Lessons and reminders, about gratitude.

On Wednesday, August 14, I formally began my 19th year as an educator. That first day back with students is always one of mixed emotions. I have always believed that the best part of my job is my students. I have also always known that my strength as an educator comes in the ability that I have to connect to and create relationships with the young people that I spend my days with.

Being a new face to my school last year, I learned that unlike in previous years, there was a larger learning curve…my students were slow to trust, slow to let me in, slow to accept me. I never struggled in those small ways the way I did last year. Honestly, it was my birthday last year, late November, that I really felt that most of my students saw me as a person, a human, more than just another face in the revolving door of “teachers” in their lives. The way my students showed me love and appreciation on my birthday was absolutely overwhelming.

When I graduated the class of 2019, it was amid lots of tears for me. I love those humans. They loved me and laughed with me, and in ways were my absolute survival in my great Houston adventure. The ways we each risked and grew with each other, the ways we trusted and tested, and came thru to the other side.

 

 

 

So, when Wednesday rolled around, I was apprehensive about how I was going to fit with the Class of 2020. There were so many times I stepped into the hall on Wednesday and looked at the faces, hoping to see familiar ones, to hear the calls of “Miss” in familiar voices. And as Wednesday moved along, in a blur of names and faces, and who am I’s and why I teach on repeat…I just kept telling myself that I would be okay.

Then Thursday came, and felt like a teacher win. Almost all of my students, in each section, had completed their homework from Wednesday. We engaged in amazing conversations about WHY we needed to study this tough subject, what their investment could be, and my own vulnerability of admitting to these amazing black and brown humans that I recognize my privilege and will do what I can to be their ally in this fight for social justice.

As Thursday ended, one of my new seniors asked to talk to me, and admitted to me they had taken a picture of me during class. Their impetus in catching the moment…they had never seen their classmates so engaged in a class, in listening so intently to a teacher…and they wanted me to know how it had impacted them. E7A39BC6-C097-4F0A-9E8B-B7CD70F38BCCAnd I can’t even express…that moment, my heart swelled…and my eyes filled. To hear that, just 24 hours into this new year..my joy. My passion. My heart. Is evident to these students.

The icing on the cake was the two iced teas, and pancakes from McDonalds that started my day on Friday, along with several notes from my new seniors that included me in their things I should know about them. Some days, you got it…and I’m starting year 19 with a happy heart, full of love and joy.

 

As a side note…I am incredibly grateful for the heart full of love and the visits that I got from my 2019 seniors in the last few days. Their messages, phone calls, visits…all potent and powerful reminders of what it means to be so loved.

 

I am forever grateful. Here’s to making 19 the best year yet. Teach on…

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Strawberry Ice Cream, Joy and Gratitude.

Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.

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July 15 is the day that my momma was born. It is a day that I always struggle with how to mark it, how to acknowledge the fact that her feet walked the earth, that her presence was felt, that she was here.

For so many years, I marked it in silence, often with tears, until I once shared, so many summers ago, that strawberry ice cream was her favorite. And into my July 15, the tradition of strawberry ice cream was born.

I got to spend the last four days doing things I love…running, drinking beer, adventuring, and laughing…with two people I love, so much, Lynnie and Emily. In between beers, showers, smiles, miles and discoveries…we talked, laughed, and sat comfortably in each other’s presence, while at the same time, knowing that eventually we would all go back to our “real” lives…those lives that don’t include flights of beers in brand new breweries, or vacation brunch, but most specifically each other’s physical presence.

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But, we are present in each other’s lives…just like my momma is present in my life, thru the sharp of my chin, and the slope of my profile, thru the heavy reality of grief and loss…the real of these women is no less present in my daily life.

Just like the steps that we took on our adventure, and trust me, there were a whole bunch of them…these women have left footprints in my life, and in my heart. In the 18 plus years of loving these women, I have learned so much about life, about growth, about change, about possibility, about love…

I will never be a mother, but I get to understand so many things about a mother’s love and life by being a witness to the relationship of my friends, Lynne and Emily. As I watch them relate to each other, love, accept, celebrate, and even at times, roll their eyes…I get a deeper and better understanding both of what it means to love as a mother, and to be loved as a daughter.

I miss my mom. I miss the opportunities that I will never experience with her, the missed shared adventures and stories, the what abouts and what ifs, the places I’ll never know she walked, the sips of beer or scoops of strawberry ice cream, the things that brought her joy the way street art brings me joy, so many things… But, in the spaces that my feet touch, in the joys and sorrows that I feel, in the miles that I run, and the hugs I receive, I carry her.

