Thursday, June 23, 2016

One Lucky Girl


And this.

The eagles' nest is at the very top of the center tree.

And this.

Canadian geese - momma, poppa, and babies floating by

And this.

What is all of this? It's my front yard. Okay, well, technically I have to walk all of 2 minutes if I want to get there the illegal way (down over the railroad tracks) or 4 minutes if I want to do it legally to get there, but it really is right in my front yard.

It's my happy place.
It's the Susquehanna River.

People knock the river all of the time. With Three Mile Island just a couple of miles upstream, another power plant at one end of town, and the county incinerator at the other, people tend to think it's pretty dirty and disgusting down here. But that's not the case at all. I'm certain there is more we could do, but right now the river is thriving pretty well.

This morning I rode my bike for maybe 15 minutes, and at the end of those 15 minutes I got to see two fledgling bald eagles messing around by their nest. I also got to see Mom or Dad come in and drop off their brunch. As I was watching the eaglets, a family of Canadian geese floated down the river, and a great blue heron flew by. I also got to see a small raccoon, and that did concern me a little bit. Little bugger didn't look sick, but he definitely shouldn't have been out at 11:15 am. 

Then I peddled back and stopped to enjoy the views from the White Cliffs of Conoy and a small little fishing spot where the Conoy Creek flows into the Susquehanna. It was a beautiful morning, and it made me realize how lucky and happy I am to be where I'm at.

Today's good news was tempered with some bad, though. My parents had to put their sweet kitty Jane to sleep. I swear Jane was a dog in a cat's body; she loved to be the center of attention, loved to be brushed, loved to be held, and loved loved loved nothing more than to sit on my parents' deck and watch life go by. It definitely will not be the same at their apartment now that Janie got her wings, but my bike trip this morning reminds me that there is always a circle of life. As tough as it is, leaving is as much a part of life as arriving and living, and we have to take her spunk with us as we keep going.

So I'm lucky -- I get to live in this beautiful place, feel all of these emotions, and keep on keeping on. What makes you a lucky person today?

Monday, June 20, 2016

What I Believe

This weekend was a great celebration - my friend's birthday, Father's Day, my "little" brother turned 40! There were lots of opportunities to spend happy times with people and reflect upon how far I've come personally. I'm so looking forward to continuing to grow this summer, both personally and professionally.

One of the things I read in my assignment from Unbreakable was the idea of having a mantra; something that acknowledges the challenges that you face but also reminds you of all of the positive things that you've got going on.

Even thought it wasn't remotely part of the assignment, I decided to go ahead and write my own mantra. While Watson included one in her book that was very good and definitely applied, I just felt it was important to put my own spin on it. She recommends reading it every day, and I'm thinking about hanging it on the wall next to my desk after I finish all the final touches. But for right now, here's the first draft of my mantra. What will yours say?

I have wanted to be a teacher since I was 7 years old. I always pictured myself growing up, getting married, teaching kids, and having kids of my own. While my picture looks very different than I expected, one thing is true. I have worked extremely hard for all that I accomplished, and I'm proud of myself for who I am today. 

Sometimes it seems like there are so many things out of my control, and a lot of them are. But I control how I decide to react to all of those things. Professionally I must always put my kids first and be present for them. For some, I am the most positive influence they have in their life, and they depend upon me to be in the moment with them. I will continue to do the best I can (which may not be perfect, but it's still pretty darn good) for each of them. I will try my best to communicate with their parents to show them how much their children accomplish and how much potential they have.

I'll never get away from giving tests or covering some of this ridiculous curriculum, but I do have the power to help my kids have all of the tools they need to feel like they can do their best. I'll make sure my kids know exactly how much I care about them as people, not as test scores.

And finally, but most importantly, I respect and care for myself. I am strong. I finished the Gretna Gritty! It's okay to be afraid, but I can't let fear keep me from trying new things that have always had the excuse, "That looks like fun, but...." I will be happy. I will be healthy. I have the power to do all of these things.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


So it's only been 5 days since my summer vacation, and I've already learned quite a few new things.

