PHOTO FRIDAY: FOOTBALL FRIDAY
…because my only photography consists of Pop Warner football games lately.
I sat at the old worn oak table and nervously tapped my foot on the linoleum floor, stealing glances at my parents as they sat next to me obviously trying to hide their own anxiety. How many students had awaited the unknown in this very room through the years? How many parents accompanied their children, likely being transported to a time when they were the student awaiting the fate thrust upon them by adults they never imagined becoming?
As the black hands ticked on the unsuspecting clock hanging on the wall, student became teacher, teacher became parent, parent became teacher, entering and exiting a place where respect was demanded, expected, obligatory, instilled in us and drilled into our psyche alongside the alphabet.
You, sir, entered the room without so much as a greeting, never acknowledging us as you took the furthest seat possible, distancing yourself and immediately setting the tone for our meeting. My parents said, “Good afternoon” to which you nodded, shuffled a few papers, and let the silence hang heavy between us. My dad and I made eye contact, the look exchanged between us saying, “this should be interesting” as we sat a little straighter and waited for you to speak.
“So, I’m told you want to be in Honors English. I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
I looked at my parents and took a deep breath. How could you possibly think it wasn’t a good idea when you had never met me and still hadn’t since you didn’t bother to introduce yourself to us?
“I’ve been in Honors English all through high school and would like to continue taking an Honors English course at this school.”
Another deep breath, silence, waiting.
“Well, just because you’ve taken Honors English at your old school doesn’t mean you belong in my class.”
Well, this was going splendid. At this rate, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in your class after all.
One of my parents spoke, I can’t remember which one, “Her current English teacher here recommended she transfer to your class because she did so well on her first two assignments.”
It was then you took the time to look at my parents, almost as though you were surprised to find them in the room. Immediately, I could see the disdain in your eyes because they expressed themselves in English, not their native language, and spoke with an accent. You stared them down as I shifted uncomfortably in the hard, wooden chair. I wanted to tell you I was no longer interested in being in your class. I wanted to tell you I could already tell I would hate it because it was evident to me you were a horrible teacher and even worse human being. Anger bubbled up inside me when you finally responded to my parents. Unfortunately, so did a little something called determination.
“Obviously, English isn’t your first language and while your desire for your daughter’s transcript to reflect four years of Honors English is evident, I don’t believe her past courses have prepared her for my class.”
Looking back, I should have bowed out then, thanked you for your time and not pursued your class. However, I was young and naive, and you made me feel like I had something to prove. I’m not sure what we said to finally convince you to allow me into your class, but you did and so began the year of English hell for me.
It seems you were as determined as I was, except your goal was to tear me down, and constantly remind me I wasn’t good enough for your class. You shot down my creativity, wanting me to follow a set formula for every assignment, going so far as to demand I begin every last paragraph with the word “Thus” and never giving me a grade higher than C. I tried so hard to write the way you demanded, losing my voice in the process, but determined to show you I was a good writer. I approached you for your help since all you offered was critique with no tools to help me on my next assignment.
“What can I do to earn more than a C? What am I doing wrong?”
Your response stayed with me for years.
“Nothing really. You’re just not a very good writer.”
And, just like that you extinguished my creative spark. You planted a seed of doubt that grew with each sentence I wrote for many years to come. The sad part is, I let you. I allowed you to convince me that I wasn’t a good writer. I let you strip me of the confidence I had when I took pen to paper and made my words come to life.
I was 18 then, under the impression that teachers always know more than their students, that all teachers want to better their students . I’m now 43 and know better. I now know not all teachers are good teachers, not all teachers have their students’ best interest in mind. Fortunately, I also know teachers like you are the minority.
I don’t know where you are or if you’re still on this earth, but I want you to know something.
My creative spark was reignited. These days, I grow more confident with each sentence I write. I make words come to life and never start my last paragraph with the word “Thus” because to this day that word makes me cringe. However, I’m going to make an exception today because (no thanks to you) I’ve learned I have a way of expressing myself in writing that touches people, that stirs enough emotion for them to come back for more. The beauty is I didn’t have to lose my voice to do so.
Thus, I AM A GOOD WRITER.
My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends is officially released today. My story is on page 69. Click the photo to buy a copy!
Have you every had a teacher, a boss, a co-worker, a friend, plant a seed of doubt in your mind? How did you handle it? Did you dismiss it or let it grow?
As human beings, we wonder what mark we will leave upon this world. As busy moms, we wonder if that’s even possible between changing diapers, meals and laundry, as our mom role takes up our waking moments as well as our sleeping ones.
Today, I’m at Inspired By My Mom with a post I’ve shared before, but one that is near and dear to my heart. I hope you’ll take a moment to visit and read stories of moms who have left their mark in this world by the sheer act of being an inspiration to those around them.
Inspired by My Mom is dedicated to moms and to all the unsung female heroes that influenced, inspired, and encouraged us. They are made up of our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, friends, teachers, mentors, and all the other women that have come into and passed through our lives. They have all left an impact and many of us may not have had the opportunity to recognize or acknowledge them at the time.
