Walking Away

As a Mom and an education professional the beginning of this school year looked different for me than the start of school years passed. This school year was different because my five year old son started a new school. I started the school year on a scooter after having surgery on my ankle. Instead of driving my son to school and myself to work, my mother picked us both up and delivered us to our destinations…kind of like the old days when I was a child and she was my taxi; except we are older and an extra mini-me is tagging along in a carseat.

I was determined to “walk” my son into this new building with new faces and new ideas…that’s what mom’s do, right? So my Mom would pick us up each morning, drive us to my son’s school, and unload the scooter so I could “walk”, I mean “roll,” my son into school. Then my mom would load me up and take me to work and unload me again. I would roll away, dreaming of day I can walk away from the car on my own without assistance.  After about two and half months, I was cleared to walk again and our routine returned to normal.  I walked away.

On scooter or feet, there were many days at the beginning of the school year, when I walked my son into school and he held my hand tight or clung on to me because goodbyes can be hard (and kids are generally experts at guilt tripping parents). There were days he clung to my neck like a chimpanzee and days my skirt felt like it might fall to my knees from him tugging on me.  After dropping him off at school, I would get in my car and on the way to work worry about him. Luckily, my drive time worries were short lived with less than a mile drive to my place of work and the realities of my workday smacking in the face as soon as I enter the doors. But, on the short drive and throughout the day I worried about how long this behavior would keep up? Was he not transitioning well? Was there something I was missing? Shouldn’t he be outgrowing the clingy stage? And on and on the questions grew within my heart and mind.

For the first months of schools, we kept our routine up each morning, me talking about how big boys act at drop off and shoving him onto an activity with his friends or into the arms of his teacher as I dropped him off. I bribed him with ice-cream treats and other rewards if he acted like a big boy.  And then one day, it happened. I walked him into his classroom and he just walked away without a kiss, hug, or a goodbye. No tears. No chimpanzee moves. Nothing. I was stuck between the two conflicting universes of happy and sad. Should I skip out of the school singing or mope out crying? I think I skipped out of the building and then I cried.

Then a few days later, something bigger happened. We pulled up to his school one morning, I parked the car to get him out, and he said “Mom, I am going in by myself today. Just stay in the car.” To which I replied “well, I will walk you across the parking lot to the building and get the door for you.” And he replied to my suggestion with “No, I don’t want you to. I got this Modder (Mother).” So off he went across the parking lot with a bounce in his step wearing his oversized backpack and carrying his lunchbox. I watched him walk away.

As I watched him walk away, I recorded the moment in my forever memory bank. I played it over and over in my head for days to come as I thought about his new found behavior…his new freedom to walk away.

The remainder of our morning drop offs this year, go something like this. He unbuckles his car seat and hops out of the car. I help him put his backpack on and give him his lunch box. He gets a big hug and kiss from me. As he walks away, I yell out “I love you, have a great day, and make good choices.” Without turning around he yells back, “Okay, I love you too and I will. Okay Mom.” I watch him walk away from me and bounce with pep in his step to his next adventure. I walk away and I get in the car, close the door and my heart says a silent prayer of thanks for him with a universal request that the world is gentle on him today. And, let’s face it, that he will be gentle on the world, too. Each time he walks away, I can’t wait to hear about his great adventures on the other side of his day.

Not too long after he started walking into school on his own, I captured this video to remember the feelings and emotions I experienced of him walking away.

I have thought about the emotions associated with walking away. I know my Mom was happy to see me walk away and not have to haul me around anymore as a teenager and as an adult on a scooter, but she was probably also a little sad that she wasn’t needed in that same capacity any longer. It seems that society has programmed us to think of walking away with sadness and loss. Walking away has a bad connotation to it- it makes us feel like we are giving up, calling it quits, or losing something. When I think about moments I have walked away, for good/happy reasons or failure/sad reasons, it seems that happiness always emerged eventually. So maybe walking away isn’t so bad and it really is about seizing the next opportunity, rather than losing something you are walking away from in that moment. Maybe what you are walking into is more exciting, than the loss of what you are walking away from.

