Friday, June 5, 2009

   Today was the last day of actual teaching in my English classes.  Next week is finals week, but today was the last "real" day of school.   It was a mad day- as the last day of school always is,  me and a new batch of 30-or so very hyper fourteen year old girls, hour after hour, putting in our time together until the final bell rings, sounding freedom and promising summer. 
   Each class period I was reminded of the last time I gave my then fourteen year old daughter a slumber party for her birthday.  When morning came, I was exhausted and ecstatic... the party had gone well, and even better, the girls were all being picked up and taken away from my house.  Peace was right around the corner. 
   And I might have felt that way again at the end of this school day and this school year, because fourteen year old girls, all excited and feeding off each other's energy can be tough, but then the last group of girls bounced in.  The last period of the last day of school.  "I  can do this," I thought.  "The day is almost done.  Peace is right around the corner."
   The bell rang, announcing the beginning of the period.  I kept my voice purposefully low to counteract the giddy hysteria building around me; then, I followed my routine and called on the girl whose turn it was to come up and start class with an inspirational thought or quote.  This is always such a calming way to begin the period.  I had faith it would work for me this time as well.  Smiling, the girl came forward. 
   "Today," she said, "the inspirational thought is for you, Mrs. B, for being our teacher and for inspiring us all year."   Then, in unison, in perfect timing so that I knew this must have been planned, the girls let out a chorus of "Thank you, Mrs. Blake."  I admit I got a bit teary, but became even more so when the girls in my class then took turns thanking me and expressing appreciation for things that had happened during the year in class, for the growth they had made, and for the things they had learned.  Some comments were humorous, more were serious and touching,  and all were a gift that I will always cherish. 
   It was a good day, one of those excellent ones that come along from time to time in teaching.  I ended the day feeling inspired by the kindness and goodness of my students, and reminded once again how much those we love and nurture often end up nurturing us.  The peace that I'd been looking forward to, the peace that was right around the corner, flooded into my heart right then and stayed with me the entire day.  
   I love the woman my once fourteen year old daughter has become, and I love feeling the promise of what these fourteen year old girls will be in the future.  My corner of the world is a good corner, and I am glad, most of the time, to be a part of it.    

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sue's Sunday birthday blog... Happy Birthday! (No peeking until Sunday, Sue)

