Sunday, November 30, 2014

So Here's the Thing

I'm a little late writing a gratitude post for Thanksgiving. It's been on my mind a lot lately. I hesitate to write about my blessings because I have and have had so many. There are so many people who have not had the advantages in life that I've had. It's with that painful awareness of the vast human suffering and the unequal chances we have in life, that I write about my blessings. None of us choose our beginnings. We don't choose our parents, our families, our neighbors, our homes, our towns, our ethnicity, our religion, our gender and so on. And yet all of these circumstances play a large part in our ultimate choices and who we eventually become. Some experience truly horrifying things even though they grew up with advantages. Some experience a joyful life in spite of multiple disadvantages. Most have a mixture of both. The truth is that I have no idea who I would be if I had grown up in a different part of the world or country, or with a different family, or ethnicity, or religion.

I grew up in a Mormon middle class family. My parents treated each other with love and respect. I never saw a day of true hunger or cold. I could walk in any house in my neighborhood and not expect anything but a warm greeting, often followed by an embrace and some home cooking. My dad worked hard. My mother often had a part-time job, but her primary job was taking care of the home and the family. To this day, my mother is the least judgmental person I've ever known. We grew up with plenty of freedom that few people even in rural America are afforded anymore. During summers, I most often played unsupervised in open fields, and orchards, and parks and only checked in at home at the appointed lunch and dinner times. Every need was supplied. Every want was discussed and sometimes given. Besides public school, I was offered piano lessons, swimming lessons, and often saw a movie every saturday afternoon. I could go to recreation camps and girls camps. We had family vacations to the extended family cabin. We were one of the first in the neighborhood to own a color television. I remember the day Dad carried it into the house. I couldn't wait to watch The Wizard of Oz to see the scene change from the black and white in Kansas to the colorful land of Oz. We were one of the first to own a dishwasher and a microwave oven.

Higher education was expected and my parents helped me pay for it. In spite of myself, I fell in love with the most decent man on campus. We've raised a couple of great kids and now have four great-grandkids. We live in one of the most beautiful places on this earth surrounded by open fields and mountains. I've been able to do pretty much whatever I've wanted to do much of my adult life. I'm grateful for the love so many have offered me; my family, my friends, my kids, and my grandkids. I'm lucky enough to live within a mile of the spot where even before my husband and I were married, I'd said I wanted to live someday. There's a hymn familiar to all Mormons Because I Have Been Given Much, I too must give. It pretty much sums up my life so far.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Check your Self-Esteem at the Door

Twenty-eight years ago I taught school at Pleasant Grove Junior High. It was a blow to my self-esteem. I had about 180 students divided up into six classes of Art and English. I was young had difficulty motivating the kids and keeping them disciplined enough to get them through forty-five minutes. Danny was sort of a class smart-alec and it was obvious that he was smart and probably knew more than I did on the subject of English grammar--which to be honest is still not my strength (though since them I graduated magna cum laude in English. But I digress, back then Danny loved to throw me off my game and it worked. A few times, what he said was actually quite funny. I'd quickly turn my back on the kids so they wouldn't see me laugh. Other times, I turned my back so they wouldn't see me cry. Once I did cry--not a cool thing--to a bunch of rowdy thirteen-year-olds.

I taught for one year at P.G.J.H and then joined my husband to teach  in Grouse Creek, Utah. We had 24 students K-10. Since my self-esteem was already rock bottom it improved some over the few years. I had fun. I loved the kids we had though some of them still loved to throw me off my game. I taught for a few years before we moved to Paradise.

As most of you know, I'm back out to Grouse Creek teaching once again with my husband. This time around we have only have ten kids spread from K-5th grade. My self-esteem was pretty good before I started teaching again. I'm a fairly respected potter in Cache Valley and an author of five published novels, so you know, I was feeling pretty good about myself. So how is it that a kindergartner can throw you off your game with a few comments and say things so funny that it's hard not to laugh out loud.

Here's just a bit of wisdom from a couple of very cute five year olds. While I was attempting to teach reading, one of the kids said, "Hey, you're growing a mustache, you've got hairs right here," as  he pointed to my face. Another time this same child warned me to be careful "you might break it," while I was hanging from the tricky bars sturdy enough to hold an elephant. Another time, this same child mentioned that I was "painting sloppy." Did I mention my art degree? Just the other day, I was trying to console a 7-year-old who was very upset that he couldn't draw a butterfly as well as I could. I told him, that I was a whole fifty years older than he was and so had fifty more years drawing butterflies. One of the five-year-olds piped up with, my grandpa is really old too..."damn old." I burst out laughing.