A Little Bit of Magic

crt_logoRegardless of our professions, we all hold memories of special people and events. That is especially true when teachers start to share their stories, usually about individual students and sometimes about classes that, if we were lucky, were pure magic for the entire year.  Those classes were few and far between, but they were the reason we got up and raced to work every morning.

I was recently chatting with my Sister Suzanna and we got on the subject of kids and classes.  She recalled a magical class from her early years in the profession.  When June rolled around, the students complimented her with you’ve been just like my sister.  Fast forward and another perfect class appeared, this time with the closing appreciation of you’ve been just like my mother.  In her final year of teaching, yet another special class appeared and her kids surrounded her voicing, you’ve been just like my grand —  Stop right there, there is no need to finish that sentence.

I remember both individual students and some very special classes. I still recall one young girl who walked into our Healthy Start/School Linked Services offices late on a Friday afternoon.  She was leaning on her sister, crying and seeking help. I ushered her back to a young therapist, who quickly came back to my office and said this was out of her area of expertise.

The four of us sat down in my office.  The girl was pregnant, certain her parents would kill her and wanted an abortion. We calmed her and made her an appointment with Planned Parenthood, knowing that she was well past the point of any abortion. We also up future appointments with a therapist in our center so she could be supported in the future months.

Four months later, she gave birth to a beautiful little boy and, in large part due to the expertise at Planned Parenthood, had the full support of her family.

I wish her story had ended there, but it didn’t. Six months later, I received word that the young girl and her boyfriend had been killed, bound and shot execution style in the back of their heads.  I recall something about drugs or gangs, but that’s all rather vague.  I just remember thinking that it was such a loss, especially to their infant.  I have no idea what happened to the child, except that he’s now a grown man and, hopefully, on a much better path than his parents.

Those are the students that continue to haunt — what didn’t we know and what could have we done?

Those memories are balanced by the classes and students that made every day magical. There was one very special Sophomore English class where every day was a delight. Alas, I had arranged to take a leave of absence the second semester to join the soon-to-be ex in Pennsylvania. The kids and I grew more heartbroken as moving day loomed. 

The class had a surprise party the last day before the winter break and my leaving.  They had food (of course), thank you cards, speeches and gave me a beautiful delicate gold bracelet that I still have.  We were all in tears.

At the end of the day, I walked out to the faculty parking lot.  Standing next to my car was one of my students. He was the shy, polite student-athlete who sat in the back of the room and earned excellent grades.  He was on the cusp of becoming a very handsome young man and many of the girls already had crushes on him, although he seemed oblivious to it all.

I started to ask him what he needed, but he beat me to it, blurting out, But you can’t leave!  I’m in love with you!

 oh my, if he had only been 30 years older and a few years later…






I’ve always been in awe at little ones who hear a simple tune and immediately their entire beings move in harmony with the music. Such a wonder to be so young, so free and so able to immediately be one with the melody surrounding them.

It seems as we grow older that dances become so much more complicated and with so many more nuances. We don’t just dance with ourselves, but with others in our lives who may be more or less adept at dancing. Sometimes we don’t even know with whom we’re dancing and sometimes it seems that we are all just dancing to our own personal music. 

Dances can be as beautiful as a perfectly executed waltz or as painful as that first school dance with the predictably stepped on toes. The beauty of the dance is that adjustments and accommodations can be made, always making it possible for the dancers to continue in exquisite harmony with the music.

I remember a therapist talking to me about dances.  It was probably a thousand years ago, when I finally acknowledged that the dance with the soon-to-be ex had become too painful to continue.

Change the dance, she said. He will either dance with you or the dance will be over. 

As he is now the ex, you can guess how that advice turned out.  I think I can safely say that it was excellent advice, knowing that the ex and I now occasionally dance far better as grandparents than we ever danced as spouses.

With age, I’ve become a bit more aware of nuances of the music and perhaps less tolerant of being held in a dance that is obviously uncomfortable for me. It becomes especially challenging when someone else is leading and my only choice is to continue dancing or sit it out.

I just recently came across an old Garth Brook’s song, appropriately titled The Dance.