Some of you may have seen this post over in The Huffington Post this week. I thought I would share it on the blog for all of us who are gearing up for a new school year this week. I hope it’s a smooth transition for kids, parents, and teachers!
Dear Olivia and Evan,
As I opened my eyes this morning, the realization that you will be starting a new school year at a new school today held me hostage for a moment. Today, you embark on yet another new chapter in your young lives, and as we rode the elevator down from the 17th floor I thought of so many things I wanted to say to you. Things I’ve already covered in the many conversations we’ve had leading up to this day, but as a mom can’t help but feel the urge to repeat in case you didn’t hear me the first time.
Floor 16 – I wanted to tell you that I know what it’s like to be the new kid. I understand the butterflies in your stomach and wondering if you’ll make friends. Believe in yourself. I do.
Floor 15 – I wanted to tell you I understand worrying about finding your way both physically and socially. You’ll spend a lifetime finding your way. Never give up.
Floor 14 – I wanted to tell you that sometimes the new kid is at a disadvantage simply because you are new, but the very fact that you are the new kid is sometimes an advantage in and of itself. Embrace the adventure.
Floor 13 – I wanted to tell you that as the new kid other kids will be drawn to you. Some won’t accept you. That’s okay as it will be their loss.
Floor 12 – I wanted to tell you to embrace this new experience with a positive outlook because while it is all strange and a bit scary today, very soon it will all be routine and familiar. It’s the circle of life.
Floor 11 – I wanted to tell you to try not to look so nervous. Sometimes the simple act of smiling can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. It is said a picture is worth a thousand words. I believe a smile is worth at least that much.
Floor 10 – I wanted to tell you if at any moment today you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, just breathe. You’ll be amazed how a couple of deep breaths can help you see things in a whole new light.
Floor 9 – I wanted to tell you to remember you only need one good friend. Quality trumps quantity.
Floor 8 – I wanted to tell you how my heart is torn between wanting to keep you home with me all day where I can love you and protect you and wanting you to go out there and have experiences I can’t provide for you. Don’t grow up too fast okay?
Floor 7 – I wanted to tell you how I prayed last night that those you cross paths with today will see you as I do…smart, kind, caring, funny, creative. More importantly, I hope you always see yourself as I do.
Floor 6 – I wanted to tell you not everyone will have things in common with you. Embrace the differences. They may pleasantly surprise you.
Floor 5 – I wanted to tell you to be patient with yourself and others. Time has a way of charting our course from the trivial to the really big stuff.
Floor 4 – I wanted to tell you to not be afraid to try something new. That’s the beauty of a clean slate.
Floor 3 – I wanted to tell you to listen when the teacher speaks, when someone new talks about themselves, etc. Listening is one of those skills that will come in handy later in life.
Floor 2 – I wanted to tell you to follow instructions when necessary, but also to make sure you always express yourself. It’s okay to speak up.
Ground – As we exited the building for our short walk to school, I took each of your hands in mine and said, “Just be yourself, and remember how much I love you. I’ll be waiting to hear all about your experiences this afternoon.” I realized that’s really all you needed to hear. Love, Mom
What advice do you give your children on their first day of school?
Today, I’m featured over at Our Life Songs a non-profit organization designed to inspire, heal and motivate women who are struggling with disease, depression, anxiety and other difficult issues. I am honored to be a part of such a worthy mission. Please take a moment to visit them.
I sat across from her unable to take my eyes away, entranced by the weathered hands whose long, slender fingers wrapped around the tiny gold cross hanging on her neck. She slid it side to side, left to right, over and over again and I was mesmerized by the repetitive motion. I watched the cross swing on its matching gold chain at times of its own volition, others with a purpose it seemed only she understood. Much time would pass before I understood the meaning of it, not the meaning of the man who died on a much larger scale of the small cross, rather what it meant to the woman who loyally wore it.
As a little girl, I found myself looking for the hint of gold against her chest each time I visited. I walked closer to greet her, my eyes searched for it. As she held me at arm’s length, steps before I reached her, commenting on how much I had grown since the last time she saw me, I looked for it. Younger still, I can recall my small hands reaching for it as she held me in her lap and rocked me to sleep. She never pulled it out of my grasp the way other adults yanked things out of reach of a young toddler for fear of destruction. Instead, she let me soothe myself to sleep, my tiny fingers rubbing the gold until I drifted off into peaceful slumber.
Through the years, it was always there. And, as I got older I noticed she not only held onto it during the happiest of times as though thanking the Lord for all he had blessed her with but also in the saddest of times like when we learned of my father’s cancer diagnosis. She held it as she watched her daughter, my mother, absorb the news. And, as she watched my mother I watched her as the pain in my mom’s eyes reflected in her own. I leaned forward a bit as though in so doing I would be able to make out her plea as her lips moved in unison with the motion of the swaying cross. Back and forth, left and right, over and over again she slid the cross, her lips rapidly moving in a whispered prayer.