  1. Sticking tile to a backsplash really isn't that hard. Bending to stick the tile on the backsplash yes, actually sticking it on, no.
  2. Sticking tile to a backsplash is a lot easier when you have a friend who is willing to do all the tricky cuts for you!
  3. You can rent a tile cutter for $10.
  4. Using a tile cutter in your newly sealed driveway ruins the pretty color.
  5. Scrubbing said driveway helps a little, but not as much as you would think.
  6. Going to the zoo with your mom and dad is fun, even if you're almost 42.
  7. It's WAY harder to clean the grout off the tile than they make it look.
  8. Sometimes you just have to depend upon yourself.
  9. It's always my choice.
You probably noticed a little theme through my little list of learnings, and as you probably guessed I did a little tiling for the first time. I'll be quite honest - it looks pretty sweet. It's definitely not perfect, but I did it with the help of my friends, and I'm pretty proud. While I have always been confident in my school life, I am not always so confident in my home life. There were several times while I was working that I thought, "I can't do this!" or, "This is never going to work!" or, "Oh crap - I have totally messed this up." This negative self talk has kept me from doing a lot of different things in my life because of a fear of failure. It's something that I've been working on a lot with my counselor, and tiling the backsplash was one of the goals I had set for myself. In addition to all of the little tidbits I already listed, doing the backsplash helped me with two other things:
  • It's okay to ask for and lean on somebody for help.
  • Things don't have to be perfect to look nice. 
So while I still have to finish sealing the grout and putting the covers back on, here is some of the work on the tile!

Numbers 8 and 9 probably don't make much sense in the grand list of new learnings from tiling, especially since I already said it's okay to lean on somebody for help. But last year I depended upon a friend to help me get to the gym everybody. As sometimes happens in life things change, and while I'm sad about it, our daily gym trips just aren't going to happen this summer. So hence my learning for #8. I have to do it myself.

That kinda ties in nicely to #9. It has to be my choice to be healthy, and I can't depend upon anybody else. As part of my summer learnings, we are reading the book Unshakeable by Angela Watson. While I haven't gotten very far into it (and I'll honestly say, I don't think the first assignment really goes with what I read), I can say that it has been phenomenal in reminding me that everything is my choice, particularly how I look at and deal with situations. While my required postings are very specific, I'm hoping that I can use this forum to talk about what I've learned and how I can use it in my classroom. 

So three weekdays in, and I've already learned a lot. Hopefully I will continue to make the choices that help me learn and grow all summer long.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

It's Been A While

Are you singing that song in your head now? If you are, I'm sorry for the ear worm. If it's any consolation, I've given it to myself as well, so I'm singing right along with you.

It certainly has been a while since I've been here. Being a connected teacher was extremely important to me, but I've learned over the past year and a half that it was also one of the ways that I was escaping all of the difficulties in my "real" life. While I was really hoping to find a better balance between life, teaching, and my online presence, what I found was that I just couldn't do all three for a while. Unfortunately, that meant my online presence was the one that I could afford to let slip.

So what's happened since I've been gone? Well, a lot. But in keeping with my attempts at being the bigger person, let's just say that I have definitely gone ahead and upgraded, and others have, in some people's eyes, downgraded. I continue to wish him well and hope that he finds great success. But as time continues to march on, I drift more and more away from that old life and the ties that bound me to its unhappiness.

Professionally, life has been challenging as well. I found this really great meme the other day online:

Everything certainly look and feels the same, but I have definitely changed. I am no longer the one who needs to be responsible for making other people happy, and I am no longer the one who goes along with things just because it's what I'm "supposed" to do or because it'll make my test scores look good for my evaluations. I'm doing what's right by myself and what's right by my kids. I've already been "unfriended" (and I am definitely not just talking about Facebook!), but I'm okay with that. Those seem to have been the toxic people in my life, and not having to deal with them all the time has helped me be more positive and true to myself.

