The Meetings

Day 21 of 31

Today was a busy day. In addition to teaching in classrooms, meeting students in small groups, talking to individual students with issues, supervising my counseling intern and observing students, both in the classroom and at recess, I had a before school meeting, an after school meeting and two meetings during the school day. Out of those 4 meetings only one was actually scheduled ahead of time.

Meeting 1

A’s mom called me an hour before school began and wanted to drop him off and then talk to me about some issues. Main issues-anxiety, stress, fear of failure, big and small worries, separation anxiety and obviously worried about WW III.

Meeting 2

A committee of educational professionals talked about several students who are having major behavior issues as a result of trauma. Parents unable or unwilling to access outside counseling that is so desperately needed. That is a very simplified explanation of the issues.

Meeting 3

Not scheduled but had to follow up with a parent regarding good touch/bad touch lesson and what a student disclosed to me in the hallway, after my lesson was over.

Meeting 4

After school with a teacher regarding Meeting 1 student to relay information and strategies.

Meeting 5 (Rescheduled since Meeting 4 went way longer than anticipated)

Conclusion: Today it was confirmed to me that the last two years have taken its toll on our students and teachers. Now, did I already know it? Sure. But today I FELT it. No, seriously-I FELT it A LOT. And you know what?

EVERY. SINGLE. MEETING. TODAY. ILLUSTRATED. THAT. POINT.

I know we all know it. I know we all feel it. But this year is just hard for all of us.

Teachers are struggling.

Administrators are struggling.

Counselors are struggling.

Parents are struggling and our children are struggling.

It is a LOT and it is ONLY Monday.

I know tomorrow will be better.

I have no more thoughts left for today.

That is all.

The Car Ride

Day 20 of 31

On my way home from driving my daughter back to Philly today, I was thinking about all the car rides I have taken with my daughters. Often unexpected topics will arise and although I can’t say I love driving, and the subsequent goodbyes, I have found that these car rides create moments that just don’t happen at other times.

The Car Ride

We load up the car and start our journey

Traveling from her childhood home to her adult home where she lives alone by choice

Feeling like it will take forever

Like it seemed during her childhood

What they say is true

The ride goes by fast

Faster than I ever thought it would

My thoughts come and go

Meaningful emotions and feelings come to the surface

Like cars and trucks passing us by

We stay in our lane and let them pass quickly

Eye contact not being made

Two eyes on the road at all times for safety

Both physical and emotional

I ask her questions that I would not ask if we were sitting on the couch

I ask her opinion about different issues-both mine and hers

Like me, she is honest, sometimes too honest

She understands parts of me that others don’t

Both of us trapped in the car

Resistance is futile

She has no choice but to hear the advice that she likely has heard before from me

But I try to make my mark

I tell her just in case she has forgotten

The thing is…she forgets nothing

She is smarter than me in so many ways but I still have to tell her

Just one more time

Even if she rolls her eyes

To be careful and safe and have fun, but be careful, like really careful

Before we know it our ride is over

She gets out of the car and gathers her stuff

She hugs me-tight

I hug her-tighter

As she walks away I remember the “I do it myself” 3 year old

Who would stomp her foot and say “I am not little. I am not cute”

But she was little and oh so cute

I don’t think about her for long

Not because I don’t want to

Because it makes me feel old

And a little sad too

I look at her again

I see the amazing adult she has become

Still strong, independent and with a sense of humor

Still doing things herself and in her own way

“I love you mom.”

“I love you too, Kelly.”

I start to pull away

Physically but not emotionally

I tell her one more time-just in case she forgets

“I love you, Kelly…like I really, really love you.”

3 year old Kelly on a car ride

A Red Solo Cup, A Plate and a Spider

Day 19 of 31

My middle daughter, Kelly, came home to visit for the weekend. She is in grad school and lives only about 45 minutes away but she hardly ever comes home. She lives alone, is an introvert, and enjoys her quiet time. She is also crazy smart so sometimes her sense of humor is different than mine, but when she finds something funny and laughs uncontrollably, it is one of my favorite things to hear and witness. Last night I heard her laughing so hard that I listened at the top of the stairs to see what was going on. Here is what I heard happening between my husband, Kelly, and a couple of spiders:

My husband: “Omg! Kelly! Get me a red solo cup and a paper plate. Hurry! I’m gonna catch this spider!”

Kelly: “Ok. Coming!” (insert sound of feet running across the house and into the basement).

My husband: “Oh my God! He has a friend. There are two of them…A big one AND a little one. The big one is fuzzy!”

