
your eyes on mine
i cannot help but trust you

so i release the reins
loose the chains
and step forward into this new day

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hey, How Are Ya?

I was offline yesterday. As in gone, nada, nothing, never logged in or on or anything. My darling laptop languished in the cold of my car (well hidden under my also-abandoned winter coat) from about 2:30 Monday afternoon until I hauled it out and into work this morning.

It sulked, actually, and wouldn't start up properly. I had to get quite stern with the stubborn thing.

Now, I frequently have a day or two on weekends when I don't log on. I'm often Out and About, and not as much happens online on weekends because other people are also Out and About. I rarely have weekdays in absentia, however, and so it was a bit of a shock to come back online today and discover dozens and dozens of emails lurking in my various accounts, not to mention all the Facebook notifications and unread blogs lying in wait. It took me over two hours to wade through everything.

When did the Internet become such a dominating presence in my life?!?!?!

Oh well.

The reason I was gone all day yesterday is that I Took The Day Off. Off work, offline, just Off. And considering how very Mondayish my Monday was, this was a Very Good Thing.

First, I had my MRI in the morning, the key reason for my taking a day off work. There was a bit of a snafu: some confused individual had not realized the doctor wanted both my lumbar and thoracic regions scanned, so had only obtained approval for the lumbar region from my insurance. Then that individual didn't go to work yesterday either, so the very nice people at the MRI place were unable to get the other approval through in time. I did get my lumbar scanned, but will have to go back another time for the thoracic.

Now, in case you hadn't picked up on this by now, I'm a little odd. My MRI experience was further proof. You see, I LIKED IT. I really did. They made me quite comfortable with a neck rest and pillow beneath my knees and squishy little ear plugs and a cloth over my eyes and I had taken half a Vicodin, and I lay there while the rhythmic thumps and booms soothed me into a doze. I was rather disappointed when my time was up and I had to return to the exterior world.

I kid you not.

Then I visited my chiropractor, who eased some knots out of my macrame muscles. I <3 my chiropractor.

My next stop was less pleasant, but I'm glad I did it. A former student of mine went missing back in early February, and his body was discovered on Sunday. It appears he had passed out, highly intoxicated, in an abandoned field and had died of exposure (it was bitterly cold that night). Yesterday was his visitation and funeral. I stopped in briefly and was able to see his younger brother, who was in class with me last year, and some other former students as well. This was my fifth student to die, the third who died of unnatural/unnecessary reasons. It's one of the most difficult aspects of my job. But attending...it gives me closure. I'm glad I went.

The rest of my day I spent in the company of dear friends, and it was a time of relaxation and renewal that I very much needed.

There was one other very important and significant event: yesterday I went to my regularly scheduled therapy session. At the end, she said I've come so far and am doing so well that she doesn't feel I need to attend regularly any longer, and we agreed that from now on I'll simply contact her and schedule appointments as needed.

I feel like I've graduated!!! I really have come so very far in the last sixteen months.

Today, I'm back into the fray. And though I'm tired and a little out of it because of pain meds, I'm doing well. It's good to be me.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Love Lessons

I'm learning. It's slow, it's gradual, but it's becoming more and more real and natural as each day goes on. I'll never be June Cleaver, but it's possible, just possible, that I might become a Good Mommy.

Not just a Good Mother, you see. I am that. When it comes to taking care of the necessities, making sure my children are well fed and dressed, clean and healthy, cared for in the ways that make them strong and beautiful and brilliant, I can do that. I've been doing that for years.

I'm talking about the Good Mommy aspect: not trying to just keep out of the dark, not hoping that I'm doing just enough to get by as a parent. I mean enjoying my children. I mean having far more patience with their annoying and aggravating aspects, even finding humor in the crazy moments. I mean noticing, even while getting frustrated with my DramaBoy because he's fooling around instead of getting dressed when I've asked him to do so umpteen times, that he just executed a perfect somersault. And then praising him and encouraging him to show it off a few more times, even though it means a couple minutes' delay. I mean deciding to just laugh to myself about the endless stream of poop jokes coming from the backseat rather than getting irritated and grossed out. I mean taking the time to sit with my son and watch the game he's playing on his Leapster, encouraging and praising him, rather than dismissing his request with a list of No, honey, I have to...s.

