"hey guys - how are you"
and the students with whom I work, look up, or pull out their head phones, or look my way and smile.
When they do, it is a good day.
It is amazing that all I have to do is say:
"hey guys - how are you"
and the students with whom I work, look up, or pull out their head phones, or look my way and smile.
When they do, it is a good day.
I like this word ...weary; different from just tired, it expresses an emotional emptiness and the distinction, I believe, is important.
Our doing good can cause us to become tired; we can do good work and be truly tired, but we can not allow the work to leave us emotionally empty.
To be a part of the good should be replenishing and a cycle whose remnants line the interior of our hearts.
I have a blue construction paper heart on my desk. An English teacher at Union High School asked her students to send valentines to teachers or administrators using their vocabulary words. I am not sure if the vocabulary word was "collaborate" or "anonymous" - but this young man thanked me for working hard. Each day I make sure my blue construction paper heart rests on top of the stack of papers the day has collected for me. So the goodness he offered rests as the first and the last item I see. So, I can do good today.
We celebrated teachers today at Union at our annual Teacher of the Year Celebration. Dressed in red, black and white, we cheered 20 of Union's finest. Leaders and fine people offered very kind and reverent words about our people as we all collectively agreed that teaching is a most honorable calling. We did good today.
The nature of my role prohibits me from outlining the many events of my day - but there was not a moment when I was not with a person in need - not one moment. Some of those moments that needed me were validating; others created a heavy gravity. Thus, I am tired - the kind of tired that puts me in bed way before 9pm - but the blue construction paper heart saves me from feeling weary - that and the arms of my six foot four son which wrapped around me tight at the conclusion of his final high school assembly. Have to find the good in the day..
"let us not become weary in doing good...."
At the end of the day, after twelve hours of service, of focusing all that I am on the mission, my heart is empty; yet, the news of yet another child being thrown away reaches my ears .... and I whisper, "I miss you."
I wonder why the parents who throw away their children get to stay when you were so wanted and so loved- and you had to leave, and I am lost.
Psalm 121 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
The Theta's at OU lost their house mom last week to a heart attack. Jeannie, a wonderful blonde who loved gregariously, dressed up for party, and smiled wide to encompass her sweet Oklahoma drawl, passed in her sleep. Taylor's friend, Brynne, texted me Friday morning - "Mama, Jeannie past away last night from a heart attack. I just keep picturing Taylor waiting for her and greeting her with the best hug and welcome home. And I can just imagine how excited Jeannie is to see her again."
Taylor and Jeannie were fast friends. Sister would often call and report that she had shared lunch with Jeannie at the house, or that Jeannie would let her eat at the house even when Tay had exceeded the number of meals she was supposed to eat at Theta. Hard to imagine Taylor charming her way just outside of the rules. I remember being thankful someone had taken Taylor, cared for Taylor while she was 100 miles away from. me. I enjoyed hearing the lilt in Tay's voice when she talked about a sweet lady I would only meet after the world ended.
Jeannie came to the house Taylor shared with Josie on Pickard to help us pack Taylor's belongings after the wreck, and she was so proud of the plague the pledge class had placed by the tree on the side of the big white house. I remember the evening she showed it to me, the way she grabbed my hand, and the quiver in her voice when she told me how much she missed my girl.
The girls of Theta, many of them, created a blessing ring the summer of 2014. It hangs on my bedroom wall in between pictures of Taylor and Wade, a collection of memories and sweet thoughts about Taylor Renee. . It fell this evening and as I picked it up to put it back on its nail, I saw the J on the front of this note. As you can see, this note is from Jeannie, the house mom at Theta.
Thankful tonight for the moms who love my kids - the moms who choose to do the hard work of loving my kids, to stand in the gap, to parent, to guide, to forgive, to spoil, to indulge, to foster my babies into the adults they are to become. Like the blessing ring hanging on my wall, you each encircle my family weaving your way into and around our lives and adding to us a rich collection of memories and love.
Heaven gets to have you now, Jeannie - a grander white house I am sure you could never imagine. Thanks for loving my girl and every girl that passed through those doors of the great white house on Chautauqua.
Our son has been named a National Merit Scholar, a goal he has been chasing since middle school. We are a competitive bunch and a bit ornery. As he entered into adolescence, his bravado increased as is normal for young men in their teens. With each bold statement, his daddy and his sister would knock him down with - "Are you a state champion yet?" "Are you a national champion yet?" Both Taylor and Joey held state and national championships in their respective high school sports, and they knew those accomplishments lay high upon a proverbial shelf in Wade Garrett's eyes.
