A letter to Mrs. Baker

Dear Mrs. Baker*,

I doubt you will remember me over the thousands of students that you taught at your years of WUHS. Nonetheless, I felt compelled to write.

My senior year was memorable for many reasons. I had finally gathered my courage and tried out for the cheerleading team and made it. I had a date to Senior Prom and I had you for English.

Here it is, over 20 years since I graduated, and I still, immediately, give your name as the teacher that influenced me the most in my schooling. You pushed me to be a better writer, taught me to enjoy plays and American writers, and taught me more about life than any teacher I have ever had, before or since.

This past February, after a series of detours and two children, I started my graduate degree in education. My professor asked us to talk about the teacher that influenced our decision to become educators and I spoke about you. You are the reason I am struggling through graduate school as a single mother with two teenaged boys.

Because when I grow up, I want to be like you.

I want to spark curiosity in my students, give them a desire to question everything, the need to know more, read more, inquire more. I want them to learn from me what I learned from you: the world is a beautifully diverse and interesting place. Go out and experience it!

When I was going through my divorce a couple of years ago, I started a blog as a therapy to help me through what was becoming an increasingly bitter and hard time in my life. As I wrote my first few posts, I wondered if they would pass muster in your class. But whether they would have or not, I continued writing, knowing that the joy I found in using words to express myself had first been discovered under your tutelage.

You are the reason that I minored in English for my B.A. I wanted to have the opportunity to pass the knowledge I had gained from you to a new generation of students.

You were also the reason that I was well prepared for the rigors of college writing and the high expectations of my college instructors. In fact, I’ve never had an instructor as hard to please as you were.

I wanted to take this moment, as I work on a project preparing my first lesson plans, to thank you. Thank you for your guidance. Thank you for your wisdom. Thank you for the lessons you taught me all those years ago.

Thank you for being the most memorable teacher I ever had the joy of learning from.

Thank you.

This is the letter that I wrote to my high school English teacher today. I will be mailing it tomorrow. A huge thank you to S.F. for finding the address for me! I so appreciate it!

Mrs. Baker,

Here’s younger me and “oldish” me 🙂

Senior Year 1991

Senior Year 1991

This is me, 2014

This is me, 2014

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Do you want some cheese with that whine?

If you’ve read any of my posts prior to this new me blog, then you know that this is not where I expected to be. I never expected to be a divorcee. I never thought that I would be restarting my life at age 40. This is not what I planned.

But I’ve learned something in the past couple of years:

Life doesn’t give a shit what you planned. At all.

I think John Lennon said it best:

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.

Smart and talented.  Only the good die young, right?

Smart and talented. Only the good die young, right?

I had a plan. I knew that I was going to be married to the same man (not happily, but still), and we were going to see it through to his retirement. We were going to buy a house and settle into a neighborhood and make friends and be happy. Life was going to take us to where we were planning on going. I was going to teach and he was going to do something with his degree (that was vague because he didn’t even know what he wanted to do) and we were going to see our kids off to college and live there the rest of our lives.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, life got in the way.

Life is rarely, if ever, smooth or nice or predictable. Things happen. People happen. People change and make your life different because of it.

helping get up with textIt does no good to whine about it, or throw a pity party or to be unwilling to make the best of the hand you were dealt.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day. He is a perfect example of being somewhere he never expected to be, ever. A good man, he is, one of the best. He made a mistake and now he’s sitting in jail because of it. He made a mistake and he’s paying the piper for what he did.

Some time before he got into trouble, his marriage fell apart. He likes to take most of the blame, but I told him that it takes two to work at a marriage and neither of them were willing to work hard enough. As his marriage was falling apart, he was sent to Afghanistan for a tour of duty there. While he was there, he met a woman.

Love at first sight is wonderful!

Love at first sight is wonderful!

I asked him if it was love at first sight. He said, completely without irony, that it was. He stated that they tried to ignore it, that he was going to try to fix what was going wrong at home. But then his ex-wife left, taking the kids and most of their possessions, and there was nothing left to save.

He decided to give it a go with this “once-in-a-lifetime” woman that he had chanced to meet while at war.

Fast forward and he’s in jail and she’s retired from the military. She moved to a town to be closer to where he is incarcerated and has been having a hard time of it for the past year or so. Things haven’t worked out the way that she expected and it’s harder on her to have him where he can’t physically support her while she’s out there.

