It’s the wonderful, joy filled time of the holidays. Family, friends, food, activities, a time to connect and remember. Growing up a couple of Thanksgivings come to mind~ both of them accord in New York. The first memory was going to the Macy day parade when I was about 4, we lived in Brooklyn and this was a big treat. I was most excited about all the colored paper from the floats so I collected a large amount of the paper. We (my family went to a restaurant before heading back home. While I was in the bathroom with my sister, the waitress cleared off the table and threw away my color paper. (Actually it technically it was trash I picked up off the street.) The other memory was when I was 16, I was with the Long Walk for Survival in New York City. I had run away to be close to a boy I fell in love with Charley Grass. That Thanksgiving I joined the group and fasted for Thanksgiving. I fasted to remember all of the Native Americans that lost their lives for this fun-filled holiday. The night before Thanksgiving that year I also fell asleep on James Taylor’s couch. I met him when I was “playing the role of a secretary” for the medicine man Leonard Crowdog. In some ways that was a very lonely Thanksgiving.
Other memories of the holidays ~ going to visit my cousins in KY.
Or when my father would invite faculty and or students that didn’t have any place to go. These were usually foreign or visiting students. They would bring a dish to share. Then after my mother married my stepfather ~ we always had a house full. We sat around the big table, and laughed and ate and told stories. We always had a puzzle on a table in one room and would play a board game after the meal.
The first Thanksgiving my now ex-husband shared with us. He told me it was his favorite holiday. He also told me my mother was a much better cook than his mother. He also told me I was a better cook than his mother. I wish he remembered when he was telling his mother cutting remarks a few years later. But he got to see how we celebrated family~ and that was through sharing.
After we got married I continued the family tradition of inviting faculty or exchange students to our house for the holiday. I loved opening up my home and sharing food with new friends and family. It also worked out well when my brother Randy married a wonderful cook April and she would come and help. I would make very traditional dishes, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, apple pie. One year I made a very fancy pumpkin pecan torte 7 layers.
Another Thanksgiving, Don (my ex) got us invited over to a colleague’s house but the turkey took much much longer to cook than his friend knew. His friend was very embarrassed but we explained it was all good. They were a young couple and this was their first holiday meal they were sharing. I had planned to host guests at my house too. Luck for me my brothers and niece felt comfortable going into my house and getting things ready without me.
But my biggest memory throughout those celebrations later when my sister and her family were unable to share it with us. Were the phone calls from my sister, she would start off calling me about 7am on Thanksgiving and tell me her big plans for the turkey. One year she found a recipe in the New York Times ~ this is going to be the best turkey ever. She would call me throughout the day keeping me up to date as to how her meal was progressing. Things started off positive and then would take a turn and she would call to tell me she was having this problem and what should she do. I would advise her. Then she would call back a few minutes later telling me something she decided to try instead. I believe that was the year the turkey was raw on the inside and burnt on the outside. She said, well Martha Stewart isn’t a good choice. The next year, it would start all over again. I would always advise her to go simple~ turkeys should be moist and don’t need much to make them taste good. Her phones calls seemed to follow a script. We would laugh and how things were going or not going. This happened for a few years till she called to tell me they were just going to have lobster and picked them up at Whole Foods.
Laura was ten years older than me, and she was my idol. When I was 18, she and I shared an apartment at the start of the school year. Her boyfriend Ron started off with us also in that apartment but then moved out and on with his life a couple of months later. So Laura, her dog Shiner and I fell into a rhythm ~ we were both taking classes at the local university, she was working as a waitress at a bar/ club. I was searching for myself and dating lots of guys, going out and dancing and enjoying my youth. Laura was working but also enjoyed dancing and just hanging out. Living with Laura was always an adventure. She was protective, yet wouldn’t hesitate to tell me to get off my butt and stop whining.
Laura and I both had our own bathrooms and its funny but many of our conversations took place in one of our bathrooms. Our conversation about her tattoo was no different. She was in her tub when she told me she wanted a spaceship tattoo. She wanted to have either people or an alien waving from the inside of the ship. This was back in 1982 before tattoos became mainstream. Laura explained she was going to go up to Chicago and make a trade with some tattoo artist. I am not sure if she was planning on exchanging beadwork or what really. I don’t think she knew either. I was not happy about this idea at all. I felt that tattoos were for other people, not my beautiful sister. I begged her not to do it. But she did, that January, she got a spaceship tattoo over her left breast. It was about 2 inches wide and about an inch and half tall. It was colorful and had a little person on the inside waving or maybe I just imagined that part. She didn’t make a trade but paid cash for it. She said she drank some whiskey to help with the pain when she was getting it. Great now I had a sister with a tattoo~ a spaceship tattoo.
