I am a Writer

Recently I have shared a lot of writing I did more than a decade ago when I returned to college. I share it partly because I love the memories of the process of completing that portfolio. For me it meant so many different things. It boosted my confidence in myself as a writer, while also being cathartic. The other reason that I find myself sharing these pieces recently is that many days when I sit down to write, I feel like I have nothing to say. Writing is one thing that brings me so much joy, but lately I feel empty when thinking about what to write. It feels very frustrating. I think these ruts that I find myself in at times are natural to some extent. but I think there are also other underlying causes for them. I doubt myself. I doubt that anyone else on the planet would even be interested in what I have to say. I compare my ramblings to “real” writers and become filled with apprehension. And then I get down on myself for falling into the comparison trap at all.

Teddy Roosevelt is credited with saying that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I’m pretty sure that he spoke these words specifically for me. When I compare my writing, my blog, my followers, my likes…I lose my joy. I lose the happiness that writing brings me on a daily basis. I have to stop thinking about what people may think about my words, and get back to just sharing my thoughts. It really is all about the process. I find joy in taking one thought and choosing words to express all of it. Will I produce my “best” writing every single day? Not at all likely. But will writing every single day bring me joy? Help me hone my craft? Make me feel whole? Those things are very highly likely.

So I will continue to share things that I have written in the past, because I do enjoy my strolls down memory lane. But I will also find joy in the process of creating new pieces to share and be proud of. And I will be grateful for the process, the ups and downs, the mountains and the valleys. Because I am a writer!

My Date with Me

This morning I am gazing out my window from my desk, enjoying the sunshine streaming in. The anticipation of spring hangs in the cool air. I am in awe of nature and the effect that it has on me. I am reminded of a writing assignment I once did from the Capstone course I often write about. The assignment was to take myself on a date. Just to spend the entire afternoon with myself and then to write about it. Of course, I chose to be out in nature. I’d like to share that piece with you.

This time of year is my favorite time of year, especially in Oxford. The leaves are boasting their brilliant fall colors, providing a beautiful backdrop for our every day lives. I decided to treat myself to this beauty with a walk through the trees at Heuston Woods. I parked near the Sugar Camp area, grabbed my journal, my water, my sweatshirt, and my cell phone. I found a trail and just started walking. I made a conscious effort to use all of my senses, paying attention to every sound, smell, sight, and texture around me.

The first thing I notices was all of the sounds. The way the leaves crunched under my step. The slight sound the twigs made, snapping and breaking as I trampled them. And then there were the birds…I wish I knew anything about birds to identify them as I heard their songs. I felt like an intruder in their world as I listening to them converse back and forth in the treetops. I’m almost certain they were talking about me as I invaded their landscape.

Next, I paid attention to the smells around me. I have not found an adequate word that describes the smell of those crunchy leaves scattered on the ground except to say that they smell just like fall. It is a familiar smell that conjures memories of childhood days rolling around in piles of them without a care in the world.

As I strolled down the path through the woods, I took special notice of the variety of trees that lines my path. Again, here is where I wish I had more knowledge of my world around me and the trees that watched over me as I walked. There were many different types as evidenced by their unique look, shape, and feel of their coats of bark. Some were smooth and sleek, while others were rough and worn.

After walking deep into the woods, I found an old stump – a natural bench just inviting me to sit down. So I sat with my journal in had, seeking words to do justice to the beauty that enveloped me. What I realized as I struggled with my pencil was that rather than to try and recreate this scene with words, I just needed to sit and enjoy it. So there I sat, my date with me, just soaking in it.

I don’t take the time to engage my senses like this enough. Rereading and sharing this old piece of writing has stirred in me a desire to take myself on a date again! I encourage you to do the same. Find something, somewhere that inspires you and take it all in.

How Sweet It Is To Be Loved

I write a lot about my kids and my students. I write about school and life and many other ramblings. I rarely, though, take the time to write about my husband. But, if anyone in the world deserves his very own blog post, it is Chris. Chris is one of the most amazing men I have ever met. He is the perfect mix of smart, funny and caring. Chris’s intellect blows me away, and most of the time I have to ask him to “dumb down” some of our conversations. Chris reads so much about so many topics. He is that guy who reads the owners manual of the new product before he uses it! Chris is a thinker. I can tell when he is really in deep thought by his gaze off into space and the way his mouth twitches with each idea.

Besides being so smart, Chris is incredibly loving and patient. He rarely raises his voice or loses his temper. In a house full of teen and tween girls, he has mastered the ability to not react to endless eye rolls and attitude in abundance. He is in charge of bedtime each night. And even with the older girls, he still goes into each room and prays with each girl. One of my favorite moments each and every night is listening to he and Kelsie sing “You are my sunshine.” It chokes me up every dang time.

One of the many things about Chris that drew me to him (besides those blue eyes) was his sense of adventure. He loves to try new things and see new sights. When we were dating we would head downtown (on a school night!) to try and new restaurant in OTR. When we went to Italy for our honeymoon, Chris had planned every single detail of our trip and we moved about the country with ease! We ate in the best restaurants, stayed in unique places, drank ALL the wine. It was like living a dream.

