My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.


2 Comments

Taking Stock


August 2, 2015

Dear Readers,

It’s time to take stock.  Every year as school begins I take stock in my life.  I suppose this comes from the fact that as far back as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher.  However, also as far back as I can remember, I have questioned my motives for wanting to teach.  I have oftentimes wondered if I just want to be in high school for the rest of my life.  So, every year I take stock.

This year finds me in a better place both mentally and spiritually.  I am more open to change and I’m more willing to be honest.  Let’s get started.

“Say how you feel, leave the job you hate, find your passion, love with every ounce of your bones, stand up for things that matter, don’t settle, don’t apologize for who you are.  Be brave.”  Yeah, some of you may have seen this quote on Facebook.  But it is a great place to start.

  • Say how you feel  Yes, I do.  The thing is, though, I really need to be diplomatic.  I tend to hurt people’s feelings way too much.
  • leave the job you hate  Wow!  This is a biggie.  I struggled last year as to whether or not I should sign a contract to continue working at the school in which I had taught for the past two years.  I can honestly say that I hated my job.  And I never thought I would say that about any teaching job.  I struggled, to say the least.  However, over the summer, I fell in love with my job.  It was a combination of things, the perfect storm, if you will.  So I guess I did leave the job I hated, and I found one that I absolutely love.  Funny thing is, it’s the same job!
  • find your passion  Indeed!  Ask me a year ago, and I would have answered that teaching is my passion.  However, today I know that my passion is inspiring today’s youth to create their own future.
  • love with every ounce of your bones  Check.  God, my family, my friends…and finally, myself.
  • stand up for things that matter  Those of you dear Readers who read on a regular basis know that I tend to use my blog as a platform to stand up for things that matter to me.  I would like to believe that I am the voice for those who do cannot speak up for themselves.
  • don’t settle  Never settle for nothing but your best.  In years past, I continually lied to myself about this one.  I tried to convince myself that I was being the best Vickie that I could be.  Turns out, I was wrong and I wasn’t even fooling myself.  Now however, I can look myself in the mirror and tell myself that I am working my way back to being the best.
  • don’t apologize for who you are  On this one point, I have a caveat.  There will come a time in the near future in which I will have to apologize to certain people in my life for the person I used to be.  But for today, I do not have to apologize for who I am.
  • Be brave.  There is nothing so brave as being vulnerable and living a whole-hearted life.  I intend to do just that.

So dear Readers, I’ve taken stock.  Some good, some not so good.  I know I will never be a perfect human being.  However, I will spend the rest of my life striving to be the best Vickie I can be.  Peace, ~v.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

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.


1 Comment

The Role Models


It is unclear to me how I maintain a "Bully Free Classroom."

It is unclear to me how I maintain a “Bully Free Classroom.”

September 4, 2014

Dear Readers,

I sat down last night to write my latest blog post, wrote it, but couldn’t bring myself to publish it. Something just didn’t feel right. I saved the post and went to bed.

The post I wrote yesterday, but couldn’t seem to post, was about bullies and their bullying behavior. In all my years as a teacher, I have never had such a problem with bullies. Since the start of the school year, I have had more than my fair share of encounters.  It didn’t dawn on me that I was experiencing an unusually high volume of bullying in my classroom, until last week at parent/teacher conferences.

No less than five (5) of my students’ parents brought up the subject of bullying.  Each wanted to know what is being done about students being bullied, teased, threatened and mocked.  These parents conveyed to me that it was their son and/or daughter that were the victims, and had been for at least 2 years!  I was appalled, dear Readers.  I was unwilling to believe that this behavior had not been otherwise stymied by the administration and the faculty, at large.  I was unwilling to believe that, dear Readers, until today.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.  And the good people at my school were doing absolutely nothing about the bullying problem, at least as far as I could tell.  Thus, the evil has been allowed to triumph.  As a matter of fact, not only has the evil been allowed to triumph, it has been allowed to thrive.  How does that happen, dear Readers?  Evil is allowed to thrive when the people in charge, the people that lead the charge, the role models, they are themselves, the bullies! 

In the past 24 hours, I have been bullied by three of my fellow educators.  In the past 24 hours, I have been bullied by three of my fellow educators in front of my students.  Well, no wonder some of my students are such bullies; that is what the adults around them are modeling.  No me.  Each time I was confronted and the bullying commenced, I stood up for myself and said, “We can have this conversation away from the students.”  In which the bully replied, “Never mind,” yet kept on trying to intimidate me.  And I do know that it had an effect on my students, because inevitably after each incident, my students began teasing me for allowing another teacher to speak to me in such a way as to be bullied.  Sigh.

