Stealing is common in middle school. Developmentally it is appropriate-because it has an element of risk that doesn’t involve the loss of life or limb. It can also come from being in “lack” circumstances. This year the problem has been (fill in the blank with a word that means really really big). Kids have had to move because of foreclosures or they had homes with amenities one day and go home the next day to find it all gone or shut off. I know because they tell me. Note to parents-kids do know more than you think.
To kind of make them feel comfortable with the stress the tone in my classroom is more familial. My role is an Aunt Jemima that went to Jenny Craig. I have the habits without the hips. We have had cocoa parties, cookie parties, sucker parties and whatever tastes good and will allow for a 10 minute celebration of life. It changed the class to a comfort zone and a source of temporary refuge from the stress outside my classroom doors.
Some yahoo messed with my refuge and went about stealing pencils. One day he/she or it stole 6 pencils. When there is only 13 kids in the classroom that’s a lot. It was a mess. I had to call for backup and get my tall, bald headed, steely blue eyed, non smiling friend to give interrogations to get to the bottom of the issue. We never found the pencil stealer, but it put out the message that stealing is not cool. It was so effective that whenever anybody says they’re missing a pencil everybody, myself included, raises their hands in the air and says to whomever is near them, “It wasn’t me.”
So the stealing for the most part stopped. Then one of them tried stealing my ipod. It was one of those moments in life where I saw the multiple choice options. I could
A. Slap it out of his hand and claim temporary insanity
B. Break out into open prayer (that’s a chapter in my book)
C. Send him to my tall friend
D. Warn him
I chose “D”
Sounding more ghetto that I intended I said, “Yo, that ipod has Christian music. If you take it you will hear God’s voice talking to you in the middle of the night.” He threw the ipod down so hard it turned on and we both laughed about it. Now, I’m thinking about buying pencils with bible verses. I bet you they’d stay in my room the entire school year.
O.k so I tried the “Big Girl” shoes again. Mrs. B was looking all kinds of cute with her tropical looking dress and leggings to hide the knees. I was looking so good some kids did a second look. Joking I told them it was all right, that people mistake me for Beyonce all the time. The kids laughed uncertainly, looking at me hard to see if I was joking. Of course I was; that’s just something I say to lighten up the mood at school.
So I get through the day without incident and am beginning to feel confident about my as Trya Banks would say “high fashion” look. That’s when life took the opportunity to humble me again.
The after school kids run around in the field before they come in to do their math. Shoot if I wasn’t so much older I’d run around with them. These kids are bigger than me, but still have fun playing tag and just being plain silly. The weather is nice and the grass is green-while it is snowing in the other states. Three months from now, nobody wants to be outside running around. Naturally, when it is time to come into class they aren’t able to hear the teacher (wink, wink).
This means Mrs. B has to go fetch some children so she can teach them math. Actually I am kind of liking the idea because that gives me a chance to run around in the grass. A little problem presents itself-the big girl shoes. I will sink with every step because of the heel. So I take them off and carry them by the straps. The toes are stretching waiting to feel the grass between them.
Four steps out and reality hits. The grass is green because it has weeds that have little round stickers in them. My mind is saying ouch in three different languages. The arms go in the air like if I raise them higher, I’ll weigh less. At that moment one of the kids looks up, sees the pain in my face and the strappy sandal in the air and screams to the other kids, “She got out the chankla” That is spanglish for she is going to whoop us old school style.
They start running to the class like it is safety. O.k. mission accomplished I turn around. The kids were running so fast they didn’t realize I wasn’t chasing them until they looked back from the class. I still have 10 painful steps until I reach the safety of the cement. My new favorite student comes running back.
“Mrs. B were you really going to hit us with the chankla?”
Now I’m stepping, removing stickers and moving on to the next step. “No I tell him,” and go on to explain that I took off my sandals because I thought I could walk faster on the grass.
“That wasn’t such a smart idea” he says back to me and heads back to the class.
Sometimes the wisdom that comes out of the mouth of babes is scary. I think I’m sticking to the Converse All Stars.
This is the time of the year when I have to step up my game. The kids have grown 3 and 4 inches and are getting to be as tall as me. With the new height comes a new attitude that needs to get fixed quick. So I step up my game and pull out the big girl shoes. The three inch heels are a definite change from my ballerina flats, gladiator sandals or Chuck Taylors. I am on my feet for up to twelve hours and I never know when I’m going to run across the school to break up a fight. So heels are not an everyday event for Mrs. B. The kids notice.
