Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The waning of summer...

It is the time of year when most teachers (and students) are trying to squeeze the last few moments of summer out before the long walk back to school. I look over my so called summer and realize that not only did my summer fly by, but I am not really sure it could be called summer in the sense that ultimate relaxation happened!

This was a summer of busy...I really thought at the beginning that I was taking this summer off and yet, that's not really what happened. I taught our ninth grade program, which was great, then did some school/personal traveling and am not back to work. Technically we don't go back until Monday but I have a lot to do and not much time to do it!

I am working on some curriculum, our after school program, and generally trying to get my life together...let me tell you...it doesn't get any easier with time.

Forever the student and the teacher...I guess I'll just enjoy these last days of summer.

Monday, August 24, 2015

I teach...

I am a teacher...

you need to know this about me because everything about what I love involves teaching...

I love that I am changing lives, I love that I am building relationships, I love that I am being an example of someone who struggled and achieved success...

This year I am having my first Teacher Grandchild (TG). That means a former student's child will be in high school. I'm not sure how that happened. Years ago, sassy, opinionated this young woman who, I might add was not afraid to fight for what she believed in (or just if you pissed her off) was trying to graduate after having a child during high school. Her son would crawl across the floor of the principal's office, we would hold him...he was one of the school babies...ones that we helped to move forward with their dreams.

Over the years I watched her grow into the most incredible woman...she has attended (and graduated) college, suffered through the death of her best friend and raised her friend's girls as her own. In addition to raising my TG, she has also raised another son with medical needs...tirelessly standing for him when no one else would listen. All of these great kids were wrapped up with a final special child to bridge them together...a whirling dervish of a boy who brings smiles to everyone.

This is a young woman who has tenacity and fire! I am proud to have been her teacher, am now her friend, and will now teach her son...the boy I held as a baby.

This is but one example of why I teach...

I teach to further knowledge
I teach to create vision
I teach to make a different

It is what I do
It is who I am
I teach...

Monday, August 17, 2015

Math Camp Part Duex

Right now some of you read the title of this blog and you thought, "Math Camp? What the hell is that?" Years ago I was involved in a five year math grant. We went to Oregon State for three weeks for three summers and did a lot of math! It was actually the beginning of what concluded with my Masters degree in Math. We used to joke that it was "Math Camp" because it made it sound more fun! We actually did have some fun times and I learned a lot during those summers so that brings us to tomorrow...

Tomorrow I will be attending Curriculum Camp with three of my math friends from work. It will be like Math Camp part Duex.  We are working on rewriting curriculum...working towards making it more accessible for all students. Increasing the math knowledge, the deeper thinking, the literacy work that will move our students to the next level. I am excited to continue this work. Last year a lot got accomplished. Students gave very positive feedback about their learning.

I am hoping that this will begin to pull me out of my funk. I can focus on the work to be done. This is where I my best thinking...I am ready to help changes be made...ready for our students to improve...Math Camp here I come! <3


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Butterfly wings and angel songs...

So many time in the last few years this blog has been my place to process, write, purge things from my brain. So, today, I ask myself..."What if what needs to be purged feels too big, too crushing to your soul, that it almost physically hurts to write down?"

I don't have the answer to this...I just am going to write.

Yesterday I went to a sweet girl's funeral...another child, another loss. Sometimes it just makes me want to climb to the top of a mountain and scream...other times I want to crawl in a hole. It doesn't matter where I am...I hear the sweet angels sing...

I have always been the strong one...the one who can "handle it." I am not sure what it was in my upbringing that gave me this oh-so-special ability, but sometimes I am over it.

Standing and holding a young mother's hand...having her tell me that she never wants me to feel the pain associated with losing a child, knowing that I, too, never want to experience this loss. My heart keeps breaking every time we lose a child.

Sometimes I feel that the pieces of my life are barely being held together...I put on the good face, I seem together but inside I am not. My heart is floating around inside, the sharp edges slicing at my insides. I swallow the pain, put on a front and remain strong, meanwhile there are parts of my life falling apart.  I don't want to talk about it...I don't want people to feel that they need  to come to my rescue.

Like so many times I will gather myself together and move forward. I try not to focus on the things I can't change...I focus on what I can do...I can transform...breathe....


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Education, Friends, and the depth of relationships...

Warning: There will be opinions about the education system, opinions about friendship, and generally, my opinion, which you may or may not agree with. If not...I'm not sorry. This is my blog after all!