It’s my job to teach my son when and how to walk away. There will be various forms of chimpanzees that want to hold on to his neck to hold him back and prevent him from moving forward. Heck, there will be a day when I am senile and I might act like a chimpanzee. However, I want him to know the strength of being able to walk away and listen to his inner voice that says “I got this.”

There will be lots of times, this precious boy of mine will walk away. This life is his journey to walk, not mine. Really, I am just fortunate to be along for the ride…even if my view is his backside walking away. I hope I am lucky enough to see him walk away to his new big school next year, to middle school, to high school, and on to college (if any Notre Dame reps are reading this-he has plans for a soccer scholarship so just call us because we can commit early). I want to experience the joy and excitement when he walks away from me and onto opportunities like field trips, special adventures, traveling the globe, and serving others. I look forward to seeing him walk away from me and walk down the on isle to commit to the love of his life, to his first job, to go meet his first born, and all the other life moments HIS journey holds. A journey that includes many stops that are his to walk without me.

Today my spoon is full of anticipation of when I get a chance to walk with him like old times. For example, like when his valentine box was just too much too carry and he needed my help or when we had two dozen cupcakes to drop off at school. I proudly jump out of the car and walked with him.

Full Hands, Full Heart

What are little boys made of? According to a 19th century nursery rhyme

          What are little boys made of?

          Snips and snails    

         And puppy-dogs’ tails,

         That’s what little boys are made of.

The same rhyme states that little girls are made out of sugar, and spice, and everything nice. As a girl, I would have to agree. As a mom of a boy I can attest that on top of the snips of just about anything snippable, snails, and puppy dog tails that little boys are full of sugar, spice, and everything nice as well.  Mothering has allowed me to learn a lot about boys…and inadvertently I have a better understanding of grown men. Having a boy was meant to be for me. I think I must have had an intuition that I would raise a son. When we were thinking about starting a family, my husband and I only had a boy’s name in mind. The night before our ultrasound to determine the gender, I dreamed the baby was a boy…and indeed it was clear by the very first ultrasound picture our baby was a bouncing baby boy. I should have known by all of his kicking and squirming during my pregnancy, that I had an adventurous fellow on my hands. As a matter of fact, he punched and kicked me so much when I went into the hospital to be induced, it turned out to be more than him kickboxing my internal organs…I was already in labor and didn’t know it. He was ready to discover the world…he has always been a step ahead of me.

While he has spent the last five years discovering this grand world, I have had the opportunity to rediscover its beauty and simplicity through him. The last few years have been filled with my son saying hundreds of times “Mommy, look!” and then each squeal of excitement for me to look is usually followed by his hands opened wide to show me his newest discovery. I will admit, sometimes when he has been too quiet for too long, I meet him with a little hesitation afraid of what I might see. When this started occurring on a regular basis, I started taking pictures of his hands each time. I wanted to savor the moment because it meant more to me than just seeing a turtle, frog, or a bird. Luckily, we haven’t picked up a snake…YET.

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In all of his discovery and my picture taking, I was reminded how much I love those little hands that grow in size and bravery each and every day. Those little hands are the sugar, spice, and everything nice…the gateway to his curiosity, imagination, and heart. They are the hands that stole my heart. On the days that my hands are full with love, life, and work, his tiny hands remind me to keep an open heart and mind, as well as, to see the beauty in the moment – to “look” at what surrounds me at THAT moment rather than what is behind me or before me.

He uses his tiny hands to stuff his little cheeks full of watermelon, to pray, to make messes, to dig in the dirt, to discover the world around him, to share, to clap, to play games, maybe pick his nose when I am not looking (ughh), make funny dance moves, etc. He loves to use his hands to color, paint, and make creations out of Legos, towel rolls, rocks, and sand. I love when he reaches his hands out to me for a hug. I love how he twirls his fingers in my hair when we snuggle. I love holding his sticky, dirty hands. My hands and heart are full, thanks to this little guy.

