Rosario

It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.  Audre Lorde

Recently, my class finished reading Refugee by Alan Gratz.  One of my students came to me and told me that his friend’s abuela was a Cuban refugee and could we ask her to come and speak to our class.  I thought it was a wonderful idea.  

Today was the day that Rosario came to talk to my classes.  Forty 7th graders sat with rapt attention as she described her life in Cuba before Fidel Castro’s takeover and after and the circumstances surrounding her leaving Havana and coming to the US. She also explained to the students the difficulties she faced in the US as well as the good things in her life here as a Cuban-American.  The students had a Q & A session with her after her talk.  They learned a great deal about the trials and tribulations of having to leave your homeland.

Looking over my notes from this afternoon, three things Rosario said really struck me.

First, when asked what her greatest challenges were she said, “Learning English (because she wasn’t the greatest English student in Cuba) and realizing that her life would never be the same again.” She described the scene of her mother and father taking her to the airport to fly to Miami and live with her uncle and looking out the back of the car window and watching the house she grew up in disappear as she drove away.  I cannot even imagine. I haven’t had to leave my childhood home for a new land, but there have definitely been those moments in my life when I knew life as I knew it would never be the same.

After leaving Cuba, Rosario lived in Miami, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and then finally Pennsylvania. One student asked which was her favorite place.  Rosario replied, “Every place you are leaves something in your heart.” Again, I have never lived any place but Pennsylvania, but I feel that every class I have ever taught has left something in my heart that makes me who I am today.

Rosario has traveled extensively throughout the world.  She ended her talk by encouraging the students to travel as much as they could because “You can see how different people are, but when you talk to them they all want the same thing.”

Isn’t that the truth?!

 

The Heart of the Matter

 

No beauty shines better than that of a good heart. ~Kapten and son

This has been the longest week of my life.  

Last Monday, my husband, Chuck went for a stress test as a follow up to his overnight stay at the hospital a couple of weeks ago.  The doctor called around 5:00 saying they saw a shadow on one of his tests and would like him to come in for a heart catheterization.  

I left for work on Tuesday morning expecting him to schedule the test in the upcoming week, and I would take the day off and go with him.  Well my little chihuahua likes to do things quickly!  I get a phone call at work at 8:15 telling me he going to the hospital by 9:00 to get the test. He said,”Don’t worry, I just need a ride home.” Yeah right!

Of course there was not a sub to be found, but I work with the most awesome group of teachers.  My colleagues gave up their prep times to cover my classes, so that I could leave and go to the hospital.

Honestly, I think that the worst we were expecting was that maybe he would need a stent or two put in.  Can I tell you that I almost fell off my seat when the cardiologist told us that Chuck needed quadruple bypass surgery!?! They wanted us to go home and make an appointment to see the surgeon, but that was not sitting well with my “let’s get it done” husband.  Chuck requested to see the surgeon before leaving the hospital.  One thing led to another and before you know it surgery was scheduled for Friday morning.  

The wait from Wednesday to Friday was interminable.  The surgeon gave Chuck a good prognosis, but there is no stopping your mind from wandering to dark places.  

We joke and laugh a lot, so that seemed to be the best way to handle this situation if we could.  I told him that Friday was the first day of Autumn – my favorite day of the year,  and he had better not ruin it for me!  I also told him if he saw any white lights during surgery not to go towards them. Some people thought that was terrible; he laughed.  He knew I was just doing my best to keep the situation light and not have a total and complete meltdown! We also had our serious quiet moments “just in case.”

Seeing Chuck being rolled away to the operating room was frightening.  I could see the fear in his eyes, and that is not something I am use to seeing from my “rock”. Each good update made me feel a little more relaxed, but it wasn’t until I saw him open his eyes just before midnight that I felt like I could really breathe. Of course in his joking way – the first words out of his mouth when he saw me were, “Ew – a nightmare!”

He is doing well, but we have a long road ahead.  I am just feeling so blessed that we got this second chance at life, because his heart was just a time bomb waiting to explode.  Like everything else that has come our way, we’ll take on this journey together, because after all, two hearts are better than one.

 

 

Minus One Day

If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you. — A. A. Milne

My husband has been out of work since the beginning of June.  In July he was fortunate enough to get some part time work which we hope will develop into a full time position. Needless to say, we spent a great deal of “quality time” together this summer that we don’t ordinarily get to have.  While we didn’t get to go on a real vacation since money was tight, we found other ways to entertain ourselves.  We got some things done around the house the have been on the “to do” list for quite a while, we watched one too many Lifetime movies, and we laughed a lot.

Chuck and I are high school sweethearts.  We have been together almost 44 years – 37 of them married. I really didn’t think it was possible to feel any closer to him than I already did, but this summer we reconnected on another level.  

Then this past weekend the bond grew even stronger. We had a little health scare.  Chuck felt some tightness in his chest (the result of an uncooperative lawnmower), so we made a trip to the ER. Luckily all his tests came back normal.  They kept him overnight for observation, but he got sprung on Sunday.  

This was a wake-up call, and now we are on the “straight and narrow” path to healthy living; we’ve been down that path a time or two already!  We are getting too old to play games with our health. Our luck will eventually run out.  

