Sunday, November 13, 2011

Little House on the Prairie

On a stretch of highway, south of Mooreland, Oklahoma is a modest, faded yellow tin building.  It has a large window, a small porch, and a mailbox out front that tell you that this is actually a house.  The unpaved driveway that leads to the back has ruts that get deeper each year that the paint fades just a little more.  We call it "The Little House on the Prairie", or just "little house" for short.

The little house sits on the corner of 160 acres of farmland.  This land belonged to my grandfather, Nelson Peach.  While he coached basketball and taught school in Elk City, he leased it to his brother to farm.  In 1973, after seventeen years, he decided to take over the farming of his land again.

That year, during hay season, my grandfather and dad drove from Elk City to the farm every weekend to tend to the hay.  The problem was there was no little house at the time.  They spent that hay season sleeping in the hay shed.  After one season of this, they decided to build the little house. 

They built it for function, nothing fancy.  There are two bedrooms, one without a closet.  There is a kitchen, breakfast area, living room, and bathroom.  There is a small shed out back for storage and laundry.  For the most part, they built it themselves.  To this day, Dad prides himself on how air tight the place is.  He's proud of what he built, as he should be.  And, he loves it there.

The summer between fifth and sixth grade, our family moved from Sentinel to Mooreland.  We were building a new house in town, but in the meantime, we moved into the little house.  My sister, Kristi, and I shared the one room without a closet. 

We only lived there for the amount of time it took to build our house in town, but strangely, it felt like years.  We all felt that way.  Maybe it is because we had so many good memories from our time at the little house on the prairie.

I remember the time Mom was out front screaming at me to bring her a broom.  There was a tarantula in the yard and she was trying to kill it.  But it freaked her out, so she'd hand me the broom and tell me to kill it.  Then she'd worry that the tarantula was going to get me, so she'd take the broom back.  We went back and forth like this several times.  I don't remember if we killed the thing or not.  Most likely it walked off during all the commotion, shaking its head at the crazy humans with a broom.

Then there was the time we had some people over.  Everyone was in the living room, talking, having a great time.  I left to take a shower.  When I got out of the shower, the house was silent and only one person was left, Sonja Peach.  I looked around and asked where everyone was.  She said Kristi had been running and slipped on a magazine and broke her arm.  Everyone had left to take her to the hospital.  Sonja stayed with me.

One day, Tawn Merklin and I decided to ride our bikes to Boiling Springs State Park.  As we were riding, we came across a small deer caught in a barbed wire fence.  We stopped and tried to help it, but we were scaring it even more.  We decided to just leave it alone and hoped it would be able to free itself.  I think it was gone when we came back by but that image of that frightened deer is still vivid in my mind to this day.

In later years, after my parents got divorced and moved away from Mooreland, the little house was used as a hunting "lodge".  My dad would come up from Texas during quail season to hunt.  When I started hunting with him, I'd come up and stay for a few days as well. 

Those were amazing times, being there with my dad, hunting with him.  The evenings were spent talking for hours.  Usually, Elmer Ansley would come over for a while.  That's when things got really good.  Dad and Elmer have been friends for years, ever since Elmer built our house in town.  Those two old farts always had stories to tell.  Apparently they were quite the hell raisers in their early days.

In the mornings we'd go to town and have breakfast at the Mooreland Cafe.  The place was always packed with locals having their breakfast.  We'd get our bellies full, go back to the house where I'd get the hunter safety talk, again, grab our guns and go.  We drove and walked for miles and miles looking for quail.  I loved that time in the fresh air, out in nature.  Wildlife was abundant...deer, owls, sparrows, and even quail.

After walking off our breakfast, we'd head back into town for lunch at the Mooreland Cafe.  Dad would talk to the other diners.  They talked about the harvest, the rain or lack of rain, caught up on how everyone was doing.  They were all so laid back easy going.  Everything is like that around Mooreland.

Recently, my dad and sister both moved up from Texas to Mooreland.  Dad has officially moved back into the little house.  This is where he'll be the rest of his life.  Kristi and her family are living in town, next door to the Mooreland Cafe for now.  They are all just giddy.  They've left behind the stress and chaos in Texas and are beginning to live their lives in a quiet, peaceful, slow-paced way.

Being out at the little house has always had a calming effect on me.  The air is crisp, fresh, filled with the smell of the sagebrush that blankets the landscape.  The night sky becomes a deep midnight blue and the stars slowly make their entrance onto the stage, illuminating the countryside. 

The sounds you hear are mostly those of nature.  The gently mooing of the cows grazing across the road, a coyote yelping in the distance, or more often than not, just the sound of the wind whipping through the trees.  There is the occasional sound of a passing vehicle.  Sometimes they honk to say hello as they pass.

Other than that, there is silence.  Just beautiful silence.  And that's why I keep returning. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Live Life the Way You Picture It

Sitting in my recliner this morning, laptop on my lap, drinking my coffee and seeing what new things I should pin on Pinterest, I came across a website that had this as their tag line, "Live Life the Way You Picture It".  The company sells camera bags for women so it's very catchy for them.  As I perused their site, that tag line kept playing in my head like a broken record...."Live life the way you picture it....."

Live life the way you picture it.

It dawned on me that my story for years now has been that, "This is not how I pictured my life."  Or, "I never thought my life would be like this."  Even, "If this is what life is going to be daily, why bother." 

It's time to start telling a new story.  It's time to start living my life the way I picture it.

Last weekend I drove to Mooreland early Friday morning.  My 4-Runner was loaded with dozens of paint brushes, numerous cans and bottles of paint, sketches, camera, computer....everything I needed to start a mural on the walls of my sister's new barbershop.  She had asked me to paint a mural with images from Mooreland...the old water tower, the Co-Op, the Mooreland Cafe.  Even though I said yes, I was scared to death.  I haven't actually painted anything realistic in a long time.  I had NEVER done anything on such a large scale before.  And I certainly hadn't done any work that I knew people would actually see every day. 

Nervously, I started painting the "sky".  The already tan walls showing below the sky gave the impression of an unfolding landscape.  Next, I gave the walls a coat of a golden yellow.  Now I had sky and earth.  Oh God, now what? 

I began sketching in the buildings that Kristi wanted in the mural...the old Mooreland water tower, the Co-Op, and the Mooreland Cafe.  Ok....this is starting to look like a real mural.

Then I started really painting, filling in details.  I had my headphones on, listening to my music.  I would step back occasionally to check my work.  I had my hair pulled back, wearing just a tank top with an off-the-shoulder t-shirt draped over it, no bra, my comfy yoga pants, and tennis shoes.  No one was there but me.  Me and my art and all my stuff. 

Throughout the process I would stop and just smile.  Not just at the progress I was making, but at what I was doing.  I was happy.  I was just plain giddy standing there in this tiny barbershop, painting, listening to my music, no one else around.  This is what I love to do.  This is how I picture my life.

My brain didn't hurt from barking at kids who won't listen or pay attention.  My stress level was zero compared to days at school spent trying desperately to get kids to learn when they couldn't possibly care less.  I spent the day going at my own pace instead of at a break-neck speed just trying to keep up with all that needed to be done at school but that couldn't possibly get done.  There was the occasional interruption from family stopping by to check my progress or get something from the shop.  But that was good.  I'm used to non-stop interruptions in my classroom whether it is from students being pulled out or discipline issues interrupting everything.  I didn't have to eat lunch at 10:45 in the morning.  I could take a break when I needed one.  Oh, and I could go to the bathroom any time I wanted and as frequently as I wanted.  That's huge.

This day was exactly as I pictured it.  Relaxed, productive, creative.  It was stress-free.  I still had challenges to face and I stood on my feet all day, but at the end of the day, the tired feeling that I had was a good one.  I didn't want to just go home and collapse into my bed.  The next morning I woke up feeling rested, refreshed, ready to go again. 

After a great breakfast of biscuits and gravy at the Mooreland Cafe, I was ready to get to work.  The mural started to come to life.  Adding layer after layer of paint, it began to turn into what I envisioned in my head.

