Pretending to be Normal

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Tonight I pretended to be normal. I think I even looked normal. Casually, I sat next to another soccer mom, and we chatted for an hour and a half while Sarah practiced. I let my papers remain in my bag, untouched and ungraded. I didn’t even pretend to grade papers to assuage my guilt. I didn’t reach into the bag.  NOT ONCE! I didn’t lift my grading pen. NOT ONCE! I didn’t answer any emails. I sat and talked and watched the team practice. I enjoyed just being there. I enjoyed being present.

Basically, I pretended to be normal. I let go of my frazzled overworked self. I let go of the things unfinished. I set aside my teacher identity (well, except for a few slip ups in conversation). I allowed myself to be normal. I allowed myself to be present. I let myself stop and relax.

The masquerade is over. The papers await.  In a little bit, I will wield my pen and grade some more, tap on the keyboard and plan some more, look at some resources and read some more, go to the LMS and post some more.

I think I need to pretend to be normal more often. Normal might be boring, but at this point in my life, I think I’d like a little boring.

Maybe I shouldn’t open my school bag; maybe I should watch mindless TV. Maybe I should indulge in more normalacy. I used to talk of a “school free” night where my husband and I wouldn’t grade papers or do any schoolwork. Maybe the school free night needs to come back to my house. The whole family could pretend to be normal, and we could celebrate Normalacy Night.

Not sure I can do it, but right now the idea sounds like something I’d like to try.

Normalacy. Presence. Relaxation. Stopping. Family time. Yes, these sound good.

Don’t become concerned. I won’t stay normal long. I’ll just play the role every now and then.

 

 

NO

Meghan Trainor’s song came to my mind at a department head meeting last week. I told a friend that when it comes to this summer I’m like Meghan Trainor and my name is no.  I’m so glad my principal encouraged me to think before I over-commit this summer.

I gave 3 BIG NOS–NO to curriculum writing, NO to writing project, NO to field-test item review. This will give me much needed down time for me and my family as well as some reading/prep time for my new curriculum.

Maya’s teacher version of Meghan Trainor’s song “No”

I think I can’t refute and this year I’m so beat.
How I’ve let my time discourage me and take away from me
But you need to stop me here, oh, before I speak

Nah to the ah to the no, no, no
My name is no
A class–oh no
My summer says no.
I need to let it go
I need to let it go
Need to let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no
My name is no
A class-oh no
My summer says no.
I need to let it go
I need to let it go
Need to let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no

First I’m gonna play the teachin’ game, thinkin’ I’m needin’ extra cash
Call me professional, so incredible, telling me I need to teach this class.
I need some time my own, before I go insane, and maybe I’ll be needing therapy

Blah, blah, blah, I be like nah to the ah to the no, no, no
All my teachers, listen up
If you feel like giving up
Purse your lips and take this tip
Teacher all you gotta say is
My name is no
A class–oh no
My summer says no.
I need to let it go
I need to let it go
Need to let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no
My name is no
A class-oh no
My summer says no.
I need to let it go
I need to let it go
Need to let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no
Pay me in advance, I need my summer dance (yep)
I need a break–a summer just for me
If I want a class, then I’mma get a class.
But this year’s summer’s my priority.

This summer is my own,
I need to sing my song,
don’t want you to take this personal
Blah, blah, blah, I be like nah to the ah to the no, no, no
All my teachers, listen up
If that break you giving up
Purse your lips and take this tip
Teacher all you gotta say is
My name is no
A class-oh no
My summer says no.
I need to let it go
I need to let it go
Need to let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no
My name is no
A class-oh no
My summer says no.
I need to let it go
I need to let it go
Need to let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no
I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
(nah to the ah to the, no, no, no)
I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
I’m feeling
(nah to the ah to the, no, no, no)
All my teachers, listen up
If that break you giving up
Purse your lips and take this tip
Teacher all you gotta say is

My name is no
A class-oh no
My summer says no.
I need to let it go
I need to let it go
Need to let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no
My name is no
A class-oh no
My summer says no.
I need to let it go
I need to let it go
Need to let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no

I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
I’m feeling
Nah to the ah to the, no, no, no

Letter of Reflection/Encouragment

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Day 31 of 31 of Year 5 Slicing & First Year I’ve Posted Daily before Midnight

The other morning I was listening to the Jeff and Jenn Show ( & ) on Star 94.1 and I got an idea for a my last blogpost of the month. You see the DJs both wrote letters to themselves (Jenn’s letter, Jeff’s letter). These were letters they wrote to themselves, letters of reflection and encouragement inspired from a producer who had done the same thing when first moving to Atlanta.

