on how to say goodbye to my students

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Today is the day.  You play board games with your friends, and I am tasked with the challenge of a farewell letter.  At the beginning of the year, when I wrote your names over and over, and tried to practice saying them, I had no idea of the vast landscape we were about to cover.  I knew my curriculum.  I knew what I was going to teach you, but had no idea what I would get in return.

On the first day, you were crying because you were scared, and I came and over to tell you that I was scared too, and would you come help me.  You told me no one was going to read your newspaper, but then everyone wanted to write one.  You barely spoke, and now you don’t stop talking.  There was that day that I discovered your poetry, and raced to the cupboard to get you a special journal. You are going to be a writer.  A doctor.  An artist.  A go-kart racer.  A pilot.  A soccer star. A professor.

 

I was a magician.  In the beginning, you didn’t know that I peeked at your name tag, but looked at you and said your name, as if I knew.  And I heard you say, “She knows my name!”  You would stand in my way and want a hug, and I couldn’t walk in one direction without you stopping me. Now, when I come on the yard and you ask if you can help me, I’m thrilled, because you’ve become my personal secretary.

I know when I announce it’s time for Daily Five “Old School”, you scream with excitement, because you get to pick what to read, what to write, and what to work on…stories of mystery, drawing cartoons with purpose, writing lyrics.  You have become the textbook.  You blossomed, and you taught me what I needed to know to ignite your spark.  Your Mom came to me crying.  She told me that you have been in trouble every year.  Except this one.

Those times we stopped class.  To talk with a Native American tribe leader to explain what happened to Indian children during the Mission period.  To watch Father Serra get canonized by The Pope. To watch The President talk.  To talk with the man who made our Math Videos.  To chat with our Canadian pen-pals.  To use Google to chat with each other, to learn collaboration in real time.

Your Missions.  Your inventions.  Learning not to use the word “basically”.  To use well instead of good.  To care for each other’s feelings.  Days when you begged, “Can we do SHARING day today?”  You asked so much, that I actually had to set aside a weekly time for it, even though it’s not Common Core, and seemingly not academic.

There were so many good things.

But there were things I missed.  And I’m sorry.  That time when you didn’t have gel in your hair, or it wasn’t combed.  I don’t know what happened that day, but I didn’t ask. I just gave you some extra time to fix your desk. When you wrote, “I don’t know what is life?” in your journal, I answered you by saying, “Sometimes I don’t know either.”  I knew there was something going on in your 9 year old brain, but I didn’t find out.  I just sat next to you.

I wish I had taken more time to sit down with you when you were fighting with your friends, but I knew you all would work it out.  When you forgot your stuff at your Mom’s or Dad’s, I told you it was okay…that my boys had to learn that there’s one extra step when you live in two houses.  I didn’t let you off the hook, but we figured out how to make it work.  I’m sorry that you cried in that Math Lesson.  I cried, too.

I’m sorry about that time around Christmas when our Twitter, Expert Chat, and Google was all shut down, and we had to use the textbooks.  I know.  It was awful.  And thank you for trusting me that Homework wasn’t necessary.  Okay.  Those Spelling Tests I gave to you were to make you feel safe.  You like memorizing.  It’s not rigorous. But you wanted them.  Multiplication Tables.  Grammar.

It was those months that you taught me.  That you still wanted to read and write and sing and play and that even though everything was shut down, we could still learn, and when I didn’t think I could do one more day, you showed up with your smiles and hugs and, can we please read to you today.  It was then that my Grinchy heart grew. That I realized we didn’t need all the exciting bells and whistles.  That we just needed each other, and an open heart.

Okay, so this is getting long.  Here’s what I want you to know.  You must speak properly.  Math matters.  Even though everything is metrics, you have to know inches and feet.  Trust me, you just do. You live in the best state in the nation.  That the California map became alive when you put your family pictures there.  That I wear a dress on Fridays because I want you to keep bringing it all week long, even on Friday.  That your grades are just numbers at this point.  And that even though I act like I know, sometimes I think I haven’t done enough, or that one more lesson would really help.  Know that I’ve eaten my weight in your birthday donuts, but I wouldn’t dream of saying no to you.