Back in the day when Mrs. B was a cute little thing she dreamed of moving to South America and becoming a model. After ten years of snack time and intense graduate study I have acquired a nerd persona. I’m sure that my glasses, hair that stands on end when I am upset and being the proud owner and wearer of my daily denim shirt collection helped the process along. My dreams of South America have changed into the ultimate field trip or literature study. Now I live vicariously through the Next Top Model Marathon. So when I wear my big girl shoes I strut. If Tyra could see me she’d be proud.
My personalityalso changes with my wardrobe change. Time has taught me that attitude change is a sign of changes in cognition. Those kids are thinking differently and I use it as an opportunity to step up my game. The teachable moments increase and I my tone is a little more serious and the expectations increase. We talk about honor and respect and the things we do to maintain the tone in the classroom. In turn they have a respect for the learning opportunities and embrace them.
So today we are reading an article written by Malcom Forbes. Mrs. B is walking around the room as she teaches and reads. The kids are engaged and high level conversations are taking place. Imaginary t.v. cameras are capturing the moments so audience across the United States can say “Wow I wish I was in that classroom!” Then it happens.
For anyone watching the movie and seeking to copy the moment I recommend not strutting in big girl shoes and reading at the same time. As the reading becomes more intense and all of us are ooohing I lose it. You know those moments when you know you are going to fall so you send your arms flailing to try to save yourself. Yep-that’s what happened. Leaning back, one leg in the air, my arms flail and I catch myself before I topple on top of a kid. The amazing thing is the moment came and went so quickly I never lost a beat reading. It was one of those if you didn’t see it you didn’t know the moment existed.
Unfortunately for Mrs. B the kids were giving me their undivided attention. So they saw it. They tried to keep it together, and probably would have if I didn’t go on with the strut. Five steps out of the moment the laughter starts escaping through closed lips. It was a chorus of rasberries followed by a cacophony of laughter. I smiled while they laughed. If I didn’t have to keep my cool I would have been rolling with them. Shoot! That keeping my cool was what got me in trouble in the first place.
Every time we tried to go back to the article a snicker broke out. The lesson was done. For today, those big girl shoes were my undoing.
September was the best month. Actually August and October were too. That was when I officially felt 40. All of a sudden thing that would normally upset me, just didn’t matter. After all, I was too old for the “drama.” It was my turn to tell younger people that there was more to life than worrying about whatever problem they felt was pressing them. By 40 you know you are out of contol and you do the best you can with the hand that life has dealt you. It was like riding the roller coaster at Disneyland. (If my kids are reading this, Um by the way sons one weekend when I had you stay at a friends house for a weekend I went to Disneyland. But life paid me back for the wrong. I caught the Asian flu and was so sick I thought I was going to die. I will never go to a fun place without my minor children.) It’s exciting because of that free fall feeling; yet in your heart of hearts you know that you’re not going to die. That’s what makes the roller coaster so fun. That’s what 40 feels like. The roller coaster is still there
So what happened last night should not have happened. Ooh, if I was in my 20’s it would sound like something risque. But I’m 40, so it was one of those life defining moments. I’m putting the yearbook pages together and I can not find the pictures for the entire boys basketball season. I am overcautious when handling the pictures. I will not delete a picture until I am absolutely sure that I have it saved in two and sometimes three different locations. Let’s take a gander in the “my picture file.” Not there? Hmmm, what about the 8 gig flash drive. Nope this uncomfortable feeling is creeping in my chest. What about the flash drive from last year that I keep as a safety? Now I am agitated. This is not like me. Maybe I put it on another SD card. Now I’m reminding myself that I am 40. That means I am responsible. Right? So I go through three of my backups. I go through every backup I have and am falling and don’t think I can get up.
Go to sleep and you’ll find it. I still have two other computers that I use for yearbook. The day was long I worked 11 hours and forgot to eat. The best thing is to go to sleep and deal with the problem in the morning. Too bad my heart wasn’t listening to my head. An hour into a supposed to be peaceful slumber my heart was sad. How could I have messed up something so important? The kids will be disappointed. The season ended a month ago so there is no way I could go back and retake the pictures. At 12:30 I am up. Like a ghost I go back to my hauntings and try to relive moments. What was I doing at the time I took the pictures. Thinking that perhaps my fatigue caused an oversight so I go through all the flash drives.
