Tuesday, August 22, 2017

It Was a Cute Picture Though

Yesterday, I began my 18th year of teaching.

An hour before school began, I snapped a picture of myself -- something I'm typically embarrassed to do even in the privacy of my own classroom.

And it looked good y'all. I got 113 likes on Facebook. People who have not liked anything since before Trump announced his candidacy were throwing me likes. I got comments that I looked better now than 18 years ago. I changed my Twitter avi to it, y'all.

I can tell you unequivocally and without shame that I was feelin' myself.


My gray hair was lookin' blonde. My face was relatively blemish-free. The bags under my eyes took a vacation of their own.

Yes, I used an Instagram filter, but I didn't even use the most dramatic one.

So I came home last night after a long first day -- 7:00-7:00 shift. I was tired, but overall it had been one of the best first days I had ever had. I watched some tv. I had a relatively normal dinner. I went to bed thinking, "Holy crap. I'm finally getting good at this first day of school business."


And then I woke up.

And then I caught a cramp just trying to walk to the bathroom.

And then I tried to talk and a bullfrog jumped out of my face.

I know I read a lot of books and just generally hung around the house this summer, but come on. I should not be sore and exhausted from standing all day. Or pacing through my room. Or talking. But I sure was.

Still, I thought that once I got going, I'd be okay. And I was.

Until I wasn't.

There is no tired like back-to-school tired. Teaching is a full-body, full-spirit workout. And there is absolutely no way to warm-up for it. You can be in marathon-running shape, but my God in Heaven, I swear it'd be easier and faster to crawl through 26.2 miles of broken glass than to explain which lunch period a 7th grader goes to. It exhausts you to your very soul.

Flash forward to me, eating some shells and cheese that have been in my pantry for nearly 2 years. Out of the pan. With a rubber spatula. Because I didn't turn on the dishwasher this morning, and I'm out of clean spoons. Shamelessly. And with VIGOR.

And I know what some of you are thinking.

"You know, Deana, if you'd just food prep a few meals on Sunday night, you'd feel a lot better and more energized during the week."

Oh, really? You don't say?

Well, let me stop you right there. Because you can just stuff your kale and carrots and lean ground turkey straight into your sassy little Whole 30 lovin', food preppin', crock pottin' mouths. I ain't trying to hear your health tips and fear for my sodium levels tonight. Satan be a carbohydrate, and I have welcomed him lovingly into the darkness of my heart.

So you can put THAT in your Mason jar salad and smoke it.

Do not judge me. I mean at least it's not store brand shells and cheese I'm shoveling into my face.  I'm not some kind of damn animal. I do retain a few standards even in my troubling times.

I needed some comfort and it's spelled V-E-L-V-E-E-T-A.

AND I ate an old gummy vitamin chew for dessert. Because health. And minerals.

Let me live, y'all.




Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Eulogy for Some Khaki Shorts

I read once that newspapers have ongoing obituaries for celebrities and other famous people. They're called "advances", and by compiling them first and adding onto them as years go by, the writers can build and fact-check ahead of time so that when a celebrity dies, the newspaper can add in a few last facts and release it within hours or even moments of the announcement.

As a person who rarely plans in advance for anything -- dinner, stopping for gas, laundry -- I find this fascinating and smart.

As a person who struggles with goodbyes in any form, I find it freakish and morbid. It makes me glad to not be famous. It's enough to have cameras lurking around your bushes or following you to Starbucks; think of some lonely writer in the basement of your hometown gazette adding your latest Oscar nomination or car crash to your file, waiting for the day you croak and his touching tribute will land on everyone's doorstep.

But there are times where it's important to be prepared. Times where you must steel yourself against a loss that changes something in your very soul. Times where you ease into your goodbye slowly, like dipping a toe into the frigid ocean as opposed to waiting for a typhoon to swallow you up.

And so I begin to say goodbye to my favorite pair of khaki shorts.