All I know is that the past four months or so have cemented what I have always felt since the day I met Chuck – I want my hourglass to run out before his, because I cannot imagine living a day without him.

A New School Year

Great teachers empathize with children, respect them, and believes that each one has something special that can be built upon. ~ Ann Lieberman

Tomorrow I begin another school year.  It never ceases to amaze me how much I love meeting my new students.  No matter who sits in front of me, I enjoy getting to know them.  When I tell people that I teach 7th grade English, they often make anguished faces or ominous sounds.  They think that middle school kids are like some unfamiliar beasts or space aliens.  What do they know?

Middle school kids are just like little kids only in bigger bodies.  They want to be loved and accepted.  They want to please and be successful.  They just have a couple of obstacles in the way – hormones and peer pressure.

I didn’t really enjoy grades 6-7-8.  Believe it or not – I was a NERD!  I spent most of my time reading Nancy Drew mysteries.  My parents were pretty strict, so I wasn’t allowed to do some of the things the other girls were doing.  I played intramural basketball, but I am not athlete.  I wore glasses sans makeup so my eyes looked kind of beady, and the long straight hair of the 70’s did nothing for my then long slender face.  I was never one of the “cool kids” or one of the students that teachers paid any extra attention.  I was a goody-goody and hardly ever got into any trouble which made me almost invisible in class.  I was smart and got good grades, but that wasn’t something you talked about with other kids.  In 7th and 8th grade I had to go to speech class (very new at that time) to correct a lisp.  I hated going out to speech – well until 8th grade when the captain of the basketball team had to go too.  I had a terrible crush on him!

When my students come through the door tomorrow and every day this year, I want them to know that I care about who they are not just what grades they earn.  I don’t want them to feel the way I did in middle school.  I survived, but thriving, not surviving should be the goal of education!

How Do You Measure the Value of a Life?

sol

It seems to me of great importance to teach children respect for life. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt.

I will never understand how one person can kill another. This has weighed heavily on me since the disappearance of four young Bucks County men (ages 18-22) and the subsequent discovery of their remains. I did not know any of these men or their families personally, but it did not stop me from shedding a few tears.

By now this story has been splashed across national news – mystery murder in bucolic Bucks County PA. A 20-year-old man and his cousin lured each victim to a secluded farm in Solebury township. I will spare you the gory details, but they can be found on local Philadelphia television channel websites. Each of these young men thought they were going to buy some marijuana. Each met with their demise.

For over a week now details have emerged in news outlets and on Facebook. I don’t know what is more troubling – the timetable of terrible details or the comment threads. People have taken it upon themselves to be judge and jury. Since the men were buying marijuana they have been made out to be drug dealers and derelicts who “got what they deserved.”

As I said, I didn’t know these victims. It is easy to second guess and conjecture, but I subscribe to the “Let ye who is without sin cast the first stone” philosophy. What I do know is that each of them made a poor choice that led to unimaginable consequences. What I do know is that they were sons, grandsons, brothers, nephews, friends. They did not deserve to die for making a poor choice no matter what some self-proclaimed Facebook guru spouts out.

How do we reach our young people? How do we get them to realize that this life we move through each day is not a video game. People kill! They use guns and knives, drugs and words, but is ultimately people killing each other.

Grief

Grief   sol

I miss my mom.  My mother is still living, but living in the world of dementia.  Don’t get me wrong, I visit my mom almost once a week, but it is different.  Our time is spent looking at pictures and trying to remember each person.  Gone is the mom who I could vent to and know that my words would be locked in her vault – never telling my secrets.  Gone is the mom who I could go to and ask for prayers.  She said a 52 day rosary novena that was literally a “stairway to heaven”.  If you needed something from our higher power, you definitely put it on Lucy’s novena list.  Eventually your prayers were answered.  Gone is the mom who would tell me that everything would be alright. I miss my mom!

I am lucky in that I have a great support system made up of my kids and my siblings and their significant others.  I know I can go to them with anything, and they would do their best to give me what I need – an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, or a night to just get away from it all.  But all of a sudden I miss my mom!

You see a little over two weeks ago, my husband lost his job.  It was very unexpected.  There is no need to spell out all the details, but it is the first time he has been out of work since 1994.  That year we closed a failing business without knowing what would come next. It was scary, but it all worked out. But we were 23 years younger then, and jobs are easier to come by when you are 38 then when you are 61.  I miss my mom!

I know in my heart that this too shall pass and somehow things will work out.  After all, “everything happens for a reason.”  My husband and I have weathered many twists and turns in our 37 years of wedded bliss.  He leans on me.  I lean on him.  He is my heart and soul.

I really do miss my mom, but I just let the memory of her words splash over me and remind me not to worry so much.  Maybe it’s time I took out my rosary beads.

 

 

 

 

I Got Published!

solSOL Tuesday

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for a public and have no self. ~Cyril Connolly

A while back I wrote a blog post for the PA Writing and Literature Project on why I teach.  I was very excited to have it posted on Project’s blog.  Last week that post was selected to be posted on Workerstories.org.

I did originally write that post for myself and was not worried about having a public, but if I am to be totally honest…. I LOVE THAT IT IS GOING PUBLIC AGAIN!

I  put a link to the piece below.

I Am a Teacher