Give Thanks

Thursday, November 28, 2013

This morning, a lovely friend of mine took the girls on an incredible adventure. Jay, who hasn't blogged in awhile, deemed her experience as "totally blog worthy." I hope you enjoy her post about how her eyes were opened today.

Operation Turkey Adventure

I knew this would be an incredible experience for both girls. What I didn't accurately calculate was the depth of conversation we would have about it afterward. All day long, they have continued to have questions, reflections, comments, and insights. I'm sure these will continue at least through the weekend, and I look forward to every bit of the conversations and discussions we'll have in the coming days.

I hope you were able to spend time with your loved ones this week, and I hope you were able to take the time to count your own blessings.

In the meantime, we are a house divided tonight. Go Red Raiders!


Birthday Fun

Saturday, November 23, 2013

November is a big birthday month for us, starting with me, and followed by Cee and then Browning.

Cee turned 11 on Thursday, and for the life of me, I still can wrap my mind around that. Eleven. Maybe it's because of the Sandra Cisneros story, or maybe it's because ten was huge in itself. Or maybe it's because I still picture her just like this...

This was the first year I haven't woken up with her on her birthday, but I didn't let our "cupcakes for breakfast" tradition fall by the wayside. Everybody deserves a cupcake for breakfast on their birthday!

She had a great day at school (this was the first year since Kindergarten that her birthday didn't fall during the week of Thanksgiving!), and we had a wonderful dinner with family and friends. I think it's safe to say Cee made out like a serious bandit - look at that grin!

Jay was such a good sport about things. It's definitely not easy being the odd man out, but she handled herself like a little champ.

Yesterday, Browning turned 14. Again - I'm still trying to process that because it seems like just yesterday when I had the chubbiest, cutest, 8 week old puppy cuddled in my arms on the car ride home. He decided to celebrate yesterday by rolling in the cold mud outside for what appears to be most of the day.

Time has been very generous to us with this sweet guy. He was the perfect company for hours of Kennedy watching last night, and I'm pretty sure he knows more about the conspiracies than he's willing to reveal.

Tonight the celebrations continue - Cee has invited a few friends over for a slumber party. Final preparations are in place, and we're looking forward to a fun night!!


Tired Tidbits

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I am too tired to write much tonight, so here are just a few quick things.

1) The reason I'm tired is because Cee had a soccer tournament in Leander this morning. Her first game was a 7:15, which meant we were supposed to be there at 6:45. Important to note: Lampasas and Leander are not the same place, so my idea to wake up at 5 am in order to get there on time was overzealous and unnecessary. Don't even get me started on convincing your ex-husband, who is driving, to leave at 5:45 because when you realize your mistake, the confession of confusion is a little bit brutal.

2) Texas Tech just scored the first two touchdowns against Baylor!!!

3) One of my children just lost her second giant tooth in 24 hours. In consideration of the extreme fatigue the tooth fairy endured last night, combined with a super early wake up call, the tooth fairy may have to borrow a few bucks from one of her children. I'm also trying to avoid the obvious hillbilly references. Le sigh.

4) Another one of my children convinced me on Thursday night to get out a few Christmas decorations, which ended up being our entire Christmas Village. This pouty face is pretty irresistible and is going to cause me lots of trouble in the future, I think.

5) I have a new favorite blog: Wendi Aarons. She's funny. Check her writing out when you have a chance. I almost want to skip school next Tuesday to see Jenny Lawson and to attend Wendi's breakout session at the Texas Conference for Women, but I probably won't. Or maybe I will. I'm too tired to think clearly right now.

(But I'm definitely not too tired to watch my Red Raiders!!)

Peace (and Wreck 'Em!!!)...


Saturday, November 9, 2013

My younger sisters are both amazingly talented, and if I had a dollar for every time I was blown away by their thoughts or insights, I could probably have retired a few years ago. 

On Thursday, my sister Sam called me to let me know that our cousin was in a wreck and did not make it. I was completely beside myself, and also I was speechless. I didn't have the words to express how I felt - it was so sudden and unexpected. Samantha did a beautiful job of putting his loss into perspective. Thank you, Sam - I needed this. 

