Courage to Face the Holidays


As November draws to a close, I can feel my anxiety ramping up with the approach of the Christmas Season proper. Much to do and the list grows ever longer and time ever shorter. I have three weeks left before school closes for Christmas break, along with all the work comes with them. I have my daughter’s birthday to plan, not to mention our work on finishing her new big girl area upstairs. Then there is decorating the house for the holidays, wrapping gifts, and managing the actual day of Christmas. I can feel myself getting tired and achy with just the thought of it all.

As I hid away upstairs with the most recent edition of Bella Grace on Thanksgiving evening, I read about “sacred graces”, taking time to notice those little beautiful things and to hold space for them in my life. I will, uncheerfully, admit that I do not do this. I know I did at one point, though. I marveled over the sweetness of an apple. I would run back inside to grab my camera to snap a picture of the mist lying silvery and soft in my backyard. I haven’t done this in a long, long time. I find that busyness has stolen and does indeed steal my wonder most of the time. I am tired of that.

I desperately do not want this Christmas to pass by with only busyness to mark it. I hate coming down to Christmas Eve–when we are home from church and I finally stop moving–and feeling as though I have nothing of note or meaning throughout the entirety of the Season. I miss Christmases of viewing beautiful lights and displays (there was such magic in that for me as a child), going to concerts/shows, enjoying well-beloved movies or specials on television (Mom and I planned days in advance not to be busy on those particular nights), journaling by the lights of the Christmas tree. I feel as though, every year recently, I end up apologizing to my husband. Apologizing that our Christmas hasn’t been more special, that we haven’t donated more of our time, made more memories, taught our daughter more about generosity and the meaning of Christmas. I really enjoy the Christmas Season, and its fast approach scares me witless.

          Right now, I feel like it is going to take an inordinate amount of courage to face the Holidays this year: to face the demands but to also seek out the graces, the sacred spaces. I do not want to spend the next four weeks being irritable, snappish, and unpleasant to be around.  I do want to find and savor those special, sacred moments with my dear ones.

Watching my husband lift our daughter up to put the star on the tree, as he has every year since she was born.

Looking at the intricate designs of the ice on the windows in the wan light of morning.

Turning on the Christmas tree lights as I come out into the living room in the morning.

The profound quiet that fills the world as snow falls.

Tucking cards and gifts into the mail for friends and dear ones.

The Holidays will take courage. They are often not easy, I know, for one or another of a myriad of reasons. I want to breathe in the sunlight spilled from Aslan’s mane, hold fast, and step forward. One day at a time, one step at a time, one breath at a time. One kindness at a time. One gentle word at a time. The Holidays will take courage, from you and from me, but we can do this. Let’s have courage for the next step, dear ones. Courage for the next right thing.

I won’t look too far ahead
It’s too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath
This next step
This next choice is one that I can make
So I’ll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing

“The Next Right Thing” – Frozen II

The Courage to Look Backward


There is an avid debate over whether the Memories feature was a good or bad idea on Facebook’s part. I, however, have found it to be at least useful in one particular case. As I have been looking through them each day lately, I have once again seen–surprisingly plainly–just how God has been preparing me for a reflective shift in my life. As you know, Dear Reader, for this month of November, my writing and reflections are centering on courage. It’s striking to see just how God has been brick-laying in advance.

Inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s daily practice on Twitter, I post daily good-mornings and good-nights on my personal FB page (and, sometimes, on my blog page), in an attempt and the hope of of encouraging my dear ones. Looking back through those previous posts, I am seeing more and more how they, too, were focusing on courage. A full year ago! Look at You, God. Way to prep!

It takes courage not only to look forward but also to look backward, to look at the past and see just how we have gotten to this point in our lives. Yes, sometimes, looking backward is hard or painful. Sometimes it can make us wince to see where we were then or to re-experience what we were going through, even when a year removed from the actual experience of it. For me, it is a comfort and a relief to see this evidence of preparation, these next places being made ready for me…when I have the courage to look forward again.

The Courage to Stand Up


I did a thing today. A BIG thing! I put in for a personal day at work. Not just any personal day, however. I was a part of a concentrated effort of teachers in my corporation/union who all put in for personal days on Tuesday, November 19. It was to let our administration know that we all intend to attend and be a part of the Red for Ed Action Day and rally at our statehouse in Indianapolis. We all intend to let our legislators know that we protest that systematic destruction of public education.

