Trying to process

I finally had to turn the news off this evening. My heart could not listen to one more minute of the school shooting. My head could not comprehend what I was seeing and hearing. And then I think of all of those moms and dads who have lost their world today – and they can’t shut it off. My tears blur my eyes even now as I type these words. As I try to process this horrific tragedy.

I think of the families who have lost small children, but I also think of the entire school community, and the town. I think of my own children and the world that they live in – so confusing and sad. And I think of my students. My classroom family. Those 50 children with whom I have shared the last nine months of my life with.

I picture their faces and try to begin to fathom what those teachers are feeling right now – the ones who made it out alive. How are they even beginning to process any of this? How will all of these classmates who lived through today’s hell ever, ever be able to walk into a school again?!

This time of year is always hard on me. One the one hand, I am very excited for a little break and some relaxing. I already have my summer “to be read” stack of books piled up. But one the other hand, I have a very hard time saying goodbye to my students. We have spent so much time together since last August. We have laughed and cried. We have learned so much about each other and about ourselves – together. There have been days when I just didn’t think I could make it – it has been a very challenging school year – but I did make it. I am not ready to let them go just yet. People don’t realize how much our classroom, our students, become like a family each year. And each year, we have to say goodbye. Goodbyes are hard.

And yet, next year they will poke their heads in my classroom and say hello and run and hug me when they see me in the hall. Those poor eighteen students who senselessly lost their lives today will never have that chance. Those teachers who were excitedly counting down to summer break with their students will not be going home tonight.

I just can’t understand why these innocent lives were lost. I just can’t bear this pain. I feel so helpless. All I know to do is to pray for peace and healing for these families and for this entire community. I pray that God will provide them with the will and the strength to go on. I pray for our country and our world.

I have two days left with this year’s class. You’d better believe that I am going to hug them tightly. I’m going to make sure that they know that they are loved and that it has been my honor to have shared these last nine months with them. And then I’m going to cry some more.

The Time is Now

The meal is planned. Groceries bought. Tables set. Forks counted (I always worry I don’t have enough silverware!) The baskets are filled and I am ready.

Easter Dinner has always been the holiday that I host in my family. I love everything about it. I love the newness that spring brings to the world. I love that we get to slow down and reflect what the holiday is truly about and how blessed we are that the grave was empty.

Since Chris and I married and brought our two families together Easter is even more special in that we host for my family AND his family. Both families come together and we are all in one place breaking bread together. The older I get, the more I appreciate time together with all of us.

I was thinking that life is so busy and that there is just not ever enough time…but that’s really not it at all. If I’m really honest, I just don’t let myself slow down enough and MAKE time for these special moments with family. And I should. Not because it’s the “right” thing to do but truly because when I am with my family I am truly happy and at peace.

My son and bonus daughter live a couple of hours away, but that is not an excuse for not jumping on the highway and making time to see them. My parents live only about 30 minutes away (and even closer to where I work) but I only stop and see them about once a month (maybe). Why do I wait for a holiday to make sure that we spend precious time together? I don’t want to look back in a few years and wish that I had more time with the people I love.

The time is now. Time to make that call. Time to clear the schedule and jump in the car. I am going to talk to my family – real conversations – and soak up every minute I can with each of them. These are not just words…I will not let them just be words today because I’m feeling nostalgic of holidays past. No! I am going to put action to these words. I’m just sorry I have not made time sooner for those whom I love.

In this season of rebirth and newness, I am going to renew my relationships with all of my family and make sure that the time doesn’t slip away from all of us. Who do you need to make more time for in your life? Cause here’s the thing…we are not promised tomorrow – make sure you spend your time wisely today!

What I Can Do

Several years ago I read a book called Strengths Finder 2.0. At the end of the book was a quiz that helped the reader learn their top personality strengths. To be honest, I thought it felt a little hokey when I did it, but after answering a long, long list of questions, I felt like the results were spot on. My top “strength” was empathy. It’s days like today that it feels more like a weakness.