At those times, she seemed to wrap her fingers around it a little tighter, begging for it to provide more. More what?
Strength? Hope? Faith?
I would sense the urgency in the way she held the cross, and desperately slid it back and forth on its chain. By then, the once smooth skin it had rested upon when I was a child, was now etched with line upon line – each representing her walk of faith, her life’s journey. At times, the lines intersected on her wrinkled skin. I sat and wondered if perhaps there were paths that led her to other paths, each presenting a trial she was meant to endure, an experience that would shape the woman she became. Some lines seemed to have no direction, no beginning and no end, as though they consisted of choices left unmade or decisions changed at a certain point in time. However, it was clear to me even then that each line told a bit of her story, perhaps, because I can’t recall an occasion when I didn’t see it on her.
My grandmother always had it on her person, close to her heart and often reached for it. I think it kept her grounded, a constant reminder of her faith and something greater than her in this world.
Years later, as I entered the hospital room and approached the bed in which she was taking her last breath, my eyes immediately searched for the tiny gold cross. At that point, I needed the strength it always seemed to bring her. I needed the feeling of peace I had seen on her face after she held that symbol of faith in her hands time after time. As I looked at her chest where the hospital gown was pushed back a bit to reveal a hint of gold, I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. The lines were now many, blanketing her body like a road map of sorts and I like to think that’s exactly what they were. A road map of her life, her experiences, but most importantly her undying faith. And as I reached for the tiny gold cross that had become a symbol of comfort in my young eyes, I realized that it was so much more than that. Seeing it now through the eyes of a woman, I understood what it meant to my grandmother and in my times of doubt, during moments of desperation, I find myself holding the tiny cross that sits close to my own heart. I can’t help but pray that in the end my life’s road map is as beautifully etched as hers.
I’m usually a big believer in “Being Yourself” and am always encouraging the kids to be true to themselves at all times.
Every now and then though, it is definitely okay to be someone else!
We had a blast at Puerto Rico Comic Con and next year we will join these folks in costume!
Enjoy your weekend everyone!
“If you think back and replay your year and you don’t recall tears either sad or happy consider your year a waste.”
This line has stuck with me for some time. I don’t recall where I heard it, but I’ve carried its meaning with me each year as I’ve looked back at my life and the string of moments that are now in my past. Moments I may not have fully appreciated at the time and others I vaguely recall fleetingly passing through time…my time, my year, my life. As is often the case, life’s little moments present the biggest lessons but too often we are so caught up in what we are feeling in that particular moment that we miss the full essence of its significance. The present moment stirs up emotions that slowly roll over our heart and mind like a cloud cluster across an expanse of sky blocking the light that could bathe us in warmth and wisdom. It is only when the clouds move on that we look back, not knowing what we are seeking but sure we’ve missed something meaningful.
Thus, if I could give my younger self a bit of guidance now that I’ve had some time to deposit moments in my memory bank, I would share the following.
Contrary to popular belief, filling your bank account with money shouldn’t be your ultimate goal in life. Money may make some aspects of your life more comfortable, give you a sense of security, and maybe provide some experiences you might not have otherwise. However a memory bank full of moments and each tiny detail that makes up a single moment in time is definitely worth your effort. Don’t miss out on the many opportunities to fill your memory bank with “moments.” Good or bad, each moment will be one of many of life’s valuable experiences. It will be scary sometimes to think of what the future holds, but know that it will be filled with many many moments…some of which you will learn a painful lesson from and some of which you will want to relive over and over again. Just know that a memory bank full of “moments” will be more valuable than gold when you get older.
It was the summer of 1970 when a little boy was born to a young couple in Atlanta, Georgia. His name was chosen to honor another young boy who gave his life for our country. On that day, as one boy came into the world to parents filled with hopes and dreams for his life, another young boy’s parents had already laid their little boy to rest as a Vietnam Veteran…burying their own hopes and dreams.
Neither ever got to meet the other, yet that little boy grew to become one of the most patriotic men I know. His love for our country and his passion for our history make me proud to stand by his side as we instill the same passion and love for the United States of America in our own children and continue to honor the boy he was named after.
In honoring his name, we honor all those who chose to fight for our freedom. In honoring his name, we honor all those who suited up before him and entered the battlefield. In honoring his name, we honor all those who walked before him, those who protect us today, and those who will choose to follow in their footsteps. Each and every one of these young men and women may not share the same name on their birth certificate or their dog tags, but they do share a name we should never fail to honor…Soldier.
May you each enjoy your Memorial Day and thank a soldier this weekend!
“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” – Anatole France
“From wherever you are, enter and be welcome.” – Albert Camus
“If you are going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill
“Ask and it will be given to you:
Seek and you shall find;
Knock and the door will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7
“Footfalls echo in the memory, Down the passage which we did not take,
toward the door we never opened into the rose-garden.” – T. S. Eliot