  Okay, it is a little daunting to write a birthday blog for my sister, the birthday blog queen of the internet, but Sunday is her birthday, and so I'd like to give her a bit of the gift that she is in my life. And she is a gift... one of my very best ones; my sister makes each day of my life better because she is a part of it.
  This was true even in my earliest memories. I remember that whenever Sue was around, the day was always more fun, often more crazy and zany, and full of much more laughter. I followed her around soaking up her good will, always feeling a part of the center of her life, even when she was a teenager. I never remember her doing or saying one mean thing to me ever, except perhaps when she had the audacity to leave and go off to college in a different state.
  Even then, she always wrote me letters and invited me to come visit her. When I did visit, she treated me like a friend and an equal, taking me to parties with her and introducing me to all her friends. I knew she liked me and was proud of me, and as a young teen, that helped me feel more confident about liking myself. After all, if such an obviously funny and interesting and cool person thought I was funny and interesting and cool, who was I to argue?
  I remember my sister always being generous with her love and with her talents. When I was growing up, our family didn't have a lot of extra money, and one summer Sue worked two jobs to make money for college. When she left that summer, she gave me a record player and left some of her Beatles records behind for me. She always has liked giving more than receiving.
  Later, after she got married and moved to Chicago, (okay, that was the second hard thing she did to me) she invited me to come visit her one summer and took me shopping and told me that she wanted to buy some new school clothes for me. I remember she sent me back to school that year in style. Sue loves to make other people happy and is the queen of gift giving.  This can be clearly evidenced by the presents under her tree each Christmas morning; still, the best gift she gives to all those she loves is the gift of herself.
  Some of my best memories of my sister are the years that we lived in the same area, only about five minutes away from each other. Our families spent every Sunday together, and I am always grateful for the ties that our children developed together as they grew up having a home away from home and a second mother at their beck and call. It was sad when the third, and last hard thing she did to me came along, and she moved up north several years ago. Luckily, we still do live in the same state.
  And we still spend a lot of time together... although mostly on the telephone.   In the words of James Taylor,  one of her favorite musical artists,  I can always call on my sister when I need a friend.  The lyric is familiar but true. In the last few years, my sister has dropped everything to come nurse me through difficult surgeries, not once but twice. She made me laugh even then, especially when she was trying to give me a dry hair shampoo.   
  In the hardest times in my life, she has always been a rock of support for me, emotionally and physically. Even when she is far away, our love connects us;  well, that and the telephone. I remember one particularly tough day in my life, she stayed on the phone with me nearly the whole day while I cried, and I thank her for that. She is a lifeline to all of those who are lucky enough to know her and to be her friend.
  My sister's love for me has always been unconditional; I can tell my sister anything and know that she will understand, and that is a wonderful gift. I can be my best and my worst self with her and know she will equally love whichever side shows up.
  My sister is a good secret keeper. I have told her many secrets over the years, and I thank her for her ability to hear them,  to keep them to herself, to give counsel when needed, and sometimes to hold counsel back, and to intuitively know when to do which thing.
  My sister is full of perceptive wisdom; she is a role model and an example. Because she is six years older than I am, she usually gets to navigate life's challenges before I do, and so when those challenges come my way, she is able to share what she has learned. And because she is such a good and smart learner, the lessons shared are valuable and real and beautiful.
  My sister is a wonderful wife and mother; I take credit for some of the mothering practices she developed early on in her life before her own children came her way (you're welcome Matt, Karin, Ryan and Todd. ) She helped mother me when I was young , and still does mother me from time to time, but mostly now we are just the best of friends, friends that can finish each other's sentences, that understand each other's challenges, that know each other's innermost selves, that can and do count on each other, that put each other first, and that know how important they are to each other- and how lucky they are to be in the world together.
  I could spend a lot of time outlining all of my sister's amazing talents; writer, poet, teacher, humorist, counselor, creator of happy spaces, ultimate grandmother, collector of many objects, housewife extraordinaire... okay, maybe that last one is a stretch. (hee hee) Those of you who read her blog are already familiar with many of these gifts. I'll just say that my sister is an outstanding writer and thinker, is smart as a whip, (trite but true, and works well alliteratively  with what comes next) is wonderfully wise, and is always fun to be around.
  My sister chooses to be hopeful and optimistic, even in the toughest times, and one of her best talents that the rest of us enjoy, is that she spreads that hope to others. My own children have been known to call her Mrs. Santa Clause. There is definitely something magical about being around her, ask her grandchildren. Mainly, the magic is that she has a deep spiritual faith that is centering for all those within her sphere of influence. And she loves us all, and chooses to see the best things in us, and to believe in the best possible outcomes for us, as you can easily see from her famous "birthday blogs."
  My sister is a voice that uplifts all those within her sphere of influence. Simply put, she makes our lives better.  She could do this just by being herself; her personality is that good, but her influence is even more powerful because she takes the time and the effort to work at it. We thank her for all the circletimes, the family vacations, the holidays spent at her house, the interest she takes in all of our lives, the support she gives to each of us, for Dave, Matt, Heather, Jeremiah, Carli, Bryce, Karin, Bobby, Ryan and Todd, and, oh yes, for the previously mentioned birthday blogs.
   I am proud that she is extending that influence to many others with her poetry and blog sites.  I know that others feel the hope, the humor, the wisdom, the poetry,  and the downright resiliency that is her gift to all of us.
  Speaking individually, my sister makes my life better, and whenever I feel any misgivings about my DNA and genetic inheritance, which mainly comes each time I begin a diet,  (oh dear) I remember that these same genes have brought me a cherished and eternal connection with one of the best people in the world, my sister, and suddenly, that helps put everything in perspective.
  I love you, Sue, with all of my heart and wish you the best Sunday birthday ever.