It became clear Wade's freshmen year of high school that he had been given a different gift than one of just an athlete; he had been given the gift of intelligence and the love of learning. Our job as parents was to get out his way and not screw this up.
Thankfully, Union Public Schools offers a wide array of advanced courses and experiences that created an appetite for mental challenge kept his hungry young mind busy consuming knowledge. After dozens of fabulous teachers, Wade Garrett attained his goal - one that not one family member has ever accomplished.
We are humbled,
We are proud.
We are thankful.
It is a worthy goal to have achieved.
We are unbalanced.
When he learned last Friday night that he had indeed been selected as a National Merit Scholar, I think he drove out passed Riverside down 71st street. He was missing that snarky voice, his greatest fan, his closet ally, his nemesis. I was almost asleep and he walked in to tell me he was going for a drive. "Where?" I asked. "Just past Riverside. I won't be gone long." His daddy and I fought back tears all night.
So many secrets they shared. So many late night talks where our only clue of the confidences traded came in bursts of laughter bouncing down the stairs.
We each put on such a brave face. It's a worthy goal, to act as though we have navigated this loss and we are sure of our next step. We hold it together for each other and for everyone else when really I think we are each looking for a place to just fall apart. Yet, we chase bravery - for each other, for Taylor Renee, for the folks who don't know what to do with all our pain - we chase bravery. It's a worthy goal.
Regardless, this is who Wade would have been even if his sister were working in New York for the Yankees, even if the world had not ended, even if that space just west beyond the river wasn't the most evil of thieves. This is who he would have been because along with chasing bravery, he chases excellence. He learned how to chase excellence listening to his daddy and watching his sister. Now, he is a strong and courageous National Merit Scholar. And we are so thankful
It's a good thing.
"These kids don't know the ability they have to lift our souls and break our hearts."
One of my favorite high school math teachers, Rebecka, texted me this yesterday and the day's events brought it to my mind multiple times.
In this world we call education, we are buoyed by the outstanding accomplishments the kids attain, the barriers and challenges they overcome, the simple goodness that each kid has within him and her.
Then when a decision is made that jeopardizes those children either because the student made a poor decision or a decision has been made that impacts the child, we watch from the floor seats - helpless to influence the consequences - hopeful we will get to pick up the pieces and try again.
So we tie ourselves to each other, with ribbons and strings, with paper clips and copy codes, with curriculum maps and common assessments, with tape and broken pencils - we tie ourselves to each other.
No one gets to float away, and no one gets left on the ground. The ties that bind us one to another - the strings of each child's heart - allow our joys and our losses to be borne by our school family - they allow our souls to sail or they serve to stitch together our broken hearts. Neither sailing or stitching would be possible without the hands of others.
These kids don't know..... but we keep pulling at the strings; we keep watching for the broken pieces; we keep each other, so we can keep them.
One of our special ed students who is non-verbal reached out for me today as I walked by. In years past, this would have been natural because I was in those classes all the time. It was striking today because this young lady is not familiar with me. She is tall and sweet and must be directed to her next class for her own safety. Her hair, a soft orange-red, holds soft curls. But reach for me she did and held my hand as I walked her to class. Her teacher tried to redirect her to another aide, but I insisted I was fine- actually, quite honored E chose me. She showed me her coloring book and the princesses she liked and as I dropped her off at her classroom, I thanked her.
To be chosen is quite the honor - especially by one so pure, so innocent, so willing to love.
Josie, the young lady seriously injured in the wreck that killed Taylor Renee, has been accepted by two prestigious grad schools. She calls us each time she receives another acceptance letter with a happy giggle and a cute story about her efforts to avoid adulthood. No one tells her she passed her years on earth with the wisdom and endurance of a seasoned adult two summers ago.
Brynne, Ashley and Aubrey, Sister's high school girl friends, are each married - chosen by three young men who love them well. Brynne and Aubrey are avidly pursuing promising careers and Ashley will finish her nursing degree this spring. Aldyn will marry in June to a man sister never met face to face but of whom, she always approved. Carlie continues to excel in medical school, and Mackie is pouring light into young people as a teacher in a OKC metro area school.
KendallMay, Tay's sophomore roommate, lives and works in New York City -setting the world on fire with her creativity and her pure heart and allowing me to live vicariously through her experiences.
