The Blog. Is. BACK!

Hey-oh! Look who’s back at it? I had all these grand plans for lots of blogging this summer, but that didn’t happen. Then back to school rolled around, and it really didn’t happen. But here I am, creeping up on Labor Day weekend, settling in to back to school, and feeling like it’s time to write again. I won’t call roll, faithful friends, but I hope you’re still ready to be part of my sitcom-worthy ridiculousness.

I decided to write this post after a friend challenged me to a FB trend right now in which you post 3 things you are thankful for 7 days, and you challenge 3 new people to do it each day. “Uh…Hayley? This isn’t Facebook…” I know- it’s my very own blog, and I get to do what I want with it, so roll with it. As much as I enjoy social media, I am not really big on social media trends. I haven’t faced the Ice Bucket yet, I refuse to hashtag on FB, and I never play the games where you post silly statuses based off what color underwear you are wearing. I know. Party pooper extraordinaire. So, I didn’t accept the challenge on FB, because I am weird, BUT I do think thankfulness is a very important thing to practice, and I caught myself being exceptionally grumpy today. One of my favorite quotes says, “Gratitude changes everything”, so here’s a post of gratitude to help change my attitude.

Random Thankful Thoughts
1. I am thankful for this blog. It’s an outlet that makes me happy, and I need to make myself stick to a habit of writing more diligently.
2. I am thankful for these two stinkers.

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Lizzy is the sweetest baby girl who reminds me that love is best when it’s perfectly imperfect. Riley is officially the worst dog in the history of EVER who reminds me that love is patient. Really patient. Like give Job a run for his money patient. But nonetheless…love is patient, and I am thankful this rotten little dog reminds me of that.
3. I am thankful for Dolly Parton. No, really, I am. I am thankful for her, because she is so proud of where came from, and because she is so committed to social justice and children’s literacy. Oh, and I am also thankful for her because of this.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhorHC-tOwQ
Ya’ll, I know I said I wasn’t into social media trends, but I really want to be Dolly in my next life. Or Richard Simmons. (Is there a Richard Simmons ice bucket challenge video?!)
4. I am thankful for sweet church ladies. I actually worked at my church this summer in the children’s ministry. I made new friends, met many new people, and had a very special time reconnecting with my “adopted dad” who is a pastor there. My favorite part, though, was greeting people at the end of each service- especially the little old ladies. I love their perfectly fixed hair and their perfectly pressed blouses and skirts. I love how I have to shake their frail hands more gently. I love how their eyes light up when I tell them how pretty they look. I love the moments when they want to hug me…and I hate the moments when they break the hug and pull away. They have no idea that I want to throw myself at their feet to stop them from walking away. They have no idea how much they make me want to weep for my Mamaw- the ultimate “church lady.” They have no idea this young girl they don’t really know is thankful for their presence from the bottom of her heart.
5. On that note, I am thankful for sweet surprises. I was cleaning and organizing this summer, and I found this note from my Mamaw dated the day I graduated college.
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 I seriously probably haven’t laid eyes on this since the day I graduated, but when I found it, I cried until my mascara ran, and I looked like the Joker, and then I cried some more. Love is patient. Love is perfectly imperfect. Love is the sweet, loving words of a loved one in an unexpected moment.
6. I am thankful college football season is back!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve missed you, Lee Corso. Let’s be besties.
7. I am thankful for my new job. I moved from the classroom to special education this year, and I am in love. I am using Wilson Reading with my students which is a fantastic reading intervention program, and while it doesn’t produce miracles overnight, it does produce children who experience success and pride and finally feel like maybe this while learning to read thing will work out for them. One of my assistants looked at me the other day while one of my groups was working, and man were they ever working, and she said, “Watching them use this…seeing this matter to them and seeing them try and want it so badly…it gives me hope.” Ya’ll. Stop. My. Teacher. Heart. I am thankful for that incredible compliment. I am thankful for those incredible kids. I am thankful for the chance to be part of something which I pray will give my students incredible hope.
8. I am thankful I finally quit Diet Coke for good. Just kidding. I just had to throw some sarcasm in there to balance out my sap. ;-)
9. I am thankful I haven’t had a bucket of ice water dumped over my head yet. For reals. Dolly’s got me feeling the peer pressure, though.
10. I am thankful for forgiveness. The forgiveness we receive in Christ, the forgiveness of a friend when I didn’t deserve it, the forgiveness of our parents when we really don’t deserve it, the forgiveness of a student when I fuss at them for something they didn’t do, the forgiveness of my dogs when I leave them at home alone too long…forgiveness is a pretty big deal, and it comes from one thing- love. We should be fall on our knees grateful both.
11. And a random list to finish this out…I am thankful for dogs, my small town upbringing, easy friendships, running shoes, COFFEE, homemade desserts in a cool-whip container, toothless grins (old and kids alike!), laughing at inopportune moments, Richard Simmmons (ya’ll knew that was coming), kind strangers, Southern accents, Diet Coke, and candy corn. Oh…and YOU! I have missed ya’ll! So, now I challenge YOU to cling to this thought and to hold me to it: “Gratitude changes everything.”
Xoxo,
Hayley and Riley (The dog who is not thankful his momma went back to school.)

2, 4, 6, 8 Who do we appreciate?

Admit it! You just read that title in your head like a cheerleader. Don’t lie, ya’ll. No shame! ;-)

In case you didn’t know, this week (May 5-9) is National Teacher Appreciation Week with Tuesday being National Teacher Appreciation Day. As a teacher myself, I can assure you, I don’t think it’s coincidence that this weeklong celebration of educators comes in early May. In many parts of the United States, the school year ends in late May, so to have Teacher Appreciation Week in early May is fitting, because this is the time of year when we need it most! For you athletes out there, think of the last few weeks of the school year as comparable to the last few miles of a marathon or the last few minutes of a nailbiting game: mind over matter, minute to win it, mad dash to the finish. There is no relax and eat bon bons after standardized testing is over. Are you crazy? Teachers have to maintain order in the court until the last bell rings on the last day. So, yeah, teacher appreciation in May is appropriate, and most of the teachers I know are grateful for the kind words and extra gestures not just in May but all year-round.

