Monday, December 17, 2012

Newtown, CT

I am a parent. I am a teacher. Everything I see and hear is processed from those two perspectives. A combination that is particularly tuned to protecting, helping, guiding, and loving children.

There are events in this world that hurt and burn, slashing into my soul, cutting right to the core. Making me ache, feeling empty and swollen at the same time. There are no adequate words. No reasonable explanations. That is Newtown, CT.

We all process tragedy in our own way. We have unique methods of dealing with grief. Some of us withdraw, absorbing the information, thinking and sorting introspectively. Others work through difficulties outwardly by talking, writing, singing. There are those who take action to make sense of the senseless.

I respect that grief and mourning are dealt with through individual processes.

I also know that some people aren't emotionally equipped to be reasonable while they sort through horrific tragedies like this one in Sandy Hook Elementary School.  There are people out there who are insensitive. Who say hurtful things. Stupid things. There are people who use events like this to tout their own ideologies. They callously cast aside the personal pain and suffering of others so that they can inject their platform and purpose.

There will be a time to discuss politics. We absolutely need to have meaningful, open conversations about why this happened. About how this happened. About what we can do to prevent other events like this. These conversations are critical to the well-being of us all and the future of this nation.

However, we need more decorum. More decency. More sensitivity. We have twenty families who have yet to bury their young children. We have hundreds of children who have only had a weekend to come to grips with the idea that while they hid in a closet, a bathroom, or a corner their classmates were gunned down in their school. In a place where they should be safe. A building they will have to enter over and over again. Where they will feel on edge at the sound of every shut door, every book accidentally dropped, every lunch tray that hits the floor. We have an entire school district that is mourning the loss of five exceptional educators who died for their students. We have countless family members that will spend this holiday season with an empty, aching sorrow as they sit with presents already bought and wrapped for loved ones so senselessly lost. We have a family struggling with losing two of their own. Questioning every decision. Every interaction. Every word. Trying to figure out what they could have done to stop this horrific, terrible, preventable tragedy.

We don't need insensitive memes thrown into our social networks. We don't need rants about guns (being for or against) right now. We don't need trolls making asinine comments about those who lost their lives or the circumstances of the situation. We don't need anyone drumming support for their cause.

What we need is to come together. To support those who are mourning and hurting--in Newtown, in Chardon, in Aurora, in Littleton. The events at Sandy Hook Elementary are certain to have ripped open wounds for those who have been through similar tragedies. We need to offer support. We need to think about how our actions and words affect others.

We need to be Kind. Caring. Thoughtful. Sensitive.
We need to love one another.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ode to Minecraft

For this post, I am simply going to share a poem that my 13 year old son wrote.  He was given an assignment in his 8th grade Language Arts class--write an ode that is at least eight lines long.  Here's what he came up with:

Ode to Minecraft©

In the starting menu, click single player survive,
and all you have to do is thrive.
When you start the game, everything's blocks,
even you, from your hair to your socks.
And what is it that you do all this time?
All you do is mine and mine and mine.
You have to find diamonds to make a diamond pick axe,
then mine away at some obsidian and all you'll hear is "tick, tack."
You use the obsidian to make a nether portal,
and in this new dimension your wounds will become mortal.
Inside the nether you'll hope you have a sword
because if you attack a zombie pig, you'll be chased by an entire horde.
If you listen carefully, you'll hear a painful scream,
and if you look up in the sky, you'll find your worst dream.
You will see a ghast, if you look up in the sky,
and if you have a wooden house, you'll begin to cry.
When you go back through your portal, you will be relieved
to see every single one of your luscious trees.
But in the night, while building a house, you start to hear a hissing.
That noise is coming from something that you weren't missing.
It is a green creeper that is about to explode
and before it does you shout "No! No! NO!!"
When he blows up, your house is gone,
and then you say, "That's it! I am done!"

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hear me roar!

I am not a number.  

Not a number on the scale.  
Not a number on a tag inside my clothes. 
Not an age.  

I am a person.  

I am a woman--a happy, healthy, good woman. 

There have been several recent stories in the news centered on weight, BMI, dieting, and eating disorders.  I just read an article that Katie Couric struggled with bulimia for years when she was younger. Lady Gaga has revealed that she's been dealing with anorexia and bulimia since she was 15. I have known several others personally who have battled through an eating disorder.  I know MANY women who grapple with poor body image every day.  The negative talk. The self-loathing. The guilt. The comparisons to other women who look "better" than we do. Who have the "perfect" (insert body part that we desire here).  Well, that woman with the "perfect" _______ probably isn't happy with herself either. She's very likely seeking a "better" body part too. She doesn't like her feet, ears, hair, boobs, thighs, etc. We've been trained--by magazines, movies, Barbie dolls, our parents, our families, our friends--to find our imperfections. And we've been good trainees.

Why do we do this?  Why do we continue to pressure ourselves to be "perfect" when no such thing exists? Why do we allow others to define our value and worth based on stupid numbers and exterior qualities? That's not what we teach our children.  We teach them that who people are is what matters, not what they look like, right? Don't judge a book by its cover.

