Shadow Box

The ultimate scrapbook page – 3D and mountable.

My daughter fancied her shadow box first and I decided to copy the idea.  It rests on my desk in my studio, ready to be mounted.  As you may have read, I only recently completed my first marathon.  So, currently when I look a this shadow box I am reliving that particular race – only I am in a seated position and not straining myself to finish…well not straining to finish a race, anyway.  I mean, there is always something to finish, right?

This particular shadow box is cool because it has removable layers that allows for the contents to get thicker and thicker.  So, I intend to just keep adding my bibs from races.

Since all of my children are runners – I went ahead and purchased and started one for each of them, as well.  I love that we all share this activity and challenge with one another.

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Please Pull Up To The Cone.

Orange coneEach day on my morning drive I encounter three schools – elementary, middle, and high.  My commute spans four to twelve minutes, depending on the parents in the other cars.  The days of dropping off at the elementary school ended a few years ago.  I will save those days for another post.  Now, my youngest of three attends middle school.  I drive her to school mostly because of her large Baritone Saxophone that she carries back and forth to band and home.  Sometimes, it is so she can get there early to practice in the band room.

In the car circle at the middle school there is a very large, bright orange cone.  The simple, well established rule that we all learn during the first weeks of the sixth grade – pull up to the cone.  This very simple rule allows for the maximum number of cars to safely unload the precious little cherubs and keeps the line flowing at a tolerable pace. In the early part of the school year the administrator remains dutifully in the area, waving his arm, ensuring all parents learn the rule and all cars pull up to the cone.  This complex pull to the orange cone system has been in play for years at the elementary school, as Orange conewell.  So this concept should not be a shocker to anyone.

As the school year progresses the arm waver begins to disappear, leaving parents on their own to follow the rule.  Inevitably, parents fail to pull up to the orange cone in order to drop their own child off at the optimal point.  To be honest – the arm waver never really deterred the determined parents.  He served more as a reminder to those that try to do the right thing.  Clearly, not pulling up to the orange cone slows down the line, backing it up into the street, forcing unsafe traffic maneuvers by those not dropping off, and, quite frankly, takes a little more time off my life.  Rather than five or six cars unloading at once, only one or two let out their cargo before the line moves again.  This is not a new phenomena – parents thinking that their kids are too special to have to walk the ten to fifteen more paces than a less deserving child (see the aforementioned orange cone at the elementary school).

So why do we have rules?  Let’s go back to the basic of common courtesy.  Rules allow a society to function and exist.  At every school I see parents breaking the simple drop off rules for their particular school – and don’t even get me started on the chaos of daily pick up.  These are likely the same parents that get the email or phone call home that their entitled child cheated or cut class or hurt another child or was insubordinate….and they immediately take the side of the child, failing to even consider the ideas of integrity or honesty or true consequence.  Not only do these parents have the “not my child” attitude because they sit with blinders on, they also have the “my child is special and does not have to follow the rules attitude”.  After all, the rules are for the “lessers”.  Why should my child have to follow the rules?  They see me break the rules for them daily.  The rules clearly do not apply to us.

Orange cone

Similarly, why have rules in the house?  So kids know how to function within the parameters of the rules of society.  Life is not a free-for-all.  By not setting reasonable boundaries for kids and leading by good example – parents are setting their kids up for failure (or to be jerks).  True, there are successful liars and cheaters and jerks all over the world.  Everything in life is a trade off and I suppose, once again, it depends on perspective…what it means to be successful.  I want my kids to follow the rules, be considerate, have compassion.  I want my children to show empathy, help others, and be courteous.  I want my family to know love, security, and pride.  I do not want my children to think that the world owes them something.  I do not want my children to be entitled buttholes.

The demise of  our society begins at not pulling up to the orange cone. We teach our children through our actions.   We teach them humility and fairness, or we teach them entitlement. So I choose to pull up to the orange cone – every time – giant instrument and all.  She will survive walking the extra fifteen paces carrying that thing.  I promise.  This is why I pull up to the orange cone, every time – because it is such a simple and courteous rule to follow, to model for my daughter.  How could I expect my kids to follow the hard rules, if I can’t even follow such a simple one?  Pulling up to the cone shows my daughter that she is not the center of the universe; she is not entitled to any special treatment. Choose to pull up to the orange cone  – both literally and metaphorically – and teach children accountability, consideration, and humility.

