Unraveling This Life

A little bit of this . . . a whole lot of that . . . and just a pinch of sparkle

Santa, Baby

Posted on December 1, 2014

Dear Sadie –

Technically, you’ve been a Greenwood for exactly two full weeks today. I say technically because we adopted you on November 16, 2014. But on that day, I was pretty sure you might have been the biggest mistake I’d ever made. On our drive home from Last Chance Ranch, you quickly figured out how to get out of the back seat and come up front with me. You spent that drive alternating between standing in the passenger seat and looking out the window or sitting half on the passenger seat and half in my lap, licking my hands. At one point, you decided you were car sick and very nicely jumped in the backseat to puke. Once we arrived home, you peed twice in the kitchen and then pooped in the living room. But the whole while, you were happy as a proverbial pig in shit with your corkscrew tail wiggling a mile a minute. Lucy decided she wanted some love, and that’s when you decided to let her know that I was off-limits. And that, my little piggie poo, did not bode well for you. I nearly called the shelter to see when I could bring you back since being possessive of me would not do for our family. But I took you and Lucy for a walk instead, and you started to work your magic. Later that night, I cried on several times on the phone with Jordan, and she put it into perspective: you had been through a lot and probably needed some time.

Sadie Grace . . . she hasn't quite figured out what to do with the camera (hence the blurry black and white)

Sadie Grace . . . she hasn’t quite figured out what to do with the camera (hence the blurry black and white)

So we waited. The next day, you didn’t really like going into your crate, but you did. That afternoon, you were like a dog possessed, but again, we walked and walked and walked. Friends out walking their dogs also echoed Jordan’s sentiments: give it some time. Lucy didn’t really like you in the house because you growled at her when she came near us, but eventually, you both sacked out on the couch. The true test came in the middle of the night when Dave came home from a trip to Las Vegas. Meeting him at 1:45 AM was like meeting a long-lost friend . . . you were overjoyed by your new friend but happily went back to sleep in a few minutes.

That first weekend, we left for a trip to Philadelphia (a half marathon waits for no one), and you stayed home with Lucy and Aunt Dar. She met you the first night and couldn’t get over how well you were doing with our family. When we got home on Sunday, you and Lucy couldn’t stop wagging your tails and giving kisses . . . plus you were ready for a walk around the neighborhood. Apparently the whole “I just ran 13.1 miles” thing was lost in translation, but you were pretty darn insistent on the walk. Slowly but surely, you and Lucy started coming to an agreement: playing would consist of tag, keep away, and wrestling. Growling optional.

Lucy Goosey . . . she hasn't quite figured out what's going on, but I'm pretty sure she likes Sadie

Lucy Goosey . . . I’m pretty sure she is starting to like Sadie

Since that first night, I’ve learned this:

  • you love your tummy rubs: that’s how I found out you still had your staples in from your spaying;
  • the vet and the techs thought you were adorable and the perfect patient;
  • you are a horrible water drinker . . . most farm animals have better manners;
  • when you are happy, you snort like a pig; in fact, you kinda look like a fox/pig hybrid;
  • you learned ‘sit’ in a matter of minutes, so I’m pretty sure that when we get you in training classes, you’ll catch on relatively quickly;
  • you don’t like the backseat of the car (but you will throw up in it);
  • I have no idea what kind of dog you are other than Sadie, but once the DNA results are in, I’m pretty sure we’ll have an answer (and I’m truly hoping it says that you’re a dog);
  • any toy that Lucy has is the one that you want; she’s much better at turning corners than you are, but you make up for that in muscle;
  • you willingly go into your crate for bedtime and during the day, but I’m hoping that you won’t need either of those of much longer;
  • you are about 75% house trained (which is why you’re in the crate during the day);
  • you take treats much more gently than Lucy does;
  • your tongue is polka-dotted . . . I know this because after you run around the house or the backyard, you spend a great percentage of the time panting with it hanging out of your mouth;
  • you greet everyone as if you’ve known them your entire life and will charm the pants off of them within minutes;
  • you can be a little mouthy if you don’t feel that you have received enough attention, but we are working on this;
  • even with all the running and barking and growling, you’ve helped Lucy with her anxiety a lot; she enjoys trying to get you to lie down next to her;
  • you’re a work in progress but one that is completely worth it.
Lucy and Sadie

Lucy and Sadie

Next year, on November 16, we’ll make you a pupcake and throw you a party to celebrate your one your anniversary. Because you will have been a Greenwood for one whole year. But today? Today, you have been a Greenwood for two weeks.