Most people would say that I am a friendly person...maybe even that I have a lot of friends. Sadly...this is not really true. I know a lot of people, I talk to a lot of people, I am comfortable in setting where there are a lot of people, but friends...real friends? I have only a few.

I have been doing a great deal of research for a class my coworker and I are putting together. Part of this research involves looking at how children in poverty react in education and ways to help the education system adapt for all.

The education system is not really set up so that our children in poverty can reach their fullest potential. After all, many feel that due to their gaps in knowledge or experience, these students are not expected to rise to the highest heights, not because they aren't capable, but rather years of oppression and disappointment often dictate success.

I know this route...I grew up in poverty with my mother, brother, and (sometimes), my mother's drug dealer boyfriend. I am not going to lie...there were good years, but there were also the years where my mother was a train wreck. I attended four schools before 8th grade, which for some is not very many, but it does make it difficult to make connections. Sometimes I feel like my childhood is made up of fuzzy memories with an occasional moment of clarity. It is like a real-life cartoon where it is difficult to know what is truth and what is in my head.

I was lucky...I had a few teachers who stood for me, gave me opportunities to excel, opportunities for more. These were adults who saw beyond my circumstances and gave me hope. Hope is a pretty big thing when you live a life where hope is a bit short. I stood for myself, I moved forward, I created (with help) something better and yet, I still struggle with some of the effects of this upbringing.

This is where the friends come in...or lack thereof. I have very few real friends...people that I could call at any moment, people that know what makes me tick. I am an open book in many ways, but the deep dark parts, I often keep behind the wall. I am good at being with people, but not good when I am not with them. I don't know how to keep friends. There are very few people in my life that have withstood time and distance. It makes me sad in ways because I watch others maintain friendships from afar fairly seamlessly. I am jealous and confused. I don't really understand how it works. Sometimes I want more, the other times I am too exhausted to work harder at it, because it is work.

Don't get me wrong...I am willing...I just don't know how to do it! Do you ask over and over to hang out? What happens if the answer is "no" or they are too busy. How long does this go? Where is the line?

When I was young, running around the playground with my "friends" I had no idea that being an adult and trying to have people around them would be so hard...maybe I missed the skills in this area...great at superficial relationships, not that great at building deep ones. With students, I am great...with adults, not so much!

This is not a desperate plea for encouragement about how great I am in this area...it is a lie. I am good at being present but not good at the long haul. I wish it was different...I am who I am...I continue to work on myself...I'm not perfect, nor am I even close. Someday...one day...I might be better at this all. Maybe I won't but for now, this is where I am...here

Sunday, August 2, 2015

More angel wings...

I had a blog that was almost finished but yesterday morning I received news that one of our sweet girls, Allie, had passed away at the age of ten. Just one week ago our community gathered together in Chicago with joy. As a community, we sent well wishes and messages of strength to Allie and her family. These messages haven’t even reached her parents yet.

This disease makes me angry…I am tired of children dying. There is nothing that prepares one for the death of a child. I have dear friends that struggle to put their lives together after the loss of their child. Each new loss in our community ripping the bandage off the freshly healed wound.  If this only happened occasionally, then wounds would heal, but it doesn’t…it happens more than it should…more than one hundred times over the last eleven years.

I love our community…people rally around one another in both good times and times of sorrow.  We celebrate the smallest of victories, the smallest of improvements and bring perspective and support when struggles hit.  Although I am considered “an experienced parent,” I, too, needed a little perspective around our most recent event, Javad’s seizure. It has been a challenging time…slow improvement that sometimes seems that it is not moving at all! I was told to remember that it took him a long time to learn skills the first time, it will take time to relearn them. In our “world”, which is a small number of cases, but impacts people all around the world, information is critical!

I am not sure what our future holds…there are great strides being made in research and it is feasible that there will be members of our community who will participate in clinical trials in the near future. My son, at 13, will not be in this first round…he may not even be in the second round, but I have always been clear that this isn’t about him. Maybe some will find that odd, but, at 13, there have been impacts on his body…contractures in his knees, overall comfort at being in his chair. This work is for those who are little…the sweet boy Mateo I just met at the conference, Grayson, who I held and rocked, and so many others. There are families who know they are carriers and this is for them…freedom in having children where a treatment is available.

Don’t get me wrong…my son will benefit too. My hope is that he will be stronger, will breathe easier and, ultimately, live a long and full life. That is where we benefit. This is my dream, but for now…my dream is that no more families have to buy tiny caskets for their sweet angels. No more angel wings being gained by gentle souls. No more…I am tired…and I haven’t even lost my son (knock on wood)…I can’t even imagine how tired I would be if I had.