See my dilemma, dear Readers?  I cannot allow this behavior to continue, whether it be my students or the faculty.  And now it’s a race against the clock.  Now, dear Readers, time is of the essence.  I fear I must find a solution, quickly, because today, I stumbled upon one of my being bullied boys.  You know what he was doing?  Yes, that’s right, he was aggressively bullying another student.  (please pray for) Peace, ~v.


Leave a comment

The Bully Within


Although unclear, the poster reads, "Bully Free classroom".

Although unclear, the poster reads, “Bully Free classroom”.

August 20, 2014

bully – (n) a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.

Dear Readers,

I have known a bully or two in my lifetime. In fact, I have been bullied on more than one occasion. However, me, a bully…Never! Or so I thought.

Recently, I have witnessed more than my fair share of bullying in my classroom. I try and stop it when I can, but sometimes I don’t catch it. and it isn’t as if the bullying is overt or anything; nope, it’s very subtle.  Fortunately, my students are still at an age where they will still tell a teacher when someone is harassing them.  Unfortunately, those days are drawing to close as my students enter into their teenage years.

Today, I asked my students to write a summary of their 7th grade experience thus far.  When time was up, I asked if anyone wanted to share.  A few shared and I applauded their bravery to get up in front of their peers and express their thoughts.  And then one young lady raised her hand and said she wanted to share.  What she shared nearly broke my heart.

“I wanted to be popular in 7th grade, but I am fat and ugly.”

This is where I got on my high horse, dear Readers.  I explained to the class that telling anyone that they are fat and/or ugly is a form of bullying.  Of course this young lady was neither.  Yet, she very much believed that she was.  And as a show of solidarity, another young lady raised her hand and said she, too had been told the very same thing.

I was neither shocked nor surprised.  I too, had been told that I was fat and ugly when I was in 7th grade.  Of course I was not, but that did not stop me from believing it, just as I am sure that these two girls believed it.  No, I was not shocked nor surprised, I was incensed!  How dare someone call these girls something they are not!  I explained to the students that words do indeed hurt and more often than not, they stay with people longer than physical hurts.

I continued to go on and on about the subject, when I was suddenly taken down a peg or two.  I simply must remember, humility, Vickie, humility.

A young lady in the front row bravely raised her hand.  She was going to add to the discussion I thought.  Instead, she said, “Miss, that’s pretty funny that you’re telling us this because last week you called us stupid.”

(I’m just going to let that sit out there for a bit.)

Wow.  Did she really say that?  Ok dear Readers, although it is not out of the realm of possibilities, I cannot remember ever calling my students stupid.  I’m not denying it and I didn’t try to deny it to my students.  I apologized profusely and asked that they please forgive me.  I told them I would be more careful with my tongue in the future and I really, really did not believe that they were stupid.

I asked question after question trying to pinpoint exactly when I had said that.  However, I realized that my questions sounded more like I was trying to minimize what I had said, so I stopped.

This ugly little incident happened first thing this morning and I have spent the better part of the day trying to forgive myself.  Actually, I vacillate between trying to forgive myself and trying to believe that I really said such a thing.  My conclusion?  I do have a temper and I do say awful things when I get mad.  So, I have to believe I said it.  Now dear Readers, how do I go about forgiving myself?  Peace, ~v.


4 Comments

Appreciation Runs Deep


July 11, 2014

Dear Readers,

It is with the utmost humility that I write today’s post.  I began writing this morning about the keys to my inner peace, when I received an e-mail from a popular department store with which I had placed an order two weeks ago.  Long story short, my order had been sent back to them and blah, blah, blah.

“Seriously?” I thought to myself.  “What a bunch of idiots!”  Well, so much for my attempts at inner peace.  It wasn’t until I was about 40 minutes into my obsessive tracking of my order that I stopped and realized how far off-track my behavior was from where I want it to be.

In order to get where I am going, I can never forget where I came from.  And without the proper care and attention to my mental health, I face a very slippery slope.  For today, I am re-blogging a post from March 25, 2013.  It helps to keep in touch with some things in my past so that they do not end up in my future.

Dear Readers,

One year ago this week I had a nervous breakdown. To write this is no small task. To have lived through it was an even greater task. Fortunately, I am now a better person for having lived through it. And when I say I lived through it, it is with no exaggeration; there was a point when that just didn’t seem possible.