Most of the time, this blog is about Hayley. One of the hardest things about being a teacher is it’s often hard to seperate your teacher self from your personal self. Honestly, it seems impossible at times. The people who take my group fitness classes say I teach aerobics with my “teacher voice.” While working on housebreaking with my new dog, instead of scolding her for peeing in the floor I caught myself saying, “Lizzy, are you making good choices?” It causes me physical pain to not get onto misbehaving children in public, and I can’t resist seeing a child engrossed in a book without asking them what they are reading and whether or not they like it. No matter how hard I try to take the teacher hat off, Ms. Lynn just doesn’t go away. That’s why, during Teacher Appreciation Week- a week all about all of the awesome teachers out there, I am choosing to write in response to this prompt: “Sometimes, teachers learn the most from their students. Have you ever had the tables turned on you when you thought you were teaching, but underwent the largest change yourself?” Have I ever had the tables turned on me and learned from my students? Um…yes. Often, and they are lessons we could all use, so let me present to you a brief list of things my students have taught me:

1. Celebrate life’s small victories- In a modern, competitive world, it’s easy to get caught up in the push to be the best of the best of the best. We want first place, good scores, the leading role- the big victories. In fact, the bigger, the better. We set big goals with big dreams and big visions, and we celebrate them with grandeur. Then, we turn right around and set an even bigger goal. Don’t stop. Keep pushing. On and on. It’s the pace of our hectic lives. There’s just no time to get excited about the little things…but there should be. When I taught first grade, one of my students, a very struggling reader, was being tested on recognition of 52 basic sight words. The, they, at, in, etc. Easy enough, right? Wrong. One day, every word he saw on the card was “do.” Even when the word on the card wasn’t “do” his response was “do.” On card #4 and card #37…the same thing…he saw “do.” With my patience waning and both of our frustration levels mounting, I tried every clue I could think of to help him recognize any of these words. Nothing worked. Then, when we were almost through the entire set of words, there it popped up…”do.” His little face lit up with genuine recognition as he shouted, “DO!” Relieved, I high-fived him and said, “Yes! You got it!” He immediately responded with a little endzone happy dance and said, “Oh, snap!” That small victory was huge for him. He carried on with excitement until I had to be stern to get him back to work, but sometimes, the small things are worth an excessive celebration penalty. ;-)

2. Be silly- Sometimes, when my third graders ask what we are having for lunch, I reply, “Booger sandwiches.” They always giggle, because it’s funny when your teacher says booger. When I am reading a story out loud that contains the word underwear, they giggle, because it’s funny when your teacher says underwear. When I say things like, “Is it ever ok to sit on your friend’s head?” or “What is the funky goop growing in your lunchbox?” they giggle, because it’s funny when your teacher asks questions like that. When I say, “Guys, for real. It stinks in here. If you need to go to the bathroom, just. go. Seriously. Stop it.” they giggle, because they know what I am referring to, and it’s funny when your teacher is talking about a toot. And do you know what happens when they giggle like that? 9 times out of 10, I giggle, too. Giggling is infectious, and we all need to be infected with some silly sometimes.

3. Embrace differences- One of my favorite verses in the Bible says, “I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14). I love the concept of being “fearfully and wonderfully made.” All the quirks of our bodies and personalities…everything that makes us who we are…fearfully, wonderfully made by Him. I think it is the sweetest way to think of a child, and I wish I could always think of every child I meet with that mindset, but it’s hard to do that. Teachers, you know what I mean. We’ve all had that kid…yeah, that kid. That kid who says your name so many times a day you want to join the Witness Protection Program. That kid who when you are making Christmas decorations glues Santa’s pants on upside down. That kid who always steps to the left whenever you say step to the right. That kid who when you threaten them not to say one more word always has to say one…more…word. That kid will give you gray hair before your time or send you back to the colorist sooner than you can afford, but I have also learned that kid has a lot to teach us if we just pay attention.

One year at Valentine’s a kid who I will call “Sam” (not his real name) was decorating his box for our party. I had doiles and glitter and foam sticker hearts and all the perfect shades of pink, purple, red, and white laid out. Visions of Pinterest perfection danced in my head. Then, Sam came to the table. He was a struggling reader with a pronounced speech impediment. He didn’t fit “the mold” nor did he want to. He was often “that kid,” and he didn’t care. “Where’s the black? And the green?” I told him this was Valentine’s Day, and I hadn’t put any black or green out. (Hello? Martha would not approve.) I went back to what I was doing thinking he would go straight to work, and he did. He used my perfect pink, purple, red, and white all over his box. Oh, and black and green markers from his desk to color the doiles which he glued on with enough glue to hold together a spacesuit. And let’s not forget the glitter that was supposed to spell out his name but looked like he had written it while riding horseback. My eye twitched. My OCD was showing. The boxes didn’t look like this on Pinterest, but maybe…maybe if I just wiped this off here and straightened this out here…I reached my hand out to start trying to fix the mess I saw, and Sam pushed my hand away with an unexpected ferocity, “No! Dis is my box! It’s boo-te-ful just like dis.” I paused. I didn’t know what to say at first, but then I said, “You’re right.” And he was. It was his box, and it was beautiful and perfectly imperfect…just like him. How’s that for fearfully, wonderfully made? You know “that kid” in your class? Give them an extra hug tomorrow. You won’t regret it.

4. Get excited to the see people you love.- Remember being a kid and seeing your teacher in public? Wasn’t that the funniest thing? You couldn’t believe they went bowling or bought groceries or went to the pool. You would scream their name five aisles down in the store just to make sure they saw you even though you both just left school 30 minutes before. You had to wave at them from the bus window when their car pulled up beside you. You had to run and give them a hug even though you would see them tomorrow. It was so exciting to see your teacher, because they were always excited to see you! (Confession: I’m 31 years old, and I still get excited when I see my favorite teachers.) My friends who are not teachers think it is so funny when a gaggle of 8 year old paparazzi members pounce on me when I am spotted in public. You know why? They remember how special it was to be that excited to see someone and for them to be that excited to see you in return. It just makes you feel good. Here’s what’s really awesome: that kind of joy is not just limited to excited kids and their teachers. Get excited to see someone you love this week. I promise it will make you feel good, too. 