There are so many people in my world who are hurting. Friends and family are dealing with major illnesses. They are facing internal battles that seem to have no solution. They are staring down financial struggles that feel insurmountable. They are searching for something to fill them at the bottom of a bottle. And my heart hurts for every single one of them.

At night I lie in bed and cry for all of the pain that I see in the lives of those I love, and in the world around me. My chest aches, my mind spins, and the weight of helplessness smothers me. I would give anything to be able to take all of the worries and pain away from all of those I love.

But I can’t.

What I can do, however, is pray. And make sure that those around me know that I am walking with them through their battles. I can make that phone call, or send that text. I can mail the card, or sit and listen. I can embrace this strength and love hard.

So much more

It’s spring time again, and for school, that means another year of state testing for my students. In the past, I would have been filled with anxiety – hoping that I had done enough to prepare my students to perform on the standardized tests that they are subjected to each school year. After years of worrying about the scores that come from one (or two) days of tests that truly only provide a moment in time snapshot, I am no longer worried. These scores are not at all a reflection of who my students are, or what kind of teacher I am. A rating of proficient or better is only a label placed on each of my students that is solely based on how well they can navigate the passages and questions on one test. But these numbers are not who my students are. These score reports do not even come close to describing my students. My students are readers, and artists. They are dreamers and athletes. My students are comedians and tricksters. These children energize me and teach me. They make me laugh, and some days they make me cry.

This year, we have become a family. We have created a classroom community and have formed bonds through books and stories and lessons. We have made memories in the little moments. We have become writers. My students and all that they are could never be defined by one number. They amaze me everyday with their resilience and persistence. When things get tough, they repeat back to me our classroom mantra – “We CAN do hard things.”

Now, I have to be completely authentic here and add that not every day is sunshine and rainbows where they all listen to directions the first time and always follow expectations. We have had our days where lessons flop, arguments abound, and behaviors get the best of us. But we are a family in room 214, and family sticks together.

So tomorrow, my students will arrive bright and early, ready to tackle this test, knowing that they CAN – but also knowing that in my eyes, they are so much more than a test score.

It’s not my ugly

Sitting here staring at my computer screen with so much on my heart, but searching for the right words. When I started this blog several years ago, I did it for me. As an outlet for all of the things that life throws at me. I did it for me. As a way to process my feelings and frustrations about family and friends, work and play, highs and lows. This is more than just a social media outlet to blast out my “highlight” reel. I always promised myself that I would be real. My posts would be authentic and would share the good, the bad, and the ugly of real life. There is so much good in my world and I am a blessed wife, momma and soon to be mimsy, and I have some really special friends who truly lift me up. But I am also at times a messy wreck of a human being who struggles with confidence, has a hard time trusting, and feels hurt and betrayal very deeply. It would be a lie to only post the happy moments and not share the ugly.

One of my biggest struggles that I have lived with my whole life is the feeling of not being valued. Of being unseen – invisible. Of being taken for granted, not appreciated, and used. These feelings run very deeply. I have some thoughts about where those come from, and why they are such triggers for me – but that is for another time and another post. Today, I am broken. I am so wound up in these feelings that I cannot free myself of them to find any peace. And quite honestly I’m not sure what else to do but get them out here.

In the past, I would crumble and cry when I felt betrayed or disappointed in the actions and words of another. I would unpack my suitcase of pity and set up camp. I’m not sure when that changed, or what changed it, or perhaps this situation is different – but I am not sad or depressed or crying tears of despair. Today I am seething with anger and frustration. I am not hurt – because I am strong and have been hurt enough in the past that I almost don’t feel it anymore. I am mad. I am angry that I have been taken advantage of and used. I am livid that I have been treated the way I have been – unappreciated for my passion and heart and disrespected because of someone else’s insecurities.

