Post-Election "Blues"

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

It seems I'm not alone in my post-election blues. Thoughts and feelings running through my mind include:

- WTF.
- How did this happen?
- I love blue states (even though I don't live in one) - where did they go?
- Homes in Vancouver are really expensive.
- So are homes in Helsinki.
- WTF.
- What's going to happen?
- How do homes in Vancouver cost THAT much?
- He is a "brand," not a leader.
- God, I hope he doesn't turn this into a dynasty.
- It's not fair that the rest of the world now views me, as an American, guilty by association for the results of our election.
- What about my girls?
- Aren't we perpetuating a rape mentality?
- Misogynist.
- Candada's economy is going to get a hefty injection from all of this.
- Is this really happening?
- WTF?

I found peace and comfort along with sheer frustration when I read through Facebook comments; I saw genuine hurt and sadness from people I adore; I saw seething celebrations from others.

I know sometimes we have to agree to disagree, but we have so much more at stake with this new "leader" of ours. This person who has been elected has every sickening characteristic of the man my mother married when I was five...a man who quite literally hijacked my childhood and was allowed to do so in a house where my mom didn't do her job as a parent.

Throughout this round of the slinging of the mud, with each degrading comment towards women and minorities, I was reminded of the same sick feeling of my childhood. And now we've selected him to be in charge of our country.


And then I found this, and it kind of resonated with me. If you've had the same hopeless feeling I have since around 8pm on Tuesday, then first of all, solidarity, y'all, and second of all, I hope this might help you as well. I felt like Pavlovitz put all of my feelings into a heart-felt essay, one that steals the words right out of my mind.

"I don’t think you understand us right now.
I think you think this is about politics.
I think you believe this is all just sour grapes; the crocodile tears of the losing locker room with the scoreboard going against us at the buzzer.
I can only tell you that you’re wrong. This is not about losing an election. This isn’t about not winning a contest. This is about two very different ways of seeing the world.
Hillary supporters believe in a diverse America; one where religion or skin color or sexual orientation or place of birth aren’t liabilities or deficiencies or moral defects. Her campaign was one of inclusion and connection and interdependency. It was about building bridges and breaking ceilings. It was about going high.
Trump supporters believe in a very selective America; one that is largely white and straight and Christian, and the voting verified this. Donald Trump has never made any assertions otherwise. He ran a campaign of fear and exclusion and isolation—and that’s the vision of the world those who voted for him have endorsed.
They have aligned with the wall-builder and the professed p*ssy-grabber, and they have co-signed his body of work, regardless of the reasons they give for their vote:
Every horrible thing Donald Trump ever said about women or Muslims or people of color has now been validated.
Every profanity-laced press conference and every call to bully protestors and every ignorant diatribe has been endorsed.
Every piece of anti-LGBTQ legislation Mike Pence has championed has been signed-off on.
Half of our country has declared these things acceptable, noble, American.
This is the disconnect and the source of our grief today. It isn’t a political defeat that we’re lamenting, it’s a defeat for Humanity.
We’re not angry that our candidate lost. We’re angry because our candidate’s losing means this country will be less safe, less kind, and less available to a huge segment of its population, and that’s just the truth.
Those who have always felt vulnerable are now left more so. Those whose voices have been silenced will be further quieted. Those who always felt marginalized will be pushed further to the periphery. Those who feared they were seen as inferior now have confirmation in actual percentages.
Those things have essentially been campaign promises of Donald Trump, and so many of our fellow citizens have said this is what they want too.
This has never been about politics.
This is not about one candidate over the other.
It’s not about one’s ideas over another’s.
It is not blue vs. red.
It’s not her emails vs. his bad language.
It’s not her dishonesty vs. his indecency.
It’s about overt racism and hostility toward minorities.
It’s about religion being weaponized.
It’s about crassness and vulgarity and disregard for women.
It’s about a barricaded, militarized, bully nation.
It’s about an unapologetic, open-faced ugliness.
And it is not only that these things have been ratified by our nation that grieve us; all this hatred, fear, racism, bigotry, and intolerance—it’s knowing that these things have been amen-ed by our neighbors, our families, our friends, those we work with and worship alongside. That is the most horrific thing of all. We now know how close this is.
It feels like living in enemy territory being here now, and there’s no way around that. We wake up today in a home we no longer recognize. We are grieving the loss of a place we used to love but no longer do. This may be America today but it is not the America we believe in or recognize or want.
This is not about a difference of political opinion, as that’s far too small to mourn over. It’s about a fundamental difference in how we view the worth of all people—not just those who look or talk or think or vote the way we do.
Grief always laments what might have been, the future we were robbed of, the tomorrow that we won’t get to see, and that is what we walk through today. As a nation we had an opportunity to affirm the beauty of our diversity this day, to choose ideas over sound bytes, to let everyone know they had a place at the table, to be the beacon of goodness and decency we imagine that we are—and we said no.
The Scriptures say that weeping endures for a night but joy comes in the morning. We can’t see that dawn coming any time soon.
And this is why we grieve"

