Feel Good Fridays

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I am past my “30 before 30” time limit, and this doesn’t REALLY count as buying someone a drink from down the bar, but it’s the closest I can get these days. :)  Plus, I think it’s a good way to promote my new idea of “Feel Good Fridays” in which I will try to do a random act of kindness every Friday.  Join me?

 

I decided to treat myself to a Starbucks yesterday since one of my very thoughtful and generous friends had gifted me a gift card. I journeyed to the drive thru Starbucks a few towns away so I could keep my toddler in the back seat instead of wrangling and corralling her through a busy coffee shop. As I pulled into the drive thru lane, I decided since it was Valentine’s Day, I would pay for the person behind me too. I thought I’d make someone’s day. A singleton without a Valentine like myself. A tired mama like myself.  Even better, maybe a single mama like myself.  The woman who actually pulled in behind me was a middle-aged, well-dressed woman driving a Lexus.

I immediately retracted my offer in my mind. “No, she doesn’t need a surprise free latte. She clearly has it all. Perfectly done hair, nice sunglasses, high-end car. Probably an amazing job that allows her a mid-day run to Starbucks and no doubt a perfect and equally successful husband to share Valentine’s Day with later tonight. No, she doesn’t need my kindness.” I was hoping for someone like me.girl heart

And then, God said to me: You don’t know her story, daughter. You don’t know what’s in her heart. You yourself probably look fairly put together to many people as well. Doesn’t mean you don’t need or appreciate a bit of kindness thrown your way.

Maybe she does have an amazing career, but she doesn’t love it and she is stressed today. Maybe that Lexus was “won” in a divorce settlement. Or worse, maybe it was her late husband’s. Maybe she is missing her kids at college. So many maybes.

At the end of all the maybes, none of them matter. It doesn’t matter what her story was. How successful or tragic. Everyone deserves a small bit of kindness. And so I pulled up to the window and asked to put her order on my gift card as well. “Tell her I said Happy Valentine’s Day,” I added.

What will we do next Friday for Feel Good Fridays??

Precious Cargo Space

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As I was walking to my car after work the other day, I was looking for the wrong car. I used to drive a sweet little Civic Coupe. I drove that car for nearly nine years. So much life in that car. So many changes happened, but that little car was so very good to me in that time. There were road trips near and far. There were lots of friends, a few boyfriends, a husband (that became an ex-husband), and it was the car I brought my puppy home in. It was the car that I jumped in, turned the music up and drove and drove whenever I needed to clear my head. It was the car that ran to spontaneous trips to the mall with my girlfriends, and spur of the moment “let’s grab a beer” with my pals.  That was the car I was looking for. Until I remembered, that’s not my car anymore. That, in fact, is not my life anymore.

Instead, I now drive a Rav 4. A safe affordable vehicle that fits my dog in the cargo space, a stroller and car seat in the back, and my work bags and a diaper bag in the front seat.

I am a mommy now. My life doesn’t fit into a Civic Coupe anymore.Image

While there have been a couple very fleeting moments that I mourned that fact, the vast majority of the time I know in my heart that the reason my life doesn’t fit into a Civic Coupe anymore is because it so much fuller now. Full of life, love, laughter, beauty and grace. But mostly love. And the kind of love that fills my life now requires a bigger space because it is that vast and all-encompassing.

And so now as I walk to my car, I look for the vehicle that safely carries the love of my life home where I can snuggle her. Because that is my new favorite Saturday night. :)

Almost 30

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I am two weeks away from my 30th birthday, and I know I’ve been MIA and totally slacking on the completion of this list. However, I did accomplish a pretty huge feat that was not in fact on the list. In February of this year, I found out I was gonna be a Mommy! So the fact that I was pregnant most of the year, and then was blessed to give birth to a beautiful and wonderful baby girl made the list improbable at best. I will do all of these things one day, but for today, I will just enjoy being a new Mommy to my sweet little Ashlea. :) Thank you for coming along on this journey. IMG_3051 IMG_3315 IMG_3275

Finally…checking off another item!

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It’s been quite some time since I was able to cross off a list item. And it’s actually been a little while since I actually completed this List Item, but I must admit, I’ve been distracted by a million other things. So I appreciate both your patience and your forgiveness for the delay.

I have completed “#22. Read everything one author wrote.” As you may remember, I chose to read all of Ann Patchett’s work. So I’ve read it all. My first Patchett was Bel Canto and my last was Taft. I do believe her very first novel Patron Saint of Liars was my favorite work of fiction, but my favorite by far was her nonfiction account of her friendship with fellow author Lucy Grealy called Truth & Beauty. She is a fantastic author (not to mention a wonderful person in general…or so I’ve read), and I recommend her work to anyone.

I also do recommend the exercise of reading all of one author’s work. It’s a really interesting experience that gives you a much stronger sense of who that author is as a person. Well, I suppose that works differently with different authors, but I feel like I’ve had that experience. Themes emerge that become indicative of the kind of story the author wants to tell. And I think the stories we tell are inextricably linked to who we are, who we think we are, and who we want to become.