5. Love your kids- This was actually a lesson taught to me by one of my favorite teachers, but my students reinforce it in my heart. This teacher of mine, who is now my friend, gave me this advice when I first began my teaching program in college. He told me to support my kids, defend my kids, teach my kids, praise my kids, protect my kids, and above all else, love my kids. He warned me I would have moments when it would seem so hard to love a student that I would wonder if it were possible, but that a teacher’s heart must always hold love for their kids. Nine years in to my career, he will vent and let me vent in return. Then, right before he cuts off the teacher talk for something more casual, he always says to me, “But don’t forget…you gotta love ‘em.” He’s right. Even when they don’t like me, my students love me. I hear it in their giggles, see it in their smiles, and feel it in their hugs. Teachers are charged with many duties, but above all else, “you gotta love ‘em.”

So, 2, 4, 6, 8 who do I appreciate? Teachers, of course, but most of all, my students. The kiddos who wind me up and wear me down but always keep me coming back for more. I am thankful for all they teach me.

                          Xoxo,

                             Hayley and Riley (the dog who would love to come to school with his Mom!)    

The Bucket List

Let me just start off by saying “The Bucket List” is not a very original title for this post, but you will soon see that “writing consistently witty blog titles” is not on my bucket list. Give a girl a break. ;-)

Over the past month or so, it seems that the concept of a “bucket list” has come up in multiple conversations with various people in my life. One conversation involved me stating something was a “bucket list” item for me, and another involved a discussion of the fifth item on people’s bucket lists. A recent blog prompt from WordPress was about your own bucket list items, and all of these things combined really had me thinking about the whole bucket list thing- mainly, the fact that I don’t have one. Yeah, I just mentioned a “something” that was a bucket list item (I’ll get to that), but I really don’t have a true list of things I want to do or accomplish before I die. If I only have one something I can think of offhand, then I certainly can’t tell you what sits in fifth place on that list.

After some thought, I decided I wanted to write a bucket list, but I hesitated once again. Bucket lists seem to me to be filled with things like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or swimming in a cage in a shark tank or running a marathon on every continent. In my world, those are not bucket list items. Those are items on the list called “things ain’t nobody got time for.” If a bucket list is supposed to be filled with grandiose adventures and swimming with poisonous creatures in a dark cavern then you can forget it. I’m good. Fill my bucket up with treasures and tales from my sweet, little East Tennessee home, please, because I have no desire to end the quest of the bucket list by falling into a crocodile’s mouth as I zipline through the Amazon jungle. Ya’ll! Who are you people that like to do these things?! I think you’re weird. Really, I do. But ya’ll go have your fun. Your international expeditions leave more okra for me at Sunday dinner. Anyway, like I said, in my mind, my life and the things I enjoy don’t fit what I view as the stereotypical bucket list. I am just not adventurous, and I never will be. I thought and thought about it, and I decided a bucket list doesn’t have to be about wild expeditions and daredevil tales, but I just couldn’t get started writing one. I came home from school today wanting to write, though, and I decided on this topic. So, here it is, my (stream of conciousness) bucket list.

1. Write and publish a children’s book- I love kids. I love children’s books. I love to tell a good story. I have to do this. I know I can do this. I think about it often…just waiting for the right idea, the right character, the right something to get me going. I could totally see myself writing about my adventures with Riley-dog, because there is always a story to tell there especially now with little sister Lizzy in the picture. This is a bucket list item that really matters to me. All my momma and teacher friends need to be looking for me in your kids’ Scholastic book orders someday. I’m going to be famous. I can feel it!

2. Get a PhD- This is the “something” I mentioned earlier that would be on my bucket list for sure. I really like to learn about things that interest me. I LOVED college as an undergrad. I loved intellectual discussion and research and writing. Really, I did. Total dork. Grad school was a little harder for me to enjoy, because I was teaching full-time and early in my career to boot, and it was a lot to juggle, but I loved learning enough that I missed the enjoyable learning experiences I had as an undergrad. I hope to someday be in a financial position which would allow me to take some time off work to focus solely on a doctoral program in either education or child and family studies. I would love to take my work and research and learning and just own it and open up brand new opportunities in my life. I know myself well enough to know I wouldn’t balance a full time job and an intense program like that very well, but someday, this is my goal. I have been so blessed with outstanding learning opportunities both in my own education and in my career, and I hope I never lose my lust for learning. Plus, I could insist everyone call me “Dr.” ;-) Even better, I could say, “Trust me, I’m a doctor.” (BAH! Ya’ll knew that bad joke was coming!)

 3. Run a marathon- Just one. Not some crazy one with some crazy theme or as part of some crazy continental challenge. Just one, 26.2 mile race. All I need to satisfy me is one marathon in a respectable time (I would die if Mickey had to escort me off the Disney course, because I was so slow). I really like to eat, so training would be a really good excuse. Doritos count as carbo-loading, right? Oh, I am supposed to eat healthy while I train for a marathon? Ok, maybe we should scratch this one off the list. KIDDING! Cheyenne, you better have my back on this! Just maybe not November 2014! ;-)

4. Meet Richard Simmons. No, really. I have to meet him! I HAVE to! I love, love, love him. Go back to my Valentine’s Day post to read why, or just google pics of Richard Simmons, and surely you will see and understand why I have to have him as part of my life for even just two minutes. I mean, I don’t want to get arrested for stalking or anything, but I am not opposed to hanging out outside his gym in LA every day for the rest of my life until I get a picture with him. Is that a little dramatic? Maybe? Richard is a little dramatic. I think he’d be ok with it.

5. **The famous afore mentioned FIFTH item on my bucket list**: Have a family. Aw, I know. A softy one after a silly one. (Keep in mind I said this was a stream of conciousness bucket list…so these aren’t ranked in order of importance.) I want a family of my own. Don’t get me wrong. I love my parents and friends, and I adore my fur-babies and consider them my children, but…I want baby babies. I’ve always wanted kids, and that will never change. Adoption, surrogacy, stepchildren, my own flesh and blood, I don’t care. I would love them all just the same. I have devoted my life to kids as a teacher, and even if I don’t teach forever, I know in my heart of hearts that I will always work with children. I love kids too much, even when they make me bonkers, to stray from a life that serves them. Just like I know I will always work with kids, I know I will always want to be someone’s Mommy. A Daddy to go along with me as Mommy would be great, and I hope and pray every day that happens for me too, but in the end, above all else, I want babies to call my own. Geez, did it just get dusty in here?