I mean perhaps, just possibly, being willing to take the risk of loving my children completely.

And that is a lesson worth learning.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

PSA for Parents

You know when your kidlet decides to have a meltdown in the middle of the mall? As in full-force Mach 5 tantrum with screaming, crying, hitting, and "I hate you"s as a special bonus?

You have two choices: (1) be utterly humiliated and drag the brat kicking and screaming the entire length of the mall while uttering threats and avoiding eye contact with anyone and everyone, or (2) find your sense of humor, try very hard not to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation, and drag the brat kicking and screaming the entire length of the mall while saying I'm sorry you feel that way. I love you! and smiling at all the gawkers.

I'll give you a hint: Choice Number Two doesn't give you a migraine and tends to result in amusement from onlookers rather than surreptitious searches for the phone number to the Department of Human Services.

Oh, and DramaBoy? I still love you.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It's a Bit Early in My Life for Me to Need a Walker. Just Sayin'.

I have another amusing post jumping around waiting for its turn to get up here, and I swear I WILL write it, because we can all use some laughter and goodness knows I love to bring it into people's lives...

(Though not usually in the Sunshiney sort of way, but dang it, OK, Brenda, I'll accept the damn award:

Happy now???? Smooches!!!!)

...but I am taking the time instead to WHINE and WHINE a little more because


my back hurts. Still. Lots. And my hips (though the left one is complaining so much that I have to think about it to sense the more subtle sob of my right one). And even my thighs, because apparently whatever is going on in my backal and hippal regions give me a break--I'm allowed to make up words on my own damn blog when I want, okay? wants to share.

I've been going to a new and quite wonderful chiropractor who has been able to help with the macrame of muscle as well as alleviate some of the sciatic symptoms, but the pain has persisted. She confirmed my reluctant suspicion that an MRI would be in my best interest, and said to hie me to my MD--but to also go back to my massage therapist. And he in turn discovered what felt, to his experienced hands, suspiciously like a bulging disc in my lower back. Not to mention




because I'm seriously MESSED UP, people.

Today my MD began a gentle probing down my spine and her eyebrows shot up. Swelling. Definitely. Along, apparently, both my thoracic and lumbar regions (These words not made up. Look them up if you doubt me.). Not to mention what she described as "marble" where muscle should be.


I am now the lucky, lucky, lucky individual scheduled for a (DOUBLE SESSION LUCKY LUCKY ME) MRI on Tuesday morning, when I will be inserted into what I hear is a marvelously claustrophobia-inducing and very LOUD tube for an hour and ten minutes.

But I'm okay with that. Because anything that might help figure out what is causing this pain for nearly two months and which is increasingly interfering with my ability to parent, teach, and Have Fun live is all to the good as far as I'm concerned.

Also? My doctor prescribed a muscle relaxant and Vicodin. I'm about to pop one of the relaxants for what will hopefully be a more peaceful night, and although I won't be able to take the Vicodin until Monday night (I won't take it when I'm alone in the house with the boylets), I am rather looking forward to a blissful night's sleep in only four more days.

*happy dance OW dang it oh never mind*

I'll take what I can get, peoples.

Whining over. You have my permission to leave sympathetic and/or snarky comments for my reading pleasure. You're welcome.

Oh Yeah, I Was Rockin' It, Baby

I used to be almost dowdy in my style. I hid inside bulky tops and oversize jackets and long shapeless hair. My sense of style didn't truly evolve until my late twenties. I think it had something to do with those adorable demon children who erupted from my midsection. I mean, your body starts bulging and your boobs get all huge and suddenly you start thinking, Damn, I need to OWN this. Which I did. No maternity muumuus for this preggo, peoples! I made sure to wear clothes that flattered my body as much as possible, pregnancy and all. I was CUTE, dammit.

And once the parasites were sucking my life force from without rather than within, I found I had no desire to return to my older-than-I really-am look. Plus a former friend introduced me to H & M, which is MY STORE, yo, and I discovered that I can look both sexy and professional. Or just plain sexy, when not at work, without crossing that line into hoochie-mama.