Yes, I'm fully aware that may be the whitest white person sentence I've ever written. I own it, and I hate myself for it. The idea of khaki shorts is so suburban America, and the idea of having a beloved pair is downright embarrassing on levels I'm still learning to navigate. At least they weren't pleated.

But I'm sad, y'all.

I've seen it coming for a while now, and with each wear and wash, I have felt the slow creep of the trash can drawing near.

Oh, Death, thou art so beige.

I don't know how old these shorts are; I can't even measure time in BK or AK. I bought them at a discount store called Ellis Half Off which was remarkable because it was a dingy store front in a questionable part of our neighborhood, and all it contained was the irregulars and cast-offs from Target.

Can you imagine? Target. Cast-offs. Discounts. It's been gone for years, but that's grief I've already processed.

I found several pairs of khaki shorts there (one can never have too many khaki shorts and white t-shirts for your summer), but as it was a store of irregulars, this pair was the only one to fit. They had to be under $3.00 because nothing in there cost more than a bag of Taco Bell. This was its magic.

The tag read the wrong size, but over the years, the shorts have adapted to whatever size I had become. Lose a few pounds and the drawstring serves its purpose. Gain a few pounds and the cotton stretches fearlessly.

They're like the jeans from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, except they're shorts, and I'm not about to let someone else borrow them. Get your own khakis, sister.

I once spilled bright orange paint on them in the Health House at El Tesoro. It's been nearly a decade since I sat at that table, painting rocks and guzzling homemade salsa. I relegated them to camp shorts and lounge shorts after that, but within a few washes, the paint vanished.

They magically healed themselves to stay in my life, y'all. Khaki miracles are real.

With me, they've traveled a lot, and it shows.
My thighs rub like three wishes are gonna get granted.
The wear and tear is so real. Girls, I know you hear me.
They've traversed hundreds of miles over two different summer camps. They've soaked up the saltwater from the Atlantic and the chlorine from pools across Texas. They've helped me set up nearly every classroom I've been in at my school, and they comforted me through long, hot Saturday mornings, grading papers without A/C. They've taken hundreds of truck rides at the ranch and sat on the world's filthiest curb on Bourbon Street.

Even after a lifetime soaking in Tide and OxiClean, they smell like campfire smoke and homesick tears, cedar trees and freshly cut grass, spilled vodka and soft cotton. And they feel like going home.

I don't wear them out much anymore. They're the kind of shorts that you have to pre-plan your undergaments around because not only are they threadbare in places, but the seams threaten suicide on any given deep squat. And we've established I'm not much of a pre-planner.

In truth, the last couple of times I wore them on an errand, I scoped out my escape routes in case such a moment (and my underwears) came to light. This is not an anxiety that should accompany you to the public library.

Overdue books, yes. Your khaki shorts rotting off of your body, thread-by-thread, in the biography section, no.

So with much regret, I have decided their end is near.

I toyed with several methods of farewell: sewing shears, the Salvation Army donation box, a little Boyz II Men karaoke tribute, a Viking funeral.

None seemed appropriate.

So, I came home, placed them in the wash one more time and will place them in a box of other beloved but retired things.

And maybe next time I'm feeling sentimental or headed to the beach, I'll take them out to find them healed once more.
The orange paint glob was right there on the left leg, I swear it.
Farewell, old friend. It is, in fact, so hard to say goodbye.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Flourish and Flair

Today is my dad's birthday. And since he loved to laugh, I'm going to tell a funny story. Even better, I'm going to tell a story on myself which would only make him laugh harder...

Several years ago, my mom and dad decided to go on a gambling trip to Shreveport. And since it was my birthday, they offered to take me along with two of my friends, Heather and Courtney. I had never been gambling before, and I was beyond excited. You see, learning to gamble is like learning to walk in my family, and I was feeling about 27 years behind schedule. I spent days looking up hotels and casinos and studying the rules of games. (I'm a nerd; studying is what soothes my anxiety). 

