Mommy Has a ‘Boo-Boo Leg’

My curious son and I, on the observation area of the Santa Barbara Courthouse. June 2018 (I climbed all the stairs!)

“What does the doctor do with all the blood after they check it?”

My son once asked me that question.  It took me by surprise and caught me off guard, because it was something I had never considered.  

It’s not the only good question Ryan has asked me over the years.  There have been so many I wrote a personal essay about them.  And I’m proud to say that “Mommy Has a ‘Boo-Boo Leg’: Talking to My Son About My Autoimmune Disease” is now a non-fiction finalist in the Pen 2 Paper Disability-Focused Creative Writing Contest.

Click here to read my essay, and this year, readers may vote for their “audience favorite.” (You must have a free Submittable account to vote).  

Thank you in advance for reading and spreading the word!

 

A Tribute to Teachers

 

Though I left my teaching career five years ago, there are still many aspects of teaching I really miss.  There’s a special sort of magic that happens when you connect with a child, and that’s why I still enjoy reading about teachers who love teaching.

Recently I read Phillip Done’s memoir Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind – Thoughts on Teacherhood, and I’d like to share with you some of the passages that stood out for me.

“What exactly is a teacher anyway?  A lot of different things.  Teachers are like puppeteers.  We keep the show in motion.  When we help children discover abilities that they don’t know they have, we are like talent scouts.  When we herd kids off the play structure at the end of recess, we are like shepherds.  Teachers are like farmers.  We sow the seeds – not too close together or they’ll talk too much.  We check on them every day and monitor their progress.  We think about our crop all the time.  When we see growth – we get excited.”

“Teachers are word warriors.  All day long we explain, correct, examine, define, recite, check, decipher, sound out, spell, clap, sing, clarify, write, and act out words.  We teach spelling words and history words and science words and geography words.  We teach describing words and compound words.  We teach synonyms and antonyms and homonyms, too.”

“Teachers try everything short of back handsprings to get their students to quiet down and pay attention.  We flick off the lights, clap patterns, hold up fingers and wait, change the level of our voices, count up to three, count down from five, set timers, brush wind chimes, shake shakers, bribe kids with free play, and seat the boys next to the girls.”

“I was in Teacher Mode.  It turns on automatically whenever children are near and goes into overdrive when it senses busy streets, mud, gum, or bloody noses.”

“Of course nothing has changed like technology.  A bug was something you brought in from recess to show the teacher.  A desktop was something you scraped dried Elmer’s glue off with your teacher scissors.  Hard drives were on Monday mornings.  Viruses kept you home from school.  And cursors were sent to the principal’s office.”

Now it’s your turn, dear readers.  Feel free to share any school memories or teacher anecdotes of your own in the comments section below.

This Is Marriage

Joyce Maynard’s memoir, The Best of Us, is heavy.  Physically heavy at over 400 pages.  Emotionally heavy in its subject matter.  From the back cover:  In 2011, when she was in her late fifties, beloved author and journalist Joyce Maynard met her soulmate.  Then, just after their one-year wedding anniversary, Jim was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  As they battled his illness together, she discovered for the first time what it really meant to be a true partner and to have one.

The book was beautiful, and raw, and powerful, and honest.  It touched me and moved me so much so that after I had to return my copy to the public library, I went out and bought my own.  

This week, I’d like to share with you just a few of the passages I tagged while reading:

I look back now on that day as one of the moments I discovered a small but significant truth about marriage: that it is in the act of surrendering the old, familiar patterns and all the things a person believes to be immutable that she may discover a new kind of beauty.  Something better even than her old way.”

Not all at once, but gradually, over the months, another revelation came to me: None of that other stuff, much as I’d loved it, was what made a marriage.  Not restaurant dinners or romantic vacations.  Not walks on the beach or visits to the wine country in the Boxster.  Not oysters and martinis or moonlight over the Bay Bridge.  This was marriage.”