PS – If you are thinking about getting a pet for Christmas, please consider adopting a pet from a shelter. Chances are, you’ll find the perfect pet for your family and make the difference in the life of an animal looking for a home. Most pets in shelters are there through no fault of theirs. Sadie was brought into Philadelphia’s ACCT and then to Last Chance Ranch. Other than when she was brought in, we know nothing about her. But I can tell you this much: she is our dog and gets all the love she can handle. Shelters are currently bursting at the seams with pets looking for their homes . . . maybe one or two are looking for you. 

“Santa, Baby” by Marilyn Monroe . . . or anyone but Madonna (that version is too, too campy)

The Weight (Take a Load Off Annie) (5:30)

Posted on November 5, 2014

I’m on a parenthetical roll with these titles! Nine times out of ten, the titles for my posts have little if anything to do with the content. I’ve always struggled with the titles for writing, so when I discovered that Degrassi used song titles for their episodes, it seemed like the perfect match. Most of the time I hit shuffle on my iTunes and just write down the first title that I like, but occasionally, there’s a song that reminds me of the topic. Yesterday’s had to do with the feeling of pride after voting, but today’s was out of the blue. Kind of. Because the parenthetical was the first thing I thought of when I decided to write about being grateful for tonight. Tonight is pretty much about nothing. Tonight, I’m putting my feet up.

I could have graded some more vocabulary quizzes, but I didn’t. I could have moved the shelves up from the basement to my room, but I didn’t. I could have washed the dishes, but I didn’t. I put my feet up . . . and I’m grateful that I can that luxury. I have that option, and not every person does. There are many people who leave one job and head off to another (and another after that). My own children are grown, so the constant running and rushing with their schedules are well over. I can put my feet up if I want to.

5:30 - Lucy thought about putting her feet up, too, but then she fell asleep

5:30 – Lucy thought about putting her feet up, too, but then she fell asleep

And tonight, I wanted to do just that. Granted, I cleaned up the spare room before that. And read a few papers during the day. Plus, I learned a little bit more about new software package we use at school. Oh, and I “prettified” a collection box for our blankets drive for our local animal shelter (check our #BlanketsForShelters on Twitter for more info about how you can help your local shelters). There was the dinner that I prepared – it was just gnocchi and shrimp with butter and garlic. But tonight . . . right now? I’m putting my feet up.

“The Weight (Take a Load Off Annie)” by The Band . . . and I totally thought this was called “Take a Load Off Fannie”

Pride (In the Name of Love) (4:30)

Posted on November 4, 2014

Things I did that I’m proud of today:

  • ran three miles at 4:45 AM with a good friend and neither one of us died or passed out;
  • graded an entire class set’s worth of quizzes (granted it’s my smallest class, but a win is a win);
  • helped out the sub in my reading partner’s classroom because the kids were taking advantage of her generosity and kindheartedness . . . and by helped I mean laid down the law;
  • decided to consolidate all the laundry baskets in my room and put the clothes away;
  • put together an IKEA rolling cart with Lucy’s help . . . realized very quickly that the Phillips head screwdriver on a Swiss Army Knife was no match for Swedish directions;
  • organized my winter running gear into three bins (coincidence that the IKEA rolling cart has three bins? I think not);
  • put a load of laundry in the washing machine;
  • and exercised my right to vote.
4:30 - I vote on two basic issues: public education and reproductive rights . . . because I am a teacher and a woman

4:30 – I vote on two basic issues: public education and reproductive rights . . . because I am a teacher and a woman

I’m pretty sure that there were other things I did today that would make my mother proud, but these are the highlights. Right now, it’s a toss-up between putting the IKEA cart together and voting. The directions for each of them are pretty simple and 99% of the time, they are given in the form of pictures. Usually, you feel good about them when you are done, too. Either you have a functional, simple, and economical piece of furniture when you are done, or you have a nifty little sticker that you can wear for the rest of the day. But only one of them gives you some kind of bragging rights, and it certainly ain’t the one that usually comes with an Allen wrench.

“Pride (In the Name of Love)” by U2

My Party (3:30)

Posted on November 3, 2014

When you are fortunate to go to work at a job that you truly love, it makes all the difference in the world. I guess I’m fortunate . . . being a teacher is pretty much the bee’s knees for me. I love the way my kids looks when they “get” something. The ways that they change from day to day and, let’s face it, from hour to hour. I love the look of recognition that occurs when they are taking on the role of teacher. There’s not a lot that I wouldn’t do for them. Need some extra help? We can arrange that. Wanna play Wii at lunch? Sure . . . I gotcha. Just feel like telling me how confusing seventh grade is? Trust me. I hated it, too.