For you, my der friends, I send you strength…I wish I had more to give you. Love is all I have.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A week of feeding my mind and heart...

This week has been one of feeding the mind and feeding the heart. Over a week ago I left Portland to attend the SchoologyNEXT Conference with some work colleagues. Schoology is a learning platform that is being used in my school district this next year. It allows you to create courses for students and give them access to all classroom resources as well as post videos, create classroom discussions, etc. It's like Facebook, YouTube, and a website all rolled into one. I am both excited and overwhelmed to begin this new educational journey. Today I begin this path...

The second half of the week, I went to the 2015 MTM-CNM Family Conference, where I spent five wonderful days reuniting with my "family." I only put family in quotes because technically they aren't related to me, but they are the family of my heart. They understand our ups and downs...they celebrate our small improvements, mourn losses. These are the people I can bare my whole soul with, my fears, my joys. I can say words out loud that I am afraid to say to others...

Our journey with MTM has been one that is over eleven years long. It has been a journey of unexpected joy and sorrow. Children have gained their angel wings and others have struggled, yet been victorious. Researchers are working toward a cure and treatment...one that will not come soon enough. Javad is thirteen...I am not unrealistic that a treatment may mean something different for him. His legs have severe contractures that would inhibit walking...although I am not sure he would want to walk...he has never even thought it to be a part of his life, yet the strength to do things he would like would be amazing. I can't even wrap my head around it! When I look at the babies..the ones I held and rocked at the conference, I dream of a very different future for them, a future where they may move, have strength, maybe even walk. The idea that Javad and these children could breathe with freedom is such an incredible idea...and researchers are moving in that direction...it can and will happen.

This journey for us has not ended but I am so happy to be on the journey with so many amazing people! #mtmcnmfamily #mtmcnmsiblings #mtmcnmlove #loveourresearchers

Friday, July 17, 2015

Endings and Beginnings...


Today was the end of Ninth Grade Counts, the program I have been teaching for the last four weeks. It was a celebration as well as time for me to think about what has been accomplished. Students have had opportunities to grow, as people and as students.  Most of them are ready to start school in the fall, ready to take on the next step of their academic and personal journey.

In some ways being with them this last four weeks is also preparing me for the next step of my journey as well.  I am teaching all freshman...a thought that made me shiver last spring. These students were quite different than last year...kinder, more considerate. I am looking forward to helping them move forward toward academic success.

It's days like today that reminds me why I love my job...helping young people move forward with their academic and personal success! I am pretty flipping excited...I'm not going to lie!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Other Side of my Equation...

When I started this blog a few years ago, it was really a way for me to process.  People might find it confusing...I am a math teacher, yet I love to write and actually find it therapeutic. Sometimes my thoughts are too big inside my head and I don't know what to do or say, so I write. The daughter of an English teacher, reading and writing was a part of my life.

I was never one to write in a diary, although I was envious of those who did. I always admired that some could go back in the history of their thoughts and see where they were during different times of their life. Reliving their history one page at a time. This blog has become that diary, of sorts, with the ability to go back and see where I was and where I am.

I look back on these last few years, my journey, both the one with the Littlest and the ones without him.  So much has happened...it is almost overwhelming to read over it all, pulling the scabs off the wounds and re-experiencing the pain. Some of the moments over the last few years have been joyous...celebrations and accomplishments, while others have been heart wrenching...losses of children, family, and friends. Living in a world where there are too many small caskets, too many broken hearts, too much pain. Hearing friends cry and agonize over a loss so deep that there are no words to fill the hole. Tears that begin to heal the wounds, the cavernous mouth of pain or anger. The helplessness, the worry, the sorrow. Wounds that never truly heal, but rather the raw edges blur, the tears washing over the wounds, slowly dulling the pain. This part of our journey will never be over...friends will buy tiny caskets to bury those they love. The community will rally and love will surround all who have lost.

My life as a teacher has been one of hills and valleys. Changes over the last few years, both personally and professionally have driven me to be stronger, as a person, as a teacher. I have had to swallow my pride in areas where I've made mistakes and try to make amends to those I have wronged. I am trying to move into a direction that is positive and powerful...looking at the past and learning from it rather than being bound by it. I am fueled by a passion that almost is overwhelming. Maybe it is a desire to make up for the areas I can't control, those with the Littlest...maybe it is my attempt to control something in my life, something that I can look at and say, 'I did that." After all these years I almost feel compelled to move forward, as if I can't control the forces that push me forward. The plate is full, the glass overflowing, but my mind won't stop and the drive is so intense that it overwhelms my soul.