But the larger truth is, I am here.  This is not the experience I wanted, but as with every other experience in my life, I do not intend to sit this one out, or to pretend for one moment that it isn’t happening.  This is my life, and at the end of the day, I don’t want to miss a minute of it.”

 

My Confession About Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

In my 4th grade classroom, preparing for Back-to-School Night. 2006

I have a confession to make.  I never planned on being a stay-at-home mom.  I was a teacher before my son was born, and I planned on being a teacher after my son was born.

At least, that was my plan.

But for those of you who read my blog and know me, plans started to change in 2010 when I became ill.  They really changed in 2013 when I retired from my twelve-year teaching career. 

There is a lot to read about the difficult decision to become a stay-at-home mom or the equally-difficult decision to return to the workplace.  But I didn’t find a lot to read about moms who become stay-at-home moms when it wasn’t their choice.  And as much as I love my son, as much as I feel lucky to take him to school each day and pick him up each afternoon, being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t my choice.

You can click here to be re-directed to mother.ly and read my recently published essay, “I Never Planned To Be a SAHM – To Be Honest, I’m Still Adjusting.”

 

Proudly Under-Scheduled

Time for the important things — a game of basketball between father and son

When you Google “Overscheduled children,” more than 200,000 results show up.  If you’re not familiar with the term, it applies to children who are spending most of their waking hours in school and involved in organized activities (such as enrichment classes, sports teams, and lessons). 

I’m proud to say that my son is not an “overscheduled” child.  He’s a ten-year-old fifth-grader who goes to school until 2:30 pm (1:30 pm on Tuesdays), and then spends the rest of the afternoon at home doing homework, playing, and relaxing (except on Tuesdays when we pay a visit to the public library). 

You can learn about our family’s decision not to have Ryan become an “overscheduled child” by clicking here and reading my recently published essay, “Why My Son Doesn’t Need ‘Enrichment’ Classes” at RoleReboot.

 

 

I Can’t – And Here’s Why

A photo taken during my teaching days. After a museum field trip, my students enjoyed rolling down this big grassy hill!

On the second day of this school year, my son’s teacher asked if I was available to help chaperone field trips.  It was before school, a minute before the bell was to ring.  There wasn’t time for me to give her a medical explanation so instead, I gave a quick reply, “It depends.”

How was I to tell my son’s fifth-grade teacher that just because she saw me every day (at drop-off and pick-up times) there were medical reasons why I couldn’t help on field trips.

During the second week of school, my son had his first field trip.  A walking field trip.  Again, his teacher asked if I was available to join their class.  This time, I said, “No I’m sorry.  I can’t do it.”

Which was true.  It just wasn’t the whole story.  And most of the time the whole story is much easier for me to write than it is to say.

Click here to read my personal essay (written when my son was a second grader) that explains “Why I Don’t Volunteer to Chaperone My Son’s Field Trips.”

 

Weird Wendy

I am Wendy.  Woman, wife, writer.

I am, in fact, a woman of many “W’s.”

Depending on who you ask and how they feel about me, I may be described (to varying degrees) as watchful, wise, wacky, warmhearted, witty, wonderful.

Ask my rheumatologist, though, and he’ll tell you I’m weird.

To get the full story, click here to read my personal essay, “The Hard Realities I’ve Faced After My Doctor Told Me, ‘You’re Just Weird’,” which was recently published at The Mighty.

 

 

In Praise of Poetry

The latest book in my “just read” pile is Jill Bialosky’s memoir Poetry Will Save Your Life.

I’m not a huge fan of poetry; a poem either speaks to me or it doesn’t, though I do have a (small) number of poems that touch my soul.  And there were several things I liked about this book that I wanted to share with you this week.

From a writer’s perspective, I thought the structure was so original.  The author shares a moment of time, a memory, an anecdote and then included a relevant poem.

From a book lover’s perspective, I thought the cover was beautiful (see the picture above) as were the front and end pages (see the picture below).