And, on Sunday, as I shared strawberry ice cream after a wonderful adventure, the life of my mom was acknowledged and celebrated with people that I love so much. And I am forever grateful to know that these women love me, and with me, celebrate the life of my mom.

Thank you, Lynne and Emily, for being women in my life, and for leaving footprints…in so many ways.

Happy Birthday, Momma.

Gratitude or apprehension, to be female…and to be brave.

I am a statistic. I am one of the 11 women of 1000 who have made the choice to have an abortion in my lifetime, between the ages of 20 and 44.

I was not a victim of rape, nor pregnant because of incest. I was pregnant. I was employed. I was in a relationship. And I was not prepared to be a mother. I had decided long before I found myself at those crossroads that I was not going to be a parent. I was going to love hard the children of others. But I would never have my own.

And it was from this place, I laid in bed, barely breathing, with tears streaming down my silent face. How could I even think about being a mother? I didn’t want to be a mother. I didn’t even want to think about trying to love a child that I didn’t want to parent.

I consulted my partner. He informed me that he would support me in whatever choice I made. I spent three days in bed, trying hard to feel as if there was a flicker in my heart. To feel something other than anguish. I tried to envision myself in one year. Five years. 10 years. And I could not see beyond the abyss of dark…it was deep. And I could not see light at the bottom.

When I was 16, out of control, a wound of pain so real and raw that I was trying to fill it with alcohol, self harm, and sex, someone close to me attempted to “scare me” straight. Standing in eye sight of my mother’s childhood home, this family member said to me…”you know your mom gave a baby up for adoption when she was only a little older than you?”

I think she was more surprised when I said yes, that I did know, then had I pretended to be surprised. My mother had told me, when I was 14 and on the edge of teenage rebellion, sharing but a few brief details. She was pregnant. Her family decided it would be best to send her away, out of state, to stay with relatives until she gave birth. After she gave the baby away thru an arrangement, she could come back home. It was 1966.

Prior to knowing that, I never truly grasped the grief my mother lived with. The loss. The trauma. All the indignities that she suffered. A survivor of the tragic accident that killed her parents, a victim of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of an uncle, and eventually her very own scarlet letter…to be sent away in shame, then forced to give up a child that her body had nurtured and carried.

So much of her loss and grief made sense to me in those days as I grappled with my decision. Was I doing what was right for me? Was I attempting to make my brain think something that my heart wouldn’t buy?

After 11 days, at 8 weeks pregnant, I received excellent care in the abortion from the professionals at Planned Parenthood Montana. I went home that afternoon. Laid in bed. And cried.

My tears were for my mom. For me. For my partner. In relief. That I had the ability to make the choice. And that in the process, I never once doubted what I knew in my heart. I was making the right choice for me.

I am a statistic. I am a woman who had legal, safe access to a medical procedure that is particular to women and some transgendered members of our world. But in my choice, I am still more than a statistic. I am a lover, a fighter, a runner, a teacher, an adventurer, and I am not ashamed of who I am. I am good at many things, terrible at others, but I am me. And I am a reflection of my choices.

And, because I could choose, I will fight to protect that choice for every person.

 

The more things change…

The more things change…the more they stay the same. 365 days ago, I missed a plane.  It was a whirlwind 48 hours, and I was sitting at Intercontinental airport in Houston, knowing I was about to dive head first into unknown waters. I was alternating phone calls and texts between some of the most special people in my life, letting them know I had been offered a job, teaching in Houston.

 

 

 

That morning, one year ago, I woke up, ran in the sunshine, smelled flowers, and then spent a day experiencing a whole different world. I met an amazing group of young people that day, Anosacha, Albert, Michael, and Jazmin. I took a walk around the school with a kind young man named Stephen. Sat in a classroom and watched a passionate, skilled educator with a name I couldn’t pronounce speak to young brown and black students about Cesar Chavez, and knew it would be awesome to have a colleague in that educator. I answered questions, asked questions, saw so many faces unfamiliar. And at the end of the day, when I left to head to the airport, I simply hoped that what was meant to be would be.

Missing the plane is not how I roll. But, I had misread my boarding pass…and was so caught in the moment…that I didn’t realize that plane was departing when I was sure it was boarding. And my heart was full of anxiety and joy, and anticipation at the possibility that I was finally going to do it…I was going to move out of my beloved 406. I was going to trade snow for sun. I was going to quit a job I loved for 6 years for a place I knew less than 8 hours of.

