Concerned and unsettled

I feel and overwhelming sense of concern and worry tonight. I can’t pinpoint why I feel this way, but it’s something that occasionally happens to me.

Some people–those writers one can stumble across on the internet–say this is a common occurrence, that I shouldn’t feel this way or feel concern for feeling this way.

A bit of sweat on my brow, an uneasy feeling in my mind, and even a shiver down my spine every few moments as I type this out. There is a nervousness in the air of my soul. I want to take a sip of the lukewarm decaf coffee at my side and hope it all goes away.

Nothing changes. I could go lay on the couch or climb under the covers of my bed. Hiding in a closet would be no better. Fetching a tall glass of water or going on a calm evening drive with the windows down won’t do the trick either. That one pill I take each night before bed to calm my nerves and help me be settled day-to-day won’t do the trick either.

I’m not having a full-blown panic or anxiety attack. I feel like it could happen, but it’s not right now. Writing this helps a bit. It helps me settle my painful curiosity that drives this nervousness. It’s a factor depression that I live with. Some days are better than others, and others much worse.

The thing is, I cope and I keep going. I keep going because I know that there is hope for a brighter tomorrow and there is so much more yet to come, so many good things on the horizon. Nothing is perfect and nothing can make me feel complete, at least, not now. Family, friends, pets, job, possessions — each has a place and satisfies in a certain way. Sometimes, there just isn’t a cure-all, a fix, a choice to be made to change the feeling.

It’s been five minutes as I’ve been writing and revising. I feel much better having said these things. The coffee I made so carefully via pour-over in my kitchen stares at me from beside the keyboard. I wanted to drink it tonight and enjoy the taste and just relax. I will try, despite the cold temperature, to still achieve this goal.

For now, I cope. I hope. I dream.

There will still be the shivers of this as I go forward, but I can go forward. That makes all the difference.

ADHD is real.

meme-editIt takes a lot to offend me. I tolerate a lot of things and realize they are insensitive or wrong and just go on about my daily business. This is something I will not let pass by.
 
A meme has been floating around the internet this month, the source being a Facebook page entitled “Adult Humor.” (I can’t be for sure that this page created the meme, but the fact that it has been shared is terrible enough.) I hate the fact that I had to screenshot the meme and attach it to this posting. If you cannot see the image, here is the problem. In front of a white background sits a brown belt, rolled up with the buckle laying to the right. The text on the image, above and below, reads “When I was young, I had ADHD, too… but I suddenly healed when I saw my Dad taking off his belt.”
 
Read this again. Think about this. Let it sink in.
 
You may think it’s funny. You might think about having acted up as a child and a parent or guardian taking corrective action into his or her own hands. To each his own in parenting, but that’s not what I’m here to argue for or against.
 
The problem is anyone who totally agrees with or shares this to agree with it might not understand how terrible the message is, how offensive it is.
 
I still hurt as I read it.
 
ADHD is real. It’s not fake and it’s not something to make fun of. Yes, there are people who claim to suffer from this and do not, and yes, sometimes it is diagnosed when it is not necessarily present. I am not diagnosed, but at times I believe this condition may have affected me. This is not what upsets me.
 
Most of you know that I was a teacher for a couple of years. In my time in the classroom, I worked with middle and high school students. Some of my students were diagnosed and suffered terribly because of ADHD. They worked so very hard to be mindful, to be present, to be still. Sometimes they were, sometimes they were not. I saw pain in students’ eyes, and I read journal entries from freewritng days in my class where students expressed how hard they tried. I worked with students via email at home through extended deadlines, I came in early and stayed late, and I talked to parents, special education teachers, the school counselor, and others countless times to make accommodations that would help each of these students. Some students saw progress, some did not. Medications were adjusted, changed, or stopped. I can not and will not go into further details because of confidentiality.
 
I will finish on this point: words matter. They can help. They can hurt. They are powerful. They are always powerful. Parents and students might see the message this kind of meme spreads, and it can really hurt.
 
