A teacher’s thoughts on the madness

 

Every person in the room is crammed into a corner, muffling giggles and whispers. My arms are out wide, Stretch Armstrong-style, as I attempt to cover the third grade bodies with what appears to be a self-made Super Safe Teacher Forcefield. I realize what a ridiculous, yet natural, act this is when faced with a lock-down drill at school. We hunker down, blinds drawn and backs toward the outside door. After several minutes, a small voice says, “Mrs. Blair, I hear talking next door. It sounds like their doing a project in a group. Do they know we’re supposed to be quiet during a drill?” Hmmm….

Two more minutes pass. No “all clear” from the loud speaker. No sounds of doors  being checked outside our room. Another little voice sounds from the underbelly of the pig pile, “Um…um…Mrs. Blair? Is that your phone over there? When we heard the alarm I thought I heard it coming from your phone.”

All color drains from my face. I slowly turn and zero in on my iPhone, which is plugged into our class sound system. Walking through molasses, I approach a potentially embarrassing discovery. There was an Amber Alert. On my phone. It was plugged into the microphone. It blasted through our room. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why the lock-down alarm sounded so different this time. Our principal had hinted there might such a drill that week, so I was obviously on Def-Con 5. I glanced over at my class, who were trying to decide if I was going to laugh or cry, and little smiles erupted over the entire group. Our laughter didn’t stop for several seconds as we scrambled back to our seats. Even within this little bungled drill, my heart still fell a little at the thought of having to do this procedure for real…when my teacher forcefield would be of no use.

I never thought my own school would be ground zero for this kind of tragedy simply because I taught elementary school. The massacre at Sandyhook turned any dismissal of danger into something real and possible. A smaller town. An accessible entrance to a building. A troubled, desperate young man. The unfathomable was slowly turning on its axis to become unbelievably possible. With every breaking news story of sorrow and horror, my reaction is always the same. When these reports of violence somehow sneak into my school inbox or are retrieved by text (Just making sure you’re okay from my husband with news of the latest shooting) the balled up mass of anger and heartbreak churning in my insides turns as I put on my all things are normal face and turn to my class. It is a fear, of course, of the inconceivable happening in your own smallish town, but also an intense worry that these little humans in front of me will go on to live in a world where it isn’t unusual for this kind of heinous crime to occur. It’s also disturbing to find myself scanning their small faces for traces of impending anguish and future despair. Are any of these children capable of veering so far in the wrong direction that they would bolt into a crowded lunchroom and open fire? I’d like to say that I just don’t see it, but the truth is that every year I have a child with the weight of the world on his 8-year-old shoulders that I can’t help but picture snapping his very spirit. Adult problems, circumstances, and misconduct can seep into everyone in a family home, even when it seems children are too young to ingest such darkness. This darkness reveals itself in small ways within a elementary school classroom and it is natural to wonder where the edge will be in their adolescent years. Will it manifest into another news story that causes us to sadly state that “I always thought there was something going on there” ?

I truly believe our mission to decrease the violence comes down to paying attention. There is so much going on in harried, tech-centered, overbooked lives that the obvious (and most important) part of the day can easily be missed. Checking in. Checking in to see how the stress level is moving along…asking questions when your child shuts down with sadness and disappointment…turning off the devices and having face time at the kitchen table…using phrases like “I know this hurts right now, but you’ll get through it and we will help you” and “I’m here whenever you need me”. Schools are not exempt from stepping in and making thoughtful and strategic preparations for dealing with the overwhelmed and under-resourced. If we paid as nearly as much attention to the mental health of our high schoolers as we do to teaching standards and assessments, I feel there would be significant change. It needs to be made clear that we value their overall well-being as much as their academic achievement. It is so easy to say that its the parents’ job to take care of this end of it and educating kids is simply what we do, but the truth of it is: it ain’t happenin’ in many homes. Sadly, it is up to the people who spend the majority of time with these kids to heighten our observations of what it truly going on.

The morning after a recent shooting rocked our state, I woke with a unwieldy heaviness in my heart. I thought about the parents who would be waking this morning to a new life–one with loss and anger and bottomless grief. There would be endless questions and guilt and regret. As a community of parents, teachers, administrators, friends and leaders when will we see how far this madness has gone? It’s shocking to me that I don’t feel the surprise or disbelief anymore upon hearing of the latest tragedy in a school hallway. It physically pains me to think about the parents and children who are going on their merry way, unbeknownst of the absolute terror that could be dropping down in their community with one act of violence. I’ve got two teenagers. I have a class full of sweethearts who rely on me for safety. I have a classroom that sits yards from the high school behind us. I try not to “go there” when going about my day, but these crime scenes seem to creep into my conscience at faster rates every year. It’s time to admit the gravity of this situation in our country. It’s time to collectively hold the mental health of our kids tightly in our hands, no matter who or where we are.

