Burn

 “Burn leaves in autumn.  Burn sage and sweet-grass to purify your room and yourself.  Burn the old pictures, the old letters, the old papers that no longer mean anything.  Burn candles everywhere, inside and out, in glass holders and old pie tins and in seashells on window sills and counters and tabletops.  Cast into the fire those feelings and attitudes that no longer serve you.  Feel them disintegrate.  Watch how the smoke curls.  Burn off anger in small doses.  Don’t wait for a meltdown.  Create the hearth that contains and focuses your inner fire.  Burn the dinner and then laugh about it.  If it’s necessary for your self-survival, yes, burn a bridge every now and then.  Just make sure you’re safely on one side or the other before you do.”  ~ Rachel Snyder

Well, what do you think?  Should one engage in the exhilarating act of pyromania in an effort to clear themselves of the past and start fresh?  Is it rational to treat parts of our past like an overgrown forest that needs the focus of a controlled burn to make room for new growth?  Have you ever burned your past?

This is my controlled burn.  I’m choosing carefully what fuel I will add to my fire.  I have rifled through the boxes and envelopes and bins and gathered up the refuse of my past.  I won’t miss it.  I won’t look for it later and wonder why I let it go.  This fire has been smouldering for  years, and my mistake was not feeding it when it started.

I won’t hang on to regret, it only weighs me down.  I won’t rely on hindsight to rationalize what has already happened, it only makes me mad.  I will NOT shoulder the burden of everyone’s reactions to my path; it’s my life.  I will let go of what once was and stop asking myself why it isn’t anymore.  The past is no place to linger.

I’m burning.  I’m piling it up and setting it ablaze.  Nothing says ‘I’m done’ like a big-assed bon fire.


Guard

 “Guard fiercely that which others want most to wrest from you. Your inner wild places and the freedom to visit them often. The gateways to your very soul, the keys to your secret garden and all that you cultivate therin. Guard against attacks of all sorts by those who covet your light and envy your brilliance. Create shields visible and invisible, and infuse them with the power to deflect invasions of your body, mind, and spirit. Guard the security of your home as if it were more valuable than the grandest place on Earth, for surely it is. Establish your personal boundaries and guard them against interlopers who would barge in against your will. Be the guardian of your own solitude and that of others, and peace shall always be yours.” ~ Rachel Snyder

Sometimes things don’t quite work out the way you had planned, and you have to make some drastic changes in your life; this is especially difficult when it involves dissolving a relationship that is toxic and damaging.  Well, having dissolved the relationship, I am now faced with guarding what it is I have chosen for my new life, and guard it I will.

Some people would say I gave up and quit on something that I should have fought harder to keep, but those people don’t know the whole story.  The details of that situation are no longer important; what is important is that I got out because I realized that I no longer guarded what was important to me.  I let everything I knew about myself get taken away without a fight.  No more.

Life can be incredibly complicated and unpredictable, but there is a way around all the chaos; guard.  Guard what you have learned about yourself, and trust it. Guard your heart from hate and fear.  Guard your sense of worth and ignore the challengers that say you are less than you truly are.  Guard your character and dismiss those who would try to create a false picture of your life.  Guard yourself from the anger of others by letting go of your own anger.  Guard all that is yours, material and emotional, and guard it with your life.

The past few years have taught me that sometimes a sense of self-preservation will lead you away from people, but it will also lead you toward those who you do not have to guard yourself against.


She Loves My Dog

You ever meet a girl and start to feel the sparks of attraction ignite, only to realize that she is not the least bit interested in one of the most important things in your life?  Sure you have, and you’ve tried to work it out and make adjustments and concessions, but you eventually realize that it was doomed from the beginning. You split up and go your separate ways….. all because she didn’t like your dog.