I could go on and on about my amazing husband – like his ability to build me anything I ask for, or his work ethic that is unmatched, or his knack for cooking the most elaborate recipes. But, the thing that I absolutely adore most about my partner for life is the way he loves. Chris gets it. He loves selflessly. He gives all of himself. He surrounds me with feelings of safety and security. He has the ability to make me feel like the only other person in the world when we are together. I should have issued a **SAP** warning at the beginning of this post, but I just can’t help but gush about the man I married.

I hope that someday he will understand my devotion to and adoration of him. I feel so blessed to get to live this life with him. Things are not champagne and rose petals every day….that is not reality, but even when things get rocky and rough, I cling to him because I know that he is our firm foundation and that with him everything will be okay.

Ladies, find you a man who makes you feel this way. It’s the greatest feeling in the world to be loved like this. And if you are lucky enough to have a man like this in your life, tell him often how special he is. Be thankful for your once in a lifetime love. I know that I am.

**Edit*** Sitting here in my office listening to Chris and the girls watching a Disney movie reminded me of one of his most endearing traits…Chris belly laughs at movies, whether he has never seen it or he has seen it ten times. He does not hold back his loud, hearty laugh. I usually laugh more at him laughing than l do at whatever it is we are watching. I can’t believe I forgot that in my original post!

Lucky Duck

I recently saw an idea on Instagram from one of the many teachers I follow about using a rubber duck to reward students and to give them special privileges. I’ll be honest, at first I thought it seemed a bit cheesy and didn’t think that my students would respond to it at all. I honestly didn’t dig any deeper into how she used it, because I just didn’t think it would be something that would “work” with my kids.

Yesterday, though, while in line at Meijer, I noticed some small rubber ducks in the checkout line. They were part of the last minute, impulse buy section right where you checkout. They were only .59 cents, so I grabbed one and decided right then to try it for the month on March in my room (March – lucky…kind of works). When I got to my room I sat that cute little duck in the front of my classroom and just waited for the questions. Of course, as soon as the students arrived the questions started. “Why is there a rubber duck in our classroom?” “Mrs. Taylor, whose duck is that?” “Does the duck have a name?” “Is it a boy duck or a girl duck?” I just love 4th graders!

I explained to my students that he was a lucky duck and that one of them would be his caretaker for the day – which made them a lucky duck too. Being the lucky duck means that that student got to be my errand runner for the day, first in line for lunch and recess, and anything else that might come up during the course of our school day. They were ALL IN! I told them that during our morning work time I would randomly choose a student (ClassDojo) and IF that student was on task and getting their morning work done, they would be the Lucky Duck of the day! Now I really had their attention. I chose the Lucky Duck and set our new little rubber friend on that student’s desk. All day when I needed a little help, my real life Lucky Duck would jump up and do their job! It was the cutest thing I have ever seen. Y’all, this cheap little rubber duck brought new life into our classroom today!

It’s been a long, rough school year, not only for teachers but also for students. I started the year by saying that these kiddos will remember this year forever, and I wanted to make those memories happy and ones that they would talk about for a long time. Who knew that a little rubber duck could help me do that?!? I’m so blessed to get to spend my days with such energetic, loving. amazing little humans. I truly believe that I am the LUCKY DUCK!

My very first best friend

I met a friend for coffee yesterday. Not just any friend. I met my very first best friend. My oldest friend. The girl I met on the first day of kindergarten. My mother and I stood at the bus stop waiting, and waiting. She and her mother had been doing the same and decided to drive to school. They picked us up and took us to Mrs. Kirby’s class together. That bus that didn’t show changed my life forever. (Okay – maybe a little dramatic because we ended up being in the same class and would have met anyway….but still you never know how it could have worked out.)

From that very first day of school, Becky and I were best friends. We spent so many days together playing and growing. I can’t even begin to share all of the memories we made. We were always together. She was either at my house or I was at hers. We grew up together. I still know her childhood phone number. I still remember the games we played, the adventures we shared. We dreamed together. We used to sit in my mom’s car and pretend to be grown ups. (Oh if we knew how hard being a grown up was going to be….). We would wear my mom’s sunglasses and pretend like we were driving to the mall while talking about our perfect husbands and our children. We even had “names” (I won’t share those…)

In the last 20 years, this was only the second time we have gotten together! But the minute we sat down I felt such a familiar, comforting warmth envelop me. We just picked up and talked and shared – this time as REAL grownups! When I think about all of the time we have missed over the past several decades, I feel sad that we didn’t make our friendship more of a priority, that we didn’t share in so many everyday moments of life. But rather than letting that sadness take hold, I have decided to use it for good. We have resolved to be more present in each other’s lives. We are not going to wait another 5, 10, even 20 years to catch up again. Two and half hours was not nearly enough time yesterday to catch up on what seems like a lifetime. So we will be intentional about our meetings. Cause here’s the thing…I don’t just want to get together and “catch up” anymore. I want to actually share in life with my very first best friend.

It did my heart good to sit and talk and laugh and listen to that voice that was such a HUGE part of my childhood. If there is anything I can share with you now it’s this. Pick up the phone and call that old friend. Send a letter (yes – like a real old-fashioned hand-written one). Take the first step, reach out and get together. I promise it will do your heart good too!

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