Around Poem

I went back to college to get my Education degree in my late 30’s. I was a nontraditional student on a very traditional campus. Many universities have great programs to encourage older adults to return to school and get their degrees, but my alma mater did not. I was most definitely different. However, I was placed in a cohort with amazing students and they welcomed me as their “school mom.” I loved this part of my life during this time period. My capstone class right before graduating was creative writing. We were assigned an “Around” poem for our first writing. I’ll never forget sharing this with my classmates. I was very anxious to share my life experiences with this group of 20 somethings who had barely lived in my eyes. I felt so different in this setting and nearly let my fear of rejection get the best of me. But, I shared and they received and it was a very proud moment for this old school mom. I’d like to share that poem with you here. On a side note, I have done a lot more living since I wrote this poem…and I think I might write another one – and updated one in the near future.

Around 2006, I returned to school and was labeled non-traditional.

Around 1979, my oldest brother left home at the age of 16 without saying goodbye.

Around 1997, after 18 hours of labor, my first child came into the world.

Around 2007, on a bitter, cold morning, my Grandpa died.

Around 1975, I stood at the bus stop waiting for my first day of kindergarten…the bus never came.

Around 1993, I married my high school sweetheart.

Around 1974, I watched my dog Benji get hit by a car while I played in the front yard.

Around 2001, on an icy morning, I gave birth to my daughter.

Around 2008, I watched my brother’s son marry his high school sweetheart.

Around 2003, I walked my son to school fir his first day of kindergarten…we didn’t take any chances with the bus.

Around 1984, I kissed a boy for the first time – at the county fair. His name was Nick.

Around 2008, my high school sweetheart and I ended our 15-year marriage…at the breakfast table.

Around 2006, my son and I walked my daughter to school for her first day of kindergarten.

Around 1985, I had my heart broken for the first time.

Around 2008, I learned to be me again…still non-traditional.

It’s bittersweet to sit and reflect on all of those poignant moments that stick in my memory. It’s also comforting to know that I have been blessed with such a life. What moments would appear in your Around poem? I encourage you to take time to reflect and be thankful for this life today! Much love.

Carty – like party with a “C”

My baby girl recently turned twenty. She went on a girls’ trip with her closest friends and had the time of her life. Sadly, with everyone’s schedules, we didn’t have a big celebration, just a low key dinner out with her and Chris and myself. I loved the time with her, but I almost feel like I didn’t do enough to truly celebrate her twenty years here on earth. Carty is one of a kind for sure. Her full name is Caroline McCarty Smith. I was the last hold out – still calling her Caroline, until she gently told me I was the ONLY one who called her that and she really preferred Carty. When people would ask her how to spell it, she proudly said “It’s like party with a C,” and that sums her up perfectly.

Carty has grown into such a mature, responsible, fun young lady. I could not be more proud of who she is and how she lives each day. She is beautiful inside and out – and when I look at her now it’s hard to see the little tomboy who insisted on wearing her brother’s hand me down athletic shorts and t-shirts. In light of her recent jump from her teens to her twenties, I thought I would share a poem I wrote about her when she was little. I hope someday she will understand how much joy she brings to me and to this world.

Carty
She struts down the sidewalk
As if she was walking
The red carpet.

Even with grubby, skinned toes
And lollipopped, sticky fingers
She is prissy

Her stringy strands of dishwater blonde
Fall across her face,
Hiding her crystal blue eyes.

She is constant motion
Perfectly happy to play alone
Confident and absorbed in herself.

Oblivious to anyone’s world
But her own.
She is Carty

Take it Easy

The minute I opened my eyes yesterday morning, I felt it. I felt that all too familiar pain in my body, in my joints, in my muscles. An all-over pain that makes it hard to even move at times. Before going to sleep I had made a mental list of all of the things that I needed and wanted to do with my Saturday. I had a full day to get all of the things done that lingered from the week. I had a full day to do the things that make me happy and keep me centered. But my fibromyalgia had different plans. I know that on days when my pain is high that the best thing that I can do for my body is to rest. I know this in my head. My body needs to rest. So, why is that so hard?