Tonight, I spent three short brief minutes with the sunset. It's final moments burned thinly red against at the horizon before low lying clouds overtook the last of the day's untimely warmth with the greying purple befitting February.
Can't see red and not think of Sister. As I pulled into the driveway unsatisfied with dusk, I looked again at the sky and while the burning horizon had faded, the shadow of red's haze lined the underbelly of the clouds just over my house.
It's good to be chosen.
Chosen to work for children - a mission field rich with unbridled needs
Chosen by friends who loved well - gifts then and now
Chosen by someone else's daughter - a simple joy
Chosen by friends who are Love's hands and feet - an obedience of faith
Chosen by a God who knows how to turn a sky Red - a promise of heaven.
An afternoon thunderstorm slowly moved in, beckoning fall and lamenting the end of summer. Lazy at first, the rain only fell then without warning a dark sky interrupted the gentle solace with angry thunder and violently bold lightening strikes. Summer's last fight against the coming sleep.
With an empty house, I listened to the contrasting sounds - the gentle drops of rain against the explosive, intermittent thunder and I reflected - thankful that God knew exactly how I felt.
My friends, Will and Ashleigh, shared their baby girls, Calleigh Marie and Taylor Grace with me Saturday. We danced to Disney Pandora and played with a sack and tissue paper - because childhood and love are just that simple. It's a lap that says I have time for you; it's an imagination that says, "Of course, you are Belle!". It's marveling as a 13 month old balances herself walking with a gift sack as tall as her, and it's letting them take off all your bracelets just to play dress up. I received hugs and kisses before I left and a promise the oldest would read to me upon my return.
They are gentle rain, the soothing pitter-pat to a storming heart.
While working out, I watch old episodes of West Wing. In today's episodes, the newly elected President Bartlett forced to juggle a state dinner with a not so friendly foreign dignitary, a threatened Teamsters strike, and a hurricane. As a precaution, the navy ordered its fifth fleet to leave the docks and head out to sea so they wouldn't be caught between the docks and the rampaging storm. Nature being the fickle one, the hurricane changed course, avoided landfall, and headed straight out to sea - targeting the fifth fleet. When President Bartlett heard this he wanted to talk to one of the commanders. The storm had destroyed communications on many of the ships; only a cutter and a mid-shipman could be hailed. Harold, who was far from a commander, explained the peril his small ship faced - 80 foot waves, winds at 120 knots, no running light, and the threat of being cut in half by an aircraft carrier who couldn't see them in the storm. President Bartlett sat in his chair and told Harold he wouldn't leave him, that they would talk as long as they could.
There are two stories here...
I remember being angry with the very caring medical staff in the ICU; i remember thinking - "we just need to let her go" because I believed my daughter, the spitfire, the fire cracker, the girl who always won, was not lying there. So, I signed the papers for organ donation; I accepted the results of the blood flow tests to her brain, and I walked out of the hospital while her body was still laying in the ICU. Joey and I went back each night to kiss her good night until patients who needed her organs could be found and prepped. We knew the Taylor we loved was gone.
.However, in the days since I am often hunted by the idea that I left her. That I wasn't there to talk to her through the storm. That a good mother would not have left her there alone. That a good mother would not have.... The story comes like a rogue wave, evil in its intent, pummels me and rolls me over face down staring at the bottom of the ocean with the weight of doubt and fear threatening to sink me.
I have a definition of life - and it isn't lying in a bed with a machine that breathes for you in empty, rhythmic time. When I am no longer looking at the bottom of the ocean, I can remember that and reach for this second story... I have a God who is sitting in a chair telling me again and again he won't leave me and that we can talk through the storm. Because there is always going to be this storm and I am not the commander of this ship.
On Wednesday, a kind soul left snickerdoodles on my desk last week with a heart-felt note.... "snickerdoodles might make it better for a moment...You honor Taylor in all that you do..." I've asked around - my best guesses for whose heart reached out but have yet to discover who baked for us. I shared them with the kids waiting for the late bus that afternoon and brought the rest of them home to the boys. Wade hardly let his father have the one remaining bite of the last cookie.
Snickerdoodles for the storm, a reminder that even though the world has moved determinedly on - people remember. The moving on is a cruel necessity - the remembering reveals grace and mercy.
"you honor Taylor" when you are kind to us...
She wanted to be an organ donor as Taylor Renee also knew what being alive really meant. She knew better than I do - how to be alive - She gladly and willingly checked that box.
I hope the hunt ends soon, that I can have the confidence I did that day.
I hope we continue to honor her.