What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I had lunch with a friend a couple of weeks ago who asked what I’ve been doing with my time since I haven’t been working.

A fat lot of nothing. 

Riiiiiiight. (You didn’t really believe that did you? Not even for a second.)

What I’ve been doing with my summer vacation. Which basically started with Memorial Day weekend…

Went to ATL for the 2013 new baby tour. It was a road-trip that started at 9:00 PM on a Friday with decaffeinated me behind the wheel. It was touch and go until Suit and Tie came on the radio–and then it was a three hour dance party in the driver’s seat from Gaffney, SC to Suwanee, GA. We rolled in at 2:30 AM. Hey. Whatever works. (Also, WHY ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE ON THE ROAD, TOO?) But those babies are super sweet. And their parents are managing well–all things considered.

Worked on putting documents together and obtaining a passport for my Ukrainian born child to deal with citizenship stuff and learned that bureaucracy is bureaucracy regardless of the nation’s government. When Boy #1 says “This is like being in Ukraine” as you run all over the county in which you live to obtain the right forms and this one government agency only works 8:00-3:00 and you show up at 4:30 and realize you’ll have to make the trek back downtown the next day, you realize that (a) perhaps you picked the wrong line of work (I mean with hours like 8-3, come on) and (b) this mess really is crazy

Took a random, spontaneous trip to the beach with my best friend and her family while the hubs drove my new car home from Ohio and in and around Raleigh until I got home two days later. He hasn’t sat behind that steering wheel much since.

Hubs and I took the East Bloc Boys (our collective reference to the teenage boys living under our roof) to DC to deal with the Ukrainian’s citizenship and–when we realized that wasn’t going to happen without a US passport–proceeded to spend a few days playing in DC instead. Museums, metro stops, and food trucks, oh my!

Attended the graduation of my Hungarian born child (Boy #2 who moved in in April) and sent him off to his first day at a new job

Received the report card for Boy #1 and was more than a little frustrated with the results

Learned that Boy #1 was going to be fired–primarily due to complications with some faulty brain wiring that is beyond his control but increasingly becoming a hindrance–and started planning for the possibility of meds and more testing to see if there’s something more or better that we can do. Also became a little afraid of his options for the future. Meanwhile, he didn’t seem to be too concerned about anything in his world. And then frustration set in.

Interviewed for a job. Was offered the job. Didn’t know at that point where exactly the job would be. But I’ll have a job.

Left the kids at home while hubs and I went to the beach for a few days. Alone. With no agenda. Glorious.

Opened our home for weekly game nights with the youth. Their means of world domination via board game was pretty entertaining. Also, the secret is out about the awesomeness of my cookie dough dip.

I got more creative in the kitchen, making up recipes as I went–often inspired by road-trip snacks and/or food truck experiences. And those culinary experiments generally were successful.

Temporarily found some really good body confidence–long enough to sport a bikini on the beach. For the first time. Ever.

Helped a friend pack up his office to move to a new job after 13 years.

Celebrated a friend’s 30th birthday and another friend’s family adopting a child they’ve tried to bring home for far too long

Opened my home and my dinner table to countless people (we finally had to break out the leaves for the dining room table and USE ALL THE CHAIRS)

Had lunch and/or coffee with people–for more than 15 minutes. Those conversations often stretched over two hours.

Brought a third teenager home to live with us–this time a girl.

Realized once again that my life is a circus and I’m the ringmaster. Until the inmates run the asylum. And then I just leave.

Had beautiful conversations with family and friends

Was truly honored to be invited into some of the most important moments and conversations in others’ lives

Got a job assignment that was totally unexpected but has made me incredibly excited the more I sit with it.

Got thoroughly pissed off with the state government and was ready to junk punch some politicians–or a wall. Supported Moral Monday from afar–lest my anger push me to do something stupid before this job thing really came through.

Started scheming ways to take over the world–in a good way.

Realized that this whole youth ministry thing I started on the summer before college has come full circle. I learned along the way that there are many ways to do youth ministry–and often outside of church. I also made the statement at one point that once I became a youth minister, I’d have a psychologist in my back pocket as a resource. Then I became that psychologist.

Pulled together a stack of books classified as thematic professional reading that I’m slowly making my way through

Seriously considered getting the “Mom’s Taxi” for my car because it’s true. Especially the week of youth camp when I’m the only licensed driver in the house and have two teens to care for.

Tried to let it sink in that I have finished school and have a PhD. Definitely became increasingly thankful for the training, experiences, and opportunities I have had along the way.

Stalked one of my favorite people from a parking lot into a bookstore to make sure it really was her–and then had an hour and a half long conversation standing around another store in the same shopping area.