I got up, poured my coffee and began my typical Saturday morning ritual. Plan the week’s menu. Create a grocery list for the week. That was easy enough and didn’t zap me of what little energy I had. The next thing on my list was to decorate the mantle and coffee bar for Valentine’s Day. (Side note: I was pretty excited about this as I have spent the last month making shelf sitters and paintings, etc to use). By the time I had carried all of the decorations up from my craft room in the basement and organized them, I had to sit and take a break. Pain was now coupled with frustration! Thirty minutes later I was able to muster enough energy to decorate (a “task” that I was so looking forward to) and then hit the couch again.

Now, if you’re reading this and thinking about how whiny I sound, I apologize. Yes, I was a little whiny and upset about the way my Saturday morning was progressing. But keep reading, because I promise there is more that just complaining. There is a lesson (at least there was for me.)

As I laid on the couch, trying to listen to my body telling me that it desperately needed a day of rest, I tried to let go of my frustrations and shift my focus. I asked myself, why is it so hard for me to just rest? Besides frustration, what was I truly feeling in the moment? I thought a lot about what was so hard about resting. And here’s the thing – the feeling that was really eating at me was guilt. I felt guilt and shame. It felt selfish to be lying around all day and not “doing” anything at all. Even though it was what my body was screaming for. I was ashamed of the fact that I was laying around not getting things crossed off my list. Shouldn’t I be busy doing something? Anything? Maybe it’s a mom thing. Maybe it’s a teacher thing. Maybe it’s a lethal combination of the two. I’m not sure I understand it at all, but I know that it is something that I need to be aware of and to “fix” in myself. (More guilt and shame).

It’s okay to listen to what my body needs. It’s okay to NOT be busy all the time. It’s okay if the dog hair collecting the corners stays put for one more day. Rest is not a bad thing. Rest is a necessary thing. I do not need to feel guilty for taking care of my body and my mind. So, I did it. I laid on the couch ALL DANG DAY. And guess what, this morning I feel so much better. I still think I need to process through the feelings of guilt and shame. As for yesterday, I took a big step toward taking care of me and learning to rest.

This is not my job

This school year has definitely been different than any other in my career. Many days I feel like I am a first year teacher again. I feel like I am having to create new ways to do things nearly every day. Most days I feel overwhelmed and completely flustered. I am exhausted before the day even starts. I spend early morning hours in my classroom trying to find new ways to teach – to reach all of my kiddos. I spend all day behind a mask hoping that they can see the smile they bring to my face. I study their eyes – searching for a glimmer of understanding. I miss seeing the smiles that I know are there, but are masked. Creating engaging, cooperative lessons has become a difficult task. Sharing learning and ideas from three feet apart somehow just isn’t the same.

I come home at night, carrying a load that is much heavier than the stacks of papers in my bag. Did I even speak to her? Was he okay today or did he seem sad? If I could have only spent more time reading with them. Finding the balance between work and home is even more burdensome this year than ever before. As I lay my head on the pillow (or the couch, sometimes even my desk) my thoughts drift to tomorrow’s challenges. Do I have the energy for one more day of this environment? How am I going to reach them? And keep them safe? And listen? And show them how much I truly care – from three feet away?

But here’s the thing…I LOVE what I do – even when I’m doing it in the middle of a pandemic. I love my kids (my students carry the title of my kids). I love that they are so resilient and they handle every day of this crazy school year like seasoned veterans. They are still kids. They still laugh and play and have fun. They bring me so much joy when they draw me pictures or write me notes (even when the spelling is a little off). Yes, it has been a really tough, deflating year trying to make things feel normal when they are anything but. The pride I feel when I see how amazingly my kiddos are navigating all of the chaos – well, it makes every minute worth it.