From a reader’s perspective, here are some of the passages I tagged as I read:

“A poem’s meaning alters by the associations, insights, and experience we bring to it.  A poem can do many things at once.  Like “The Road Not Taken,” it can challenge the reader intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally.  It can validate our experiences or cause us to question our beliefs.”

“Surely this is one of the reasons poetry enriches us.  A poem links us to a universe at once intimate and communal.  Poets and artists work in solitude and by intuition.  They have the same mission: to capture and fathom the reality beyond appearances, the world invisible to the eye.”

“I realize that through the artfulness of poetic form, one can trap experience and make it palpable to a reader.  A poem might be about what hurts, and most illuminating, the subject might be drawn from one’s own life.  A poem could be both personal and communal and save a person from the dark shadow of shame.”

“Poems often begin from a question, or a needling of something disturbing or provoking, sometimes even from ignorance.  From there a poet takes elements, either an image, a particular scene or landscape, a memory, maybe only an expression – and appeals to her unconscious, her place of unknowing in hopes that as words, phrases, and fragments take shape, like beads on a string, something original and exciting might evolve.”

Readers, what are your favorite poems?  Feel free to share in the comments section!

Playing in Pain

The other afternoon, my son and I played hopscotch.

That was after we had played handball.

There are a few details that make those statements more meaningful than they may initially appear.

First off, in our neighborhood, we don’t see many parents outside playing with their kids.  Where we live, kids are left to wander on their own.  Most of the families near us are not only-child families like ours so often times siblings play together, or neighboring kids play together.  But the other day, we were the only ones outside enjoying the sunshine so I was my son’s playmate.

Secondly, neither hopscotch or handball are easy sports for me to play.  Me, the woman with an autoimmune disease, the woman who qualifies for a disabled placard, the woman who experiences pain in her legs (primarily the left leg).

But my son wanted to play.  And I wanted to play with him.  So I did, until I just couldn’t.  Until I was balancing on one foot, bending down to pick up the rock from the hopscotch square, and pain began to shoot up and down my leg a bit.  Then I had to sit the rest of the game out, and cheer on my son while he played alone.

That part hasn’t gotten any easier for me — knowing when to stop and knowing when to say “I can’t do this any more.”  Because I do want to play with my son, and because I realize how special it is that my ten-year-old still wants to play with me. 

Our afternoon playtime session got me thinking about a personal essay I wrote a few years back that was published at muthamagazine.com.  Click here to read, “The ‘A’ Word: Parenting with an Invisible Disability.”

 

5th Grade – The Home Stretch

My 5th Grade School Picture

My son is a fifth grader. 

School started yesterday, which means this will be Ryan’s last year at his elementary school and then it’s off to middle-school.

But I don’t want to rush ahead.  We have 180 days of fifth grade to experience first.  And like in years past, I’d like to share with you memories of my own fifth grade year.  (To remind you, you can click here to read about my fourth grade experiences and click here to read about my life in third grade).

I had the same teacher for fourth, fifth, and sixth grades.  Ryan has had a new teacher each year.  My elementary school went up to sixth grade, so unlike Ryan, at this stage I wasn’t yet looking ahead to middle school.

And though I was in fifth grade back in the 1980s, one thing remains the same.  All fifth graders are still required to complete the fifth grade physical education fitness test.

Unlike Ryan’s school, my elementary school didn’t have a physical education teacher.  When I was in elementary school, our classroom teachers took their classes out for P.E. once in a while, usually on Fridays, and usually as a reward for good behavior.  We didn’t train and practice for this physical fitness test.

Luckily, Ryan’s school has a group of physical education coaches.  They have been training for this test since kindergarten, slowly building up the endurance needed to run a mile.

And when it comes time for this test, I’ll give Ryan the same words of encouragement I always give him for any test: Do your best. 

Because really, no matter what grade you’re in, no matter what you’re being tested on, that’s the only thing you can do.