I don't shop at Forever 21, you see. There are lines you just don't cross in your thirties. Just sayin'.

So on Saturday I was dressed for a night on the town when I stopped by Walmart with a friend. I was pretty sure I looked awesome, but I hadn't worn this particular outfit before. So there was always the possibility that I was deluding myself. I was wearing my gorgeous new boots with skinny jeans (only worn under boots, people, unless you're size 0, which I am NOT) and one of my favorite dressy tops that has this embroidered collar reminiscent of West Africa.

As we walked toward the entrance, a middle-aged African American woman walked by us. She grinned at me and called out, You go, Girl!

Now you know that when that happens, you're rockin' it Big Time.

I think my life may be complete.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Surprised by Joy

On Sunday my assistant pastor preached on the topic of Joy, the Joy that comes from having one's roots firmly planted in the living soil of God--or, as discussed in John 15:1-11, being a branch that is firmly connected to the One True Vine. How often do we discuss Joy? she asked. We talk about love all the time, and that is right and good, but how often do we talk about Joy? And how often do we experience it?

You see, Joy is not mere happiness. Happiness is circumstantial; it ebbs and flows, comes and goes, as our situations change. Joy exists on a deeper level, sustained through difficult times as well as easy. Life's path does not have to run smoothly for us to experience Joy.

A month ago I wrote about catching a glimpse of Joy. Since then, I've caught it again. And again. Is life simple right now? Heck no. Is everything smooth and copacetic? Not a chance.

I mean, look at the facts. Still going through the process of divorce? Check. Kids getting sick and dripping snot all over the place? Check. Allergies rising up at the hint of spring? Check. Hips and back creating agonizing pain for over a month and a half, making me think that perhaps I need to get an MRI to see if something more sinister is going on in my lower torso? Check and dammit check.

And yet, there's an underlying sense of well-being; a solid belief that not only will I survive all this, I can and will rise above it all; a deepening sense of Joy. My students are starting to look at me sideways, checking for signs that perhaps I'm a changeling. I mean, I'm positively NICE.

Not to make it sound like I'm walking around like Polly-frickin'-anna, because that would just indicate a high level of mood-altering drugs, which are not actually in my system these days. I still get annoyed by argumentative, sulky, uncooperative preschoolers and teens (and isn't it remarkable how alike they can be?) I still lose my temper from time to time. I still get anxious over my future and what is coming my way. I still feel overwhelmed with all the Stuff That Must Be Done. I still get very frustrated with this ongoing pain and how much it is hampering my life.

But the darkness that used to sweep over me at times like this? Nowhere to be seen. The occasional shadow lurks but never overtakes.

C. S. Lewis wrote a book titled Surprised by Joy. This is what I am: surprised by Joy, by the grace extended to me, by the peace that underlies the turmoil. The uncertainty that strangled my thoughts is not solved, but neither do I find myself so breathless because of it. I find myself able to set aside doubts that tangled me before, accept the gifts freely offered me, receive love and friendship and give it in return.

And I am grateful.

Friday, March 12, 2010

TeacherMommy 2.0

This post today...it's important enough that I created a calendar reminder for it. And now I sit and stare at this screen wondering where to begin. I texted wrote a friend about it. He tried, he really did, but it's a tricky little conundrum.

TM: i restarted my blog a year ago today. i want to write a post about it, but i'm not sure what i want to write about.

J: How far you've come and grown over the past year.

TM: yes, but HOW
not sure how to approach it
it's one of those things that's sort of massive, so i don't know where to start

J: At the beginning.

TM: oh, that helps. i'm not sure where the beginning is....

And that is the problem. Where is the beginning?

Almost exactly fifteen months ago I wrote this. And then I vanished from the blog for three months. On Tuesday, March 12, 2009, I returned with this post. Just a short one. But there are words in there that speak a great deal about what had passed during that space of time.

