Thursday, December 19, 2013

Our Lovely Mess

This is so weird.

I'm sitting on the couch.  It's dusk.  The room is lit only by the multi-colored lights of our tacky Christmas tree full of memories.  There are toys allllll over the floor.  There's laundry all over the couch.

My house is a place where messes happen.  Everywhere.  And I love it.

Don't get me wrong.  I don't like be messy, and we really do try to keep a clean house.  However, one of the things I love about my family is that we have really gotten to a place where we are learning to prioritize.  A clean house is important.  Sometimes.

See, here's the thing.  My house is a place where messes happen.  It's also a place where joy happens.  All over.  Everywhere.  Mistakes happen.  Then more love.  Dance parties and family dinners and tickle fests happen.   Hugs happen.  Friendship happens.  More love.  Belly laughs happen.  Big things and little things and silly things and wonderful things happen.

My house is a place where love happens.  Always.  And I wouldn't trade these messy years for anything.




Thank you, our lovely mess, you made my day.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Meat Slingers and Can Stackers and Teenagers

When I tell people that I teach middle school, they judge me.  Sometimes, they come right out and tell me.  "What?  Really?  Umm, why?"  Other times, it's just a sympathetic look given with you-must-be-crazy eyes.  Who in their right mind would spend their days with, ohhhhh, I can't even say it.

Teenagers.

Ugh.  Teenagers are what's wrong with the world, right?  They ruin my night out at the movies, they cut me off driving, and they're constantly talking loudly on their cell phones wherever I go.  They only care about video games and being mean to each other and doing inappropriate things, right?

She must just not be very bright or must be lacking in some kind of real job skills.  Maybe she's just plain crazy.  Middle school teacher?  Oh, honey.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  I questioned whether or not I should, but you're not going to believe me anyway, so I figure it's safe.  Teenagers are AWESOME.  Truly, earth shatteringly (yes, I'm allowed to make up my own words because I'm the teacher) spectacular.  They're just only willing to show this if you're willing to weed through all of their melodrama and angst and immaturity to find it.

Yep.  She's really lost it now.

A while back, one of the special education teachers at our school brought a wonderful idea to my committee.  She had been volunteering at a local food bank with her students, and she thought it might be a fun activity for us to do together as a staff.  She was totally right.  We had a blast singing Tina Turner and dancing boxes down an assembly line.  We also worked hard enough that my principal went home with a blister from lugging big bottles of juice.  That's some intense fun. ;)

Okay, her definition of fun may be a little off, too.

We decided to take it a step further this year.  We opened up the invitation to our students and their families to volunteer with us also.  I was floored when we filled up the spots for our first date within a week.  Good times were had by all.  I was beyond overjoyed when it took less than two days to get over thirty volunteers for our service tonight.

Hmm.  That doesn't sound so bad...

Tonight was special.  I got to the food bank knowing the good feelings that would be in store for me a few hours later, but our families somehow surpassed even my biggest expectations.  These kids and their parents were just awesome.  At the interest of full disclosure, many of the kids looked less than thrilled to be there at the beginning, and some of them even got a little mouthy with their parents while they were working.

HOWEVER,

they were nothing short of inspirational.  To see kids feeling empowered in their work as contributing members of our community made me feel good deep down all the way to my soul.  It was so cool.  I also got to bond with them while tossing around frozen meats and packing boxes for families that we all probably know.  I got to see what is right with teenagers tonight.

We middle school teachers get it.  We choose these kids because they are the perfect combination of kids and adults.  They can think and feel and understand beyond our wildest dreams.  They say insightful, grown up things every day that surprise us.  Yet, they also say shockingly childish things every day that surprise us in a whole other way.  They're still silly little works in progress.  If we can find a way to do and say the right things, we get the honor of getting to be part of who they are and who they will be.

That's nice.  I'd still never even think teaching of middle school, though.

That's okay.  I'm not planning on giving up my job anytime soon. :)  It's kind of weird to even call myself a teacher sometimes because I swear I learn as much as they do... if not more.  These kids will put me to shame with the amount of amazing they put into the world.

Thank you, meat slingers, can stackers, and teenagers, you made my day.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Lucky Shopping Cart

I have this little game I like to play with myself when the line at the grocery store gets long or slow.  I like to look at the contents of the carts around me to see what I can figure out about the other shoppers.  I mentally high-fived myself when the boy in line in front of me called the man with him Grandpa.  I had already determined this relationship, not by the age of the man (he looked pretty young), but by all of the crazy snacks they were unloading onto the conveyor belt.  They were the the kinds of things parents say no to, but you don't even have to ask grandparents for: candy, marshmallows, green drink, chips, and more.  I had also determined that the woman in front of them was both a grandma and a widow.  She had a few premade dinners, among other things, and did not seem to have anyone at home to eat with her.  We had bonded in the cereal aisle when she showed me a little dog that played Christmas songs and did flips.  She was thrilled.  As this treasure was loaded into her cart, I prayed that there was a grandchild or someone coming over soon to share one of her dinners and her delight with the dog.

Since the line was both long AND slow, I had plenty of time to turn my attention to the contents of my own cart.  Besides the usual suspects- milk, butter, and meat- I found a whole series of items that led me to one simple conclusion.  Man, I am lucky.