After working for several hours, I still didn't finish on Saturday.  As usual, when projecting completion time for a project, I didn't factor in all the "thinking" time I'd need.  Time to work out details or time to move things around.  To top things off, Saturday I started to get a really sore throat.  That worried me.  Would I be able to get up and finish on Sunday?  If I was going to be getting up and going to school it would be a huge issue. Sore throat...barking at fourth graders...not good.

Sunday morning I woke up feeling better.  I still had the sore throat but didn't have to do much talking.  I went back to the shop and continued working.  Even feeling somewhat under the weather, I was still happy to be working.  What a contrast from when I am at school feeling under the weather.  When I am at school feeling sick, all I want to do is go home and crawl into bed.

I realized I wasn't going to finish the mural on Sunday.  I'd have to come back the following weekend.  Road trip to do something creative!  Whoohoo!  Talk about living life the way I picture it.  This is exactly how I envision my life.  So maybe by taking the baby steps I've been taking, I really am on my way to that life I see so clearly in my head....a creative, productive, fulfilling, less stressful life.  We build momentum with each of those baby steps which turn into longer strides and occur more frequently as we go along the right path. 

Below is where I left the mural.  I like it so far.  I'm pretty proud of it, considering it is my very first one.  It makes me happy and that's really all that matters to me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Someone to Pull My Boots Off

Someone to Pull My Boots Off

The last eight days I’ve been sickeren' a dog.  That’s Okie-speak for not feeling worth a damn.  Severe headaches, nausea, and all-over body aches had me in bed for almost eight days straight.  Three trips to the doctor didn’t help.  They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.

So, I would go home and sleep.  I would try to get up and around, but the swirling, throbbing headaches made me just want to go back to bed.  Lying in bed all that time, I just wanted someone to come check on me, bring me a cup of hot tea, maybe some soup.  It left me feeling really lonely. 

As my daughter frequently reminded me, she’s a teenage girl.  I know she loves me, but she does not love to take care of me.  I understand.  I was a teenager once.  My son would pop by to check on me, but he too has his own life.

And that was it.  Those were the only two people around to help and they were pretty busy with their own needs.  My teacher friends helped out at school.

Finally, this morning I went to the hospital for a CT scan.  Because I had to fast prior to the scan, I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since the night before.  I didn’t take any pain medication because I wasn’t sure if I could before the scan.  Racking my brain trying to think of anyone who could drive me, I came up with no one.  My daughter was in school, my son was in school, my friends are all teachers….at school.  My family lives hours away from me. 

I could possibly see if Tony, the ex-husband was in town.  He had to bring Caroline to me at the Women’s Center when I had my MRI because I absolutely had to have a driver that day.  That was nice of him, but I really didn’t want to have to call him.

My ex-mother-in-law lives one street away.  I could call her.  Ummm, no.

I had no one to call.

Over the past eight days, I had felt worse than I did while going through chemotherapy.  I was in constant pain that could only be relieved through pain medication.  I didn’t have the money to be buying all the different medications that weren’t working for me, nor the other things recommended for me.  And I felt completely alone, again.

This morning when I finally got the call for the CT scan, they said to head straight over.  I was still in my pajamas when they called, so I threw on a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, and for some reason, my cowboy boots.  I rushed over to the hospital for my scan. 

Head throbbing and walking like an old woman, I thought to myself, “Why did you wear your cowboy boots?  Not the most comfortable things when you ache from head to toe.”  Then I forgot about it and checked in.  The woman at admissions asked me a ton of questions, one of which was, “And you are single?”  Do you know how many times I have to tell people for one reason or another that I am single?  Geez.  Finally, I took my "single" self and had my CT scan.

After the scan, the nurse asked me if I had someone to drive me home.  I told him that no, I didn’t have anyone.  No.  I don’t have anyone.

At this time, I hadn’t eaten anything since the night before and I didn’t have my pain medications with me.  As I practically stumbled out to my vehicle and climbed in, I remembered my boots.  How in the hell am I going to get these off by myself?  I could barely turn my head without intense pain.  How am I going to bend over and take off my boots?  The tears started rolling down my face.  I just want someone to pull my boots off for me.

Is that too much to ask?  Someone to pull my boots off.

I’m tired of doing everything alone, having no one “there” for me.  I have lots of friends, but it has been so long since I just had some fun with someone, lots of laughs, tenderness.  Someone holding you tight, lost in the embrace, kisses that go on forever. 

And of course, someone to pull my boots off. 

I suppose it will happen when God decides the time is right for me.  I hope he isn't a Libra. They take forever to make up their minds. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Taking Baby Steps

It is Saturday morning.  Yesterday was the first day of school.  For the first time in years, I didn't come home completely wiped out.  I woke up this morning around 7:00am, all on my own.  There is such a sense of peace inside me.

Since this peacefulness is such an anomaly for me, especially around the beginning of a new school year, it made me wonder.  What's different this time?  The answer came to me immediately.  I'm finally taking those baby steps toward my dreams.

Each day I find myself doing at least one thing to nurture my creative soul.  For me, it could be writing, painting, or photography.  It could even be cooking a sumptuous meal or planting an herb garden.  Whatever it is, each of these are baby steps towards realizing the life I truly want to live.  When I envision my perfect life, these are all vividly present.

The peace also comes from being myself and knowing that others are just being who they are and there is nothing you can do to change that.  I now focus on what I want from me and don't worry about what I want from someone else.  I no longer worry that someone can't make an important decision that involves me.  It doesn't bother me anymore when someone makes the decision to say something hurtful about me. 

I know my truth.  I know what is important to me and the path my life is now on will take me exactly where I am supposed to go, even if I just take baby steps for now.  Before long, those baby steps will turn into long, graceful strides.  Soon, I'll break into a full run and the world will open up. 

Looking back, I've learned so much.  Every heartbreaking, painful, or beautiful experience has led me to right here.  And it is from right here that I take each new baby step of my incredibly fulfilling life.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Teacher Face - Day One

Today was the first day back to school for me.  No kids yet, just the traditional rah-rah meeting from our superintendent telling us what a great year we'll be having.  There were staff meetings in the afternoon and I worked in my classroom for about 20 minutes and then had to leave.

All in all it was a fairly easy day.  But I came home with the first signs of "teacher face".  You know, teacher skin has a gray cast to it, my eyes look tired and bloodshot, there are dark circles forming under my eyes, and my hair looks dull and lifeless.  How is this possible?  Is it starting already? 

Normally I don't notice my teacher face until at least a couple of days into the new school year.  Quite frankly, I forget about it every summer.  During the summer I rarely wear makeup and usually look fresh and younger than my age.  I like the way I look.  But once school starts, it's a different story.  It happens every year.  One day I look in the mirror and it scares the hell out of me.  I always look at my reflection and wonder who that ragged old woman is looking back at me?  I don't recognize myself.

It always makes me this what you are supposed to look like at the end (or even in the middle of) the day?  But over the last few weeks, after spending hours in my studio, often without breaks, I never got "teacher face".  I didn't get bags or circles under my eyes, my skin looked fresh and peachy, a smile was constantly on my face. 

Teacher face or studio face.

Haggard old woman face or fresh peachy smiling face

Makes me wonder.....

Morning Tranquility

It is early morning.  This is my favorite part of the day.  The hot cup of coffee next to me warms my hands when I take a sip, the aroma awakening my senses.  Everything is still except for the slightly off-balance ceiling fan circling above my head. 

This is the way a day should begin, every day.  A gentle transition from slumber to slowly waking up, stretching your body, taking time for quiet reflection, eager to see what the day will bring. 

I resist the urge to turn on the tv to catch up on the news from the past evening.  It is usually negative anyway and if it is something important enough to know, I'll find out eventually.  Instead, I sit here and think, and write.  I dream of the day when this is how all my days start.  In fact, I can have them all start like this, but for now my quiet time will be limited since I do start back to school today. 

There has been a major shift in me the last few years.  I am finally putting into action all that I have learned about living the life I want, making it mine, making it happen.  By starting each day with this quiet time for gratitude and reflection, I feel confident I will continue on the path of living an authentic and fulfilling life.

