My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.


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Through the Eyes of a Child


mimimuffinJune 6, 2015

Dear Readers,

If you want to know the truth, ask a child.  Not only will you get the truth, you will get it in such a way as to make you laugh.  Because kids are honest to a fault, and they have no filter, they say the darnedest things.  Do not ever ask a child a question unless you are prepared to hear the absolute truth.  Well, leave it to me to walk right into that trap.

A few days ago I mentioned to my therapist (of course I have one!) that I saw the cutest question and answer session between mother and child on my Facebook feed.  Now, stick with me dear Readers, Facebook is not the focus here.  I mentioned that a friend of mine had asked her two daughters a series of questions and posted both the questions and the answers as her status one day.  There were 23 questions and answers.  The questions were ordinary, mundane even:  How do you know your mom loves you?  What does your mom always say to you?  What makes your mom happy? sad?, etc.  The answers are anything but.

Of course, dear Readers, you can well imagine what a small child of 5 or 6 would come up with for answers.  And true, they make us laugh.  But check it out, what if an old broad, such as myself, were to ask her grown, adult children to answer these same questions?  My therapist thought it would be a good idea.

At first, I didn’t quite understand what purpose it could serve.  My children know what I do for a living and they know how old I am (mostly, lol).  So what would be the point?  That is why my therapist is the therapist, dear Readers, and I am the patient.  “Send your children the questions and ask them to answer them and send them back to you.  Once you read their answers, you will see yourself through their eyes.  It might surprise you.”  She was right.

I must admit that only my daughters completed the answers and sent them back (are you listening, my sons?).  But, what an eye-opener.  Here is who I am:

I am kind and funny.  I am thoughtful and outgoing.  I am loving and inspiring.  I am a good mother.

Honestly, those conclusions were not surprising.  I know, without conceit, that those adjectives do describe me.  However, here are the two most surprising conclusions:

My children paid attention to our discussions and they believed what I told them!

I’m joking, of course.  However, here are some heartfelt questions and answers that warmed my heart:

What is something that Mom always says to you?    you will do great things, you will change the world, I want you to be better than me  This is something I stressed to my children as they were growing up; I believed it and I hope they did, too.

What makes mom sad? Dishonesty, abandonment Wow!  This one blew me away because not only is it true, but this is something I never told my children.

What makes you proud of your mom? Her honesty and strength  I’m sure some would beg to differ on that first one, but there is no mistaking that second one ;-)

Finally, my favorite one was the same from each of my daughters.  And although the answers were completely different, opposites even, they both go a long way in describing who I am..

If your mom were a character, who would she be? Betty Rizzo, Grease  For those who are unfamiliar, Rizzo is tough and sarcastic and she doesn’t give a care what people think of her.  She is definitely one tough broad.  I love that description of me.  It’s true.  The other answer is also true. 

If your mom were a character, who would she be?
I might be biased.. but I would say pooh bear.. he’s loving, accepting of all, a little anxious, and loves food

No explanation needed.  Peace, ~v.

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Begin Again


June 4, 2015

“Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you’ve been through, it’s never too late to begin again.”
Joyce Meyer, You Can Begin Again: No Matter What, It’s Never Too Late

Dear Readers,

I cannot count the times I have had to begin again.  I won’t belabor the point, but, yeah, I’m beginning again.  And although that is the title of today’s post, I have a much bigger issue to discuss with you.

Few people I know will ever know the pain of being homeless.  Fewer still will know the pain of an empty belly.  No, I’m not going to tell you I was homeless, starving on the street.  However, there are too many people in my community who are.  I can help do something about it.

As I sit in my air conditioned home in a city that reaches triple digit temperatures throughout the summer, I am moved to action.  I cannot imagine not having a place to cool off throughout these hot days.  And I can’t imagine not helping where ever I can.

Volunteering is nothing new.  In fact, it’s universal.  I write this tongue in cheek, dear Readers.  However, if you are looking for similarities, and not differences between you and the rest of the world, volunteering qualifies.

I wish I had been more diligent in teaching my own children how important it is to give back to one’s community through volunteering.  I guess it’s never too late.  Hey you guys…Volunteer, it’s good for the soul.  And if you live in the area, hit this place up:

Praise Chapel Food for Families
590 Hancock Rd.
Bullhead City, AZ, 86442
Peace, ~v.

 

 

SAM_0211


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Go Rub Some Dirt On It


June 3 2015

Dear Readers,

My dad was not one to gladly suffer whiners.  In fact, Dad was quite intolerant when it came to whining.  It’s not that he wasn’t compassionate; he just didn’t have time for excuses.  And that’s where today’s post comes in.  I’m a whiner, dear Readers.  I HATE to admit this, but, I am.  Oh sure, I gripe, I grumble and I grouse.  I groan, I mumble and I kvetch.  But, whine…me?  I think not.  Ahem…I think so.  Dad would not be proud.

