The End-of-Summer Letdown


I get rather down right about now, as summer vacation draws to an end. And I do mean down. Like really down. I hesitate to use the word ‘depressed’ because that is a deeply painful mental illness that causes a great deal of pain to many. I do not wish to invalidate that experience so I will choose not to use that word to describe my end-of-summer mental state. /endsoapbox

Reminder: I’m a junior high teacher. Honestly, though, most of the time, I don’t feel like a very ‘good’ teacher, a real or ‘true’ teacher. I’m not the teacher who stays at work until midnight every night poring over data and redesigning elaborate lesson plans and units. I’m not the teacher who spends the summer weeks teaching summer school or working in my classroom, teaching workshops, or what have you. In fact, I rarely set foot back in the school building after I leave after the last teacher work day until I have to go back at the end of the summer. I don’t get excited about the beginning of the school year. Rather, it makes me nervous, restless, stressed, and even weepy. I mourn the end of my freedom, the sleeping late, the staying up late after the kiddo goes to bed, the day trips with my family, the movie dates with my husband, evenings around the fire-pit, watching my daughter chase fireflies. Now it’ll be back to early nights, earlier mornings, and routine.

I trudge back to school as heavily as any student. I tend to become withdrawn; I stick to myself, hole up in my classroom, ostensibly to get things done, but it’s also really because I will be dealing with people—lots of them—day in and day out for the next ten months or so. I will have no choice in the matter. There’s also a chance that I will be a “veteran” teacher in the 8th grade this year so that means possibly answering a lot of questions from the other teachers in my hall. So I am hoarding my spoons, trying to build and store them up for the coming school year.

I will be stressed and tired and may be functional at best for a while, but I will do my best. Things will get easier. I will work hard to teach my students what they need to know, about language arts and literature, but especially about what it means to be a good person, to live with integrity, to have courage, and be kind. And I know that it will be as much a continuous lesson for me as it will be for them.

Holding Myself Gently: When I Kiss My Own Shoulder


One of the most comforting gestures I have ever received is a kiss and gentle cheek press or nuzzle to my shoulder. It is closeness, contact, a willingness to stay, to sit with me in the midst of hard places and times. It is also one of the gestures that I most often give my husband and dear ones when they are in need of support and comfort. I love giving and receiving this particular gesture, and, yes, I do understand the intimacy of it. However, that does not mitigate its comfort one iota. When a dear one draws close to gift me with it, there’s no fully explaining the deep succor it is. But, sometimes, there are no dear ones around. Sometimes, my husband cannot be near. Sometimes I am the only one I have near enough to stand with me. So, in those cases, I needs must comfort myself.

There are days when I kiss my own shoulder. Times when I press my lips to my own skin in the gentlest kiss I can muster and lean my cheek on the curve of my own shoulder for a moment. Times when I so desperately need reassurance in a moment when I am on my own. When the tears threaten and I am not sure that anyone else will understand them if they fall.

There are times when I feel that I need to comfort myself or I just need a quiet moment. It is in those moments that I press my lips to my skin and lean my warm cheek against my own shoulder, reminding myself that it is okay.

That I am okay.

That it will be okay.

Do You?


 

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Photo credit – https://brokenbelievers.com/2016/12/17/do-you-really-love-me/do-you-love-me/

 

“Do you even love me?”

I felt my heart drop into my shoes and break. It was asked with such uncertainty. Did they really doubt it so much that they had to ask that question?

“Do you really not know?” I whispered.

“You never say it!” was the protest.

I realized then. It was true. In a big way, we often have convinced ourselves (or been trained) to hear love and to only hear love. But don’t we have four other senses, too? This person, this one who meant so much to me. They waited so intently to hear three specific words that they missed the abundant translations of it that I tried to convey every single day.

They didn’t or maybe couldn’t see my love when I took their car to get serviced before the winter’s first snap and snow.

They couldn’t taste my love in the favorite recipe that I learned to surprise them. (And all the burnt failures I hid in the trash out back.)

They couldn’t smell my love when I filled the sink with their favorite flowers so that we could place them all over their abode.

They didn’t feel my love when I held their hand, kissed their knuckles or shoulder, stroked their hair back, or tucked them gently into bed when sick or exhausted.

They had been taught and trained and could only believe love was real if they hear it and only when they heard it. The tree had to fall in order to make a sound. But do not trees also rustle, rumble, groan, snap, and sigh?

“Do you even love me?”

I reached out and took their hand as gently as I could.

“Yes. Yes, I do. I am telling you all the time.”

Moments in Magical Modernity: XIII


XIII.