Tomato, cilantro, jalapeno, avocado... I am lucky to have a husband who prides himself on making the best guacamole I've ever had.  Seriously.  I know that's true because he told me once, "This is the best guacamole you've ever had."  I am happy to be his sous chef in the kitchen and in life.  I am also happy to take on the head chef role when need be. ;)

Whole milk and chorizo... I am grateful that I have a little guy at home to enjoy these things to the fullest.  It's hard sometimes to fit two gallons of milk into the refrigerator, but fitting our little man into our lives has been one of the easiest and clearly one of the most enjoyable things we've ever done.

Ground beef, taco seasoning, rice with some flava... did I mention it's Mexican night at the Ferri household?  We'll make more memories with mariachi music, green guacamole faces, and legit dance parties galore.

Snacks, snacks, snacks... I am blessed to have a job that I love.  These "emergency snacks" are stashed in and around my desk to hold me over until my frantic twenty minute lunch.  It turns out just about every day holds an "emergency" that constitutes a trip to the drawer, but each day also comes with a great deal of joy.  Even when that twenty minute lunch is my second one of the day, I sure do enjoy laughing making jokes with my lunch girls that would make even the most audacious eighth grade boy blush.

Wet lettuce?  I am lucky to be oh so easily amused.  I think everyone should find it particularly delightful when the vegetable sprayers coming on and "Singin' in the Rain" pipes over the loud speakers.  For real.  Just enjoy it.

When I got through the inventory of my cart, I found myself still taking inventory of my blessings.  I thought about how thankful I am for the fact that my love of food, cooking, and family dinners came from the insistence of my parents to have all three in our household, no matter how crazy our sports schedules or how empty our bank accounts.  I was grateful that I would not have to question, even for a second, whether or not my credit card would be approved.  This is not something I take for granted.  Most of all, I was thankful to have a moment in a busy day that could help me to once again find clarity and perspective from the blessings in my life.

Thank you, lucky shopping cart, you made my day.      

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Are There Sticky Notes in Heaven? Please Say Yes.

Wow, it's been a hot second.

The higher my stress level gets, the more I miss this daily dose of gratitude.  I need it.  I'm not sure that I can commit to daily writing again, but I have truly been equal parts humbled and inspired these past few days, and I need an outlet for the overwhelming feelings of gratitude.  I want to hold this feeling, and this might be one of the best ways that I know how.

I love my life.  I really do.  That being said, some days are easier than others.  When I get too caught up, I pray that I will not let myself become too stressed or busy to notice the daily Post-its I get from God.  I always get what I need when I need it most, I swear.  There are these reminders.  Sometimes it's people who go out of their way to love me when I least deserve it.  Sometimes it's small yet humbling moments.  Sometimes it's just a little thing with a big meaning.  I just have to look for it, and I turns out I don't even have to look that hard.  God sticky noted all over my day today.

I am so wrapped up in my own stuff lately and doing so many things that I feel as if I can't possibly be doing a great job at anything.  Somehow, though, I am blessed far beyond what I deserve.  I need to know that it's okay that I'm not always or not ever the best mom, wife, teacher, or friend.  I need to know that the people I love could forgive me for this and love me anyway, despite the faults that I have been wearing out in plain sight lately.  I need to know that I can forgive myself for watching Real Housewives and going to bed early a few nights in a row instead of nurturing relationships or grading papers.  I have been feeling perpetually behind at work and in life, and that needs to be okay.

It turns out that all of this is okay somehow.  For some reason, I can be far from amazing but still be surrounded by amazing.  For this, I am truly grateful.  Here are some of God's little "stickies" that I recognized in my life today:
 

  • I am oh so very blessed to have friends who love me.  Not only that, they are even better friends when they know that I am being too selfish with my time to be a great friend back.  I have sweet friends who have truly become my family, and I'm also lucky enough to have a family full of friends.  They are so life giving and generous with their love without any expectations of anything in return.  This just makes me want even more to be a better friend to all of these people who deserve everything I can give and more.
  • My job causes me unbelievable stress and completely turns me into a crazy person.  Every once in a great while, I question my poor life choice to work as hard as I do to make as little as I do.  It's no secret that teachers are overworked and underpaid.  The thing is, though, that it's not really a job at all.  This is my calling.  It's my life.  Any time I even begin to doubt my career choice, I find a "sticky note" that humbles me, reminds me, and takes my breath away.  Today, it was an actual note from a student that left me crying at my desk in the best possible way.  These kids are worth every gray hair and wrinkle that they will cause me.  It is an incredible honor to be included, sometimes even invited, into their worlds.  My life is rich with memorable moments of wonderful that keep me up late at night and get me up early in the morning.
  • Look for the reminders!  Seriously, just look.  There they are.  I was Godsmacked in the face by the church across the street from school on the way home today.  The sign out front had Psalm 119:68 on it: You are good, and what you do is good.  Ahhhhh.  Thank you.
If you're one of the three people who will read this, chances are that I love you dearly, and I don't tell you that or show you that enough.  Thank you.  Thank you for loving me anyway.  Thanks for being who you are and allowing me to be me, even when I could be a lot better.  I may be undeserving, but I promise that I am not ungrateful.

Thank you, God's sticky notes, you made my day.