As time grew nearer and my mother questioned more and more about where we'd like to stay, I threw up my hands one day in despair while sitting in the coaches' office. 

"I don't understand," I complained. "Everywhere I look I cannot find any hotels in Shreveport." 

"What do you mean? There are lots of hotels and casinos in Shreveport," replied Heather. 

"No. I type in 'hotels in Shreveport' and nothing comes up. The closest I can find is somewhere called Boss-ee-ay City." 

"I'm sorry. What?" 

And so, I said it again. "Boss-ee-ay City." Only I didn't just say it, I slowed it down and spoke really loudly as if I were speaking to someone mildly deaf or obviously foreign. 


Stifling laughter, Heather replied, "Do you mean Bossier City?" But she said it all slow and simple -- BOZYER -- as if she was speaking to a 2nd grader. An obviously foreign 2nd grader. 

Realizing my complete ineptitude and waste of four days of Google searches, I immediately hid my embarrassment with indignant outrage. Because the best defense is ALWAYS indignant outrage. And as both a perfectionist and an English teacher, I get especially embarrassed when I mess up words. 

So you can guess that I was at DEFCON 1 for outrage. 

"There's no Z in there! That's stupid."

"Why don't they just call it Shreveport? They should just call it Shreveport."

"I've never even been to Louisiana. How should I know what they call their dumb ol' towns?"

And, my personal favorite last grasp... etymology. 

"Well, Louisiana was founded by French people so I just assumed it was a very French pronunciation. Boss-ee-ay. Like it would end with a flourish. With some FLAIR." 

I have to hand it to Heather. Until that point she had held it together pretty well until that very moment. But listening to me rant about the flourish and flair of the French language (which I do not speak) sent her into convulsive fits of laughter that included tears and a near asthma attack. 

After a few moments/hours/days, I finally began to see the humor of the situation. And as I am always unable to resist the temptation of making someone laugh, I confided my language faux pas (and that one IS French with all kinds of flourish) to Courtney as we drove to Louisiana. As expected, I was rewarded with guffaws and snorts, but this time it was okay because I was laughing along.

***FLASH FORWARD*** to the elevator ride up to our rooms at our hotel, the Horseshoe Hotel and Casino. 

We have been friends for two decades now, and the strongest common thread in our friendship is the ability to hit each other with the perfect inside joke reference when the other least expects it. A humorous sucker punch if you will. A zing.

In fact, it's my favorite thing, and I consider myself a zinger ninja. So in the elevator, this is what happened. Courtney hit me with a mispronunciation allusion, my cheeks flamed red, and then we collapsed into laughter. Not being in on the joke, my mom immediately asked what it was we were going on about.

Against my better judgment, I let Court and Heather tell the story. My father just shook his head. My mother was incredulous. Even more, she was delighted. 

See, I come by my zinger stealth naturally. For the next two days, it was a nonstop barrage.

"Should we stay here at the Horsey-hoe (Horseshoe)? Or go on to the Isle of CaPRY (Capri)?"

"I heard they were winning big at Hair-RAWS (Harrah's)."

"I love LOUIS-EYE-ANNA. Let's tour it in our Chev-o-roll-lay coop-pay!"

They practically vomited fake French flourish and flair all over my bruised ego.

But every time they did it, there was my dad, chastising them to leave me alone. It wasn't funny. I learned my lesson. All my life, he'd been my protector -- my Daddy Dean -- and this was no different. Each time they pestered, he'd swat them away.

You're never too old to be a daddy's girl.

When we returned home to Fort Worth, my parents and I hauled in our luggage, and my dad took up his post on my couch with Pat Sajak babbling away on the television. Heather and Courtney had talked them into staying the night instead of going home so that they could match wits with my mother, a legendary Scrabble player. As we headed out the door to Heather's for dinner and Scrabble, I asked my dad one last time if he'd like to join us.

Eyes closed, just a hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth, and without missing a beat, he replied...