Became a stand-in on-call fake doula for a baby who was born about two weeks later (and the daddy was home for the whole thing…which meant I could celebrate with the announcement text). 

Consulted on emerging adult male/female relationships

Provided unofficial parenting consultation

Fell madly in love with US Marshall Raylan Givens as I became addicted to the show Justified.

Worked out in the sweatbox that is my garage–sometimes twice a day. Just because I could.

Met neighbors I hadn’t met before because I started walking the dog more after a redistribution of household responsibilities

Seriously considered a new blog about DIY furniture and house projects–to be called pigtails and power tools. This after having to supply my dad with a drill or two after the battery in his cordless died as he was trying to put together a new bed. (Note: one of those drills was the same electric drill he handed down to me years ago when I moved out; also, that old faithful Black and Decker has helped us finish projects the battery packs on the cordless just couldn’t. Moral of the story: well, I think you know.)

Filled up a social calendar like never before

Received beautiful and powerful words of affirmation and hugs from people who’ve watched me grow as a person and professional over the past X number of years

Went back to yoga (kinda) and ate more fresh veggies. (Olives dipped in hummus, y’all)

Loved bigger because hubs does.

Realized that children stuck in rough family situations are my kryptonite

Struggled against having so many people in the house and this basically became my mantra about half the time. 

Saw some movies. In the theater. Even when I kinda didn’t want to. (Side note: Pacific Rim = Godzilla + Iron Man(steroids) + Independence Day speech + Armageddon)

Worked on my licensure application and found that I still had some brain matter that could ooze out of my ears. It’s just about finished though. The application, that is.

Survived monsoon season in NC this year–WITHOUT an Ark of my own

Drank the Candy Crush Kool-Aid (Note to Kool-Aid: new flavor idea!)

Finally was invited to new employee orientation and can for really real get this job thing going.

Ran outside. On some big hills. Early in the morning. And usually thought I was swimming instead. #NChumidsummers

Doled out resources in the form of book titles, notes from books I’d read, links to really great articles, and just putting some thoughts on paper

Read a few really good novels.

Squeezed some babies

Baked. A lot. And apparently even my cookies are therapeutic.

Survived #singleparentweek2013 while Al and Ryan were at camp.

Celebrated some more birthdays. Ran with my girls. Enjoyed some group therapy on a screened in porch. Celebrated new jobs with my people.

Scheduled at least half a dozen meetings/appointments to take me through my last full week of no paid work. What vacation?

And then I went to that orientation, got my shiny new ID badge, signed a bunch of forms and forked over a voided check. This job thing is official. I start Thursday.

 

Loving Deeply

The problem with loving people deeply is that, at some point, the relationship changes or the person leaves, and you have to adjust to the change.

The problem with loving a place deeply is that, at some point, you will have to leave…and adjust to the change.

The problem with loving your work deeply is that, at some point, the work you do will change, and you have to adjust along with it.

I realized today that, after this week, I have four weeks left of my internship. I’m working to soak it all in, knowing that I will move on to something different in a different place and with different people. I am thankful for the ways in which I have been able to love and be loved deeply this year…for the many things I’ve learned along the way…and for becoming a better person and practitioner for it.

But in about four weeks, I’mma need my own box (or three) of tissue.

The Cat in the Hat Comes Back

Today is Dr. Seuss’ birthday. The first Friday in March is Read Across America day–a way to celebrate Dr. Seuss and reading. There usually are a variety of reading-related or Seussical events around this time of March. 

And so…

So…

     So…

          So…

I dressed up as The Cat in the Hat and read to all of the kindergarten and first grade students at school yesterday. I floated the idea past the first grade teachers a few weeks ago and the kindergarten teachers on Wednesday, and they were all about it. It wasn’t until about Wednesday this week that anyone even bothered to ask why I possessed a Cat in the Hat costume.

My mom was a reading specialist. Not only was she incredibly gifted at teaching children to read, she made them fall in love with it. And she would dress up as book characters from times to time and read to her students. Her longest standing character was Ms. Wishy Washy. I have no idea when she acquired the Cat in the Hat costume. I do know that after her death, I just couldn’t part with it. I wore it for Halloween a time or two. Mostly, though, that costume has stayed in the bag in a closet wherever I’ve lived since Mom’s death. 

By about October, when I realized I’d fallen in love with the elementary school at which I work currently, I decided the costume needed to come out again. I waited until a few weeks ago and offered to wear it while reading to the students–just like Mom used to do and likely would have done again this year. As this week progressed, I wasn’t sure how it would go or how I would feel. I did go on a search for the pictures of Mom dressed as the Cat–and Ms. Wishy Washy–and finally found them at Dad’s house. In the process, I came across some of the cards handmade by some of the students at Mom’s school when she died. They were still beautiful and still heart wrenching. By the time Friday rolled around, I was at once nervous and excited to read to all of these little friends. I donned the costume early in the day as I was scheduled to read to first grade as soon as announcements were finished and all of the students gathered into one classroom. They were so excited and seemed to enjoy hearing The Cat in the Hat read by…well…The Cat in the Hat.