And now I’m glad I didn’t know the way things would end, the way it would all go.

Our lives are better left to chance. 

I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.

The lyrics ring true of some of the dances I’ve been in.  Even with sorely bruised toes, I would have never missed those dances, not in a million years.

So, here I am, here we all are, dancing our way into 2016 and, like most years, it will no doubt again be fascinating to see which dances will continue to charm us right into 2017, which dances or partners will change, and which dances will simply be finished.

Before Kicking the Bucket List

Many of us are apparently traveling down the same omg, how did I take this turn and land here? road.  We look around at a lifetime and home filled with treasures and stuff as well as treasures and stuff from dearly departed parents, grandparents and inlaws. 

As far as I can tell, my crystal ball being predictably cloudy, our kids will be overrun by all our stuff and treasures when we move on to our next adventure.

A couple years back, I was faced with a cancer scare.  False alarm, but I was warned to get things in order; if the doctor’s prognosis was correct, it could have been a matter of weeks.  So I cleaned out my closet which, in hindsight, may not have been the best use of my time.

When the non-crisis passed, I realized it was past time to finally sort through all the stuff and treasures. Not a Bucket List, but a Before I Kick the Bucket List. I decided this would be one New Years Resolution I’d actually keep.

This was also partially due to my also deciding to become a gypsy and try on new landscapes post retirement, thus putting me in a position of having to actually move all the stuff rather than sitting on a cloud in the hereafter, grinning and watching the kids deal with it all, although sometimes that thought was pretty tempting.

It took over a year to complete…the clearing out is not linear;  after all, it is a bittersweet process. I’ve never looked back, although I have had to replace a few things here and there. And, for the first time in my life, my closets and garage are clean and organized…well, as organized as they’ll ever be in this lifetime.

The first step was to go through my mom’s stuff. She had passed five years before and had been the Keeper of the Stories and the Photos, all collected before computers.  Boxes and boxes of genealogy papers and photos (as in, if one copy was good, twenty were better).  Volumes went into large garbage bags to shred, including all the photos of people I couldn’t begin to identify. It was exhausting work and I was so glad to be finished.

Or, so I thought.  Mom showed up about 3AM, standing at the foot of my bed with that stern And Just What Do You Think You’re Doing, Young Lady look that moms are oh-so-good at giving. With that, all the bags to be shredded were carried back inside.

I went on line, and some months later, completed Mom’s ancestry work (thank you, Ancestry.com).  She was amazingly accurate and I hesitate to think of what she could have accomplished had there been computers and the internet available to her.

The next step was to transfer the stories of our family’s history and the pictures and the pictures of the treasures into a hard cover book for each kid and grandkid (thank you, Blurb.com). And then shredded all the paperwork, without Mom showing up again. Actually, I did not shred it all; that would have been too much work. (another thank you, this time to Red Dog, with the largest shredders I’ve ever seen).

The next round of unloading stuff and treasures was to take photos of the treasures and stuff I didn’t want to keep and text them to the kids with a 24 hr deadline to claim, which also worked for giving back their stuff. They didn’t want much so local charities benefited.

I was on a roll. I pulled out the thousands of the kids’ growing up photos and slides. Whoever invented slides should be hung up by their toes.  I borrowed a small slide viewer from a friend, a slide-to-jpg contraption from another and went to work. It didn’t take long. I shredded about 80%, made some copies of others at Walgreen’s, all of which could all be accomplished on line (one hour turnaround to pick-up!  Whoo Hoo!) and put the keepers into albums for the kids. Happy Birthday to them!!

The final step was with the remaining stuff that I didn’t use.  Over the years, I’ve picked the brains of some wonderfully knowledgeable movers who have moved me more times than they can count.

There are three pre-move piles: Give away, Throw Away/Recycle, Keep. Do it quickly, and once you decide, no changing your mind. One room at a time, one closet or cabinet at a time, and, the movers are absolutely correct, it works like a charm.

I told my kids that getting rid of the stuff and unwanted treasures was my inheritance gift to them.

I’m spending the rest…