I might be overwhelmed and allow myself to complain about the day to day details of the “job,” but the reality is, I love my “job.” I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to pour into these little lives each day. And the best thing is that I always get so much more from them that I give. My burdens may feel heavy at times, but my heart is always full. Teaching is not my “job.” Teaching is my passion.

A little piece of sun

“I haven’t seen the sun in…” (Typed in my best Kid Rock voice.) I live in Ohio. In winter in Ohio, the skies are nothing but gray. Gloomy gray. Drab, hopeless, discouraging, gloomy gray. I’m completely convinced that the ever-present gray hanging over my head has an impact on my mood and my outlook. So…since I can’t jump on a plane and head somewhere sunny, I thought I would just post one of my favorite pictures from my 50th birthday trip to Napa Valley. It makes me smile. I can feel the sun on my skin and taste the full red wine when I look at this memory.

If you are somewhere sunny right now, do not take that for granted. If you are stuck under skies of gray and gloom, enjoy a piece of my sunshine. Much love!

Napa Valley, California
November, 2020

Small group – Big love

I have always been a bit of a loner. Don’t get me wrong, I love people. I love relationships. I love friendships. But I have never been one to have a lot of close friends throughout life. There have been seasons when this has really troubled me. I would wonder if there was something wrong with me…and that’s why people didn’t really want to be my friend. I would question myself and think that maybe I was a burden to people – that I took more than I gave. The older I get as I look back, I have begun to realize that I have been the “problem” all along. I have been the reason that I have not let a lot of people in.

I have a lot of “stuff” that I have carried around with me for a very long time. I don’t share it with many people for fear that they will not like me, or I will scare them off. I think that I have been afraid that if people really knew the real me – deep down – the me with all the fears and worries. With all the needs and emotions. With all the sadness and mess, that they just wouldn’t feel like the return on the investment of a friendship with me would be enough. I guess I just thought that it was too much to let people see that I’m just a mess.

Here’s the thing though, I have found a group of like-minded, amazing people who haven’t run away just yet! What started as a group of strangers coming togethers as a Small Group from church, has turned into something so much more to me. We came together – most of us having never met – and began to share life. We shared our ups and downs. We shared our highs and lows. We prayed for great things and through losses. We have studied and laughed and cried. And now I call this group of people friends. We may not talk every day (or snapchat) but I know that we are in each other’s thoughts and prayers. I know that we are friends. I have opened myself up to them and I have shared my mess – and they stuck around!

I am so thankful for the model of community that God has provided for us in His word. I am beyond thankful for a community of believers who talk and listen and pray. I am so very grateful to have a circle of people who know me and love me still. I am so excited to continue on this journey with our small group and to continue to grow closer to them as we all grow closer to God.

Just Jesus

I feel like I need to say something. Writing is how I process the world around me – and wow do I need to do some serious processing. I have sat down at my computer at least 8 times in the last 24 hours to share and express my feelings. And each time I completely deleted the nonsense that I had typed. I just can’t even come close to finding any words to make sense of what is happening. Can anyone make sense of any of it?

This is no way meant to be any type of political post. I am not one to share my viewpoints on politics – not because I don’t have any…but because quite often I can’t aptly express my viewpoints. (And because I hate confrontation and arguing and it seems that for many adults these days, that’s all they know. Gone are the days of healthy, productive debates.)

No, this post is not about me trying to decipher where we have ended up as a country – as human beings. This is about me just processing all that is going on inside of my head and heart. Y’all I am heartbroken. I am sad for our country and I am sad for our citizens. I am sad that I have to look into the eyes of a room full of 9 year olds and try to explain why grown adults behave in such horrid ways. I am sad that my adult children are completely disillusioned by our world, when they should be beyond excited and full of promise for the lives they are beginning.