But I do find myself being more and more frustrated. I'm frustrated with the testing. I'm frustrated with my kids being a number, or a set of numbers, rather than a child. I'm frustrated with teaching to the test and not teaching kids to learn or be creative. I'm frustrated people who I used to see as trusted coworkers now seeming to be in it for themselves rather than being a part of a team. I'm frustrated that so much seems to be "out of my hands" and there's "nothing I can do about it," And I'm frustrated with administrators who shift on a whim and talk out of both sides of their mouth. All of this frustration has had me looking around thinking, "What else can I do?" "How can I teach kids, but not really be a teacher?"

So as I sit here pondering the "what should I do with my life question" for the umpteenth day in a row, I heard a ding on my school messager. It was a message from a coworker for whom I have the utmost respect. Her words were so kind and so humbling. And as I sat reading what she wrote and answering her, I received an email from a student. He is now teaching 4th grade in another local district, and he just wanted to thank me for all that I did for him. It's amazing how sometimes, in our greatest times of need, just the right people pop up to share just the words we needs to hear. I guess tonight was that night for me.

Maybe, just maybe, I am in the right place. I am doing the right thing.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Beginnings

My one little word for last year was balance, and from the cobwebs around here it's probably kind of obvious that I crashed and burned on that word. The funny thing is that my word for 2013 was self, and that truly ended up being my word for 2014.

If you've been here for a while, you know that things have not busy easy for us. There has been a lot of loss and many challenges. Thankfully, we both finally seem to be rising above those losses and challenges, but unfortunately we've had to do so on our own. I'm so happy to tell you that Jerry's store is doing better than he imagined after only 9 months, and I'm hopeful that he can continue to prosper and be happy. He loves animals, and he is incredible at helping people take the best care of their pets that they can within their given budget. He is a great asset to our community, and I wish him nothing but the best as he continues forward on his journey.

It was hard walking away, but I came to realize that I could not do everything on my own, and I needed more. I took time this year, especially this summer, to go out and meet new people, to try new things, to eat new foods, to go to new places, and really grow as a person. In many respects I feel like I have failed, but with the help of a great counselor I'm realizing that these things that I'm seeing as failures are simply ways that my path was going off in a different direction than I had planned. I deserve the opportunity to explore these different paths to find which ones are best for me.

One of my favorite songs from many years ago said, "It's closing time, and every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." While 2014 was at times very sad, it has been a year of growth and exploration, and I am thankful that I was finally brave enough to look to an end and start a new beginning. It's scary because every other time I had an end on the horizon, I knew exactly what new beginning lay ahead. This time, not so much. So here's what I'm learning:
  • It's okay not to be in control.
  • It's okay to be impulsive and do something crazy.
  • It's okay to spend some money on a splurge that will make a wonderful memory, as long as you're putting a little bit away for a rainy day.
  • Sometimes people come into your life in the most unexpected way at exactly the right time.
  • Sometimes you just have to have faith that everything happens for a reason and that everything will be okay.
2014 really was the light at the end of a very long tunnel. With all of this in mind, my word for 2015 is possibilities. I'm looking forward to seeing everything that the new year and my new life has in store for me, and I'm keeping my eyes and heart open for every new possibility.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Last year I decided to make my One Little Word self, and I'm not going to lie - I didn't do a very good job of it. As I was reading through my reflection from last December I found that I really haven't come any farther from where I was last year at this time. Over the summer I did try and make some of those positive changes, but once again I allowed myself to feel as though things out of my control took away my choices (not true), I expected the negative (you get what you look for), and I put others needs ahead of mine because it was just easier and kept the peace.

The loss of Grandma in November, and the unexpected death of our dear dog, Maxx, just two weeks ago has made it challenging to think that there were positives this year, but there really were. 
  • We have lived on one income, paid our bills, not added to our debt, and have been able to meet all of our needs and a want every now and then. 
  • I started kayaking and found peace on the water. Right now I'm saving up to buy my own kayak so I can go whenever I want.
  • Jerry's business has continued to grow and see success. As a matter of fact, he will actually be opening a new store in 2014.
  • We were able to travel to Las Vegas for a trade show, and I was able to meet a dear online friend in person for the first time. 
I'm sure there were many other positives, but these are the big ones that stand out to me. They each bring a smile to my face, warm my heart, and make me realize how much I really do have.