His hands remind me of a quote by Taisen Deshimaru, a Buddhist teacher which states “Keep your hands open, and all the sands of the desert can pass through them. Close them, and all you can feel is a bit of grit.” I strive to teach him to always have his hands open to explore, to help others, and to make a positive mark on this big that world we all share.  I hope his excitement for life, for discovery, for people, for nature doesn’t wain as he grows. I hope he always extends a hand to help others, and has the wisdom to know when he needs to accept a helping hand. I hope he knows when to use his hand to give someone a pat on the back and occasionally, give himself one. I hope when life deals him a bad “hand” that he will find the beauty in the ugliness and not close his hands and heart-only feeling the grit. Mostly, it is my hope that I raise him with open hands to share with the world so that he is free to find his place in this world, that I find joy in his discovery, and I don’t feel the grit of the years passing us by so quickly.

Today, my spoon is full of a handful of lessons learned from snips, snails…and a boy begging to add a puppy dog tail to our house.

A special thank you to our daycare

This week was my 5 year old son’s last week at his daycare/preschool. He has been counting down to his next adventure to kindergarten with excitement. Each morning he says,” how many more days, Mom? Sarcastically followed by “are you going to cry on my last day because you are sad I am growing up?” I told him I would not cry even though I knew I probably would (And…I did!). My how time flies. It really is bittersweet. The bitterness of life’s fleeting moments and the sweetness of new experiences for him in “big boy” school.

I remember visiting his daycare while I was pregnant with him. The owner showed me around the entire daycare from the bed baby to the preschool rooms. I have this memory in my mind’s eye of glancing into the preschool room where I saw children playing with friends, back packs hung on the wall, and kidos doing an activity using kid scissors. As I peered into the classroom I remember thinking to myself “wow those kids are so big and that it would be forever before we are in this room.” Forever turned out to be a very very short five years.

My son started attending his daycare at 8 weeks old. I am pretty sure the first day I dropped him off I had a typed listed featuring everything you need to know about my son. I am also sure the teacher thought I was nuts. I remember sitting in the parking lot and shedding a tear the day I dropped him off at daycare for the first time. I cried because it was my first time leaving him. Truth be told, I may have shed a tear or two of relief because it was the first day in 8 weeks he wasn’t screaming at me (see previous post about colic). He didn’t scream at daycare-he waited until I picked him up. True love.

This is a picture of my son on his first day at daycare.

First Day at Daycare September 13, 2010

First Day at Daycare
September 13, 2010

And…here is his picture on the last day of daycare. He looks a little different in this big old chair now.

Last Day at Daycare August 7, 2015

Last Day at Daycare
August 7, 2015

This blog post serves as a special thank you to his teachers and the owner over the last five years. You each hold a special place in this chapter of our lives. This is why you all are so great:

  • You helped teach him some of the most important life lessons-sharing, caring, taking your turn, manners, and the list goes on and on.
  • You always communicated with me about my son’s day with you.
  • You developed, within my son, a love for learning and exploration with classroom visits from community helpers, like policeman and firemen, and daily hands on activities.
  • You make learning your ABCs, 123s, animals, songs, and rhythms so much more fun than I could have ever made it. As a matter of fact I have relearned a few things myself. For example, I can’t get “bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?” out of my head this week. Last week it was “boom chicka boom.”
  • You have helped him create arts and crafts that I will always treasure.
  • You provided assurance about the stages in the life of a small child. We survived colic, a year stint of my son biting like a vampire, multiple dislocated elbows (to no fault of the daycare) and potty training together.
  • You have high expectations for my child.
  • You provided encouragement, comfort, love to my child.
  • You helped teach him how to be a good friend, student, and helper.
  • You helped him understand right and wrong and good and bad choices.
  • You were made by a greater power to love and teach children.
  • You are a beautiful example of women lifting up other women.

It takes a village to raise a child and our daycare is a part of my family’s village. As important as this place has been to my child, they have been equally important to me. They have greeted me with a smile and open arms EVERY day. Days when I am on time. Days when I run late. Days when life is perfect. Days when I am tired, don’t feel well, or want to quit. They have provided me the confidence I need each day to know my son is safe, happy, and learning. That confidence allows to go to work and spend my days empowering others in my profession.

This week my son and I were talking about the new building, teachers, and friends that come with kindergarten. During the discussion he said “sometimes when you try something new, it’s scary but you just be brave and it turns out good, right?” Sometimes I think he is wise beyond his years. With a positive attitude like that, I assured him that great things are in store for him. As we transition to the next phase of my son’s educational journey. These years at daycare/preschool will always have a special place in my family’s hearts. For this experience I am grateful.

