Category Archives: Monday Meditations

Monday Meditation: Tough times

Well, it’s been one helluva week.  I got seriously sick and missed lots of school.  During my convalescence, the grading piled up, in its horrible and insidious way, meaning I’m now behind on a few writing deadlines.  Both boys have nasal discharge of varying colors, and one of them now has pinkeye.  And yesterday, I started feeling icky again, and I am just crossing my fingers and praying that it’s not a relapse, because if I have to write anymore sub plans I will go postal.

Hey, everybody: Pity Party at Ginny’s house!

Sometimes I think I am an emotional wuss of the first order.  Things like this — the sickness, the resultant reworking of our already fragile schedule of childcare, the pitching of my carefully-laid plans — can really get me in a funk.  I don’t like that.  I should be stronger.  And sometimes, I am.  I’ve gone through experiences in my life that were excruciating, physically and emotionally, and I’ve weathered those storms with my little boat of sanity still afloat.  But somehow, the minor annoyances can add up and really drag me down.

This is when it’s helpful to recall a quotation on the wall of my classroom.  It says, “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” That’s useful to remember in this time of family pestilence.  I just need to be tougher than the cough, the virus, the pinkeye.   As my grandma used to say, this too shall pass.

And boy, if I need a reality check, there is nothing like the photos of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami to make me call off the pity party.  It’s hard even for a native Californian to fathom a quake that big, and destruction that total.   It makes me want to cry for those people who have lost everything they owned, who have lost people they love.  As the first real week of Lent starts, I’m going to keep them in my prayers in a very major way.  I’ll pray for them to be tough and strong — stronger than the moving plates, stronger than the waves.   It’s the least I can do, but I think it must count for something.

Our Lady of Japan courtesy of Holy Cards for Your Inspiration.

Monday Meditation: Hug a teacher

This is not the easiest time to be a teacher.   It’s probably never been an easy profession, honestly, but I look at what is going on in Wisconsin and other places these days and I … well, I won’t go there.   Suffice to say that teachers often end up bearing the brunt of our country’s frustration about the problems of our society.  I’m not entirely sure why that is.  Maybe it’s an implicit recognition of the importance of our job.  Perhaps it’s flattering to think that we teachers have so much power that we can singlehandedly save our students from all the things that threaten their well-being, whether it’s media overexposure, poverty, or problems in our students’ homes.  It’s flattering but not particularly realistic.  Truth is, we teachers do what we can with the time and resources we have.  The sad thing is that both often end up being inadequate to accomplish everything we’d like to accomplish.

On a personal level, it’s funny to think that I’ve been teaching high school as long as some of my students have been alive.  That’s pretty eye-opening.  And here’s an interesting fact about teaching: I am a much better teacher now than I was when I started.  No, I’m not in any way perfect. Yes,  I have much less youthful energy than when I started, along with many  more demands on my evenings and weekends (having children will do that, oddly enough).   But all the same, I have a much bigger toolbox than I did way back when.  If a difficult situation comes up in the classroom, odds are good that I’ve encountered it before.  I’ve also learned what all teachers eventually discover, which is that you need to alter your persona subtly depending on which class of kids you are teaching: one period may require you to be ever-so-slightly authoritarian, another period may be able to handle the driest of your dry humor, another period may require you to bring out your “mom-voice,” another period might make you feel more like a wise older sister than anything else.   It’s tricky, but it’s what we do.  And yet, in a wacky paradox,  those personas only work if you are still truly yourself underneath it all.

So I guess what I really want to say is that we teachers do an exhausting, highly complex task day after day.  We don’t get big financial rewards.  (We do get a nice summer vacation but, as one of my former colleagues once said, that’s not vacation — it’s comp time.)  And sometimes we get to witness the extent of our students’ progress, and sometimes we don’t.  When you teach English as I do, you don’t get to see the student who, at the age of twenty-five, re-reads The Grapes of Wrath and suddenly remembers a discussion from your English class and realizes, for the first time, that the book actually does have a lot to say to him.  As Jacques Barzun wrote,  “In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.” That’s often frustrating, but it’s the nature of the beast.