6. To be more at peace with and less afraid of death- This is a weird bucket list item, and it’s a hard one for me, because having weird fears and lingering questions about death really makes me question my faith and makes me feel at times like I am not the Christian I should be. I know, I know, I’m human, and we falter and wonder and will always have questions and fears about the unknowns of life, but I just really hate those moments when I let the voice of my fears talk louder than the voice of my faith.

7. Be a Radio City Rockette- In a conversation amongst strangers at a training I once attended, the group leader asked everyone to share what they would want to accomplish if they could only do one thing for the rest of their lives. The responses ran the gamut from “climb Mt. Everest” to “cure cancer” to “end world hunger.” Until it got to me, and I boldly replied, “I would become a Radio City Rockette.” I got a lot of “Go home, Barbie” looks, but the group leader slowly broke into a huge smile and said, “I have never heard a response so joyfully honest.” Ok, ok, so this one is more of a pipe dream than a genuine bucket list item, but the Dixie Chicks said it best, “Some days you gotta dance.”

8. Make a difference- I’m a teacher. I know in the smallest and largest of ways I make a difference every day, but it never feels like enough. The older I get, especially in the past year of my life, the more I feel called to serve and love others. I was raised by parents who lived and raised us with the mentality that if you have then you should give whether it’s of your time, your money, your love, your home, whatever- if you have then you should give. One of my favorite things I have heard recently in regard to service is that God doesn’t ask or require us to be equipped for what He calls us to…He just asks that we be willing. I want to live and be continuously growing in a way that enables me to be willing to serve and love others in a way that makes a positive difference in the world. I want to leave the world better than I found it. That matters so much to me.

9. Write a bucket list. Oh, look! I can check an item off! Maybe I’m not so bad at this bucket list thing after all. ;-)

                                           Xoxo,

                                                Hayley and Riley (the dog whose bucket list reads  Eat. Sleep. Play. Repeat)    

Meet Lizzy

Ridiculous: adjective:1.  causing or worthy of ridicule; absurd; preposterous; laughable; 2. slang for unbelievably good, bad, crazy, etc.

This is the definition for “ridiculous” I found on dictionary.com. If you asked my friends and loved ones, however, they might define “ridiculous” as simply “Hayley.” No, no, don’t think they are mean or making fun of me (ok, they are totally making fun of me). They mean it with all the love in their hearts, and they completely embrace my ridiculous, often unreasonable nature, because it’s what makes me who I am, and I promise, they love me just the way I am. Let me explain.

Have you ever known someone whose grand plans, wild ideas, bleeding heart, or passion leads them into something which makes you think they are completely ridiculous or their situation or wild hare tale is totally ridiculous? They’re one of those people that always has a story to tell, and it always has a dramatic twist or over the top event that leaves you either in stitches or rolling your eyes or both. And yet, despite their constantly being in a state of hot mess, you just roll with it, because they just roll with it, and also, because, well that’s just <insert name of completely ridiculous person here> who they are, and to be honest, that’s why you like them. I am that person. Silly, lively, and known for dramatic storytelling, I am one of those people who finishes a story and hears, “Only you, Hayley.” I don’t mean to be conceited when I say people like me, because of this personality quirk of mine, but I am not crafty, hate to cook, am not exactly ladylike, and I talk way more than I should. Oh, and as a running buddy, I am sometimes super slow as if I were a turtle crawling through peanut butter. If you were super sick or in distress, I would think twice before offering to come clean your house, not because I don’t love my friends, but because I hate to clean. So you see, if I we’re looking at a checklist of what makes a person awesome, I am not winning any awards here, so I am left to assume that my friends love me, because I am completely, totally ridiculous, and I am completely, totally ok with it.

Here is a brief list of some of the ridiculous, wack-a-doodle events of my life and traits of my personality:

1. I flushed my cell phone down the toilet. Not dropped it in…it was swirling around that germy whirlpool like a cow in a Texas Tornado. (Ok, so it didn’t go ALL the way down, but that sounds better than “almost” flushed it down.)

2. When I broke my foot, I was a bridesmaid in a boot…who rode down the aisle in my dress on a knee scooter. No, really, I rolled down the aisle of a large church at a wedding looking like a glammed out Punky Brewster having a grown-up playdate.

3. I went to a bachelorette party on the afore mentioned scooter, and when the handicapped ramp to where we headed suddenly ended, did I back out of the bachelorette party? Nope. I let the other bridesmaids carry my scooter, and I crawled down two flights of stairs to make it to our destination. You’ve got to fight for your right to party, ya’ll.

4. Whenever I see people from the gym in public I say really awkward things like, “Oh, hey! I’ve never seen you with clothes on before!” when what I really mean is “I’ve never seen you with something other then gym clothes on before.”

5. I trip over things way more than any normal person should. I spill, break, and drop things a lot, too.

6. I adopted a one-eyed dog, and I named her Lizzy…Left Eye Lizzy.

Wait, what? Back up to #6. I did what? This is where if you don’t know me well, you might be saying, “No, she didn’t.” This is where if you do know me well, you’re saying, “Of course, she did.”

Here she is…Miss America…

Image

Everyone say it together now, “Awwwww…”

And now, if you know me well, roll your eyes and laugh, because who else do you know would be waiting at the shelter door an hour before opening time to adopt a one-eyed dog? Only your ridiculous Hayley.

Lizzy, formerly Ruby, was at a local animal shelter, and when I saw her pic on Facebook, my heart just broke at the thought of her not being adopted just because she isn’t “perfect.” I am an animal lover as well as a lover of all things which are different, broken, imperfect, or any “type” society views as less. My heart bleeds for pitiful animals, outcast children, unloved adults, and the freaks and geeks of the world. I can’t help it. I don’t say that to put myself on a pedestal…I say it, because that’s just me. My heart absolutely aches for all of God’s creatures, humans and critters alike, who are so different that they just can’t understand that they are “fearfully, wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) just the way God intended them to be. I want to fix all their hurts…find them all friends to play with, partners to love them, or forever homes with never ending belly rubs and squeaky toys. That’s how I ended up with Lizzy. It’s not her fault she is missing an eye. (She came to the shelter an injured stray and had to have her eye removed immediately.) I just couldn’t bear the thought of people pitying her…then passing her by.

