Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Growly: def; being irritated at every little thing, like a bear growling at everything.

Yes, this is a term in my house, used to refer to individuals with a bad case of "gumpyitous". Lately, that has been me. I am irritated at every little thing.


Oh, pick a thing! 

Life is sometimes smooth sailing, and sometimes choppy, but other times, it isn't as bad as we think it is. I think this is one of those times for me. I had a rough patch a few weeks ago where it really felt like a lot was closing in around me and I am still having a hard time shaking the feeling of the angry two-year-old stomping her feet.

My internal toddler is quite the lip-pouting, grudge-holding, feet-stomping, taking-my-ball-and-going-home type. We all have them, but they are as unique as the individual. I know some people who have the sad, broken hearted internal toddler, while others have the overly excited toddler. They appear when the most primal of our emotions get stirred, whether deep sadness, hurt or happiness. The strong emotion causes a facet of you to appear on the surface, a coping mechanism that helps process the situation.

For me, anger usually brings out that terrible toddler, the one who has to have everything her way or she won't play with you anymore. Happiness brings out the carefree college girl, silly and fun-loving. And sadness brings out the hurt little grade-school girl who just wants to sit alone and cry.

We all have multiple personality disorder to some extent - the different stages in our lives imprint the most primitive of emotions and those are the ones that come out when the emotions get strong. It is important to understand and embrace them, as they are all a part of the complex person I am. I don't always like them, for the sad school girl often rejects the one thing she needs (comfort), while the tantruming toddler often says things she doesn't mean or can seek vindication.

I can step back and see when one of these parts of me has come to the surface. I have examine what I did to create the situation I was in, whether lack of sleep, hormones, or the weather. It doesn't excuse the behavior, but it allows me to take possession of what I did wrong in the situation and try to repair any damage that I might have caused.

It isn't always bad though. That toddler can often say things that my normal frame of mind would never dare say, while the college girl enjoys just being carefree. I have had times when I have said or done things while in this mode that have been brilliant or empowering. I look back later and shake my head at what possessed me at that moment and chuckle.

So if you take the time to break down your own self, which part of you comes out when? Is this a good thing for you? Share with me - I'd love to hear!

Right now, it is time for the grumpy toddler to go to bed though - she gets REALLY grumpy when she doesn't get enough sleep!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saturday Mornings

Thinking about Saturday mornings at my Grandparent's house when I was little still makes me smile. Their bedroom was never closed to us, and when I was little, I would sneak in to bed with them early in the morning. It was a special time, when I got snuggles from my Grandmother, soaking in the warmth of her bed and the safety that her embrace gave. I remember feeling like the world was good, that nothing could touch me.

I remember helping my Grandmother make applesauce pancakes and smelling the rich aroma of peculating coffee. There was a special stool I got to stand on to help, a white one with steps that folded underneath the seat. I remember it being so heavy that my Grandfather always carried it for me. My job was to stir the batter to get the flour all mixed in. Grandma always added her fresh applesauce, made from the apples picked from the backyard trees. It wasn't like the applesauce you got in the grocery stores - it was slightly tart with huge chunk of apple pieces throughout.

She always cooked on an iron skillet, with had a unique smell to it. She used butter on the skillet, not oil, and when the batter was pour onto the hot surface, I remember that it made a loud sizzling noise and Grandma always hugged me so I didn't get splattered. She would let me turn them, using her special pancake turner that had the wooden handle her father had made years ago. It had a huge surface, so it easily flipped even the biggest pancake. As it cooked, the smell would fill the small galley kitchen with potent fragrance.

We all would sit at the table and eat, never rushing. It was a time that we talked about anything and everything. We watching the squirrels and blue jays through the huge front window in the dining room, joking about their antics and yelling at them when they buried acorns on the lawn. We would pass around the comics, which always came on Saturday with our newspaper. My Grandfather would lament about his favorite sports teams, how the managers need a wake-up call and how the players are overpaid. Grandmother would always look in the section with the recipes, hoping to find something new to try. She also looked a the community section, commenting about how her friend Minnie or Bambi (yes, these were their actual names) were doing such and such in the community or were seen with so-and-so at some event. She liked the local gossip, and always seemed surprised at marriages and babies born in the area.