If you think this meme or this topic is funny or something you can joke about, I hope you see this and you realize that this is not something to make fun of. I have been out of the classroom for nine months now. It still hurts.
 
Think. Let’s change the intent of this meme and spread a better message.

Not preparing, but still caring and learning

About a month ago, as August was in its infancy and the start of the school year was just around the corner, I realized something was oddly strange. Something was wrong.

I wasn’t upset, but something felt weird inside my mind.

Having been a teacher for almost two years, plus completing a semester of student teaching, and about two years of full-time substitute teaching (spread over four or so years), there was a certain time-frame/state-of-mind ingrained in me.

It’s something all teachers go through. At the start of a school year, there’s an itch to put together the classroom, spruce up the toolkit, and revise the syllabi. For the first time in a few years, I didn’t have any of those responsibilities.

At first, I was really relieved. I was relieved to exit the classroom. I was relieved to pass off the stress of reading 100 different assignments every week and grading those and finding out what interventions were best to help struggling students. Then, about a week into the new school year, while I was working one of my shifts at Starbucks, it hit me.

What am I doing? I need to get my syllabi done. I need to now.

In all reality, I knew that was not true. I knew I had exited the classroom, but something strange was happening in my mind. I felt as if someone was being let down because of my not doing that job anymore.

That wasn’t true either.

If anyone was let down, I suppose it was me. Putting all that time in during college, preparing for my life as a teacher, and then, just a few years later, realizing I didn’t want to do this job. I mean, I loved the job, but the job changed. The rules changed. The ideas changed. The job became a game. I left because I felt the system was against teachers, and that would drive me to not be as effective as I could be.

So, I opened up my Google Docs that I exported from my school account when I departed teaching. I found my syllabi from the last couple of years. I looked over what I was teaching. I didn’t miss that stuff — so much of it being stuff I didn’t want to do. I saw test prep materials (for the state testing), and I saw material that wasn’t interesting.

Maybe it had to do with the content area. I don’t know that middle school was ever where I wanted to teach (content-wise). I loved my students and their creative process, but the content at that age was something I guess I wasn’t passionate about. My passions are in complex composition, rhetoric, and literary analyses that students get to delve into in advanced high school classes.

Today, a month later, I’m attempting to be more mindful and appreciate the place where I find myself. I’m excited for my opportunities in retail, specifically with Starbucks. This company was founded on core values of the human spirit. The human spirit is even in our mission statement: “Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

I enjoy putting our mission into practice along with learning from my fellow partners at my Starbucks store. I’m not a pro barista yet, but I love learning and working to get there. Perhaps I’ll stay with the company. Perhaps I’ll go after a masters degree and go into social work, counseling or another field related to business. I’ve also considered public administration.

So, this year (if I’m thinking of school years), it may not be so complicated. I have a lot of time for myself. I am not responsible for grading, planning or executing certain lessons, or putting myself into a vulnerable position and preparing students for a test I don’t believe in. I’m learning new things at a job I genuinely enjoy.

Here’s to the opportunities to grow, to dream, to explore and more. I miss the ideas and vision I had as a teacher, and the grand plans I had to help my students be all they could be. Someone else is there now, and I hope those kids are exploring the world and getting instruction that drives them to explore and love books, ideas, stories and writing.

The power of (y)our words

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. Those are wise words we could all stand to remember more often. We all mess up from time to time and stick one (or both feet) in our mouths, but we shouldn’t aim for our words, our attitude, our way of living to be so negative and hate-filled.
 
Pause, reflect, and think about how you speak. Are you saying the good things you need to say, or are you letting small criticisms or rude comments take the predominant place in your lexicon?
 
This goes hand-in-hand with another important point. Don’t bash someone while s/he is down. Perhaps you don’t agree with a person, or maybe it’s talking about a person after they have left, or maybe after s/he has passed on. No matter what, if they are in a bad way, don’t go on spreading hate, negativity, or sad things.