Have a great day everyone!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

On Turning 45 Years Old

Today is my 45th birthday.  Last night at midnight, my daughter and three of her friends came to me in my studio and sang "Happy Birthday" to me.  This morning I woke up to a handmade banner that Caroline and her friends had made and hung in the kitchen.

All three girls had made birthday cards for me, the coffee pot was set up, and the house was spotless.

My phone has been going nuts today with phone calls, text messages, and Facebook notifications from people wishing me "Happy Birthday".  This afternoon the girls are taking me to see the new movie, "The Help".  It's been a great day and it's only early afternoon.

A birthday is a good day to stop and reflect on life.  After 45 years, I feel as if I am learning a few things.  For example, now I go with the flow and don't get my panties in a wad over stupid things that are out of my control.  Now, there is the occasional driver that might get a few words from me, not that they can hear me, but still, they know.  And when standing behind the woman at Old Navy who wants the clerk to return 20 items, then ring them back up again with her two pair of flip flops just so she can get a discount while I stand behind her with ONE coffee mug, I now choose to simply, but loudly, set my coffee mug down and walk out.  She knows, too.

These days, I find myself calmer and slowing down.  I am taking time for me, quiet time, time to do nothing or anything.  If I want a glass of wine at 1:00 in the afternoon, then I will have one.  If I want to take a nap, I do.  If I want to stay up until 4am working in the studio, I do.

When my kids come to me with relationship problems, I tell them to just be themselves and quit worrying so much.  It will all work out.  "It is what it is" has become one of my key phrases that I use almost daily.

The majority of my time is spent in my studio creating.  Although I love the positive feedback I am getting, I no longer care if anyone else likes my work, because I like it and I'm doing this for me.  I'm doing what feels natural and right.  I've never been happier than right now.  Nurturing my creative side has breathed new life into me.  It brings calm to me.  I finally have that internal peace that I have been searching for. 

Next on my agenda is my health.  I'm already very healthy, there's just way too much of me right now.  If I want this good health to continue, I need a little less to work with if you know what I mean.  Starting tonight there will be 30 minute walks, every night.  There will be even more stretching and toning.  My diet is already fairly healthy, so it's just about affording healthy food.  Of course, there is the wine, but wine is good for you, especially red wine.  See, I'm on track!

So here I am, settled in a new home, two kids that make me proud every day, surrounded by people who love me, working in the studio like crazy, doing what I love, and finally just being one hundred percent "me".  I'm happier than I've been in years.  I'm looking forward to see what the next 45 years has to bring because the first 45 have been pretty great.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

One of the Best Days E*V*E*R*!

Tuesday afternoon, a little after lunch time and I am already in the midst of one of the best days ever...

I woke up this morning feeling rested and refreshed despite dreaming about being on a boat with George Clooney, Matt Damon, and a dog with chicken pox.  But that's another story.

After getting out of bed, I stretched, had a cup of tea, and gradually woke up.  I had a couple of errands to run first thing this morning, but after those were done I headed to my new studio.

A little over a month ago I moved into a new house, well it's an old house from the 1950's, but it's new to me.  One of the best parts about this house is the Florida room in the back of the house.  With its southern wall made of floor to ceiling windows, it's tile floor, and partially bricked walls, it makes a perfect studio.  For years I have been wanting, needing, a studio....a place where all my stuff could be out and I could escape and create.  This place is perfect.

(No, it's not a real dog.  It's a stuffed wolf.  Yes, I have several.  I like them.  Be quiet.)

The studio, Laughing Horse Studio, is a mess right now, but that's good...that means I'm working.  And that is why this is one of the best days ever.

For the last few weeks, I've been spending most of my time in here.  I have two work spaces set up.  One is more of an office area where I do research, print things off my computer that I will incorporate into my artwork, or just pay bills.  The other is my drafting table where most of the actual creating happens.  But I'm totally surrounded by all of my stuff....all the things I have been collecting for years, just waiting for the day I'd have my own space to create something unique with them.

It feels so amazing to be doing this.  It feels natural.  It makes me happy. 

Today has been so great because this is the type of day I envision myself having every day.  Waking up feeling refreshed and excited about the day ahead, wondering what I will create today from a blank, white canvas.  Knowing that I can go to the bathroom whenever I like and as many times as I need to.  Eating lunch when I am hungry.  Taking a nap if I need one.  Blare my music.  Dance between projects.  See a finished product and know that I created it. 

You know when something is right.  You feel it deep within you.  Every cell of you resonates a primal knowing.  You are exactly where you are supposed to be doing exactly what you are supposed to do. 

It feels good.  Really good.

(By the way, I came up with the name Laughing Horse Studio after I saw a road in New Mexico called Laughing Horse Road.  I thought it would make a perfect name for a studio.  I think it fits.)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer Vacation?

With only a few days left in the month of June, I am wondering what is happening to my summer vacation.  You know, that thing that teachers all get where they get to sit around and do nothing all day.  I honestly don't remember the last time I had a "summer vacation" that was spent sitting around doing nothing all day.  In fact, have I ever?  My summer vacations are usually spent trying desperately to catch up on all the things I can't get done during the school year.  And, for the last four or five years, I have had something major to deal with over the summer:  cancer, ending a six-year relationship with my boyfriend, estate sale, moving, hysterectomy.  This summer it is moving....again.

The first week of this summer vacation, Caroline and I traveled to Colorado.  We were thinking of moving to the Centennial State and this trip was mainly to scout out locations.  We ended up spending the majority of our time in the Boulder/Ft. Collins area.  We both loved both places but still weren't sure if this was something we really wanted to do, but we were certainly leaning towards it.   As we drove home, I thought about all the places I would try to find a job in Colorado, what I might be interested in, how nice it would be to live in a gorgeous state with majestic mountains and breathable air. 

After spending a beautiful week in Colorado, Caroline and I came home to a notice from my apartment complex that they were raising the rent.  After reading the notice, I went into panic mode.  If I didn't sign a one year lease by July 1, my rent (with garage) would go up to $1,034 a month.  I could barely afford what I was already paying.  So, I immediately started looking for another option.  Apartments were too high or too crappy to live in.  Maybe a house?  Damn, houses were going for $1,100 a month or higher!

Then, I stumbled across a small two bedroom house with a Florida room.  Despite the fact that it is one street south of my ex-mother-in-law, and was fairly small, it was the right price.  It was cheaper than my apartment before the rent increase and it had space for my studio in the Florida room. 

The owners had just closed on the house a few days prior to my seeing it.  It was in a state of chaos as they were in the process of renovating.  But this house, built in the mid 1950's, had charm.  I knew immediately that this was the place for us. 

For the last few weeks, we've been stopping by periodically to check on the progress of the house.  It is coming along beautifully.  I have also been making all the preparations necessary to move again....transferring service, packing, getting rid of stuff we don't need.  At night, curled up in bed, my mind envisions our new home, how we will decorate it, how nice it will be to be out of the apartment. 

My mind also fixates on my studio.  It will be small but it will be bigger than anything I have ever had.  It will be a perfect space to work in.  I can close the doors and drift off into my own creative world.  I imagine how I will lay out the space, where my drafting table will go, what supplies I will keep in the studio, which ones I will store in the garage.  New ideas are swimming in my head and I am so anxious to start tackling them.  I'm working on a sign to hang inside that says "Laughing Horse Studio".  I even had new business cards made:  Laughing Horse Studio - Art/Photography.

So even though my summer is almost half over and I haven't really had any time to just kick back and relax, I'm happier than I've been in a long time.  I'm stressed and tripping over boxes, cranky and tired of everything being in a mess, but I'm happy.  Really happy.  I'm looking forward to what my future holds.  I finally feel as if I am on the right track, right where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing.  And it feels really good.

Now, if I can just get moved into the new house and relax for a bit....ahhhhhh.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Pros and Cons of Kelli

Caroline and I arrived home tonight after spending many days on the road together.  Hour after hour we spent in the car, traveling Colorado and New Mexico, even sweeping into Wyoming for a few minutes.  After the beautiful scenery we had seen while enjoying absolutely perfect weather, I dreaded coming home to the heat and humidity of Oklahoma.  Driving east on I-40 across the barren wasteland of a landscape that is the Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma, I found myself getting quite bitchy.  With each passing mile, it got worse.  Everything annoyed me.  Finally, we arrived home.  Arms heavy with luggage, sweating from the humidity, I walked into my apartment door and was greeted by the trailings of an eighteen year old boy home alone for the last week.  Well, now I was just in a very bad mood. 

