Here's Why, Life right now

Don’t call it a come back.

boxing

I became a teacher in 2008. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with the energy of a 22-year old about to change the world.

2008 was the exact year that education in AZ took it’s biggest nosedive.

Since 2008, AZ state legislatures have cut more public education funding than any other state in the nation. Prop 123 only restored 18% of what was actually cut.

We are currently #51 in per-pupil spending (Yeah, 51 –- that includes the District of Columbia).

This school year, 47% of vacant teacher positions remain unstaffed or have substitutes.

My first year teaching, I dove straight in. For $33k, I taught 157 freshman and senior English students. I coached and sponsored and worked about 60-70 hours in a typical week.

I was doing the work I had set out to do: I was changing lives, and those lives were changing mine.

I was nominated for the district Rookie of the Year and made it to the final round. My volleyball team lost a single game that season (after their coach taught herself the sport off of YouTube). Every junior and senior I tutored passed the AIMS exam.

And at the end of that first year, I was told there was a high probability that I would be let go. That our district may not have the funds to keep me.

I was put on the bottom of a list of district seniority (it sat right next to the copy machine in the front office in an ominous black binder) so that I’d know how close I was to losing my job as more and more were eliminated. This went on for about four months before I found out that I was one of the lucky ones that would get to keep my position…

…even though all teachers were getting a 2% pay cut.

I kept at it. Teaching gave me life, even when I was personally stumbling.

My first husband, a teacher, had an affair with a student.

That’s a part of my story I’ve yet to brave or find a place to tell, but it is exactly that: part of my story. (There’s a lot of brave people out there speaking out. I’m so proud of these people every time they share their stories. I’m getting there). We separated when something was obviously wrong. I reported him when I discovered what was going on. He and the student’s mother lied to the police about it, and then he was turned in months later.

A single mom from 2012-2014, making ends meet on an Arizona teacher’s salary was a joke. Carter’s insurance alone through the district was just over $700 a month (about a third of my income). I picked up a 6/5 schedule to help, but it was still nearly impossible.

None of that came with me to school. That melted away when I was in my element, in the classroom. After years of creating a safe place for students, I found out that my classroom was actually just that for me.

It was about that time that I decided to go back to school and get my Master’s. Education opens doors. I chose Curriculum and Instruction in Gifted Education after a night of watching my then two-year old read me bedtime stories. (Carter Patrick, you have always shown me how to grow.)

Life hasn’t slowed down. These past years have been the highest of highs and the saddest of sads. I married Jesse in the spring of 2014 and we had Jack in January of 2015. Megan was killed three weeks later, and my Master’s graduation was in May. I remember finishing that final semester in a blur of sleepless nights after losing her, rocking Jack to sleep at all hours and thinking, over and over “Why does all of this even matter?”

I don’t have the answer for all of that, not in word-form. I just know it does.

All of what we do and know and speak matters because life keeps going, and because things can get better. I know that because I’m married to the person who spurs me on towards greatness and cuddles me when it gets too hard. I know that because we made a life for the three of us after Jesse married me and Carter.

I still remember the days that I prayed for just that, if only that. Looking back at that is like standing on top of a mountain and pointing to where you started. Cheesy and true — plus the air just tastes better up there.

And that was before adding Jack and the twins. It all still takes my breath away. Even with my hands full of bottles and diapers and a never-clean-enough house and trying to keep up on Gifted and now Autism and infant twins and and and — whenever I can hold still enough to find my anxious breath, I always exhale hard and let it get taken away.

I know that this life is impossible. We’re never going to get it all; we’re never going to get it all right. I also know that every one of us is a boat full of stories. And I know that’s why I started teaching. Because I wanted to learn stories and tell stories and open eyes, hearts and doors — because that’s what learning does for me.

So, I’m coming back. This year, I’m looking to dip my toes back into education. I know that I’m coming back to fight for kids and for teachers and for Arizona. I don’t know yet what that’s going to look like, but I can feel what it feels like, and it is all sorts of good.

 

 

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Growing Up Carter, Life right now

Coach Pitch.

Carter Patrick started playing baseball on a real team and OH MY HELL is it cute.