By John Pavlovitz

Hug Your Trees

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

"Thank you for calling XYZ, how can I help you today?"

"Hi, my name is Christy, and I'm calling because two trees have disappeared from my home. As in someone, like, chopped them down. They're gone, and they aren't supposed to be gone."

It's a phone call I never thought I'd have to make. Nobody thinks it could ever happen to them, but it happened to me, and I was devastated.

I didn't even think to take pictures of them...I assumed they'd be there waiting for me when I got home, just like they have been every single day for the last seven years because they're trees, and they have roots, and they are part of my home. In fact, the last picture I have of them casts them if they were 2nd best to the focal point - the hanging basket.

But they weren't 2nd best. They were good trees, my trees. Can you see them? Peeking over the back of my fence, providing that extra "je nais se quois," boosting my amateur photographic composition with just the right aesthetic balance of backyard-meets-easement? They offered shade, protection, and privacy from everything else out there in this big, bad, beautiful world of ours.

Can you even imagine my horror and when I came home Monday to find my trees in a state of this-ness?

What used to be a subtle fence camouflaged by a lovely, flowering Oleander and a Desert Willow is now a blank, treated-pine canvas. Starkly blank. Sadly bare.

Today, three days later, this is my new view. It's fine, I guess.

It's not fabulous, it's just okay.

I think this is a less-than-subtle side-effect of other things that are happening in my life right now. Lots of change has emerged over the past week. The last week has felt vaguely familiar, maybe a little like the end of Toy Story 3 with the conveyor belt and the incinerator. But it's going to be alright because Pixar, Disney, Spielberg, and I are all fans of happy endings.

Maybe sulking in angsty arbor analogies is just my way of dealing with it all, and the trees are my allegorical scapegoats. Bless their chopped up little hearts.

And then I found this quote, which I thought was reasonably ironic...

Actually, this is quite accurate. I am not a tree. I am a human, a mom, a friend, a wanna-be-gardener, a sometimes-chef, someone who occasionally, accidentally makes people laugh, an advocate for kids and teachers, an Instructional Coach, a life-long color-coder, a Democrat, an animal lover, and a tree hugger. I am a person who has taught for the same principal for exactly 10 years...a person whose principal is spreading her wings and flying off to a different campus in someone else's neck of the woods. I love where I am right now in my life, but I don't like the uncertainty that comes along with the transitioning part of change...the great unknown. I'm not good with suspense. 

I am adapting to my new view both at home and at work. Today, I ordered a Celeste Fig which will eventually revamp the view from my back porch. I'm semi-excited for it to arrive next week so I can plant it and let some new vegetation take root. I have honestly wanted a fig tree every since I moved into this house - I had one at my previous house, the one with my chickens, and pretty soon I'm going to have one of my own again. I cannot wait to see what it produces. Fruits of labor, love, and patience.

I do have to send a shout-out to my friend and neighbor, Kathleen, because once she saw how quickly my easement experienced deforestation, she was quick to act, and gosh, I sure do admire her for her on-the-spot and timely thinking! She has also given me some free therapy on how to handle going through a principal change (among other things). She is much wiser than me, and I appreciate her soothing words about trees and change and life. 

"Do Not Take (No cotar). Plant being moved this weekend. Thank you."

