Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Timing is Everything

Last week at this time I was securing a loan to help my firstborn daughter buy her first car. A “good deal” had fallen into our lap, thanks to the work of my 84 year old father who had taken it upon himself to help me shop for a vehicle for Sydney, and on Friday, my daughter and I took off after work to drive to my hometown to purchase a 2007 Ford Focus with 40,000 miles on it. We stayed with my parents Friday evening, bought the car Saturday morning, had lunch with my folks, then dropped in to visit my brother, sister-in-law, niece, and grand-nephew before going our separate ways. I returned home Saturday night in our family van. Sydney enjoyed a night with her friends before making her own way home Sunday evening.
The timing of this car purchase had seemed quite inconvenient to say the least. My correcting folders continue to burst at their seams and my tears at the end of a department meeting last week remind me that there’s a lot on my plate that demands my time and attention, but as I have grown older and wiser, I have grown to trust the value of following my gut when it comes to making decisions on the best course of action to take--for my students and for my family. Perhaps putting my daughter’s needs and wants before my own, I took the weekend’s adventures as they unfolded and I made the most of that nearly four-hour car ride with Syd. Have you ever noticed the best conversations with our loved ones often occur in a car? We talked about school, sang along with the radio, enjoyed hot dogs and ice cream, and allowed the freedom of the open road to invigorate us.
After taking a test drive and buying the car, bright and early the next morning, we headed back to my parent’s house. I soaked in the laughter of my Mom and Dad as we sat and ate pizza together on Saturday afternoon. I memorized the touch of my parent’s hugs as I said goodbye before we left,  and I later felt the warmth of my sister-in-law’s embrace and enjoyed my brother’s teasing of my short stature, “You’re such an Oompa Loompah!” when we dropped in on them both before heading out of town.
And although it’d have been easy to jump on the highway and not get off an hour later, I knew I’d made the right decision to make a pit stop to visit my niece and former flower-girl Ashleigh, and I was moved by my little grand-nephew Liam’s affection as he immediately jumped into my arms when he saw me at their door. Oh sure, this trip may have come out of the blue and have seemed quite inconvenient initially, and yes, I’ve written this blog post in denial of those bulging correcting folders which are still at my side, but in truth, following my gut all the way to my hometown and back was the right thing to do this weekend, and this reminder of the importance of all that truly matters could not have come at a better time.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Number Five

After an unexpected visit from a former student today, I find myself dragging in my motivation to score some papers after school. The brief talk I had with Jess has made me pause in my day, thinking of how the gifts that we teachers sometimes receive unexpectedly--the very return of the "products we help cultivate"--revisit us and restore our energy to continue our walk forward. I am grateful for that. So, beyond my normal struggle with procrastination when it comes to my correcting of lengthy research papers, I am also distracted by thoughts on how, at the end of a teaching year, I am always so moved by written and verbal expressions of affection and appreciation--from students and parents alike. Twenty-one years of teaching has taught me one thing for sure: I may stumble at times but I strive to live fully, purposefully, passionately, playfully, powerfully...each and every day.

Today as I tried to find the exact wording of the famous Henry David Thoreau quote, “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived," I came across this quote on an anonymous blog: “You are, after all, the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”.

I don’t know if that statement has been scientifically proven or refuted, however, I don’t need to know. I believe it’s true. Each day I meet up with an average of 80 people. There are those who walk through my classroom doors and there are those whom I have lunch with. There are those I go home to, and those I see and hear from for just a few minutes as they ring up my groceries or as they comment upon my latest email or “online status update”. I am privy to words and insights from all ages--not only from my teens but from my 12 year old child and my 84 year old father. I hear words of wisdom, hope, faith, and love contrasted with expressions of complaint, cynicism, anger, and entitlement. And thinking back on that serendipitous quote I came across today, I stop and ask myself, “Who am I the average of? My husband? My kids? I do spend a lot of time with the four of them. And who might that fifth person be? Who is my number five?!"

It’s an interesting question. I’m not going to attempt to answer it today. But I have been thinking this afternoon of how hope breeds hope and how cynicism breeds cynicism. I am touched that Jess came by today, that she told me how she reads my daily FB status updates nowadays and how she misses me and “just wanted to come by to see (me) and to talk”. Maybe Jess is my number five today. Maybe that’s why I’m feeling a little extra sweetness and tenderness as I end my work day. And maybe this is why I will continue to put my everything into the work I do as a wife, mother, daughter, sibling, friend, and teacher. Because if I am someone’s number five--today, tomorrow, or maybe everyday, I want the average of the person he/she is to be positively influenced by who I am.