Lessons from “Calm Down”

I have been watching Inside Out with my toddler girl–or, as she has renamed it: Calm Down–for the past few days and I am finding that, while I am trying to teach my daughter lessons about emotions and feelings, I am learning and relearning some important ones myself. While one can learn to be emotionally awake and mature, I believe that there are always lessons worth revisiting as we grow through life.

*It’s okay to not be okay, even when people ask or want you to be okay.

*Just because you’re sad about something, it doesn’t mean your feelings are wrong.

*Just because you forget something or don’t think about it anymore, it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t beneficial or important or that it didn’t do you any good at the time.

*It is entirely possible to feel two things at once and have both of them be “right”.

*Crying is OKAY! Sometimes we just need to cry, and it really does help.

*It’s all right to not have all the answers.

*It’s all right to be scared and sad when what we have loved ends for whatever reason.

*It’s perfectly okay to look for the fun and to try to find the joy in situations if that is what you need to do in order to cope.

*There is no shame in your personality, interests, hobbies, etc., changing as your life goes on. It’s part of growing.

*It’s also okay to not be willing to look for the fun and the joy in a situation for a time. We need to feel sadness, too.

*It is all right to need someone just to be there.

*We can sit on the bench with someone and not try to fix things or make things better. Sometimes someone just needs their sadness to be heard and felt and their tears shared.

There is so much that we as human beings are still learning about ourselves, our feelings, reactions, relationships, and growth, even as adults. Our personalities shift and expand and deepen. Our interests vary. Who we are and who we choose to be may change and that is all right. The truth is that we never stop growing, learning, feeling, or changing. And that is okay. We are okay. YOU are okay.


(Disclaimer: Inside Out and its images are the creation and property of Disney/Pixar. None of it belongs to me.)

The Darndest Things

This evening, when my husband arrived home from work, one of the first things he asked me was, “Was there a blue plastic bag outside on our property today?” Odd question, yeah? But I told him, yes, I had noticed a blue plastic bag at the foot of our driveway this morning so, when I went to take out the trash, I skipped down to the end of the drive, scooped it up, and put it the trash hopper. Honestly, I thought it was some trash from Best Buy so I wanted to throw it away before it blew away made a mess on our street.

Well, my husband went directly to the trash hopper and retrieved the aforementioned item. Bringing it into the house, I heard him say, “I thought so.” It turns out that those bags held recruiting flyers for a pretty well-known supremacist group. He then proceeded to explain that he had seen them in front of houses up and down the street as he had driven home today and was concerned to NOT see one in front of ours. He told me that what had worried him was that, if one of those flyers HAD NOT shown up in front of our house, that might mean that whoever was passing them out knows who lives here. Obviously, that wasn’t the case so I did my best to set his mind at ease. It had been left; I had moved it without knowing at all what it was.

To be clear, he isn’t scared; at the same time, though, he doesn’t want me to be scared or to fear for my safety or our daughter’s. I told him the truth: the idea of these people has affected me more through movie depictions than in real life. I do, however, know that they exist and that the attitude is harmful, damaging, painful, and has even driven behavior that has been fatal to others. I cannot fathom nor understand the need to hate someone or think them less because of their skin tone, beliefs, heritage, or political views. But I will not be afraid. This is my home. I have been in this state for fourteen years, this area for ten. This is my home. I will not be afraid. I wish no harm or ill on anyone and I will help those who need it however I may. But I will not be afraid.

I will teach my girl to be proud and strong and brave, to follow in a long line of steadfast Hoosier, Scots Irish, German, Scottish, Caymanian, and Bajan women in her family, on both sides. Her bloodline is wide and vast and we will teach her to rejoice in it. I want to teach her as Cinderella’s mother teaches her in Disney’s new depiction: “Have courage and be kind.”

Art Made Nightmare

Disclaimer/spoiler alert: If you watch “Downton Abbey” and have not yet seen the 1/27/13 episode from Season 3, you may want to skip this blog post.







I adore “Downton Abbey”! It has been a very long while since I’ve been that enthralled with a television drama. We started watching it two years ago this month and, for Valentine’s Day in 2011, my husband bought me seasons 1 and 2 for my gift, and then season 3 for Christmas this year. So wonderful!