Her sign made me happy for all tree-kind. This tree was given to her by her husband's father, so it has sentimental value to her. 

The "no cotar" is what sticks with me. You can't put that kind of sign on a person because people are meant to grow, and trees are, too. Take a close look at the tree - it's perfectly healthy, and it obviously has people who care dearly for it. 

New principal, whoever you are, please don't come in and discount the sentimental and meritorious value of what has been established at our school over the course of the last ten years. "No cotar." Take the time to see how things work, take time to appreciate the things we have in place and to learn where our strengths are as a campus and as a group of teachers. Take the time to evaluate what doesn't work, and dig deep to determine why. Be ready to plant new ideas in our minds...when the time is right. Nobody wants deforestation so that we resemble a treated-pine, blank canvas with only a few chemical-coated remnants of what we worked so hard to establish. Especially me. 

Hug your trees tight tonight, people. You really never know when it might be your last time to see them. Maybe your trees are literal trees; maybe they are people who helped you grow your own roots when you were young(er), incredibly green, when nobody knew if you'd actually take root, and when it was pretty hard to believe in you...yet they still gave you the chance and supported you as you established yourself. Embrace your roots and appreciate how strong they are, even if a few branches or the entire trunk head out into the wild, blue yonder...

It's that simple. 

My current advice to myself:

Hug your trees.

Embrace change.

Wish others well, and honor their dreams as they outgrow where they've been and what they've created. Know they are going to repeat this cycle for other people - know they're paying it forward, and know that maybe you will too, someday.

Post warning signs when you need to, but use them sparingly or else people won't take them seriously because they can quickly become commonplace.

Eat figs, but only once they're ripe.

Know deep down in your heart that everything is going to be okay. Really - it is. 

And that's pretty much it. 

Nope. Wait. I forgot one thing. Drink wine, too. That is especially helpful when things are being uprooted, replanted, and are establishing themselves into new soil.

Okay - that's really all for now. 

P.S. - Maybe I'll order a Pinot Grigio vine next...

Being a Mom

Saturday, May 7, 2016

I can't even tell you how much I love being a mom, although I'm sure you have a relatively general idea. My girls are just amazing, and I am so blessed that I was chosen to be their keeper.

Even when things are crazy at work, time and again I find I can center myself by reminding myself of my most important job: helping my daughters navigate their way through life. Nothing beats that.

Not a thing.

My friend Kim shared a great post yesterday that really resonated with me. My path to motherhood is different from most, but similar to some. I invest so much of my time into mothering and parenting because that was a huge deficit for me when I was growing up. I know it probably sounds cocky, harsh, or egotistical, but I figured out how to be a mom by being inspired by moms other than my own. I think I've read this piece at least 4-5 times in the last 24 hours...Mother's Day: When Your Mom Isn't A Mom.

I most definitely wasn't born into a family, so instead I've created a family - it's unique since I'm a single mom, and we are carving our path as we go. When I look back at what we've carved to this point, I am pretty darn proud of it.

Are there bumps along the way? For sure!
Is this path of ours straight and narrow? Nope.
Are there places where we have completely veered off of our path? Yup!
Do I believe our path is the right one for us? Absolutely.

It's our path. It's just as unique as we are.

For the last several days, the girls have been asking me what I want for Mother's Day, and my answer is easy: I want to spend time with them! I think back to Mother's Days when I was their age where my gifts were ridiculed, critiqued, and criticized, and I realize that the most incredible gift of all is the gift of  simple, quality time spent together with the ones you love the most.

I hope you all have a completely fabulous Mother's Day, I hope you know the work you do as a mom is valued, and I hope you get to spend some time with your loved ones. And if that happens to be your mom, I am truly happy for you!

Happy Mother's Day eve, moms!

Paired Passages

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

It's smack dab in the middle of testing season, and you should see my office. It. Is. A. Mess. Test books and answer documents have taken over my room. In addition, small group lists, maps, and things to send this way or that add to the loveliness of the clutter. I'm feeling a little brain-fried!

I stress for the kids testing. Some of them get really nervous. I especially connect with the kids taking the Reading test because that's where my heart is. I know they can all do it! Lucky for me, the two people I'm working with for the next eight days are people who I adore!