It got me to thinking....overall I like myself pretty well.  I think I have lots of good qualities.  But there are some not so good qualities too.  I decided to make a list of the "Pros and Cons of Kelli".  This might come in handy should I ever actually start to date again.  I can refer the potential date to my blog and have him read this and decide if he thinks I am really worth the pursuit.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Anyway, here it goes, in no particular order (and I don't know why I wrote it in third person):

1.  Picks up her neighbors cigarette butts that they have carelessly thrown into the lawn (after a nine hour drive with her teenage daughter)
2.  Can be very refined and elegant or get down and dirty in a cave - a woman of contrast
3.  Likes a very neat and clean home - not perfect, but relaxing and calm (that may be a "con" for some)
4.  Lets others with fewer items get in front of her at Walmart
5.  Always tries to make people smile
6.  Always seeks solution to problems
7.  Can usually see both sides of an issue and see validity in both sides
8.  Loves her kids tremendously, even when she is irritated with them
9.  Is learning to be patient with people that irritate the hell out of her
10.  Is very honest, except for the occasional white lie told so people don't get their feelings hurt
11.  Truly wants to see people succeed and be happy
12.  Spends $50.00 on a stuffed wolf because she loves wolves so much (no, this is NOT a "Con")
13.  Tries to keep the peace with others even though she would love to see them fall off the face of the earth (no, not you)
14.  Has been told she is an excellent cook
15.  Loves deeply and passionately
16.  Feels horrible when she's been bitchy to someone and always apologizes to them and truly means it.
17.  Dances and sings in the car and doesn't care who sees her
18.   Likes to take the back roads in New Mexico where she knows the cops who pass her when she is speeding will just wave to her.  Happens every time :)
19.  Still believes in true love, soul mates, all the icky love stuff
20.  Has been told she has a pure heart

1.  Bitches loudly about picking up the neighbors cigarette butts that they have carelessly thrown into the lawn
2.  Has been known to cuss like a sailor
3.  Gets bitchy after hours in the car and coming home to heat and humidity and a messy apartment
4.  Takes a photo of a large man, wearing a green tank top, riding a green motorcycle and posts it on Facebook and makes fun of him.
5.  Has been known to call rude drivers names - see Cons #2
6.  Gets really bad hat hair after wearing a hat all day.
7.   Can usually see both sides of an issue and see validity in both sides (yes, I know this was a "Pro" too but it can cause problems.  I sit on the fence on many issues)
8.  Hasn't quite learned to be completely patient with people who irritate the hell out of her.  For example, right now she wants to refer to Con #2 and shout at her neighbors in the apartment above her who sound like they weigh 300 pounds and jump every time they walk across the floor.  Maybe one of them is the guy in the green tank top???
9.  Has a hard time letting go - whether it is love, a behavior issue with a student, or something she believes in passionately
10.  Feels trapped sometimes and gets "itchy" - needs to get out, alone, away from everyone and everything, into wide open spaces

Ok, this is enough for one night.  The bitchiness is gone.  I have showered and unpacked most of my things from the trip while popping over to the laptop to write the Pros and Cons of me.  I do think there are many more pros than cons.  Some days are better than others.  Some years are better than others.  But with each passing day, or year, I learn more and learn to do better, to be better, but to still be me.  And that is definitely a "pro".

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Your Life Is Speaking to You - What is it Saying?

Oprah Winfrey

Today, on the final episode of "Oprah", Oprah was reflecting on the impact her show has had and giving us all some final words of wisdom.  She spoke beautifully to her audience, reminding us all of the message she has tried to bring to us over the years.  It has always been a message of hope and self-empowerment.  One of her viewers wrote, “Oprah, watching you be yourself, makes me want to be more of myself."  That message has been one of the most powerful things I have learned from yourself.  And that alone is good enough.  The fact that you are you gives you the right to be worthy of anything.

She also said, "God is love.  And God is life.  And your life is always speaking to you.  First in whispers, and a whisper in your life feels like, mmm, that’s odd, or mmmm is that right?  Its subtle, those whispers and if you don’t pay attention to the whispers, it gets louder and louder and louder.  It’s like getting thumped upside the head.  If you don’t pay attention to that, it’s like getting a brick upside the head.  You don’t pay attention to that, the whole brick wall falls down." (not an exact quote, but close)

"Your life is speaking to you - what is it saying?" 

Listening to her speak, my life flashed before me.  I thought back to the many "thumps upside the head" that I ignored, then the subsequent "bricks upside the head" that I just cried about.  It has taken the whole brick wall to fall down around me to make me finally sit up and listen.  My life is screaming at me to make drastic changes, start fresh with my life, say goodbye to my past, and move on.

It's time to listen to my calling.  Oprah reminded us we are all called to do something and our real job in life is to figure out what that is and get about the business of doing it.  She said that we get a juice from doing what we are meant to do.  She said, "A calling lights you up and it lets you know that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing."

I've spent so many years trying to make things work knowing deep down that no matter how much I wanted something to work, it wasn't right for me.  I am a problem solver.  I would make a good mediator I think, because I always see both sides of the story and have sympathy for both sides.  But that trait has made me stay in situations much longer than I should have and has led me to wonder what my true calling was.  I couldn't figure it out.  Nothing really gave me that "juice" Oprah talked about. 

But over the last few years, I have finally figured out what gets me juiced up.  I have finally discovered where my true passion lies.  My writing, photography, and art are my passion.  When I can communicate through my words, photos, or art, I feel truly authentic, I am me, at my best.  I feel as if everything is right in my world.  It feels natural to me. 

The connection I make with people through my creative outlets is so rewarding to me.  The comments I receive on my blog, my photos, or my art....that is my validation.  That is me knowing that you see me, that you hear me, that you get me.  We all need that know that we matter and that we've made a difference.  We all need it. 

So, as the brick wall comes crashing down around me, I am finally listening, intently.  I have made some major changes in my life, tied up some loose ends, and have a few more major changes heading my way.  I'm not disclosing everything just yet, but stay tuned for more details.  Just know this...I now know fully what my life is saying to me and I am ready.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tornado Warning

For the last twenty four hours, we had been anticipating a major tornadic storm to be headed for Oklahoma.  As time passed, the concern over this storm intensified.  We all knew it was coming, but had no idea just exactly what to expect.

As the day wore on today, I kept checking the weather online and could see nothing on the radar so I wasn't too concerned yet.  The reports were saying the storm would hit between 3pm and 5pm.  Around 2:30pm this afternoon, concerned parents began arriving at my school, checking out students in a chaotic manner.  Tinker Air Force Base cancelled the evening shift, Edmond Public Schools cancelled evening functions, and the news reports were predicting violent tornadoes.

I texted my own kids who were already home and told them to make some initial preparations, just in case.  They, of course, thought I was in panic mode.  I was just trying to be smart.  You never know about these things in Oklahoma.  Storms can turn deadly without warning.  But because we have an excellent team of meteorologists in the area, I felt confident that by listening to them I'd stay informed. 

Caroline went to the garage to get our caving helmets - gotta protect our heads.  She piled blankets in the bathroom.  Brad walked around shaking his head like we were crazy.  I reminded him it was no big deal.  We could easily just put the stuff back, but we'd have it ready just in case.  We grabbed caving lights, a few candles and matches, and tennis shoes.

Those were the basics.  Now, what else was important to me?  What else did I want near in case tornadoes did hit us?  What would I want right next to me besides my children?  What would I hang on to for dear life if this monstrous storm came knocking at our door?

As a woman, I, of course, grabbed my purse, putting the cash I had stashed away inside of it.  My precious camera was next.  My laptop with all of its jump drives on which I have backed up all my data was carefully nestled into its red case.  My Barnes and Noble bag that has all my junk in it - bills to pay, the New Mexico map that I have been wagging around for two weeks, my little red book of inspiration that I keep - was the next thing I took to the bathroom which would be our shelter. 