Twelve months ago...the time seems both massive and fleeting in retrospect. One thirty-second of my life. So very much has happened during that time: the attempt, and failure, to save my marriage; the decision to file for divorce; slow renewal of faith; the discovery and development of new friendships; the rediscovery and deepening of old friendships; renewed interest in teaching; slow growth and change in my parenting; facing and grieving and healing from a very old wound; and so very much more.

Above all else: the discovery of Myself. I spent so many years hiding my true Self from not only other people, but from myself. I hid behind walls of my own making in the belief that if I let anyone behind them, much less tore them down, I would be wounded anew. I had no faith in the love and forgiveness of others; I had no faith in God's ability to heal; I had no faith in myself.

I have so far to go, still. Life is, after all, a journey, and if I were to believe that I had nothing more to learn, well then that would mean I was once more hiding from the truth. But when I look back over this year of pain and joy, wounding and healing, learning and growing, I realize that who I am now is Beautiful. And as I learn to love myself, I learn how to love others, how to open myself up to the possibilities that life and love have to offer, and how to give myself fully rather than always holding something back in reserve.

It's time to put all my chips on the table.

I'm All In.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sister Mine

Twenty-nine years ago today, my life changed forever. I had been the Golden Child, the only little kidlet around in the entire extended family and missionary community out in Ivory Coast. As far as I was concerned, the universe revolved around me and Galileo could go suck it.

And then came long this adorable little baby with wispy blond hair and big blue eyes and a disturbing tendency to be very very very precocious and I was supposed to Love My Sister.

Yeah. Not so much.

I'm afraid I was a pretty awful Big Sister for a very long time. I tormented her. I knew all her buttons. I played them with all the skill of a Mortal Kombat button masher, and my results were just as aggravating (to her) as my MK skillz were to my male opponents Back in the Day.

(For the love of god, you aren't even TRYING to get the combos off! You're just MASHING BUTTONS and I'm trying to be SKILLED here, girl! Come on!)

(Meanwhile, I would kick their butts. Just sayin'.)

I'd rile her up until she would, out of pure frustration, bite me, and then I'd go running off to a parent with the proof of her crime. Oh, I was nasty. And when we would get in mutual trouble and be placed in the corner to sit until we apologized and said we loved each other? She'd crumble in a moment. I would sit there for pretty much Ever. I'm not sorry and I don't love her! I would exclaim.

Oh, I was a bitch.

Mind you, I was the only one allowed to treat her that way. Sure, I'd complain up and down about having to let her tag along on adventures and keep an eye on her, but God forbid anyone else criticize her. Then they'd be ripped a new one. I was the only one allowed to abuse her.

Time eventually changed my attitude. I had a few wake-up calls along the way. And I finally faced the reality that most of my resentment came from my own poor self-esteem and my jealousy that my sister is, very truthfully, Just Plain Awesome.

She is. She's smart, beautiful, athletic, generous, outgoing, sensitive, funny, friendly, loving, and hard-working. So's her husband. These days when I tell people about them (with a bit of a brag, by the way), I often say It's a good thing they're so damn likable, because otherwise it would be very easy to hate them.

And there's only a tiny bit of snark in there. Because seriously, they're amazing people.

Our relationship is not entirely healed from the damage I did all those years ago. But we have worked on it, and these days? These days I can say, very honestly, that I AM sorry and that I DO love her.

So Happy Birthday, SoccerSister. It's been a long and often painful road, but I am so very grateful that you are my sister (and, um, that you're also so forgiving. *ahem*) This year to come is going to be life-changing for you like little else, and I truly hope that I can be a presence in your journey that makes you, as well, grateful to have a sister.

I love you.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Birth Day

She was young, too young, and the mother of five young children who still needed her as children always need their mothers, small or no. She had been dying by inches, holding on for days and weeks through pain and vomiting and decay and her body's rejection of man's last attempts to save it. She held on by sheer will, something left undone, something left unfinished. It wasn't, somehow, her time.

Four years ago today, her husband held her hand and told her she could go. He loved her, he always would, but she could let go. It was time to go Home.

And she left us, quietly, between one breath and another, slipping from this world into the next, leaving behind parents and siblings and nieces and nephews and friends beyond count, leaving behind the five children who had also said their farewells to what extent they understood.

