When you're a kid, any little thing can hurt your feelings enough to stick with you through adulthood. For some of us there is one specific hurtful thing that continues to follow you decades later. That's what siblings are for!
When I was in first grade, we were asked to bring our favorite book to class. Excitedly, I looked through my shelf and chose a book that I had always loved called My Goodnight Book. Just like it sounds, it's about getting ready for bed and all the steps that a little girl goes through; brushing teeth, listening to a story, etc. But the best part is that my mom always said that the little girl in the book looked just like me.
Eager to share with my class, I brought the book to my mom in the kitchen where she was giving my brother and sister breakfast. She smiled at my choice and grabbed a Sharpie to write my name on the spine of the book.
Oh if it weren't for that Sharpie, maybe if she hadn't been listening to my younger sister whine, maybe if she had gotten a better night of sleep, maybe if I wasn't gabbing on and on about taking the book to school, maybe she wouldn't have accidentally switched the last letters in my name o-d-y to D-O-Y. Maybe then, I wouldn't forever be stuck with the ugliest nickname in the entire world.
Relentlessly my brother would tease me "Mom doesn't love you! She doesn't care if she spells your name wrong, DOY!"
I would cry and cry and tattle on my brother until it got so bad that my parents decided to start a "Doy jar." Into the jar went a dollar for every time he would call me by that name.
Unfortunately this did not break his habit, and year after year I lived with it.
Sometimes it was Doy-Doy, or Mel Doy, or just a loud DOY any time I would make a mistake or do something dumb.
This name has tormented me my entire life, thanks to my brother. Ive gotten used to it though by now, and I don't mind so much when he says it... I've come to realize that tormenting each other is what siblings are for.
While my husband is at a school board meeting, I am staring at the package of Oreos trying to make a decision.
While he is presenting to parents, and colleagues, and (of course) the school board about the money his PE department raised for Jumprope for Heart, my biggest dilemma is should I eat these Oreos?
While he explains his fundraising program, which is tied to his curriculum for February, heart month, and tells the audience about how they raised over 15,000 dollars, more than 4,000 above last year's fundraising, I am concentrating on this blue plastic.
Before leaving he shared that one of his highest fundraisers, a student who would be attending the meeting tonight, said to him, "I'm so excited for the presentation!"
Before leaving he also said he might get me some ice cream on the way home.
I'm really hoping for ice cream.
Right now we have 3 dogs. I say right now, because that number fluctuates every so often as one needs a temporary place to stay and another gets adopted.
As I was watching Atlas, our foster, brutally attack his Kong toy today, I realized how very different all 3 of our dogs are, based on their Kong-treat-retrieval strategies alone.
Atlas: smells the treat inside, bites and chews his way straight through the "indestructible" Kong, as the pieces of treat fall all over the floor. Because he is so absorbed in the ripping of the toy itself, he doesn't even notice the treats.
Rudy: takes one look at the Kong, picks it up, throws it to the ground, eats all of the treats that bounce out, and stares at me as if to say "Was that supposed to be fun?"
Sami: looks at the Kong, looks at me, at the Kong, at me, Kong, me, Kong, me. Seems to be thinking, "That's too much work, and I'm just too cute." So I take the Kong and dump it out for her. We call her the queen bee for a reason.
1. When it's sunny out, go for a walk.
2. Play hard. Even if that means getting dirt on your paws...and face...and belly...and in your mouth.
3. When you do get dirt on your paws, face, etc., take a bath.
4. Don't be afraid to make new friends.
5. After a busy day, it's okay to nap.
6. Even on a not so busy day, sometimes you just need a nap.
7. Smile nicely when you get your picture taken.
8. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Find a family that will love you forever.
One of my goals for this year is to minimize.
I'm trying really hard to rid our home of things, and fill it, instead, with experiences.
This is partially because we have a very small house, and partially because I like the idea of living more simply.
The spring cleaning bug has bit, and today I spent some time cleaning out my dresser. I got rid of jeans I have been holding on to for years, knowing they didn't fit, and some unmatched socks I had pushed to the back of the drawer, hoping to someday reunite them with their partner.
But when I got to a particular t-shirt, despite not wearing it since, probably middle school, I couldn't let go.
As a student I have always been a high achiever. In 7th grade when my art teacher, of all the classes, wanted to give me a B on my report card, I wasn't having it. I thought I had worked hard and I had created to the best of my ability, so I advocated for myself and had a discussion with her about the grade.
Discussion is an interesting way to describe it though, since it was more me sobbing and wiping my nose and hyperventilating that "I *snif* don't *snif* get *sniff* B's!" and the teacher trying to calm me down.
She allowed me to do some extra credit, which as I remember it required me to do something creative at home and then show the class. Sounded easy enough. When I said I worked hard and created to the best of my ability, notice I didn't say that I had much ability. So once home, trying to figure out what to do, I was lost.
I decided to tie-dye a t-shirt, then after the whole process, and unveiling of the design, realized that it wasn't very creative. So then I decided I'd put a hand-print on the back, that would be creative! I slathered my palm with black paint and stamped it on the back. It was really missing something. But still, looking at it, I had no idea what else to do.
My Aunt Patsy, who was a daily part of my life since I was born, lived with us, spoiled us, helped us learn and grow like a parent, who we lost just a couple of years later, much to early to brain cancer, also happened to be insanely creative and artistic.