After a month of daily blogging, I feel like an inspirational letter of challenge would be a good way for me to think about how I can heed my words moving forward.

Dear Maya,

Congratulations! For the first time in 5 years of slicing with Two Writing Teachers, you have  met the midnight deadline in your daily blogs. Wow! Way to go! When you focus on  a goal and set your sights on it, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to achieving. That is something that you are finally seeing at the age of 47. 

Even though the blogging takes a lot of time, you become much more cognizant of the little things in life as you write daily. You have an outlet for your swirling thoughts, and you are able to process things and gain a more realistic perspective. With the encouragement from reader friends who discuss your posts with as well as teachers who you’ve never met who leave comments, you are able to make sense of the challenges you face.

Just this month you have written and reflected and come to a greater understanding of the nuances of your principal as you wrote of his “Button Pushing Hyperbolic Subtlety” as well as with “The Best.”  

You dealt with writer’s block with parodies, haiku, and bad poetry. Haikuing your way out of writer’s block and filling your blog space, baby, that made for fun moments.

You squared off with your #oneword2016, deliberate, asked some tough questions, and tried some new things. Of course, remember what your “nuts and bolts” principal tells you, “Maya, you’ve got to try something for longer than a few days to know if it works.” Maya, reflect on what you’ve written and tried this month but not for too long. Remember you’ve decided that you need to have a “Bias Towards Action.” Remember that you getting things done will give you more of what you need and more of what your family needs.

Spend your break rereading some of your posts, so you can take reflection into action. Maya, you’ve come a long way. Your words on your blog help you process, but you know, girl, that without action reflection is nothing. Reflection needs to turn into something. You need to set goals–stretch and smart goals, so you can begin to accomplish what you set out to do.  Your kids are growing up. Spend some time with Duhigg–read the rest of Smarter Better Faster: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. You’ll find it refreshing to read a book from outside of the realm of education, and it might be just what you need, a new perspective to fix old problems–deliberateness, prioritization, balance. Remember, though, if you can post and comment for 31 days straight, you can build routines and habits in other areas of life as well. Don’t let the process culminate as words on a screen–make this process something that can be seen. 

Today as you walked with Sarah through the parking lot, you were holding hands as you walked.  A part of you wanted to freeze that moment in time as you began to fear the time that would come when she would no longer hold your hand in parking lots. 

Yes, you have a stack of papers. Yes, you want to engage your students. Yes, you get pulled up and down the hall to help people with technology. At the end of the day, though, you know who the most important people are in your life. Live that love for family. Prioritize. Be deliberate. Figure out how to be Smarter Better Faster

Your boss is right about that. You need to take down time. You need to calendar your down time. In fact, you need to figure out  over break because you know he’s going to ask you when you plan to shut down. Don’t even say you can’t shut down for a few weeks. You can. You will. You must. For your family. For your students. For your coworkers. For yourself. Your health and well-being depend on it. Remember that blog post about letting go

Remember, Maya,  what Jon Gordon wrote. Remember that post you wrote about it–when you feel like you haven’t done something to the best of your ability, when you feel less than successful. When you see a 2 on an evaluation based on a 10 minute window–the way you see each moment is a matter of your perspective. You are not failing; you are becoming. Continue the process of becoming each and every day.

Love,

Maya

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Husband

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Day 29 of 31

My Husband

My girlfriends sometimes
tell me to quit talking
when I speak of my husband
Why?
because he is just that amazing.

In fact, don’t even start
with the slacker stereotypes
about husbands
because I’d be the slacker husband
He runs circles
around me
and the rest of the kids.
Did I say the rest of the kids?
Sadly,
yes.

Taking care of us all–
lunches
driving
trips to the
store
doctor’s office
school
practice.

He takes care of my mom–
When we were dating
I knew he was the one
by the way he took care
of his grandmother
mowing
shopping
at multiple stores
for sales and coupons
fixing things
just being there.

Now he is all about being there
but where am I?
Must–find–time.

Maybe tonight…
blogging early.
there are those papers to grade,
a sick child
soccer practice.

In the busyness of life
I must capture the moments
for this man I adore
who adores me, too.