I look at pictures (I did NOT watch the news broadcasts at all – I just couldn’t) – images of hate and anger between human beings – between fellow Americans, and I am sad. I know that I keep repeating that word, but I cannot find another way to share my heart. I hurt for all of the hate in the world.

Y’all – we need Jesus. Just Jesus. We need to love like he loved. We need to be His hands and feet in the midst of all the brokenness. We should be sharing His good news with people who are in such desperate need. And here’s the thing… we need to stop seeing SIDES – this group, that group, them, us, red, blue, black, white – and start seeing people. Jesus died for us ALL. He loves us all. Those climbing the walls and breaking the glass. Those defending building from intruders. Those inside conducting the business of the country. And yes, those spewing evil and hate in the crowds. HE LOVES US ALL.

We need to learn to love like Him.

Dry bones

Worship music is one way that I deeply connect with God. Time spent worshipping in song brings me so close to His presence. And it can break out anywhere. There have been so many instances when I was driving to school and worshipping in my car and tears just stream down my face (I’m the sure the drivers around me thought I was a lunatic). Music has always been a huge part of my life. As a small child I can remember Friday night devotionals with my family when we would sing songs from the red hymnal. I have memories of my daddy strumming the guitar and singing “Take me home, country roads…” My mom would sit down at the piano and play beautiful hymns and songs. All of my siblings play one or more instruments. Music is a part of my being.

For several years, I was very much involved with worship teams at church. And led worship at street ministry events. Worship music consumed me. I felt so alive when leading others in worship. I truly thought that I had found my “gift” and I loved using it to worship and glorify God. It has been a long time since I have been a part of a worship team – and I miss it. Don’t get me wrong – I still worship in song each and every day…and during church. But I miss being a part of it in a more “formal” way. It’s been on my heart a lot lately, but I just don’t see it being a part of my life anymore.

This morning I read Ezekiel 37. As God led Ezekiel through the desolate valley of dry bones that were scattered everywhere, He asked Ezekiel “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” (v 3). God asked him. God knew the answer…God knows all. I love how God works this way. He could have just told Ezekiel that those dry bones could become living things again, but he didn’t. He wanted Ezekiel to discover and speak it himself. He wanted Ezekiel to recognize God’s power to bring all things back to life – and speak it aloud. Then God told Ezekiel to speak the the dry bones – to speak life into them.

In my mind and heart, being part of a worship team – my music in general – those are my dry bones. It was a season in my life that has just passed, and while it was amazing and made me so happy, it is just gone. But God can make dry bones live again. Here’s the thing though…I think that God wants ME to speak over those dry bones if I truly believe that they can live. He is asking me to have enough faith in His power to speak over what I thought was dead. God is asking me “Can these bones live again?”

And He already knows the answer.

My heart’s desire

This house is still and quiet this morning as I sip coffee and reflect on the last two weeks that I have had at home. No schedule. No running. No emails or grading or lesson plans. Just time. Time to play six games of Yahtzee in a row. Time to spend entire days in my craft room creating. Time to try new recipes and to organize – well everything. Time to sit and be still and pray and listen. Shame on me for not taking enough time to do that when life is at full speed. I’m angry with myself for all of the wasted time that I could have spent with God, drawing closer to Him. I’m disappointed that I have been able to convince myself that there are just “not enough hours in the day.”

I am not one to make resolutions this time of year. Mostly because I rarely stick to them, and then I feel bad about myself for not being able to be consistent…so I just avoid it. That’s not to say that I don’t set goals for myself, but setting them at the beginning of the year feels like too much pressure for me. However, this year…it is much more than a goal or resolution that I am setting for myself. It is a prayer. My prayer is that drawing closer to God and spending time with in each quiet morning will become the desire of my heart. To pursue God whether through reading His word, or through worship, podcasts, sermons, prayer…all of these…daily. My prayer is for God to open my eyes to all that He has to teach me each day – each moment – of this new year.

And to enjoy every last moment of this last day of my break.