She took one look at it, and started sketching out an intricate dream-catcher-like design across the back of the shirt. It was truly beautiful, both the final product, and to watch her create.
When I folded it today and put it back into the drawer, I thought of this moment, and the whole experience, just to raise my grade. But what I got out of it instead was a memory of my aunt that would come back to me any time I went through my pile of t-shirts.
I know that this whole minimalism thing means that memories aren't supposed to be attached to things, but this is one that I decided I still needed. And next spring when I go through my drawers, I'll probably have the same moment of remembering, fold it up, and put it right back in.
Even in my days prior to elementary school, I remember every March 17th, my mom would take out the skinny green Crayola marker and carefully outline a perfect shamrock shape on each of our cheeks. I remember thinking how cool my brother was, wearing it like that to school!
Though my sister and I were just at home those days, she didn’t let us miss out on that fun. The hardest part was trying to sit perfectly still, even though it tickled. Then, waking up from nap to a green smear across my arm and face.
Every single year, this was a tradition. We would all get our shamrock before leaving for school, and all the kids would say, “Wow, who drew that?” and I would proudly say that it was my mom.
"She let you put it on your face!?!”
“Yep, she’s cool.” I would explain.
Until the year I didn’t want it on my face anymore.
I decided that it wasn’t so cool anymore.
I think it was maybe 6th grade when I requested that she draw it on my hand instead.
Even my sister teased, “Mine is so much cooler on my cheek! What’s wrong with you?”
But I had decided that I had outgrown that tradition.
“It’s still cool on my hand!”
Until the year I didn’t want it on my hand either.
I decided that wasn’t cool either.
From being envious of my bother, to post-nap-time green smear, to tattoo on my face, to my hand, to not at all, this was the evolution of St. Patrick’s Day cool, for me.
If I could take it all back I would. Today, I would love to sit as perfectly still as possible, even though it tickled, and let my mom carefully draw the shamrock on my face, because actually, family traditions are cool.
"Then when he goes in here, he will die!" I hear a 5th grader shout, as he points to a small box attached to a structure that he and his 1st grade friend have built.
Soon after I see another 5th grader reply, "No he doesn't die, he just gets tortured."
What kind of sick torture chambers are these kids building?
With shiny beads to entice the leprechaun, a ladder made out of popsicle sticks, a paper towel tube for him to slide down (leading him to his certain death, apparently), the little engineers have carefully planned each and every step.
Though I assured them, "The leprechaun doesn't die! He leaves you gold! Remember? Like the book we read!"
"Oh yeah! He will leave us gold!" The 1st grader lights up.
We will have to see, tomorrow morning if any of the traps have actually caught a leprechaun!
Hopefully what we find is gold, and not a mangled little man dressed in green. Gold is far better than torture.
There are days when my students take out their writing binders and say,"I have no ideas."
They stare at their paper, or sometimes at their friend across the room.
"What are you doing?" I ask.
"Thinking." they say.
And for the entire writing block, they "think."
Maybe the next day will be a writing day, but today? Today they need a thinking day.
Today will be my thinking day.
Perhaps I should be more understanding of my students' need for a thinking day.
Being a teacher, I sometimes wonder if I've said the right thing.
I wonder if the words of "wisdom" I am offering to these precious little lives are really all that wise.
Today I had one of those moments when I though,
I hope what I am babbling makes any sense.
I hope that the words that I'm stumbling over are making this crying little girl feel better.
And this time, I felt like maybe it didn't. I felt like maybe what I wanted to say was, "I remember being 11! And it's hard no matter what you do! And the next few years aren't going to get any easier! Your friends will be mean to you, you'll be mean back, it will "ruin" your life, and break your little heart, and you'll have no idea what to do, and you'll want to disappear! And the crazy thing is, you probably wont talk to any of these friends by the time you get to high school anyway, and you'll look back at this and laugh at how silly it all was!"
But, I know better, because when you're 11, and you're right in the middle of it, nothing a teacher can say is really going to make that go away.
So instead I said, "I'm so sorry you're feeling that way. I'm here for you. I will always be here for you."
Even though this exchange happened hours ago, and she may have even forgotten about it, here I am, still thinking about what I said.
I think about what I try to teach them each day, about their academic subjects, sure, but even more about life. And how much I hope for them to be always happy and healthy. And how much I want them to overcome every obstacle they face. And how much their little broken hearts break mine. I sit here wondering if I had even been the least bit influential today.
And I wonder if these precious little lives know how much they influence me.
I have always wished that I was a morning person. I wish I could get up an hour earlier than necessary, have a cup of coffee, watch some TV or read an article or two. I wish I could lazily make breakfast, or even eat breakfast before I left the house rather than eating at my desk quickly before the kids arrive. I wish I could spend time petting the dogs and choosing clothes that actually go together.
Instead I wait until the very last possible minute, rush around, forget things, get angry, and end up close to late.
Im not sure what it is about that "extra" 15 minutes after the snooze, but on a Monday, and right after daylight savings, it was incredibly necessary this morning.
I'd like to say tomorrow's outlook is better, but that would be a lie.
5th grade teacher, wife, part time humane society volunteer, full time doggy fanatic and foster mom... just stumbling on.