My Ode to Collington

“It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I’ve gone and come back, I’ll find it at home.” ~Rumi

I was only at Collington Square Elementary for two weeks before contacting the local teacher union about transferring to a different school.  This wasn’t what I signed up for, I constantly told myself.  I had completed my student teaching at a technology magnet school in the “county”.  My first few years of teaching were spent at a well-to-do private school on an island in South Carolina.  My teacher education, while at a nationally renowned teaching university, had not prepared me for any of this; for the public schools of East Baltimore.

As I drove up the streets to the school for my teaching interview, the boarded up buildings should have been my first clue that I was completely out of my comfort zone; that I was completely out of my element.   My second clue should have come from the fact that I was hired immediately after a 1o minute interview.  At the time I thought it was because I was “that good”.  Now I know it was most likely because they were desperate.

I knew this would be a challenge, but I didn’t care.  I was an idealistic sociology and education major and I was ready to change the world.  I’ve always liked a good challenge and I was ready to embrace this one with open arms.

We heard teachers talk at the new teacher institute about things that were happening at Collington.  They talked about fights, disrespectful students, children who didn’t have shoes, incarcerated parents, an uncaring and absent administration.  I still thought I could handle this.

But on the first day, I realized how wrong I was.  I grew up poor, but this was POOR, in all capital letters.  I wanted nothing more than to run out of the building and never look back.  I wanted to find a cushy job in a place where I didn’t always have to feel like an outsider.  Those of us that were new banded together like a club, while those that were “seasoned” merely put up with us expecting that many of us would not last.  I was in way over my head.  I was promised support.  I was promised supplies.  I was promised a safe environment.  And while the school may have failed to provide me with any of these things, I was provided with so much more.

I have gained a kind of confidence that can only come from being in the trenches of a war.  True, my classroom is made up of the tiny friends of the school and we don’t have the same struggles the older classes have, but we do have our own.  I’ve learned how to solve my own problems and know full well that no one is going to solve them for me.  I’ve learned how to make something out of nothing.  I’ve learned how to scour back to school ads for the best deals in supplies, because I’m the one who provides them for all 25 of my students throughout the year.  I’ve learned how to negotiate for so many things.  I’ve learned how to ask for what I want, even though I know I won’t get it.  I now know how to not feel so intimidated, or at least how to hide it.  I’ve lost the feeling that I always had, the feeling that I needed everyone to like me all the time.  That’s not my job.  My job is to teach, inspire, encourage, create, and mold…and at Collington, I’ve learned that I’m damn good at it.

Every year I have the choice to leave and every year I make the choice to stay. I tell myself that it’s because I’m too tired or too lazy to find another job.  And maybe that’s part of it.  But really, I think I WANT to stay.  Because at the end of the day, Collington is home and the people I work with are my family.  Whether it’s the cousin I only see at random family gatherings or the sister I spend most of my days with, we are all a part of each other’s lives whether we want to be or not.

For the most part, we have each other’s backs and no mater what, we are always going to do our best to make each other shine.  We have to.  Because when it comes down to it, all we have is each other.  It’s time to embrace that, to hold hand, walk forward, and do what we can to create the change we want need to see.

In the five years I’ve been at Collington the school hasn’t changed.  We still have the parent issues, and student issues, and administration issues.  The school hasn’t changed, but I have.  And I’m ready to put that change to good use next year.

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The Forgotten Thank You

“We met for a reason.  You’re either a blessing or a lesson.” ~Frank Ocean

There are very few things we do without the help of others.  Many times there’s the “overt help”, the help you can see and understand, the type of help that never masks itself as anything other than help.  It’s help simplified or help understood.  We can take it at face value for what it is.

Then there’s the other kind of help.  The help that swoops in wearing a mask.  The help that may take days, or weeks, or even years to show itself.  The help that you are fairly certain is actually not help at all.

This help comes in so many forms: toxic friendships, heart break, depression, fear.  At first, these things are a negative force in our life, ripping us apart from the inside out, tearing us down so much that we believe we may never be able to build ourself up again.  We believe there is no way for us to ever be whole.

But you know what I’ve learned? This is sometimes the best kind of help.  While it may change our lives drastically, many times we come out the other side a little worse for the wear, but seemingly better overall. This is the kind of help that forces us to make decisions, make changes, face our demons.  This is the kind of help that not only changes who we are, but makes us who we are.