The problem always starts when you take a girl over to your place for the first time.  You open the door and there is the love of your life, wagging her tail and brushing up against you, so happy to see you.  Your furry companion is curious and begins to sniff your new friend, wagging all the time.  “Oh wait, who is this?  Is this your new friend mom? She smells nice.  I think I will give her a kiss.”  Then it happens; your date does what you have been worrying about all night long; the slow turn to the side get-away-from-me move. This move, perfected by those who have no interest in dogs, is a dead give-away that your night will probably end with you snuggling up to a cold nose instead of a warm body.

It’s not easy finding that special girl who will snug up your dog on the first date, or cuddle on the sofa with both of you while you watch a movie; nope, those women are few and far between.  Well guess what ladies, I found one.  I found the perfect girl. That’s right!  Not only is she smart,funny, and an amazing kisser, but she also loves my dog.  You heard me; she loves my dog. How perfect is that?!

My girl dotes on my dog Emma as though she had raised her from a pup herself.  “Do you think Emma is ok?  I don’t want her to get too hot, should I put some ice in her water?  Maybe Emma would like a special breakfast this morning.”  That’s right, she loves my dog.  She is always aware of Emma’s needs, and does everything she can to keep her happy and safe. She loves my dog.

As fate would have it, I married that sweet girl, and now she does everything she can to keep both me and Emma happy and safe.


She

 I know of no other like her.  I’m pulled up each day by the thought of her.  The smile that warms me, the eyes that read all my secrets, the caress of her fingers against my cheek, the sound of her breath in my ear as she sleeps in my arms; no other is like her.

We met by chance, luck.  She was warm and welcoming, full of laughter and a new-found friendship.  She made me laugh, she made me think, she helped me not take myself so seriously.  That chance meeting would send us on a path of friendship that grew with each new day, regardless of the distance and time that separated us.  Years would pass before we would stand together again, but when we finally did; she made me laugh, she made me think, she helped me not to take myself so seriously.

I survived the dismantling of my life, and there she was again.  She listened to my fears and my dreams, she calmed my weary heart, she opened my eyes to my new life.  I felt this feeling growing inside of me, this pull, this attraction.  I pretended it was all a consequence of circumstance; it couldn’t be real. I was so wrong.  She was inside me, walking around in all the dark corners I had kept hidden from the world for so many years; lighting each new room with her tender way.  I tried to ignore it, but it was stronger than I realized.

Standing in the entranceway of her apartment, nerves turning me inside out, sweating, shaking, fumbling over my words.  A whisper, “Come here.”  A kiss.  One kiss to wash away my fears and confirm what was waiting inside my heart.  One kiss to show her how much she means to me.  One kiss to bind us together.  One kiss to start a journey in motion that just keeps getting better.

There is no other woman like her.  She is patient with my fears and gentle with my heart.  I feel her stare and I blush.  She touches me and I melt.  She is the love of my lifetime, and there is no other like her.


Simple

 I am a simple girl.  No, I am not a simpleton, I just like the feeling I get when I embrace the simple side of each new day.

I am struggling with a pretty big life-altering change right now, a heartbreaking change. I am trying to hold onto the simple parts of my day that give me peace; waking up with Emma snuggled into my side, hot coffee after my morning walk, clean towels fresh out of the dryer, a cold beer once my chores are done, the sound of her voice as I drift off to sleep at the end of each day; all simple.

More and more, I am in love with simple pleasures.  So many people claim to prefer the ‘simple side of life’, but rarely do I see them truly embrace it.  I am living simple right now, and hanging onto it with both hands.  I have all I need; a roof over my head, food on my table, a job, love and laughter. Change will come regardless of what I do to hurry it along, so I’m being patient with my life.  I don’t focus on what I don’t have because I know it will come in time. Right now, I find my happiness in the true calm of what I pull into my heart each day; each moment an important one, each action intended.

If more people would accept the simplicity in life’s design, we would have less greed, less waste, more compassion, and more calm. I’m doing my part; are you doing yours?


Kids being kids?