Which made me think of two articles I've recently read which are so completely relevant to my life right now...maybe they're relevant to you as well? Maybe it's a "middle school mom thing," and maybe it's an "I'm so ready for NOLA with my college ladies..." Either way, enjoy!

(I'm #11!!)


(because, let's be honest...)

If you have kids who are taking standardized tests this week, wish them luck and remind them that however they perform is only a tiny fraction of who they truly are. Remind them not to let the test measure them or influence them negatively...reassure them that "the test" is a snapshot of one little bitty tiny segment of their entire life, and give them lots of hugs! 

Jimmy is a Pick-Me-Up

Saturday, April 23, 2016

I was feeling a little blue this morning (aka exhausted and under the weather), so I decided to self medicate with a little bit of Fallon. Love that guy! Here are a handful of my favorites from his show - hope you get a laugh or two out of them!

Oh, and since you made it this far, check out these cuties - big soccer weekend around here! 

Hope you have a great weekend! 

Dear People...

Monday, April 11, 2016

April 11, 2016

Dear People with, like, one or two pets (you know who you are!) - 

You. Are. So. Lucky.


Me (owner of two dogs, a gold fish, a beetle which just happened to magically pop out of a mealworm pupa, 1.5 Bahamian geckos, one green anole, and somewhere between 22 and 27 crickets - live crickets)*

* As of a week ago, I had two dogs, one fish, one pupa-ish {aka very still and non-skittish} mealworm, and nothing more. 

The. End.

PS: We might be tree-huggers around here. I'm drawing my line. Right now. Line drawn. Done.

Boy: fanning; Girl: hiding

Enough, Please.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

It's been a rough month, y'all. I consider my close friends a pretty tight circle...whether we're talking about my best friends from college, friends of the girls, or my friends from work, my circle isn't big, and it is definitely close-knit.

I don't even have a gentle segue for this, but life can be harsh. Life can thrown curve balls, and life can let you get a sneak peak at the catcher's signal. Really, there isn't any way of knowing what's coming next, but in the last month, I have found it very helpful to have faith in things that are so difficult to understand.

While I was at the grocery story today, I found myself persuing the sympathy card section. Now that I think about it, I typically buy 1-2 sympathy cards per year. Today at the store, I bought three, although I could easily have bought 7.

My friend G (my "across the hall at work buddy") lost his mom unexpectedly during Spring Break. He is one of the most positive people I've ever met, he is absolutely incredible with kids, and his spirit through the recent strife is so inspiring to me. He is truly an class-act example of everything his mom ever taught him, and it is amazing to see him walk her talk through one of the most difficult moments of his life.

And then there is Janet. Janet is the reason I'm still in education; Janet is the reason I didn't quit during my first year. Or my second year, and even my third year. Janet is the most true mentor I've ever had from a curriculum (and life-aspiration-esque standpoint), and so many people have the exact same sentiment for her as I do. In fact, she is "Mimi" to so many of us who she has helped, encouraged, cried with, celebrated with, and everything in between on the path to becoming better educators. She is truly one of the best.

Last year, Janet's niece, Kelly, became a dear part of my life. A fresh graduate from Texas A&M (and I don't even hold it against her - true love!), she took over a difficult sixth grade classroom two weeks before STAAR testing - I had the honor of helping her navigate her first few weeks. I quickly  learned that Janet was her aunt. Like Janet, Kelly is a breath of fresh air to have in your life.

Have I ever told you about Ray? I taught with him, too. He was my teaching neighbor my last three years in the classroom, and oh my goodness, he is a character! Amazing with kids, dearly in love with his wife (Janet), and crazy about his own children and grandchildren. We shared many laughs together, and we also shared tears on more than one occasion, but especially  during the Bastrop fires - one of his sons lived there during that time, and it was so scary.

Last Thursday, Ray and Janet lost one of their dear grandbabies, Brooklyn. Brooklyn is also Kelly's 2nd cousin. Brooklyn was almost 18 months old, and I will never be able to understand why she was taken from her family at such an early age. As a woman of faith, I know God had a purpose for her short time on earth, and as a woman of faith, I know God will provide peace and understanding to Janet, Ray, Kelly, and their families as they endure this unimaginable time in their lives.