To be clear, I looked up the definition of a nervous breakdown on a reputable psychology website: a bout of mental illness that is so severe that it directly impacts the ability to function in everyday life. The mental illness can include, but is not limited to depression, anxiety and/or bipolar disorder. Well, dear readers, I hit the trifecta. I write about this not to garner sympathy, but to let others know that it is possible to have your whole life spin out of control and then regain your footing. I also write about this because I deserve an “Atta, girl!”

Imagine waking up in a hospital bed having absolutely no knowledge of how you arrived there. I was pretty sure I knew why I was there, I just didn’t know how I got there. After all this time, I’m still unclear about that. My memory of that day comes back in pieces. Suffice it to say, I was hospitalized for 5 days or so. When I was discharged, I still had a long row to hoe.

I divorced in 1997 and never remarried. I figure that my children needed me more than I needed a husband, so I put all of my energies into raising them. Although my husband was an absentee father, I had a tremendous amount of help raising my children. However, I was, and will continue to be a single parent. That is a tough gig, dear readers. I had put so much of myself into my children’s lives that when they were all grown and gone, the empty nest syndrome hit me severely. Thus, the depression.
My anxiety stemmed from the fact that, well, I was a single parent. That, and the fact that I had worked at a boys’ prison for the past 5 years culminated into an unbelievably high stress level. My job was, I suppose, no different than any other high stress job, so I am baffled as to why I suffered a breakdown while others do not. I saw it as a weakness. And truth be told, sometimes I still do. I mean, I am stronger than that. At least that is what I believe at times. Unstable, weak, unfit, loser, idiot, not allowed around my children were but a few things I was told as I was slipping into darkness. And these were family members. I’m not mad at them though. However, it will remain an eternal mystery as to why, when I needed my family the most, most of them found they didn’t need me. I guess that is the tough love we read about.

I struggled daily to just open my eyes and breathe. It was a chore. But life stops for no one, least of all those of us unwilling to work at grabbing ahold of the reins. It took some serious work to regain what I had lost. And certainly I did not do it alone. My mom, my sister and my brother-in-law were instrumental in my recovery. Their love and support never wavered. Other family members were key in helping me regain myself and others have bowed out of my life. I cannot change my past, but I can make amends to those I hurt. I must forgive others because there is much in which I need forgiveness. Although I believe that I could have done things differently, I do not believe that i could have stopped the train wreck I had become. However, I do and I did take full responsibility for my recovery. And baby, look at me now!

What a kind and merciful God we have. I am blessed and divinely favored. I praise God each and every day that I am where I am today. One year ago, no one, not me, not my mom, not my family, not even my therapist would have believed I would be where I am today. It is simply amazing that one year ago I was in the depths of solitude and now I am reaching new heights. God is good and I intend on living my life in praise of Him. To whom much is given, much is expected.  Peace, ~v.


Leave a comment

Thank You, Maya Angelou; I Am a Phenomenal Woman


May 29, 2014

Dear Readers,

I owe Maya Angelou a debt of gratitude, may she rest in peace.  I was 22 years old the first time I read Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman”.  And although I wasn’t one at the time, I just knew that one day, I would be a phenomenal woman.  Well, dear Readers, today is that day.

Phenomenal (adjective) very remarkable; extraordinary.

It takes a certain amount of confidence, not ego, to call oneself phenomenal, but I daresay that I have that confidence.  I have not always possessed such conviction, and quite frankly, it does come and go at times.  But by and large, I have self-assurance in myself and my abilities.  I know what I do well, and I know how to capitalize on it.

 

What makes me a phenomenal woman lies not in my looks or my dress size.  What makes me a phenomenal woman is in the way I carry myself, the way I present myself to the world.  I try and live my life so as to not hurt others.  And inevitably, when I do hurt someone, I seek forgiveness and try and make amends.  I acknowledge to myself, my children, my students, my siblings and the world, that I am sorry for my wrongdoings, that I am remorseful, and I am willing to do better in the future.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea, dear Readers.  I conduct myself in this manner for not altogether altruistic reasons.  I choose to behave this way because I choose to be happy.  Happiness is a choice.  I do not want to live a contented life.  I do not want to live a satisfactory life.  I do not want to live an adequate life.  I want to live a happy life; I choose to live a happy life.  And with 50 years of life to my credit, I realize that I am happiest when I forgive others and seek forgiveness for myself.