As we drove out of the daycare parking lot on our last day, I wiped a tear from my eye and then I heard my son say “this air conditoning in the car is making my eyes cry a little (such a tough guy). When do I get to go back and visit?” I knew then he understand the great experience he had there.

Today my spoon is full of many great memories of our special daycare experience and the friends we have made along the way.

Why? Why?!? Why!!!

Why haven’t I been blogging lately? Well, I have been busy. Well, why have I been busy? Because I have been drowning in “whys” and it has apparently zapped my creative juices and energy. Why?!?

Being the mother of an almost three year old, my day from sun up to sun down (and sometimes even when the sun is fast asleep) consist of approximately 100,000,000,000 “whys” a day. Why is the sun bright? Why does they sun hide behind the clouds? Why does it rain? Why is that car black? Why is grass green? Why are there big trucks and little trucks? Why do we have to wear clothes? Why does our cat not work (yes, I have wondered that too, I mean it would be nice if she earned her keep or at least cleaned her litter box)? Why do cats have tails? Why does a cow moo and not bark? Why do I have to wash my hands? Why do we have to go this way? Why is that building there? Why is the Easter Bunny not at the Mall every day? Why don’t we have a beach (honey, I work in education, Momma can’t afford a private island). Why, why, and why? Each of these questions grows into about 3 or 4 questions about the subject until I can’t think of any answers. Frankly, I don’t know most of the answers at all. I am not a scientist, physicist, meteorologist, engineer, etc.? I just go along with the marathon of questions and answers until either I have to lie or admit defeat. And when I don’t know, I usually get “why don’t you know momma”? It’s painful to admit that, well, I don’t know everything and I certainly don’t know as much as I thought I did (but son, don’t tell your Dad). How do these girls on 16 and Pregnant survive when I have a dang Ph.D. and can’t think of all the answers?!

It’s exhausting. But the educator in me loves his inquisitive nature and strives to cultivate that and explain the world around us. I never want to mute his inquiry…I always want him to ask. I really think instead of a book on “What to Expect When Expecting”- I would actually read and benefit from a book entitled “Why: Everything you need to know in three year-old speak”. If there was only an iPhone app for “Why” (and I have been known to Google during desperate times). I have even tried a little reverse psychology and said “well, you tell me why.” To which, my son replied, “no you tell me why, you da momma.” It’s hard to be put on such a high pedestal of know it all.

I know one day, I will be in the car with my son and praying for something more than a grunt to come out of his teenage mouth. I guess that is when the payback begins and I can start asking him so many questions…to which I am sure he will make up the answers as well. And if that isn’t pay back enough, then I am sure he will have to repeat a lot of conversations during my elder years. Until then, I’ll savor the moment of him thinking I know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING because one day he will discover I am not a genius.

Today my spoon is full of why. Why? I DON’T KNOW!

If Only Spiderman Could Fix All Evil

This week’s post was supposed to be filled with the Christmas holiday spirit; however, like many of you, my heart has been so heavy from the tragedy in Connecticut.  So many spoons once full of life, now so empty.  Upon hearing the news, as a mommy my mind shifted to the morning of the tragedy. Most likely, the last moments the parents shared with their child. I know the last moments are only a glimpse in time, but they must replay in the parents’ minds. Some parents and their children had great mornings before school drop off. Aren’t we always grateful for those mornings (well, we should be)? Other parents and children may have experienced a hectic morning filled with meaningless arguments of what to wear, get your backpack, we are running late, and hurry up. Don’t we always hate those mornings? And for some, the morning was just as ordinary as their cereal for breakfast and expected after school pickup. Regardless, no one knew the fate of the next hours-none of us really ever do.