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Two Black Shoes

So, I was trying to think of something positive to post because my first post with a student tag fails to exemplify my real attitude towards my little cherubs and my job.  I love my job.  However, exhaustion has set in after a long day of work, so instead of writing something new I decided that polishing off a short speech I gave last year would suffice.  In August 2015 I spoke at a luncheon to a room full of teachers that were named their schools’ Teacher of the Year.  It was to celebrate them all, of course, but to especially recognize the District Teacher of the Year.  Here it is:

“This morning as I left my house and hit the light of day I saw that I was wearing 1 blue and 1 black shoe.  Luckily I caught it this time.  I have gone to school like this in the past…so, having caught it – I knew it was going to be a good day – nothing can set a negative tone quite like mismatched shoes.

First, I would like to say congratulations to all of the Teachers of the Year today.  If you would please humor me, I would like for each of you to please take a moment, close your eyes and sear this day of celebration into your memory, because today we celebrate all of you. As you sit there – eyes closed and in your own head – scream, hoot, holler, and shout out how awesome your are.  You are awesome because all of your colleagues chose you to represent their school.  Your colleagues believe that you exemplify what it means to be a great teacher.  Now, when you open your eyes, tuck all that awesomeness away in a special place.

Then, during this next school year when you are dealing with that difficult parent, or trying to reach that far away child; when a frustrated colleague maybe forgot how awesome you are (pause for laughter), or if you accidently wear 2 different shoes to school…Just close your eyes, take a deep breath and unpack that nugget.  It should pull you through.

I would also like to thank Mr. Havird and all of District One for allowing me to serve on this leadership path of growth, humility, and inspiration.  It has been a true blessing and an honor.

Finally, I raise a (water) glass to Mr. Matthew Truesdale in congratulations.  One district teacher of the year does not always personally know the next.  I am very fortunate to call Matthew a colleague, even more so to call him a friend.  Matthew, congratulations – I wish you the best on this year’s journey.  Please know that you have always inspired me be a better teacher and a better person – and may you always wear 2 matching shoes.”

Short and sweet.  So, I really did don the wrong shoes that very morning.  And I wrote the speech in about 20 minutes – after they announced my friend’s name that morning.  Inspiration can be found in the darnedest places.

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My First Marathon – one proud mamathoner

My daughter and I shared our first marathon together on January 16, 2016 at the Charleston Marathon.  She lives 5 states away and we were unable to train together, but we ran this race together, stride for stride.

As an added bonus we stayed with my bff, Kelly,  and her boy, Anthony.  (sign and photos courtesy of Miss Kelly)

Training: I had been training specifically for this race for about 18 weeks.  Flu over Christmas – ugh.  Two fellow runners think this flu actually saved me and is why I felt so great during the actual marathon – forced rest and pull back from the mileage.  That it was, indeed.  Bill, my husband, continues to tell me how much he hated the training schedule that I followed.  He plowed through it with me, though.  My biggest supporter – no question. He ran with me during every single run and pushed me when I wanted to slack.  Even though he could not run the distances on the long run days, he was out there running every step he could as he cheered me on.

Alexis, also affectionately referred to as YaYa, returned home for Thanksgiving and we were able to run 16 together. That day I thought to myself how apparent our ages have become.  We stayed together most of the day, but she took off at the end and crushed the last 2 miles.  (deep sigh)

After that day I ran 17 and another 16 with lots of lower mile days in there.  But over Christmas Break, when we planned on running 20 together, I came down with the flu and it kicked my butt.  I was in bed for the whole of our Christmas break and did not run a step for 2 and half weeks – which felt like an eternity.  Even when I did run after that – I wanted to just stop.  3 miles felt like 15.  Mentally, I felt defeated before I ever started the race.

Race day:  Alexis and  I decided we were going to run the first five miles at an eleven minute pace – nice and easy.  Then the next five at 10:45….then the next five at 10:30 or under. We wanted to keep dropping by 15 seconds until we hit the wall and just couldn’t anymore. Then, YaYa slammed into the wall – knees first – at mile 15.  Actually, just before mile 15.  Around 13 I was struggling a little bit and wanted to slow down (we were actually running at, like 10:15).  My belly was cramping.  She talked me through it as best as she could when I told her I needed her to encourage me.  She was great.  We rounded the corner from the marina, just after crossing over an overpass and hearing the speaker shout out our current time.  I dashed to the porta pottie to no avail as YaYa stretched in the street.   The runners had really thinned out at this point.

