A Frank Discussion

Today, my seniors and I had a discussion about life choices. It’s the second and last semester of their high school careers, and there are moments where there is a sudden change of thought, behavior, and focus within their lives. Today was the first sign that I received that my fifth hour was indeed becoming adults. 

This is my smallest, and my most quiet class of the school day. It’s a class of just 26, but I usually have only 20 of them at a time for different reasons. Today, there was a brief interruption for some of the kids to work on their financial aid, so that left me with around 13 of them. I was preparing to do a lecture on my one my favorite writers, Zora Neale Hurston, when one girl asked me about my biggest life decision, my Lapband surgery. I had taught Alexis last year, and she had been very curious on the process and how the ups and downs were in doing something as drastic as bariatric surgery for health.

“Ms. Mathews, when was the last time you had your band filled?”

I had to pause and think of when it was that I did indeed have the band buddy (that’s what I call it) filled. It had been over a year. I told Alexis that, and she seemed surprised.

“I thought you had to do that at least once every 6 months?”

“No, you only do it if you are getting hungry.”

“You haven’t had a really bad hungry bout hit you? And you have lost weight since last year, do you know that?”

After pausing to think about it, I had to tell her that I had not had one in quite some time. Which was a little odd, because I had to do it around every 8 months the first years of having the band. I thanked her for noticing my hard work of losing more weight.

This, of course, opened the door for more questions from students that hadn’t known me as long as Alexis. It wasn’t a time to ask questions to get out of work; they had looks on their faces of amazement, horror and intrigue with me discussing my life as a Banded Baby. Some had heard that I had done it, others it came as a complete surprise.

I realized during the conversation that none of these kids remembered the former, and way heavier, me. They had not met that woman, and when they asked for pictures of me during my heaviest time, I broke down and showed them. Many were astonished that I was the girl in the picture.

“Naw, that’s not you, Ms. M. It can’t be.” One student, David, was amazed by the picture of me at over 300 pounds.

“I have to tell you, David, that was me around four or five years ago.”

“Do you feel better now?”

I nodded my head to show pleasure in my accomplishment.

“You should be proud of your hard work. You’re a new woman.”

He is right. I am a new woman.

Tis’ The Season for Ice Storm ’13-A Semi Squatters Story

Christmas Eve is tomorrow and I do not have power in my house.

I know, such a bad time for such an event, but we all know that Mother Nature has her own schedule and cares not about the holiday season.She comes and goes as she pleases, and she had decided that her effects to end the year would be epic enough for those to have memories of her great powers. There is ice everywhere is Genesee County, and over 61,000 of us are without power. According to the recording from our friends at Consumers Energy, some of the people in our area will not receive power until Saturday, which is December 28th.

This breaks the hearts of many, and the thoughts of children opening up their gifts in frigid temperature households and barely seeing their treasures in the small amount of daylight barely gleaming through the shutters of the windows in quite disheartening. No one would want to deal with the questions of impatient children, and I would hate to be the one to explain how Santa got inside to deliver those gifts.

So, here I am, living in my parents home until things are fixed. They have gone to enjoy the warmth of the weather in the South (well, warmer than here in Michigan), and I have taken over their home with my room mate. We are lucky, we have heat, we have our food in their freezer and are not losing money in paying for a hotel, and we have beds to lay down in. I will say it once again, we are so lucky and so blessed to have a place to take refuge.

So many in our area are not as lucky, and I think of them during this time. I just hope that others can help to make them as comfortable as possible until they receive power back into their households. I do know a couple things that I want to share with the reading public:

1. For those who have houses with power, don’t criticize those who are complaining about it. They don’t want to hear your stories and how they should be happy to have a house to live in. They don’t want to hear you tell them they are selfish, because there are people worst off than they are. Although this might be true, the holidays are as stressful time for all, and you poking the hornets nest of emotions will not help, especially when their are children involved. Instead of tell him to “be grateful for what they have”, invite them to your homes for a meal or to warm up. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

2. Thank the Consumers workers when they come to your house. Five different states workers have come to Michigan to help us. It’s not their fault that this happened, but they have come to your rescue. I know you want heat, and to have a great Christmas (trust me, I do too. I had planned so many things to do before Christmas and can’t), but find the spirit to just say “thanks for what you do” to those workers. Their plans of being with family have been ruined too.

3. I will still remember the reason for the season, and hope that others do too. I will continue to wish for joy and peace in the world that is so dangerous for all of us. I will continue to pray for those in need, and I will embrace the good things that I have been grated with over the hard times I have suffered. Things are not perfect, but I will strive to make the best of what I have, today and always.

Merry Christmas, friends. I hope that everyone stays warm, stays happy, and stays blessed during the icy storm season.

I’m Just “Teacher” Tired

One thing that I know, there is nothing like being “teacher” tired. It is a level of fatigue that no one outside of the profession can understand. School start last week, and my body has broken down like I am a heavy weight contender that had a match with the Mike Tyson of yore. Everything when you are teacher tired, hurts, doesn’t want to function, and is on the verge of shutting down.

For example, my hip hurts at the start of each school year. I am talking limping, staggering around a house, pain. It will do this all weekend, and suddenly be cured for Monday morning, just to ache again at the last bell of Friday. It might be psychosomatic, but I tell you, anyone who has experienced being “teacher tired” completely understands.

If you want your mind to function, forget about it. You have to get your room set, clean up, make copies, sit in meetings, here a cheer for the new year then be belted back to earth with hearing about your standardize testing scores, stand in front of children, talk for hours, field a zillion questions (and no, that isn’t hyperbole, we get that many questions) from kids and parents, plus start to read and grade again. Most who aren’t called to teach would try this one day, and make a dart for the nearest cliff to jump off, because being a teacher at the beginning of the school year can break you.

So, to my dear friends that are “teacher” tired, I am with you. In less than an hour, I am going to put on my happy face for Open House, and make it seem like to parents that I have all the energy in the world for their children. That’s what teachers are designed to do. So saddle up for another school year, and fight the weights that bear down on us. Despite being this exhausted, we always make it for the benefit of our children.


Writing Hint of the Day-Write It Down Before You Forget

Writing Hint of the Day: Write down whatever weird things cross your mind. Most of the time, these crazy ideas come during our dreams. The unfortunate part of writing down our dreams is we forget them very quickly. I read an article that stated that we forget 90% of our dreams after the first 10 minutes of waking up. I truly believe this piece of data, because in the case of most writers, I have crazy creative dreams that wake me in the middle of the night, and if I don’t write it down immediately, I forget it.

So, here’s my tip for you. Keep a pad of paper and a pencil/pen next to your bed. You can roll right over and write down what odd events are produced by that mind of yours. Save the topics and ideas for a later time, for a time when you can think clearer and write your masterpiece. I have found that this helps me when coming up with creative topics, way more creative than when I am sitting in front of my laptop, stuck without topics to express.

So tonight, make sure to grab that small pad of yellow paper, one of your favorite pens, and do what great writers do, enjoy your dreams.

The Value of Writer’s Conference

My suggestion of the day for any new writer: Attend a Writing Conference

It will motivate you, inspire you, and get you writing in the right direction. I just attended a three day conference at Mott Community College, and I have been more productive this week than any week so far in the summer. I was able to write my thoughts, receive a critique on a piece, hear new ideas, and walk out of there with a new sense of focus. Attend a session, and try to find one near you that is a reasonable price. Lucky for me, this one was free because I attended for professional development, but I am sure there is a way for you to get focused as a writer without emptying your pocketbook.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”