And here’s the thing, ya’ll. I need another dog like a hole in my head. Riley is a total spaz attack. (He’s ridiculous like his momma). He and I are always getting ourselves into some hot mess around this place, and it always results in some ridiculous tale. Everyone has been telling me WAIT to get another dog. JUST WAIT, they say. I was ready to “just wait,” and everyone was relieved that I was being reasonable for once…until Lizzy. When I started sending Lizzy’s pic out to friends and telling her story, everyone’s tune changed. My friends know me well. They know my heart. They know my stubborn nature. And they knew, even before I had made up my mind, that Lizzy would be coming home with me. They just knew. Who else do they know that would do something so ridiculous? “Hayley’s adopting a one eyed dog? Of course, she is.”

And so, where there were once two in this house, there are now three. Hayley, Riley, and our sweet little Left Eye Lizzy. Ridiculous, ya’ll. I have lost my mind. Oh, and my heart. This little mutt stole it. The best part of all of this has been the reaction of my friends and family. My parents both encouraged me to take her. My friends have laughed at me and swooned over her. My FB post received numerous likes and lots of comments about Lizzy’s sweet little face. I have enjoyed all of the loving comments, but my favorite words I have heard and read over and over from my loved ones are these, “I love her already.” Riley and I do, too. Welcome to our family, Lizzy. We think you’re perfect.

                                        Xoxo,

                                           Hayley and Riley (the new big brother)

ImageShe wouldn’t pose at the shelter, but she knew just what to do for a belly rub. :-)

A Moment Like This

I don’t get to blog during the week, but it’s a cold, snowy late March day in East Tennessee, and the pup and I are confined to the house. My agenda for the evening is light, so I am happily procrastinating with a little writing. Here’s the prompt for the day: “What are the three most memorable moments – good or bad, happy or sad- in your life?”

This is another one of those posts where I feel like I just can’t narrow it down to a small number of items. I was so torn about what to do that I solicited Mary Grace’s opinion like she is supposed to know the movie reel of my life and what has stood out most to me, but like many of our conversations, the mindless chatting about it brought the ideas to mind without her even knowing she had helped. (Actually, many of my favorite moments of my adult life are Steph-Hayley-Mary Grace moments, but I am saving those stories for the satellite radio show Steph and I are going to host someday.) Anyway, without further adieu, here are the three most memorable moments of my life (as of 6:23 PM on 3/25/14. Seriously…who can pick out just 3 that will never change?)

1. Christmas 2013 at school- For those of you who read this and do not know me, I am a 3rd grade teacher. For those of you who don’t know anything about teaching or education, let me just tell you this: It’s. Hard. Really, really hard. Oh, and I love it. It’s the hardest job you could ever love. Let me tell you about the hard parts. You have 20+ kids from 20+ backgrounds with 20+ learning styles and 20+ different emotional needs. Sometimes their parents blame you for everything that goes wrong. Sometimes their parents don’t know your name. Sometimes you have to attempt to teach things like analogies, elapsed time, and latitude and longitude all in one day…to people who pick their noses and forget to tie their shoes. (There isn’t enough Tylenol on those days.) You teach academic skills, social skills, technology skills, health skills, and life skils like “don’t forget to tie your shoes.” You go home emotionally drained, mentally exhausted, and physically weary, because you feel like you are charged with the task of curing all the world’s ills in a seven hour day. It’s. Hard.
Hard? Yeah, it’s hard, but it’s also a profession known amongst teachers for just the right little joy at the exact perfect moment. I had one of those this past Christmas on the day of our Christmas breakfast. All of my kids were trickling in delivering treats and presents to my desk. Some kids bring homemade and handpicked items straight from their hearts. Other kids openly admit, “My mom said to give this to you.” I smiled and hugged them all the same. I opened their gifts and “oohed” and “aahed” and laughed at their cute notes in their cards. I was happily chatting with guests at our party when I opened a card from the parents of a particularly challenging child- one of those who makes you check for gray hairs- and I read these words: “Thank you for being a champion for our son. Merry Christmas.” It still gives me a chill when I think about those words. These parents had heard a lot from me that semester some good, some not so good. Those are the ones from whom you aren’t sure what to expect in a Christmas card. They gave me something far more precious than I ever expected- a moment when I knew in my heart this job is so hard, but it is so worth it. “Thank you for being a champion for our son.” You’re welcome. Thank you for being a champion for teachers. You keep us going.

2. Goodbye Mamaw- If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will probably remember reading, on more than one occasion, my description of being with my sweet Papaw when he died. That will always be a powerful moment in my life, but I’ve done that one, so I chose another related moment- saying goodbye to my Mamaw. I was closer to Papaw, and I documented my relationship with Mamaw in a previous blog post, but saying goodbye to her was a totally different thing for me than it was Papaw. I don’t know if I can pinpoint one “goodbye” moment, but I will go with finishing the eulogy I gave at her funeral. In her eulogy, I detailed all of the many things her hands had done in her life…taken care of babies, cooked for her family, sewed doll clothes, swatted behinds in trouble, handed out medicine, and adoringly stroked Papaw’s face. Her hands were busy hands, and they were loving hands. They told a tale of her life that connected all of us in that church, her family, neighbors, and friends, together in some way. They were hands that kept going and doing after Papaw passed away. In many ways, her busy hands helped soothe me when I missed Papaw. Even as dementia set in, when she was still going and doing, she still seemed like Mamaw, and it made Papaw being gone seem a little less real. I will never forget standing in front of my childhood church to give Mamaw’s eulogy talking about all of the love and life her hands brought into this world and saying these last words, “The work of her precious hands is finished.” Finished. Over. Done. No more Easter bunny cakes with licorice whiskers. No more just-right doll clothes. No more swatted bottoms. No more hand peeled, yard picked apples. No more Mamaw. No more Papaw. That one line of my eulogy made the finality of it all sink in. I knew Papaw had been gone for four years, but saying goodbye to her closed the chapter of my life in which the main characters were the two most precious, perfect people I have ever known. It’s a memorable moment that hurts, but have mercy, I am so very blessed to have such precious memories that would cause that moment to hurt.