I was wearing my silver and peridot ring that I bought myself for my birthday several years ago.  I'd never spent so much on a piece of jewelry for myself.  This was a unique piece that meant a lot to me.  I wear it every day.  But was there other jewelry that I should take?  I had some antique jewelry that belonged to my grandmother and great-grandmother but I didn't want to mess with it.  Maybe in a fire, but not for a tornado.  There was a piece given to me by someone special several years ago.   A turquoise pendant - a piece of turquoise from New Mexico and a piece of turquoise from Montana were on this represented both of us.  That I would hold on to during a tornado.

Other than that, I didn't put anything else into the bathroom, just in case the tornado did hit.  At one point, we thought we might ditch the apartment and head for the "tornado church" as Caroline used to call it.  It is a church here in Edmond that has a basement.  We've visited it a couple of times before during tornado season. 

We were ready...just in case.  As we watched the coverage though, we quickly realized that the storm was not going to hit us.  It moved north of us.  I am so grateful, because as I sit here typing this, the news coverage is showing the immense damage of those who were hit by the storm.  People are looking for pets, photographs, any evidence of their lives prior to this storm. 

I sit here, with my laptop out of its case now, on my comfy bed, with a glass of wine next to me on my nightstand.  All is well in my world.  My kids and I are all still alive and well.  I still have all the belongings that I treasured enough to take to my bathroom shelter.  I still have my pile of laundry to do.  Many people out there wish they could find just one piece of clothing that belonged to them. 

So many people have been devastated by the vicious tornadoes that have barreled through Tornado Alley recently.  It reminds you of how precious life is and how very little meaning "stuff" actually has. I like my stuff and  it's nice to have, but in the end, it's just stuff.  The lives of those I love are much more precious to me than anything else I could possibly lose whether to a tornado, fire, bankruptcy, or divorce. 

As I continue to watch the coverage of the devastation of the areas in Oklahoma hit by the tornado, I see people with that same attitude.  They are grateful to be alive.  Their homes have been flattened beyond recognition, years of hard work gone in an instant, precious memorabilia destroyed.  Yet the resiliency of the human spirit is so powerful, so inspiring, it reminds me that we are capable of anything....anything.  We can get through anything that life throws us and we can do it with grace and love.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Soul Mates

It's been two years.  Two years since we broke up.  Two years since I felt like my heart was being savagely ripped from my chest, but at the same time feeling as if maybe now there could be peace in my life.  How can you love someone so deeply, so passionately, feeling him in every cell of your being and yet be so utterly frustrated and heartbroken at the same time.  And strangely, I think he felt the same way about me.  I know he felt the same way about me.  How can two people be connected at such a primal level and not be able to be together? 

Soul mates.  I knew it from the beginning.  We were soul mates.  Even through all the confusion and frustration, I still knew.  I always knew.  He is imprinted in my memory, my DNA, just as animals have instincts imprinted into them....they just know what is.  He just "is" in me.

After two years, my head should be cleared of thoughts of him, longing for him.  Together for six years, apart for two.  I should be free by now.  But he is everywhere....he is at every intersection, every stroke of a keyboard, every glass of wine I pour.  Every map I look at, he is there, telling me a story of when he was there, or right there with me, experiencing the majesty of a mountain vista.  He pops into my head at the most curious times. 

Why?  It's been two years.  We drove each other crazy.  It clearly wasn't meant to be.  So why?  Why can't I clear my head of thoughts of him?  Why does his soul permeate mine so deeply?  Why does he come to me in my dreams at night? 

I've done everything I know to let go.  I've tried to embrace the fact that he has a new love in his life and has had for two years now.  I've tried to find other men that interest me.  It's pointless.  I'd rather just be alone at this point.  But at the same time, I don't want to be alone the rest of my life. 

Therein lies the confusion.  I've known love like this one time.  One time.  Is this normal?  Does everyone go through years of trying to release the love that binds your heart so tightly that at times you can't breathe, you can't think?  Will I ever be able to let it go and find this kind of love again? 

I know that we can find love with many different people, I do.  And we can find good love.  But can we find love that is this binding?  Growing up I heard the term "heartstrings".  I understood the basic concept, but never understood it fully until this love.  It was this love that brought home deeply the true meaning of all those words of love and heartache.  I understood them all fully and knew that others had experienced what I had, at least to some level. 

But this was different.  We both knew it.  Everyone around us knew it.  Good or bad, it was different from anything I'd ever known or seen.  I couldn't find anyone who could relate to it. 

How do I let go of it?  When will his memory stop possessing my soul?  When will my skin finally forget the feel of his touch?  When will I forget the way he smelled while curled up next to me, arms wrapped around me lovingly?  When will I forget his laugh and goofy dance moves?  When will I forget his kiss?



Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Photo by Geraint Smith 2006

My first experience in the mountains was when I was around 13 years of age.  My family went snow skiing for the first time in Taos, New Mexico.  This may have actually been my first time out of the state besides going to Texas, and that didn't count.  Growing up in Oklahoma, the closest thing I had seen to real mountains were in the Wichitas.  And while Mount Scott and the surrounding landscapes of southwestern Oklahoma are beautiful and impressive, especially for Oklahoma, I had not yet experienced the breathtaking beauty of truly majestic mountains. 

I will never forget my first sight of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  At first they looked like clouds in the shape of mountains in the distance.  As we drove closer and closer, my  eyes remained fixated on the faraway formations, not truly believing yet that they were, indeed, mountains....real mountains.  We drove ever closer and with each mile, small details began to form.  I finally convinced my eyes that these were not merely clouds that looked like distant mountains, but were coming to life before me.

I fell in love immediately.

As we drove into Taos, the first thing I noticed was that the air was different.  The energy around me was incredibly powerful.  Even my young thirteen year old body could feel the difference, and it felt it deeply.  The excitement of actually going up the mountain to ski the next day was almost more than I could bear. 

My first trip up the ski lift was spent not in fear of falling off, but in complete and utter awe of the surrounding landscape.  My God!  I had seen photographs, but this...this was like nothing I had ever seen!  And the air, so pure, so clean, so intoxicating.  Much too soon the ski lift reached its destination and I had to get off.  But I soon felt the snow beneath my skis, the immensity of the behemoth below me and felt as if I was truly home. 

Skiing down the mountain my first time I burned every vista into my memory, into every cell of my being.  Again and again I would take the ski lift up to the top of the mountain, scanning the horizon for views I had missed the last time.  I felt at home...completely at home.

In later years my travels would take me extensively through the mountains of New Mexico and Colorado.  Each time I felt as if I could finally breathe fully when I was in my beloved mountains.  Though many of the rugged landscapes I explored varied immensely, they each held a certain peace for me, a certain authenticity.  I felt completely connected to myself, the earth, all that is greater than me.  When in the mountains, I knew I was exactly where I should be. 

It is now time to go home, for good.  The mountains call to me, they beckon me to come home and finally find peace.  Soon, I'll be there soon.....

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Work in Progress

When I created this blog almost a year and a half ago, I wasn't really sure what to call it.  I had seen other blogs with cute little names and cute little backgrounds with pictures of cute little kids.  Those are all very, well, cute.  But my reasons for creating a blog were not to showcase my cute little life or to follow the recipes of a famous chef and post the results daily.  Honestly, I didn't really know what my intention was.  But I knew that this seemed like the right thing to do. 

As time has gone by, I have written about many things.  I have written about my travels, my hopes, dreams, frustrations.  I have stirred emotions in many people, some good, some bad.  Not once have I ever tried to hurt anyone with my words here, only gently include people who have influenced me in different ways.  There is a reason the name "Work in Progress" came to me.  This blog is about me....a work in progress.

Over time, I have opened up in my writing, expressing myself deeply and honestly.  This is MY expression.  This is how I feel.  I realize that there are always two sides to every story and thank GOD people don't always agree with each other.  How boring!  There are going to be those who are moved by what I say and those who are downright pissed off by what I say.  That's ok.  Because one way or another, I have touched a nerve.  And if I have pissed off someone, that means that maybe there is something I need to work on further in my life, or maybe, just maybe, there is something that they need to work on in their life.