 Bullying: the habitual badgering and intimidation of people perceived as weaker or less deserving of respect.

There is a ton of talk about the bullying of LGBT students in schools across the United States. Some people would have you believe that it isn’t happening, it’s just the insecurities of a certain group of people, and nothing more. Political figures would have you believe that the specific bullying of LGBT students doesn’t happen because those students are gay, it happens because kids will be kids.  I don’t agree. Bullying exists because some people in this world don’t like those who appear to be different from themselves.

Let’s think about this for a minute.  A bully is someone who picks on another person, either through emotional or physical intimidation, based on another person’s differences.  Now, knowing that, why is it so difficult to believe that children would act in such a manner?  Adults act like that, and we impart our perspective to the children in our lives every day.  I fail to understand why some people actually think that bullying is simply kids being kids.

We’ve seen this before…  In the 60s, the tension between blacks and whites reached an all time high.  Intimidation, hate speech, physical attacks, discrimination; all thrown onto a group of people because they were different, the minority.  Fortunately, after some time and serious struggle, laws were enacted to protect those individuals of difference.  Now move forward to 2012 and the ever-growing tensions between heterosexuals and homosexuals.  Intimidation, hate speech, physical attacks, discrimination; all thrown onto a group of people because they are different; the minority.

How is now different from then?   It isn’t.


Birthday Thoughts

Today is my birthday.  I’m not doing anything special, just the usual Sunday chores and putterings, but I have been thinking about the last year of my life and what it means for my future.

This time last year I was celebrating with friends, severing a very caustic relationship, and navigating my way carefully into someone’s life.  The year has been cathartic, cleansing.  I have managed to make the tough decisions necessary for me to be happy, and I don’t have any regrets.  I’m different now, but somehow I am exactly the way I was meant to be; happy.

Often times birthdays cause people to think back on their lives and sum up their accomplishments and failures; not me.  I am taking this day to look toward the future and embrace every change that I have orchestrated over the past year.  I have often said that change is difficult, but I believe it is necessary if we are to open our lives to new paths and new adventures.

The season of my discontent is over, and I can finally see things more clearly.  I breathe in each day and all its newness.  I am no longer afraid of the turns my life will take.  I am not looking back anymore; I’m not critiquing my actions of the past.  I am leaving what’s done where it belongs; behind me.

It’s my birthday, and I have given myself the greatest gift of all; my happiness.


Plateau

 “Sometimes the ups and downs of life need to be balanced by the evens.  Between your peaks and valleys, plateau.  For a while, seek neither the highest heights nor the deepest depths.  Let things be on an even keel.  Plateau.  Give yourself a respite from the drama and the turmoil.  Take a break from the incessant push to find a new job, to upgrade your computer, to meet the perfect somebody, to gain ten pounds or lose twenty, to move to a new city, to go back to school.  When things level off, let them stay level.  Recharge and refresh your batteries.  Look to the horizon without rushing to touch it up close.  There will be more highs; there will be more lows.  But for now, take it easy; plateau.”  ~ Rachel Snyder

I’m getting close to  my plateau.  The crazy stir of my life is slowing down and I am able to see level ground more easily now.  For months, time has been my enemy.  Now, time is my motivator.

I’m almost done here.  I’m making my plans, organizing, preparing.  I’m treading carefully, but I’m not looking back.  I feel the rise of my path beginning to level out now.  For the first time in months, my plateau is coming into view.

The turn of my life is slowing down and I have found my place with an amazing woman.  I have waited a so long to find someone who wants me to be me, from the beginning, she has wanted me to be myself.  All my flaws, my bad habits, my wonky smile, the crazy hair, my love of dogs, my quiet and my loud; she wants that.  With so much happening at the speed of light over the past year, I  have to catch myself sometimes and look around, just to make sure it’s all real.  It is.

She is my plateau.