OX.

Posted in Confessional Sunday, MPG stirrings | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A couple of reasons to avoid cleaning for company

 

It never fails to amaze me how neurotic I can become when there’s company on the way.

I can practically hear the excessive eye rolling from my offspring and my spouse becomes strnagely stealth in his whereabouts. I begin with shoving unread mail and magazines piles in already-full cabinets, then tuck dog toys and half eaten rawhides under couch skirts. As if I can really hide the fact that we usually live in SQUALOR.

Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser emerges from the bowels under the sink, only to be reduced to grayish threads after every door has been vigorously scrubbed of greasy fingerprints. I obsess over the brown ring in the toilets, a “we live on a well with hard water” issue, and feel the urge to explain this phenomenon with gusto to guests heading to the loo, lest they I.D. us as the Bumkin family with the poopy commodes.

Karate-chopping pillows and hiding kitchen appliances are things you will never witness in my home on any given family night. This crazed state of “it must look perfect” only rears its head when we’ve opened our home to friends. Friends, who I might add, are as far from judgement and formality as you can get.

What created this desire to have it all pin perfect? What image am I hoping to project and why am I stuck in this Fake Martha Stewart hell?

There has been a fair amount self diagnosing on this issue. I think, like with all personal crossroads dilemmas…

Fear of appearing disheveled and unorganized.

Fear of being discovered of my artsy girl ways, with all of trappings of being a bit spacey.

It’s a vapid “you can have it all” projection that really, when I look closely, is a total lie. I know better than to project anything but the truth, but somehow entertaining deems void of this conviction. The moment my exasperated 8-year-old proclaimed that “it doesn’t all have to be perfect, Mom” as stuffed the entire menagerie of Noah’s Ark and bulging box of 1,000 crayolas under her trundle bed. I was overcome with embarrassment—brought on by a precocious 8-year-old, no less. When had I become this shove-it-under-the-freshly-vacuumed-rug thrower of parties?

When had I crossed over into the Land of “I Am My House”?

I haven’t let it go completely, but just being aware of this strange (disturbing) tendency has helped to squelch it. Although it pains me, I will disregard the tangled knots of iPhone cords and headphones loitering by the outlet when the dinner for ten is cooking on the stove. I will only clean the powder bath sink once, refraining from wiping every droplet in an inch of its life with a Cham Wow.

I guess I really am my house…all mixed up with proof of a life well lived.

How ’bout you? Are you a come-on-over-but-I’m-not-promising-to-serve-water-in-a-clean-glass type of entertainer or are you a little Chihuahua-ish comme moi?

OX.

Posted in Confessional Sunday, Fabulous family time, MPG Party Girl, MPG stirrings | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Wondering if you’re still there? (Also…an amazing pilgrimage to Santa Fe)

Hello, from CrazyLand!

My 3rd grade teaching position and current role as taxi driver of teens has kept me absolutely entrenched in my off-line life.

I miss you all. ‘Thinking I might start up the MPG engine again.

Are you still there?

Please comment here so I can see if there’s anyone to write to :)  

* * *

Santa Fe. ‘Always wanted to go…finally made it happen with my favorite Texas Rodeo Queen, Cecilia.

The blue sky. The adobe. The bright, bright sun.

Heaven.

We went into almost 30 art galleries in one day on the famous street of galleries.

I had lost my photography mojo a little after I started teaching again last year. The Big Kahuna was hiding out in my utility room…sad…feeling neglected. but, Azah!! The southwest brought back that lovin’ feelin’ and I’m shooting for myself again. What a magical place. One that everyone had told me was “so me”. Yes, for the record, it most certainly is.

I’m having a love affair with Georgia O’keefe as a result of this trip. ‘Devoured her huge biography in a week and decided I’d like to be her..even just a little bit..for a little while. She is all kinds of wonderful for so many reasons.

I think my Artsy Girl is back and I’m glad. ‘Missed her terribly.

So, lovelies…Things going on with me..in no particular order:

* LOVING teaching again. I’m getting so many hugs from these 8 year-olds and they truly appreciate all of the crazy antics I incorporate into our learning. I’m right where I need to be, using all my gifts to make learning come alive for these little people.

*I have a kid in high school (gasp!) and am amazed at the young women my daughters are becoming. My youngest is the fastest x-country runner in the nation for 8th grade. She ran a 8:16 (mile and a half)  last week at districts. So incredible to watch. My older daughter is singing like a bird in a special choir and playing volleyball and (yay!) is showing a very good eye for photography.