Fast forward~ almost 20 years. Laura was living with her husband and her dark-haired beautiful daughter when she found out she had breast cancer on the same breast as her tattoo. I had lost a best friend a couple of years earlier to breast cancer so I was very nervous and upset to hear this news. Laura being the big sister that she always was ~ wanted to reassure me that, she was going to survive this and not to worry. So Laura started having the talk with her doctor about her plan of action. Living in the Boston area she was fortunate enough to be surrounded by excellent doctors and proven cancer treatments. This was some reassurance but still, I had not only lost a close friend recently but I lost my father to cancer when I was 13. And my sister was now my best friend I couldn’t bear the thought of losing her. So Laura opted for standard traditional western treatment with a few eastern treatments as well.
Surgery would be the first treatment. I made plans to fly out after she returned home to help take care of her and her daughter. So her husband could continue working and supporting the family. I would sleep on my niece’s top bunk. I fixed meals, did laundry, and cleaning. And I helped Laura take a shower. Laura opted for a lumpectomy so they only took part of her breast. Laura wanted me to really look at her scar and pointed out to me that she still had her spaceship tattoo. I had to laugh. Yes, Laura you still have your tattoo. She told me this was one of her concerns she was told she had cancer. Seriously sister? You were concerned about losing your tattoo? She told me she asked the doctor if they had to take the skin with the tattoo on it. She wanted to keep it. Yes, keep the skin with the spaceship tattoo. She said, and she told him she wanted to put it in a jar so she could still keep it. I guess it was lucky for all of us that the surgery only took part of her breast.
5-1-5~ A woman in my meditation group mentioned this is what she does when she is having trouble meditating due to the all too famous monkey mind. When I first learned this ~ life was not going especially easy for me. I was doing odd jobs, dog walking, house cleaning, filing paperwork, substitute teaching at a preschool anything I could do to earn a little money. There were times when I would get down on myself for things not progressing as quickly as I would like. So I took Lynn suggestion~
5-1-5 Five things I am grateful for, really think and express appreciation for those things i.e., the weather, family, food, friends, the list goes on. So I was usually dog walking when I felt inclined to do the 5-1-5. And in the beginning the weather was less than perfect (it was the year we got 10 ft of snow). But I almost always expressed gratitude for the weather. This could be things such as the right clothes, the sun shining or how beautiful everything looks with a layer of bright white snow on top of it. I really consider my statement and even if I am not feeling 100% that way, focusing on my gratitude somehow makes it smile. Each item I try to focus on for a minute or two.
5-1-5 One thing I need help with~ at the time I was job hunting, healing from a break up, needing a home, and just feeling lost. You can think of it as a little prayer or asking your angels or your own inner being. One time, I was walking Lucy in a big park, I started doing the 5-1-5, I got to my 1. And I was going to ask for help finding a job. I got a phone call from one of the schools I had applied. I didn’t end up getting the job (actually didn’t want it). But I felt like my prayers were being heard and I think that was a big part of the 1.
5-1-5 Five people or ideas you want to bless. This one is pretty straight forward. Somedays I would focus on people who were easy to love, like my daughters, Lucy, family. Other days I would focus on people not so easy to love. i.e. ex-husband, ex-boyfriends, mean people or just difficult people. I found sending these people my love instead of my disgust made me feel better. Well somedays.
I was doing it on a pretty regular basis ~ but I have come back to it many times. I have tried to teach this technique to my students and I tell them it will change your life. And I honestly believe that. So now sure where Lynn got this idea or if she came up with it herself. But thank you! You are definitely in my first five.
July 30, 2015
This past year I made a lot of changes, moving 1,000 miles away from friends, family and ex-partner as well as my job. I was a social worker~ I facilitated visits between parents and their children. I also helped with parenting skills and relationships and relaps prevention. It was draining work at times~ but mainly the driving that was involved with the job. Prior to that I was a special education teacher. A job I loved until we got a new administration that took the attitude of bullying teachers rather than supporting them in the classroom.
I live in a different state now and one that appears to have a more supportive view of teaching. So I am cranking out job applications. My hope is to find a job that I can love again. I started teaching at the high school level my first year after graduating with my 2nd degree in special ed. It was a small rural high school the students that would be in my class had experienced the loss of a teacher Ruthy they loved. I had to step into this classroom in this community where I was an outsider I was from the big city on the other side of the river. But I was hired because of my social work background (that’s what my first degree was in). I was warned about the department chair but introduced to one of my new co-workers. Kelly~ she later told me she didn’t want to like me because she felt like she would be betraying her friend ~ who I had replaced. But she said a lot of my quirky behaviors were similar to Ruthy and also that I wasn’t afraid to make mistakes, ask for help or laugh at myself. It was a rough job~ I had grades 9-12 and I taught all subjects ~ math, English, science, history and then later an employment skills class.