I do not want to makes excuses, so I won’t go into detail.  However, I thought I had every reason to bitch and complain, until today, right now, this very second.  I was talking to my roommate about how some of our students need to realize that no matter how bad they think they have it, there is always someone who has it much worse.  Or maybe I was just telling myself…anyhow, something my dad used to tell us kids popped into my head.

Mom and Dad (well, really Mom) had eight children in ten years.  So, there was always some kid or another boo-hooing about some boo-boo or another.  “Mom!  So-and-so hit me!”  “Dad, So-and-so tripped me!”  “Mom!”  “Dad!”  You get the picture.  Dad had the perfect response.  Although, I don’t think I really understood what it meant until today.

When one of us would show Dad some real or imagined cut, bruise, and/or other physical slight, Dad would feign concern, look at the boo-boo and say, “Go rub some dirt on it.”  This would make me laugh, but, I always walked away puzzled.  The hurt no longer hurt, of course.  However, the ‘Go rub some dirt on it,’ never made sense.  Now, I get it.

Stop whining!  Suck it up!  That’s what it means.  Oh, I can’t pretend to tell you what was in my dad’s mind when he said that to his kids.  But I can sure tell you what is in mine.  Stop whining, sissy!  Suck it up and just do what you gotta do!  There are things in this life that are true tragedies, my life is not one of them.  I love life and life loves me back.

So, the next time I start feeling sorry for myself, the next time I begin to think, “Poor me, poor me, poor me,” I will remember the words of one of the greatest men I ever knew, “Aww, go rub some dirt on it!”  Peace, ~v.


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“Where’s your happiness now?”


May 26, 2015

Dear Readers,

Recently, I had a falling out with a friend.  Sunshine (not her real name) had been a lifelong friend.  She was the person I turned to for help every time I fell.  And believe you me, I fell more than a dozen times in as many years.  She was my rock, my steady friend, my sunshine.  However, I have since come to realize that she was my friend only when I was down and out; once I was able to stand on my own two feet, Sunshine’s friendship would disappear.

Over the years, I have told Sunshine my deepest, darkest fears, my most outlandish aspirations, and every little thing that makes me tick.  I was under the misguided assumption that she would hold my secrets close to her heart, just as I did to hers.  Sadly, I was mistaken.  I will never make that mistake again.

Over the past three years, and with Sunshine’s help, I have found my happiness.  It is through no small feat that I am able to look at myself in the mirror and smile.  I am proud of who I am and what I have accomplished.  I have come a long way.  Conversely, I am deeply ashamed and embarrassed at how low I sank in recent years.  I had just come to a point in my life where I had forgiven myself my past mistakes.  In other words, I was happy.

On the outside, I appear really put together.  I’m independent, smart, tough, and sometimes even funny.  Very few people know that on the inside I am more than a little unsteady.  In fact, I am a scared little girl on the inside.  Sunshine was one of the few people who knew of my insecurities.  She was also the last person I thought would exploit those insecurities.  But not only did she exploit those insecurities, she chewed them up and spit them back into my face like so many before her, that I was this close to believing all of the vile things she said to me and about me.  Little did she know that I would take a piece of advice she recently gave me, and use it to keep my wits about me, whereas usually, I would crumple.

In the past few months, I had begun to confide in Sunshine how very happy I was.  Sometimes, unable to contain how happy I was, a smile would break across my face and a giggle would escape from my lips.  I could be as giddy as a schoolgirl.  My happiness came from a place that I believe few people I know have ever experienced.  I had survived an almost certain death; not only survived, but walked away from.  After shaking my head in disbelief for a couple of months, I have accepted that I survived because I have so much more to give.  This realization was the catalyst for my happiness.  So, of course I was giddy!  I mean, who wouldn’t be, right?  And I almost let it all slip away because of a few well-placed barbs spewed from a would-be friend.

After a vile and disgusting exchange of words from both myself and Sunshine, she left me with these words, “Where’s your happiness now?”  It almost shook me to my core.  But now, I have an answer for her:

My happiness resides in a place no one can touch.  My happiness belongs to me and me alone, so that only I can make myself unhappy.  My happiness is with me when I wake up in the morning and with me when I close my eyes at night.  My happiness is knowing that not only am I a good person, but that I am a person worthy of being loved.  My happiness is knowing that I am highly blessed and Divinely favored.  My happiness is right here, right where it belongs.

Sunshine once told me that I needed to get rid of all of the people in my life who were toxic.  And although it will create a hole in my heart, I fear I must take her advice.  Goodbye Sunshine, I wish you well.  Peace, ~v.


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Blurred Lines


May 17, 2015

Dear Readers,

Today’s post comes with a “Warning!  Due to the strong nature of today’s post, some readers may be offended.  I apologize in advance.”