I work in a job that allows me to be goofy and dance to Madonna’s “Holiday” to prove a point. Where a casual mention of a sports team elicits passion that lacking in most of our elected representatives. It’s a job that has more ups than downs and occasional confessions about love of the silly crap. I come in everyday to a district that values technology and embraces those that are willing to try. I benefit from that, but my kids benefit more, which is exactly how it should be. We get to celebrate each other’s triumph and try to figure out how to make the bumps smoother along the roads they travel.

3:30 - My desk has seen neater days, but at least I can see it.

3:30 – My desk has seen neater days, but at least I can see it.

Are there aspects of my job that I don’t like? If there weren’t, I’d question myself. I loathe the changes that occur in the effort to make teachers more accountable. I don’t quite get the 100% proficient requirement in federal laws. I despise the constant attacks in the media about how these teachers just don’t get it. I could add more, but in the end, it boils down to this . . . I love my job.

“My Party” by Kinds of Leon

Second Chance (2:30)

Posted on November 2, 2014

Love. Peace. Freedom. Those grandiose ideals that I promised to be grateful for today? Taking a pass on the last two, but I’ll go with love. Lucy . . . I love Lucy. There’s no pun intended in that statement. Lucy, our 2-year-old mutt, is a snuggle bug. She’s needy and whiny and attention seeking. But she’s also loyal and funny and goofy. Two years ago, I would have told you that I was relishing being dog-free for the first time in over a decade, but truly it was a three-month period that was bereft of a lot of joy and companionship. The girls were at school, and Dave was traveling quite a lot. That meant me and the cats, who pretty much looked at me as the can opener. But a dog? Now that was something else.

2:30 - Lucy on the porch . . . this took a giant treat to get her to sit still in the wind

2:30 – Lucy on the porch . . . this took a giant treat to get her to sit still in the wind

Lucy can be the absolute most loving dog ever. All she wants to do is be on your lap. And she’s usually not content to sit next to you; she has to be as close as humanly possible, going so far as to wedge herself into crevices where she really shouldn’t fit. Is she a bit of a pain? Sure . . . I haven’t quite figured out how to grade with her sitting on my lap. And somedays (fine, most) she makes eating a little awkward since she thinks that her impression of a napkin is adorable. But I’ll take that in exchange for her keeping me company every day. Besides, if either of those truly bugged me, I’d have fixed it a long time ago.

Now that it’s just Lucy in the house, we’re thinking of adding another rescue to the mix. We found Lucy on Petfinder in January 2013, and I think we’ve narrowed our next pup down to two or three. Here’s hoping I have another rescue to be grateful for in a few weeks. But until then, love is just fine by me.

“Second Chance” by Peter Bjorn and John

Red Skies (1:30)

Posted on November 1, 2014

This morning while we were running the Wall, I mentioned to my friend that it was November 1, and I wasn’t sure if I was up for another Gratitude Project. “I haven’t even taken a single photo with my camera since I photographed my kids in September,” I confessed. Was it a proper “Bless me father for I have sinned” kind of confession? No, but I was breathless from running up an incline that requires a lower gear on my car, so it counts in my book. And I go through spurts and fizzles with photography. “I don’t mind the actual photography, but I loathe processing,” I continued, which was kind of shitty of me since I know that she had hours of processing in front of her with her job as a photographer. It’s the real deal for her not something to pique her interest from time to time. “If I do, be prepared for a photo of my shoes and a pile of dirty clothes because that’s about all I have in me right now,” I muttered and we continued our climb.

Instead, I give you the red cup, one of my favorite things about the holiday season. When Starbucks rolls out the red cups, I get giddy with the anticipation of all that lies ahead in the next two months. Last year, we were planning our trip to Germany to see Shelby, and the weekly red cup was like my countdown until that trip. Six more red cups until we get to see our kid. Five more . . . what am I forgetting? Four: can’t wait to see the look on her face when she see her sister. Three more red cups. What am I forgetting? Two: passport, suitcase, knitting. Check, check, check. One red cup to go . . . do they have these in Germany?

1:30 Starbucks Red Cup

1:30 Starbucks Red Cup

Sure, it sounds shallow to be happy by something so trivial as the annual red cup at Starbucks, but look at me, not caring one bit. So today, I’m grateful for the warmth inside this beautiful cup because it’s cold outside. Our early morning run was in a “light drizzle,” and long runs always take more out of me than I anticipate. I’m still cold and have a metric ton of grading to do. Tomorrow I promise to be more grateful for something big and grandiose like love or peace or freedom, but tonight? Tonight I’m grateful for a paper cup filled with a peppermint mocha.