The news traveled. We wept. Even though I was stone, I wept. And I was angry. Death had robbed her of all the years she should have spent on this earth.

Four years later, I still weep. But now, I see that day from a new perspective. I cannot be truly angry. I do not understand why she left us too soon, but I do understand something else.

What we saw as Death was instead her Birth.

Hers were tears of joy as she stood in a new body, one that stood tall and strong, her hair thick and full again, her skin unswollen and unblemished. No pain. No anguish. She ran with sure feet, arms spread open, and gathered in the children waiting there, the precious souls she had never known as more than a momentary existence before loss had swept them away. Her face rose to the blazing glory that lay before her, and she shone in the light of the Son.

Her real life began then.

C. S. Lewis says we live in the Shadowlands, the dim, dark outline of that country that lies Further Up and Further In, where lies "the beginning of the true story, which goes on forever, and in which every chapter is better than the one before." She lives there now, and her story here with us was but the Prologue to the eternal one written by the Great Author.

Monday, March 8, 2010

In Which the Men in White Coats Nearly Had Their Way With Me

Around 12:35 in the wee barely-morning hours of Sunday morning, I posted on Facebook the following status:


For some reason this only seemed to elicit amusement from the general masses. Many of whom are parents themselves, and who apparently have already been initiated into the insanity that is The Sleepover. I, as a newb to its reality, was struggling to find the humor in it all.

I was, however, forced to chuckle at one former schoolmate's response: He hears you [TeacherMommy], He hears you. And He's laughing his head off.

I always knew God had a sense of humor. My students are living proof.

So how did I get into this insanity? Well, DramaBoy's best friend is a little girl about four months younger than he. Let's call her ADHDGirl. It just so happens that I taught her older sister last year when she was a junior. I am also good friends with her mother--we met at daycare and had one of those instant connections that would keep us standing in the parking lot for an hour talking. She has had a difficult life, to say the least, and recently has been having a particularly Tough Time. So when I talked to her on the phone the other day and heard that edge in her voice that I know has been in mine on far too many occasions, I told her that she was going to drop ADHDGirl off on Saturday night and could pick her up Sunday morning, and that she had no choice in the matter.

And then I stocked up on multicolored goldfish, apple juice, and Xanax.

Oh, I'm kidding. There wasn't enough time to get the apple juice.

OMG. I had no idea that adding one little four-year-old to the mix would make life so...interesting. For much of the evening I simply stayed out of the way, chatting online to friends (many of whom were laughing at me) and wishing the water I was sipping was wine and occasionally yelling a reminder that YOU ARE FRIENDS AND NEED TO TREAT EACH OTHER THAT WAY and trying not to twitch. Then I spent several hours trying to get them to STAY in the bed into which they had been tucked. Yeah right.

DramaBoy, of course, woke up way too early the next morning, but at least he stayed quiet for the one hour before the other two rioted their way down the stairs. Then chaos reigned again. I was so worn out and grumpy that a friend who lives down the road took pity on me and showed up at my doorstep with a large coffee. Which may have saved my life.

At least when my friend who owes me so frickin' badly whom I love dearly arrived to pick up ADHD girl, she looked much more sane. Which is good, because one of us should be. And which made it all worthwhile.

And if you needed more proof that I am crazy, I even told her I'll probably do it again.

But I'm going to upgrade to Prozac first.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


trust does not come easy
when it has been misplaced so often
and though i wish
and yearn
to break free of these chains of doubt

my mind and heart cannot quite agree
they battle for dominance
debate my reality
and just when i think the argument done

switch sides
and i am left adrift in the seas of uncertainty

your intuition is strong
said a woman of wisdom
not so long ago
she gazed across the table
into my troubled eyes
you secondguess yourself too much
and must learn to trust that voice
it speaks truth
and when you learn to listen
you will not go astray

but what is intuition
and what is the emotion of the moment?
they are not one and the same
not always
too often i have responded in the moment
with the emotion of the moment
and found myself down a path
i did not wish to tread

so i sit here in this moment
this chain of moments i see as Time
and listen
trying to hear the voice
wondering if
maybe if
this time i can let go

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Hourglass

They rush forward into time, always looking ahead to what's next and where they're going, so eager to be Up and Away. Year after year I see them yearn for the After of this place, believing in their ignorance that life will be easier, that the soap-opera drama of their teenage years will turn to Hollywood happily-ever-after. I look at them from the lofty heights of my two and thirty years, shaking my head at their naivete. Youth is wasted on the young and so it is. Time flits by ever faster as day after day slips through my fingers in a sandy rush, trailing behind me across hills and valleys, plains and bogs, the journey of a lifetime a mere three decades in the making.

