What Did You Learn Today That You Didn’t Know Yesterday?

Exit tickets. Shiloh. Common Core Standards.

When I was a first year teacher, the veteran 6th grade chair befriended me.

Her class always completed exit tickets, and sometimes students could choose the theme. In my last year of teaching, I tried to model my class after hers.

She wasn’t a counselor, but she had a delicate way about her. Even her posture was wise.

“What did you learn today that you didn’t know yesterday?”

It was a challenge and a call to arms for her students. It was an indictment for me.

Today I learned that my sister and I have the same temperaments, coping mechanisms, and moods.  Continue reading “What Did You Learn Today That You Didn’t Know Yesterday?”

Day 2, Week 43: Find the Bottom

I almost drowned during volleyball practice in high school. I can’t remember if it was junior or senior year, but I remember how it started.
We had a new coach that year, one who loved workouts and weight training. Partly because we were young and partly because we were lazy, her presence wasn’t a welcome change.
She took us to the natatorium one day and assigned plyometrics.
I complained because I was lazy.
I complained because I was scared. I didn’t know how to swim.
We stayed in the shallow end in waters less than my height or shorter. We skipped, we hopped, we lunged. We did high knees and jumped imaginary rope.
It was our first workout in the water so we were giddy, albeit annoyed.
It was the high knees that did it.
I lost my footing on the fourth or fifth knee raise and went plummeting dramatically under the water.
Time stood still. I closed my eyes at first, flailing without abandon. My inner narration was remarkably reasonable and calm. She talked to me like a friend would, relaxed and comforting: “You’re okay, just put your feet down. It’s not too deep here. You can stand up. Just put your feet down. Find your footing. Stand up. You can do it. Just stand up.”
I nodded to inner me, but I couldn’t stop flailing. I kicked and shouted imaginary screams, but Superman wasn’t coming.
When I couldn’t find the ground, the panic started to set in. I could see my teammates laughing and pointing. I could hear them cheering, almost chanting—“Stand up! Stand up! Find the bottom. Find the bottom!”
I didn’t have the freedom to be angry. Inner calm subsided and there was only the fear of death and dying. There was only the horror of drowning slowly while watching friends watch me drown. Watching friends watch and wait for me to find the bottom and pick myself up.
Save tonight.
It must have been seconds, but it felt like years. When she pulled me out I was shivering, but not from the cold. All giddiness had subsided, but the echo stayed with me, “Find the bottom. Find the bottom.”
Find the bottom.
Sometimes the bottom is the beginning. It’s just the point or the place where you started. It’s the point of origin. It’s the focal point. It’s the center point. It’s home base where everyone and everything must return.
Sometimes the bottom is the top. It’s the peak. It’s the pinnacle. It’s the mount. It’s the point at which everything you need and everything you want can and will finally be actualized. It’s the point where you can say that everything up to this point has served its purpose. Everything up to this point was needed and was necessary and was an integral part of the story. Everything I’ve lost and everything I’ve given up were for this life-changing moment.
Sometimes the bottom is the bottom. It’s where the rock is. It’s the point at which you can go no lower, sink no further. You can endure or you can suffer no more. It’s the point where your anger overwhelms your fear, and for the first (in only a few moments) you know that you are capable of absolutely anything.
Find the bottom.
Determine whether it’s the bottom or the top. Decide whether this moment will be the one that changes you. Find the freedom to be angry, but don’t waste it on small battles.
Don’t waste it on small victories.
Don’t waste it on people who wish that you were smaller.
Don’t waste it on journeys that don’t cause growth or bear fruit.
Don’t bury it where it will sprout up inside of you.
Find the bottom.
1. I received some unexpected news and some unexpected intervention that was nothing short of divine.
2. We celebrated my niece’s 7th birthday yesterday. She did my make-up and polished my nails so I wouldn’t “look so old.
1. We finally started to talk about money.
1. Pride and prejudice. 45.
2. Healthcare reform and failing to help Puerto Rico.
3. Loss.

Where Do You Find Inspiration?

Day 1. Week 1.

I was feeling a little stagnant, so I asked a few friends how they unplug.

We decided we need to be more intentional or we’ll never make any progress, so he bought a cork board and starting posting stickies with goals.

I’m trying 1) to learn Spanish and 2) to write everyday, no exceptions.

He’s working on a series of video projects 1) about biking through Houston and 2) about creating his first coloring book.

We decided to give up Netflix during the week so we’d have more time to focus. TV days are now Fridays and Saturdays.

We’re on Day 3 so far, and I’m itching for some IZombie or Once Upon a Time (A sophisticated palette, I tell you!).

He’s maxed out on educational science/space exploration videos.

Progress is slow, but we’re excited for the first attempt.

I’m on Day 3, Lesson 4 of Duo Lingo.

He just started Page 2 of coloring book #1.

Video to come!

What are you working on? Where do you find inspiration?

Where The Wild Things Are & The Sidewalk Ends

Patty cake shouldn’t be a revolutionary act of defiance, but sometimes, under the right circumstances, it just is.

He was 6 foot 3. About 280. Seventeen.

They called him Big Black, and he didn’t seem to mind.

Most of the counseling staff were afraid of him.

He was always angry and because everyone expected him to be— violent.

Tutoring was never enjoyable.

He didn’t like help, didn’t like school, didn’t like reading, and definitely didn’t like wasting his time.

As winter approached I regretted making the trek more and more.

It was a burden.

One night he arrived late to find another youth from the Center.

As they met, we could sense the tension in the room.

Walky-talkies were instantly powered on; security was on standby.

Everyone watched in anticipation and fear.

We held our breath and waited.

Slowly but surely the boys approached each other. Fists clenched, jaws locked, a snarl at the corner of each lip.

Seconds of silence and then the unthinkable– patty cake.

They started to play PATTY CAKE.  Continue reading “Where The Wild Things Are & The Sidewalk Ends”

I Shoulda Been a Dancer

Save yourself. Dance!

I’ve always wanted to be a dancer.

Although I have no formal training, no actual training, and no actual talent, and although I never dance in public unless I’m purposely tipsy so that I can be confident enough to dance, whenever I hear a beautiful melody I create choreography in my mind.

Sometimes when I’m on the train or long-suffering through a 4-hr. staff meeting, I replay scenes from my favorite movie-dance-battles.

And sometimes, but only if I truly hate someone, I’ll imagine crushing them in a Michael-Jackson-style, leather-jacket-wearing, subway-station-mob-crowd, You-Got-Served! dance battle.

This is the complete truth.  Continue reading “I Shoulda Been a Dancer”