Kelly: “Ick! Do you need another cup and plate?”

My husband; “No I can catch them both in the same cup.”

Kelly: “Are you sure?”

My husband: “Yes! I just need one.”

Insert sounds of commotion……

My husband: “Got the little one.”

20 seconds later…

My husband: “Ahhh…I lost the little one.”

Kelly: now laughing, “Are you sure you don’t need another cup and plate?”

My husband: “No, I’m good…Wait, the big one is so big I think it has a personality. He just looked me in the eyes and then tried to scrunch away from me and hide, but I caught him anyway.”

Kelly: still laughing…”Should I open the…

My husband, “OPEN THE FRONT DOOR. I’M GOING TO REHOME HIM. Be free spider friend, be free.”

Kelly: “Omg! The big one is huge!”

My husband: “I KNOW… and fuzzy!”

Kelly: Runs upstairs to tell me what happened.

Of course I knew what happened because I heard the entire thing going down but I pretended to know nothing about it so Kelly could tell me about it while she tried to stop laughing. I loved the entire interaction, but mostly loved hearing Kelly laugh so hard.

Found Sisters

Day 18 of 31

One day I was looking online and typed in the name of the town where my daughter was born. When we traveled to China the babies were brought to us and we were not permitted to visit the orphanage so I was looking for pictures and information about that area of China. Up popped a picture directory of children adopted from Guixi (Pronounced GWAYSHEE). Each child’s photo was labeled with her Chinese name and birth date and the pictures were posted by the adoptive parents. As I scrolled down I noticed one particular baby that looked a lot like Emily and commented to my husband. He responded with, “There are 1.3 billion people in China. You did not just stumble on someone biologically related to Emily.”

I secretly ask myself…but what if?

I convinced myself that my husband was right. That would be crazy, right? Well, here’s the thing…I AM a little crazy and when I get something in my mind I tend to become slightly obsessive. So I printed out the other child’s picture and showed it to my mom friends saying it was Emily. They all thought it was her, but there was no way to figure out who or where this other child was since I only had her birth date and Chinese name (not her name after she was adopted).

I continued to secretly ask myself…but what if…

Fast forward about 8 months. Out of nowhere I received an unsolicited email from someone I did not know that had the names of children that were adopted from Guixi. I scrolled down the list and was surprised to discover the girl who looked like my daughter. She was listed with her Chinese name, birth date and now her American name and her mom’s email address. I drafted an email trying to not sound like the crazy person my husband was telling me I was, and I began communicating with the other child’s mother.

What if…

For a few months we traded information about the girls. They had some similarities but nothing too out of the ordinary for 2 girls born in China. Emily was 3 at the time and the other child was 8. Her mom sent a collage of photos of her daughter, Kyra, when she was 3. I figured that this would put an end to my wondering and it was more likely that Emily and Kyra were not related and that they just looked similar because they were from the same area of China. As we pulled the pictures out of the large manilla envelope, my husband and I both got chills and gasped. The pictures of Kyra at age 3 looked exactly like Emily looked at that time. In fact, days later Emily (age 3) saw the pictures sitting on the desk. She pointed to each picture and questioned us about what she was doing in the pictures and where she was in each one. Even Emily thought Kyra was Emily!

OMG! What if…

This was in 2005 and it was the early days of DNA testing but we found a lab. I genuinely believed that this would help me to stop obsessing about the what ifs. I sent in Emily’s sample and the other mom sent in Kyra’s. About a month later we received the news that Emily and Kyra were in fact, biological sisters!

OMG!!

We took a trip from New Jersey to Western Maryland to meet Kyra. The entire car ride my husband kept questioning if the lab did the DNA testing correctly. He is skeptical. I am not. The girls met, spent some time together and although they were growing up in different households, they both had the same mannerisms, facial expressions, and laugh. That put an end to my husband’s doubts.

We used to visit Kyra and her family at least once a year. The girls are now almost 21 and 26. They remain in contact with each other but aren’t close, like some might expect. They don’t really know each other well and Kyra has another sister she grew up with just as Emily has 2 sisters she grew up with. I can’t say that Kyra and Emily have a typical sister relationship but they are biological siblings born 5 years apart who found each other even though there are 1.3 billion people in China.

Emily and Kyra

My Relationship With My Hair

Day 17 of 31

Margaret Simon, another slicer, used a writing prompt that comes from Elizabeth Benedict. The prompt encourages the writer to:

Write about your relationship to your hair: how it shapes your own self-image. How others see you. Or how, when you lost your hair or changed it, you learned something—about yourself or someone else.