All the while my heart is telling me that the pictures are on my desk computer. Go to sleep and it will be o.k. in the morning. But I can’t go to sleep because if I am wrong I have potentially hurt people. Yet I know I am right because this is one of those things with which I am especially careful. My head will not let the rest of me rest. My eyes watched the hours go by and now I wonder if I should get a substitute. Finally by 3 a.m. I am relaxed enough to go to sleep.
Sure enough I go into work and head straight to the computer and lo and behold the pictures are on the computer. That scream you heard at about 8 am Mountain Standard Time was me screaming with joy. The beauty of loving your job is the passion is there even when you aren’t. There was a moment when I had to fuss because the kids were trying to get away with not learning. This is nothing new, but more than I could handle. There was a rant. Normally the kids burst out in fits of laughter when I rant. It is the truth explained in a way that is less than conventional but the truth and it is in a weird sort of way a bonding moment for us. After my rant one of the kids hearing the fatigue in my voice asked me, “are you crying?’ My response was an honest, “No I’m just really tired.” After that teaching was a joy. The kids learned and even commented on how the way I explained things helped clarify things they were confused about prior.
The problem is none of this should have happened. I am 40 and know my strengths and am growing comfortable with my weaknesses. The weaknesses make for a more effective person because the vulnerabilty forces me to work through love. That is why I would never have deleted a picture from a camera before making sure it was in a safe place. My head, my strength doubted. Conversely, my heart, my weakness, knew it. You’d think that I’d have figured it out by 40. It better happen soon, because I’m getting too old to stay up at night worrying about a problem that never existed in the first place. …………………………………….
Or maybe- moments like this happen so I can be sympathetic when I walk in and see one of my students sitting in the hallway with their hands in their head crying because they are so overwhelmed with whatever feeling that has rocked their world. It is nights like these that add the tenderness in my voice when I sit on the ground next to them and try to console them through their pain. So maybe the sleepless night wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
In January our Pastor called for a fast. I chose a meat fast; which on the surface seemed easy, but in reality kicked my proverbial behind. Whenever a person fasts for spiritual reasons life has a way of doing two things: 1.Showing the person things they need to work on and 2. helping them break through a problem and get it resolved.
Unbeknown to me I was going to learn all the bad things about myself. Now if my husband or children would have shared these little truths with me I could have gotten defensive, self righteous and all that good stuff. No, I had to go and do something and after doing it a voice in my heart would say…”gee that is rather controlling,” or “you should have said that with a more loving tone.” Then it would sink deeper into my stomach as I felt myself wanting to shrink into the furniture.
Now we know from prior writings that my fat talks to me. Well it was not pleased with the sudden decrease in consumption of (of all things) bacon and fried chicken. Here I am trying to be more sophisticated and the country (as my dad likes to say, because he didn’t raise me ghetto) comes out. On Sundays people would talk about the great things happening in their lives. The wannabe holy Trish could only cry about the loss of a longtime love in her life…bacon.
Overachievers have to talk themselves into quitting. That’s why they’re overachievers, by the time they decide to quit, the job is done. My fat was helping the it’s time to quit the fast conversation when the strangest thing happened. Actually anybody that knows my neighborhood would say strange is the norm where we live.
We have a high population of homeless people. My children saw their first lady of the evening coming home from the local grocery store. I think we are the meth mecca too. All this bad stuff and nobody moves, because the houses are nice and we live on a mountain.
We probably have a high homeless population because people like me do things like feed them when they ask for money. I’ll take them to McDonalds or KFC and sit down and have a meal with them. The only stipulation is they know that God put it in my heart to help them-so they gotta understand that God does care about them. The way I wrote it is how I say it and they’re cool with it. Then when I get home I pray like I’m their mama for them.
Back to the story-I’m getting ready to give up on the fast. I go to the post office to mail some packages and one of my regulars is there. I am mentally preparing myself for the conversation and the meal that we’ll share afterwards. What happened next is the reason why I fast.
This woman who had been a lady of the evening for years approached me and said, “I want you to know that I know you have been praying for me.” gulp. Everybody in the post office turned around. She continued “and I am here to tell you that your prayers have been answered.” I was so not ready for that! She went on to explain that she was off the streets, drug free and had a home, clothes and a computer.
At this point I’m feeling bad for thinking about quitting the fast. Dang another Trish you suck moment. How many more of these am I gonna face? The bible has a verse about confessing sins so I did. I thanked her for sharing that and told her how I was fasting and having a hard time with it. She did a me…she said, “God sent me here to tell you to keep on fasting and praying, because he hears your prayers.” I am dumbstruck. A lady in the line starts crying and the moment ended as soon as it began.