3. Driving Miss Daisy- If you know me really well, you know I love to tell funny stories about my Papaw. Not only was he as sweet as pie, he was hysterically funny, and I love to relive his antics by telling stories about him. That being said, my last passage made me miss Mamaw, so here is my memorable moment totally 100% dedicated to her and the funny side most people never knew she had.
In the last few years of Mamaw’s life, I spent time in the summers helping take her to doctor’s appointments. As her dementia grew worse, she became more and more stubborn and difficult to get out the door on doctor days, but all the while, she remained the same woman she had always been: stern, austere, a statue of a lady. I affectionately called our doctor trip days “Driving Miss Daisy.” If you’ve ever seen that movie, the cold, seemingly unyielding, omnipotent character of Miss Daisy is so much like my Mamaw that it’s scary. Now, don’t get me wrong. She was a wonderful grandmother who loved the heck out of my brother and me, but she was a lady to core, and she did what ladies do, and she did not do what ladies didn’t. No cussing. No smoking. No white after Labor Day. No drinking out of a can. The end. Forever and ever, Amen. That was Margaret Lynn, you get the picture?
One summer day, I came to pick Mamaw up for a round of appointments. I had heard my uncle tell her multiple times that I was going to be driving her to the doctor, and yes, Hayley is old enough to drive, and yes, Hayley is smart enough to talk to the doctor. (We were at that point in her dementia). Finally, she decided she was ready to go, and I said, “Alright, Mamaw, let’s get in the car.” She looked at me very alarmed and said, “In your car? Are you driving me?” I gently replied, “Yes, Mamaw, I’m driving you. Is something wrong?” Without missing a beat, my very own Miss Daisy looked at me and said with the seriousness of a Supreme Court judge, “Yes, something’s wrong. You can’t drive worth a s—.” If you have a Miss Daisy type in your life, eat those moments with her up, ya’ll. They are more precious than gold…even if they don’t help you learn to drive. ;-)

Xoxo,
Hayley and Riley (the dog who agrees his Momma could use some driving lessons)

These Things I Believe

I wasn’t planning on writing today, but this prompt popped up in my inbox: “For today’s post, tell us three things you believe in your heart to be true. Tell us three things you believe in your heart to be false.” My first thought was, “I like it.” My second thought was, “Uh…what do I believe?” I like this post, because it feels meaningful to me and on many levels, I do know what I believe about all sorts of things, but it’s also been a hard one for me to get going, because how do you pick just six things you believe to be true or false? I mean, I believe lots of things to be true: God is real. I will always work with kids. I am a horrible person without coffee. Richard Simmons is dying to be my bestie. (Ahem…the post said things I believe to be true not things that necessarily are true.) I also am confident in many things I believe to be false: Broccoli is tasty. (How about…no). A woman’s place is in the kitchen. (Eat one made from scratch meal by me, and you too, will change your mind about this). Cleanliness is next to godliness. (Jesus and I talked about it, and he told me St. Peter won’t be looking under my bed before he calls me into heaven.) But which of my beliefs matter most to me? Let’s check it out together.

Things which I believe in my heart to be true:

1. The people nearest to our hearts, even after they have departed this world, never completely leave us. I actually talked about this with friends while running yesterday, and it was the first thing that popped in my head when I read this prompt. When I say I believe our loved ones never really leave us, even in death, I am not saying I believe in boogedy-boogedy Scooby Doo style ghosts. Instead, I believe the people we love the most are always with us in some way, shape, or form, and most of the time, we never know they are there, but sometimes, in a rare moment, we feel their presence so strongly that nothing can explain the feeling other than acknowledging that loved one was there. Does that mean I believe white robed, golden haloed, ethereal angels pop up in our bedrooms when we are sad? No…I believe God uses our loved ones in profoundly simple ways to reach out to us in the most random of moments to let us know they are there, He is there, and all is well.

A few months after my Papaw died, my Mamaw and I sat at her kitchen table quietly talking. She was in her usual seat at the table, I was in mine, and Papaw’s was painfully empty. I missed him terribly as did she, but neither of us spoke of it. It hurt too much. Then, in the middle of our conversation, her voice faded away, and at the same moment, she and I both turned and stared at Papaw’s chair. Not glanced- stared- like something had pulled us both in that direction and wouldn’t let us turn our eyes away. Just as randomly as we both looked to his chair at the same moment, our gaze broke at the same time, and as we looked back at each other, she gave me the most peaceful smile, and said, “Hmmmmm…” and got up from the table and walked away. In that moment, my mind was reeling wondering what had just happened, but I look back, and I know in my heart it was just Papaw checking on his girls. After his death, Mamaw spent a great deal of time living her life as if Papaw was still alive…ironing his church clothes, turning down his bed, setting his place at the table. Do I think she suffered from clinical dementia? Absolutely. I also think, however, in some moments, she did those things not because her mental state was deteriorating with age, but because to her, he was there. I know she could feel it, because I have felt it, too. I believe in my heart that we are never, ever alone.

2. Kids are the best source of goodness on this earth. I believe this with my whole heart. I know, I know. We hear and say it all the time, “Kids these days…” Kids these days are hard. They are different from kids when we were kids. They are more and more challenging to teach and raise every day. Newsflash! Kids have always been hard. Kids have always been challenging to teach and raise. The behaviors and tendencies of children change with the world, and so do the ways we teach and raise them. It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg…do their behaviors change, because of the way we are raising them, or are we changing the way are raising them, because children have changed? Has the world changed our youth, or have our youth changed the world? It’s all very complicated, but I believe in my heart this truth: At the core of their being, children are good…SO good. In my 3rd graders, I see the pure hearts of kids who I don’t have to tell to go play with the new student who is alone- they just do it instinctively. I read serious, heartfelt handwritten letters to a soldier they have never met telling him all the things they love and how they are thankful he protects them. That mouthy kid you just put in timeout for talking back one more time? They still love you, Mom and Dad. I know, because they cry for you on you early dismissal days when they are afraid you have forgotten to come pick them up. That rowdy kid whose recess I just took away, because he can’t ever just do what I have asked the first time? He still loves me. I know, because he sneak attack hugs me on the way in from recess…even on a day when I took it away. Kids are so good, ya’ll. Believe it.