We got back to it and shortly after that, she just could not overcome.  She kept expecting to move beyond whatever was hurting her and push through and it just never happened. She told me on a few occasions that if I left her, she would quit – as a way to say thank you for the support.  Around mile 23 she told me that finishing this race was, by far, the hardest thing she has ever had to do.  Really?  Now, like on that 16 mile run over Thanksgiving Break – our ages became very apparent once again.

I was conflicted, I am embarrassed to say.  I wanted to stay with her so badly.  I wanted to support her and be a team.  But I was frustrated that I had trained so hard, for what seemed so long – only to fall short of my goals.  I thought to myself about the 2 other times in my life I trained for a marathon.   The first time, I just gave up mid training – excuses are there, but I can’t remember them now.  Then the next time I had my appendix out mid training and I just could not mentally overcome that.  As I write this now, I do also remember being alone for both failures.  Perhaps that drove my ultimate decision.

Keep in mind – we have run shorter races together before, and when someone gets a groove on, well, she takes off!  This is a perfectly acceptable practice.

I had staggered, graded goals (What can I say, I am a teacher).  Alexis actually gave me the idea.  She learned it from a marathon course she had taken as an undergrad at Clemson University.  A – under 4:30, B – under 5, C – finish.  There really was not option D or F – Finish I must.

I felt really good from the first step that day and thought, briefly, I might hit the A goal. YaYa had to hold me back early on so I would not burn out – which is why we started at 11 minute miles.  As we continued on with the 5 hour pacer guy, I realized that under 5 was still solid and perfectly respectable.  As we went on I realized how challenging even this was going to be with my now aching daughter.  At 24 miles, honestly, when the 5:30 pacer passed us – a little part of me really felt sad (I don’t want to say died, that’s a little too dramatic).  But my frustration peeked.  I was so torn…be a good mom, be a team player or own your training, compete, run! – oh my competitive side yelled at me the whole way.  Well, now I have this stored energy, we are nearing the end, and I want to run.  I mean, there are only 2 miles left – surely you can make that on your own after what we have been through.  As we slowed for her knees, I began to cramp in my hips and thighs because I needed a full stride, desperately.

So, question of the hour, should I let her fail here?  She is 24 years old.  She admitted to not training like she should have.  But she ran 16 twice with no issues of any kind.  Something hurt this time.  What if it was just a wall, or just a fluke? So what. We were going to do it together.   How would I have reacted or finished if the roles were reversed and she took off and left me because I was struggling.  It may have made it harder on me, but I guarantee I would have finished.   She would have, too. I cried at 23 ish because I was so overwhelmed with emotion.  I think it was mostly from feeling like my daughter actually needed me for the first time in what seemed like a decade.  How could I turn my back on her no matter how much my ego cried out for an A?  What kind of person would that have made me? What kind of mother?  She doesn’t need to learn a lesson here – I do.

I am allowed to have feelings. AND it is what I do with those that make me who I am, right?  Well, my enthusiasm and joy could not be diminished by my competitive ego and I continued DSC_0823 (2)to bounce and smile and sing (seemingly obnoxiously) until the very last step over the finish line with my daughter at my side.  I will forever remember the high fives at every mile, even the 26th, and her tears the entire last mile.  Time: 5 hours and 35 minutes.

One proud mamathoner.

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The Smash Book

Every trip I take abroad with students can be relived while flipping through the smash book I created while on tour.  Just keep things as you go and take notes – when you have a free hour, spend some time writing, pasting, and doodling.  The end product is practically finished when you arrive home.  The practice has grown on my trips and now multiple members of the group work on them as we travel.  As for the others in the group, although they don’t care to complete a book, they do enjoy seeking out items to include in the smash book.

Post cards, maps, brochures.  I am always sure to put several clips and various types of pockets in the book before I leave.  It is also fun to try to fancy a pocket out of a travel trinket of some sort.  This just adds to the unique, one of kind souvenir I take home.  Also, I love to grab every free brochure at the hotels to cut the little picture out of the places that we end up going to.  I also like to use the words and titles in them.

When I do finally make it home and print out all of my pictures from a trip, I will always get extra prints of a few of my favorite shots – usually the ones with the people in them – and put them in the book, too.