School Year’s End: Being Gentle with Goodbyes


The school year is almost over. There are three full days of school left after this one, our finals end tomorrow, and grades are due before I leave the building. I am ready for this school year to be done. I am ready to walk out those doors and not have to come back for at least a few weeks (I do have curriculum to write this summer, after all). I am ready to have my time be mostly my own again for a little while (I say mostly because my pre-K girl will be in daycare three days a week during the summer).

I am ready.

But, in the midst of all this readiness, I found a soft thought nudging my mind:

Say goodbye gently.

These junior high students have comprised the majority of my life, concern, and time for the past nine months, and now it is time to say goodbye. Next year, they will be freshmen. I will not see them every day, will not hear their laughs ripple through the halls, hear their franticly-rapid conversations in between periods, call at them to get to class, instruct them on the finer points of grammar, writing, or literary interpretation, or remind them of what it means to “have courage and be kind”.

Underpinning these thoughts, all that’s going through my head is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “One Last Time” from Hamilton: An American Musical, where George Washington admonishes Alexander Hamilton, despite protest, to help him say goodbye properly to the fledgling American people and to teach the latter how to move on to new leadership. I am feeling the urge and leading to say goodbye to my students gently, to teach them how to say goodbye. 

To this end, I have had them writing letters to their favorite elementary and middle school teachers, to give commendation, encouragement, and thanks to those who have worked so hard to prepare them for the world that they will enter in the fall. My pile has been rather small this year compared to years passed but, honestly, though my pride might twinge a little, I’m mostly okay with it. Other teachers need to know how much they are appreciated by their students; it’s vital for a teacher’s soul, I feel.

To this end, I will do my utmost not to shoo them out of my room when all is said and done but to take my time and say goodbye to as many of them personally as I can, shake hands and even give hugs if they like. I will endeavor to say goodbye gently as my students move from one world to another, from the familiar to the different and, probably, somewhat scary. I want to send them off with as much courage and kindness as I can.

HAMILTON:
Mr. President, they will say you’re weak

WASHINGTON:
No, they will see we’re strong

HAMILTON:
Your position is so unique

WASHINGTON:
So I’ll use it to move them along

HAMILTON:
Why do you have to say goodbye?

WASHINGTON:
If I say goodbye, the nation learns to move on.
It outlives me when I’m gone.

Don’t forget, my dear scholars:

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Art and lettering by @joshuaphillips_ (Instagram)

Featured image by: @katchulaa (Instagram)

Yes, Today is for You. (A Gentle Happy Mother’s Day)


It’s Mother’s Day. Yes, it’s for you, too.

It’s for those whose children who will bring you breakfast in bed.

It’s for those whose babies wake up screaming or whimpering in pain in their hospital bed.

It’s for those whose babies wake up screaming or whimpering in pain in their hospital bed.
It’s for those who are just getting off third shift to kiss your kiddos good morning.

It’s for those who are just getting off third shift to kiss your kiddos good morning.
It’s for those who will lay flowers at a headstone with dates all too close together.

It’s for those who will lay flowers at a headstone with dates all too close together.
It’s for those whose arms were so close to being full and whose tender hearts are slow to healing.

It’s for those whose arms were so close to being full and whose tender hearts are slow to healing.
It’s for those whose arms are still empty and whose full hearts ache.

It’s for those whose arms are still empty and whose full hearts ache.

It’s for those with no children of their own but who spend their days caring for and loving on those others.

It’s for those who take little ones not of their own blood into their homes and hearts. Yes, they are yours.

You are mothers, all of you. Today and every day, I salute you.

For those who have loved and mothered me throughout my life and who now love on and mother my child while I am at work, today and every day, I thank you.

For those who are sharply missing your mother, today and every day, I love you.

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The Depth of “You’re Welcome”


Often when people say “thank you” to me, I respond with, “No worries” or “My pleasure”. It’s a particular thing when I say “you’re welcome”. When I say “you’re welcome”, I mean exactly that. I mean:
You are welcome in my space.
You are welcome to my time.
You are welcome in my thoughts.
You are welcome in my world.
You are welcome to my interest.
You are welcome in my arms.
You are welcome in my heart.
You are welcome to speak truth.
You are welcome to be you.
You are welcome to have good days.
You are welcome to have bad days.
You are welcome to be okay.
You are welcome not to be okay.
You are welcome in your skin.
Just as you are.
You are welcome.
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Finding My Glorious and Beauty Again


I turned thirty-four on Monday, and I found my beauty again yesterday morning. I stood before the mirror in the bathroom, going through my morning routine before work. Done with brushing my teeth and washing my face, on a whim, I then divested myself of every stitch of clothing before pulling down my hair to comb it out for the morning. As I did, I found something. A few somethings.

I found a sultry tilt to my head as I combed through my mahogany hair, now long again.

I found the seductive tumble and fall of my hair over my shoulders, falling  over the left side of my face like Jessica Rabbit’s famous red tresses.

