“Who is that girl I see,
staring straight back at me?”
Yep, I know the words to almost every Disney song. Not only do I know the words, but they leap unbidden into my mind at the most surprising moments, providing a soundtrack I am embarrassed to share with most of my adult friends.
That snippet is from Mulan. Anybody else been taking the rampant quizzes on facebook lately? One of my buddies got Mulan as her “What Disney Princess Are You?” result, and said she didn’t even know Mulan. Not only do I know who Mulan is, I know her songs and I sing them to myself. Mulan is strong and brave and resourceful and fierce and wonderful. I would LOVE to get Mulan.
I got Ariel. Don’t get me wrong, Ariel has good songs, too. She’s charming and vivacious but she isn’t the one I wanted. I like her, but I don’t admire her like I admire Mulan. I am not really a person who puts excessive stock in facebook quizzes (I hope), but I would like to think that I am more like the characters I admire. Ariel has such bad judgement!
Unfortunately I know that real life isn’t much like a Disney movie. And I know that I am not brave. But I do spend a few minutes looking in the mirror each morning, admiring myself and feeling grateful for my grandmother who taught me to smile and primp and give myself that vital pep talk each day. Putting on make-up is a way to celebrate myself. I am pretty, and I have always been pretty. It’s nice to be pretty, princess. It’s better to be nice. It would be even better to be brave.
Image credit: “safe” – © 2007 Paul Keller – made available under Attribution 2.0 Generic
On May 11, 1953, a horrible F5 tornado destroyed downtown Waco. Have I mentioned that I live in Waco? This tornado was long before I came here, even before I was born. But I look at that safe and it instantly takes me into the collective memory of this community which says, “Nothing is safe. But we care about each other and we will make ourselves as safe as possible.”
On the 50th anniversary of the tornado, I invited a guest speaker for my fifth graders. Her father owned a store in downtown Waco that was open on the afternoon that the tornado struck. She remembered the the day quite vividly. Her talk was mesmerizing, and focused on the clean-up and rebuilding. One tidbit that really stuck with me had to do with an unidentified desk that was deposited in her father’s shoe store by the tornado. It was battered, but intact, and completely empty. They never found out where it came from, but they kept it and used it.
Let that sit in your brain for a few minutes – what kinds of things have big disasters thrown through the front windows of your life that turned out to be usable?
Everybody faces disasters. Stuff goes wrong. Sometimes it’s the fault of the people involved, and sometimes it’s more like a a tornado – nobody’s fault, but you sure can see some ways to handle the next one better.
What matters most is what happens next. The Waco tornado was a catalyst for the national system for storm warnings. After the sudden death of my mom, I learned to value older people in my life and found some of my very best friends among the folks I had never noticed. A bout with depression sent me scrambling for coping skills and self-awareness. Divorce taught me to put bandaids on myself.
Now in Waco we have the Alico building, which looks kind of weird to new folks because it’s the single really tall thing downtown. Waco folks learn to navigate by finding that building (which is good because our town is laid out in a really stupid spiral to make dummies go away). We at First Presbyterian appreciate the beautiful windows in our 100 year old sanctuary, keenly aware that our windows did not blow out that day, though many did.
What has disaster left to you?
Even a safe isn’t “safe.” But survival happens, and it’s amazing.
“You’re not mean!?!” This is said with incredulity. Mine is the classroom where children are sent when they are driving their own teachers bananas. I am a way-station on the route to the office for many, but sometimes a kid just needs to breathe some different air for a little while. Few kids are really willing to act up a lot in front of bigger kids, and my fifth graders are pretty well trained. They know the drill – this kid is here so we can scare him (or her – today it was a girl).
So the extra chair at the table is sometimes occupied by a grouchy child who is almost in big trouble back on the home planet. After a little while, I usually offer a freshly sharpened pencil or a clean eraser, whatever it looks like might be helpful. I’ll pick a book that’s been popular and set it within reach.
“So what happened?” I’ll eventually ask. I keep on with my usual routine, directing traffic with my eyebrows, but I try to start the conversation with the foreigner. No matter what, I just say, “Yeah, that sounds rough…” and move away.
After a while, the kid will start to relax. Finish the work that came from the home classroom. Get involved in something we’re doing.
Usually it’s a surprise when the door opens on a student saying “Come back!”
“Can I stay here? Can I come back?”
“Sure, if it’s okay with your teacher.”
And more often than not, on the way out the door, “You’re not mean?!?”
“I am too!” I insist. My students giggle, and I scowl at them fiercely. “Don’t you go telling anybody I’m not!”
First, here’s the link to a great post…
I loved this so much I shared it on facebook. I’m not really sharing my blog on facebook yet. I invited some important people over here for a look, because I don’t want to get caught up in being anonymous. I wanted to feel like people I care about are looking. I care about the strangers who are reading, too, but not in the same way.
When I shared Simply Sage’s beautiful work on my facebook page, I was so pleased that several friends responded favorably. I like it when what I find beautiful is found beautiful by others. I also liked that several of the folks who went to the trouble to make a facebook comment on my share were people that have been through a lot with me. It fit the post. We have stood together, maybe not in the The Polar Vortex, but through disasterous teenagers and life-threatening diseases. Those cold little birds have got nothing on us.