Maybe tonight I’ll grade,
so the break will be ours,
a family getaway.
Mountains.
cabin.
hot tub
and no
daily slices.

 

Let Go

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Maya: I don’t know if I’ll ever find be able to do it all well and find the balance.

Principal: The things you love to do take so much of time. Your blogging, your planning, your technology…

Maya: Yeah, but those are the things that I love to do, the things that fuel my passion.

This is not the first time he and I have had this conversation, the conversation about me going and going and going without shutting down, without balancing school and work. The truth is I blame it on him sometimes: his high expectations, his ever-increasing bars, the standard he sets of being the best/being excellent all the time, his challenging me to keep climbing his proverbial mountain. And yes, I know I’ll never reach the peak, so I do sometimes wonder why I’m not just happy to stop and rest along the way.   Perhaps on some level this is about my will to be the best as well as his push for me to be the best challenging me to face setbacks with the attitude  of, “BRING IT ON!”

At the same time, I think my self-created distractions get in the way of my climb. I think of what takes my time, what wastes my time, what could be pruned, and what needs to be kept. I love blogging daily for the month of March. I love the way I see things differently, more deeply, more introspectively. I love the way it gives my thoughts somewhere to live. At the same time, at the end of the month, I’m always glad to let go of that commitment.

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How can I be a person who lets go of something every day instead of a person who keeps trying to acquire? Where is the balance of those two things? On some level, I think I have to discern what I need to acquire while at the same time discerning what I can let go of.  I think that if I am truly to find the complete and balanced person I seek to become this will be where the wisdom is found.

Words of wisdom do come from unlikely sources–my principal who pushes my buttons–he inherently gets shutting down, turning off the phone, taking time to get away from things. He gets letting go.

In his mind, there is little ambiguity; instead there is compartmentalization, prioritization, strategy, and deliberateness all developing seamlessly in his mind and working out naturally in his actions. His tasks are written and checked off as completed and deleted and pruned or set aside for a bit as deemed unnecessary because of shifting priorities.

Pursuit of knowledge. Questioning. Seeking to grow. Seeking to know. Fueling my passion. Finding the balance. I’m not sure where my answer lies; I’m not sure what to prune in order to gain room for balance and perhaps even wisdom (I mean I’m getting closer to 50–wisdom should come soon, shouldn’t it?).  I just know that some things need to go, yet how do I know what needs to go that won’t affect how I grow?

Perhaps an all or nothing approach isn’t the answer–perhaps the answer is in my OLW, my OneWord, deliberate. Deliberate wisdom. Deliberate balance. Deliberate living. Perhaps I don’t need to seek an answer or force an answer; perhaps I just need to let go.

Don’t Blink

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Baby Toes?

Adorable kissable baby toes–don’t  you just love them?   Look at those little toes–those aren’t the toes of my 8-year-old, are they?  Where did the baby toes go?

Tonight I painted Sarah’s fingernails and toenails because tomorrow is picture day. Yes, I know the nails won’t show, but that didn’t stop her insistence.

As we sat across from each other, we laughed, talked, sang, and cut up. Times like tonight make me wonder why I let so many potential moments pass me by?  Look at those toes. One day they’ll be as big as mine.

 

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Simple Pleasures

Sometimes I get so caught up in the responsibilities of teaching that I forget about the simple pleasures of being a mom.

Actually, I think that’s kind of sad and pathetic because, after all, my first role as teacher is all about the footsteps I walk in my own house.

 

 

I adore my kids. As an “older” parent, I sometimes shake my head when people say something like, “Don’t blink because they will be all grown up. Hold on to each precious moment.”

Tonight I saw a precious moment in a simple pleasure–simply being together in an ordinary moment. And in the moment what I found was the extraordinary in the ordinary. And tonight I didn’t want to blink for fear that those little baby toes would be all grown up.

Truly living life is about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. A few jars of nail polish, and a little girl time–so simple, so beautiful–extraordinary. As I wrapped my arms around Sarah, she took my phone to snap the shot. As soon as I looked at the photo, I knew I didn’t want to blink.

 

 

Celebrating My Kids

 

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School Parking Lot at Sundown

My teacher friend coworker Aimee posted this picture on Facebook the other night with the caption, “Always the 3 of Us at Sundown.” Sad but true. Today I want to celebrate the times that I am not obsessed with school. Today I celebrate my kids and the life, laughter, and love they add to my life.