I found the curve from my waist to my hip, not as sharp or hour-glassy as it used to be but still there.

I found the line of my jaw still strong, though I had sworn it was disappearing, much to my chagrin.

I was plainly surprised to find these things, these parts of me–to find me— beautiful, to think myself glorious after months of feeling utterly to the contrary. I was very surprised.

I saw my own beauty.

I found my glorious.

And I smiled at me.

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Growing into My Bigness


I have written before about being small, about feeling like I need or am expected to hide myself, make myself less, be less. However, I was hit with something several weeks ago as I again sat thinking about it. Being small is not as sudden a thing for me as I thought it was. As I sit and think and reflect, I can actually see the different lessons and admonitions towards being small that I have been given all throughout my life, not just in the past decade. It’s not as recent a thing as I thought it was. I’m looking back over my life and finding points along the way where I was taught to be small, to take the blame for others’ dislike. I learned that I needed to be small, that if I were too big, too bright, too…whatever, it was my fault if people got upset or didn’t like me. It’s kind of jarring to realize that it’s not as recent an emotional/behavioral habit as I thought it was.

I was taught to be small as a child. On school awards nights, I was taught by my peers to feel embarrassed by rather than proud of my achievements. My classmates would turn to me as I returned to my seat and tell me, “You should just stay up there [on the platform]. You’re gonna get everything anyway.” I felt the snide remarks all the way down to my bones, whether to be snide intended or not.

In middle school, I was taught to be small by the cute boy who pretended to like me and be my boyfriend for an entire week. Then, mercifully(?), a “friend” outed the joke. And it really was a joke because, seriously, who could ever like a nerd like me?

As a teenager, I was taught to be small because my fashion style was dressier than other girls in my social sphere and it might make them look bad. I was taught to be small when classmates rolled their eyes and made fun of the books I read, that I took solace in, and when they grumbled because I could play my part in concert band, even though their inability was a result of their lack of practice and nothing on my part.

In my twenties, late bloomer that I am, I was taught to be small when I perceived that I could not shine or revel in my own beauty because it would make others feel less happy about themselves, even though I had absolutely no control over that. If I could just step back upstage a little, not be quite so much in the light, that’s it…right there on the edge, that’s good. I can see it in photos now, recognize it for exactly what it is, and it hurts.

There are people in my life who have taught me to be small with the same breath that they used to admonish me for not “seeing how beautiful I am”. I’m sure they never realized or considered that that was what they were doing but it was. It’s sometimes hard, very hard, to hear “you’re beautiful” at the same time as being told that you make others jealous or unhappy. Suddenly, “beautiful” becomes not quite such a good thing; “beautiful” becomes something that brings pain to others, to ones you care about, so, obviously, “beautiful” is something that I should try to be less of. Me is something that I should try to be less of.

Though I have made progress (and I do mean quite a bit of it), I still battle the perception that I need to be small, less, duller. I question, I temper, I demure, I stick myself in a corner and keep quiet. Being small became a habit, born out of a desire to never hurt anyone, to be the cause of hurt, or a bone of contention. And so, sometimes, I still fall into its trap. If you have been taught to be small, believe me: you’re not alone. But you know what? We can “grow into our bigness”, as a dear friend once put it. I am growing into my bigness, into my role in my own life. I can stand. I can shine. I can strut. I can star. It is okay to be big in our own lives. It’s okay to be comfortable in our skin and unapologetic for it, to be unapologetic for our selves in our unique beauty and us-ness. Sure, we have our cracks, our flaws, our problems. But those do not negate us or our humanity or our worth. They do not make us monsters or beings who can be nothing but less-than. All that makes us is human. Humans, men, women, who do not have to be small. We are who we are, made as we were, and we do have something worth being, worth giving. Bigness doesn’t happen all at once; it’s a growing, like when we were children. It’s a process. But we can get there, you and I. God made us for big things; things that only we can do or be or create or give.

Even though you and I might have been taught to be small, we don’t have to stay there. We don’t have to believe that we have to be small or less. We can grow into ourselves,  rise up into our bigness, and we need not fear it.

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Moments in Magical Modernity: XII


XII.

“Here you are, lovely. One Sencha green tea with lotus blossom honey,” Pearla smiles at the woman before whom she sets down the delicate cup and teapot, as fragile as robins’ eggs, along with the pot of cloven lotus blossom honey.

Domo arigato, Pearla-chan,” Akiko bows her head gently, the delicate curve of her golden-red fox ears luminous against the jet black luster of her abundant hair.

“Enjoy!” Pearla flutters back to the counter and busies herself with other orders.

Akiko, meanwhile, sits placid and peaceful in her secluded corner. Eventually, she pours herself a cup of tea with great deliberation and gentle intent. The steaming liquid fills the cup with nary a splash against its delicate sides, the steam curling and coiling cunningly into shapes and characters that only Akiko can discern as she mingles her breath with the wispy steam. It seems that her breath and the airy drawing of her delicate fingertips brings life to those shapes, little silvery-grey maidens dancing with their fans and precise archers shooting at the honeypot.

