Missing Pieces

At the beginning of quarantine, we worked a couple of jigsaw puzzles at our house. A way to pass the time while keeping the brain working. It is always interesting to me to watch how tiny pieces fit together to create one big picture.

The pieces all have different colors and shapes. Each one with its own place. Only fitting together with those directly surrounding. The togetherness grows exponentially. However, if there is just one missing piece, the picture is incomplete. So frustrating.

Each of us is born into a picture. With a family that will love us and helps us grow. Sadly, that is not always the case. And the missing pieces often leave big holes.

Children especially have a difficult time finding their place when these pieces are missing. They do not understand. Whether withdrawing or acting out, they are seeking control. This is sometimes hard to remember as a teacher.

Yesterday, I reacted to certain behaviors with little thought to what was behind them. They were frustrated. I was frustrated. I kept thinking, “If only these friends would listen and follow directions like everyone else!”

This morning, I woke up thinking about those friends. I wanted to find a way to improve the situation. Find a way to encourage appropriate behavior and participation. After all, music class is supposed to be fun!

But how? One word came to mind-connections. I know that is the key. Sometimes I just need a reminder.

Today, I worked on those connections. In the process, I discovered some of the missing pieces. The death of a parent, negative influences from older siblings, family instability. These little ones are dealing with big emotions and don’t know why or how to express them.

Our time together was brief. Leaving me with more questions than answers. However, there was also a glimmer of hope. Little faces, often angry, smiling just a bit. Showing a desire to do the right thing. Even if only able for a limited amount of time.

There is no way for me to fill in those missing pieces. They are irreplaceable. All I can do is recognize and acknowledge. But maybe the edges can be blurred, and a new picture of belonging will emerge. Causing the frustrations of the missing pieces to fade.

Best Course of Action

My mom and her sister, my Aunt Elizabeth, are breast cancer survivors. My dear friend, Shannon, lost her battle with breast cancer. I witnessed each of these women respond with bravery and courage to a disease that has touched so many.

Geneva’s Daughter Instant Friends

Because of my family history and personal health issues, I have mammograms regularly and see a specialist. And though my personal health history does not include cancer, it does include a lumpectomy, multiple biopsies, and MRIs.

I DO NOT LIKE MRIs AT ALL...

Today was my six-month checkup, including an ultrasound. Dense tissue makes detection difficult. And even though the doctor saw nothing alarming, she recommended another MRI and follow-up again in six months.

When MRI was mentioned today, I kind of zoned out for a moment. I began to feel the anxiety that accompanied my previous MRI. Yes, I survived. But it was definitely an emotional challenge.

Once again, I found myself feeling anxious. For clarification, I asked, “So, you think I should definitely have an MRI?” “Yes. You meet the risk factors. I believe it is the best course of action for you.”

On the drive home, I was tempted to let worry start creeping in. But then I had some thankful thoughts. A doctor who is thorough and gives me her honest opinion. Health insurance to help cover this cost. The knowledge that if there is ever an issue, this test will find it early.

So, I will stay on this course of action, even though it makes me nervous. And I will continue to encourage all my women friends to remain vigilant in fighting this disease.

Get your mammograms! And even an MRI, if necessary. 💗💗💗

Belonging

Hard to know
Where the sky
Ends and the
Earth begins
Snow-topped
Mountains blend
Into purple
And blue skies
Misty clouds
Gently blur
Greens in
Treetops
Calm ocean
Waters accept
Sunset reflections
Of pinks and reds
Perhaps there
Is no need to
See beginning
Or ending
Only a need
To recognize
Simple lessons
In belonging

Feeling Warmth

Flames playfully
Dancing over
Shiny pebbles
Of cobalt blue
Warming the
Cool night air

Steam steadily
Rising from
A cup of tea-
Honey and chai-
Warming this
Chilled body

Another sitting
Quietly nearby
Strengthing
Thru the silence
Warming my
Tired heart

Stresses fading
Into the dark
Calmly ending
A long week
Feeling warmth
In a new season

Point of Reference

I grew up with a large extended family. My parents have been married for over fifty years. In my circle of family and friends, we have experienced life and death, cancer, anxiety and depression, and, of course, art, and music. I could discuss any of those things all day long.

There are other things I would rather not discuss. This week I was reminded more than once of life experiences for which I have no point of reference.

The first one involved a younger student. Before class, the teacher mentioned that the father of this child was going to prison. This friend was restless, struggling to engage and fit in. Quickly moving between over-excitement and complete stillness. I think it had been a rough day.

I had my young friend sitting right beside me during music class. When I sensed a little restlessness, I slowly patted on the back-a steady, gentle, sixty-beats-per-minute pat. It seemed to help.

After class, I found myself thinking, “How could my actions possibly help this situation for the long-term?” Yes, they might have helped at that moment. However, in the grand scheme, offered little.

The second involved an older student. This student was able to put their feelings and experiences clearly into words. Nothing could prepare me for hearing, “I was taken away from mom. I talk to her sometimes, but she really doesn’t want to see me.”

I managed a short response, “I’m sorry. You are special. I love you.”

I cannot possibly understand how this student feels. I could offer a listening ear, a kind word, and a smile. Was that enough? It certainly did not feel like it at the moment.