For many of the friends in my flock, we gather quite frequently together at First Presbyterian Church. Much like the ladies in the original post looked out the window at the birds, I think God might indeed be watching us perched in our pews, clutching for dear life in the breath-stealing storms of our lives. Thank heavens for birdseed and company.
Yes, as Ms. Sage suggested, there is pecking and pettiness when the wind dies down. We tend to forget that we’re all in this together. Maybe my storms are just too recent, my feathers a little too wet still, but as I think about this I want to call up a few old buzzards and request, if not forgiveness, at least a hatchet-burying. The wind will whip back up, I think, and it will be too cold to worry about who’s standing by whom at the birdbath or whose nest was highest in the tree. We’re all in this together. Let’s be ready when the storms come again.
Ms. Sage states that she can sing first soprano in her charming “Less About Me” section. I am a lowly alto. I can’t do what she can do musically, and I can’t really do what she has shown she can do with her blog, either. Yet. What joy it gave me to share her work! And what reassurance it brought to see my friends flocking together in appreciation.
I understand that negative comments are just part of internet life. If I am brave enough to hit “publish” on my little musings and send them out into the blogosphere, I have to expect that some percentage of the responses I may get will be negative. Okay. Got it.
After my first couple of happy days filled with nothing but cheerful affirmation, this morning I finally had that expected negative comment. “WTF – who do you think you are trying to fool here?” said some snarky person who was passing by my little corner of the internet. I was very comfortable with hitting “trash” on this comment – this is my little corner, after all, and I don’t have to let anybody else rain on my parade. I don’t condone meanness in any other context and I was prepared to just sweep this away as nothing special.
Then I noticed the name. The name was familiar. Hmmm…
Turns out the person who made the first unfriendly comment here is the author of a blog I really like! I do not know this individual personally, but after running across their writing as part of the Zero to Hero assignments, I have spent quite a bit of time enjoying their work.
I seriously considered going right straight over to their blog to give them a piece of my mind. Much like when I rolled down my car window to chastise some random children I encountered playing in the street on Saturday. “Does your mother know you are playing in the street? Get out of the street!” (You may have an inkling of why my own children sometimes found me a bit embarrassing – one of my quirks is that I can’t always leave that teacher voice at school!). But it strikes me that this is probably not a child doing something dangerous. It’s an adult doing something unkind. And we adults really don’t have much right now adays to expect each other to behave kindly, do we?
“There is no excuse for rudeness.” “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We tell children these things. My mama was really big on that first one. I bet she had a secret tattoo of that someplace – in the seventies most mamas did not have visible tattoos. But she said that ALL the time. “There is no excuse for rudeness.” Okay, okay, mom, I get it.
So I really can’t go over to that blog in good conscience and respond in kind. Besides, I LIKE that blog, even if I now realize I might not like that person all that much. I expect my mom is someplace feeling proud of me. I hope the things I said to my kids ALL THE TIME stick with them as well.
Holy PJs, Batman, those footie pajamas would fit somebody six feet tall!
And he said, “Mom, please don’t.” In a tone that made it clear he was not finding this nearly as amusing as I was. He is 25, after all, and recently credentialed to practice law.
Today’s zerotohero prompt was about fast-forwarding. “If you could fast forward to a specific date in the future, when would it be?” Funny, at first it made me think more about rewinding. If I could go back… that little boy in his batman costume sure was fun! At the time, it was exhausting to be the mother of preschoolers, but now I realize the freedom I had to just while away whole days PLAYING. Why didn’t I appreciate that at the time? Why was it that I thought I wanted them to just get old enough to do SOMETHING for themselves?!? I have a great sense of the things I rushed, that I did wrong, of the things I failed to appreciate, of regret…
HOLD IT! We interrupt this lament to remind everyone that this post is actually supposed to be about fast forwarding! Enough with the sappy melancholy!
We now return to our regularly scheduled post, already in progress.
This must be part of what makes being a grandparent so awesome! I imagine the fun I shall have with those children! The glorious, joyful play without regret! Bring on the grandchildren!
If I could fast forward to one specific day, it would be the first day of my oldest grandchild’s kindergarten spring break. I shall gather up Mom and Dad, leave the younger siblings with the other grandparents, and whisk this first one off to Disneyworld! I hope my boy, who is now six-foot-four, gets to look down a Disney street and see his five-year-old sparkling with the same amazed delight that he exuded when he saw THE REAL NINJA TURTLES for the first time. That his sister sparkled with when the parade Princess danced with her. And this time, I will have no thought of naps or sunscreen (that’s why the mama and daddy are there, after all). I will just bask in the the happiness and pray for a slow-motion button to make my fast-forward moment last.
Did I consider this enough when my girl was small? I have ten year old students who are unhappy because their thighs touch. Yes, we need to hold each other’s hands, sisters, and shush each other gently but firmly, again and again, whenever these mean thoughts creep up and out our mouths. Be gentle with yourself, lovely women, because the world will not always be so.