“Those are pretty!” comes a childish voice.

Akiko turns to find a pair of babyish green eyes looking up at her over the edge of her table. The little boy watching her steamy shadow players with rapt attention is beaming as he does.

The lovely kitsune gives a beatific smile to the child. “Do you think so?”

The boy’s head nods quickly, his little chin just missing the edge of the table and a hard knock.

Akiko smiles and, leaping from her teacup, a silvery horse gallops around the table, stopping to rear majestically before the child’s very nose. His green eyes widen as the horse lowers to all four legs and stretches out its tiny muzzle to touch the tip of its nose to his. Then he laughs with shrill delight, utterly shattering the peace that Akiko had carefully cultivated. But she doesn’t mind. The child’s smile reinforces her own, her quiet demeanor unfazed by his rambunctious energy.

“Come, Kyle,” a maternal voice finally calls to him, much to his chagrin. The horse, however, capers for him once more before rearing and beating its forelegs against the air in goodbye as the little boy lingers over his shoulder as his mother draws him away with a thankful smile to Akiko.

The kitsune gives them a little bow in her seat and returns the wave young Kyle gives as he and his mother exited the Hollow on the busy city street. She then returns to her tea, the little steamy figures bowing to her and dissipating in a cooling mist that kisses her cheeks. Quietly, Akiko takes the cup in both hands and raises it to her lips, which still smile in that soft serenity that seems to be woven into her very being.

Holding Time Gently


Here is how I usually feel that I am dealing with my time: My days/hours are laid out in specifically shaped or metered boxes, like a weekly pill container. Each box is colored differently and I have roughly 18 “pills” of time in my hand with which to fill them (because I honestly need at least 5-6 hours to sleep or I’m just not functional). And so I count out my hours into the boxes – Work, Family, Home Care, Errands, Cooking, Listening, Driving, etc. I try, try, TRY to hold back a few bits of time just for me: things like reading, writing, taking a long hot bath, exercising, devotional time, and naps. But there’s usually something “more important” that requires doing. I am rubbish at asking for help of any kind, and so my self-care ends up getting shoved into a really short amount of time and not feeling like self-care really at all. Usually it’s me sitting on the couch after the almost nightly battle to get my daughter to bed, too tired to think, much less read or write.

I feel as though I am grasping at time, holding onto it for dear life, lamenting that there is not more of it as it slips through my fingers. Like sand, it leaves behind only tiny grains, minuscule bits of itself that don’t seem to amount to much of anything. But that is not true of sand, is it? Though its individual grains are minute, all together they create vast deserts and snow-white beaches and ocean floors that stretch on for uncountable miles. All of that is those tiny bits and pieces, not on their own but together. Perhaps I have been holding my time so tightly that I am looking at it wrongly. While my introverted soul yearns for extended blocks of retreat and refreshment, I should not–must not— discount the small pockets of time with which I am gifted, even if they are very small.

A few nights ago, I gifted myself the time involved to take a hot shower with all the lavender amenities. It boosted my spirit and refilled some of my dwindling spoon drawer to feel fresh, clean, soft, and have such a soothing scent wafting around me. It was only half an hour but there was intention behind it. The intention of care and refreshment for myself, of aloneness and quiet, even if just for a little while. It was not a week-long isolated retreat but it did help, that one half-hour.

Last year, I wrote about (and even gave a commencement speech on) not discounting the value of smallness. How fitting that here I am, a year later, reminding myself of this very oh-so-important lesson, when my own well-being and all-around health hang in the balance.

Fifteen minutes of exercise may not be the hour-long gym workouts that I was used to doing when I was a SAHM but it is something.

Ten minutes to read before bed isn’t finishing a book in a day as I did of old but it is something.

“Tea-Time Quite-Time” with my daughter isn’t an afternoon alone in a coffee shop but those quiet moments together of both of us watching the lovely “Sarah & Duck” with our tea before bedtime are something.

Putting my earbuds in of a Sunday afternoon and turning on my rain app isn’t spending a whole sleepy, rainy day in bed but dozing amidst those soothing sounds for a little while is something.

Friends, I am learning to hold my time more gently, to remember and admit that the small bits I can get, that stick here and there can indeed be helpful, refreshing, and sustaining. And, bit by bit, those fragments add up, just as grains of sand, together, can create a vast, beautiful landscape. If you are walking this path of learning and viewpoint shifting, I want to encourage you. We can be gentler with ourselves, gentler with our time and the realities of our lives. Sometimes our realities do not have space for week-long retreats for our soul. We can still find rest in the small moments, brief though they may be. A shut bedroom door (or closet door even). A second cup of coffee. Ten minutes with a book or video game or podcast. We can find those little grains of time that will add up to refreshment for us. Trust me, I wish us all extended time to rest and relax but, until then, I’ll be gently collecting grains alongside you.

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