Mother Nature and Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day. Is Mother Nature deserving of some love this year?

When we think about the great outdoors, a lot of people think of pleasant images – sun, meadows, wildlife, and perhaps enjoying a nice peaceful afternoon. Mother Nature’s wrath is sometimes quite terrible, nothing you would ever find peace or solace in.

Let me present a few scenarios:

If a severe thunderstorm sweeps through my town and some homes are missing pieces of roofing, that’s bad for the homeowners. If they have insurance, it’s not so bad.

If an ice storm sweeps through my town and takes out powerlines, that could knock out power to homes and businesses for days, weeks, or more. Just like the first scenario, having insurance would probably help you out if there was any other damage caused by the ice.

If a fire rips through your town, everything could be gone. If you have followed international news over the past week, you’ll know that the fires in Fort McMurray, Alberta (Canada), have scorched a once mighty town off Canada’s landscape. Surrounding the town, acres of nature are burning away as the fire risks spreading east into the province of Saskatchewan.

At first, residents were told to evacuate north, but a lack of precipitation and poorly forecasted winds sent the residents straight into more danger. Luckily, many found their track south and have found some form of shelter.

The bad news as we look back on what the fire has already done, and what the fire has caused in the long run, is what the town of Fort McMurray now contains: scorched homes, cars, and the possessions and mementos that so many families cannot bring back.

An article by NBC News’s Elisha Fieldstadt posted this evening points out the stinging reality that the images of the charred town will be “dramatic.” The Premiere of Alberta, in some ways, like a governor to those of us in the United States, plans to tour the city tomorrow. I can’t imagine being in her position, having to witness such devastation and damage. Yes, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms frequently cause destruction, and we frequently see such events on the Great Plains – think Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. This strikes me differently. So much will just be ash – no sense of a home, car, school, store, or photos can survive. Storms may break things apart, but fire eliminates the evidence of any such thing ever existing.

Not only does such a traumatic event take away homes and the personal belongings that so many people worked so hard for. Seeing the almost total destruction of such a large town takes a toll on economy, jobs, and infrastructure. Fieldstadt points out that the premiere and government officials will meet this week to analyze what steps the city and province take as they rebuild and try to provide much needed assistance not only to persons returning to what once was home, but also how businesses will pick up where they were forced to stop in the heat of the moment as the fire overcame the area.

In all of the damage, how much will repair claims on insurance come to? The Edmondton Journal talked to analysts predicting almost $9-billion dollars. That’s a lot. But it’s not enough to replace what some people have lost.

Another thing that surprised me, and was mentioned by Fieldstadt, is that no one perished due to the fire. Two deaths came from automobile accidents occurring during the evacuations of the town.

I was perusing the popular website Reddit late last week and came across a posting on the R/Starbucks thread about how managers and corporate officials with Starbucks took the time to check on all partners and management of Fort McMurray stores, trying to help in any way possible. I hope more companies will step up and do just what Starbucks has been doing to help their people.

If you are interested in helping people displaced and without shelter due to the fires in Fort McMurray, please check out this page on the website of the Canadian Red Cross.

Who is this man?

I don’t quite like Trump. To me, I don’t believe he’s the scariest one running for office. I will say I do appreciate the passion the man has for what he’s doing, for wanting to stand for something. I don’t agree with the way he expresses that passion as it comes off offensively many times. I can’t say I possess the tenacity or mindset to run for the presidency and be so closely scrutinized.

I suppose I could say this of all the candidates. I’ve noticed a change specifically in the demeanor of Mr. Trump as he tries to be more presidential as pundits seem to put it. If he’d have taken this approach from the beginning and apologized for mistakes, I think I could say that I wouldn’t feel so scared of what might happen should he receive the Republican nomination or become the President.

I wish we all could look at ourselves and realize that at certain times, we do need to stand up speak our minds. I don’t advise you do it like he has been doing it. It’s good to express yourself though, to let your voice be heard.