There was never anything deep discussed at Breakfast - Grandma insisted it that way. She said it was bad on your digestion to start the day talking about "bad" things. She was funny that way. We would talk about what we were going to do in the garden, who was going to visit that day, or when was the right time to take the boat up to the lake. We would talk about places we wanted to visit or people we wanted to see. We would talk about so and so's new hair color (and how it really looked pink, not the red she claimed it was) and the new song the choir director was trying to get them to master even though it was in German.

We talked, and laughed.

When ever I smell pancakes cooking today, I get the same feeling of warmth and comfort - it was what I call a comfort smell now. Many times I have longed for those days again, the simplicity of it all. I have even tried to duplicate it at home, but found it to just not be the same. With one teenager, one pre-teen, and a husband with a demanding job, we are always rushing to get somewhere on Saturday, our precious "day off". Whether it is work, sports, scouts, or what, it is a rare occasion when we can stop and eat a breakfast together. And when that rare occasion does occur, it seems like we have nothing to talk about. Someone is reading the paper, while someone has their nose in a book. Someone else is looking at their cell phone waiting for a call, while another is texting someone back. We are together at the table, but really we are alone. 

I will still keep trying. Maybe when I have grandkids of my own, then they will look forward to apple pancake Saturdays too.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Being a teacher

Back when I was younger, I didn't want to be a teacher. I couldn't stand the thought of spending day after day in a classroom with rowdy, bratty kids. I viewed it as going to college just to be a baby-sitter. Even when I got my first teaching job in 1989, I still was in the same mind-set. That was until I worked a day with my teaching mentor, Esther.

Esther was a quiet, sweet tempered woman. At the time, she told me she had been teaching for 16 years, and I was floored. I couldn't imagine doing this for 6 months, let alone a decade and a half! We were required to shadow the teachers for 12 weeks to complete the program and I thought this was going to be such a disaster. How could this woman ever control a classroom?

It didn't take long for me to see that this woman was amazing. Her style of teaching was as equally gentle as her manner. The kids loved her, and best yet, they respected her. She showed them respect in return, actually, she showed them respect first. A lot of the kids she was working with were from tough situations - single moms, teen moms, nasty divorces, unemployment, poverty. You name it, and there was at least one kid in the room that fit the bill.

It didn't matter to Esther though. She saw where these kids were from and she understood it, but she told me that it didn't define who they are. She also told me that this was precisely what affected these children most: being defined by what their circumstances were, not who they are.

It was so amazing to me. At this point in my young adult life, I didn't even make that distinction in myself, let alone seeing that distinction in these young children. I always had equated the who with the what when it came to people. I thought no matter how fast you ran, the past always catches you. I realized at that moment that even with the book learning I had about being a teacher, I had so much more to learn and Esther was just the one to teach me.

Needless to say, by the time I finished the 12 week program, I signed on to finish the rest of the year. Every day I worked in her classroom, I learned a little more. I learned how to open myself up, to find the child that was inside me (though buried very deep). I learned to hug (a skill I did not have - honest....ask my Aunt Jan) and be okay with getting giant hugs in return (you would be amazed at how big of a hug you can get from a 2 year old!), I also learned that it was okay to be silly, and to sing, and to dance. Young children don't judge like adults do - they live each moment to it's fullest. We as adults have so much filling our heads that often we can't even get out of our own way, but young children live on pure spontaneity. I couldn't remember being like this as a child, but I was slowly learning how to do it as an adult.

Looking back, I realize if it weren't for Esther, I would have never spent 21 years as a teacher. I don't know what I would have done, but it wouldn't have been that. Because of this amazing woman, a teacher was born.

I realize now that even though I don't teach at a school anymore, I am still a teacher. I can't help it. When I see teachable moments, I slip into that teaching skin faster than I can put on a pair of socks. It is like an automatic gear I shift into. I realize that like those kids, I am not defined by my circumstances, but by who I am.

I am a teacher.