Usually we vilify those people who change our lives in this way.  We feel that that they’ve taken some essential part from us and we yearn to get it back, to make ourselves who we once were.  But for me, at least today, I want to say thank you.

Thank you to the toxic friends, without whomI never would have discovered some of the truly amazing people in my life.

Thank you to the those who have caused substantial heartbreak, without which I never would have found running.

Thank you to the depression that has overtaken me on numerous occasions, without which I never would have known how wonderful simple joys can be.

It’s time to put the past behind me and move forward, embracing everything that’s gotten me where I am today, both positive and negative.

I finally think I’m ready.

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And so we begin

“I dare you to train for a marathon, and not have it change your life.”  ~Susan Sidoriak

Tomorrow’s the day. The day I take a breath. The day I move on. The day I continue moving forward. The day I put the past behind me.  The day I emerge from the ashes that is my mistakes.  The day I work for what I want. The day I make my plans a reality.

Tomorrow’s the day I begin training for the TCS New York City Marathon.  It’s going to be hard.  It’s going to be rough, on both me and the ones closest to me. It’s going to be life changing and that’s what I’m counting on.

I’m excited and petrified.  I’m ready and not ready. I’m worried and surprisingly calm.  I’m all this and more.  I’m a myriad of emotions I don’t even have words for.

Tomorrow’s the day…the day I become who I was meant to become.

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Just a Mile

“If you don’t take the chance to live life, what can you say at the end of it?” ~Naveen Andrews

Two years ago I went through something profound.  My world was complacent and in one day everything became something else.  It was almost as if I put my life into a blender and hit the switch on high.  My world became mixed, tangled, and unrecognizable.  And then the bottom fell out.  I couldn’t breathe.  I lost myself and I had absolutely no hope of salvation.

Then, for no apparent reason, at 7:00 at night, on a random Sunday in September, I decided to go for a run.  I was tired.  I needed to give the kids a bath.  The housework had piled up beyond belief.  But it didn’t matter.  At that moment I had to go running.  I put up my hair, threw on my shoes and headed out the door.  It was slow, it was messy, it could hardly even be classified as a run.

But that run saved my life.  I was able to crawl through the wreckage that was my summer and come out the other side breathing.  I kept running and eventually I was able to run a mile without stopping and that became the marker on which I base my life.

When I would fall off the running wagon, I would continually test myself by running a mile.  When I would fall into a deep depression, I would test myself by running a mile (when I finally emerged). When I drank a little too much wine the night before I would test myself by running a mile.  During my pregnancy I would continually test myself by running a mile.  And now, 4 weeks after having my baby, I tested myself by running a mile…and I was still able to do it.  I would tell myself if I could still run a mile all hope was not lost.  If I could still run a mile there was a chance…of something, anything.

These days, after finishing numerous 5 ks, a 10k , and a half marathon a mile might seem pretty insignificant.  Sometimes on my rest days I head out to run “just a mile”.  But in reality, to me, it was never “just a mile”.  It was so much more.  It was something I wanted for so long and I made a plan, put in the effort, and on the other side came out successful.  It was an accomplishment and it set the tone for the rest of my life.  It was something that could never be lost or taken for me.  It was my mile and I owned it.

Running a mile showed me that what I wanted was important.  Running a mile showed me what I wanted was possible.

It was never “just a mile”.  It was my life.  And with that mile I had saved it.

From Where I Sit.

“Your life is your message to the world.  Make sure it’s inspiring.”

I sometimes forget people are watching.  I sometimes get so wrapped up in myself that I forget there are other people in the world.  Not only do I forget that I’m being watched, but I forget that people in my life are watching me critically, with eyes open wide to take it all in.  The things I do on an everyday basis are being scooped up by the people, both big and small, and I’m making lasting impressions.

This morning I came downstairs in my ratty running clothes.   The beauty of being on maternity leave is that I don’t ever really have to look nice, especially if I’m not going anywhere during the day. But after I got the kids some breakfast and settled with a short (educational, I promise!) show I walked over the the bookshelf and grabbed my headphones.

“Oh!  Are you going for your run, mom?”

It hit me, just from that one little sentence, how many things in our life just get NOTICED.  Just from that sentence I learned that my 4 year old notices my running and he realizes that it’s a habit (grabbing headphones  = running).  In his own way I think he also realizes how important it is to me (your run).