As I type and cry I can feel it already – the sense of clarity and calm that expressing myself brings. I am going to be okay. I will learn from this and refuse to be pushed by a situation like this again. Life’s lessons aren’t always easy to take in the moment…but what understanding they can bring when I allow myself to feel all that I am feeling. I can’t just “let it go” without first processing it, understanding it and truly taking time to allow all of the emotions. But wow what an eye-opening process it is. No, I can’t just let it go – but I can see things for what they truly are, and then light it and let it go. I will not let my anger cause me to say things that I know to be true but will fall on deaf ears. But here’s the thing…I will use these feelings to help me become more of the person I know I am and I will not let it change me into someone I don’t want to be.

So thank you. Thank you for helping me see the reality of it. Thank you for pushing me to be so angry that I had no choice but to stop and work through it all – and learn the lesson that I needed to be taught. The lesson that this isn’t really about me. This is about you. And I can’t process your ugly for you. That’s your work to do.

It’s about trust

I am the worst passenger. I’m not sure why its called being a “back seat driver” because I’m rarely in the back seat when someone else is driving (especially Chris), but regardless of the title, I own the role. When I’m in the car and not in control, my anxiety takes over. I’m working on it. The other day we were driving down 75 into Cincinnati. As we approached downtown and the lanes to merge to either go downtown or continue south all came together, I was gripping the door handle with extra force. A semi merged in from the right and for an instant, I was certain I was about to meet my maker. Obviously, I’m still here, but I haven’t stopped thinking about how I felt in that moment. Even though I get nervous in that kind of traffic, there is still a whole lot of trust involved. Traveling at a high rate of speed in multiple lanes, we trust that all of the other drivers are going to do what they are supposed to do and keep everyone safe. And while that semi driver made my heart skip a few beats, I knew that I had to trust that he was going to stay in his lane and not come over into mine. I also knew in my heart that Chris was in control and would get us to our destination safely.

I think that this has stuck with me so vividly because its kind of where I am at with my faith right now. I know in my heart – and in my head – that God is in control and that he is guiding my steps. But at the same time, I often allow my anxiety about life to take over and I end up white-knuckled throughout each moment of my day. I am allowing all of the traffic and what-ifs of day to day life control me, rather than trusting in the fact that my God is the one who is truly in control.

And here’s the thing…IF I can ride down the highway and trust that Mr. Semi-driver is going to stay in his lane, why can’t I walk through my days trusting that God is going to provide? He is faithful to His promises and He will never leave me or forsake me. It’s time that I take my hands off of the death grip I’ve been keeping and open them up to all that God has promised me.

Comfort food

There is just something so very special about sharing a meal with loved ones. Today is my mom’s birthday so we had my parents over for dinner to celebrate! My husband made his famous meatloaf accompanied by mashed potatoes and sweet skillet corn. That meal was a staple from my childhood. Sitting with my parents and listening to my daddy bless our food was pure comfort.

My parents spent the last month in Canada visiting my baby sister and her family. We have not seen them in nearly two years and we miss them terribly. As much as I worried about my parents making the 28 hour car trip, I know that it was good for all of them to be reunited. And even though I don’t see my parents nearly as often as I would like, I missed them. They were too far away. When they phoned to let me know they were safe at home, I was so relieved and happy. It made me smile to think that I used to have to call them to let them know that I was home safe…and now I was on the other end of that phone call.

As we broke bread around the kitchen table I was filled with comfort and peace. They shared stories of their time with my sister, brother-in-law and their grand-babies. We giggled as we listened to my daddy’s stories of his thick Kentucky accent causing some serious confusion on the French-speaking island that my sister calls home. They tried to make light of getting lost in Rhode Island for the better part of two hours (pretty sure you could see the whole state in two hours), and not being able to find a gas station that sold paper maps.

I count it as a blessing to still have my parents here on Earth to share birthdays, partake in family meals, attempt to pose for selfies and to hug around the neck. I am so thankful for these sweet hours spent together, for the comfort my parents bring with their presence, and for each and every memory we are able to create each time we come together.