As I left the post office I saw the lady sitting down next to a homeless person and talking to him like I used to talk to her. They were just talking about whatever. I smiled and had what I needed to finish the fast. I’d like to say I was a little holier, but that wouldn’t be me. What I can say is I let go of alot of those less than attractive attributes my heart revealed. And, I learned to like the less than sophisticated things about myself-because even though they may not be cool by Hollywood standards they are what makes me-me. And this story has another happy ending-the day my fast ended someone at the church gave me 3 pounds of bacon. You gotta love that kind of happy ending.
O.k. I am minding my own business. Kind of. I’m telling other people’s business. My husband’s business to be more precise. My sister and I are talking about the New Year’s Eve plans. She is going to stay at home and enjoy her family. They have a big tv. A really big t.v. Shoot if I had a big t.v. I’d be staying home too.
Since we don’t have a big t.v. we tend to do cutting edge things. Like watching our husband run the Midnight Run. It is a 5k that starts at 10:30 so even the slowest of runners can finish the race at midnight. This was to be Mr. B’s first 5k ever and I was going to be a witness to this monumental occasion. Not too many people get to brag that they saw their husband run his first 5k ever on New Year’s Eve. Are you getting it, that this is a moment to behold?
Judy didn’t either. She asks me why aren’t I running the 5k. There are lots of reasons that I don’t want to admit. First the truth-I haven’t run since October. Life took control of me. That’s embarrasing when that happens because successful people are supposed to be in control of their lives. Then there is another truth-I have been doing pilates because it is way easier than running. There is less sweat. Soothing music and less of a need for proper gear. That and I need the stretching. I hurt myself badly this summer because I didn’t stretch. Which takes us to reason number three. Fear, which is more embarrassing than reason number one. I was afraid if I ran I would hurt myself again. Of course I can’t admit this to the people I’d love. They’d laugh or even worse chagrin me.
“It is only three miles. You are the runner. blah blah blah and more blah.” So I suck it up and give in to sibling and spouse pressure. A long sleeve t-shirt over a tank top and under sweats, a hat, and gloves later I am ready to run. I had a play list that lasted thirty minutes-which was supposed to be enough to get me through the race. We, Mr. B and I, embark on our adventure. Did I mention my sister was at home watching her big t.v.?
We get there and there are couples wearing New Year’s Eve regalia. Father Time is all decked out and ready to run. There are some serious runners too. Shoot my chiropractor is there too and she is not wearing 200 pounds of clothes accessorized with the hat and gloves. Mrs. B is beginning to feel a little uncomfortable. I used to be a serious runner. What happened? Oh yeah, that life taking control thing.
The race begins. There was an older couple running together. Pointing to them I told Mr. B that would be us in 20 or so years. This was too much fun. I should have known that I was not going to make good time. The grin on my face for the first two miles was slowing me down. I was in heaven. Absolute heaven. I hadn’t felt this free and so much like myself in a long time. The songs in the ipod were helping me keep rhythm and I noticed when there was a really cool riff my pace increased. The gloves were in my pocket and the hat was in my waistband. If I wouldn’t have gotten arrested for indecent exposure I would have taken off my t-shirt and ran in my tank top. So far I only had to stop to tie my shoe. Really I was afraid of breaking an ankle or something important like that.
Then at the 2.1 mile mark something happened. I did not know this was possible. Did you know fat cusses? Yep it was saying all kinds of mean things to me. I argued back. “Well if you don’t like it you can leave.” I guees the relationship I had developed with it was stronger than I realized because it stuck around just trying to make me miserable. But it didn’t work I was still smiling.
Mile 2.5. The last song on the ipod was halfway throughand the old couple tried passing me. What? Oh no they didn’t I increased my pace. The legs were torn. Memories of long strides came to them and they wanted to run like in the old days. Then that stupid fat, like a bad boyfriend trying to stick around tried to ruin their mojo. Fortunately the good memories were stronger than the bad fat. All of a sudden Rhianna was ticking me off in a major way. If that ipod wasn’t so expensive I would have thrown it. Instead the earbuds went into the shirt and I pushed harder.