My cousin, Robert, died tragically on Thursday afternoon. He was in that really bad car accident on Riverside Drive that you probably heard about on the news. Someone was turning in somewhere and probably just didn’t see him. He was 30 years old. He was on his way to work at the Creek Nation Casino.

And now that I have all of those details out of the way, I want to tell you about the last memory that I have of my older cousin, who referred to himself as Cornbizzle. Because I know that a lot of people have a lot of memories about him, but mine are really funny and precious and memorable before you even take into account the fact that he’s not here anymore. Before now I was sure I would never forget the night that Cornbizzle helped me move, but now I want to make 100% sure that I write this down before I forget and just look back at that night with a warm familiar glow that has no real details, just the faint fondness of a good night. Isn’t it funny how death makes you think about things like that? And just a fair warning: this is going to be really long but I promise I’ll try to keep it as entertaining as possible. Because it was entertaining. It was one of my favorite memories before and it will be one of my favorite memories forever and I want to share it with you.

On October 20th, Amanda Babe and I moved into our new apartment on Riverside with no real plan as to how it was going to go. Her family was set and ready to help her with her stuff, but I was basically on my own (because really, I feel like your parents are responsible for helping you move the first time and then after that they are DONE and the novelty has worn off forever, get out get out so I can turn your room into a puzzle room/cat den) and I had no idea how I was going to get my ridiculously heavy boxes of books, kitchen utensils, and a half broken (but still fabulously comfortable) couch up three flights of stairs. However, I work best on my toes and I absolutely was not worried about it at all.

So after Amanda’s room was primly and lovingly put together by the most caring of hands, my real work began. I’m very fortunate for a few good friends in my life, like Nikki and Thurman and Amanda. They were both there and carrying everything up the stairs and tossing it into my room. Maybe you remember a status a month ago about my room looking like it was inhabited by squatters; it wasn’t an exaggeration (but I’m proud to say it looks awesome now). Things were falling together, but there was still that broken couch in my little UHaul trailer, as well as my giant bed and frame halfway across the city that I would have to collect at some point. Still, I wasn’t too worried.

Thurman, Amanda, Nikki and myself unloaded this ungodly heavy and ungodly broken couch from the back of this UHaul trailer and toted it (albeit very slowly) across the parking lot and to the base of the staircase. It wasn’t AS bad as it could have been, we naively thought as a collective. Then it was time to push it up the stairs. Suffice to say, it didn’t happen and I think I remember at one point Nikki almost being crushed to death into the cement while Thurman cooed encouragingly at us from his position of pulling. So we were left with a giant couch at the bottom of the stairs, no one else was answering our texts to come help, and it was getting really dark.

I was getting a little worried.

We were all sitting on my couch that was sitting at the bottom of the stairs outside, perusing our phones for people that might be able to help us. It was looking pretty bleak, to be quite honest. Then I remembered my cousin Robert lived really near my apartments (like, a mile point five) and he was always posting about lifting heavy stuff on fcbk all the time and could probably prove this strength by helping me carry a bunch of stuff. So I sent him a text, not really expecting a response. I mean, would you really be excited to help your cousin move a giant couch on your Sunday night off of work up three flights of stairs? Because to me, that sounds like a horrible time. But less than 10 seconds later, he was texting me back for my address and said he was on his way and he’d be there in 20. And ten minutes after that, his little tires even squealed as he pulled into a parking spot.

We stood around and made casual introductions before I put him to work. And of course he had the usual complaints about this couch that every single normal human in the history of ever would have.. such as why were trying to salvage it when it’s so broken, and why is it so heavy, and what the hell did I do to break it in the first place, and how did I get it down three flights of stairs from my old place (which is why it’s broken, duh). But he hefted and along with Thurman’s help, they carried it upstairs and into the apartment. And then they put it against the wall. Then Cornbizzle sat on it and told us about himself and how he was in the military and how he was thinking about getting new tattoos. 

