Butterfly Heart

Sometimes someone who knows you well says just what your heart needs to hear. “Don’t let yourself be hardened by the world Rachel. Don’t close yourself off from those feelings. Enjoy those times and keep your heart open.”

(Insert tears that spring forward.)

Something about this time of year is challenging for me, for a number of reasons. So I reflected and realized a few things.

Each school year I am reminded of the fresh opportunity I have to work with the next generation. I am so reminded and reminisce on how I would share with my sister our plans for the next school year. To say that miss her is an understatement, it is a yearning I feel in my soul and always will.

Everything changes in an instant, in a moment. The only constant is change, this I know. I have watched my baby boy growing like a weed over the last five months and it feels like just yesterday he was in the womb kicking me to let me know he was there. I look at him and I wonder who this little person will be. I watch him in wonderment as he observes the world.

Whenever I read a new book or see a, back to school book list, I stop and think about Debbie. Occasionally I still have a mind slip and think of telling her something. It’s like a small heart tug when that happens. A little pull each time I long for communication.

This school year I am excited for the new group of students to work with, the new and old book friends that I will get to share with them are inspirations from Debbie. I can’t wait to share with my students and continue to tell our son how this amazing librarian auntie of his still touches lives today.

We always read one of her favorite books to LDB each day, The Very Hungry Caterpillar 🐛. Much like in the book, I felt enveloped in a cocoon these past five months. I am ready to spread my wings and fly, but unfurling the wings and jumping off is always the hardest part. 🦋

Ninth Year

Think of a time when you felt safe, felt grounded, and felt happy.

Imagine that place.

Can you bring your olfactory sense back to the location? Can you see what it looks like before you? Perhaps you see it and walk within that realm when you dream. Or maybe it reappears every now and then when something strikes a memory chord in your brain.

I can still smell and feel parts of the interior walls of my elementary school. The smell of glue, the wet pavement outside on the playground, and the crisp air after snow has fallen and stillness unfolds.  These smells and the combined shine of the tile in the main hallway are emblazoned upon my memory. I can almost feel the painted brick wall on the outside of the gymnasium. If I close my eyes I can see the hallowed entryway of the leaded windows in the circular library with slivers of light darting across the gray carpeted floor. That smell of the books, dust, and a sense of comfort intertwined with one another can bring me back in an instant.

Walking into my school building four days ago, for the beginning of a new school year, I felt a rise of positive anticipation bubble up within me. There is something magical about watching all of the hopeful children of varying ages walk towards their next school year with fervent glee and nerves.

The twenty six individuals that entered our classroom on Tuesday all carried with them a sense of expectation, a sense of wonder, and an overwhelming sense of jitters.

Their day started off with a gift bag that was stapled together and laid upon their desks, with what they did not know was a plethora of supplies buried within each bag. A mentor colleague of mine taught me about this, “mystery bag,” game as a welcoming first day activity. Each year I have carried on the tradition with a new class.

As the day progressed the student’s nerves eased and my heart melted. I love watching students begin to unfold, ever so slowly they uncurl a tiny layer of themselves, their level of trust builds as they explore the beginning of friendship and community. The sense of innocence in their questioning and steadfast belief in, “doing the right thing, even when no one is watching,” is truly everything that adults strive to go back towards in time.

As an educator it is part of my job to teach about compassion, kindness, patience, and above all: love.  There is no curriculum that can encompass masterful lessons for these essential skills we need in life. It is merely a lesson in every interaction I have with a child, every question I answer, and the laughs that we share. I focus on sharing these ideals through the stories I select for students. They experience, read, and listen to these works of art every day. Children intrinsically desire to show kindness towards one another and I build upon this instinct to create a unique structure every year with a new community of people.

Going into this ninth year I felt a shift in myself as an educator. I realized my level of gratitude had been raised in the last few months. I felt grateful for the opportunity to share my passion for literature and life long learning every day with a new bundle of children. I felt hopeful about what my role could bring to the table in this year of growth for these students. I also felt a rise for my love of humanity, in which I dwell within as I walked through the doors, and down the halls, on the beginning of my ninth year.

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Stop. Just breathe.

Stop.

It’s a four letter word that has power. It holds the opportunity to communicate a clear, yet simple message.

So why is it so hard to say?