My grandparents are all still living, leaving their eighth decades and entering or already in their ninth, the paths they've trod telling tales of hardship and joy alike. I wonder whether their days flow by even more quickly, if they blink and night has come again. What memories come to the fore after thrice my years? Which ones recede into the background? How does Time's fluid nature exist in their minds?

I find myself repeating the error of those youths. I am in the infancy of a new life, a new era. Yet I, too, yearn for the After of this time. In my own naivete I think that once certain uncertainties are made certain, that once specific events are made final, that somehow the path will become smooth. The reality of life says otherwise: there will be more mountains to climb, valleys to traverse, obstacles to block my way. Pain will come my way again, and the nature of that pain is yet unknown.

Perhaps this is the blessing of our blind futures. Perhaps if we knew what hardships lie in our path, we would live too much in fear to truly live. Instead we exist in our aging youth, always pitying those younger than we, always pitied by those who have already lived our age. For life is a series of lessons learned, and it is only when we learn to embrace the wisdom brought by pain while glorying in the joys that we live fully.

Yet...Time passes so swiftly. And each shining grain of sand that pours through the hourglass is lost if we do not live in the moment.
for life's not a paragraph
And death i think is no parenthesis
--e. e. cummings

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Happy Happy, Joy Joy!!!!!

I've been harboring a secret for two months and 7 days. A wonderful, fabulous, butterflies-in-the-stomach, giggly, happy dance secret that has been trying to burst out of my mouth blog for weeks. And now I have the go-ahead to let you all in on that secret too.

You want to know what it is?

You want to hear what has me doing a little jig?

You want to hear what made me squeal out loud in the middle of a restaurant on Christmas Day?

You do?

You sure?




WOOT WOOT!  *happy dance* WOOT WOOT!

That's right! SoccerSister is PREGNANT and due at the end of August!

*hands in the air, hands in the air, dance around like you just don't care*

I am so thrilled! Well, and sorry for her because she is SICK oh so SICK (as a dog) (or whatever else gets really really sick) (okay, sick as a really sick pregnant woman) and getting very tired of it all already, but


and SO looking forward to being an aunt. I get to ooh and ahh and get all my babylust satiated and then GIVE THE BABY BACK.

(This, of course, is a key piece of it all.)

So dance along with me and offer SoccerSister and her MuttonChopsHubby a hearty congratulations! And hold back on the horror stories, at least for now, because they're already wondering what the heck they've gotten themselves into.


(Oh, who am I kidding?)


Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I lay there as she stretched my limbs, easing them back until the tight muscles groaned then released in submission to her inexorable persuasion. She returned me to rest, then had me ease to my side. Her strong forearm pressed with increasing firmness on my hip, slowly grinding her elbow into the stubborn knot at the joint. I winced and turned my head into the pillow.

Breathe, she murmured.

I drew in a deep draught of warm, incense-scented air, then let it flow slowly from my lungs. The knot tensed a moment, then twisted loose and vanished. The pain ebbed into a delicious ache.

For this side, she said softly, I need you not to try to help me at all. I don't want these muscles to seize up again.

I consciously relaxed my muscles further and lay limp, unresisting, as she eased my leg up and back, one hand braced on my lower back, the other supporting the weight of my limb. My ankle rested on her shoulder as her strong, sure hands smoothed the taut, corded muscles and ligaments until they, too, surrendered. The pain that had been screaming along my nerves all day retreated. I remained pliant as she gently returned my leg to rest upon the bolster.