As I've been thinking about my word for this year, one thing I know to be true is that I am often and all or nothing person. I feel like I have to be going all out in anything or everything I do, or I can't do it at all. Just like some of my through processes, it's so not true, but it's how I tend to approach things. Either I go all out or I don't go at all. This often means I'm putting all sorts of effort into one area of my life and completing ignoring the others, or it means I'm not putting much effort into anything at all.

With Jerry's store on the horizon I know I'm going to be taking on a lot more responsibilities here at home, and I need to recognize that I can't do everything perfectly. So with that in mind I've picked my word for 2014. 


I need to balance the realistic with the dreams, the light with the dark, the work with the play, the healthy with the having fun, my happiness with the happiness of others in the hopes that I don't let everything get me down and burn out. I have no idea what 2014 holds in store for us, but I do know that we can only continue the upward growth that we started to see this year.

Whether you do resolutions, pick you own little word, or skip all of that and just change full steam ahead, I hope that 2014 holds much love and happiness for you.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Remembering Grandma

I wasn't born into Grandma Bair's family, but I managed to marry my way in after I stole her oldest grandson's heart almost 20 years ago. I think I had known Grandma for about 3.2 seconds before I learned that when Grandma Bair says jump, you say, "Yes, ma'am! How high?"

My husband's parents ran their own business when he was a little boy so he spent much of his time with Grandma and Pop. Like a typical little boy, he helped Pop with his chores - digging in the dirt, tinkering on machines and cars, working at the mill or on the farm. There was an endless supply of things for a kid to do with his grandfather, and while he talks about his times with Pop fondly Jerry's eyes light up when he talks about the time he spent with Grandma. The stories he tells the most, the ones that make his heart the happiest, are the stories about the times they spent fishing together. Grandma was apparently the best catfish fisherwoman in the county, and she and Jerry spent many days under the mulberry tree seeing what they could catch.

Grandma was a strong, stubborn, southern lady, and even though she came to Pennsylvania shortly after meeting Pop when he was stationed in Alabama serving in the Army Air Corp, she always had a bit of that twang to her voice. Grandma had southern mannerisms; she expected things to be done certain ways. And if you didn't do things the way they were supposed to be done, boy did she let you have it. It was expected that as soon as Grandma showed up you would go and give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. One time, at a picnic, I didn't realize she had arrived because I was splashing around in the creek. When I finally did see her, boy oh boy! Did I ever get an earful! And I think I heard about "forgetting her hug" every time I saw her for the next year.

There are so many other things that I could say about Grandma, but there are two stories that really stand out to me as stories that give the true picture of who Grandma was. Jerry and I were getting ready for the cake-cutting at our wedding reception, and as everybody was getting ready for the official picture, Grandma made her way up to us. I can still see her finger waggle and the glare in her eye as she said, "Don't you DARE smoosh cake in her face and mess up that girl's dress!" And like a good grandson he did exactly as he was told. I may have gotten a little smoosh in, but even I was worried about the Wrath of Grandma if I made too much of a mess!

The second happened at Jerry's father's funeral. Jerry is super emotional, and losing his dad really took a toll on him. But when Pop died, Jerry struggled with the fact that he was not able to talk at the funeral so he insisted on speaking at his father's service. It was gut-wrenching, and there were several times I wanted to run up and help him. But he made it through what he wanted to say. After the service and greeting what seemed to be like a thousand friends and family members we finally sat down to eat some lunch. As we sat down at the table and started eating, Grandma, in her blunt fashion, said, "You were a mess up there. I don't want you talking at my funeral." We just shook our heads, and feigned shock, but secretly, I know she didn't mean it. Jerry was the grandchild she specifically asked to see when she made her decision on Sunday.

I guess that would be the final story. Even at the end Grandma was stubborn and did things exactly her way. She got a cold, and the past few years her colds have turned into bronchitis or pneumonia. This time she said she wasn't taking anything. That was Thursday, we said our final goodbyes last night, and she went home to be with Pop this afternoon on her own terms.

If they ever decide to put a picture along side the word matriarch in the dictionary, they need to use Grandma's. She was full of love and life, and while she was only my Grandma for 17 years, I am a better person because she willingly shared that love and life with me.