Parents who blur the line between parent and child are doing a great disservice to society at large.  Unsure of what I am talking about?  Take a look at the following exchange between a parent and a child.  The mom is on the left, while

blurher 12 year-old daughter is the one on the right.  Before you ask, neither the mom nor the daughter are African American.  And, before you ask again, I know because I swiped this from one of the social media sites in which I belong.  This is a true exchange.

I could enumerate any number of social missteps this mother is creating in treating her 12 year-old daughter as a friend; but, I won’t.

I could also attempt to explain why this nonsense destroys the relationship between teacher and student when allowed to seep into our schools at such an alarming rate; but, I won’t.

What I will do, is shake my head and bottom-line it for you, dear Readers.  When you treat your 12 year-old daughter like a friend, don’t be surprised when she starts treating you like you are hers.  Would you like to know how middle school girls treat their friends?  They yell at them to get their attention; they slap, pinch, and/or push them; they call them names (worse than this exchange); they make fun of them; they talk about them behind their backs; and they ignore most of what their friends say, unless it has to do with that cute boy who sits in front of them in math class.

Bottom line here?  12 year-old girls treat their friends with no respect and little to no loyalty.

After seeing this post, I understand why my 7th grade students cannot comprehend why I, a 50 year-old teacher, am allowed to have my cell phone in class, but they are not.  “Ms. Kunzmann, how come teachers are allowed to have their cell phones during class, but the students can’t?”  Here was my response:

“You and me, we’re not equal, not even close.  I have earned the right to better and more privileges by virtue of my age.  Your mom may treat you as her equal.  But, you and me, we ain’t equal, not even on the same plane.  In no such reality or alternate universe would a 12 year-old child and 50 year-old, grown adult teacher be equal insofar as possession of a cell phone is concerned.  And not only do I firmly believe that I have earned the right, I am disciplined enough to at least turn my phone’s ringer off so as to stop it from going off during class.  You, however, are not even disciplined enough to use proper English when addressing your own mother!”

“What?  Wait, what?”

And so on.  They may never get it.

The unintended consequences of parents treating their tween children as friends, is that the lines get blurred.  And that’s an awfully scary place to be…just ask Miley and Robin ;-)  Peace, ~v.


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Union Strong


May 16, 2015

Dear Readers,

Dad was a union plumber from 1964 until his death in 2001.  Dad believed in the brotherhood.  The values Dad instilled in his children are the values he honored as a member of UA Local 469 Plumbers and Pipefitters.  These same values I have passed on to my children and my siblings have passed on to theirs.  And even though the state of unions in America have taken a hit, the tradition Dad cultivated and handed down, continues to this day.

I’m not about to debate the merits of belonging to a union.  However, I think it’s time to give credit where credit is due.  I cannot speak for all unions nor all union members; I wouldn’t want to.  However, I can speak from experience.

These are the values with which Dad instilled in me.  These are also time-honored union values, American values:

• LOYALTY Dad was one of those rare individuals who walked the walk.  In today’s ‘Keep it real” society, loyalty is a rare commodity.  Too few people embrace this old-fashioned value.  However, everything old is new again, right?  Loyalty is a man sticking to his word.  Loyalty is paying homage to those who came before you.  Loyalty is also paving the way for those who come after.  Loyalty is a lifelong commitment, it’s a 40 year marriage, it’s a 35 year stewardship.  Loyalty is dancin’ with the one that brung ya.  
• FAIR PLAY If the balance is tipped in favor of one over another, chaos ensues.  This applies to things great and small:  employer/employee, men/women, dogs/cats.  Americans love to root for the underdog.  Why?  Because of our sense of fair play.  In today’ssteroid-induced, get ahead at all costs world, fair play is due for a comeback.
• DECENCY, HONESTY, CHARACTER If you only live once, these three values should be included on everyone’s checklist.  Unfortunately, YOLO has come to define a generation of decadent, dishonest persons of suspect character.  Today’s youth would do well to remember what Clarence Darrow once said, “[Unions] have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in men, than any other association of men.”  Agreed.

Although some may not agree, I know I am in the company of men and women I both respect and admire.  This short list not only includes my dad, it also contains my brother Alex and my brother Daniel.  Though my dad is no longer active, Alex and Daniel have continued in the union tradition.  The above values epitomize who they are and what they bring to a society bereft of values of days past.

Readers, this post is in honor of all the union men and women keeping with tradition and time-honored values.  Specifically, this post is to honor my brothers, Alex and Daniel, whose lives and families have been blessed and, dare I say, cursed to hold such high values.  Alex, Daniel and their families are about to embark on a life changing journey; from Arizona to New York.  Work is scarce in Arizona and so are most unions.   However, loyalty and the need to provide for their families trump familiarity.  I love you both and I wish you and your familieshappiness.  I am proud of you, Alex.  I am proud of you, Daniel.             