My relationship with my hair has loomed large throughout my life. In my middle school, high school and college years, it defined me-a lot. I used about a can a week of Aqua Net hair spray and obsessed on trying to make my straight hair curly. I’m not going to lie-perms and curling irons were involved in the daily process of “doing my hair”. Humidity was my nemesis and living in New Jersey, well, let’s just say that from May through the end of September were challenging in regard to hair. It caused me a lot of stress.

As I got married and had children styles changed. I didn’t always like my hair but I loved having hair. At the risk of sounding shallow and superficial, my hair made me look pretty and healthy and normal. I obsessed on it less as I became a mom, but I still wanted it to look good.

Until…

Day 17 of treatment…it was time to let my hair go. I acted casual about what was going to happen, but internally I felt… whatever word you want to use for the opposite of casual-panicky, devastated, traumatized, terrified-you choose. I was 100 percent sure I would not be able to handle it. After explaining to my girls what would be happening, my husband took my 4, 6 and 8 year olds out for a day of fun and when they returned my hair was gone.

What did I learn?

  • I made it as easy as I could for my girls but I know it was weird for them. It was weird for me too-like super weird
  • The anticipation leading up to having no hair was a million times worse than actually having no hair, although that was pretty sucky
  • I handled it better than I thought I would-like so much better that I even surprised myself
  • It is a luxury to stand in front of a mirror and style my hair
  • I look good with short hair but don’t prefer it
  • I look good in hats but hate wearing them
  • Faking a smile looks better than showing your real feelings when you look crappy and sometimes you have to fake it, or at least you believe you have to fake it
  • If I feel like my hair doesn’t look great, it doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore-unless it’s a special day like a wedding or graduation that I never thought I would be alive to attend
  • Hair still looms large in my life and that’s ok. It’s not the only thing about me and it’s not the best thing about me, but it still feels pretty important and I’m not sure that will ever change

Balance

Day 16 of 31

I just read One Miraculous Mama’s slice called, Balance. She inspired me to write my own (Thanks, Erin!):

Today at work…

Today, I walked into school well rested and enthusiastic. I didn’t have car duty so I stood in the hallway to greet students. I love greeting students in the morning. As I began saying my good mornings, 2 separate groups of girls stopped to tell me that when I wasn’t in school yesterday, they came to talk to me. All at the same time, they began telling me about the drama that occurred that they needed help solving-immediately.

It’s all about balance.

Today I set up my projector on the cart to get ready to meet a student. I had the most relaxing mindfulness music projected so that when she arrived we could begin. I met her in the hall on the way to the nurse. She met with me after her nurse visit, but we didn’t even get to the mindfulness stuff since she had other things distracting her.

It’s all about balance.

A 2nd grader shared with me that she was sad about her grandma dying before she was born. I asked her if she talked to her mom about how she was feeling. She said, “Yes. My mom said that I should talk to whoever can help me at school so I came to you.”

It’s all about balance.

Today I walked down the hall to clear my mind after meeting with some students who had some social conflict. I was pretty sure I didn’t help them. As I turned the corner a Kindergarten class was walking toward me and they all waved to me whispering, “Hi Mrs. Clark.” Then 5 of them got out of line and began hugging me.

It’s all about balance.

Today when I got home I fell asleep for an hour. When I woke up my husband had grilled filet mignon and was calling me down for dinner. I cleaned up the dishes while he walked the dog.

It’s all about balance.

Today I finished my non-tenured portfolio. This will be my third time earning tenure. 4 years ago I left “just a job” for “the job”. My work is hard and tiring and amazing and awesome.

It’s all about balance.

The Time

Day 15 of 31

Today I took the time

To awaken slowly

To pause

To think and dream

To sing and dance in the kitchen

Alone with my doggo

Today I took the time

To breathe in the spring temperatures

To let my face feel the warm rays of sun and melt away the winter blahs

Today I took time to breathe the deep breath I rarely take

Inhale…Exhale

Inhale…Exhale

Today I took the time

Hurt People…Help People

Day 14 of 31

I attended a professional development session a few years ago and was impacted by something the instructor said…

“Hurt people…hurt people”

As a teacher and counselor it resonated with me. It helped me reframe some of the behavior I see. As a daughter of someone who caused, and continues to cause hurt, this altered my beliefs about my mother.

“Hurt people…hurt people”

When I think of the times my mother hurt me or my sisters, both physically and emotionally, I wonder…Did someone hurt her?