I was thinking about this as I left the house and started on my way.  A few houses down I saw a neighbor walking his dog.  He’s the kind of neighbor that we’ve said say hi in passing, but we’ve never really spoken.  As I passed him he says. “I was wondering when you were going to get back to running!  I had noticed you stopped and didn’t know why until I saw you out with the baby the other day.  It’s great that you’re getting back to it.  I used to enjoy watching you pass.  You were doing a great job.”

While my son noticed every time I was headed out for a run, other people who I had no real connection to were also noticing when I wasn’t running.  Impressions are made in the big moments, but also in the small moments too.  It can be in the grabbing of head phones, the handing handing of a book, a quick hello or nod as you pass by.

And with these little moments I begin to realize that maybe others are noticing me too.  As much as I look to others for inspiration, I hope that I am inspiring others as well.  I hope that my son who sees how much my runs mean to me finds something in his life that gives him that much joy and pleasure.  I know I don’t look like a “typical” runner, but I hope that inspires those that are too scared to run because of fear of judgement.   I hope that I can show others that if I can do it, they can do it.

It’s not necessarily about running, but really just getting out there and doing that thing you’re scared to do.  Fear of doing something is usually manifested simply by fear of judgment from others.  I was always scared that people would judge me as a runner simply because I was slow or didn’t look the part.  But If I never would have gotten out there, I wouldn’t be where I am now…completely in love with this “thing”.  It’s made me push myself and challenge myself in ways I never thought I could.

I hope that people look at me and my journey and realize there’s nothing to fear except fear.  That sometimes you have to jump.  That if you’re willing to take the leap of faith when everything tells you you shouldn’t you might just find something amazing.  You might just find yourself.

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Tomorrow is a good day.

Some days are for living. Others are for getting through.

I had a whole post written.  I was about to hit publish.  And then I deleted it all.

This morning I woke up from a bad dream and my day got worse from there.

I stressed.  I cried.  I yelled.  I threw a fit.

I wish I could keep myself together better when I get like this.  I get so worked up when I can’t have control over every situation.  When I can’t solve problems that pop up in my life, I seem to lose it.

Today I wasn’t the best mom.  I was a bad wife.  I was a bad me.

Tomorrow I need to do better.

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Serious is as serious does

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” ~Jackie Robinson

Crackers.  That’s what my life’s been about these days.  Ritz crackers.

I don’t know why, but I have become obsessed with them.  I’ll even buy them when they’re not on sale, which for me is a very big deal.  They’re buttery.  They’re salty.  Like the little black dress, they go with everything.  They also have almost a gram of fat per cracker…and let’s not even get into the ingredients.  Yet lately, I can’t stop eating them.

It’s not for lack of healthy food.  I have hummus and veggies and fruit (oh my!).  It’s simply lack of desire.  Frankly, it feels like a case of the “W’s”.  Why bother?  Who cares?  What does it matter?  Where am I actually going? When am I going to get myself together?

The truth of the matter is that I haven’t been taking myself seriously.  I’ve just been eating and lazing about.  Sure, I just had a baby a few weeks ago and most people seem to think I should just be laying in bed, holding my baby, and eating chips.  But that’s not me.  At least, it’s not anymore. Two ago it was.  Post Oliver and Maxwell it was.  But it’s not now and I know that I can’t go back to that.

While I think my cracker habit is innocuous, the wine and chocolate habit certainly isn’t and the scale is reminding me of that every Friday morning as I step on.  Before, when the numbers went up, I could always just tell myself I was building muscle so it was ok.  At that time, though, I was also running 25 miles awake so that was probably true.  Not so much right now.

I signed up for 6 races while I was pregnant, hinging on the fact that having a goal or end point was going to make me jump right back  after having the baby.  With one of these being the New York City TCS Marathon I need to start taking the idea of running them seriously.

I feel like I fluctuate between “hell yes” and “hell no” whenever I think about actually completing the marathon.   Moment of gut-wrenching truth? I have this feeling like I KNOW I am going to chicken out which is why I’m not training like I should.

I’m not taking this seriously and I’m not taking myself seriously.  That is a problem.  I still have trouble identifying myself as a “runner”, even more so now since I really can’t run again yet.  I still get hung up on the fact that other people might not see me as a runner.  I somehow automatically assume that everyone is judging me and the real reason is because I can’t stop judging myself.

I need to hold myself more accountable.  I need to take myself seriously…even if other people don’t.

Because screw them.

I’m running the freaking New York City Marathon.  And it’s going to be awesome.

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