Thankfully, I am not the only one listening. I work in a school building, a district, and a profession with many other caring adults. Many of them listen to heart-breaking stories every day. And the collective listening and responding do have the power to make a positive impact.

No, I may not have a personal point of reference for these two students. And I know there are many other stories I have not heard. But there is strength in numbers. And tonight, I will rest in that point of reference.

Grit

Tiny pieces of
Dust and rock
Able to slip
Into crevices
At first
Unnoticed
Creating only
Minor irritations
Until joined by
Other long-lost
Grating friends
Joining forces
Causing cracks
Disrupting even
The strongest
Of foundations

Displays of
Courage and
Determination
Within a vessel
Able to pour out
Inspiration into
Deep fractures
Distinguishable
From fakes
And forgeries
Lifting the worried
And anxious out
Of apprehension
Freely sharing to
Build up even the
Weakest foundations

Displaying
The first
Kind of grit
Only serves
To breed
Negativity
Leaving behind
Destruction
Displaying
The second
Kind of grit
Builds up
Instead of
Tearing down
Leaving behind
Deep reassurance

Front Porch Swing

Legs crossed
One foot planted
Firmly on the floor
Securely guiding me
Back and forth
A gentle rocking
Not the flying
To the sky
Back and forth
Of childhood
No-this is
The swaying
Of contemplation
A vantage point
For the familiar-
Scenes now fuzzy
Thanks to frayed lines
On well-worn
Window screens-
Yet, beauty remains
Holding power to
Release a rush of
Memories even
As clarity fades-
New-found gratitude
Blurs my restlessness
With each image seen
With each motion felt
With each moment spent
On the front porch swing

Teacher Heart

Confession time. This teacher’s heart, mind, and body are struggling. Each day brings physical and emotional exhaustion. This is not about complaining or seeking validation. I am acknowledging that we are in a difficult season.

Life is full of difficult seasons. This is not the first and will most certainly not be the last. Such is the world in which we live. It is just that I am having a difficult time dealing with this one.

One day can feel like a rollercoaster. One hour, I have a great class, kids engaged, lightbulbs going off. The next, I allow something small to wash away the positive. A problem with technology (shh…do not tell my husband.) 😉 My attitude, maybe a student’s attitude-it doesn’t matter which. I’m suddenly trying not to cry, counting the minutes until I can hide in the bathroom between classes and regain my composure.

My thoughts quickly move towards an “I don’t think I can do this” attitude. And every time this happens, encouragement follows.

An encouraging word from my husband. “You are stronger than you think you are.”

An encouraging comment from a colleague. “You inspire me.”

An encouraging email from another colleague. “M and T told me all about strong and weak beats…that music lesson stuck with them!”

All I see is that one word…encouraging. And these are only a few examples from the last several days. The individuals who shared their thoughts may not have realized the power held in their words, but I felt it in my teacher-heart. Their messages brought smiles to brighten my day and tears to wash away my doubts…renewal.

Renewal…the next focus word. Something we all must learn to practice. I am practicing it right now. Today, it looks like taking a personal day and a long drive. A time away, visiting my own parents. A time to rest and be loved as a daughter.

Other days, the renewal will look different. An evening walk with my husband. Taking time to play the piano. Talking to a friend. Writing, painting, something creative to ease my anxious mind. All things to help renew my heart, soul, and body so I can continue doing what I’m called to do for however long I’m called. ❤

A Tiny Bit Proud

My eight semesters of college Spanish are long gone. Although I recognize a few words and remember the pronunciation guides, my conversation skills are limited, to say the least.

Our school, and particularly my kindergarten classes, have a lot of Spanish-speaking students. One student in particular cries often and is always ready to go home. School is an adjustment for the littles, especially when adding COVID precautions and language barriers. It makes getting to know them a little more challenging.

In music class one day, I played a song that was in both English and Spanish. The student I mentioned smiled and stopped crying. It was obvious. I needed to think about using more songs and stories in Spanish.

Then last week, I came across a book I had ordered this past school year. It’s called “Peppa Pig: La lección de ballet.” I probably was not thinking about using it for a read-aloud at the time. But I decided to give it a try.

I practiced reading the book, making sure I understood the story. Watched an English version of the story. And then I asked the kindergarten teachers what they thought about having a guest reader.

Which brings us to this morning. I read the book in Spanish for my kindergarten classes! No, I did not understand every word but could pronounce most. And the kids seemed to enjoy the story.

Was the experience comfortable? Not really. Was it worth the attempt? Definitely!

How do I know? The teacher of my little friend who cries a lot said he was smiling through the whole story! ❤

I was too busy concentrating to notice!

I know there were mistakes, mispronounced words. But I walked away smiling and feeling just a tiny bit proud.

All or Nothing

Giving all of anything is
Quite a commitment
Particularly when
There is no way
Of knowing what
Time will be required

All of me
All of my love
All of my time
All of my days

Whether part of a 
Cross-my-heart promise
Or the title of 
A favorite song
Life does not tell us
How many days remain

A definitive number
Is found only in
The days passed
Never to return

So, I settle on today
This hour, this moment
Right this second
That is all there is
And I must choose
To give all or nothing