On Saturday morning, I woke up to the news that a 13 year old girl in my sweet, quiet little town had been hit and killed by a train in the middle of the night. The girls were with their dad, and I cannot explain to you the relief that ran through my body the second I heard Cee's voice on the phone after I begged her to call me ASAP. We may never know the exact circumstances surrounding this situation, but it has definitely taken a toll on the students in our school district. It's tragic, it's heartbreaking, and I am proud of my girls for being present for their friends who were friends with this little girl who isn't with us anymore.

Saturday afternoon, I learned that the father of one of the girls' friends passed away peacefully in his sleep after a three-year battle with cancer. He left behind his beautiful wife and uber talented son, Milo, who is a 6th grader.

I woke up Monday morning to learn a woman was shot and killed in her front yard not far from my school - and I instantly worried that she might be the parent to one or more of our students. As it turns out, her children are not yet middle-school aged, but many of our students lived very nearby the home where she passed away, and they were already familiar with the news.

Today we learned that another student within our district passed away, and I wanted to stomp my feet and yell, "ENOUGH!"

Seriously. Enough. Enough, enough, enough!

I know God's timing is perfect, but it hasn't seemed quite that way in the last few weeks, and enough is enough. Our community needs a break.

And finally, a flashback and a reality check. Another of my teacher friends came to me last week to see if she could call her grandmother from my office during her lunch hour. Her grandmother was on hospice care, and the family felt that a phone call from my friend might be the last bit of relief her grandmother needed in order to let go. I offered to leave the room, and she told me she didn't want to make the call on her own. I have never been so in awe of anyone's strength as I was of my friend when she made that phone call. My heart ached and wrenched because I think that's a call nobody ever wants to make. But she did it...with so much courage.

Today was the first day of STAAR testing. From the Testing Coordinator's Team's corner, everything we hoped would go well honestly went well, and everything we worried might go wrong essentially did. In the end, though we all survived. Only three kids were absent, and we will tackle the 8th grade reading test tomorrow.

At the end of the day, my teacher friend came into the testing room and said, "Well, she wasn't waiting for me; she was waiting for STARR. My grandmother passed at 9 this morning, and I didn't have my phone on. I think it was better that way."

Before I left, I checked on Kelly. I told her how proud I was of her for her strength. I made sure she knew I would pick up any slack she needs for the rest of the week or the following or whenever - Brooklyn's funeral is tomorrow, and Kelly was feverishly typing her sub plans so she could make it to her baby cousin's visitation.

Tonight, like so many people in my district, I prepared several dishes for the family's lunch after the funeral tomorrow.

Death will never be normal for me. I will always have questions. I will always question my faith in the midst of tragedy, and I will always find my way back home. But when anyone ever asks me why I don't move to this school or that, after a few weeks like this, the answer has been painted very clearly for me.

Wallace is my home. The people of Wallace are, too. We pull together when things get rough, and we are each other's safety nets. I don't believe that every school is like ours, and I feel incredibly blessed to work with some of the most amazing people I know, in the same building, every single day, for the last ten years and for all the years in the future where they'll {hopefully} decide to keep me around as a part of the family for as long as we can all imagine.

That, combined with the girls, is everything I could ever hope for and more than everything I've ever had within the realms of happily-ever-afters...and for that, I am eternally thankful.

My Own Kind of Makerspace

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

As you know, I love gardening. 

I'm not great at it, but I love it. 

I keep hearing about Makerspaces.

From what I know, they are places to create, invent, and learn. 

As we are doing our spring cleaning, I'm finding that we have outgrown ourselves a bit, and this has landed me a place to work with my plants and flowers!! Gasp! I never thought I'd see the day when I had a table dedicated to soil, blooms, bulbs, pots, and buckets. 

Spring makes me exceedingly happy. Freshly planted flowers make me exceedingly happy, too. A table on which to work? I'm over the moon, y'all!! 

And when this is the first thing I see when I look out into our backyard, I'm a pretty happy camper!

Spring has sprung!