“Red Skies” by the Fixx

Shake It Off

Posted on August 29, 2014

When I was in the seventh grade, it was a fairly traumatic time for me. The company my father had worked for during the previous decade was in the process of shutting down its local plant. Some of the men and women who worked there would be transferred to another location, but most of them would be out of a job. Our family started to making “what if” plans that included my father returning to school to become a veterinarian. Near the end of the third marking period, my mother showed up with my brother and a smile on her face. Dad was being transferred to the plan in Ohio – YAY! Which meant moving and starting a new school – BOO!

There was a joke involved . . . I couldn't tell you what the punchline was.

There was a joke involved . . . I couldn’t tell you what the punchline was.

To a 13-year-old a life-changing experience like moving seems just plain cruel. However, most kids come out the other side just fine. It took me a while to get used to the move, but Ohio is home to me and has been ever since we got there. Seventh grade in general is a rough time for most kids. When the girls were in seventh grade, I remember Jordan coming home nearly in tears. Someone mentioned nose rings in class, and Jordan said that she thought they looked dumb. Innocent, right? To a rational adult, it’s a perfectly innocent conversation (if not a bit ironic now since she and her sister and her mother all have nose rings). But in the seventh grade, rational is pretty murky word. Another girl overheard the conversation and reported it to a friend. Who had a nose ring. And she interpreted it like this: Jordan thinks you look dumb. Every adult who was once a seventh grader knows that them are fightin’ words, right? Jordan was nearly beside herself once she heard that this girl now wanted to beat her up, and Shelby decided that no one was going to do that to her sister (because that’s what sisters are for, correct?) and stated she’d fight the girl if it came to that. So, as the mother of two girls, I did what any rational adult would do. I flipped the hell out . . . big time. “You never said that. Why would she fight you? Why would your sister, of all people, say that? What is wrong with this picture?” The walk we were on consisted of question after question after question. And the best part? There were no bloody answers. None. Not a single answer.

Laughter usually is the best medicine

Laughter usually is the best medicine

Personally, I thought it might just be an anomaly with my children, but after teaching seventh grade for one week, I quickly learned it wasn’t. Seventh grade is like this. One day, this person is your best friend. The next . . . they act like you have never seen them before. Words get thrown around like gasoline and sometimes, one look is the match that sets the whole place on fire. Girls, in particular, can be especially brutal. Wrong color socks on the arbitrary “funny sock” day can bump you down five pegs. Liking last month’s “it” band can cause a whole lunch table to go completely silent for days and days. But boys dish it out, too. Some boys enjoy Minecraft while others prefer first-person shooter video games . . . see the two camps forming here? And god forbid you insist on continuing to root for last year’s winning Superbowl team.

Photo approval means everything because it will be on the family calendar

So what do you do? Part of it takes the form of ignoring (and here’s where I really do like Taylor Swift’s message in “Shake It Off,” cultural appropriation notwithstanding) because often times, if you ignore the snide remarks, they do tend to take care of themselves. But if that doesn’t work, what then? Before it escalates to bullying – because I truly think that the occasional name calling, the “You look dumb in that shirt” comments, the bump when passing in a crowded hallway is not bullying – bring it to the attention of someone else. Have daily conversations with your kids. Tell them to talk to a teacher, like really really talk to the teacher. Call the teacher yourself. Check out Facebook (or better yet, don’t let your child have Facebook or social media until you set some firm, rock solid ground rules). And have more conversations with your kids.

Many years after she was in seventh grade, she remarked how silly the arguments were

Many years after she was in seventh grade, she remarked how silly the arguments were

In a lot of ways, seventh grade really blows. Kids can be mean to each other. They start to smell a bit funkier every day. The eye rolls get so dramatic that you begin to fear they might have to walk around with just the whites showing for the rest of their lives. But seventh grade can also rock your socks off. My students melt my heart on a near daily basis with their generosity. They come up with the most amazing insights. Sometimes, their eyes even twinkle a bit when they discover something, which gives their whites a nice break from the sun. Do they still say mean things to each other? Do adults? Absolutely. Seventh grade doesn’t have to be traumatic for girls (and boys . . . I know that they can be just as mean to each other). At most of the elementary schools in our district, Girls on the Run have a program in place to “unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness,” and this school year, my school is starting a Girls on Track program for our middle school girls. To say that I’m excited is an understatement. And to say that I’m nervous is an understatement, too. Why? Because I’m the coach. Not because I’m a stellar runner. But because I remember what it’s like to hear the whispers and not know what to do or say or how to act. And I’d like our girls to know better.


“Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift


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