I tried on Saturday morning to watch the news about the events. Just a quick update to be informed- much more would have been torture.  In the background noise was the giggles of my toddler in another room. Watching such horror while a giggling toddler was near did not seem right. So I quickly turned off the news to join in a game of super heroes and wrestling with my two year old and husband.  My mind and heart were torn as whether or not to talk about what had happened on a two-year old scale to my toddler or to save the conversation for later years. My toddler has the memory of an elephant-so I decided to say something, even though small, rather than nothing. I believe in equipping kids with the reality they live in at every age. So, I sat my toddler in my lap and in two year old language told him “if you ever see a mean person trying to hurt kids at school or anywhere, run and hide like when we play hide-and-seek.” He really seemed to listen and I was proud of my parenting moment. So I followed up with, “now tell mommy what you would do if you were to see a mean person trying to hurt you or other kids?” He jumped up into a fighting stance like he was in a boxing ring, cast his spider man web hands and said “I beat you up mean man.” Can you tell his dad was a Marine? Okay, so maybe two is a little early for this talk. But even if a seed was planted and it protects him until he is old enough to understand more, then so be it.

I’ve seen post on Facebook and overheard discussions all trying to make sense of this mess. The truth is that the events were senseless and the only thing that makes real sense is to keep the momentum going in the many little ways that over time might add up to a big difference.  Turning school leaders into gun toting educators isn’t the answer. Educators have enough to do already! This southern gal believes in the right to own guns, but also strongly believes there are major improvements in regulations to be made. Throwing an 8×10 photocopy of the Christian 10 commandments on the wall is not an answer. Posted Ten Commandments do not equate to “God” being back in schools. Did “He” ever really leave? I like to think that whoever is in control of the Universe is a little less shallow than requiring self-portraits and commandants posted in buildings to ensure protection. If you believe “God” (insert your higher power of choice) wasn’t in the school-reexamine the lives spared and the heroes that emerged. Look at the goodwill, love, prayers, and tears poured into a town most of us never heard of before last week. Just like evil, good (and God) comes in many forms.

So where do we go from here? How do you stop the seemingly unstoppable? We do not forget the misery Connecticut feels after the media has moved on to a new story. We encourage the government to put funds into structuring safe schools and we do it with the fever of airport security post 911. We realize that sweet American children are not the only children who face senseless violence-it is worldwide. We demand a thorough review of gun regulations and do something with the findings. We talk more openly with our children about good and evil. We take a hard look at our healthcare system and educational policies to see if they really support families and students that live with mental health issues. We remove the stigma to create open dialogue about mental health issues. We stop pointing a finger at failing parents and schools and start pointing kids in the right direction by setting an example, by mentoring, and increasing self-worth for those that can’t see it in themselves.  We continue talking about this subject and start doing….more. We don’t act like it can’t happen in our children’s schools, in our movie theaters, in our malls and any other place we enjoy everyday freedoms. We play an active role and we continually stretch our thinking so that we may see all sides of an equation in order to arrive at a better solution. We work on savoring every spoonful of life, even the hectic or ordinary everyday mornings.

My mommy brain jumps from the morning of the event, to the reality of where families who lost loved ones will find themselves- with Christmas gifts hid away in a closet, yet to be wrapped for a sweet child no longer on this earth. The empty beds. The shattered dreams of things yet to come- a family vacation to see Mickey Mouse, graduations, weddings, grandbabies, etc. It’s really uncomprendable. May the family and friends of the children and adults who met an unfair fate that day find hope in what is seemingly such a hopeless time in their lives. May their spoons be full of kind moments, momentum for change, and the perseverance to live each day. I will continue to teach my child the realities of good and evil and pray he never has to “beat up the mean people” by casting his Spiderman web.

Coop & His Hero

Casting Webs On Evil

Today my spoon is full of hope for the good that will continue to emerge and multiple from this horrific event.

 

Rethinking the Celebration Behind Your Turkey

Thanksgiving has evolved to be a holiday where we celebrate family and blessings. Modern Day Thanksgiving is typically full of parades, processed foods, napping, and football. Personally, our family enjoys the holiday by departing from hectic life and work schedules to enjoy one another’s personality quirks in the name of giving thanks for the many blessings that have come our way throughout the year; serendipitously or through hard work.