There have been many blog posts about the Littlest, the worries and struggles. I try to maintain a positive attitude, not only for myself but others as well. It can be difficult...some feel pity, not in the "I feel so sad for you" way, but in a way that is stronger than sympathy. Our life, for those on the outside, is something that many don't understand. It is complicated, full of medical terms, sometimes crazy. It is the life we lead, the one we were given. It is a good one...in so many ways a gift. I mourn the loss of what could have been. With the latest set-back, I am encouraged by the progress made, while always remembering where we were just a few short months ago. A simple task like driving his chair, now a monumental exercise that requires deep concentration. It is victory and defeat all rolled into one struggling move.

Next week I am attending the MTM-CNM Family Conference in Chicago, a gathering of families whose children are affected by this disease. These families are my village, the place where I find others who walk a similar path. Ironically, I am a leader in this community, one who's son is older...at thirteen one is considered older, and with that age comes wisdom for other parents. I have the opportunity to talk to others, encouraging them to move forward, to see a full life with their child. Years ago, this encouragement was not available. The outlook seemed bleak. No treatment or cure was even near the horizon, yet now, there is hope...a potential for drug trials.

I know that my sweetest boy has far to go in this area, but the village has surrounded me in our time of need, just as they have with families before us. This is what community is, a place to turn when you can't lift yourself up one more time. This community is my life line...a place to go when my heart needs solace. That is what this entire journey is about...discovering the other side of my equation...what is there for me on the flip side. It is both a mathematical and emotional journey. One that is linear and random...a combination of order and chaos. That is what this life is...a juxtaposition of joy and sorrow, inner peace in the midst of the storm.

My equation is one that is in the making...a life or creation, a life worth living.





Friday, July 3, 2015

Heartbreaks to Reality Checks...

This has been one of those weird weeks...maybe it's the heat that has my brain flying all over the place. Every day I look at my sweet boy and fight the conflicting feelings of joy and sorrow.  Part of me feels selfish...I have nothing to complain about...my son is alive, but I am in mourning over the boy he was, the boy he is now, what he has lost. Each day is a struggle. He can't swallow, can barely move his hands or turn his head. I try not to focus on what he can't do but rather what he can do or has learned to do since he came home... He can smile (he learned again), he can put his lips together for a kiss. He is happy...

The last thirteen years have been a roller coaster of emotions. It has been a series of times where I have mourned accomplishments he would never make, trying to keep in mind that his mere survival was a miracle in itself. People kept reminding me how lucky we were whether through direct comments or innuendos...reminders that I should be grateful, not make others feel bad.

In many areas of my life I am the positive one...the one that looks at the world from a place where all things will be okay. Even through all the ups and downs, I have always stood in a place where Javad will come through all of this okay on the other end but sometimes, even I struggle. This is a struggle that I usually carry alone, one that is hard to explain to others. I try not to speak of it because I will seem like a complainers or like I am trying to bring attention to myself, which is far from what I would ever do...the fact that I am writing this at all even makes me a bit nervous and we'll see if I actually post it. It is like the dark secret that I carry...my life is what it is...I am not sorry, I love the littlest beyond what I could even imagine possible, but there are days, like today, when my heart feels broken inside my chest. I don't want to talk about it to anyone, but if I don't purge these feelings from my brain they begin to take over and eat away at my ability to be positive.

I imagine that this is the way the life is...a cycle of mourning to celebration. It is strange in many ways, because it really isn't that different than parenting a healthy child...except the valleys are lower and longer, the peaks more rounded. The celebrations of the small things are bigger because you never know when your story might end. On March 16, our story came close to it's final chapter...I am well aware of the line that we narrowly missed. I think about the smallest of details that made the difference for us...simply being directly taken to the hospital of our choice saved us precious hours that, I believe, made the crucial difference.

Today is one of those days where I am struggling. My heart hurts, I want to climb to the highest peak and scream and cry until there are no more tears. I kissed my boy a lot and said a thankful prayer that I still have the ability to do so, but then felt angry that he can't do the things he could do such a short time ago. The feelings whirl around inside and I am unsure what to do with them. I try not to give them too much play time in my head...more time gives them power and I don't have the energy, frankly, to give them power.

So, for today, I let the feelings swirl...tomorrow, I try to lift my head and move forward. It's the only direction I can move, but first, I might have to pick myself up off the floor.