 

 

 

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Dinner with Michael (and his homework–not my schoolwork!)

Camera shy Michael hid behind his cookie. He and I had dinner and hung out at Subway. He did his homework after dinner, and I wrote a blog post. Having some time for just the two of us was nice. We had some time to be silly and get stuff done at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stuck!

 

While trying to get his phone, Michael , my sixth grade boy, got stuck behind the sofa. He took a selfie to prove it to me. Having hurt his knee this week he was unable to push the sofa out. At first I thought Michael was playing a trick on me, but no, he was really stuck behind the sofa. Kids, one moment they are independent, and the next moment they are in need of our help. Michael was fine, though, while he waited for help. He listened to a game, played on his phone, and tried to take a nap.

 

 

 

 

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“Mom, there’s an error on this shirt. It should be fiercely.”

In the above photo, my nerdy little Sarah correct the error on the shirt. Being the product of two English teacher parents,she wields a red pen.  Gotta love my little grammar girl! Needless to say she did not want to buy the shirt above.

The one she bought today had the quote, “I’m not strong for a girl. I’m just strong.” A perfect shirt for her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life is so much more entertaining with children probably because they Live life fiercely!

 

Inspiring Virtues

Discover. Play. Build.

This week I lost my second father, a friend, a Franciscan Friar, an instrumental person in my life. Though I haven’t seen Father Linus DeSantis in years, his words continue to nurture me, inspire me, and push me forward. His death has me rethinking the steps  I took in my journey while he was ministering to me, while we were serving together, and since he left Atlanta in 2007 to serve at Syracuse University.

On a memorial page for  Fr. Linus, a friend and employee of Fr. Linus remembered these words that Fr. Linus would tell those in mourning, “Think of the person you love who has passed and pick one characteristic, one virtue that inspires you, and adopt that as your own in their memory and honor.” As I think through his virtues, several emerge that I could really use to adopt. Choosing one may be impossible:

  • Focused: In each moment, focused on a particular task, Fr. Linus took the time to zoom in to the person, sacrament, or situation and serve and be present.
  • Present: I’ve never seen any other minister or priest so fully present to people as well as to God  He never failed to meet me where I was and help me move forward.
  • Resolute: The man was friend and priest and father and counselor to many. I don’t know how he did it. In his resolve to serve God, he managed to be instrumental in the lives of thousands, I am sure.
  • Intentional: His time was planned and purposeful, and he seemed to go about each day purposeful in each moment, whether dining with college students, celebrating Mass, serving  as spiritual director on TEC retreats, or hanging out with friends.
  • Authentic: Even when arching an eyebrow at a behavior unfitting or an objective case pronoun misused, Fr. Linus was honest, true, and faithful.
  • Prudent: Wisdom in action–Linus didn’t just say the words; he lived the words.
  • Prayerful: When Fr. Linus spoke words of prayer to God aloud or silently, I could tell he had a special connection, and through his connection, I by virtue of occupying a space near him felt more connected.
  • Inspiring: Each time I went to  church where Fr. Linus presided,  I felt close to God and connected to community. When I left Mass, I felt the challenge to be a better person, to live more fully with my God, to be more present to others, to serve more, to let go of my stuff.
  • Encouraging: Even when holding me accountable, I felt encouraged and inspired. Fr. Linus made me want to be a better person. His words of wisdom encouraged me.

 


 

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A List I Made from Prayers/Challenges/Penance from Fr. Linus (even 8 years later–I can tell how well he knew me from this list).

 

Other Words of Wisdom from Fr. Linus (some appear as photo captions):

Maya, when you’re everywhere, you are nowhere.

Maya, if you’re angry yell at God. Do what you need to do. Let Him know you’re still there. Just don’t quit talking to him.

Maya, if you are in the cesspool, take God there with you. When you’re down and discouraged, when you feel alone, don’t leave Him then. That’s when  you need him most. 

Maya, sometimes you don’t have to leave the country to go on a mission trip; sometimes your mission is to just be present to your family. They are your most important mission.

 

From a Lenten Mass: So you’re giving up chocolate or coffee for Lent–that’s great, but what are you going to do for God. How about you give up gossip? How about you give up picking on your sister? How about you give up judging others?