It’s my process

This weekend I had an encounter with someone who I don’t really know that really shook me up. It was not a “big” encounter, and I truly don’t know this person enough to even care about her – or her opinion about me, but I just can’t shake the way she left me feeling. I can’t shake the whole thing for many reasons.I am a thinker. I spend sleepless nights replaying words spoken to me, trying to understand why certain things affect me the way they do. I reflect a lot on the “whys” of my own emotions and dig down into past hurts that are quickly brought back to my mind by current situations. At times, this is a really good character trait to have. But at other times, it is near torture. It’s why I just can’t let some things go. It’s why I take so much to heart and am still crying over nasty words days after they have been spoken. When a “normal” person just brushes things off and tells me to just “get over it” or “let it go” I want to scream and attempt to explain my feelings, but find the explanation buried in a lifetime of past emotions.

As I wade through the emotions that feel way too deep for a simple snarky comment from a practical stranger, I wish that I could climb out of the muck and walk on. But I can’t. And here’s the thing…no one else gets to tell me how to feel about any situation. I own my feelings. I get to process them for as long as it takes me to understand them and work through them. I will not go into the details of this moment in time, because I have already replayed it too many times in my head and heart. But I will share the lesson that I am taking away from this ugly moment in my day. It’s okay for me to not be okay for a while if that’s where I’m at. I will move on eventually. I will not unpack my suitcase and stay here – but I will take the time I need to “get over it.” And I will pray. I will pray that God helps me use this hurt to process all of the unhealed layers that still remain. I will pray for a more forgiving spirit. I will pray for those who excused this woman’s behavior and chalked it up to “that’s just who she is.” I will pray for all of us – that we will learn to see each other the way God sees us. Beloved children.

Love is Sweet

This past weekend was one that I have planned for and looked forward too for a long time! On Saturday, I hosted a shower for my soon to be daughter-in-law, Katie. Katie is a lovely, endearing young woman whose sense of style is amazing. She is beautiful inside and out, and my son is head over heels in love with her. We are so very excited to welcome her into our family.

I planned for months for this special day. I wanted to celebrate Katie in the special way she deserved to be celebrated. I will not lie – there were times that I felt very stressed about all of the details, but it was all truly a labor of love. My biggest concern was that I was able to be able to be present in the moment and enjoy the day with all of our family and friends. Thankfully, on the morning of the shower, my closest friend, my girls (including Katie and Cai), and my husband came together to help me bring my vision to reality. When the time came, I was able to enjoy each moment of the shower. I loved meeting Katie’s extended family, spending this special time with my own family, and watching Katie glow as we showered her!

Twenty-three years ago when I had my son, I began praying for his future. I prayed for him to grow in love and to find love. I asked God to bring a woman into his life who would love him in just the way he needed to be loved. All of his life I have prayed for Katie! I was honored to be able to love on her this past weekend. I am so excited for the upcoming wedding this fall, but I am even more excited for the life that Katie and Zach have ahead of them.

Reason to celebrate

Yesterday was such an amazing day of celebration. First and foremost, we celebrated Easter – Resurrection Day! The day the we declare that the tomb was empty, Jesus had risen and in that we find our freedom. We gathered at our house later in the afternoon to hunt Easter eggs and share a meal together. But we also celebrated being together. It had been more than a year since we had broken bread with my parents. We had shared some driveway visits over the last year, and lots of FaceTime calls, but we had not been in the same room for more than 365 days! I had not felt a hug from my mom and daddy for over 12 months!

So we gathered, my parents, Chris’ parents, and our girls. We missed having Zach and Katie, and our siblings and nieces and nephews. And we hope that someday soon we can ALL gather together. But we enjoyed the precious time we did have with those who were able to be together. We laughed. We talked. And we listened. Sometimes we just sat – perfectly content with the silence of each other’s company.

The lesson we will take away is a lesson that many of us have learned through this incredibly challenging year. We learned to not take for granted the time we have with those we love. We learned to take every opportunity to be present with each other. I am so thankful for those lessons.