He told me that he spoke to her the other day and she said, “If things don’t change soon, we’re going to be homeless!”

Now, this upset me on a couple of levels. First, your love is in jail. This is a shitty place to be. He doesn’t need thelove behind bars extra stress that your whining creates. Also, delivering that last line with a good dose of, “It’s your fault that I’m here!” really sucks. I mean, seriously? Secondly, I asked if she was working. He stated, “No, she’s not. She expected to be with me at my next duty station and be a stay-at-home-mom.”

Um, WHAT?

Seriously? I didn’t expect to be a 40-year-old divorcee living in a damn trailer in the northeast with frozen pipes and no money in my bank account.

But what you expect and what you get are very often two different things.

I’m not ragging on stay-at-home mom’s at all. Don’t get me wrong. But what the hell is wrong with this woman that she has decided that she would rather lament what should have been rather than rolling with the punches and standing up on her own two feet? This woman retired as a senior enlisted from the military. She’s obviously a capable person, who commanded troops. Get off your damn ass and get a job!

And, honestly, making the man that you proclaim to love feel even more guilty about where he is is not fair to him in the least. Stop whining and be a capable woman and take care of yourself.

I just don’t understand that at all. I mean, my situation right now is pretty crappy. Hell, it’s been a pretty cruddy couple of years.

But I don’t have the luxury to sit around and lament my situation. I have to get up and change it. I have to keep soldiering on. If for no other reason than my kids.

pooSometimes, life is big, steaming pile of poo poo. You can either sit there in the fumes and complain about the smell or you can move upwind.

The choice is always up to you. Always.

Sometimes, moving upwind is a lot harder than sitting there in the stench. But if life were easy, it wouldn’t really be

I'll take that mulligan now, thanks!

I’ll take that mulligan now, thanks!

life, would it? It would be some kind of game where you could call “Mulligan!” whenever you screwed up.

But life isn’t a golf game. You can’t sit there and play, “What if?” with you life. Correction: you could. But what would it gain you? How is that moving your life forward?

How is that making you a better, stronger person than the one you are today?

You have a choice. You can sit there in the stench or you can pick yourself up and chose to move forward. Away from that which is toxic, away from things and people that do nothing to help you become a better person.

Remember, the choice is always yours.

Personally, I don’t know of anyone’s poo that actually smells like roses.

Would you like to join me in moving upwind?

Honesty to the extreme

I read an article on the Daily Mail UK by a woman who said that the biggest regret of her life was having her children. She was very honest and forthright about the fact that she disliked the children taking up her alone time and that she never felt any bond with them as they were growing up. Quite paradoxically, she devoted her life to them. Her feeling was that if she had children she was going to raise them and not have nannies or other caretakers do the job for her. Having decided to have them, she was going to be the best mother she could be.

Not that she was demonstrative, but they were well cared for and wanted for nothing. She always knew that she didn’t want children, but her husband did and she decided that it would be selfish to deny him of that opportunity. They worked out a life that worked for them and her children grew up to be productive and loving adults. Somewhat ironically, her daughter was struck by MS in her 20’s and has had to return back home where her mother must tend her every day. But, as she states, she would take on that tragedy from her daughter if she could. Because she is her mother and that is her job.

The comments under the article are as rude and horrible as you would think. Some call the woman selfish, self-centered, horrible, awful.

But I don’t see it that way.

This was a woman who seriously thought about what she was doing before she did it. She knew that she would not bond with the children the way that other mothers would. Was she a demonstrative mother? Absolutely not. But she was nothing more than fully attentive and giving to her children.

She states:

“I cannot understand mothers who insist they want children, then race back to work at the earliest opportunity after giving birth, leaving the vital job of caring for them to strangers. Why have them at all if you don’t want to bring them up, or can’t afford to? And why pretend you wanted them if you have no intention of raising them? This hypocrisy is, in my view, far more pernicious and difficult to fathom than my own admission that my life would have been better without children.”

I have to admit, I was one of those mothers. Or would have been if the opportunity had been afforded to me. When my oldest was 2, and my youngest was just born, we lived in a foreign country where I couldn’t get a job due to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). If I could have, I would have run off to have a job and left my children with strangers to raise them.