So as I continue to write, "Work in Progress", I will do it with the knowledge that I am different from many people but my mission is to be honest in my writing.  Not pompous, all-knowing, and judgmental... just honest, authentic, goofy, profound, confused, positive, hurt, angry, hopeful......just "me".  I am a work in progress, but after 44 years, I like me.  Quite a bit actually.  Hope you do too.  But if not, that's ok too.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Twilight Zone

When you are in the depths of a cave, immersed in the obsidian absence of light, there is a point when you finally start to see a glimmer of natural light.  This area, illuminated ever so slightly, but not directly receiving the sun's caress (or moon's kiss), is called the twilight zone.  It is at this time that you know your long journey through the cave is ending and you are about to emerge into the brilliance of the outside world.

I have just entered the twilight zone in my life.  This adventurous cave trip I have been on for the last decade or so has been both exhilarating and terrifying at times, but I can finally see the light.  I'm almost there.  No, this isn't the famous white light that people see when they have a near-death experience.  This is the light of freedom, of knowing, of understanding.  It is the light of authenticity, of clarity, of peace. 

Each step I take, each climb I make in a cave, I learn something about myself.  I learn to test myself and push myself in ways I never thought possible.  I stumble and fall, then stand up too fast and hit my head - that's why I wear a helmet.  But I pick up and move on.  Even when belly-crawling through the tightest passages, scraping my shoulders and cheeks on protruding rocks, feeling the weight of the earth above me, I keep crawling, keep pushing on. 

My journey through this particular, spectacular cave is coming to an end.  I can see the light.  It's time to crawl out and envelop myself in the magnificence of what is waiting on the other side.  It's time for new adventures, with new people, in a new place.  It's time to face the fear of the unknown, embrace it, and kick its ass!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Apology to My Mother

A few days ago I wrote a letter to my mother.  The letter was meant to address some issues I had and to let her know that through it all I was happy for how things had gone, sorry for my behaviors and feelings, that I loved her very much, and was looking forward to connecting with her further.  Instead my letter was found to be "disturbing",  "bashing",  "disrespectul",  "hurtful",  "dishonoring". 

My intent was to celebrate the troubles we have been through individually and as mother and draw the similarities of our lives and connect through them.  My intent was also to celebrate that through it all we are much better people, stronger and wiser.  It was to illustrate that we both know so much more now and are able to do so much more now.  Instead my words came across as derogatory towards my mother and drawing attention to myself yet again.  My words drew attention to me and my past and made it more about me than about my mother who I never intended to hurt. 

I am truly and deeply sorry for any hurt or pain that I caused my mother or those that love her.  I made a poor decision in trying to share with others what I had experienced in my life.  Clearly my communication skills are greatly lacking and until they are more finely honed, I should not be sharing something so personal with others.

Again, my most sincere apologies to my mother.  She is loved by many, including me, and a well respected member of her church and community.  She gives freely of herself to her church and others.  She is greatly admired and always there should anyone need her. 

To anyone else offended by my letter, my sincere apologies to you as well. 

Kelli Thomas

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How Much Longer??

My body hurts, my mind is numb, my reality is, what?  What is my reality?  Is this really it?  Is this really what life is about? 

Is life meant to be lived day to day feeling drained, helpless, and clueless? 

No.  It's not.

How much longer?  How much longer do I have to wait?  I've been patient for so long.....I'm ready.  I'm ready. 

Let's do this!  Let's do

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

On Being Yourself

Almost a year and a half ago, I started writing my blog.  It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

As the months have gone by, I have opened up, little by little, sharing myself one piece at a time.  It’s been a scary prospect, letting people in.  I’ve always been an open person, but few people actually get the opportunity to see what is really going on in my head.

In the beginning I worried about what people would say.  I’m one of those people who sets herself up for being made fun of.  Sometimes it is all in good fun, sometimes it is just plain cruel.  After 44 years, I’ve finally gotten used to it…almost.  So I worried about what would be said behind my back….the quiet whispers about me, “Who does she think she is, writing a blog?”. 

But I kept writing, from the heart.  I wrote what I felt, what I was angry about, what touched my heart.  In the process, I have begun to peel back the layers of who I am and reveal those layers to you, whoever you are, reading this right now.  I’ve also learned that I need this outlet.  It is very cathartic.  I am happiest when I am writing.

All around me are voices telling me to just “Be yourself, just be yourself”.  I teach that to my children as well.  My daughter, Caroline, lived that to the fullest last night as we walked around the park.  We both had on our headphones listening to different music.  As we walked, I watched her singing and dancing to the music on her Ipod.  Let me tell you, she was d-a-n-c-i-n-g!!  It was so much fun watching her just being her goofy, wonderful self.  Bradley is learning to let go as well and just be his big-hearted, precious self.  It is so good to finally see my children coming into their own and being who they really are.

In fact, now that I think about it, it took all three of us getting away from some very controlling people in our lives to finally feel free enough to be completely and totally ourselves in our day to day lives.  It’s so sad how some people who claim to love you can make degrading comments about you so regularly that you start to withdraw and conform to what they want just to avoid the remarks and the hurt.  We all did it and in fact I probably encouraged it to an extent, just to keep the peace.  How very sad.  Those people lost out on relationships with three funny, easy-going, good people who would have done anything for them.   

Looking back on those years of outside control, my self-esteem plummeted to an all-time low.  I could seem strong and brave on the outside but inside I was dying.  I was like a butterfly caged in a dark, cardboard box.  Every now and then the lid lifted and I tried to fly, but couldn't yet.  I was trapped.  Tethered to the box.  Over the last few years I have finally found the courage to leave the box for good.  As I spread my wings and start to discover the strengths I have, I have grown to really like who I am - goofiness and all. The things that people make fun of me for are just a part of me and that's ok.  That relaxed attitude has spread to Brad and Caroline and we are all much more laid back than we've been in years.  We are all happier than we've been in years.  All it took was just to realize the importance of being ourselves.  One of my greatest joys right now is seeing the happiness in my kids....just being themselves.

I'll admit, I'm not everyone's cup of tea.  That's fine with me.  I'm a little particular about the people I want to spend my time with as well.  But one thing I know for sure, I like being me.  I'm happiest when I'm true to myself, and no one will ever come between me and myself again.  And no, I don't have split personalities. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

College Degree??

I have a college degree….a degree that I worked hard for... a degree that I was told would open doors for me and allow me to have a better life.  Granted, a degree in Elementary Education isn't a particularly difficult degree to get, but I did have a 4.00 grade point when I graduated (I think - maybe I need to look that up). 

Now, fourteen years after getting my degree (I finished late), I am using that degree not to teach, but to be the “Pencil Police” because my students cannot handle keeping and maintaining pencils on their own. What exactly ARE they doing to these pencils??  I assume that the erasers have been abducted by aliens who leave the metal casing scrunched up after they meticulously remove the pink eraser tip.  The pencil leads (or graphite) mysteriously disappear as well.  Are they on the mother ship with the erasers racing to a new galaxy?  Because I can promise you students NEVER do anything to the erasers.  They gingerly write with their pencils....treating them like precious gems.  They've never removed an eraser and flicked it across the classroom.  Precious angels.

Daily I bark to my students to “sit down”, "stop talking", "change your color”, “stop talking”, “pay attention”, “keep your hands to yourself”, “stop talking”, “label your paper”, “stop talking!”. “Single file, hands down, eyes forward, mouths closed”.    I utter words not heard in any other profession except for teaching.  In what other profession do people frequently say, "Voices OFF!".  I spend hours cutting out things to enhance student learning that only end up being lost, torn up, or eaten perhaps?  I don't know where all these things go....they just disappear.  Aliens again?  Do they not have a Wal-Mart in outer space?

I do actually teach, but all this “redirecting” goes on while I am teaching too. Despite all my attempts at good classroom management, this is my daily experience and it takes up an enormous amount of time and energy. We have seven weeks left of school and it gets worse every day. In fact, it gets worse every year. The apathy and inability to focus has become all I can focus on….trying to get kids to care enough to sit down and focus on what is going on. They don’t care. They just want to play all day.  And yet I alone am responsible for their test grades.  No pressure there.