 

Teacher Appreciation Week

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This article was in the NY Times last week: Teaching Me About Teaching. Charles Blow talks about his favorite teacher: his mom, who was also an actual teacher. He encourages his readers to think about and honor our favorite teachers. I’ve thought about my teachers a lot since reading this article. Trying to pick one was impossible. Trying to narrow it down to a three-way tie was even hard, so, I give you my Top Five list (in chronological order):

 

Mrs. Brand (who has since become Dr. Brand!)- 1st grade

Mrs. Brand encouraged her students like no one I’ve ever seen. I remember something she called “inventive spelling.” She was really big on writing (more on that in a moment), and thought that students taking too much time to figure out the correct spelling of a word would hold them back in the writing process. So we were encouraged to just spell out a word as best we could in order to keep writing. (This, by the way, did not affect my ability to spell. I’m actually quite a good speller!) As part of her passion for teaching writing, she also turned her classroom into a makeshift printing press and theater. We would write stories, she would type them up, then we would wrap wallpaper samples around pieces of cardboard creating the book’s cover, and finally bound our own books! During the year, I must have written 20 or more books. My favorite was called “Christmas with the Pigs.” Oh, it was hilarious! We also illustrated our own books and were encouraged to dedicate each book to someone special. We also each wrote and starred in plays that year. Mrs. Brand encouraged creativity and the importance of believing in ourselves.

Mrs. Olson – 4th grade

Mrs. Olson was equal parts strict, innovative, and loving. I remember many of the things our class did I 4th grade. Most distinctly, I remember our grade holding a mini-election since it was an election year. We learned about the election process and the importance and responsibility of voting. Because of that, I registered to vote as soon as I could when I was 18, and I’ve never missed an election day. Other 4th grade highlights: the State project (I still know so much about Minnesota), the Harrisburg trip, and we still have the Christmas tree ornament that I made in that class. :)

Miss Hryhorsky – 6th grade

At a time when kids are trying to understand ourselves, and where we fit in the world (or in the cafeteria), Miss Hryhorsky made her classroom a fun and safe place to be. I remember coming into my real reading self in the class. We had a program in which we earned points by reading books and then taking a quiz about them on the class computer. It’s when I started reading British literature: Dickens, Austen, Bronte. And Miss Hryhorsky didn’t tell me they were above my reading level, nor did she make a big deal out of me reading those books. She behaved as though it was just where I was supposed to be, which is exactly what I needed. We also read Diary of Anne Frank and had very poignant conversations about the Holocaust, discrimination, and empathy for our fellow human beings. One of my favorite things about Miss H’s class was something she called “Room 18 Chat.” We were allowed to write down any question or subject we wanted to talk about and put it anonymously in a coffee can. Every so often, we would all sit together and have a candid discussion on any number of issues. It was very brave of her to do, and was so important for so many of us to have a place to discuss life topics.

Miss Goodman – 10th grade

It was really hard to pick one teacher from my high school experience, as so many were instrumental (in addition to Miss Goodman…Mrs. Burger, Mr.McCabe, Mrs. Thomas, Mrs. Clemens, Mr. Keenan to name a few). But, Miss Goodman was kind of the start of my fantastic high school experience. Her class was my first honors English class, and it changed my life. She taught us about research and reverence, literature and life, citations and critical thought. I still use the research methods I learned in her class, and it’s how I teach my own students about research. We read interesting and important works of literature. But most importantly, she was such a great mentor. She coached us in life. One day she talked to us about teenage pregnancy and had us all write down three things we wanted to accomplish in our lives so that we always had a conscious goal to keep in mind. Our success and happiness were as essential to her classroom as our ability to write coherently.

and last but not least….

 

Dr. Gregory Seigworth – freshman-senior year of college

Although Dr. Greg is the first male on this list, he is actually the first one that really gave me the intellectual tools to understand and discuss feminism. His research interests intrigued me from the start. I never realized you could spend your life’s work on studying stuff like music lyrics, fashion, advertising and film’s influence on culture. So cool! Luckily I had my first Dr. Greg class right away in college, and it set the tone perfectly. I was also lucky enough to be assigned Dr. Greg as my advisor, so I got extra time with him as well. He encouraged me to study interesting topics, taught me how to enjoy research, and how to write about it so that it is interesting to others as well. He was also the inspiration for me to become a professor of communication (and women’s studies). He was the first one I talked to about it, and he was immediately supportive. He served on my honors thesis committee, helped me with grad school research, and wrote countless letters of recommendation. He was always my number one fan, and continues to be now. We are still in touch, and I’m so blessed to have had an amazing academic advisor that turned into an amazing life mentor.

 

Deep breath….ahhh. Thank you for reading to the end! I know this was quite a long post, but I felt it was important to honor those that have been fantastic teachers to me. I encourage you to do the same. A looooong blog post is not necessary, but perhaps donate your Facebook status or Twitter tweets (?) to honor your favorite teacher once or twice this week. Or even better, if you can send a small note or card to them to tell them you appreciate them, that would be awesome! I have found since I’ve become a teacher that teaching as a career is one of the most undervalued and over-criticized professions out there. So a little appreciation from a former student sure could go a long way. :)  Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

 

 

Z is for…zone

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Now that the A-Z Blogging Challenge has come to an end, I need to get into The Zone. The grading/end-of-semester zone. Which means for the next two weeks, I am going to be completely absorbed with grading speeches, papers, and exams, inputing all grades including class participation, finishing assessment paperwork, and of course, fielding student emails asking about last minute extra credit (the answer is no).

Thank you for being part of my A-Z adventure. Once the semester is over, I am hoping to get back to some 30 Before 30 adventures. :)

Y is for…yellow!

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Okay, so my favorite color is green. But a very close second is yellow. I love a good yellow. It’s so cheerful and happy. In college I lived in a house for a little over a year in which I could paint my room, and I immediately chose yellow. Oh, how I loved that yellow room. When I lived in my first by-myself-apartment, I painted my kitchen yellow and looooooved it. Sadly, right now I do not have a yellow room in my life. But I have a feeling in the near future, I will be back in a yellow room. ;-)