Why? Because I was miserable. I was not hardwired to have small children around. Don’t get me wrong, I love my children. I do. I get more enjoyment out of them now that they are grown a bit. But when they were little, I was absolutely miserable. I missed my alone time, I missed my time with my own thoughts. I missed having a name, instead being known as “A’s mom” or “J’s mom.”

Even now, while I love to coo over babies, I love, even more, to hand them back to their mothers when I leave. I appreciate that I am not the one that has to give that amount of time to them that they require. I appreciate my independence, what little I have, now that my children are older.

I wouldn’t say that they are the biggest regret of my life, because THEY ARE NOT. I love my children and I am proud of them each and every day.

I guess I am saying that I understand, partially, where this woman is coming from. And I appreciate her honesty, with herself, her husband, her children and the world. I also appreciate her single-minded objective of raising her children, giving herself to them fully when they needed her. I appreciate that her and her husband worked out a way of life that worked for them, with the husband being fully attentive to the children when he was around instead of it all falling to her.

I’ll admit, and always have, that I cannot wait for my children to grow up. When my youngest started school full-time, I remember standing there with the other parents, dutifully waiting for school to start. Giving my son kisses and hugs and telling him that he was going to have a great time. I meant every kiss and every hug, from the bottom of my heart. I wanted him to succeed in school. As he turned the corner with his class and walked out of sight, I actually let out a whoop of joy. All of the other parents were crying and upset that their babies were growing up. For me, it was a sign that there was light at the end of the tunnel. That I would, eventually, have my life back.

Does it make me a horrible person to say these things? Maybe. I have enjoyed every milestone that my children have reached. I have fought hard for my oldest and I have worked hard with my youngest, to make sure that they have every opportunity that can be afforded to them. I love them and hug them and give them kisses and support. Because I do love them. I do support them.

But I don’t think that I could characterize my parenthood as a labor of love. More a labor of responsibility. I have said many times, and will say it many times again: I chose to bring these children into the world and I have a responsibility to mold them into productive members of society. I have a responsibility to make sure that they are polite and well socialized. This is my responsibility.

My heart bursts with pride when someone tells me that my children are polite and very sweet. It means that I have done a good job. My children say “please,” and “thank you.” They call ladies, “ma’am,” and men, “sir.” They do well in school. They have friends. They can read and write and do ‘rithmetic.

But I am counting down the days until my youngest graduates. I want to go live my life while I am still young. I will always be there for them. I will love any grandchildren that they bring me. But I won’t ache for it. I won’t itch for it. I won’t be that mother that continually asks them when they are going to have a child. I won’t be that grandmother that hopes she can babysit all the time. I just won’t.

To be honest, I don’t think there is anything wrong with anything I have said here. Will it sit well with everyone that reads it. Absolutely not. Will there be some that will think I’m a horrible person? Yup. Will there be some that think that I’m selfish. Oh, hell, yes.

But I don’t see it that way. I don’t see myself as selfish. I see myself as someone that has two children, whom I love, that has sacrificed and given, and continues to give, to make sure that they have a top notch education and want for absolutely nothing. Are my children spoiled? Mildly. But they also understand the word, “no,” and that mom uses it liberally.

I do love my children. I don’t regret my children. They have enriched my life in ways that it could not have been enriched without them. Do I want them to grow up and am I looking forward to that day? Absolutely.

But I can understand where the author of the article is coming from. I can sympathize, and even empathize, with her. I don’t think she is a bad mother. I don’t think she is a bad person.

Any more than I think those things about myself.

Any more than my children think those things about me.

Am I good mother? I think so. Whether or not you agree with me actually doesn’t matter. Time will tell how good of a mother I was. I think it already does.

I think I have two terrific kids who light up my life. But…..I still can’t wait for them to grow up! 🙂

Please? Stay?

Oh, Word Press Community, it’s been awhile.  And it wasn’t you.  It was me.  I allowed you to fall by the wayside because other things became more important.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that I just shunted you aside like a politician shunts aside a constituent that can’t help him get re-elected.

That wasn’t very nice of me.

Forgive me?

Oh, don’t turn away!  Please, don’t leave like this!  I can make it right with you, I promise.

I could give you all kinds of reasons why I left you for awhile.  I could say that I needed space, time to figure things out.  But that wouldn’t be all together true.

