Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Change the Story

This morning I read a very sad article about a journalist running negative articles about educators and education during a previous teacher appreciation week. A teacher contacted the writer and asked them to share something good. She was told " good wasn't news" and that negative and bad is what people are interested in. This teacher requested this year was that we change the story and share something positive. I don't think it's true the negative and bad is what we want to hear, I believe that is what is force fed to us constantly and we have little choice in the matter. I for one am thrilled and inspired when I read or watch something positive in the news. Its gives me hope when I see stories about random acts of kindness, kids defending other kids being picked on by bullies, teachers going above and beyond their duties (which many of them do).

I was extremely luck in my life to have had several teachers that made a life long impression on me.
When I was in the fourth grade we moved and I changed schools. I was extremely shy for several reasons. First I was the new kid. Second I was the new kid that happened to have cerebral palsy. While I have a very mild case I was the one who was picked on at my previous school because I was different. The first day of school was a day I won't forget for two reasons. First other kids finally liked me! I had people wanting to sit by me at lunch, talk to me at recess, wanting to be my friend and it was awesome! Second I met Mr. Swink. He was the absolutely the best teacher I have ever had, he made me feel welcome and special. He encouraged me to get into sports. Something that completely mortified me in the past. He was a swim coach, so I tried swimming, it was a disaster at first. I could not for the life of me swim straight, my left arm had a mind of its own. Instead of just letting it be or letting me quit. He worked out a way for my stronger arm to correct the problem. Lo and behold I swum straight and from that day forward loved to swim. He helped build my confidence as a person and in the classroom. I no longer let my CP define me. I learned if kids made fun of me I didn't need someone like that in my life and I actually could feel sorry for them for needing to lash out in those ways.  I maintained a relationship with him though my high school years. I would often go back and visit him or ask for advice. I invited him to my wedding but the invite was sent to an old address. A few months after the wedding my brother ran into him. They both called me from my brother's cell phone and he explained the address mix up and told me he received it, after the date had passed. He told me he would have loved to attend. That made my day. He was by now retired and spending winter months in a warmer climate. Several years ago I ran into him while out shopping with the girls. Even though I was 35 and he had not seen me in nearly 20 years he recognized me. I told my girls right there that this was mommy's favorite teacher EVER and he was the BEST hands down. His wife told me " you have no idea how much he loves to hear that".  It's very simple really. Give credit where credit is due.

I was lucky not only to have had Mr. Swink in my life but in high school, I had several teachers that encouraged me, supported me and helped me make decisions that would affect my future. I always loved history, not the most popular subject in school but it struck a chord with me. I had a teacher my Junior year that made History fun and exciting. Mr. Thilman's class was one of my favorites,  so much so that in college I decided to major in History, He was also one of the people I asked to write a recommendation letter for me, his words meant so much to me. I still have a copy of that letter.  I have passed that love of history onto my girls who at ages 6, 4 and 3 are reading and enjoying stories about Abraham Lincoln and Amelia Earhart.

One final teacher that stands out was my Junior year English teacher and creative wring teacher, Mr. Hertzlieb. It is very hard to put thoughts, stories and ideas on paper and have them be judged. Mr. Hertzlieb saw something in my writing and encouraged me to continue.  To this day writing is an outlet for me and I am forever grateful. He too wrote a recommendation letter for me and I still keep a copy.

I have no doubt that many many people have similar stories to share. Teachers come into our lives for such a short time but make such a lasting impression. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for choosing your profession and excelling at.

To my friends and family members who are teachers, I have the utmost respect for you. I am sure that you have hard days in which you question your choices. Please know that you do make a difference and you are appreciated for a life time.  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Choose Happiness

This morning I woke up crankier than all get out. A tough day yesterday followed by a sleepless night and a raging headache first thing in the morning seemingly would set the tone for my day. Realizing I set the tone for my entire day at 6:30am, I stopped in my tracks.
I was grouchily fetching something for Elizabeth and I said to myself " you can chose to be a grouch and ruin your day and most likely those around you." or " You can choose to be positive in the face of negativity".  I chose happiness.  I realized in that moment I needed to practice what I preached. I have been having a lot of these conversations lately with people in my life. I have encouraged friends and family members " to focus on the good, to be positive, to believe in the impossible".  This morning I realized I needed a swift kick in the ass, to get back on track.

This past year has been one of the most challenging in my entire life. I knew moving 1100 miles away from everything I knew to was going to be hard but I had no clue just how hard. For months I have desperately missed my friends and family and it has made me so very sad. However if I am going to be positive, here is the truth I am incredibly blessed to have such wonderful people in my life. While distance is tough it does not define our relationship. Although we are so far apart I feel closer now to those I miss so dearly because of the great effort we have put into maintaining our relationships. While I am sometimes lonely and sad, I chose love.

This past year has also been the biggest test of my marriage. It would be easy on the tough days to get upset and assign blame, that we are here because of a job. Here is the truth, we are here because of a choice. A choice that was made as a team, a choice that was made because we believed it to be the best one for us and our family. There have been hard days, days when everything is called into question. This relationship started 18 years ago and at 19 years old we fell in love, at 26 we married at 30 we started a family. At 36 we made a life changing decision. We did this all together, with love and communication and trust. There are days when I want to throw in the towel. Then I take a moment and realize, no one has my back more than my husband, no one loves me more, no one knows me better, he knows what I am thinking before I even open my mouth 90% of the time, no one can make me laugh harder. Marriage is not easy, it is a commitment, one worth fighting for. Again I chose love.

I often feel overwhelmed by having three small children so far away from what was a built in support system.  Here is my new truth. I am stronger and more fearless now than I ever felt I could be. I can navigate doctor appointments, grocery stores, school functions, practices with no back up or extra pair of hands. While this might seem trivial to some I assure you it is not. Grocery shopping with 3 cranky kids is some parents Mt. Everest. ( you know what I'm talking about fellow parents)
Despite having GPS, I cannot count the number of times the girls and I have gotten lost the last year trying to explore some new park or playground. While it is scary to have no clue where I am or where I'm going. I choose adventure.

Here is what I have learned this past year. Life is full of challenges, sad days, loneliness, and stress. Confronting challenges, gives us strength to face the next obstacle. Sad days make you appreciate the happy ones all the more. Being lonely, makes you more kind and open to others. Having stress in your life makes you enjoy those relaxing moments just a little more.

I want to set a good example for my girls and for myself really. So I choose to practice what I preach.  I chose to be positive. I choose happiness.