As a highly organized person, I have put everything into place for these kids to be successful. The only thing missing is the student and what they do with the tools I give them. But the problem is that they lose the tools I give them or forget about them or their dog eats them or pees on them. Or things are shoved so deeply into the depths of their desks that I need to get out my caving helmet and light to go in and find anything, because God knows THEY can’t!  Although, it could be those damn aliens again....hmmmm???

Is this seriously what I am using my education for? I didn’t need an education for this. I could have gone to more parties and spent my nights reading books I wanted to read if I had known my education would be used in this way.  I could have saved thousands of dollars if I had only known.

But the most frustrating part of the whole thing is….THEY are NOT getting an education. It’s not for lack of trying on the teacher’s part. All of the teachers I know put their heart and soul into these kids, every day. But these kids can barely form a complete sentence. How on earth are they going to formulate an intelligent thought? We can’t teach them higher order thinking skills, they can’t perform basic thinking skills, nor do they care to try.  Don't get me wrong...there are a few kids out there who want to do well.  They want to learn and to be successful.  Some even want that but can't achieve it because their bodies won't let them focus.  They need medication or an environment where their type of learning can be addressed.  When you have four or five in a class like that, it makes it a little difficult.

Folks, this is our future and it scares the hell out of me. Seeing kids like this, actually it was seeing adults like this, made me want to get into teaching. I wanted to make a difference. I thought I could do it….get their attention, make them care, make them love academics the way I do. But I can’t. I don’t have the energy. My bag of tricks is empty. My brain is fried. And they, the students, are laughing the whole time and throwing away good pieces of paper and breaking perfectly good pencils just so they have an excuse to get out of their seats and not do their work.

This is the most frustrating thing I've ever dealt with in my life.  I know the parents want their students to get a good education.  I just think most parents have no idea what their kids really do in school, or rather what they really don't do.  I don't think the general public has any idea what teachers face daily in school.    I know that the few people who have experienced it, either through substitute teaching or classroom parties always come up to me with a newfound respect.  I had a substitute the other day who requested that I NOT call him again to sub.  Wow. 

I believe to my core that I am an educator.  I  believe that I have a great deal to share and that I am a good teacher.  Maybe this is simply not the right forum for me.  I don't know.  I believe in education, just maybe not the way it is done in today's educational system.  I don't have the answers, yet.  I do believe we need a major overhaul in the education system because the one under which we are functioning today is severely broken. 

I have taught in two schools during my career.  I only taught one year in the first school, so maybe my opinion is jaded due to my lack of experience in other schools.  I know what I know though.  What I see frightens me.  I see teachers walking in first thing in the morning looking as if it should be the end of the day, not the beginning.  I know that personally I wake up exhausted each morning.  I can't sleep at night worried about my students and how I can possibly teach them when they don't care one bit about learning.  We teachers seem to be the only ones truly concerned about the education of these kids.  We seem to be the ones putting in most of the effort for what?  A bunch of kids who just want to talk and play?

Yes, this is our future.   Frightening, isn't it.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Losing a Home in a Fire

Yesterday in the middle of teaching, the school counselor came to my door and asked me to go into the hallway with her.  She told me that she had just had a call from the mother of one of my students.  Their home had just burned down.  Standing there with my mouth open, completely shocked, I didn't know what to say, what to do.  I had known Tristan since second grade when I first started in the morning daycare.  Tristan's mom was going to come pick him up later in the afternoon.  That's when she would tell him the news.

Walking back into that classroom was one of the hardest things I have done.  Tristan was sitting there grinning from ear to ear, with his shaggy blond hair sweeping across his brown eyes, clueless that his home was engulfed in flames.  He had no idea his world was getting ready to be turned upside down.

We continued with our lesson and after a bit, the secretary came over the intercom telling me that Tristan was being checked out.  I told him to take his time gathering his things and that I'd be right back.  I rushed to the office to speak with his mom who was standing in the conference room.  Tiffanie is a beautiful, petite woman with large brown eyes.   I'll never forget the look on her face.  Peeking out from beneath her baseball cap, her eyes were wide open.  Disbelief.  Shock. Confusion. 

I told her how sorry I was and for her to not worry about school at all for now.  After giving her my phone number and telling her to call if she needed anything, I left to return to my class.  Walking through the office, I ran into Tristan and gave him a cheery hug goodbye.  I worried how he would react to the news.

Later that evening our school was hosting Bingo Night.  I had to run home quickly before I came back to the school.  But before I did, I decided to run by Tristan's house.  He lived very close to me, but I wasn't exactly sure where.    As I drove down a long road looking for his house, I finally saw several cars parked in the street and wondered if this was his house.  I couldn't see anything because of the large trees blocking the view.

As I got closer, the charred house gradually came into view.  The entire center of the house was burned, the roof partially caved in.  There was no more smoke.  The fire department was gone.  A Channel 5 news crew was finishing up their filming.  People stood in the front yard talking, surrounded by some household items that had been retrieved from the home.  Tristan was darting about in the house.  His younger brother Jaden was playing in the yard, oblivious to what was happening.

After parking my vehicle I walked up to Tiffanie.  Her brown eyes still wide, she was calm, assessing the situation.  I asked if I could help.  Seeing my white jeans and tennis shoes she said something about me not being dressed for it.  I told her I lived a short distance away and could be back in a few minutes after changing my clothes.  She said ok.

I ran home quickly.  My daughter, Caroline, was in the middle of a helping out her big brother with a project.  I told her what was going on and quickly left.  I remember thinking how grateful I was for my nice, neat apartment that I had just walked into.  I realized that I would have my own soft, clean bed to crawl into that night.  I would have fresh clothes to put on the next day.  Tristan's family would have none of that.  Everything they owned had burned up or melted, buried under a pile of charcoaled roofing materials, insulation, and water.

When I returned, I went inside and got my first look around.  I walked into the living room where there were electrical wires hanging everywhere, their insulated coverings gone.  The floor was squishy with water and debris.  There was some laundry on the sofa waiting to be folded.  I stepped on a small empty picture frame on the floor as I walked in to the hallway leading to Tristan's room.  The picture it used to contain was gone. 

Everything was black.  Some light filtered in through the open roof and windows but otherwise it was hidden in shadows.  I started digging through the debris looking for anything salvageable.  Electronics looked like something out of a Salvador Dali painting....melted, almost beyond recognition.  Wet sheet rock covered the floor.  As I all dug through the mess, occasionally I would find something that could be saved.  Then I had to carefully walk back out through wreckage to carry it outside.  The pile outside was growing, but not by much. 

At one point Jeremy's brother walked out with the family Bible.  As he handed it to Tiffanie a huge smile came across her face.  She squealed with excitement.  She couldn't believe it had made it through.  Jeremy, her husband, was working on boarding up the windows.  Tiffanie continued to deal with the insurance company, restoration people, and neighbors coming to help.  Tristan was in and out, taking it all in, finding little treasures that had made it.  Sadly, his hamster, Izzy, was not one of those who made it.  I found Izzy's body, buried under a heap of rubble, still soft, not burned. Tristan had said that they had lost one member of the family today.  It was Izzy.

As we found usable clothing that could be cleaned, we piled them up.  Such a small pile.  I remember wondering about the days to come.  Being a woman, I have my favorite clothes that I love.  I imagined the day would come when Tiffanie would want to put on her favorite piece of clothing and realize she no longer had it.  Or her favorite earrings or shoes.  Maybe Jeremy had his favorite baseball cap that he'd never see again.  A lot of Tristan's soccer things survived strangely enough.  Jaden is too young to care.

We all worked until we weren't sure what else to do.  I left and went home.  My hands were black from the soot, my boots covered with the remnants of their home.  I was tired and dirty.  But all I could think about was Tristan's family.  They are good people.  They were so strong through this.  Calmly handling everything, I never once saw either of them break down.  They just dealt with it all, smiling the whole time.