Honestly, life just got in the way.  I took on a new position at my job that was time consuming.  I got laid off from that job and picked up at another before getting laid off again.  The drama of the holidays was another reason why I wasn’t here.  And the drama of trying to find a new place?  Please, don’t even get me started.

But, I’ve come back.  I’ve come back contrite.  I’ve come back sorrowful and shamed that I stepped away from you.

I have missed you.  Badly.

Have you missed me?  Even a little?

You have?  See!  There is a chance for us.  There is a chance for us to reconnect and to make something beautiful in this relationship.  With my words and thoughts and your operating platform, we will make beautiful, lyrical children.

Please, come back?

Cause I’m here to stay.

We Have Lived

I was aghast, as so many were, to read about the massacre in Colorado on Friday night.  No one should go to the movies and end up fighting for their life.  I read an article today about those that died.  The youngest was 6.  She had attended the movie with her mother, something that I’m sure she had looked forward to for the entire week before.  Two of those killed were active duty military, one from the Air Force and one from the Navy.  I’m sure they didn’t expect to die in their own back yard.  One man that died was in his 50’s, the father of two teenagers.  I’m sure he was looking forward to bouncing his grandchildren on his knee in the future.

All of these lives cut short so quickly and mindlessly.  It is sad and we are all wanting answers.  Why did this man do this?  What was his motivation?

But does it make it easier to know why he did it?

We know why the terrorists acted on 9/11, but does it make it easier?

On Sunday, I went to the Ground Zero 9/11 Memorial.  Eleven years ago, most of the United States awoke to the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor, almost 60 years before. 

Panoramic picture of the South Pool of the 9/11 Memorial

While the attack happened here on American soil, with American planes and many American lives were lost, it was truly a global tragedy. More than 90 countries (not including the terrorists) were represented in the death toll of 9/11, only one of them being the United States.  372 foreign nationals were killed on that day, 12% of the total death toll. 

I was living in Italy on that day and I remember the outpouring of sympathy from all of the Italians that we came in contact with for weeks after the attacks.  They were just as stunned as America was that someone would act in such a terrible manner.  Complete strangers would come to me and hug me and tell me that they supported us in our time of need.  I remember the Italians being very supportive at a time when I was worried about what other attacks may happen to us in the bucolic Italian countryside.

I was reminded of this time while I stood in line to enter the Memorial.  I was surrounded by many different people and I counted at least 6 different languages being spoken:  German, French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and Russian.  Interspersed with this was English from the local tourists, like myself. 

One World Trade Center – now the tallest building in NYC.

We all stood together waiting to pay our respects to those that died on 9/11.  We all stood thinking about that dark day, and remembering those that had died.  I have never been somewhere so big that was so quiet.  It was a Sunday, so the construction areas around the Memorial were silent.  People spoke in low tones, pointing out something that had caught their eye or that they wanted to know more about. 

When we entered the Memorial area, the quiet continued.  The sound of the falling water in the waterfalls was ever present, no matter where you stood in the Memorial area.  No one laughed, no babies cried.  It was silent. 

Reverent.

It was a place to come and recall.  A place to come and remember.  Even if, like me, you were not personally touched by the tragedy there, it was a time to remember those that were.  I thought about where I was that day, how I found out about the tragedy, how our lives have changed since then.

I traced the names in the bronze at the Memorial and thought about how this was someone’s brother, sister, father, mother, son, daughter.  I thought about children that had lost a parent, parents that had lost children.  I thought about lives lost and the potential that was gone with them.  I thought about how they were victims in a war that had almost nothing to do with them.  I thought about the victims of the Pentagon and how they gave their lives in service to their country.  I thought about those on Flight 93 and how they fought back and won, even as they lost their lives.  I looked across those huge waterfalls, those pools of endlessly falling water, and how that one day, those thousands of lives, changed how we look at the world.

There will be a memorial to those that died in Aurora, Colorado.  Just as there will be a memorial to those that were killed in Oslo, Norway, one year ago this past Sunday.  Just as there are memorials to those that died in the Oklahoma City bombing and in Columbine.

To me, the memorials are a place to come and remember.  Not just the deaths of those memorialized, but their lives.  Each of these people had touched numerous others in their lives.  With a smile, a handshake, a kind gesture.  Each of them had left their mark, not because of how they died, but because of how they lived. 