I have rarely been one to make a racket, never having been one for public protests or crowds. I have often supported such movements in different ways. But this…this is my career. My day in and day out. These are my students we are talking about and the schools that serve, teach, and attempt to prepare them. So, on 11/19/19. I will screw up my courage, stand with hundreds of fellow educators, and fight for our students and their needs.

Provided by our union president, below is a short list of some of the actions being committed at the state level to public education:

1. The state requiring teachers to serve 15 hours in the business community in order to obtain/renew their teaching license.

2. Attempting to hold schools accountable for what students do AFTER they graduate. 

3. Different rules and accountability measures for private/ charter schools that make the latter “look” better.

4. The racist roots of vouchers that drain money from public schools and  “school’s choice” as the initial reaction to Brown v. Board of Education.

5. A Senate Chairman of the Education Committee who believes voucher money goes straight to parents and doesn’t return to public schools. This same senator did not know how much vouchers saw an increase in a budget he voted for, and the list goes on. 

The Courage to be Not Nice


There are certain things that I just cannot stand but more on that later. I am a nice teacher. At least, I am repeatedly told that I am a nice teacher. Cinnamon-bun Hufflepuff, that’s me. I am a nice teacher.

However, there are days that I am not–nor do I want to be–so nice. As I mentioned before, there are certain things that I just cannot and that I will not stand for. I endeavor to make my classroom a space where all my students can feel safe, welcomed, and at home. I will not stand for anyone violating the safety and sanctity of my space or their classmates within it. I have already had to speak to a particular class as a whole about consent and harassment and the everyday forms they can take. I also had to speak to one student in that class in particular. (The principal and I handled that quite tidily, I like to think.) Now…I have found out about another student in that class who has been blatantly disrespectful to a classmate, so now this must be dealt with.

And, dear Reader…this time…I do not want to be nice.

There is a reason why House Hufflepuff’s sigil is a badger. Badgers can bite through bone, and I plan on biting through this student’s misogynistic behavior. I do not plan to coddle and smile and let this slide. No. Such behavior must be dismantled now or it will get worse and worse as they grow. They need to know that it will not be borne or stood for or pass without consequence, most definitely not by me.

It is not easy to be not nice. I will need courage for it. I will need courage to be righteously angry and to let them see it. Courage to let them know that I will defend the safety of my space and the rights of my students. I will need courage to be, in this instance, not nice.

Yes, here is a reason that Hufflepuff’s sigil is a badger: because nice is different than good.

The Courage to Consider Quitting


On Sunday, I began listening to The Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen. I stopped it after ten minutes. Not to quit, mind you, but to digest what I had just heard in the introduction. To be perfectly honest, I felt as though we might as well have been sitting at a table with coffee cups in our hands because the only thing she was leaving out was my name. Everything Anne said about burnout could have easily dropped from my own lips. I was stunned but…honestly? I was not wholly surprised.

Burnout was not something I had considered while trying to put a name to what I have been feeling for a few years. Honestly, I had never imagined burnout to be anything other than an absolute breakdown, a dramatic, debilitating inability to carry on. The one and only year I worked in a high school as an English/Etymology teacher, I was told that the teacher I was replacing had suffered a “total emotional breakdown, disappeared after Christmas; we had a sub for the rest of the year”. So. That was fun. By the end of that year, I think I began to understand the reasons.

This spark of considering of burnout, coupled with turning directly to a chapter in Emily P. Freeman’s The Next Right Thing entitled “Quit Something”, definitely caused my eyebrows to shoot up today. There are adages everywhere that tell us to quit what doesn’t feed our joy, to quit what isn’t good for us, to not be afraid to walk away from what isn’t for us or is no longer. A hobby, a job, perhaps even a relationship. We are told repeatedly that there is no shame in quitting what has ceased to be good for us.

This always causes a bit of a train wreck in my brain. Quit? Is that possible? Is that a thing? Is that allowed? In the Practice section of the aforementioned chapter, Freeman encourages the reader to meditate on a few questions to help determine if it is indeed time for them to quit something:

Are you working hard toward something only to realize it isn’t quite right anymore?

Has your heart changed on an issue but your mind hasn’t gotten the memo?

Have you been tricked into believing that doing more and working harder will lead to finally having or being enough?

I found (and still find) myself lingering over those questions and over my own fears associated with quitting, particularly even approaching the idea of considering (can you tell it makes me nervous) quitting the one career that I worked more than half my life to be able to do. How could I possibly even contemplate leaving that? (My adversarial question: What else could I even do? What am I even qualified to be able to do?) And yet…what if that’s what has been hiding in that corner of my heart for years? That unsettledness? What if it is this nudge towards something else? What if…?