I changed between reading to first grade and reading to kindergarten…mostly because I had legitimate work to do in between. Also, I had a different Seussical outfit to wear. There is also an administrative intern at my school and we’ve become self-proclaimed Team Intern. After some shenanigans with the Assistant Principal on Thursday, we dubbed ourselves Intern 1 and Intern 2 and made t-shirts for ourselves for Friday. I swear, the kiddos were just as excited about that. We had some serious celebrity status on Friday. 

At the end of the day, the principal thanked me for doing all of that. I told him it was my pleasure. And I meant it. That experience did more for me–I think–than it did for anyone else. Because it put me in touch with Mom in a very different way than I’d experienced previously–and in a way that would have surely made her smile. 

 

I’m headed into spring time–and one of those 6 week stretches in the year that can be very difficult. But Dostoevsky once said, “The soul is healed by being with children.”

And so it is. 

Responding to Tragedy, Or Why I Needed to Process This Before Monday Morning

As this new day dawned, it was appropriately overcast and cold. With the news of the school shooting in Connecticut yesterday, I think we all feel overshadowed by the tragedy–grieving with and for those who lost someone, thankful that it wasn’t us, squeezing our people just a little bit tighter and a little bit longer, wondering at what goes on inside of someone to push them to such a senseless act. As the stories continued to come out, it hit closer and closer to home.

Because here’s the thing. I’m in the middle of my internship year as a school psychologist serving an elementary school and working on a preschool special education services team. That fact alone makes it more palpable. Then, I started this week at a neighboring school, responding alongside others to a crisis. And then there was the New York Times article about Sandy Hook Elementary School’s principal and school psychologist. They were in a meeting yesterday morning when the shooting began. They quickly left that meeting to respond–not thinking twice about what that might mean for them as individuals–and gave their lives in the process. The principal of Sandy Hook sounds like the female version of the principal with whom I currently work. The psychologist and I share not only the same role in a school but also the same first name.

I’ve been trained to run to a crisis when it happens. I’ve been trained in crisis response. I feel confident that my administrator and I would look at one another in that moment and instantly take action, working in tandem to respond and protect the children and staff of the school. But this school shooting has caused me to really examine my part of all of that.

On Wednesday of this week, I defended my dissertation. At the end of the meeting, one of my committee members handed me a copy of my abstract with a message on it. He congratulated me on a job well done and then said this, “I hope that you will continue as an advocate. We need you, my boys and me, to make the world better.”

That. Advocacy and making the world better. That is why I do what I do. And why I, too, would leave a meeting to respond…to protect…to do my part.

I am thankful that I work in a school alongside incredible administrators and very talented and capable faculty and staff members–all of whom deeply care for and are committed to the children in our care. On Monday morning, we will show up again, just as we do every day, to make the world better.

Earlier this week, someone asked me how to process/handle/deal with contact grief. She’d had a conversation with someone else who was working through some seriously heavy stuff and it left my person feeling the weight of it too. Perhaps you feel something similar regarding Sandy Hook Elementary School. I suggested a variety of things: yoga, meditation, a pedicure, reading or watching something with some humor, a glass of wine or beer, journaling, lingering over a cup of coffee, some kind of physical activity, whatever she felt like she needed to restore her soul. Because it looks different for all of us. Whatever that looks like for you, do it.

Others of you may be parents of children who will hear about the tragedy–because we live in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and the 24 hour news cycle. You also may be people who work in a school in some capacity. There are a variety of resources out there for how to talk to children and one another–as well as manage the media consumption. I’ve provided those links below. There is an additional link for things to say vs. not say to children in the wake of events such as these. Note that that link was written by a minister and may need to be adjusted somewhat depending on your religious context.

Many of us have joked about the end of the world on 12/21/12 based on the Mayan calendar. My understanding is that something has been lost in translation and that 12/21/12 is a point in time that marks the end of an era. My hope is that, on 12/22/12, the sun will rise on a new era where we work to love everyone unconditionally, where we will work to be peacemakers instead of own them, where we will be sensitive to those around us and respond accordingly, where we will serve, protect, and advocate, making the new era–indeed the world–a better one.

Links to Resources:

Talking with Children about Tragedy

Responsible Media Coverage of Crisis

Five Things NOT to Say and Five Things TO Say to Children Regarding Trauma/Crisis Events