It was all about trust. Trust that she knew what to do, that any pain she caused would be for my benefit, that when she was done I would be able to rise from the table and walk without the limp I'd had all day. It was all about releasing control and letting someone else bear the weight for a time.

My life, too, is full of knots and strained nerves. There are days when I can barely lift the lightest of my burdens without fear of causing myself injury. Still I cling stubbornly to the illusion that I have control, that I can Do It All Alone.

Perhaps it's time to let go, to trust, to let others carry my burdens for a time. Perhaps it's time to let the control rest in Someone Else's hands.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Parenting in the Age of Bakugan

A conversation while driving home:

DramaBoy: If you are very good, I will give you a surprise!

TeacherMommy: You'll give me a surprise?

DB: Yes!

TM: If I'm good?

DB: Yes!

TM: What do you mean by being good? What do I have to do?

DB: If you wash the dishes all the time, then  I will give you a surprise!

TM: Really? Wash the dishes?

DB: Yes! But if you wash them only two times--only one time, then maybe I will give it to you right now.

TM: So if I only wash the dishes once, I'll get the surprise right away?

DB: Yep! I will find my Bakugan! I haven't found them all yet.

TM: I see. Bakugan. Hmm. I'm not so sure I would really want Bakugan, honey.

DB: You're right. You don't really like Bakugan. You only like work.

TM: ....

DB: Look! I will give you something for work!

*he picks up a travel coffee mug off the floor of the car where it must have fallen from my bag*

DB: See?

TM: Thank you, honey! I wondered where that had gone.

DB: You're welcome! Now go wash the dishes!

I May Have Missed THEM, but I Didn't Miss THAT

Ahh, kidlets. It had been just a little over a week since I saw mine, since they went down to Florida with their father for a week of kinda-sorta-warm vacation. It was a good week for me and them, in our mutually exclusive Weeks O' Fun, but I was starting to miss them. I went out bowling and to dinner on Saturday and tiny peoples were EVERYWHERE and I found  myself looking at them all awwwww and fighting the urge to squeeze them. At the bowling alley there was a birthday party (OMG the little people were everywhere and so dang cute and all the little pink coats on the little girls and pretty shoes and for a split second I ALMOST wanted another kid--i.e. small daughter to dress up--one day and then my brain kicked in and told me I'm an idiot) and a tiny boy who had to be maybe a year-and-a-half old wandered over and tried to pick up my bowling ball. Mind you, I'm a wimp, so I had a very lightweight ball, but there was no way he was going to manage it. So I got his mind off the ball and then realized he seemed a little lostish. Of course my mama self kicked in and I was all Where's your mommy, honey? and he was looking around with growing panic before a woman walked with the correlating Where's my baby? look on her face and they had a joyful reunion.

All together now: Awwwwww.

Where was I? Oh yes, MY babies. Except that when I saw them last night they weren't babies. Because apparently one week away = OMG THEY GREW UP. I swear they each sprouted an inch or two, and The Widget has made a sudden linguistic leap and is speaking in pretty dang complete sentences. As in Mama, we took pictures at Mickey Mouse's castle!!! I mean, when he left two Fridays ago, that would have been more like Mama! [DramaBoy] and me! Pictures Mickey Mouse! Castle! which I totally would have interpreted, but now he's adding in all these subjects and verbs and prepositions. He still has that totally adorable squeaky little voice of his that makes me all melty inside, but he's starting to sound like a little boy instead of a toddler. He is also stretching out and developing that little boy body. He's still all soft and cuddly, but there's hardly any chub left, and I miss my chubbers.

Le sigh.

I texted this to a friend and received back the very comforting reply, Don't blink or they'll be in college and I was all GAH! WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO TO ME?!

And then DramaBoy came in during the night and peed on the carpet next to my bed because he was still mostly asleep and obviously very confused and I started looking forward to the days when I would no longer be on potty duty.

Because, peoples, when they're all big boys and stuff, I am so not cleaning their bathrooms. In fact, I may have to figure out how to have a separate bathroom entirely. I still have nightmares remember what my male college friends' bathrooms looked like. *shudder*

You think they're too young to start learning how to scrub toilets?
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