However, the story doesn’t end there because like I foreshadowed earlier, there was still a bed across down that needed to be picked up, a UHaul trailer to be dropped off in Broken Arrow that was two hours late, and the bed had to be carried upstairs. I hoped the promise of beer and pizza would be enticing enough for these guys to help me, but I think I knew deep down that they would help no matter what and probably smile at me while doing it. So there we were, Amanda, Thurman, Cornbizzle and myself needing to figure out a way to fit into my dad’s tiny cabined truck. As in, there was going to be lap sitting by some strangers and definite cramped quarters.

Cornbizzle smilingly offered to ride in the back of the truck all the way to Broken Arrow. He spoke of it like an adventure. It wasn’t too cold out that night, but it was still definitely fall night time and it was still the back of a cold truck. Still, desperate times call for desperate measures so off we went.

So this little trailer had to be dropped off at this rinky dink half gas station thing in downtown Broken Arrow. When we got there, I apologized profusely for my trailer being so late and begged to not be charged the 30$ service fee for being late. The guy really wasn’t having any of it, but then here came Cornbizzle wandering up and stood there very intimidatingly and frowned a lot. I still continued to be overly nice and charming to this guy. As it turns out, I didn’t get a service charge, but when we were leaving both Cornbizzle and I were congratulating ourselves as why there wasn’t a fee: I was sure I charmed the pants off of that guy, and Cornbizzle said something along the lines of when you’re faced with a 300lb Native dude, you don’t want to piss him off. We each laughed at the other: I know kindness prevails, and he knew brawn prevailed. I still don’t know why there wasn’t a service charge. 

So then it was off to my grandma’s house to get my bed, Bizzle in the back of the truck once more. It was probably close to 10 in the PM by this point and the goal was just not to wake up my grandma since she was so kind in letting me store my stuff at her house for the interim weekend. We get to my grandma’s house and immediately my old little grandma wanders out, blinking around. I’m trying to work out the logistics of how this bed is going to fit into the truck, and I hear Cornbizzle talking in his booming voice to my grandma and her soft little replies. I don’t remember how it went, but I know it was something along these lines: 


Grandma: ?????


Grandma: ????

I still don’t think my grandma knew what was going on.

With the bed loaded, we were ready to head back to the apartment but we were faced with a last problem that none of us foresaw: with the bed in the back of the truck, where was Cornbizzle going to ride? Answer: in the cab with us and it was time for a little lap sitting with strangers.

I was driving the truck, Amanda squeezed in by my side, Cornbizzle sitting in the passenger seat, and Thurman was in his lap. We set off down the street, vision skewed by this giant bed and cramped quarters. Thurman and Cornbizzle were squawking good naturely at each other, me and Amanda were giggling at how absurd this moving experience had turned out to be. Robert was laughing because Thurman cuddled against him, Thurman was laughing probably because he was perched in the lap of some random dude he had just met. Cornbizzle assured us all of this staunch heterosexuality, but made it clear that his time in the military made him not mind dudes. Then Thurman got hot and off came his sweater, and Bizzle squealed about Thurman stripping on his lap. I think I was shouting about something. All four of us were howling with laughter. I was crying I was laughing so hard. 

In that moment is how I’m going to remember my cousin for the rest of my life.

After that, we went to Walmart to pick up some things and I used Bizzle’s giant phone to order a pizza. He assured me that his phone was a million times better than my iphone, and probably cheaper, too. He smelled shampoos with me and helped me decide that the blue bottle in my shower right now is the best. He stole a shopping cart from someone so I could carry my shampoo. When I asked him what he wanted on his pizza, he told me he would literally eat anything I put in front of him. He asked Amanda a million questions about being a teacher, even though she was dead tired. He asked her if any of her students are in love with her. She said she didn’t think so. He told her when they start bringing her apples, that’s when you know you’re in trouble. 