"No, I think I'll hang out here for a while. Watch some Wheel of For-too-NAY."

And as my mother cackled and my shoulders slumped, I remembered how good it feels to sit on a joke until just the right moment. And he hit me from the top rope... with flair.

Nope, you're never too old to be a daddy's girl. Or a well-deserved punchline.

Happy Birthday, Pops. Your girl misses you big.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

If You Love a Teacher...

If you love a teacher, this post is for you. Not because it makes you special, but because it makes you a target. This post is not a celebration. No, my friends, this is a survival guide.

Tomorrow is a big day. It's big because it's the first day, and first days are frantic and messy and long. No matter how many first days your teacher has had, it never seems to get easier. We just become better at faking it.

And, dear Baby Jesus, if your teacher-love is having their very first of the first days, you are probably already in the thick of it. There's not much you can do at this moment except hold on.

Before we delve into tomorrow, though, let's get a few things straight so that your innocent "jokes" don't become long nights on the couch or a butter knife in the back of your hand.

1. They have not been "on vacation" all summer. Most have done training and conferences and summer school. Or they have families, dear God. And even if they have been on the most magical vacation of all time, shut the heck up. They've earned it. Take me with you next time.

2. They have been back "at work" for a week or two now, but being at work with adults is a great deal easier than being back at work with 900 children. Even the worst, most annoying adults can be moved away from; children never stop following you. Shut up.

3. Stop looking at the receipts. Just stop. Setting up a classroom is like buying a new home every year. It's not just bulletin border and smelly markers they're buying. An easel pad of poster paper (50 sheets) costs $27.95. That's 10% of our yearly tax deduction we get to claim, and it's paper. Yes, it's paper that will showcase the steps to finding the area of a triangle or how to punctuate a complex sentence, but let's be real -- it's PAPER. And if you're buying the easel pad with the sticky side? Your spouse must be rich. Adopt me. I need giant sticky notes.

And if your teacher love wants to drop $11 on a pack of felt tip pens? You don't say a word.

Some girls want a bouquet of flowers. I, myself, prefer a bouquet of new felt-tipped pens.
I'm serious. This is the teacher equivalent of buying a ridiculously expensive bottle of whiskey. Yes, they could just use other pens. But you could also just knock back a crisp, refreshing Purell on the rocks. Shut up.

4. They will come home with no voice. A non-teacher friend once came to my school to speak to classes all day. All she did was talk. She went home and laid a frozen washcloth on her face and refused to look at her husband.

Your teacher-love's face will ache from smiling. The first day, we are a crowd of deranged Miss America contestants.

You smile to welcome students. You smile to alleviate parental panic. You smile to defuse parental discontent. You smile because, inevitably, s**t will fall apart. Crying child, lunch schedule mix-ups, parents who don't understand the pick-up line, or technology that worked fine today will have reverted back to 1952 tomorrow.

Tomorrow night, do not expect them to whisper sweet nothings to you. Do not expect them to ask about your day. Do not try to Face Time them. You will not want to see their face on the other end. Tomorrow is not the day to get your feelings hurt because they "seem distant". Tomorrow is a day to shut up. Maybe they'll talk again on Tuesday.

5. Don't expect them to keep up with their responsibilities at home to the usual standard. If you came to my house right now, I'd only let you in if you brought laundry detergent and a casserole. Even then, I might eye you warily through the peephole and text you instructions to leave it on the porch and walk away. They've gone from picking up after a few people (or for only themselves) to herding a school full of Pig Pens who leave a trail of pencil shavings and Axe body spray wherever they go. Think about how rage-y you get when the people in your house can't remember where dirty socks go. Now multiply that feeling times 125.

6. If your teacher-love is not in your home, consider yourself lucky. We are not a pleasant people. For the first 2 weeks, we are like zombies who have somehow retained the ability to drive. But not like the fast World War Z zombies. This is more us:

So do yourself a favor tomorrow. Give your teacher a big hug before they leave. Give them a little space when they get home. And just wait it out for a couple of days. They'll be human again someday soon.