The day I was called to schedule an interview I was coming back from vacation and I was a few miles from home and only had nibbles of jobs. We were less than 20 miles from home and I had just decided I would just go to grad school and continue to substitute teach. Rex called me to schedule an interview. He told me how sensitive the situation was~ Ruthy was in her final hours. I was able to convince them I had the skills to be the perfect replacement. And I was~ and then the time came for me to change jobs and move to the middle school which was another perfect job.
Nov. 19, 2017
I have started job hunting again after working for two years at a place I thought was my dream job. ~ check out unemployment checks. I am not worried I know things will get easier and the perfect job will fall into my lap again when the time is right.
When I first moved out here to the Boston area~ I thought I would live with my former brother in law and niece for a month or so till I got on my feet unaware of how much more expensive … Continue reading
Since my job was restructured last year~ I have been able to recuperate from my last teaching job. A job that started off as a great place to work and I thought it was my dream job but after the first year~ it became a nightmare. The director though a nice man ~ he is also a very weak administrator so there was no follow up on discipline or support given to staff. Even though I was the most experienced on staff and the oldest and the most grounding I still needed support especially since I was put into a nearly impossible position. Full time special education teacher (or in charge of all the paperwork and making sure all the services were being met and teaching 4 history classes. I thought at first no problem~ the director understands this is a big job he will support me. But nope he didn’t in fact when I asked him for help and even gave him suggestions as to what would help me do my job better and/ or make things easier for me. He actually gave me more responsibilities. WTF? dude seriously? But the guy has some serious passive aggressive issues. I started to push back too. I didn’t make any attempt to waste my time doing pointless paperwork such as writing out my lesson plans in a complete format ~ and I told him I felt like I had more important things to do like actually teach rather than fill out some sheet that he would look at once and then forget about checking on it ever again, ok I didn’t say that to him but I had noticed had been his MO.
When he told me he was going to restructure my position, I told him good luck with that. And good luck finding someone to fill my shoes. Well, he then restructured it to what I had originally suggested to him but he waited to tell me that on the last day of school. And told me I could reapply if I wanted. Well, that and I needed to pass this fvkkcing exam that has nothing to do with special ed. As of this writing, I am still waiting to hear if I pass it or not again. I was angry at first ~ feeling like he never appreciated me. Well, seriously he didn’t until it was too late. I did speak to him and told him my issues and I recommended he think about going into another field where he could actually make a difference instead of holding back progress at the school. He rolled his eyes at me~ asshole. So he lost all 5 of his teachers. He had lost 5 teachers the year before too. But he was saving the collab. money by hiring new inexperienced teachers every year. The program be damned.
But I would not have been ready to return to work back in mid-august ~ the woman I lived with was dying. I was still feeling burned out, and I had that exam to retake. eye roll! But lucky me~ I could get an unemployment check. So I go through the motions~ applying for jobs and re-writing cover letters. But this time has given me time to think and appreciate. I will write later about Marion’s death but if I had been teaching I wouldn’t have been an option to assist and then be apart of her transitioning. I am reading books, going to the beach, spending time with Lucy, hiking in the woods, think about my own health and write letters. We don’t know what the future holds for us~ and sometimes we are giving such sweet little gifts thrown in among the sludge.
I was fortunate enough to be born into a family with siblings. I have 2 brothers one older, one younger and I had an older sister. There was 10 years difference between my sister and me. But she was my best friend, my protector, safety net, and voice of reason. Growing up my younger brother Roger and I shared a bedroom. We had bunk beds. One of our first real arguements I remember was over who got the top bunk, then my older brother Randy took Roger out in the hall and whispered something to him. Roger came back into the bedroom and told me I could have the top bunk. (Many years later I found out what Randy said to Roger to change his mind.) Randy told Roger if there was ever a thunder storm and lightening hit the house it would hit me first because I was up higher than everyone else in the house. For the most part Roger and I got along well~ I would do little things like trade all the good Halloween candy from his pumpkin to mine when he wasn’t around. Regular sibling stuff.
My sister Laura was the oldest, she looked very much like my mom the way she was built small framed, dark hair and dark eyes. I on the other hand looked like my daddy broad shoulders, tall, blond and blue eyed. I was the only blond, blue eyed one of the bunch. Well Roger was blond when he was little thanks to Sun In my mom put in his hair. Laura could sing, dance, play piano, act, she was loud, could and would laugh at anything and everything. She was my idol. We lived together briefly my first year in college, she moved back to the midwest from CA. We had a great 2 bedroom apartment with 2 bathrooms. We would have long conversations about music, boys,laughing and tattoos. She wanted one. I asked her repeatdly not to get one. She knew exactly what she wanted. A spaceship over her left breast with a little alien waving. She got it overspring break when I wasn’t around. *That tattoo later is part of a great story. When Laura was around everything seemed to be more fun.
After Laura graduated from college she decided she wanted to live in the New England area so back to Boston she went. We still talked on a regular basis, but it was different with her being so far away. She would come home for visits and I would go out there to visit her. I knew I wanted to be closer to her. Just the beginning….