Each one of those names, on any memorial you go to, was a person who laughed and loved, who pulled practical jokes and gave of themselves.  They had family that loved them.  They had friends that would go to bat for them.  No, they probably weren’t all good people, but most of them were.  No more or less than your average person.  They were sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, fathers and mothers.  They have family members that miss them daily.

While I stood in the Ground Zero Memorial Gift Shop (all proceeds go to the upkeep of the memorial) there was a video playing on the screens at the back of the store.  The silence from the Memorial carried over into the store.  We all stood and silently watched the stories of those touched by the tragedy play out in the survivor’s own words.  One stood out for me.  It was a young man talking about his mother:

“I’ve learned to live without her.  It’s taken me years, but I have learned to live without her.”

Whatever the motives behind these tragedies, whatever the reason for them, we have learned to live without those that were lost.

More importantly, we have lived.

That is the greatest testament that anyone can give to one who was lost.

We have lived.

Well, what in the hell do you want, then?

I have the opportunity this weekend to spend 3 days and 2 nights with a charming gentleman.  I will be taking advantage of the opportunity, but not without some trepidation. 

You see, this gentleman (and he is, in every sense, a gentleman) and I met over 13 years ago.  We stayed in periodic contact over the years as just friends.  By periodic, I mean once a year.  This guy never failed to remember when my birthday is.  He would always send a message on my birthday.

He’s quite charming and laid back.  Very smart and funny.  Just a couple of years older than I am.  He’s smart and has a great job.  He’s ambitious and he’s definitely doing alright for himself in the money arena.

I know you’re asking yourself, “So, what’s not to like?”

Nothing.  There’s nothing about him not to like.  I like him just fine.

I’m afraid that he wants more.  I’m afraid that now that I’m single, he’s going to want a lot more from me.  I mean, that’s a reasonable idea, right?  He’s stayed in touch with me for over a decade and now that I’m single, he’s made trips up here (he lives in FL) just to see me.

So the idea that he wants a more serious relationship is not unfounded.

Problem is, I don’t want a relationship with him.

I mean, honestly, he’s perfect in every way.  So, why doesn’t he flip my switch?

Here I am, presented with a man that’s pretty durn good in the sack and is very mature and everything that would honestly go on my list of must haves, and I don’t see him as anything more than a friend with bennies.

It begs the question, what the hell do I want?

Yesterday, the 10th, marked one year since the asshole asked me for a divorce.  When I thought about it, this gentleman I’m seeing is the exact opposite of my husband, which is a good thing.

But why isn’t he enough?  What do I want?

I want someone who dominates my thoughts.  I want a man that I want to touch whenever I’m within a foot of him.  I want a man who makes my heart skip a beat when I think of him.  I want my breath to catch when I wake up next to him in the morning.  I want my toes to curl when he touches me.  I want to feel like I’ve come home when I step into his arms.  I want a man who understands that I don’t need to be rescued.  I want a man that sees me as an equal partner.  I want a man who cherishes me. I want a man who respects me.  I want a man that understands that I may not be “up” all the time.  I want a man who is just as comfortable cuddling with me as he is with making love with me.  I want a man who is secure in his manhood.  I want a man that thinks my opinions are important.  I want a man who loves every single inch of me, even if those inches get pretty big.  I want someone to compliment me, not complete me.  I want a man who revels in my triumphs and sympathizes with my failures. I want a man who is comfortable with me being me.  I want a man who wants me to support him and will support me in everything.  I want a man that feels the exact same way about me that I feel about him.

Yes, I want it all.

Maybe that’s too much to ask.  But I will NEVER settle again.

Like a very wise friend said, “Settling is settling, even if the guy is amazing.”

I don’t want to settle.  More, I refuse to settle.  I settled for 16 years. 

Never again.

 

Sky in the Pie

One of the wonderful bloggers that I follow, ironwoodwind, had posted a little poem that was part of a larger project called Reason2Rhyme run by Karen B. Nelson.  This works much like the Friday Fictioneers that I participate in and I thought I would give this a try, too.

This week we were to take a cliched phrase and turn it around for our own uses.  Here’s my take:

Sky in the Pie

She baked for him a pie

Light as her love

Fluffy as her bed

Her heart was baked in it, too

When he ate it he smiled

And she realized

The sky was the limit for their love.