The next day I dropped by to show my mom the remains of the house and to check on the family.  Tiffanie was standing in the yard.  They'd clearly been working again.  She told me that the roof might be about to cave in.  It's a miracle it didn't happen yesterday when we were all in and out of the house.  She said that Jeremy had found some treasured photos for her.  Her eyes filled with tears as she told me the paper around them was completely charred, but the photos remained intact.  She couldn't believe it.  That's when she realized that she had been so worried about the house and now, well, now, it just didn't matter.  Her family and those photos were the important things in life.  She had everything she needed.

I tried not to start crying right there in front of her.  She had a beautiful aha moment that day at a terrible cost.  But I know they will be ok.  They have family, friends, and each other.  They will be just fine.

The whole experience helped me realize just how grateful I am for everything in my life and how quickly things can change.  Value the important things in life and let go of the things that are not.  Sometimes it takes hard lessons for us to truly grasp that concept.  But as someone who has had a few hard lessons in her life, I feel daily so much gratitude for everything I have in my life.  That which does not kill us truly does make us stronger.  And I'm glad for the strength that I now possess. 

Tristan's family possesses that strength as well.  My love and prayers go out to them.....

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Letting Go

Of all the lessons I have had to learn in my life, letting go has been one of the hardest for me.  Maybe it was a control issue.  Maybe it was out of fear.  Whatever it was, holding on so tightly to things has not served me well.

As with most of my life lessons, I had to learn the hard way to let go of things.  In teaching it has taken me a long time to start to learn to let go of some students who simply refuse to learn.  With my children, I had to let them go so they could find the truth on their own.  When I did let them go and they did discover the truth, they both came running back home to me.  I have had to let go of dreams of a nice house where I could have big family dinners and celebrations, at least for now. 

But the biggest thing for me has been learning to let go of what I thought of as a great love.  Sometimes there are people that we cling to because they impacted us so deeply, so profoundly.  As time goes on, I am learning that not everyone comes into our lives as a permanent fixture.  People and experiences come to teach us lessons we need to learn.  Now that I am finally beginning to see the big picture, I am realizing the great lessons I learned from all the people in my life - the good, the bad, and the ugly have helped to shape who I am.  For that I am truly grateful.  Even with all the heartache and frustration I experienced, by letting it all go I have become an incredibly strong woman, independent, still passionate, still hopeful. 

Recently my daughter and I thought very seriously about moving away.  I was so excited, anxious to leave this place and all its memories and start fresh.  My nights were spent dreaming about our new life.  Then she decided she didn't want to leave her friends and her school.  I didn't want to force her.  It's only three more years and then she'll graduate.  I thought I'd be really upset, but I wasn't.  I just let it go.  Just like that.  And it was easier this time.

That's the beauty of aging I suppose.  Your body may hurt in weird places and you start to get strange colored spots on your skin, but your mind, your heart, your soul....they start really coming together beautifully in a way that leaves you feeling as if maybe, just maybe you are beginning to figure out this whole thing called life.  And if feels good.  It feels really good.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Independence and Loneliness

I’m tired of doing this alone. I’m tired of being the only one around to solve problems, pay the bills, discipline the kids. I’m tired of not having anyone to share the good, the bad, and the ugly with me.  I want someone to come home to at the end of the day, someone to say goodnight to as I curl up next to him and drift off to sleep.  I want someone to talk to besides my teenage kids.  I want someone who wants to be with me and I want to be with him.  I want someone who understands and encourages my alone time.  Because I do need my alone time.  I don't want to be alone, but I also don't want to be smothered.  I like my independence.

I’ve been this way my whole life. I guess I’m sort of wired for it. My family loves to remind me that from the time I could talk I went around saying “I’ll do it!”. And I did. Whether I was doing the dishes by myself at five years old after Thanksgiving Dinner or exploring the creepy basement below our house, I was always doing things by myself, off on my own, in my own world. I envisioned myself doing something big in my life, being someone important, doing things my way.

One day when I was only four years old, I had been playing outside by myself. I went inside and told my daddy I was going to the store. Apparently, I left the house and went on my very first adventure. Walking out of our neighborhood, I crossed the railroad tracks, made my way through downtown Elk City, right past Montgomery Ward where Grandma Peach worked, and eventually walked out onto I-40. Fortunately, an old babysitter of mine saw me, brought me into her house and called my parents. She asked them if they knew where I was. Relieved that I was alive and well, they came to pick me up. They told me later that the experience hadn’t scared me at all.  It would seem that the butt busting I got from my dad didn't scare me either because I have continued to go off on my own in pursuit of new adventures.

When I was in elementary school, I would leave on a Saturday morning and roam the streets of Sentinel on my bike. Lost in my thoughts, I became characters in a book, solving the world's problems.  I traveled the globe in my imagination, exploring lands I had read about, dreamed about.  I loved being off by myself, doing my thing.  These were the days when kids really could have the freedom to roam about unsupervised.  I loved it.  But maybe we were a little more supervised than we realized.  I remember one day skidding into the gravel in front of our little house on Whitmer Street and falling down.  I shouted, "Shit!"  Mom heard me.  I think that's why I remember the vile taste of soap so vividly.

We moved to a different house in Sentinel that was close to downtown.  I was in fifth grade.  In the mornings before school, I would go sit on the back porch, dreaming about my life.  I would sneak away from the house and walk downtown.  I didn't tell anyone I was going.  I felt so independent, so brave, so rebellious and secretive.  First of all, Sentinel is a tiny Oklahoma town.  There was no reason to even BE brave.  Second, I found out years later that Mom always knew when I left.  She could see me from the kitchen window and was watching me the whole time.  She never said a word to me.

So, I have loved my alone time from a very early age.  But even then, I dreamed of a soulmate to have by my side, exploring the world with me.  I envisioned what he would look like.  I dreamed about the life we would build, the family we would have, the adventures we would share.  My dreams would be fueled by the movies...old black and white movies, cheesy love stories, it didn't matter. In my little world in Sentinel, Oklahoma, movies and books gave me an escape, a vision of a life that I could have someday.

I went through middle school with boyfriends here and there.  When I moved to Mustang in High School, I only really had two boyfriends.  I didn't date.  I only got asked out a couple of times.  It kind of made me feel like a freak.  I didn't think I was ugly or overly weird.  I still don't know what the deal was.  Maybe that independent streak was so strong it scared the guys away. 

Off to college...I dated some, but nothing really serious.  I just kept thinking that surely by now someone would have come along for me.  At nineteen, I met the man who I would end up marrying.  Sadly, I felt washed up at nineteen.  Tony was the only guy who had seemed totally into me.  He wined me and dined me.  Being a poor college student struggling for money, he introduced me to a new world that I had never experienced.  One with money.  Not a lot of money, but certainly more than I had at the time.

We had what I thought of as a grown up relationship.  We dated for three years.  I remember some of his behaviors as being the opposite of what I was looking for in a man, but decided it was the fact that he was still young and would grow out of them.  Boy was I wrong.

Fast forward....almost eleven years of marriage, divorce, met someone nice that I dated for a while.  He wasn't into me as much as I was into him.  He found someone new while we were still dating.  I started seeing someone else who had started out as a friend.  We were together for six years until he found someone new while we were still dating.  We had been on again and off again for years.  I felt I had finally found my soul mate with him even though we drove each other crazy.  But in the end, I guess it just wasn't right for us.  I wish him all the best with his life.  I truly want him to be happy.  It left me wondering what was wrong with me though.  Everyone around me always had great things to say about me.  But the men in my life.....that didn't go so well.  Maybe I just was making bad choices.  Maybe I needed them in my life to help teach me and to help me become who I am today.

But now, I'm ready to have someone.  Sonja Peach once told me that when I was ready I would find him.  I think I'm ready.  I feel like I'm ready.  Time will tell.  In the meantime, I continue to go on my solo adventures.  I continue to dream of having someone to come home to who is interested in hearing about my discoveries....someone who also wants to go with me on the journey sometimes.  And sometimes just wants to let me go alone.

What happens when you take a break from Facebook?

Eleven days I ago I deactivated my Facebook account. The negative posts, political bashing, and idiotic memes were beginning to have an adve...