We got back to the apartment and ate pizza and drank cheap beer and laughed about all sorts of things. Cornbizzle told us about his job a little and told us that he basically exclusively hangs out with native peoples, but he would make an exception for Amanda and that she could be his token white friend. He told us about how he really liked McDonalds and working out at 10GYM with his friends. He lamented about the fact that security guards can’t carry guns. He told us a little about being all over the world in the navy. He told us about how much he enjoyed living on Riverside, and how excited he was for us to be living so close to each other. I invited him to my birthday party, and he was truly excited and told me he would bring me a bottle of birthday Jack. He told me about how when I texted him he was in the middle of watching some sports match with a friend at his friend’s house and upon receiving my text, he didn’t even tell his friend where he was going, that he just read my text that I needed help, slammed down his beer and walked out. Because I was family and that’s how much family meant to him. I probably rolled my eyes and made some smart ass remark, but I mostly remember just being stupidly grateful. And I told him that. Because really, he saved the day.

I didn’t know Robert very well as a child, but we got to know each other pretty well as adults. He was my friend. I enjoyed his company. He made me laugh. He helped his family when no one else would, and I think that’s a legacy he would be proud to leave behind. I love my cousin. I love our memories. I love the time that I was blessed to have spent with him.

So hug your family. Tell them you love them. Tell everyone you love that you love them. Cornbizzle was driving to work, a two mile drive he made every single day. And now he’s not here any more. I know everyone always says to enjoy every second to the max because you’re not guaranteed another, but I feel like this seriously puts it into perspective. You’re not guaranteed your drive to work. I’m not guaranteed my walk down these stairs.

I hope Cornbizzle was happy that day. I hope he was excited to go to work. I hope a song that he liked came on the radio. I hope he thought about that night every once in a while and laughed about it. I hope he knew how grateful I am to him. 

Right before he left my apartment that night, I asked him why people call him Cornbizzle. He looked at me like I was stupid and said, “Well, they called me Cornbob.” And that was that. 

Because that’s how it was with Cornbizzle. Simple and to the point. And I’m going to miss him every day.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

I am in the middle of my seventh of teaching, and there is a distinct change happening that I have gradually noticed over the last two years.

It finally solidified for me today and made my heart drop not once, but twice.

I am not sure that I have ever actually felt my heart drop before, but after today, I will never forget exactly what it felt like. 

The issue is school safety. 

It's fair game to say that it's become more and more dicey over the last few years. 

My friend Katie wrote a piece about feeling safe/not feeling safe a couple of weeks ago. 

It is a huge opportunity to be the people who spend more time with children during the day than parents do at night, and I say this with the full understanding that my very own darlings spend more time with their teachers during the school day than they do with me at night. 

That's why weekends are completely golden to me. 

During the week, we see the good, the bad, the mean, the brilliant, the confused, the struggling, the hilarious, and the miracles that our students willingly or unwillingly show us each day. 

99% of the time, a phone call home and some positive interactions at school can fix the problem and make it manageable. 

It's the 1% of the time that caught my attention today. 

Our schools have gone from the philosophy of we have systems in place to keep us all safe to the reality of addressing the fact that disasters are much more prevalent and are more difficult to predict, address, and manage now than they were just five short years ago. 

Thanks to the incredible leadership of a former high school coach, I have been following the Rachel's Challenge movement for the last four years. My former coach is now a principal at an awesome school in the Dallas area, and the movement he leads against bullying and school violence is inspirational and powerful, and I can absolutely see how it starts a chain reaction of kindness within high school students. A tiny bit of background: Rachel was the first student killed in Columbine. She left a legacy of kindness behind her, and it really has been a spark for lots of positive activity in high schools throughout the U.S.

Today I was introduced to a new-to-me organization called iloveuguys, and it was established by another family in Colorado who lost their daughter to a school shooting. Between learning about the organization and writing this post, I haven't had time to get to know more about their mission, but I plan to very soon.

For some reason, today's presentation really hit me hard - the video we watched as a faculty is one we will be showing to our students tomorrow and Friday. My mind has been racing trying to anticipate the questions my students might ask while making sure I have adequate and thorough answers for these questions they haven't even asked me yet...all while wishing there were parts of the video I could fast forward through and places I could pause to give them lots of reassurance.