Mile 2.9 the smile is gone and I am serious about getting this race finished. I need to get to my cell phone and tell my sister about herself. What was she thinking telling me I could run this race. The lady in front of me probably interpretted my anger as aggressiveness and increased her pace. “It’s all good,” I say to myself “I know ther’es a story in this,” and just let her go. Like I had say in the matter.
My finishing time was 33:something. The official hugged me. He remembered that I didn’t want a timer chip because I was afraid that I would do poorly. I did, but it wasnt’ as embarrassing as I thought it would be and hey it got me a good job hug.
Mr. B finished three minutes ahead of me. I was kind of sad that I didn’t get to see him finish until he said…”Wow I am really surprised! I didn’t think you’d be able to do it.” I was too tired to say “WHAT? Oh no you didn’t!” Instead I laughed and smiled. Because you know I am going to train like (fill in the blank with a real famous athlete that we all look up to) to beat him at the next race. I was so happy to be done I forgot to call my sister. That and scared, she might have talked me into doing something else crazy.
It is the next day and the fat is really not happy with me. I might even go so far as to say it is angry with me. Like I said earlier..if it doesn’t like how things are going with our relationship it can leave.
Today-there was a dovetail with my technology. My youtube, blog and social networking. Like the cords of a rope my personality is complete and stronger. I used to have it all together with yahoo 360. There was a group of friends to share stories and encourage each other and my family could connect as well. But, something bad happened and the yahoo blogsite was uhm not so good. So the blogging went on hold and my heart kind of shut down. Who was I going to hear the stories? There was nobody to share their stories with me either. Ho hum. Life went on but it was boring.
Then for some crazy reason I joined facebook. Oh wait, it wasn’t crazy. My friend Roshaun told me about it. Turns out all my real world friends are on facebook and I was out in cyberland wandering around looking at nothing in particular. Or, because the pieces of my puzzle where so scattered a couple would fall out of the box.
Today, they all connected. I am a happy happy happy girl at this moment in time
My youngest child has been, uhm shall we say, a challenge. The child is doing things I never imagined were possible. Honestly he has been in a 6 month phase that made me consider writing a letter to Dr. Phil.
In desperation I fasted. Now, because I’m a teacher I can’t do a total fast. So I did an eat fruit during the day and eat one meal fast. To a person with self discipline this seems pansy. My students will tell you it was hard for me. My teacher’s assistant recommended I eat my one meal during the school day. I think it was because I accidently bit a kids finger thinking it was a french fry…just kidding, but I was a bit emotional. When I wasn’t teaching I was sleeping. The energy just wasn’t there.
And, you’d think my rotten kid would think “gee mom isn’t eating so she can get a revelation on how to parent me let’s behave.” No, he did the exact opposite. Drove me up the wall. Finally I screamed the declaration. “I have HAD IT. I’m calling Aunt Judy!”
If I’m not mistaken the Hallelujah choir broke through the cosmos and the boys had joined the celestial song. I wasn’t going to let their reverse psychology deter me. Boop beep boop the digits were being dialed.
Three minutes into the call my sister had me laughing so hard my glasses fell off. Ten minutes into the call she was telling me that I needed to put on my big girl panties and cope with the situation. Fifteen minutes into the call she was threatening to talk with the bad boy herself and the bad boy had the I have been busted sheepish grin. Twenty minutes into the call she stated that fasting was not a good idea and eating should commence immediately. (Did I mention I love my sister) Thirty minutes into the call we were talking about things sisters talk about but don’t really matter to the rest of the world.
My world was not perfect, but it was better. I was able to laugh through the confusion and the heartache that motherhood promises. My sister and I understand that our problems may not be funny today, but they will be 10 years from now. So why waste the 10 years and enjoy the laugh now. She’s my hero because when I forget that nugget of wisdom, she’s there to remind me.
Mrs. B has been out of the writing routine for quite some time. Apparently getting a degree via online courses are far more difficult than I imagined. The only thing left is writing the thesis, so it’s time to get back to being me.
I miss me. The writing me looks at things from a different perspective than the involved in the moment me. It’s ironic that when I write I live and embrace every moment. It is something worth sharing. Even if it doesn’t get recorded in a blog I have valued the moment to the fullest. By being an observer I am more of a participant in life.
As a writer I am more forgiving. Perhaps, it is because I know I am the world’s biggest tattle tale. If you hurt my feelings I will so tell on you. Knowing that something good, a story of course, will come out of this hurt it is easier for me to look at the situation with humor.
As I writer I laugh more; I think more; I love more and I breathe more.
A Christmas present I made for my sister