And if not... at least you have a leg up on them.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Panic of Perfection

As the first day of school draws near, I am sensing a definite theme with my teacher friends as I scroll through social media: Panic.

Not about curriculum. Not about students. Not about school policies. Full-blown Panic about the state of not-nearly-readiness of our classrooms. I sense their panic because I know this Panic. We are, in fact, old, old friends, he and I. Today was our 17th anniversary.

Hello, lover.

At my school, almost everyone is in a new place, and all week, I've seen people walking in and out of each others' rooms, calculating time lost in meetings, eyeing decor, silently taking measurements, calling dibs on unwanted furniture. Today was NJH Craigslist day: if you want something post about it or if you're looking, post about it. Teachers cruise hallways like seasoned garage-salers. Word about hard-to-find objects like bookshelves or free Expo markers spreads like we're Bodie and the Corner Boys.

Teacher 1: "Yo. You didn't hear this from me, but I saw a sweet, sweet rolling chair just sittin' outside room 208. You want me to go pick it up for you?"

Teacher 2: (twitches and whispers) "I don't know, man. Doesn't that belong to Drury? Why's he puttin' it out there like that? You sure it's safe? I don't want any trouble."

Teacher 1: "Don't worry about Drury. If it's in the hallway, it's fair game. Thems the rules, you know? All I need is a 24 count box of mechanical pencils, and we're square."

And that's just the physical layout of the room. We haven't even started out-Pinteresting each other yet. Elementary school teachers start planning their class themes for the upcoming school year even before the previous year is done. I'm convinced they go on retreats to the desert, do a bunch of peyote, and then their spirit animal drops their bulletin board plan into the sand. It is absolutely the only explanation.

Junior high teachers don't usually dig quite as deep, but don't be fooled. We care. We worry about having the coolest decorations and the hottest memes to use as our classroom procedures. We're all about the best lighting and the comfiest chairs. We want to be seen but we don't want to seem too eager about it because we just want you to like us.

As I've said many times before: it takes junior high to teach junior high.

I've been especially stressed this year because in the grand game of musical classrooms, I've been lucky the past 3 years and avoided a move. But this year, I've taken the sidewalk less-traveled and moved to the portable buildings outside. And not just those outside but across the street. On the football field.

These buildings appeared through some form of wizardry one day last year, only two years after they were ordered. They sat empty until June when my PLC and I began shoving our hastily packed boxes into them.

"BLANK CANVASES!" the optimists shouted.

"NO HALLWAY DRAMA!" the hermits cheered.

"YOUR OWN THERMOSTAT!" everyone exclaimed.


Me, today, after 3 Diet Cokes and forgetting my key card into the building.

It has not been a pretty move. Not only did my lovely students schlep all of my 17 years worth of teaching materials, boxes of mementos, and 743 novels, but they did so in the rain. For the cost of Chik Fil-A. And it all sat, unopened and unthought of until last Friday when I could no longer ignore my ever-growing anxiety. That's when I walked into my BLANK CANVAS that was AWAY FROM HALLWAY DRAMA with my very OWN (unreliable) THERMOSTAT. And I saw that absolutely nothing had changed in two months. My own ragged boxes still there, taunting me but there was nothing else. No teacher desk, no furniture, no technology, no internet -- in any of my PLC's rooms. And all my worst trust issues burst out of me in such a way that I may never make it into Heaven.

I will admit it. S**t got real, and it got real fast. I fumed. I cried. I cussed. I guilted. I played every last card I knew how to play. I had gotten my feelings hurt, and then I got mad. I ranted and raved and reminded until, little by little, things began to appear. I was actually kind of proud of myself for fighting the fight and fighting it so well.