As you feast with your family this holiday, consider the following: (1) First, give thanks for ALL your blessings; you know they come in all shaped and sizes.   Better yet, rejoice in the blessings bestowed on others and do not have a jealous heart. (2) Second, acknowledge and give of yourself- your time, talents, resources, and/or money to those who need it. (3) Third, consider looking at life from a different angle. Viewing a forest from a hillside provides a very different understanding than viewing it from the ground amidst the trees. Just when you think you know or understand something, you have to look at it in another way. Even though it may seem silly, unnecessary, or wrong-give it a try. What you uncover might surprise you.

The harvest time that started the tradition of Thanksgiving was a far cry from our modern day Thanksgiving conveniences. I am sure if the pilgrims and Native Americans were zapped into 2012 they could not even fathom a complete Thanksgiving Feast for $49.99 from a local chain restaurant. Likewise, if we transported ourselves back in time to the “first” Thanksgiving, we would probably find a story that played out very differently than what was taught in school. The first feast was probably tense because of the culture differences between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. And was most likely not a feast by today’s American standards, but was rather what the land and “harvest” had produced. There were no hormone injected turkeys, pumpkin pie out of a can, or gel cranberry sauce.  No black Fridays; well, I guess every Friday was black in the sense they did not have electricity. Perhaps, William Loren Katz the author of “Black Indians: a Hidden Heritage” will open your eyes to a different perspective on the Thanksgiving story and will provide you some food for thought as you baste your turkey and peel your sweet potatoes.  His article entitled “Rethinking the Thanksgiving Holiday” written in 2003 is below.

Since 1621 and Governor William Bradford of the Pilgrim colony of Massachusetts, Thanksgiving Day has been a political holiday. Usually wrapped in warm family and patriotic values, our rulers have shaped it to meet their needs. A presidential proclamation announces Thanksgiving each year, and relatives and friends sit down to turkey feeling they are participants in a moment rich in tradition and worthy of celebration.

But is this tradition something to celebrate? In 1620 Pilgrims from England aboard the Mayflower came ashore in Massachusetts. They were able to avoid disaster and starvation when the Wampanoag Nation brought them gifts of food and offered advice on planting, hunting, and fishing. Since half of the world’s crops had been planted by Native Americans and were unknown to Europeans, the Wampanoags brought the Pilgrims something of a miracle.

In 1621 after surviving their first wiffter, Pilgrim Governor William Bradford ordered a celebration. But Pilgrim thanks were not extended to the Wampanoag hosts but to their white God and deep Christian faith. If the Wampanoags were invited by the newcomers, who viewed them as inferiors and servants, it probably was to have them bring the turkey, corn and other delicacies, or serve the food.

If the Pilgrims learned any lessons about interracial cooperation in 1621, they were soon forgotten. In. 1637 Governor Bradford, who saw his colonists locked in mortal combat with dangerous Native Americans, ordered his militia to conduct a night attack on the sleeping men, women and children of a Pequot Indian village. To Bradford, a devout Christian, the massacre was imbued with religious meaning:

“It was a fearful sight to see them frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same and horrible was the stink and stench thereof. But the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice and they [the Massachusetts militiamen] gave praise thereof to God.”

Reverend Increase Mather, Pilgrim spiritual father and still a hero in most U.S. textbooks, asked his congregation to give thanks to God “that on this day we have sent 600 heathen souls to hell.”

Other English colonists had landed in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, and almost immediately had trouble with their Indian neighbors. In 1619 a Dutch ship sold 19 African laborers at Jamestown, and the rulers of Jamestown treated both Africans and Native Americans as untrustworthy inferiors. In 1622, the year after the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, patience ran out for Virginia’s Native Americans. They staged a massive attack on Jamestown that took 350 lives, and reports historian James H. Johnstone, “The Indians murdered every white but saved the Negroes.” Even at this early date two peoples of color showed a willingness to unite.

In 1789 Thanksgiving was revived when George Washington as first president asked the U.S. Congress to make it a national holiday. By using the holiday’s mythology of generosity and cooperation, he sought to unify diverse ethnic and racial groups behind the new political experiment called the United States.

Thanksgiving then was forgotten until the Civil War again sorely tested the nation. President Abraham Lincoln had to deal with many Northern citizens who refused to support the war effort and his new emancipation policy. Pioneer feminist Sarah J. Hale, editor of a famous woman’s magazine, had little trouble convincing the embattled commander-in-chief that a unifying, humanitarian holiday could serve his political goals.