It is the one word I use when a student is being inappropriate, a boundary violator, or seeking my advice as to what to say when someone bothers them.

Say, “Stop.”

What is it about all this noise around us today? It seems to be a spinning vortex of information, misinformation, communication and miscommunication. It is nestled into every moment of every day.

Stop.

Are you listening?

Do you listen when someone speaks, or do you wait to respond? Sometimes I do both. It’s a work in progress.

Do you ever find yourself oversharing or emotionally vomiting with words?

Stop. Just say, “STOP self.” And do just that, stop.

No one needs to be the bearer of your misinformation, your quandaries about another, or the oversharing bulldozer of what is unnecessary data.

Hanging in my classroom is the following poster below that has the word THINK written vertically. It was made into an acronym for a few concepts.  I saw the idea online a long time ago, and I made my own poster. Consider the following before you speak, share, or “share” through social media…

T-is it TRUE?

H-is it HELPFUL?

I-is it INSPIRING?

N-is it NECESSARY?

K-is it KIND?

All too often we are not provided or providing the possibility for communication that is quality, confidential, and kind. Listening to my friends, my loved ones, my colleagues, my acquaintances, often times I see my reflective behavior in them. My energy level shifts, my mood can fluctuate, and can be a barometer at times unless I truly concentrate on what the person is saying, before I allow my emotions to come forth.

I have practiced something with my students this year called, “problem solving mediation.” Now, it might sound simplified and silly, but it is the same elemental principles in having a crucial conversation as an adult. It can be challenging, but with continued practice, it can work.

Instead of saying, “YOU this, you that, you are, you did that….stop and think.” What impacted you as an individual? The, “I, me, my, mine of the issue.” Start with an I statement, breathe, and proceed providing adequate time for the other to share and communicate when they are done.

Now, it does not always solve every issue, but I do feel that learning the basic techniques of communicating your personal perception, emotion, concern or question is essential for little and older people alike. Start with the I, use THINK, and then communicate. It is better to attempt to work it out, then ruminate on a negative vibe or feeling that festers with time.

If I have learned anything from my losses this year it is this…

Life is too short. Don’t waste it with, “I’m going to….you should’s, or he that’s…” speak up, enjoy it, work on it, make progress with the simple steps you take every day.

If you need to take some steps backwards for grounding then do so.

Quit apologizing.

Stop agonizing.

Get up, get moving, and start doing.

Do for you, do for Debbie, live and enjoy what you are offered today, and simply be grateful for the opportunities that are presented.

As challenging, as uncomfortable, or as difficult as they may seem.

Face it. Live it. Love it.

Breathe.

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TIHS kind of day (use a mirror)

For lack of a more interesting beginning: I’m exhausted. 

     Over the last 3.5 months I have been rehearsing for a Christmas musical a friend wrote, working full time, working out 6 days a week, stressing about family, worrying about health, planning, driving, organizing, talking, singing, practicing, and walking that balance beam we call life.

Sometimes I just want to throw all the pieces up into the air and scream while I watch them all fall back down and turn into glittery confetti…if only.  The current positives that are milling around in my mind proceed as follows:

