December Thru March Was Madness

I haven’t written on this blog site in months. Tell me: where does the time go?

It’d be an interesting short story to personify Time. He resembles a tall, hairy Italian man in a speedo, who wears gold chains, I think. I could bring to life the places Time actually goes while a secondary character (fine, it’s me) is busy working (a simplified way of saying spending her days completely overwhelmed by work responsibilities), spending time with her family, planning a trip to Japan and generally trying to keep her head above water. Time, meanwhile, could be, maybe, floating along on a soft current in Maui listening to dolphins’ underwater communications or something, cocktail with a little colorful umbrella in hand. He’s doing something esoteric and much more important than bending to my will. He’s just gone.

As long as we’re agreeing to personify Time for a minute, I declare that Time would be an immovable, arrogant, untouchable being. Not mean, but a little obnoxious, unconcerned with the plight of any other force. Time, after all, does just whatever the hell it wants while I hang on its coattails like a small child begging please don’t go.

Time goes anyway, and sometimes you don’t realize Time is gone, and then, suddenly, you’re aware of him, like a 7-foot tall center on the opposite basketball team who subs in and scores twelve points before your feet move to play a little defense. Because you’re 44 and you have no coach to yell at you to hustle it up. Plus you’re fooling yourself that you can play basketball in the first damn place. You’re 5’2 on a good day, and Time, as I said, is 22 inches taller. You are never, ever going to win, no matter how fast you are. Time takes six steps and he’s down the court. You, not so much.

It’s an excuse, I know. Time passes too quickly for us all. Friends and family of all ages tell me that’s true. Lately, though, Time has returned from the vacation I thought he was on, and he’s doing a great deal of blocking shots and dunking the ball I mistakenly thought was in my possession. In short, he’s kicking my ass.

When I feel like this, I question everything. Is it possible to have a mid-life crisis at 44? I think it is. I don’t want a convertible or a motorcycle, but I do find myself thinking about that list of things I’ve always wanted to do. Here are three:

  1. write for a living
  2. live in a warm climate
  3. get paid to travel

The time has come when I’ve stopped wondering if Time is on my side. He’s wearing the opposite colored jersey now, scoring points against me, and it’s time to switch up my game. It’s a losing proposition, I know, but that doesn’t mean the game can’t still be fun, that I don’t still have a few moves left in me.

I’m inspired by people who zig when you think they’re going to zag. They change things up at a time it would be easy to get comfortable and enmeshed in routine. I can’t lie: too much routine bores me.

I’m restless, can you feel it? I’m seeking new adventures.

 

Welcome to My House

It’s my 15th year of teaching. Since the end of August I’ve been working with my new class — ages 13 and 14, remember (their minds blown by the magic and mayhem of middle school) and it’s been a lovely year so far.

But they are middle schoolers- that delightful mix of adult and child, villain and hero — both all at once, and neither, exactly. Alas, hilarity has ensued, as it does.

And it’s a good thing, too, because there are four days until holiday break and I’m holding fast to all my lines drawn in the sand.

“Mrs Hamlin, can I go the bathroom?”

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Middle school remains the craziest, kookiest, most tacos-with-your morning-coffee place.  But I’m saying: thank GOD. It’s keeping me on the edge of my seat, which is, therefore, keeping my mind off other stuff.

Here are three conversations that occurred recently in good ol’ room 68. I’m sorry there are only three because there are so many more and yet if I don’t write them down, they don’t stick in my brain. They are, however, gold, frankincense and myrrh — from me to you. Enjoy.

Student: “Mrs Hamlin do you know where you live?”

Me: (with a slight squint, because you never know if the question is real) Yes. I do know where I live. 

Student: That’s a good thing.

Me: (nodding slowly) It is.

Student, who never looks up from writing, says: In case you want to go home. Like, ever.

Me: (eyes wide) Right. Just in case. 

No one else even looks up from what they’re doing…

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Student: “Mrs. Hamlin do I have to write five paragraphs for this five paragraph essay?”

Me: blank stare

Student: “Just wondering if you’re serious about that.”

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Student: “Holy, Jesus.”

Me: Unless you’re praying, I don’t want to hear that language in here.