He is STOKED about the apparel involved. Cleats? Hat? Jersey? Socks that reach his scrawny mid-thigh? Check, check, check. Throw in pants with a little belt, a brand new glove, his own bat, and a helmet, and you’ve got two broke parents and one serious fashionista …isto? Fashion-ister?

(He is a Muckdog. No, I’m not sure exactly what that is, but I Googled it once and it has something to do with feral dogs who hang around onion swamps. Rad.)

Him cheering for teammates and scrunching his eyes under his brim and the surprise on his face when he hits the ball — BASEBALL IS SO CUTE.

And also, baseball is a crucible on my very sanity and patience.

Carter has cried no less than three times about baseball. He asked me if he could quit multiple times a day for a week straight.

He doesn’t cry because he gets hurt or because he strikes out. No, Carter cries because he isn’t instantly perfect at the game and that is earth-shatteringly frustrating. This is how life goes with Carter. Baseball, gymnastics, double-digit subtraction — he would rather just not try something than be bad at it.

So I make him keep doing it, whatever the current ‘it’ is. I am ruthless that way. I rule with an iron fist when it comes to not giving up. I’ve read too much Malcolm Gladwell and Carol Dweck, and also I’m just plain mean. I like to set my kids up to fail, just for spite, obviously. #justmomthings

There’s a sweet spot with every new skill where all of a sudden Carter gets all about it and everything is right with the world again. We reached that point this week with baseball. He’s familiar with the practice set up, the kids, the allocation of drink breaks. He’s hit a few solid line drives, he’s got the hang of this whole catch thing, he’s making less mistakes — which of course is not because HE’S PRACTICING or because Mom and Dad wouldn’t let him throw in the towel. It’s because he is SO GOOD and he loves it and are we watching?

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Yup. Still watching. Choke up on that bat, son.

Here's Why, Life right now

No bigs.

On Tuesday mornings, I meet with a big ol’ group of women, all ages, and we listen to our teacher and drink lots of coffee and oogle babies and escape our toddlers for an hour or so. Bible Study Tuesday has become a staple in my life.

Today, our fearless leader asked us, “What are you doing in your life that counts for eternity?”

Quite the question.

My mind went right to my lap, which was bouncing a fussy Charlie Girl.

My lap is tired.

I’m tired — Mother of Newborn Twins tired. Mother of a Two-year Old tired. Mother of a Six-Going-on-Sixteen-Year Old tired. My eyes are tired of opening at 3am. My ears are tired of screeches. My arms are tired of catching, lifting, hoisting, holding. My skin is tired of being touched and touched and touched. And my nostrils? Well, yeah, they’re tired too.

This is what I’m doing that I hope, hope, hope is counting for eternity, at least in a positive way. And here’s what I think.

I’m doing really, really well. I am KILLING IT.

I know this for a fact because my kids bathe daily, usually. I know because nine times out of ten, Carter’s homework is finished before the morning it’s due. It’s a fact because Jack ate split pea soup for lunch and only spilt half down his shirt and because 50% of my twins are sleeping through the night.

I know because Carter says if he could pick anyone in the world, he’d want to have dinner with me and a sleepover with Grammie and Miley. I know because Jack hasn’t broken a bone yet. I know because I regularly load up four seat-belted kids into my sky-blue minivan and successfully pull out of our driveway without major bodily injuries. I know because our kids can’t tell the difference between real and fake meat, because one boy loves asparagus and the other loves salad.

I know because church on Sundays, gymnastics on Wednesdays, baseball on Saturdays. Because I remembered to cut out all of those Boxtops for Education. Because more whole foods! Fuel points! Notes in his lunchbox! Two dishwasher cycles, three loads of laundry — daily!

I’m totally bragging here, but I even exercised this week. I even curled my hair once.

But I couldn’t do it all by myself. I’d like to take a moment to praise the other power players raising these little humans: their dad, their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, and Amazon Prime.

This #momlife is the bee’s knees, and I am rocking it. You go, Heather Lynne. Keep on keepin’ on.

(But mostly, what I’m trying to say is this #momlife is so, so hard, and I’m going to keep on keepin’ on. Eternity is on the line.)