In a way, it comes back to this interesting point: if you can vote, go vote. Let your voice be heard. Indiana has the interesting opportunity of being important in the primaries this year, and for both major political parties.

Tonight, Trump is here in Evansville. I’m thankful he likes our hotels.

Perfect candidates don’t exist. So why am I still looking for one?

This won’t be a long post. Nor will it be overly complicated. It might not even make much sense. But hey, it’s my blog. I can write this if I so choose to.

It’s late. I’m tired. I have a cold, or perhaps a sinus infection. Maybe both.

Let me preface my argument with this information: I just started a new book. I had a thought, and it has been spiraling out of control in my head. I know I won’t get any rest until I publish this thought and what I’m thinking about with it.

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Image source: Amazon (link)

The book I’m reading is The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2013).

DKG has written many books on our history, whether they about our leaders or the formation of our country. I first became familiar with her when she published the Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. My mom picked up the book when I was in high school and I remember her talking about it with a family friend who took my senior pictures. A year or so later, she popped back on my television when Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert passed away, and I’ve noticed her contributions to news and history discussions on television ever since.

Enough about the author. She’s awesome and I’d love the opportunity to meet her.

Anyway, whilst reading the first chapter of The Bully Pulpit, I came across a reference by Edith Roosevelt toward then former President Theodore Roosevelt to turn around and look at his family. To give you some context, this takes place at the conclusion of the year Roosevelt spent on safari in Africa following his second term as President.

While Edith anxiously sought a glimpse of the children she had not seen for more than two months, Roosevelt busily shook hands with with each of the officers, sailors, and engineers of the ship. “Come here, Theodore, and see your children,” Edith called out. “They are of far greater importance than politics or anything else” (page 6).

That passage got me thinking about how much time voters, not candidates, spend on listening to candidates. Yes, it’s important to listen to all arguments. Even from the beginning of a campaign, even if you have zero respect for a candidate based on past actions, or if you just know you hate a specific political party, you should really do the right thing and listen to what they have to say.

Imagine if a former President was coming to your town to stump for a candidate, or even if it was the candidate. That’s a big deal. Even though you might not agree with what’s being promoted at the event, the idea that you are in the presence of an important figure in your history is pretty damn impressive and something to brag about in thirty years to future generations — maybe your grandkids?

Also, this got me to realize that some of us put our heart and soul into the political process. This is not a bad thing. It’s important to work to support the candidate you want to see be the leader, especially if it’s President. But in addition, it’s important not to lose sight of what’s important in your life. Consider your family, friends, or whatever else is your passion, something besides the mudslinging that seems so inevitable in our fractured, not-so-nice game of politics.

Edith Roosevelt beckoned to her husband to break away from the work. Even after his time as President, he was thankful to his crew, but she put that bug in his ear, and helped him to turn around and remember his family, his kids, the ones that really mattered to him.

DKG notes in the next paragraph of the book that Roosevelt scanned the deck of the ship they were on and was exuberant to see his youngest son, named Quentin, quite happy to see his father again. She noted that a Chicago Tribune writer said the child was “impatient to be recognized” by his father.

That’s what matters. Love matters. Respect matters.

I think it can all be summed up in this point: there’s a time and a place for certain things.

Regarding political candidates, there’s a man or woman that’s going to stand out to you more than another candidate. They won’t be perfect, but we’ll realize, hopefully sooner rather than later, that they are who we support. Don’t settle on someone just because you think they’ll be “the one,” but realize that the best candidate may not be the most overworked one of the bunch. Maybe it’s worth it to pick someone that’s realizing that somethings are of greater importance than politics. Edith Roosevelt’s words are worth remembering during this blistering fight for delegates and votes.

It’s time for me to stop looking for the perfect candidate. I know who I like. Nothing said from here on out will likely change my mind. While I enjoy the process, the process isn’t healthy to obsess over. I’m realizing I immerse myself too much and need to step back. From here on out, I’ll let it be. I’m thankful for the freedom I have to do just that.