These are the things that cause me such anxiety and worry that I want to cry and give up on the whole idea of a new chapter. As I was reading, as usual, Emily seems to have seen my heart ahead of time (she has the cheat codes for my soul, I promise!) because there are two sentences in this chapter that I have highlighted in bright, bold purple.

Just because things change doesn’t mean that you chose wrong in the first place.

Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it forever.

As I try to listen to that nudge of my own life and calling in God, I know that I need courage. Courage enough perhaps to stay but also, if I am led, the courage to walk away. The courage to quit.

**Postcript Note: I have linked Emily P. Freeman’s Podcast episode “Quit Something”, which was the inspiration for this chapter of her book. Please, do click the link above and give it a listen.

Courage to Say No


We are getting into the beginning of the holiday preparations and thus begins a particular battle with my daughter: the Christmas “wants”. The List.

My husband once told me, “You don’t really care of people like you or not. What really bothers you is if people are upset with you; you can’t stand it if people are upset with you.”

It’s true, I greatly dislike it if people are upset with me, particularly if I do not know why. However, there are times in which I do need to step forward beyond that fear. There are times when I need to have enough courage to let someone be disappointed and upset with me. And this is one of them.

My daughter’s Christmas wish list has been rather reasonable up to this point: books and dolls, a scooter…but there is one toy which has become the bone of contention. It is a unicorn. Now, my girl is currently mad for unicorns, which is not a problem in and of itself. It comes several different hues with multi-colored hair, dressed in a crop top and what looks like a cross between a diaper and high-cut denim booty shorts. But this particular unicorn has a singular function. You feed it a concoction made up of ingredients included with the purchase of the toy. Then you sit the unicorn on what looks like a child’s training potty, and said unicorn then poops out slime, to which glitter and color can then be added. Yes, you read that correctly: the function of this unicorn is to poop slime.

This is the toy that my child wants more than anything else for Christmas. This. It is one of a line of toys centered around either pooping or vomiting slime. I am not okay with this. I am not okay with this thing costing almost fifty dollars either (fifty bucks, you guys!). I have promised her to think and speak to her father about it, but I can tell you with 99.9% certainty that this particular unicorn will not be joining my daughter’s menagerie.

You may disagree with my parenting choices, and that’s fine. I know that they are my choices to make.

I do not like having Elizabeth disappointed with me. I do not like having her upset with me. I do not like her thinking that I do not want her to be happy (because I do).

Yet here I am, breathing deeply, reaching for my courage, and preparing to deny my daughter the thing she wants most in the world right now. I am preparing myself to stand under the weight of her possible displeasure and disappointment, even while she possibly receives everything else she has asked for.

Courage, dear heart. Courage to love my daughter, stand firm, and say no.

First-Time Courage


Tonight, my daughter will embark on a milestone of childhood: her first sleepover…and an away-from-home sleepover at that. This little girl is Elizabeth’s best friend ever, and her family has already taken Elizabeth to heart with their kindness and generosity, for which I am immensely grateful.

I have no problem admitting that my child is far braver than I ever was as a little person. She loves the New (especially New People). I hated sleeping away from home and, whenever I tried, I would usually end up calling my parents to come get me. I was such a creature of homeostasis that I always preferred for my friends to come to me for sleepovers. In fact, I am not sure I can remember a time when I actually stayed at a sleepover that wasn’t at my own house. Huh.

Again, my girl has proven herself to be far braver than her mom at times. Admittedly, she is a little nervous amidst her excitement. I absolutely get that and have been encouraging her to be brave, reminding my dearest girl that having courage and being brave do NOT mean being unafraid. Rather, it is still being afraid (even if just a little bit) and choosing to do the thing anyway. I remind my girl that her friend loves her and that it is obvious that her family already does, too, and will take excellent care of her. Also, she gets to spend 24 whole hours with her best friend! How cool is that?

So, this afternoon, I will watch my daughter step into her courage for something brand-new, exciting, and maybe a little bit scary. I will hug her, kiss her, wish her the best time ever, and remind her that I love her always and am very proud of her and her bravery. Then I will breathe deep and let go.

This is scary for me, too. As scary as her moving into her new room upstairs bit by bit. It means change, growth, a shift in how things have always been. But it will be fun for her and good time with her best friend; she will enjoy it. So I will have Courage so that my daughter can have Joy.

Courage, dear heart.

Image from Today’s Parent