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Be patient, Maya. Take small steps in the journey. You will still get there.             Just stay the course. 
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God is present with you. Where ever you are. You don’t have to be in church to know God’s presence.
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It’s not the stuff you do. It’s the way you do the stuff you do.                (Photo: Maya, Fr. Linus, Ana)
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Wedding on April 5, 2003

IMG_0011Goodbye Celebration for Father Linus Maya (2 weeks before Sarah was born), Fr.  Linus, Michael, Mike

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Collage from Memorial at Syracuse University
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It’s not the stuff you do; it’s the way you do the stuff you do.
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Father Linus DeSantis, 1943-2015       Peace and all good things.

An Unplanned Lesson

Join teacher writers and slice on Tuesdays.
Join teacher writers, and slice on Tuesdays.

In the classroom, sometimes I shift what I am doing when a student makes a comment or asks a question that leads to a teachable moment. When I take the time to recognize these moments, the unplanned lessons that follow are often powerful and beyond what I, as a teacher, could ever create.

In the “outdoor classroom” nature  becomes my teacher when I allow the unteachable moments to take hold in me. This week while hiking a nature trail at Carter’s Lake, I noticed an Einstein quote about nature  on an informational sign, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

On Nature
Einstein On Nature

 

Those words about nature moved me much more than     emc2    ever did.

 

After reading that sign, I decided to photograph images that would bring meaning to those words (so I could blog about something other than QR codes). Of course, what followed were more signs with words that moved me and more images to capture.  Perhaps the “sign” for me was in powerful quotes on the signs. As I sought to capture the meaning of the words in what was around me, I found myself looking deeper into nature, understanding everything better, and finding counsel in the trees. And all this happened because I embraced a teachable moment and let an unplanned lesson guide my day.

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With all the words and images, I decided to share what I found when I looked deeper into nature through words and images in an Animoto video.

Here is my unplanned lesson from nature:

Anni

Slice on Tuesdays with TwoWritingTeachers
Slice on Tuesdays with TwoWritingTeachers

“Even if things don’t work out between you and my son, we will always be friends.” At 20-years-old, this sounded really bizarre coming from this eccentric Danish/Georgian/Floridian artist. I met Anni at the Shrimp Festival in Fernandina, Florida. I had been dating her son for awhile, and he and I had traveled down to Florida for the Shrimp Festival and for introductions to his Danish family. This was the beginning of my forever friendship with Anni.

Anni has been true to her friendship; even now 26 years later she and I are friends. She put up with me even when I left her son two months before the wedding. I even worked for her a time or two helping her sell her art while making a bit of money.

In my mid 20s when I told Anni I was going back to school to become a teacher, she was thrilled for me. Floundering as a bartender/waitress with a psych degree, she knew the world had better plans for me, and she wanted to help me make them happen. She paid my tuition. She said, “Maya, you will be a great teacher, and I want to help you.” With that she got out her checkbook and said, “I am not asking for you to pay me back. I want to help you out. The only string is that if one day, you can help someone out like this, do that.”  She saw who I could become, and she put her money on me. I just saw myself as a bartender with a degree in psychology.

She watched me go through relationships, and she was thrilled when I found Mike. Even now, she says Mike is an angel on earth, and she’s right–he is pretty amazing. She welcomed my children with little red wagons filled with goodies. “Every child needs a Red Rider,” she would say.

She really is part of my family, too. She is a Dane, and I am half Icelandic and a quarter Danish—we are Nordically connected you could say—perhaps all having horns and a conquering spirit. She helped my family when my dad was dying. When I could not imagine another trip to Emory’s Cancer Center for Dad’s radiation, she jumped in and took several trips with Dad and helped him enjoy life a little in those last days as they went on side trips to restaurants he liked. She supported my mom as a widow and encouraged my mom with her own art.

Yesterday I said goodbye to Anni, my forever friend. Her kidneys have failed and with dialysis as her only option, she is not interested in spending half of her days hooked up to a machine as she watches her body deteriorate, so she is refusing dialysis and has entered into hospice care.

She is like a second mom, a cheerleader, a confidant, a friend, and a person who has always been there when I need her. She listened as I told her about my recent opportunities at school and with KMWP. With her hand holding mine telling me that she knew she put her money on the right horse.

And so, now, I don’t want to say goodbye to Anni. I guess I don’t have to either. She may leave this earth soon, but her spirit will always be a part of me because she has helped me become the person I am today and helps me continue to seek the person I can become. I want her to always know that she put her money on the right horse.

Anni is still, and will always be, my forever friend.