On another level, my mind has also been racing trying to anticipate how Cee and Jay (and their friends and classmates) will react to this video, since it is a district effort to better align our crisis response teams. The video is definitely kid-appropriate, but I have been a pretty sheltering parent as far as the violence I allow the girls to experience and absorb (as have many of my mom friends). Realizing that they would watch this and possibly have negative reactions to it was the first measurable point where I felt my heart drop today.

The biggest ah-ha moment for me this afternoon was realizing that as a system, we've gone from being a place with established systems to keep us all safe to a system with an improved structure that's designed to keep us safe - where our focus has shifted to saving as many as we possibly can.

This realization was the second point where my heart took a measurable nose-dive today.

In a way, our society has become very desensitized.

I had a meeting with two parents this morning where the dad expressed that he understood that we (teachers) knew "some kids weren't worth saving," and the context was about behavior and academics. I couldn't wait for my turn to speak, and when it was my turn, I very respectfully told him (in my least Pollyanna voice) that I believe all kids are worth saving (because I do), and I wasn't referring only to behavior academics.

These little sweeties of mine have so much ahead of them and so much to offer the world. I am absolutely certain of it.

I know the parents of my students feel the exact same way about their own children, and I know they're trusting me with their children's safety each and every day just like I'm trusting the girls' teachers with their safety every single day. 

I need to see how Cee's story and Jay's story unfold in this great big world and I want to support them as much as they need me to or want me to through every step of their journey, whether from being right by their sides or though offering my support from farther away. I am absolutely certain of that, too. 

The challenge of imagining a world where either one of those isn't possible breaks my heart. 

My control-freak tendencies don't like the unimaginable or unexpected...

Tomorrow I will go back to school and I will love my job and the students I teach, and I will be super excited to pick Cee and Jay up after school and make sure they know they're loved and they're amazing because that is one thing I can definitely control in the middle of all the other unknowns.

thirty-nine (or forty, minus one).

Monday, November 4, 2013

at some ambiguous point in the last 24 hours, i turned thirty-nine.

cee and jay are pretty sure i am in a wicked state of denial and i am actually forty, and this has made me laugh every single time they've asked me if i'm sure i'm really only thirty-nine today.

the truth is that i don't dread turning forty, but i am wrestling with the whole concept of thirty-nine and i'm not sure why, which is approximately why i haven't posted for over a week two weeks- the concept of getting older has been weighing sort of heavily on my mind.

here's my best take on turning this age:

i have decided that thirty-nine is the grim reaper of forty. i totally can't wait to be forty, because logic tells me that if my 30's were wonderful, my 40's will be amazing! it's the grim reaper thing that has me pondering all of it, and i've secretly been wishing that my "thirty-nine grim reaper" will look something like joe black.

too much to ask?

i think this seems like a fairly reasonable request, all things considered.

in the days leading up to this "milestone," i have started drinking coffee.

and it's so good!

it makes me feel like someone in their late 30's (which is precisely what i should be feeling).

yesterday i discovered the magic of caramel macchiato creamer by international delight, and this alone makes me all kinds of happy, which {i think}is a completely thirty-nine year old thing to say.

i also discovered another type of magic this weekend: on saturday, i allowed myself to go to ikea for the first time ever. it was pretty much inevitable because cee's soccer game was way too close in proximity to it. i am ridiculously proud of myself for holding out for as long as i did, and even more proud of myself for allowing myself to carry in cash only in lieu of a credit card.

everybody wins this way, except for maybe sweden.

i don't want to make a big deal about this birthday because making a big deal about things isn't really my thing at all, but i do want to say that i feel incredibly blessed for everything my friends and family did to make today especially wonderful!

i am a very lucky lady, and i hope everyone knows how much i appreciate the well-wishes!!


(oh, and p.s. - for the fourth year in a row, i would like to gently remind everyone of my public service announcement: i am pretty sure the person who invented daylight savings time did not have children. that's all...)

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