One year has blinked by. Stephen is a junior, and always hugs me when his schedule brings him to my building. Every school day, I hug my Bert, the earnest Albert of a year ago. He makes me laugh and tells me he loves me often, which warms my whole heart. Jazmin, gives me a look with her brown eyes, and makes me want to laugh when she says, “huh?” Michael of a year ago is my MJ, some days I want to kick his ass into gear, but his cool factor and his timing help us both. And Anosacha…the girl who calls me queen, makes brownies that I can’t even describe, and has taught me so much in the last 8 months, she is going to change the world.

I have made an amazing friend in the teacher who’s name I couldn’t pronounce, he calls me Peep, I call him Ninja, and we share deep conversations over music, the world and the state of education, as well as sports and travel.

 

And then there are the things that haven’t changed…one year into this adventure I am still running. I have ran all over Houston. I still love the Heels, MC was worried I would be come a Cougar (silly girl). And I have the most amazing friends.

My life is better because I have my Peep. She has loved me and supported my adventures, hugged me so many times, fixed me dinner and sat in the sun with me. She is my Houston home base. A person who keeps my heart safe, and checks in on me when I’m not home yet. I couldn’t have made it 365 without her. (And my little Peep, who makes me laugh and brings me joy but can keep her lettuce smoothie…)

My friends, my YaYas, the people in my life who loved me then, love me still. They remind me in big and small ways. Messages and phone calls, FaceTimes and group texts help make distance seem not so far. I’ve even had hugs from home, which are the best, getting to see and hug people who know and love me still is something I will never undervalue again.

 

I still can’t sit still , taking every opportunity I can find to wander. Mardi Gras with my soul friend Tap was a highlight. I am still always up for beer on patios…I just get so many more opportunities living where the wait for “spring” and warm weather is sometimes just as long as it takes for the sun to cycle.

I am still me. I am not a different Amy. I love. And smile. And appreciate the sun. I am happy. I am dreaming of summer, and working hard to hold some seniors together until graduation. I am so grateful and thankful, perhaps more now than ever. I am so thankful for all the love and kindness given to me by the people that loved me once, and loved me still. And to the people that I have met along this adventure, it can’t go without saying, thank you too.

One year in, and I am no less grateful for my life, for the love, and for the sunshine.

Be well in your heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grateful for my brave song…

“….oohh, swing me, way down south, sing me, something brave from your mouth…”

It has been awhile…far too long for all the things that have bumped around in my brain. I was most certainly not avoiding writing. I just didn’t slow down enough to put pen to paper. Or fingers to keys…but, here I am, and it’s time for a little writing.

The last six months have been, quite honestly, a gamut of every emotion possible. I knew when I pulled away from my Lynnie’s house in The 406, that things were changing. And I was excited. And a little scared. But…it was time. I was singing a brave song.

Moving away from Montana has been both a brave song and a grand adventure, dotted with periods of lovely, lonely and mundane. And here I find myself thinking of all the ways in which I have lived and thrived on this new adventure.

I have always known that the hardest part about being a grown up is that sometimes you have to make tough choices. I know that I made a tough choice in moving. I left behind a job that I loved with my whole heart. I left behind my home in so many places dotted across the 406. And I left my friends.

I always have known, though not perfectly expressed, how incredibly lucky I have been to have the most amazing friends. And that has certainly not changed. I miss them. I miss them with an ache that comes from deep, deep in my belly. But, I know the only reason I have been able to sing this brave song, to take this step, to swim in this unknown water is because I know no matter what, I have my friends. I cherish the phone calls, the letters, the unexpected cards and packages…all of it is the reminder that I need. I am not alone. And for that, I am so lucky, blessed and grateful.

In the months since I landed deep in the heart of Houston…I have made new friends, swam in the gulf, drank delicious beer, been kissed by the sun, celebrated a birthday, ran in all kinds of places, smiled, cried, sweated, blossomed, been kissed, and kissed right back, and above all, I have lived. I am living the brave adventure. Sometimes it looks like working out at the gym I found with an outdoor and an indoor swimming pool!! Sometimes it looks like being blissfully surrounded by strangers that don’t speak my language. It’s trying new foods, going on dates, running in places that have become my favorite weekend long run routes. I am drinking of life here. And I am thirsty for more.

In the last three years, I have been trying hard to be consciously aware that being happy is a choice. I know that there have been days, like the day my Gram Theo left the world, or the day when I just really needed a hug from home, that I have had to work harder than others to find the happy. But it’s there. It is inside of me. No matter what, it is in me. True joy.