3. All dogs go to heaven. I just know they do. I have to believe that. I just can’t imagine that our God could create something as pure of heart and loyal  as a dog without intending to reunite us again someday. I don’t buy into any of the theories that dogs don’t have feelings or memories or any human-like cognitive or emotional qualities. I live with a dog who doesn’t know he’s a dog , and I believe he has a spirit and a heart that God loves just like mine. My two preceding passages were lengthy, but I have to keep this one short, because I am having to face, a little more everyday, that my little buddy is getting old. It hurts my heart to think about, so I will dwell on this belief: All dogs go to heaven, and I hope, when the time comes for my Riley, it will be filled with squeaky toys that never bust. 

Things I believe in my heart to be false:

1. “Just date! You’ll feel better when you’re dating again.” Before I elaborate, let me just say I believe this to be false for me not necessarily everyone. Now back, to this “just date” stuff. This was the advice I was given a lot after a terrible break-up, and I still get it now. For some people, the whole just date around thing works, but it’s not for me. After the afore mentioned break-up, I went on my first date about a month into being single again. I was excited. My friends were excited. I picked out a cute new outfit. I got to choose where we were going to eat. I got my dinner paid for. I got doors opened for me. I got walked to my car. I got a hug goodnight. And that was it. No more calls. No more texts. No more dates. I was so disappointed, and the irony of it was I wasn’t really even attracted to him. He was nice. We had a good time. Neither of us felt a spark (hence the hug goodnight). But yet…I was bummed. Hello? Was it not clear to this guy that I was a newly single goddess waiting to be worshipped? That’s what my friends told me I was! Was he deaf, blind, or just stupid? Something was wrong with this picture! Nevermind that I wasn’t really interested. I needed to feel pretty and sought after. Instead, I felt like his sister, and with him, I didn’t want to be more than a sister type which made it all the more confusing. Fast forward over the span of about eight months, and the “just date” life continued. I went on date after date after date. Some were good. Some were awful. In the end, they were all united by the common factor of “not gonna work.” In the end, all I felt was tired of trying. I needed a break…a break I should have given myself at the end of the relationship that led to “just date.” I needed time to breathe and figure out who I was without him. I needed to start fresh on my own. I needed to do anything but “just date.” Do I regret it? No, because I learned a lot from it, but I have only been on one date since August, and that’s ok. Now, when I need to feel special, I just go to the local full service car wash where the guys working always treat me like a lady and make me laugh in a no-pressure way. You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince? Maybe…maybe not. Maybe you just need room to breathe before you try again.

2.”The whole world is going to hell.” Listen, I know there is a lot of bad in the world. I am a news junkie. I can singlehandedly put a damper on good pizza and beer  by discussing all the horrible things that can go wrong on an airplane flight. I can Debbie Downer with the best of them, my friends, but the good news is I choose not to. Why? Because all I have to do is look around me and see that the world is not all NPR style doom and gloom. Rainy days hold peace and rest. Disasters and tragedies often bring out the best in people…strangers and neighbors alike sharing the common bond of humanity. Disappointments reveal lessons learned. Even the harshest winter will always come to an end. (Slowly but surely, my Southern friends!) Spring always comes. The storms don’t last forever. There are always people looking to help others. Does the bad ever completely go away? No. Utopian life does not exist. Does goodness always shine somewhere in the world? Always. Does it take some effort to find the goodness sometimes? Of course. But it’s always there. No, the whole world is not going to hell. There is too much good- people sharing, children loving, volunteers working- for me to believe that.

3. “One person can’t make a difference.” When I graduated college, I bought myself an expensive leather bracelet embossed with the words, “I will make a difference.” I wore it often my first year of teaching. I believed those words so much. Then, someone made fun of it hinting that I only believed it, because I was an innocent (aka totally clueless) first year teacher. It broke my heart, and it embarassed me. Nearly 10 years later, I could kick myself for believing I was wrong. I can make a difference. I am a teacher, for crying out loud. I have the chance every day to make a difference, but what’s even more powerful than that is we all have the chance every day to make a difference in the world. Really, we all do. Making a difference doesn’t have to be curing cancer. Making a difference can be as simple as a kind word or gesture to someone you know needs it, or even more special, a kind word or gesture just because- whether you know someone needs it or not. The old saying tells us “no man is an island,” and it’s true. You are not Tom Hanks trapped on a deserted island. You are a person with a beating heart who possesses the power to make a difference no matter how small. My favorite quote from Dr. Suess’s The Lorax says, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” I believe the whole world is not going to hell, because I believe in the difference makers. I can be one. You can be one. And we should. One person can make a difference. Put a whole lot of “one person” making a difference together, and you’ll end up with a whole lot of something special. That’s one more thing in my heart I believe to be true.

                       Xoxo,

                           Hayley and Riley (the dog who will barrel through the gates of heaven someday ready to get the party started)

Who Invited Father Time?

Hey, there- it’s me, again! I had settled myself into a nice routine of once a week blogging, and then I got really busy with a charity committment I had here in Knoxville. That’s over now, and I am on spring break, loving life, and ready to write. I really should be scrubbing baseboards and cleaning closets- you know the things grown-ups are supposed to do with extra free time, but the thing is, there’s something about spring break that makes me feel very carefree and un-adult (is that even a word?), so I am shaking off responsibility for a little longer and going for this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge.

Here is a direct quote from this week’s challenge and my jumping off point:

“For this week’s writing challenge, we’re asking you to explore what age means to you. Is the the loss of youth, or the cultivation of wisdom? Do things get better as you grow older, or worse? There are many ways to interpret age, often depending on your relationship with the passing of time.”

I don’t always do the weekly writing challenges nor do I always write the daily prompts I receive. Some speak to me, some don’t. Some I avoid, and some, I feel like, chase me down screaming for me to tackle them. This one, however, tugged at my heart a little, and said, “Awww…come on. This one will be fun.”