“Hurt people…hurt people”

Her mother, my grandmother, was kind and caring but her father (my grandfather) was opinionated, difficult and could be unkind. Did someone hurt him?

“Hurt people…hurt people”

Once my grandfather told me a story about how his father (my great-grandfather) tried to kill him. I’m not sure the story was true, but I know my great-grandfather had a reputation for being mean so it’s possible.

“Hurt people…hurt people”

Did it begin with my great-grandfather or does it go back several generations beyond the people I knew?

“Hurt people…hurt people”

One day I was chatting with my principal and commented about this in relation to students and also in relation to my mom. I wondered aloud, “Do all hurt people… hurt people?” Honestly, it makes me wonder how it’s possible that in a line of hurt people not all of the descendants end up hurting people. Then my principal said something I had truly never considered…

“Hurt people don’t always hurt people. Sometimes hurt people…help people.”

Goodbye Skunk Family…Hello Other Animal Family

Day 13 of 31

If you read my slice last week called, Mr. or Mrs. Skunk, you may, or may not, be wondering what happened to my smelly house guest. My skunk friend is gone thanks to a suggestion from my exterminator and a 1991 boom box placed between what we identified as the entrances of the skunk’s abode. We apparently scared the skunk away with talk radio. Yay us!

This morning in New Jersey we still had a dusting of snow from yesterday’s weather event. I looked outside and was surprised by animal footprints all over my deck. They led up the stairs, across the deck, around the deck and back down another set of stairs. I asked my husband what he thought but he didn’t know either. We aren’t really wilderness people.

As I was wondering who visited us last night, I thought of how fun it would be to try to solve this animal print mystery with little kids. I could see that the prints lead from the woods to our house, so following them to where they came out of the woods could give us some clues. I also noticed that a few of the footprints were muddy so it is possible the owner of the footprints is small enough to get under our deck where there is most likely a bunch of mud from a variety of animals that enjoy the below deck accommodations that we have unintentionally provided to them.

I am not an animal footprint expert so I looked online and was relieved to discover that they are definitely not skunk footprints. Whew! They don’t seem to be groundhog prints or rabbit footprints either. I could let my thoughts run away with me and imagine that the footprints belong to a wolf, a bobcat, a bear, or a lynx but as far as I know, we don’t have those in our neighborhood, which is good because that would be scary and I would be afraid that they would attack and kill me. They could be from a dog or cat but I have a feeling they are from a fox, which makes me wonder if a fox family has replaced the skunk family? Perhaps in the spring we will see some babies? I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Remember, I am not a wilderness person, but I do like baby animals, especially baby animals who are fluffy, don’t smell bad and don’t want to kill me.

Footprints up close
Footprints coming up the deck

Cheeseballs are Amazing

Day 12 of 31

Yesterday, this week really, was a lot. As I finished my 5 minute lunch between groups of students, I was called to help a second grader who was crying and refusing to leave the cafeteria after lunch on Friday. I prepared for a struggle. It’s never good when a kid is refusing to leave the cafeteria when lunch is over. If the refusal is after lunch it usually means that hunger is not the issue.

Me: “Hi S. What’s going on?”

S: “Grrrrrrr”

Me: “You look sad.”

S: No response but he turns his body toward me, still crying.

Me: “I just finished my lunch. I had a salad with croutons. Do you know what croutons are?”

S: “No, Mrs. Clark I do not know what cwootons are?”

Me: “They are like yummy little pieces of toast. They’re pretty good.”

S: “I had a sandwich.”

Me: “Was it good?”

S: “Uh huh. It was… (insert words I could not understand)”

Me: “I’m glad. I had a piece of chocolate after my salad with croutons. The piece of chocolate was in the shape of a round ball. It was really yummy and also fun because it was a ball.”

S: (smiles): “I like food in balls! I love cheeseballs!”

Me: “What?! No way!! I like cheeseballs too!!!

S: “You do?”

Me: “Umm…yeah. They are delicious balls of cheesy goodness. What’s not to like? Let’s walk back to your room. We can talk about cheeseballs on the way!”

S: “Ok, that would be fun!”

So, we talked about cheeseballs. Which are better? The ones in the bag or the ones that come out of the round container? What do you do when your fingers get all cheesy? Do you eat them one at a time or do you put a few in your mouth at the same time?

We turn the corner to his hallway. S wraps his arm around my waist to give me a hug. His hugs are those hugs that are walking hugs so it’s hard for me to move. We arrive at his room, he walks toward the door and says, “Mrs. Clark, I love you.”

Yup. Cheeseballs are amazing!

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