I know that there will still be days, where it will be tough, days I will struggle…I am most certainly, truly, and first a very flawed human. But, I am choosing joy. I am choosing brave. I am choosing happy. And I am choosing grateful.

“….and I’ll bring you pearls of water on my hips and the love in my lips, all the love from my lips…”

Grateful to be so loved…

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There are no words for how loved I am. I know how blessed and how fortunate I am. I can’t imagine my life without the love I have had from so many people over my 43 plus years.

My whole life with my momma was all about love without conditions. In my house, my mom always made it very clear, she wouldn’t always like the decisions that we made, nor the choices we made, maybe not even the friends we chose to spend time with, but in spite of that, we would never doubt we were loved. I know I pushed, and pushed, and pushed my mom on love without conditions. I was sassy, and a bit of a brat, (okay, maybe I was a big brat) and had a mouth on me that often got me in trouble. But, it didn’t matter…I never doubted I had her love. I could push her because I knew she loved me. And maybe, the biggest gift I received from my mom was the lesson of loving unconditionally.

I don’t always like the choices of people around me. I don’t always agree with thoughts and decisions. But, we are bound to love one another. I love my friends. I love my nieces. I love my students. I love the people in my life who were there and have gone, and the people I may not see everyday, but who I know are a part of the roadmap of my heart.

As I set off on this adventure, and I take a plunge that I have been thinking about for a really long time, I know I will go with love. I do not doubt that the faces and hearts of the people I am saying goodbye to will love me still, no matter where I lay my head. I know I will love them in return, because that is what I do. I love. Like my momma, I don’t always like the choices that people in my life make; and I know the same, they may not like the choices I make, but I do know I am loved.

In just a few days, I will set off on a grand adventure. I will swim and wander, adventure and falter. I will bump into obstacles, and I will have days when I will ache for the hugs and smiles of the loved ones that are staying home in the 406…but, I will absolutely know I am loved.

To all my loved ones, thank you so much for loving me enough to remind me that no matter where I roam, I always have a home in the hearts of people who accept my sass, my brat, my mouth…and mostly, my heart.

Here we go….

 

Letting the Mermaid swim…

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain32072592_10157338865367678_2730968248085381120_n

Water has always, and continues to be, my solace…the soothe to my sore, the pull and draw of the massive power and the beauty within. I don’t remember the first time that I thought to myself, surely, I must be a mermaid…but, she is always in me, beneath my surface…waiting to return to the water. And, so, I am going to take the plunge, and let my inner mermaid out. It’s time to let her swim.

I don’t remember when I learned to swim, but I know the summer my parents’ moved my brother and I to Colstrip, Montana, the only relief I found in the move was at the city swimming pool. I remember riding my bike over, through the tunnels of the path until we would park at the pool, and wait anxiously for the gate to open, and for the cranky teenage lifeguards to take our money and let us plunge into the cool, blue water.

Hours. I spent hours perfecting my underwater breathing so I could let go of the lonely, sad girl that didn’t want to live in Colstrip, was missing her friends, and couldn’t understand why everyone lived in a trailer court. Under the water, I would see the bodies of the other swimmers, some on tiptoes, others swimming with their noses plugged, some not daring to go too deep, but all in some ways so alike but so different than me. The need and love for the muffled sounds under water were soothing to my soul, like a salve to my wounded heart.

I have been so blessed for my life to belong, to have a home, to be loved by so many. And, up until know, that home has been all in about a 200 mile radius. Living and working in Montana has been all I have known, and finally, I have realized something has been missing. I want more. I want change, I want new horizons, and I want to live where the water kisses the coast, and the mermaid can swim.

I am hanging up my snowboots for sandals. Trading the neverending winters for endless summers. Leaving the mountains in the rear view for the coast. And, diving into the great unknown. Over the last few years, I have worked so hard to be a better version of myself, and that isn’t going to change. I am going to love, to live, to wander, to adventure, to learn, to explore, to teach, to connect, to read, to run, to stop and take a look around…and I am going to do it with a brave, embracing heart.

The last few weeks have been tough, and I know that there are going to be some tough days ahead. I am leaving a place I love. I am leaving a job that I love, and am very good at. So many hearts that I love with such incredible depth are within the borders of the 406. And, I am not going to love them less. I will appreciate the hugs, the conversations, the facetimes and messages, and the planned encounters and reunions even more.

I am excited. And I am ready. I am going to embark on the next chapter, and let my mermaid swim. And, no matter what, I know that I have a home in the love and hearts and homes of the people that I am going to hug harder as I prepare to go swim…

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