So if you have read this far, and if you know a teacher, hug him or her.  (If she’s your son’s severely-dressed biology teacher and  you don’t feel comfortable with a  bearhug, a little card at the end of the year is nice.)  Believe me: we appreciate knowing that people value us.

And the truest thing I can say about teaching is this: like parenting, it’s not always easy, and it’s not always fun.  But just like parenting, it is something that you always know, deep in your gut, is worth doing.

Monday Meditation: The luckiest place to be

This is a tough time.  A very dear friend of ours has cancer, and she’s just about the last person on earth who should be going through this.  For one thing, she already had cancer, about thirteen years ago.  For another thing, she’s someone with a huge heart and a totally generous spirit, the kind of person who gives human beings a good name.   Some things are simply not fair, period.

Years ago, when I talked to her about her experiences with cancer the first time, she mentioned that she felt so loved knowing that so many people were praying for her.  She attributed her healing in large part to that vast network of spiritual support.  “The luckiest place you can be is in the middle of all that prayer,” she said.

I wish more than anything that I, or someone, could just wave a magic wand and make that cancer disappear.  But even though I can’t do that, I can still pray.  I can do my part to make sure she’s still in the middle of a vast network of prayer.  That’s something we can all do for the people in our lives.  I’m not sure how or why it helps, exactly — only that it does.

Monday Meditation: Someone to thank

A few years ago, I made “gratitude prayers” a regular part of my routine.  Every morning, I’d take a moment  to reflect on five different things I was thankful for.  It’s a habit I’ve gotten out of, for some reason and it’s one I should embrace again.  It was a very uplifting way to start the day.  It also kept me from taking things (and people) in my life for granted.

Even without a set morning ritual, I find myself feeling thankful often throughout the day.  At this exact moment, I’m grateful for the white tulips Scott bought me for Valentine’s Day, in a blue vase on the table next to me; they are  doing a graceful tulip bow as the stalks gradually give in to gravity.   I’m grateful for the roof over my head as I write this, listening to the rain falling outside.  I’m grateful for the rain, period, which will keep the hills beautifully green for a while longer, which will fill up the reservoirs and stave off a drought.  And it’s nice to be grateful for all this, because it’s a feeling that always draws me closer to God.

I found a quotation by Dante Gabriel Rossetti that says, “The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful, and has nobody to thank.” I can’t say whether or not most atheists would agree with that statement, but from my own experience, I’ve found that all my moments of gratitude are sweet in part because I do believe.  I do believe in a loving, benevolent presence out there who wills these things into being, who puts them within our our grasp, and who delights in our enjoyment of them.  And that means a lot to me.

Monday Meditation: How V-Day has changed (and why I’m okay with that)

Is it just me, or is Monday is a pretty lame day for Valentine’s Day?  Really, it’s probably the  day of the week that is the least likely to inspire thoughts of romance.

Of course, this matters much less to me than it used to.   Ever since having kids, V-Day has become a lot less lovey-dovey and a lot more pedestrian.   It looks more or less like every other day around here.  The only things to distinguish it are the after-dinner exchange of cards and the sight of my husband bearing something  floral when he comes home from work.  Those things are nice, yes, but they are not like the special  dinners à deux that I used to serve by candlelight way back when.

But you know what? That’s okay.   If we’re looking for signs of the depth of our love, we couldn’t do better than our two little boys.  And in all the challenges and joys and demands of parenting, in all the ear infections and sweet smiles and spontaneous hugs, in all the crushed Cheerios and Matchbox cars and puzzle pieces underfoot, there is no one else I’d rather be sharing it with than Scott.

They say that one sign of a good relationship is that you like the person you are when you’re in it.  I’ve always loved that about being with Scott.  Somehow, he inspires me to be a more generous person — not just towards him, but towards everyone.  That’s one of the ways that I knew he was the right guy.

Zora Neale Hurston once said, “Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.” I think that’s totally true.  And even though we aren’t doing a  big candlelit celebration tonight, my soul always feels at home when I’m with my guy.

And it’s hard to beat that.