Teaching me to mother

Lizard,

205302_503087736842_9842_nThank you for breaking me in back when I turned 22. There was nothing Taylor Swift about it. Your dad and I tied the knot three weeks after I graduated from college and three weeks after my birthday, and I frantically searched for employment while serving as your stepmom. I felt like I was playing house sometimes, the way my sisters and I played Barbies as kids. Ken and Barbie smooch and hug and ride in the Barbie convertible, and then they get married, and they have a baby, and then what?

I learned the then what from you. No matter what obstacles your dad and I faced in our marriage, I always enjoyed being your stepmom. I loved taking you grocery shopping when you were five years old and answering your bazillion questions about produce and spaghetti and magazines. I obtained a great repertoire of bumblebee, elephant, and duck songs because of you. I got a big kick out of playing Tooth Fairy and helping you learn how to do backbends and make macaroni and cheese and use the washing machine and dryer. I remember the summer after second grade when I realized you lacked some important skills, and I decided to make it my mission to teach you to become more self-sufficient. You were so open to learning new things. I remember you telling your mom and Meme and Papaw about every new accomplishment over the phone, beaming with pride from ear to ear.

262960_519156345222_5013781_nYour willingness to learn never waned. We had The Talk in bits and pieces beginning at age five. I was always candid with you, telling you enough to satisfy your curiosity but not enough to bore you to tears. That strategy seemed to work. I also promised to tell you the truth no matter what, and I never wavered on that promise, and I still haven’t, even though we both know there have been some times when it would have been easier and softer if I’d lied. Because of your willingness to learn, and my willingness to be honest, we’ve made a pretty good team.

Fast forward to 2015. You’re finishing up your sophomore year of college, and I teach students the exact same age as you, my Lizard. Of course, I also teach non-traditional students, too.

Talk about having my life flash before my eyes at work every single day.

I see you in so many of my students. Here are a few examples.

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Hannah and Joey 

There’s Hannah, a beautiful spirit who is seriously perpetual sunshine to everyone who knows her. She reminds me of how I feel around you from the first minute you pull into my driveway until the minute you drive away.

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Nathan

There’s Nathan, a jokester on the outside with a serious interior he tries to disguise from his classmates most of the time—sound like anyone you know? This guy even donned a tutu once during a demonstration speech to help a fellow student out. I have proof of this beautiful moment :). I only taught him for one semester, but he was certainly one of the most memorable students I’ve ever taught.

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With LCreighton and Charmstrong

There are Charmstrong and Lcreighton, two little cuties I came to know outside of class before they became my students. They are both just adorbs (are you proud of me for using that term, Liz?) and often send me pictures of Edna Mode of The Incredibles, who they believe I emulate, in the middle of my lectures. They have filled a little bit of the Lizard void in my heart and life by walking with me to class and laughing with me and reminding me that I’m not THAT old.

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Crystal

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Sheila

There’s Crystal, who I have known for decades and had the pleasure to teach last fall. She has faced more than her share of obstacles but has chosen to become better, not bitter.

There’s Sheila, a non-traditional student who loves her family more than anything. She is also a total survivor and fighter. She has earned her spot in my heart and has proven herself to be hard-working and diligent even when it would have been easier to drop out of school. These are qualities I see in you, too, Liz.

11149462_10153220074068826_6559028102695630203_nAnd then there’s Lauren, who lost her lifelong love this semester. She is now raising their baby alone and is persevering against all odds. She’ll graduate in two days with honors. She will not allow others’ choices and tragedies to dictate the direction of her life.

And this, my Lizard, is what I hope for you, too.

With all that you have taught me about being a teacher, Liz, and with all that my students continually teach me about being a mom, I’m not sure why I’m being paid to teach. The least I can do is pour my very best self into my teaching, and offer my very best self to Maggie every day as her mom.

Happy Mother’s Day, Liz, to you and to all my babies.

Day 16: Dear Mom

*Thanks to my friend Latresha Woodruff for serving as the guest writer for Day 16 of the Dear Gratitude project. This is a  letter Latresha wrote to her mom on Valentine’s Day.*

Mom,
Latresha with her mom and sister

Latresha with her mom and sister

I thought this Valentine’s Day I wouldn’t use a card to tell you how I feel about you.  It hasn’t always been easy for you, but you did everything you could to make sure your children got the things they needed.

Your strength and faithfulness is admirable.  I always felt you were one of the strongest women I knew. Looking up at you as a little girl at Mt. Olive Church, how you would fan me until church ended,  I thought, “Does she ever get tired?”  When I became an adult I realized a mother would do anything for her child.  When life kicked you down, you didn’t stay there; you got back up because we depended on you.
I just wanted to take this time out to thank you for keeping me on the right path, and to thank you for the sacrifices you’ve made over the years for me.  Thank you for showing me by example, that no matter how bad things are, you have the power to change your circumstances.  Thank you for pushing me to go to college and supporting me while I was there.  Thank you for always letting me know you are proud of me because no matter how old we get, we need to know we’ve made our mama proud.  I love you from the bottom of my heart. Things haven’t always been rosy, but I wouldn’t trade the life I’ve had because of YOU.  I thank GOD he blessed me with you.
You are the best – I LOVE YOU, TRESH

Henry’s word of the year

*Thanks again to Henry Petty for stepping in as guest contributor today. As you read his post about his word/theme of the year for 2013, consider identifying one for yourself. What could you focus on this year that would, in December, result in looking back in gratitude at all you’d learned and how you’d grown?*

My word of the year will be – “perseverance.”

This is a word I rode like a chariot when I was in high school; it got me through a lot.  I even wrote an article for the school newspaper titled Persistence is the Key

Allow me to share a quote from Dewayne “the Rock” Johnson, which sums this up:

“What’s the key to success?’  Is something I’m asked every single day.  I don’t believe there’s only one ‘key to success.’  But what I do believe in is hard work, and daily, focused commitment and sacrifice.  I believe in being gracious with your successes, and humbled by your failures.  I trust my gut and always keep my family close.  I live in optimism and faith.  When I grab opportunity and success by the throat, I don’t let go.”

Now that’s persistence.  If you smell what Henry Petty is cookin’.