It seems a little precocious for me to be writing my deepest thoughts about age when I am only 31. I’m not going to lie…I have lived an exceptionally charmed life. I am not a street smart girl from the school of hard knocks, and I am not wise beyond my years from a lifetime of struggling to get by on my own. I’m your average 31 year old woman living in a condo with a messy closet and a stinky dog. What do I know about the great unknowns of age and aging?

When I decided I wanted to write in response to this topic, this was the line in the challenge post that pulled me in: “There are many ways to interpret age, often depending on your relationship with the passing of time.” It made me stop and question what is my relationship with the passing of time? How do I feel about it? Do I embrace it? Do I pretend it’s not happening while I bathe in wrinkle cream? (Seriously, ya’ll, I’m thirty-flipping-one. Where do those lines come from?!) Do I celebrate my journey and acknowledge 31 is really young, or do I mourn 31 years already gone? I gave it a lot of thought, and, I decided, in the Facebook lingo of my generation, “It’s complicated.”

Age means a lot of things to me both good and bad. 17 is when my parents divorced. 18 was going away to college from the tiny no red light town where I grew up to a place that seemed so far away and so loud and so not home. 19 was the year I wrecked my car twice in one week (whoops!). 20 was the begininng of my struggle with anorexia and serious food issues. At 22, my sweet Papaw went into a nursing home. At 23, I accepted he would never be able to come back home, and I watched the heart of our family start to change. 24 is when my childhood best friend and I had a falling out that permanently altered one of the longest, most valuable relationships I have ever had. The ages 24 and 28 are the years when I lost my Papaw and Mamaw, the two most precious grandparents I could have ever hoped to have. 29 was the worst breakup ever- the one that knocked about 15 pounds and a lot of my sanity off of me.The age 31 is my life now without a husband and kids when all of my friends already have both. 31 is me closely examining my very blonde hair in the mirror trying to decide if that’s a gray hair or one that’s so blonde it just looks gray (seriously, someone with better eyes needs to check that out for me.) 31 is me acting like I have got this whole adult thing figured out then worrying, because I really have no clue how this business of being a grown up works. 31 is me panicking, because I am thirty-freaking-one (have I mentioned that?!), and how did that even happen?! (I know, I know, you people reading this who are much older than 31 are laughing hysterically at my youthful ignorance.) 

I had lunch with a friend yesterday who mentioned that he was 61. Astounded, I said, “61?! Really? Did I know you were 61?” He reminded me that yes, I should know that, but I swear, in my mind, he is frozen in time at 50, because that’s about how old he was when we met, and in my mind, neither of us have aged. He’s 50, and I’m 20, right? No? Oh…well when did all that time go by, and where was I? Where have I been for all of these crazy fast 31 years? Oh…I know. I was living…and loving it.

At 16, I was driving so slow and taking so long on my driver’s test that Daddy was sure I had failed, and I was giggling with delight to tell him I had passed. At 17, I was so joyously, wonderfully carefree headed into my senior year and ready to take on the world. At 18, I was learning how to think for myself and form my own opinions and ideas outside of my tiny hometown, and I am still so grateful for that experience. When I was 21, I was…being 21. Enough said. When I was 22, 23, and 24, I was spending every Saturday morning in the nursing home with my Papaw making the absolute best memories of my life. When I was 22, I put on my “teacher hat” for the very first time, and I welcomed my first group of babies into my classroom, and my heart, and I was forever changed for the better in that moment. At 23, I brought home the horribly rotten dog who stole my heart and keeps me company through life. When I was 27, I got to hold my two best friends’ babies for the first time. When I was 29, I learned that there are way worse things than being single (WAY worse!) At 30, I started this blog with the Single Woman 30 Day challenge, and it was honestly the most liberating, healing thing I have ever done for myself. At 31, I am healthy, strong, and fit and the most in control of my eating issues as I have ever been. I sometimes worry about being single and childless, because holy crap, I am 31! But..sometimes, I am really at peace about it, because for the love of God, I am only 31.

Last week, I did a few appearances on local television to promote the charity event of which I was chair. At one station, the segment before mine featured a group of high school girls modeling the latest in prom fashion. At first glance, I thought “Eh, whatever…hurry it up,” but after I gave them a second look, I couldn’t stop watching them. The girls came off the stage into the room where I was waiting, completely oblivious to me, which I was grateful for, because I was so transfixed by them. They posed for pictures, giggled, talked boys, posed for more pictures, fixed their hair, and giggled some more. Someone asked how old they were, and “17” was the answer. They were so young, so sweet, so innocent, so…17. For one brief moment, I wanted to freeze time for them. It made my heart ache- seriously, my heart was wistful. I wanted to say, from all of my super wise 31 years, “Oh, you sweet things, I hope you love the heck out of being 17, because you are going to blink, and you’ll be 31.” Then, just like that, my name was called for my segment, the moment was over, time was unfrozen, and I was 31 and living my very adult life instead of getting ready for the prom. I blinked…and 17 was gone. So cliche’, and yet so true. 

So, how would I describe my relationship with age? I guess, in one word, bittersweet. I think it’s only human nature to look back at the passing of time with both sadness and rose colored glasses. I think it’s also human nature to look forward to the time that has not yet passed with both hope as well as fear and trepidation. It’s a mixed bag for me, and maybe that will change as I age, or maybe not. I think there are people in our lives who will always, no matter their age, seem frozen in time to us, and the harsh realities of age will hurt when suddenly we realize the ones who are immortal to our hearts aren’t immortal as physical beings. But there will also come those moments when we realize age and the passing of time have their own beauties and joys…new babies, new journeys, new friends, new stories to tell. Being 17 passes as does the youthful innocence of that age, but joy? Joy doesn’t go away with age. It just sheds it’s glittery prom dress and puts on new clothes…and maybe the occasional gray hair and laugh line. 17? You were so good to me. 31? You have been really good to me so far. The many ages yet to come for me? I’m so excited. I’ll try not to blink…I know it will be gone just like that.

             Xoxo,

                 Hayley and Riley (10 year old, white muzzled pal!)