Unions:  Rank has its privliges.  Peace, ~v.

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If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say


May 15, 2015

Dear Readers,

I had nothing nice to write these past five months, so I kept it to myself.  The world has enough unkind words karmically seeking counterparts.  I wanted to balance the not nice words with some nice.  And this post is filled with enough nice words to fill an entire classroom of 7th grade students. 

My first, full year teaching 7th grade language arts is drawing to a close and I want to acknowledge one of my classes.  I have to admit that I have spent the better part of the school year complaining to my sister about this student or that student.  I thought it might be refreshing if she, and you, dear Readers, were to hear about the good students, not just the bad and the…well, you know the rest.  

I credit my last period class for creating such a good vibe prior to my life changing accident last year, that I wanted to, no, I had to come back to teach.  Believe me, I was periously close to never teaching again.  However, my last hour class was the perfect storm.  These are the students who reminded me why I teach.  

I would like to introduce you to Az (sorry Az, didn’t feel comfortable using your real name)    This young man has got the world by the tail and he is going places.  He is a leader among his peers and I am honored to have been his teacher.

Next is his sometime sidekick, Cj.  You will find Cj among the ballers.  He is smart and athletic and one of the most dedicated I’ve seen come through here.

My trusty first assistant Mg is as adorable as the day is long.  She is a hella good creative writer and I look for her to publish some of her fiction in the future.  

Mg’s first assistant is Bi.  Well, not really an assistant, but they are thick as thieves.  Bi is almost as smart as she thinks she is (jk, Bi, you know I love you).  I admire Bi’s willingness to ask questions, even though her peers may poke fun at her.  She is the one I pick to most likely go to a top university.

Jr was my second semester assistant.  I wasn’t sure if his, um,bathroom habit was for real, or just a ploy to get out of my class.  Maybe I made him nervous.  Nevertheless, he holds a very special place in my heart because he was never embarrassed to ask me to sit with him at lunch.  Kv was also at that same lunch table.  Although, Kv didn’t spend as much time at our (listen to me, “our”) lunch table as he should have.  Let’s just say that detention sometimes includes lunch.

Now for my silent but deadly crew: Ax, Le, Mo, and Yz.  “Still waters run deep,” comes to mind when I think of these four students.  Ax is one of the bitchingest (is that a word?) artists I have seen at such a young age.  Too bad I never warranted a drawing (LoL).  Ax draws because he has to draw.  For him, drawing is life.  He is art.  Le is too sweet for his own good at times.  I fear that someday, somewhere, some you-know-what will break his heart and I will have to go find her.  Seriously though, Le has a heart as big as anyone I know.  

Mo. is my kindred spirit.  He is like me, an outsider, not wanting to go in, but not wanting to stay on the fringe.  I pray that he finds the peace he is seeking.  Hell, I pray I find the peace I am seeking.

Yz could stand to have a bit more confidence.  She is smarter than she gives herself credit for.  The same is true for Gi.  These two young ladies are just the two to lead the next generation of strong, smart, beautiful Latina women.

Now we come to one of the beauties: Jo.  Jo too often sells herself short (no pun intended).  Yes, she is short, but, she doesn’t see the beauty that I see.  The quality that Jo has that I most admire is her loyalty.  I would love to have such a friend.

Ar is one of the cutest, most energetic young ladies in the school.  She is a lady with a bit of a rebellious streak.  She hardly lets it slip, but it gives her an edge.  I would love to see her roller-skate!

Tl warms my heart because he will always be a kid inside.  On his birthday, he came to class wearing an Olaf backpack!  For a 7th grade student to walk into class with this backpack was, to me, the sweetest thing I could have seen.  I hope he always keeps his little boy outlook on life.  

Of all these students, I admire Er the most.  I can never understand nor imagine speaking two languages.  Er can.  In fact, Er can speak, read and write in English better than most native English speakers.  He may be quiet, but I predict that he will make a great big roar when he is released into the real world.

De is one of the quirkiest white-boys ever.  However, as he tells me, “But, I’m black on the inside!”  Great kid with a great smile.  I owe you a book, De; I hope you are around next year to receive it.

Finally, I will never forget Eb, Je, and Mg.  These three, assistant Mg, beautiful Eb, and funny Je are the epitome of why I came back to teach after my accident.  The day of my accident, these three were the perfect trio with the perfectly executed lesson.  Theirs were the three faces that went before my eyes shortly before I wound my way up the mountain stretch on my way to, well, you know.  Knowing there are students out there like these three made my coming back to teach worthwhile.  Three seemingly different students, from three different backgrounds, with different friends and interests came together that afternoon and opened themselves up to learning.

These are the reasons I teach, dear Readers; these are the reasons I teach.  Peace, ~v.

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