Then last night, at our Preseason Picnic, 40 students and their parents and siblings walked those 527 steps to my unkempt, uncovered, shameful door. Not a single one asked why my bulletin boards were unfinished. Not a single one noticed I had no computer on my desk. Not a single one cast the side eye at my tables covered by piles of construction paper and Jenga towers of novels. Or the missing ceiling tile that I predict will be the gateway to a raccoon home invasion someday soon.

For teachers, their classroom is a second home. We spend 50+ hours per week there. We sometimes eat breakfast, lunch, AND dinner there. I had a friend once who took longer to pick out her office chair than I took to pick out my last mattress. It is the place we learn and cry and celebrate and, sometimes, nap. So when we open them up to others -- especially to those first time guests -- we want them to be clean and comfortable and inviting.

So how did no one mention what they saw? Did they politely ignore? Did they silently judge and then talk about me on some "disappointing classrooms of 2016" message board? Or did it really not matter? These are the questions I thought about and woke myself up with at 4:00 AM when I finally realized something and made some peace within my mind. Peace that I knew in my heart but I could not quite hammer into my head.

1. There are entire school buildings in my district that remain in process of construction/renovation. Those teachers have not even been allowed in their own homes yet.

2. There are entire communities underwater in my neighboring state where children dream about going back to school as they sleep curled up on the roofs of their actual, submerged homes.

3. There are teachers in my district (but finally, FINALLY not in my school) who do not have their own rooms, and they must depend on the kindness and care of fellow teachers to let them in.

4. When I started at my school 17 years ago, we didn't have our own computers or telephones or wifi signals. We calculated grades on calculators and hand-wrote our grade sheets on triplicate forms and actually walked to someone else's classroom to ask a question. And I survived! And I was loved! And my children learned!

5. There are still schools in our very own God-Bless-the-USA nation that cannot afford copy paper of textbooks or faculty pay checks. Schools with mold and broken windows and fear, and yet children learn.

6. And that there are people in this world willing to sit under a bridge, in the dirt, to learn from a man with only a battered chalkboard and the desire to teach.

7. That never -- not once -- have I ever been denied what I need at my school. Things have arrived late. They may have arrived inconveniently. But they arrived, and I am blessed by their arrival. Even the NJH Craigslist furniture ads typically get fulfilled within 24 hours by someone.

So, I know I'm preaching what I must practice myself these next 3 days, but this is what finally gave me peace this morning, and in moments of panic, I want you to say it with me:

It doesn't matter.

It will all be okay.

My home doesn't have to be Pinterest perfect to be clean, welcoming, and inviting. It just needs me.

I am enough.

My students don't need things; they need me.

All a classroom needs is students, chairs, and someone who cares.

And to be honest, when necessary, even the chairs are negotiable.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


The first time my father lost his mind, it was a Tuesday.

I stood in line at the concession stand of a junior high football game, staring blankly at the smiling booster club moms and dads, while on the phone, my own father spit curses and lies about my mother and, later, about me.

The first time I did not recognize my father's voice, it was a Tuesday. 

The first time I ever had a panic attack, it was a Tuesday.

The first time I ever considered my own death, it was a Tuesday.

The first time I ever prayed for my own father's death, it was a Tuesday.

I have a real and palpable anger about Tuesdays.


Looking back, almost a decade later, I know now that wasn't really my father on the phone. It was a plague of chronic disease, financial despair, and unregulated medication.

It was a man whose brain was betraying him, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy; a wrecking ball of delusions and conspiracy and rage.

It was a mind, once full of joy and song lyrics and the names of every person he ever met, now tormented by even the simplest of tasks.

It was a distortion; a funhouse mirror reflection of the man I had cherished my entire life.

It was a jailer of logic and a thief of memories.

It was a havoc I would not wish on my own worst enemy.


There were many other horrors that would happen in the years between that phone call and my father's death. Some happened on Tuesdays, I'm sure, but when there are so many sadnesses and fears, the calendar fills up quickly, and other days have to suffice. 

But when my father died, he died on a Tuesday, just as I had prayed those hundreds of Tuesdays before.