However, there is one episode that I do not allow myself to watch, not again – Season 3, episode 4. Sybil, the youngest of the Crawley girls, arrives home with her husband Tom Branson (the former chauffeur) close to giving birth. In her early labor pains, Sybil starts to exhibit signs of pre-eclampsia (swollen ankles, muddled mental state), which are ignored by the stately Harley Street doctor that Lord Grantham prefers over the local Dr. Clarkson. Dr. Clarkson insists in taking measures to protect Sybil from going into full eclampsia but is shouted down. Sybil gives birth to her baby, a girl, but, late in the night, she begins to have headaches and seizures. It is eclampsia and there is nothing to be done. The family stands by helplessly as Sybil slips away, her husband sobbing over her, her newborn girl now motherless.

As brilliantly as the episode was acted, it was too close to the center of fears that plagued my heart and mind during my pregnancy.  Granted, I watched it after Elizabeth was born but it made no difference. I still sobbed and ached and hid my face in Ben’s shoulder. My mother had two pregnancies before she became pregnant with me, and suffered from pre-eclampsia with her first and full-blown eclampsia with her second. She lost both babies, the first (my brother) was stillborn and then Mom had seizures with the second (my sister), the baby born early and passed away from respiratory distress three days later. So, when I was diagnosed as pre-eclamptic, I was terrified. I feared so much something happening to me and leaving Ben and Elizabeth without me or, ever more the worse, something happening to us both and my beloved husband being left all alone. They did weekly blood and urine tests, non-stress tests to monitor Elizabeth twice a week, put me on blood pressure medication, and when my swelling did not decrease, nor did my protein levels, I was put on bed rest a full three weeks early (I was teaching at the time and Elizabeth was originally due to arrive a week after the fall semester ended). I was scheduled to be induced 9 days before Elizabeth’s original due date and, when I went in for it, they put me on magnesium to keep me from going into seizures, pitocin to induce labor, and saline to keep me hydrated. Still, I was afraid. I do not remember much of the day but, when it was announced that a cesarean was going to be necessary to keep Elizabeth’s heart-rate from dropping, I began shaking and didn’t stop until the operation was over.

This episode embodied everything I feared. Art become nightmare indeed. Perhaps, some day, I will find the fortitude with which to watch it again but, until then, the fear is still too fresh, my heart still too tender from it. Again, it was perfectly executed and intensely acted. Just a little too much for me.

Jan. 17, 2012 – A Broken Camel

I don’t know if I can do this. Between the rigors we are put through, the responsibility of education (academic, moral, ethical, social, etc.), of keeping our own current as well as our students’, now with this new evaluation tool…I think this may break me. Starting next year, we are to be evaluated five times a year from a 20-page document, with algorithms to determine our effectiveness like the meter on a wattage reader. 90 days to improve if we are found wanting, or likely be sacked. Gathered together into a pen like so many black sheep to be picked which is to go to slaughter when it comes time to RIF. It’ll pit us against each other, which you KNOW is what will happen.

I’ll be honest, I’m almost in tears and have been almost all day. I don’t know if I can do this, live under threat of losing my job every day because an algorithm deems me “ineffective”. I’m scared, I’m stressed. I’m trying to work with the rules THEY GAVE US. With the tests THEY MAKE US GIVE. All I want to do is hide myself away in a corner and cry. The six years of schooling, the two years on professional probation, the hundreds of hours I spent working and piecing together and preparing that portfolio that proved I could teach. Again. The hours that I spend day after day trying to do my best by my students. It’s not enough. It’ll never be enough.

But what else can I do? Is it odd for me to say that I don’t feel qualified to do anything else? I could work in a law firm, yes, I’ve done that before. I could work in a bookstore, if they’d have me. I could be a waitress. But could I support my family doing those things? Without anyone having to worry or fear? I think I would enjoy editing or proofreading for a magazine or newspaper but there aren’t a great many of those looking about right now, at least not in my area. I’ve checked. Everyone says they want “experience”, but how do I get it without being given a chance to do so?

I’m confused. And lost and scared and unsure of what to do next. Sticking it out and plugging away is what probably makes the most sense to people. And yet…does my future hold a possibility of anything different. The truth is that I do not like what I do all the time, much like anyone else. What I am not sure of is whether or not I like the great experiences I do get enough to go through all this. And that scares me more than a little.