Thanksgiving again disappeared, until 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt, seeking to unify Americans threatened by a Great Depression at home and fascist aggression abroad, called on the country to honor the holiday. In 1941, the year the U.S. entered World War II, Congress decreed the fourth Thursday in November a Thanksgiving holiday.

Born and reborn as a unifying political symbol, Thanksgiving has glorified the European invaders, and accepted their oppression of people of color. But instead Thanksgiving could honor those Native Americans and African Americans who became our first freedom fighters, and the unity these two peoples often forged during 500 years of resistance. Their rich history of heroism and unity deserves a Thanksgiving holiday.

This story is far from what I was taught in school. It does not reflect cornucopias, plump pilgrim figurines, and colorful Native American figures that decorate our homes. Instead, the tale shows the struggles, biases, and illusions that we too often preserve today. I’m not asking you to throw you turkey out or forgo the holiday; I will be enjoying the day with family and over indulging in yummy food. However, I do ask you to consider and appreciate the fact, that sometimes history and events in our lives may not be what they seems or what we have been told. Thankfully, our country continues to change and become more diverse. I’m thankful for those brave souls that started the sometimes painful experiment of blending cultures and extending a hand of friendship.  Sharing our vulnerabilities, resources, and differences is what makes the world go round and gives us a great reason to celebrate with Tom the Turkey.

Today, my spoon is full of thanks for being blessed beyond measure. And I am humbled by the fact there are two sides (at least) to every story.

To access this document visit  Rethinking the Thanksgiving Holiday

First day of school #29…a little snakey

Last night, I couldn’t sleep because I was anxious and excited about the first day of school. This was my 29th first day of school. I’m not teaching this year, but none-the-less, I love the hustle and bustle the first day brings. I don’t worry (as much) about what I am going to wear on the first day of school, who is going to talk to me (some days less is more), or where I am going to eat lunch (probably at my desk). I will admit, I miss shopping for a backpack, Trapper Keeper (do they even make those things anymore?), and a lunchbox. I loved getting all my supplies organized and ready back when I was a student. There is something special about the smell of a clean building and new textbooks. I love the first day of classes on a college campus because there is a wind of change blowing through peoples’ lives when they arrive on campus. Some feel the breeze and others haven’t even noticed yet. Students arrive optimistic and eager to fulfill a dream or craft their passion. For some it’s their first attempt at college. For others, it is an attempt to get it right…this time. Hope permeates through the campus on the first day of class. That’s why I love my profession.

When I woke up this morning, my first thought was the weather-rain was inevitable. I thought about students trying to juggle a schedule, backpack, and an umbrella while finding their class on this dreary, wet day. Those that know me well know I am not a big logo polo-wearing gal. I have never been uniform (in more ways than one) but on a day where students have lots of questions and are looking for assistance…the polo was the thing to wear. So, I took the casual polo, capri pant, and sandals look….tactic to look approachable for students. Luckily, we got the first batch of early bird 8:00 AM students to class before the skies opened up.

This morning, as I walked out the door to leave the house, I thought to myself “Stacy, today really isn’t a day for sandals.” It looked like it was going to pour buckets of rain…and well, it did. But more importantly, I was dressed, matched, my toddler was dressed and ready, bags were packed, we were on time…forget turning back to find a pair of matching shoes in my closet on this Monday morning. Press onward! Later in the morning after students were settled in class, I found myself sitting at my desk, cussing myself for not changing shoes before I left the house. My feet were damp and cold. The boss man came into my office to touch base on some projects. I saw him glancing at the floor near my desk…then I saw the look in his eyes. It wasn’t the excitement of the first day of class!  “There is a what in my office?” There was a snake stuck in the sticky bug trap by my desk! I have been told it is everything from a Copperhead to a Midland Water snake. Frankly, it’s a snake!!!!!!!!!!!!! Other than the fact that one variety could kill me…they are all equal grossness. As an office suite, we squealed, we near vomited, and we “disposed” of the snake. The office suite has that creepy crawly feeling. Needless to say, it was not the first day of class I expected.