It’s hard to say goodbye.  You are sad, and you think you will miss me, but you will not. You will take all these lessons, and bring them with you, and to the world.  And you will understand that love never dies.  It just changes form and grows.  You will love your next teacher, and all your new friends. You will be fine.  I promise.

And someday when you remember this class, I will want you to know this…That you were wanted.  Every single day.

Goodbye to the Class of 2024.  I love you.

 

 

i know this is ridiculous

be brave

i was in church today, and a crying baby was being comforted in his mom’s arms in the pew ahead of me.  the baby arched, and a decade or more flashed before my eyes, as i remembered him crying in MY arms all those years ago.

and she.  she came and got him from me.  the she that sat two rows behind our family with her family who appeared like an angel to help me.  to help me with my crying baby. and all the years she helped with them and then when finally realized that she.  well, she had another agenda.

and i sat there looking at this baby, and wanted to help this mom with three other babies, but i was frozen in another time frame.  impotent to help.

and i started to hurt.  the way down in my chest hurt.  the realization that he will be going to college in a mere five months.  he has chosen a western state far away, and i suddenly realized that i’ve been telling him for years that he will find this really cool and interesting life and path, and i was ready to release him to you, the world.  his future.

and then. last night crying that deep down mom cry.   i’m not ready.  every fiber of my being wants to tell him to stay and go to junior college, and that it will be really fun, and every other part of me knows that he.  he has to go.

go far from the ugly divorce that never seems to end.  to the empty college purse that his father spent, and to find and forge his own new way.  he has to go find his truths.  his way.

but there i stood watching that crying baby, and all i wanted to do was hold my own.  feel that small body holding my hair, my earrings, head on my shoulder.

that time i had a private therapy practice in our town, and i rolled into our driveway after a long night, and he …a three year old..said… mom.  you were talking to the people, and i knew you would come back.  you always come back.

and i did and i do.

and now i have to get ready to fling him to you.  it’s a while, yet.  but please.  please take care of my boy.  and boy.  you.  please be brave.

i thought it would be easier.

running still saves me

 

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when my head is on fire.

when i don’t think i can do it one more time.

running still gives me shelter from the storm.

 

recently, my brain cracked open in a way it’s never been.  or not in a really long time.

and my head.  as well trained as i thought i had it.  wasn’t.

i wasn’t expecting this particular thing.

shit.

 

i drove and drove to san francisco on a whim, as i am apt to do.

and what appeared innocuous turned like hot nails in my body.

as i came up over a hill and fireworks seeped from the sky

into my chest.

and i could not wish it away. or think it or pray it away.

 

so.

i bought new shoes. and then i ran.

and i ran.

and my head would not un-squirrel.

until one day on one particular run, everything seemed to shift ever so slightly.

and the answers fell into place, bit by bit.

 

and it was every marathon i’d ever run.  all those races.

the training.

i know now, what it was for.

 

because.  today.  running saved me.  again.

 

On Throwbacks

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Yesterday was a throwback.  To nine years ago when we got out of the spa, and I asked him to leave.  My boys were in 3rd and 1st grade.  But he had to go.  And I had to learn how to single-handedly make sure that my boys were okay.

To having hot meals for breakfast, even if I was tired.  And packed lunches, even though I had gotten up at 4am to train for the marathons.  To being on welfare and putting out bowls of carrots and raisins and crackers just so it would look like we had a lot.  To boiling a vanilla stick and cinnamon to give the impression that I had always been at home waiting for them.  To getting in every sport, to finding good men to talk with them, to giving them driving lessons on the freeway, even when they said they couldn’t do it.

To when she pointed me in every direction, crying with me, helping me pick up the pieces, pointing me to service, to sponsorship, to moving jobs in order to retain my sobriety.

Many times I have written about this.

And throwbacks.  Sometimes I like them.  When I look good, when I remember fun times, when I want to re-live a cool connection in an art gallery, on a San Francisco street walking through Korea town, then the Castro, then the Japanese festival, then ending up overlooking the ocean. When I took a wrong turn and spent the evening with some amazing people.