Another reason I am a phenomenal woman is because I have always had the courage to live a life true to myself, and not the life others have expected of me.  In my adult life, I have certainly made my share of bad decisions.  However, those bad decisions generally came as a result of my not being courageous enough to stand on my values.  One of the most courageous things I have had to do was based on the values I developed with regard to raising children.  I value a child’s curiosity.  I value a child’s need to question authority.  I value a child’s need to be informed, relative to their age and understanding.  And I value a child’s right to be an individual and have independent thoughts.  Trust me when I tell you, dear Readers, there were many days when I wanted to toss those values right out the window and yell, “Because I said so!” to one, or all of my children.  And perhaps I did on occasion.

However, in the end, I had to remain true to my convictions, my values.  I wanted to raise my children to be loving, caring, and forgiving.  I wanted to raise my children to respect and honor God, themselves, others and Mother Earth.  I also wanted to raise my children to question authority, respectfully, of course, and to never follow blindly; to raise them to be independent, contributing members of society.  And I believe I did.

“So,” you ask, “what was courageous about that?”  It was courageous because I knew that my children would develop their own courage to live their lives true to themselves, and not the life others (me, I) expected of them.  And I knew their courage would take them to places far away from home.  Subsequently, given how very much I love and miss my children, it took a phenomenal woman to raise them in such a manner as to let them go.

 

Thank you, Maya Angelou, you inspired me some thirty years ago.  Now, I too, am a phenomenal woman.  Peace, ~v.

*Excerpts from Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Women”.  See here for the poem in its entirety.


3 Comments

Dare Greatly


April 25, 2014

Dear Readers,

After countless hours of soul searching and prayer, I continue to believe that my purpose in life is to be a teacher.  It is through no small feat that I continue to believe this.  However, my decision to continue teaching really only came down to two pivotal thoughts:  a blog post and Brené Brown.

First, the blog post.  I published “Why Teachers of Color Don’t Quit” on December 27th of last year.  I poured everything I had into this post.  It was logical, well-reasoned, and of course, emotional.  It encapsulated why I teach; why I feel compelled to teach.  However, once completed, I had shoved it into the back of my mind the same way I shove my size 9 jeans into the back of my closet.  And just as I do with my size 9 jeans, I wistfully concluded that someday in the future, those ideals of mine would once again “fit” me.  Yesterday was that day.

Feeling guilty and a bit embarrassed, I re-read my blog post last night.  I was curious to see if the ideals I had so adamantly expressed in my writing still rang true.  In a word, yes.  However, not being one to take anything at face value, I remained unconvinced.  This is where  Brené Brown stepped in.

I was first introduced to Brené Brown:  The power of vulnerability through the saving grace of one of my angels.  A year and many lifetimes ago while in the Middle East, my daughter’s mother-in-law, SB-H, sent me a link to the website TED:  Ideas worth spreading.  To say that Brené Brown’s TED talk inspired me is to underscore the profound, “A-ha!” moment her words created within me.  Not only did I discover inspiration, but comfort as well.  You know, the kind of comfort you need when you are in “foreign lands” and you “know what it’s like to talk and have nobody understand,” as Brad Paisley would sing.

That inspiration and comfort kept me afloat while overseas, far, far away from family and friends.  I knew my life had meaning and that I was serving some higher purpose; it felt good, it felt right.  Then I came home and it was my size 9 jeans all over again.  Although this time, I was deeply troubled that my meaning and purpose would truly never “fit” me again.  I was afraid that my significance would no longer be anchored in teaching.  In fact, I have been convinced for the past few months that I would never teach again.  Last night, that all changed.  Last night my better angel could not be tempted from my side.

For the past two months, I have been willing myself to sleep through my earphones and classical music.  The anxiety I have generated with the almost belief that my effectiveness as a teacher had reached its end, has been unbearable.  And  although I have been reasonably certain that the soothing music has lulled me to sleep, I wake up feeling anxious and well, useless.  Last night was proving to follow the same pattern, that is, until my list of classical songs had ended and my downloaded videos began to play.  And I began to listen.

I have heard Ms. Brown discuss Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” speech before, I just have never applied it to anything in my life.  Well, it is all about my life.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

I am the man in the arena.  I strive valiantly and I come up short again and again.  And that has been my focus.  It has been the wrong focus.  I strive to do what I know to be a worthy cause and I do it with much enthusiasm.  In the end, I will have known the “triumph of high achievement” and I will know that I have failed.  But at least I will have failed while daring greatly.

I am a teacher and I dare greatly.  Peace, ~v.