I think about that prayer often. I've spent a great deal of time and money, on therapists and vacations and cheap bottles of wine, trying to come to grips with that prayer. How a daughter can pray such a thing for her hero. How I could pray for an end to the madness however God might see fit. Maybe He would take him to spare all of us; maybe He would take me, at least, to spare me. Either way, I prayed.

My guilt is that I prayed that prayer out of anger and selfishness. My shame is that it wasn't the only time I prayed it. I war with that shame often still.

Over time, my anger and frustration transferred from my dad to his disease, Parkinson's and its terrible little sidekick, Dementia. And although I eventually forgave my father the grievances he had caused, I still found myself praying often for the end. An end to this cruelty. An end to the indignities he endured. An end to his confusion and tears and pain. 

So, in the exquisite and beautiful circles of life, his life ended on a Tuesday, but my pain did not.

I have a real distrust of Tuesdays.

There have been several deaths this half year that have affected me more than I expected. Perhaps it's just the feeling of loss in general. Perhaps it's the ways they are connected back to my father -- the music he loved, or the storytelling he so encouraged, or the afflictions that tormented both him and my family. I was told that I would often see my father's death in the deaths of others, especially in those whose endings feel so familiar.

Last night, I read that Pat Summitt, one of my idols in education and sports and being a badass woman, was dying. This news hit me profoundly, and I found myself praying, yet again, for a quick end. 

There is something to be said for all of our old stories about knights and warriors and the dignity of a clean death. That's something especially foreign to those suffering from dementia -- a clean, quick death. It's a nice idea -- romantic, even -- but death, no matter how swift, is never clean, and I felt all of my old guilt rising again as I prayed. 

I thought of her and my father, two people who never met but still shared a space in my life. Two people who share the bad luck of a bad disease. Two people known for kindness and teasing and hard work and their bright blue eyes. Farm kids who came from nothing. One grew into a legend, having everything and more; one was everything and more -- a legend --  to me.


What I pray for, I've come to learn, is not just a prayer for him but a prayer for me. An end to my own confusion and tears and pain. I think it must be what so many people experience when they watch a loved one slip away, heartbreakingly slowly, over time.

It's hard to reconcile the selfless act of letting go with the selfish want of being free, and pain is a parasite feasting off such conflict.

A few weeks ago, I read a passage from a book, A Monster Calls, a children's book that (like so many books for children) is really meant to teach us all. It stuck with me and comforted me, and I've gone back to its earmarked page many times. So in addition to my prayer, I read it over and over, first in a whisper, feeling silly and useless, alone in my bed; then out loud and steady in hopes that somehow God would bring it to others.

The article had said that her family had stopped accepting visitors and that she might only have days left to live. But I knew, without question, what day my heartache loves best. 

So it was that I woke up this morning, a Tuesday, to say goodbye yet again.

I have a real loneliness and an ache for healing on Tuesdays.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The In-Betweens

There are moments when I think my students are too old for their age -- that they know too much about drugs and sex and the hatred of this world. Those are the moments I feel hopeless and empty. The moments when I wonder where I misplaced my idealism.

And then, I put on a Disney movie after an ass-whip day of standardized testing. And my most challenging students pull their desks close and stare wide-eyed at the screen, mesmerized by the colors and music and story. They boo the villains and take up for the victims. They talk to no one but themselves about what they'd do if they were that character. Sometimes they cry or get very quiet during the sad parts. Sometimes they sing and dance through the happy moments. And a few have even shadow-boxed the fight scenes right alongside the hero.

But my favorite moments of all time are when they smile at all the parts meant for kids but laugh at all of the jokes meant for grown-ups. That's when I remember that I am blessed with these babies at The In-Betweens. We exist at the intersection of Being a Kid and Growing Up, where some days you just want to be big and tall while on others you still want to curl up and be small. Where innocence isn't entirely eclipsed by cynicism.

And where sometimes you still get a movie and orange slices at the end of a long day of work.