And then there’s yesterday.

When I went to both of them and said I hope that I always listened to you.  I hope you know that when you cried, I cried.  And these amazing, talented, smart boys both said they were fine.  They were good.  That it was hard, but they were good.  That this experience made them who they are.  And I don’t know if I believed them.

So.  I made a throwback hamburger steak & gravy & onions.  I sent them out with ice cream and home made cookies.  They did homework.  This warm bungalow.  The hardwood floors.  The hand washing of the dishes, listening to the hum of this place. This good house.

Sometimes I like Throwbacks.  Just not yesterday.

So I hope when they selectively remember this day, I hope they remember eating hot blueberry pancakes and crisp bacon, and laughing at Living La Vida Loca as it booms through the living room of this small place.  This living room that doubles as an office, and den, and kitchen.  So small that we are just forced to be together.

Love to all.  Happy #tbt

Thank You 

10,000 Reasons

A big God. A big heart. A sponsor louder than my head. Inventory. 

Loving the program that saved my life. Realizing how wonderfully flawed I am. 

Ashamed of nothing. 

I Didn’t Know Until Now.

“Don’t be afraid; people are so afraid; don’t be afraid to live in the raw wind, naked, alone…Learn at least this: What you are capable of. Let nothing stand in your way.”

Tony Kushner, Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approach

Readers.  I’ve been gone.  I haven’t written for months.  

It’s taken me this day to realize just exactly what happened in 2015, and the only one I’ve come up with is…Can’t.

I can’t blog.  I can’t run.  I can’t do this again.

All year long, I said things like, “When you hit 55, it all goes downhill, fast.”  “It’s too cold to run in the morning.”  “My running days are over.” “I definitely don’t want a relationship anymore.”  “When your skin is this old, every day is scarf season.” “Maybe I had my shot at love already.” “I like to move into a new job every year or so.” “I don’t want to write this blog anymore.”

All year long, in all of my writing, I start to accept the notion that I am well on my way out.  All of the things that I love, I simply put down.  I think I was getting ready to be old… dead?

But I didn’t know until now that I was feeling this.  Until I saw this video this morning.  I met Billy on Twitter, seemingly a million years ago. Back when I was hungry, and hung on every word that runners said, what my coach said.  Because then…I wanted it, and wanted it badly.  Back when I was completely engaged and excited with my 50 year old self, running my first marathon.  I didn’t realize how masterfully this man could weave not only a story, but could also ignite a desire for life in me on this New Year’s Day.

Get a cup of tea.  This is a must watch.

I spent the morning of January 1 as I always do.  In reflection.  And I realized that if saying “can’t” to everything was working, then I would be satisfied.  And.  I am so. Not.

Then I saw the video.  I cried all the way through it, because I somehow knew what was coming.  What I didn’t plan on was the overwhelming realization that I gave 2015 a big…pause.  A big shrug of the shoulder and acceptance, erroneously, that my time at the table was done.

So.  I got a pen.  A piece of scratch paper.  I started writing.  Throwing out my pathetic, self centered journal writing from this year.  And.  I started to focus.  I wrote goals.  Crossed things out.  Smiled at some recollections of a hungry runner.

It’s not pretty, but here it is.  The short list for 2016.

  1. Run a race.  Any race, of any type.  I’m a road runner, but if it’s a trail, well.  I guess I’ll be running that.
  2. Stay purposefully single.  Stay where I am.  Lean in to this relationship-less path.
  3. Embrace my colleagues, and go with their purpose.  I’m at a New Year’s Eve party, and get in a corner with another teacher, and realize.  I love to teach.
  4. Swim.  More laps.  And in those laps, meditation.  More of this.
  5. Enjoy my age.  I will be 57 next month.  It’s time I enjoy it, laugh, wear scarves, understand that just because I’m 57, well.  It’s just an age.
  6. Keep loving my tribe.  All of them.

I start.  Today.

 

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