Speak

 “When you have something to say, SAY IT.  Speak your mind and let your voice quiver and shake if it must.  Speak what’s in your heart and if you cry, so be it!  When something is sitting on the tip of your tongue, let it out.  Speak the truth that must be spoken — even if some will rail and flail against it.  Have the courage to speak up.  In whatever way you can, help others to have the courage, too.  When it’s impossible for others to speak on their own, speak on their behalf.  Speak up for the animals, for the children, for the weak, for the sick.  Remember to speak for as often as you speak against.  Speak from a place deep inside, a place that knows what must be spoken.  Keep speaking the truth and know that eventually, somehow, somewhere, someone will listen.”  ~ Rachel Snyder

“Ms. West, I wouldn’t mind being in your class again next year.  I like how you always keepin’ it real. You just say what you feel. I like that.”  ~Spoken by one of my junior English students after I finished delivering a very direct response to a question I had been asked no fewer than eight times in one class period.

My kids know me.  They learned quickly that I would deliver my lessons, my criticisms, my praise and my support in the most honest manner possible.  They need it; secretly, I think they crave it.  I blast them daily for their verbal abuse of others, their laziness, their lack of accountability; and I smother them with accolades when they do the right thing.  They don’t always like what I have to say, but they remember it; they use it, they learn from it.

It is my belief that if more people would just say what they really want to say, there would be fewer misunderstanding.  Just be honest, even if it’s going to hurt.  Be direct and stop sugar-coating your voice.  It isn’t always easy being the one who says what everyone else is thinking, but sometimes it is necessary.  If you don’t allow yourself to speak your mind freely, how do you expect anyone else to?


Dear Parents,

Dear Parents of High School Students,

I am not your child’s friend.  I do not care if they like me.  This is not a popularity contest for me,  it is your child’s education.

I am not going to pretend your child’s work is exemplary, when it is actually sub-standard.  I demand, and expect, nothing but the very best effort from your child.  Helping your child is not synonymous with giving them the answers, so please explain to them that they will be expected to do their own work in my class. I do not condone laziness or irresponsibility; make sure they have a good breakfast and pack their backpacks with all the necessary items needed to be productive at school.

I do not want to look at the top of your child’s head for 45 minutes each day, so please make sure they get a good night’s sleep.  There is no reason to send your child to school unless they are fully invested in working, my time is far too valuable to be wasted on someone who is not interested in what I am presenting.  If your child is not capable of being present, both physically and mentally, then perhaps a different learning environment should be explored; home schooling is an option for every child.

I will give your child complete and brutal honesty about their work, their behavior and their commitment to excellence, and I won’t feel bad if it hurts their feelings.  I will not pretend their behavior is acceptable when it is grating on my last nerve.  I will tell them to be quiet when I am speaking.  When I address your child, I expect them to be accountable for their words and actions.  If they ask me a question I expect them to listen to the answer the first time it is given.  I do not  want to hear your child telling me that my decisions are not fair; a fair is a place you take a pig to win a ribbon, it has nothing to do with my classroom.

It is not my job to feel sorry for your son or daughter.  Every one of my students comes to me with a different plate of challenges, and your child is not more special than any other child in my class.  Please understand that just doing the work is not enough, it has to be done correctly.  You child must follow directions, or they will not succeed.   I will teach them.  I will motivate them.  I will encourage them to be their very best self.  I will be honest with them.  I will not take responsibility for your child’s failures, and  I will always give them full credit for their successes.

Although I am not your child’s parent, I am a parent.  I understand that the teen mind is a difficult thing to decipher, however I would ask that get on board with the following truth:  one day you will die, and if you don’t pry your kid’s head out of her ass now, they won’t have a hope in hell of making it on their own.  Tell them no, motivate them, hold them accountable, demand excellence, instill a firm work ethic, and be honest.  If you are not part of the solution to your own child’s problems in school, then you are actually part of the problem.

Sincerely,

Your Child’s Teacher