Maybe it's time we learn more from our kids. My son has taught me a wonderful lesson.  In full disclosure, he is a Mama's Boy ... he loves me completely ... he thinks I'm the cat's pajamas ... the bees knees. And he thinks I am soft--in a comforting, cuddly kind of way. He has told me many times that he loves my squishy belly.  When he would first talk about it I was completely bothered because I am sensitive about that. It's a flaw. A way that I am not "perfect." And he was drawing attention to it. But then I realized what his honest intention was when he said it. Affectionate, sincere, loving, pure. He was using a kind and tender tone of voice, not mocking.  I was hearing taunting--from my negative head voice, not because it was intended or projected. But I was looking for it. My son loves my squishy belly because it's soft and tender and Mommy. Now when I start to feel frustrated with my "fluff" as I call it, when I'm feeling "imperfect," I hear a sweet voice that says "soft." Changing this thought process isn't easy. It's a work in progress. But it's a worthwhile task, for all of us women so that we don't train the next generation the same way we've been trained.

As my daughter eases into the time when she will be setting that voice in her head, I am doing everything I can to build a positive body image. I want her to be happy with herself just as she is. I want her to focus on being happy and healthy ... not perfect. Not defined by numbers.

Monday, June 11, 2012

I am ...

I've had a lot going on in my life these past few months.  From my dad's unexpected and very serious illness this spring which had me traveling to North Carolina three times in six weeks while worrying about him and dealing with the stress and busyness of coordinating the communication to siblings, aunts / uncles, cousins and friends ... to the fairly unanticipated news that my husband is being transferred in his job and we'll be moving from Michigan to Pennsylvania this summer.  This has brought other stress and busyness, not the least of which includes helping my 11 year old daughter and nearly 13 year old son deal with the emotional struggle of moving away from everything they've ever known--friends, schools, classmates, teachers, neighbors, doctors ... everything. My life has been a roller coaster of emotions since April and I'll be honest:  I want my boring, plain life back.

There are many expressions to help people deal with difficult and stressful times like these and I've heard them all over and over.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  
God doesn't give you more than you can handle.  
Challenges are opportunities in disguise.  
Everything happens for a reason.  

Blah, blah, blah. At least that's how I felt in the throes of all that has been going on. Take your cute little adages and shove 'em, right?!

I'm feeling a lot better about all of this lately--still a lot going on, no doubt, but I no longer walk around with a knot in my stomach.  I still don't sleep much, but that is getting better. I don't shed tears every day--that's progress. And I have come back to a point where I believe the words that come in those sayings meant to help and offer comfort.  I feel like I have learned more about myself lately ... and that just might be the reason there's been so much going on in my life.  I needed a lesson in Jen.  A good look at Me. Time to search the soul. This is a continuous journey ... and maybe I was a little complacent with looking in the mirror while I enjoyed my easy, boring, quiet life. I've discovered and re-discovered a few things.

I am strong, fierce, passionate.
I stand up for the people I care about. Always. And without apology.
I will drop everything when my family is in need.
I am emotional. I feel everything. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I don't hide that.
I cry in front of anyone--my kids, my husband, my students, my principal, my friends.
I cannot hold my stress for more than a few days before it is released--usually in tears.
I don't hide how I feel.
I need my friends and family.
I am annoyed by stupid people--not lacking intelligence, but those who don't use what they have.
I am sarcastic, opinionated, independent.
I work hard to make good things happen.
I am a realist with a positive attitude.
I am a good friend.
I believe in the good of others.
I am lucky to have such a wonderful husband and two amazing kids.
I have really fantastic parents, siblings and family who care so much for me.
I couldn't have better, more sympathetic friends who offer constant support and thoughtfulness.
I appreciate funny, silly thoughts to lighten the mood.
I am a dork.
I make mistakes.
I try to be a good person. Some days are better than others.

I am complicated & simple, excitable & laid back, passionate & mellow, organized & a mess.
I talk ... when I'm happy, when I'm overwhelmed, when I'm stressed, when I'm nervous.

I am grateful. For my dad's improving health. That my husband still has a job. That this move is timed during the summer making the transition easier and less stressful. That we have had seven great years in this fantastic community surrounded by so many good people.

I am confident--that everything will work out just like it's supposed to for us.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


This has been a week of tears, sadness, disbelief, shock and concern.  It has also been a week of pride, support, connection and unity. Emotions have run high and been incredibly varied--fear, worry, surprise, distress, confusion, desperation, sorrow, anguish, guilt, pride, sympathy, helplessness, anger, frustration, love.

Parents look at their children through different eyes. Students see their teachers in a new light. The nation observes a small community under a spotlight. We have experienced the tragic events and losses in Chardon from different perspectives, processed in our own way, connected from our own small worlds. And we have all come together as One Heartbeat.

I cannot imagine the Grief of the students, the teachers, the parents at CHS.  I cannot imagine the Heartache of the families and friends of the victims. I cannot imagine the Pain of the family and friends of TJ.  I cannot imagine what the community of Chardon has lived this week.

For my friends at CHS, for the families so deeply affected, for all of Chardon I have sincere sympathy. I grieve for you. My heart aches for you. I support you. And I feel so much pride. Hilltoppers from all over the state, the country and world have connected, united, come together. We stand with you. We stand behind you. We are Chardon. We are Hilltoppers. We are One Heartbeat.