*We built a red barn on our property that completes the compound. It’s so beautiful and we’re loving it.

*I’m writing a novel that takes place in Texas and I’m fire with reading everything I can get my hands on about plot and character development. I’m pretty motivated and am writing every chance I get. Who knew writing fiction was so much fun?! I have big plans to complete it this summer and get going on query letters to publishers. Bottomline…it speaks to artistic women who want IT ALL in life even though they’re busy wives and mothers. I think some of you will identify. :)

Well, lovelies…I hope your lives are going well. It would be so good to hear from you. Drop me a line if you have time in a comment or email.

Big Northwest hugs to you!

OX.

 

 

Posted in Adventures of ARTSY GIRL, Artist crushes, Digital fine art, Fab MPG women, Happiness, MPG stirrings, MPG travelista, My photography world, Prairie Girl Dreams | Tagged , , , , , , | 36 Comments

New Life…New Blog

 

So Lovelies…I’m understanding that we all go through different seasons in our lives. Of course, there are the usual ones (singlehood, marriage, family, retirement), but there are also seasons of the heart and what it wants. My heart tends to speak rather loudly and is hard to ignore…always has been. I’ve learned to be obedient if I am to find contentment.

Lately I’m craving simplicity, joy, tranquility and adventure. The umbrella hovering over these magnificent things seems to be A Simple Life. I’ve seen complication build an incredibly strong fortress, excluding all sorts of contentment and happiness . I’d like to let the hard way of doing things fade away.

It’s downright fabulous to discover that less really is more.

I would be thrilled to have you join me at my new spot in the blogosphere. If you are an MPG subscriber (thank you, btw), I’d be very, very excited to see you subscribe over there. I will still be posting the artsy stuff in my life over here from time to time, but with matters of the heart, the quest for simplicity and an all-out search for packing in the extraordinary in our lives…it will be posted on the new blog. As always, I am so thankful for you!

Here it is! Bud-a-bing-bud-a-boom!

www.theextraordinarysimplelife.wordpress.com

 OX.

Posted in Good Design, MPG stirrings, Pare down / Power up, Pare down/Power Up - steps toward simplifying, Prairie Girl Dreams, Quest for Less: rational minimalism | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Core Desired Feeling #1

In her book, Danielle LaPorte states: Knowing how you actually want to feel is the most potent form of clarity that you can have. Generating those feelings is the most creative thing you can do with your life.

The whole gist of it can be found here--I have to tell you, for someone who jumps around from goal to goal with a spinning head, this process made so much more sense to me. I do think we’ve had it backwards…going after certain things because we think it will make us feel a certain way is a bit of a crapshoot. Keeping the desired feeling in the forefront and mapping your life around it is…well..brilliant.

* * * *

So…I got up at the butt-crack-of-dawn (known as BCOD around here..I live with an acronymn-happy Air Force brat), pencil in hand and went for it with Danielle’s book and my journal. Very eye-opening stuff came spewing out and after a few hours of work, I think I narrowed my Core Desired Feelings to four. I’ll explore them separately here on the ‘ole bloggity blog this month.

The first one was easily identifiable because I’ve actually claimed my desire for it out loud more times than I can count.

#1 I want to feel joyful.

Gratitude is such a buzz word lately, but I really do hold true to the belief that acknowledging all that you’ve been given brings joy to the front of the line. I’m a bit flakey in writing them down each day, but I am an iPhone slut of sorts, so I decided to get an app and it’s painfully easy.

 

It has reminder dings to keep you on track, which is great for the easily distracted (raising my hand high over here).

Fortunately, it’s relatively simple for me to categorize an experience in the joy-bringer aisle. Some of these I have consistency with…others need more focus. A few of my favorites:

Family time/Twinkie time

 

- Spouse vacay sans kids (hopefully more tandem adventures in store)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Trail running

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Coffee with friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Music on all the time (esp. Hawaiian tunes during rainy months)..best album ever

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Adornment makes a sparkly day out of rainy days… cowboy boots and turquoise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Paddle boarding in summer

 

-Teach after-school drama class for my school

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-a glass of champagne when I’m cooking every night…just a reminder that life should be celebrated!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Early mornings to write, read and work out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joy should fill up the heart several times a day, don’t you think?

Hope your new year is starting out well, Lovelies!

OX.

Posted in Digital fine art, Fab MPG women, Fabulous family time, Good Books, Happiness, iPhoneography, MPG quote and wisdom, MPG stirrings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments