The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Mere Sense of Living is Joy Enough

I haven't blogged since April, which means a whole heck of a lot of catching up.  The return of warm weather has meant a renewal of time outside, campfires, 'smores, and family time.

In May, my English students joined with the art students to put on an exhibit of activist art. This exhibit was truly beautiful. My students displayed photography and petitions pushing for changes they truly believe in, which was beautiful. It was a reminder that there are many people out there who wish to make the world a better place. It was the perfect way to end this year with these great kids... many of whom I will be teaching next year.  Yes, I will be teaching three 11th grade classes next year, so I will keep some of my students, which I am excited about, because I like this group and having students whose strengths and needs I am already familiar with will be an interesting experience.

To end the year in drama, Jasmin and I worked together to put together a musical number about bullying, being different, and what it means to be an ally by re-imagining the musical number "Somebody to Love" from the musical We Will Rock You. I have noticed that musically, I don't always recognize what things are within our students' ability levels and what pieces are really way out of our league. Someday, I suppose I will be familiar enough with music to recognize this, but apparently, I just don't yet, because I am great at picking pieces leaps and bounds above what our students are capable of on their own. Jasmin is amazing though and is able to untangle my pipe dreams and make them reality. This nine-minute musical number ended up being far more challenging than either of us really imagined, but the final product taught us a lot and made us both very proud. After that "little" project, my students ended the year with a series of vignettes parodying stereotypes in schools, particularly ours.  A student parodied the principal and had everyone hysterical with his rather accurate portrayal, but my personal favorite was the senior who has been with me for several years and parodied me in a drama class skit.  She picked up on little details that I never even noticed, like the way I sit when I'm watching drama scenes, slightly shifted to the side, leaning back in my chair, and that I swing my keys around constantly, and how I hold my coffee cup slightly inverted inwards in the crook of my hand and my wrist. I found this very amusing. The kids did too. I really loved this drama group. They were less "drama," in the negative sense of the word, than any group I've had before, which was really interesting.

Saying goodbye to this group of seniors was hard for me. Because I teach mostly sophomores, by senior year, they have mostly all moved on, but I usually have a handful of seniors with whom I am still close at graduation. This year, it was a lot more than a handful, which made it less emotional and more emotional, all at the same time. I had some good closure this year because I went to prom, and graduation, and grad nite. I hosted a drama dinner and bonfire to say goodbye to the drama seniors. By the time summer began, I felt like proper goodbyes had been said, and I didn't even cry that much.  I somehow know that this group will stay in touch and that they will be very successful, and that is reassuring. 

Summer. Ahhh.  Summer began with a week of all my favorite things: sleeping in, going to the beach, and hanging out with my family, including some quality time with my nieces, whom I don't really get to see enough.  Then, the next week, the schedule picked up with Vinny at theatre camp and Tiana at gymnastics camps and me playing chauffeur. In between stops, I made time for lots of classes at the gym, and I decided to not feel guilty about how seldom I made time for these classes during the school year.

Then... my grandma took a turn for the worse.  She's been in assisted living in Vegas for a couple of years. She took a fall in October and broke her hip and shoulder, and we kind of all knew it was the beginning of the end. She wasn't taking to rehab quite the way someone with years to go would, and it was only really a matter of time, but a week ago, she took a turn for the worse, so we all rushed out to say goodbye.  Even though I knew when we went to see her for her birthday in December that things would never be the same, and she probably wouldn't live too much longer, saying goodbye still caught me off guard. I think it caught her off guard too. She's a fighter and lasted much longer in those final days than we thought she would. Very Dickinson. 
Because she could not stop for death, death finally stopped for her. And away she rode. And I'm still in this strange state of disbelief and acceptance all at the same time. It just feels like the last twenty years went by so fast. In my head, I'm still ten years old laughing at her struggle not to fall off an inflatable raft in my backyard swimming pool.  It really makes me feel a strange sense of my own mortality too.  Some days, I feel like I have so much of my life before me, the world is my oyster. But then, I wonder... if twenty years can just fly by... what is the end of my life going to feel like?  Will I wonder where all the time went? Will the memories be articulate pieces of happiness I flip through in my mind or will they be a stew of reminiscence that I stir in wonder?

For me, this portion of summer usually comes with bursts of energy that I funnel into being the best homemaker I possibly can.  I do my semi-annual deep cleaning and purging and many of my Pinterest projects for the house and yard become realized.  But right now... grief has drained my energy and all of my emotional and physical resources are going into just functioning. Forget completing Pinterest projects -- I will be happy if I can just get my laundry done this week.

I've given myself permission to be okay with that though. Instead, I'm investing in things that count and recognizing that watching the sunset on the porch while sipping drinks with my papa, well... that's time well spent.

 "Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough." 
- Emily Dickinson

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