Brownfield - Hometown Proud!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

So proud of the Running Cubs! They just won the state championship in 3A Basketball!! Coached by my 2nd grade teacher's son! So many people who I went to high school with had kids on the team or cheer squad. So many happy faces all over social media. So proud of those Cubs!!! Paw Power. :)

Here's a great video of how it all played out. I think I just got some dust in my eye. ;)

It's Porch Season

Friday, March 11, 2016

The weather for the last few days has been amazing! Rainy, and amazing. I love the emergence of Spring!!

Green soothes my soul, and I'm seeing it all around me.

Wednesday evening...

Thursday evening...

And even Friday at school...

Welcome, Spring. Stay awhile, won't you?

Jumping' Jay

Friday, February 19, 2016

See Jay jump.
Jump, Jay, jump!

This year's jump roping season is coming to an end - it was really cool to see Jay's team perform at Texas State University last week...

This proud mama hope you enjoy watching this little 5 minute performance!

On Wednesday, these kids are going on a mini-field their new middle school. Of course, they are over-the-moon excited about it!

Growing up so very these girls to pieces!

What a Difference a Year Makes!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I was given a flashback photo from one year ago today. We were in College Station for a soccer tournament, and Jay wasn't playing yet. However, she was her sister's number one fan!

What a different a year makes. We were back in college Station this weekend, and something interesting and awesome happened...

Cee's team needed an extra player. Can you guess who they called up from the farm team? Oh yeah!! SO much fun watching both of my girls playing on the same team, on the same field, at the same time. Cee played her heart out, and Jay absolutely held her own with the big girls. I love how Cee's team welcomed Jay into the mix, helped her with field position, and encouraged her throughout the entire game. 



Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Happy birthday to this sweet little dumpling! Eleven years old today - what a joy she is to have in my life...her quick wit and her contagious laughter make any day better.

We had a little neighborhood scavenger over the weekend to celebrate, and let me just say how proud I am of the friends she's chosen. Such a fabulous group of girls!

Happy 11th, Jay! GROUNDHOG!!!

A New Blog!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

I have been hoping to start a new blog for awhile now, and it is finally up and running. My goal is to have a place for teacher resources and to grow my Teachers Pay Teachers store. I'm so excited about this, and I hope you'll check out Literacy Creations  (previously known as Ms. Henry's Literacy and Learning Stop, which, to be honest, sounded way too train-stationy for me)! It's a work in progress, and I'm looking forward to devoting some time to it!!

New Obsessions

Friday, January 8, 2016

For years, cleaning my sink has been my therapeutic style of decompressing. Although I used to prefer Bar Keeper's Friend and the always wonderfully gelatinous Soft Scrub with Bleach, I've recently transitioned to essential oils, vinegar, baking soda, and Thieves Household Cleaner (all in the name of how many chemicals we inhale on a daily basis). Really, there are few things that make me happier than a sparkling clean sink. I learned about this from the Fly Lady and it really made sense to me.

Please don't judge my politics, but I was completely flattered (in a bizarre way) when I found out Laura Bush had the same obsession. Give me a break - she was a 2nd grade teacher and a librarian - how can you not love her? As a teacher, I can't help but love her and her passion for children and education.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, and welcome to my world today...El Niño.

With two active daughters, two wild fur kids, and a spring, summer, and winter with more rain than normal, my obsession has suddenly and swiftly changed lanes.

It's the Friday after the first week of the 2nd semester. I'm worn smooth out and so are the human girls (although they'd never admit it). Collectively, we've had a long week.

There were a few times today when I felt like I was having to concentrate on keeping my eyes open and my mind on the task at hand, and I wasn't even working with kids this week! I can only imagine how the teachers (and kids) are feeling!!

With that in mind, I have to tell you something.

All I wanted to do when I got home today was vacuum.

And guess what?

I vacuumed my whole house.


And then I used the Bissel steam machine on all the spots that smell like dog that have arisen in the last two weeks.

I feel so much better now. Muddy paw prints are gone. Muddy kid foot prints are gone.

That slightly-less-than-dogs-rule-this-house smell is starting to emerge, meaning it's starting to feel (aka smell) good again.

Once my carpets were clean(er), I instantly felt better.

That's the power of El Niño, y'all.

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