A new variety of student

As my grandmother used to say… “write that in your book”  and that I did. This goes down in my book as they worst first day of school in 29 years. As a student, I have had bad hair days, wardrobe malfunctions, teachers I didn’t want, and bad seat assignments on the first day of school. As a teacher, I have had pesky students, a student who had a seizure, and students who were in the wrong class on the first day. But today, this tops the list of worst day of first days!

A snake, really? Is this an omen? I even checked the Chinese calendar…it’s the year of the dragoon! A cruel joke?  Was it planted? And sandals… I wore sandals! It could have been crawling around by my toes. What if there are more? Did this snake have friends? Are they hiding in my files? Let’s just say, my feet were propped up on a clear plastic container most of the day. My mind played tricks on me, too. Electrical cords now look like snakes, the carpet pattern…snakes. I feel surrounded! Will I ever be able to wear sandals again? I am scared to see what the rest of this semester brings!

Today my spoon is full hope that no more slimy creatures are hanging out in my office and that all of the students had a great (snake-free) first day.

Pomp and what is the circumstance?

Tis the season of graduation…caps, tassels, gowns, speeches-all in full effect. Working in higher education, I always find myself at an emotional crossroads this time of year.  I am elated for those that have accomplished their goals. I am excited for what the next step has in store for each of them. Yet, I am saddened for those that did not make it to the point of graduating.

High School Graduation 1996. That’s me on the right. My dreams for the future were as big as my hair! The caution cone in the picture is a bit symbolic don’t ya think?

This month I have attended three graduations…two ceremonies for my cousins’ graduating from high school; plus, I attended the graduation of the institution where I work. There is nothing I love more than seeing everyone dressed in their regalia and students’ faces beaming with a sense of accomplishment and empowerment. Hopes, dreams, and excitement fill the air. I get a kick out of the bedazzled mortar boards that say “class of 2012” or “hi mom.”  I get chills each semester when I hear the thunderous applause and the shouts from the audience from proud parents, grandparents, and friends. At my institution’s graduation, the thing I love most is hearing a tiny voice interrupt the graduation service saying “that’s my mommy” or “yeahhh daddy” as their parent walks across the stage to get their diploma.  What a lesson that parent has taught their child!

No matter if it is a high school or college graduation, each individual has persevered, beat the odds, and overcome barriers to get to that point. Some had more to overcome than others, but when the tassel is turned, the honor is the same.

To avoid a statistical war, my next few points will be estimates based on a variety of data sources and experience. About 75% of students who start high school in Kentucky finish. Sounds good at first, right? Well, what about the other 25%?  The figure for students in college who persist and graduate on time is grimmer. My point is not to debate about what statistic is correct. My point is to say….when I hear the pomp and circumstance played at graduation, I think about what was the circumstance that prevented the ones who were suppose to be there-from being there.

Where was the dream diverted, lost, or postponed?  How and why did they make it to a certain point, but didn’t make it through? What could have been done differently? Was there a point in the pipeline where they were misunderstand, misdirected, overlooked, or under challenged? Was the pipeline the problem-too constricting, not the right flow, rusty pipes, etc?

For those that didn’t make it to their graduation I can’t help but wonder how much more difficult life might be because they didn’t receive the empowerment that education provides. I know folks who make an honest living and are terrific providers for their family who do not have a high school diploma and I know folks that have a high school diploma, but not a college degree who are helping make the world go round. So this blog is not to say that a diploma/degree ensures happiness, wealth, or an easy road. But the reality is more and more jobs are requiring more and more skills that require furthering one’s training and education. Therefore, my mind goes to how could the education systems have helped more students through?

Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrating graduation. But the real reason I get up and come to work every day is for that percentage that didn’t make it to the ceremony. Whether it be sharing a smile, offering advice, connecting a student to a resource, helping the insurmountable seem mountable, explaining the education bureaucracy, etc. my work focuses on getting students to the special milestone of graduation.  My business is increasing the number that I see walk across that stage to accept their credential.

Today my spoon is full of hope and perseverance for those that just might not yet see it in themselves. As well as, a spoonful of thankfulness for folks who have mentored and encouraged me while helping me find my way through the education systems.