             When the winter snows have melted away, the trees warm and bud as their lifeblood begins to flow once more. The world begins to awaken. Not only awaken but also rejoice. Spring is springing, life is budding and blossoming, and warmth is returning to the world with Persephone’s ascent.

April is the month of preparation and May the month of revel, of celebration. The budding trees are festooned and beribboned in preparation for Beltane or May Day. There is food, music, dancing, and merriment. Persephone petitions her mother Demeter’s joy for a picturesque day on Beltane, to allow creatures and humans alike to who have been caged and sequestered for the whole of winter to frolic and enjoy freedom once more. And because she can deny her dearest daughter nothing, Demeter, along with the Lady Ostara (whom Persephone calls ‘Aunt’), will fashion the most beautiful day, the one which every spring day that comes after will strive to emulate.

Sunshine to warm. Breezes to cool. A bright blue sky to dazzle. Daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips in colors to delight and amaze. Birdsong to soothe. Soft new grass for children to run in, their feet free from restraint or encasement and their laughter inciting Joy. Yes, the most beautiful day imaginable.

 

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Image by Paper Boat Creative/Digital Vision/Getty Images, as utilized in Patti Wigington’s “Deities of the Spring Equinox”. https://www.thoughtco.com/deities-of-the-spring-equinox-2562454 

 

Prepared to Give an Answer


It’s been a month!? Goodness! Well, yes, it’s summer, and I’m trying to enjoy it and be productive with some goals at the same time. So here I am.

Yesterday was a very interesting experience for me. Early in the morning, I checked a Facebook notification for a friend and saw that she had posted this:

This rather encapsulates how I feel about my faith and the subject of the human sexuality spectrum. So I commented on the post: “Yep! That’s exactly it for me.” I didn’t think there would be much more to it than perhaps a comment like or two. But then another friend whom I have known for about ten or eleven years replied:

So I do have a follow-up question that is something that I’ve been dealing with lately. While there is no judgment, does that mean you still think that being gay is necessarily a “bad trait”? For example, you wouldn’t judge thieves, but you wouldn’t promote their behavior as positive and godly. Any thoughts? 

I immediately knew in my soul that this was one of those situations that the Bible talks about where Christians need to be “prepared to give an answer”. I replied that, after I dropped my little girl off at daycare, I would sit down so I could answer her question thoughtfully and properly. And I did. I thought about it all through the drive to school and during my time at the gym afterward, drafting up responses and making notes of a Scripture that came to mind. Finally, I was able to sit down and arrange my thoughts into the following response:

Okay. Here I am. Honestly…your question is something that I have struggled with thinking through sometimes. However, after thought and reflection, I cannot bring myself to a “love the sinner, hate the sin” mentality. I just can’t. I can’t tell someone that I love them or that God loves them but, in the same breath, call them wrong. I have done too much wrong in my own life to pass judgment. Do people do things that are wrong? Yes, we all do. But if I’m so busy judging or telling someone their faults or, as you put it, bad traits, there’s no room left to love them or for them to BELIEVE that I love them. I am not God. I don’t know His mind. I don’t know the minds of any other person on this planet. I am not called to judge. I am called to love. To love all of someone. Do I want to help people grow in life? Yes, I want to encourage, support, and help them in that growth, whatever that may mean for them. I will love and pray for them, no matter what. 

What immediately springs to mind (and sticks there) for me is John 8:1-11 and I’ve quoted it below.

“Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” ” (New Living Translation)

Jesus didn’t condemn this woman; He didn’t judge her. He said, “Go and sin no more.” He didn’t lay her sins, whatever they may have been, out before her. He doesn’t tell her what’s wrong with her or bad about her. No. He just told her that He didn’t condemn her, to go live her life and do what’s right. In the same way, I will not condemn someone. I will not lay what I, in my fallibility, think are their sins before them. I am called to love and I will love and love and love. I will do what I can to help those I come into contact with to live the best lives they can in the spaces they are in. I have been so deeply loved in my life, have met and known and loved so many amazing people from all walks of life, but I have also seen what damage and pain and separation condemnation and judgment can cause. Such things are not of God and I will not perpetuate such pain. The Church is called to love God and love others. This is most important and it is what I have built my life on and will continue to. 

To be sure I answer your question, no, I do not think that being gay is a “bad trait”. Some of the greatest people of faith I’ve ever known are gay, and I will thank God for them from the rooftops and point those who need love and prayer and counsel to them all the time as people of God and some of the deepest, strongest, and most loving Christians I have ever known. Thank you for asking and making me think, love. 

I am called to love and loving is what I will do.

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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