  1. I am three days away from winter break from teaching. You know all those crazy memes of teachers running for the doors screaming? That’s me right now. I’m done. I’ve had it with attitudes, misspellings, sighing, requests x 27 and then some, repeating myself, filing paper work, making copies, making phone calls, writing emails, responding to emails, giving band aids, mending wounds both physical and emotional, mediating, locking and unlocking doors, searching for items, listening to demands, entering grades, having paint all over my hands, being sneezed on, being coughed on and glared at when I ask them to cover their mouth, wiping down tables, reminding for courtesy and the amount of general lack of gratitude. My bucket is not filled at work right now people I need recoup time.
  2. I wrapped the Christmas show and made new friends. I was grateful for another musical experience that pushed me as an individual, but I have to admit it was hard. It was challenging for me to force myself to drive across town the last week for rehearsals. It was not that I did not want to be there or follow through, it’s just that I am emotionally drained.
  3. My body tells me when it has had enough, and I generally listen. Like tonight when I stepped out of the car for dance class and my foot cramped and hurt immensely, I stopped and thought, “I think that’s a sign that you need to go home Rachel.” So I listened, and I did.
  4. Small glimmers of hope with my sister’s recent PET scan were also dashed and then thrown against more frustrating new growths in an already ravaged body, which made me want to yell into the wind: FUCK YOU CANCER. I should have been a scientist.
  5. I watched part of my birthday present from my sweet guy tonight, “Cinderella,” helped me lose myself in the fairy tale.
  6. I have a fluffy quilt, a couple pillows, and a bed to sleep in after writing.
  7. I had yummy home made pasta, and chocolate to wash it all down with.
  8. I realized after this last birthday that I could feel an emotional shift of ,”not caring,” about what people think of me slowly slipping away. See the meme below for my current feelings.
  9. I have a wonderful set of friends, family, and humans that I love and who love me. ❤ Case in point, my bff, Resa.Resa's bday party 2015
  10. I saw an amazing meme that sums me up.  That is my life update for this evening.  I’m going to dream land and will wake up and do it all again tomorrow. Enjoy the meme and one of my favorite Hollywood legends, The Norma Jean, aka, Marilyn Monroe. ❤ (PS I don’t know who created or posted the original meme below, I don’t own it, nor do I intend to pass it off as something I created. Rather, I appreciate it and am sharing it. Thank you.)Marilyn quote meme

Library Day 23 or something like that… :)

How many of you know your library card number, or should I say numbers by heart? I DOOOOOOOOOOO! I know ALL THREE by heart. I say quite proudly to strangers, and I don’t know my driver’s license. Go figure?! Priorities in life= library visits.

I ran into a woman at the library about a month ago. I couldn’t place how I knew her in that brief moment of time. So I said, “Hi! Do you work for the Multnomah County libraries?” We had this little three minute conversation and then both went on our merry way. Later in the car the light bulb moment took place. “OOOOOOOOH!” THAT’s who she was! Long story short, she knew my sister, she was a librarian, and we had met at the Eric Kimmel talk recognizing Beverly Cleary’s work last summer. All of these little light bulbs went off too late though. She was in her car, and I in mine. I really had a strong desire to call Debbie at that moment and share my little story.

I had to be happy with emailing it later in the evening. But it wasn’t the same.

The funniest part of the encounter was my parting words with this woman, “I love the library, it’s like shopping, but for free!”

That pretty much sums it up for me.

I can shop for three of my favorite things: books=knowledge, music, and movies. Yes please!

Whenever I take my classroom students to the library which is unfortunately only every other week for, “check out time.” I help guide them through, “Book recommendations.” This is where I pick their brain about passions, interests, and which author they have yet to discover. We talk about good fit books and then I help them find a new genre along the way. I also encourage them to check out a non-fiction book each week. I’ve had some students take on the biography challenge this year, and branch into wild weather and now animal fact books for their research reports.

The library is my happy place and it always has been.

When I was super small we would visit our beloved Lusac Library in Anchorage about once a week. I loved walking into the children’s section, pulling my favorite books by familiar authors into a giant pile.  I loved laying down in the fun reclining chair circle and pretending to read all the picture books laid out beside me. When I later became a strong reader, I would go through periods of obsessively reading all of the books by a certain author. Here is where our tastes in literature part ways at times Debbie.

I was obsessed with all forms of narratives, historical fiction, biographies, and fictionalized human experiences. Anything science fiction, dystopian, or set in a far off land did not interest in me in any way. Unfortunately I was stubborn and didn’t branch too far from my literary tree of preference until later in life. However, with all this being said, our library beheld the keys to all of our literary desires.

I go to the library some weeks, two or three times. I am a fervent believer in the public access system and I encourage my students and families to support their local library every year. A favorite quote from a fifth grader, which was overheard by a colleague of mine, always brings a smile to my face.

“Hey man, I went to this place dude, and like, they GIVE you cd’s, movies, and books for free. For free man!” “Oh yeah? What place?” Student looks around, “The library, the library does!” 🙂

Let’s make a series of commercials for t.v. about the library, I’m ready to write a screen play and shoot it! Needless to say, I support all libraries and feel immediately at home in them. Thanks for sharing your library in H.K. Debbie! I love you! xoxo

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This hangs in my classroom and it is a daily reminder for me and my students about the choices we make. Food for thought today. 🙂