Student: “Totally praying! See?” (Starts doing a bizarre version of some choreographed dance, then singing, like Flo Rida) “Welcome to god’s house. Jesus take control now. You don’t need to bow down. You just have to go all out!”

Other student side-eyeing me, then says: “Let us pray.”

Yes. Yes. Very churchy this guy. Amen.

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So there you have it. Life in the 8th grade with never a dull moment. Welcome to my house. And Happy Holidays, ya’ll.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gaining Clarity

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks. There’s nothing like shocking news to draw you out of your own reverie, that beautiful, treacherous bubble.

I have a friend and colleague who found her beloved spouse of 34 years, in the middle of the night, outside, after a violent, fatal accident bush hogging their snowmobile trail on their land. I attended his service, and hugged my friend as she told me that she can’t close her eyes without replaying that horrible scene over and over again in her mind. There is nothing I can do but hug her tight, and listen.

My son has a friend, a young man we’ve known his whole life, whose mother died last week. It’s a club to which no one ever wants to belong, and here he is at age 17 facing life without her. It stuns the heart, and the mind, and that little voice in your head that tells you everything will be okay. I’ve noticed the silence where the voice usually singsongs away.

Everything is not okay.

There was the election, which didn’t go the way I’d hoped. It did go the way I thought it would, however; I wasn’t among the surprised. Horrified and terrified is more like it, and the decision our countrypeople made – at first – left me afraid of that thing I’ve always been afraid of: the unknown.

Until I realized an important distinction between Donald Trump and other things that keep me awake at night. Simply this: he is not the unknown. Mr. Trump has been crystal clear as to who he is, what he’s willing to say and do, and what he’s capable of. Which is to say he’s a man who will do whatever is necessary to win, to remain wealthy to the abject destruction of others, to hold power over anyone and everyone. I could go on, but any of you who hasn’t been living on a ship in the Antarctic knows details to support this statement.

Yes, other politicians are also capable of lying, cheating, manipulating – but never have I felt so shallow a chasm between the politician and the man or woman: his rhetoric IS his message. When he makes fun of a disabled reporter: that’s him putting up on a billboard that people who are other-abled are less than. (There are dozens of other examples and because this is a blog, not an essay, I won’t delve in.) But he hasn’t hidden who he is: he was elected on it.  I’m not afraid of what I don’t know. I’m afraid of what I do.

I’m a teacher. As such, I teach kindness, acceptance, problem-solving, respectful discord and honest conversation as ways to get along in the world. When I witness words or actions that threaten everyone’s right to exist in a safe space, it’s imperative I do something about it. When students don’t hold up their end of the bargain, they face consequences. We now have a president elect who has risen to his present position on the opposite tenets of everything I stand for as an educator (and as a parent, AND AS A HUMAN BEING for that matter.) And the consequence? He’s been elected to the highest office in the world.

What am I supposed to do with this?

We would survive a Republican in office, of course. I have voted for Republicans in the past. This is not about Republican vs. Democrat at this point. What we can’t survive is a person who sees every challenge to his way of thinking as an attack on his power. Who surrounds himself with people even more vehement in their desire to narrow the definition of “acceptable” for the rest of us. I do not, nor will I ever, stand on the side of an oppressor. But I’m afraid there will be people who can, and who will. This is how history shows us things go very, very wrong. When good people stand by and do nothing.

I listened intently when people, a year ago, were demanding change. I leaned in when they explained that the ways of Washington can’t fly – that our country wouldn’t survive much longer with an ever-growing debt, an ever-shrinking middle class, enormous favor given to the wealthy and to corporations who rape our resources. I heard them, and back then I truly hoped a contender for President would come forward who would be a game changer, someone who would shake things up and make them better for everyone. I would have voted for that person.

That guy is not Donald Trump.  How his empty words (literally: the man SAYS nothing) got him so far is confounding. He isn’t going to change anything meaningful that benefits us all. He’s going to change things that affect us all to benefit himself and those who think just like him. That’s what’s coming.

Like I said, it’s been a rough couple of weeks. This is the first time I’ve been able to put some words to the overwhelming emotion of being smacked upside the intellect several times in just a few short days.

What comes next? Still unclear.