Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Cardboard Castle Princesses

cardboard castle princesses
on backyard trampolines
night time hide and seekers
rural backroad queens
new pet every weekend
kitten, turtle, toad
built in best friend red
lives right down the road
vhs on rewind
nintendo controller blisters
chinese food on friday nights
bunk bed bean bag sisters
summer sprinkler ballerinas
catching crickets in the grass
skinned knee bandaid tomboys
with shorts-too-short style sass
caterpillars in the peach tree
mud pies in the ditch
front yard games of softball
someone has to pitch (not it)
go cart dirt track circles
old blue truck on ramps
rusty tilting swing set
lava leaping champs
weekly stuffed toy yard sales
wind blown hair bike riders
front porch lounging secrets
spilled to writing spiders
even though life marches on
funny how time whirls
payne road flash back memories
daddy’s little girls

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

HB2: A letter to my representatives on potty breaks and discrimination...

I emailed this to my HofR and Senate representatives. It was rushed, much like the emergency meeting called at the last minute to vote on HB2, so there are probably several grammatical and technical errors, and I apologize. This letter skims the surface of a terrible piece of legislation that is much more in depth than what I've discussed here, but these parts are important and need to be said. I'm generally "proud to be from the south", but it's becoming harder and harder to find that pride when my sweet, gentle south where neighbors are friendly and kind continues to be overshadowed by a nasty, evil south where hatred and bias are not only acceptable but encouraged by law. With that being said, here's my email...

"Hello,

I was born and raised in Alamance County, and am currently a teacher at South Graham Elementary. I am emailing you to ask that you oppose the sudden bill proposed at this emergency meeting you're having today. And if you choose to support this discriminatory bill, I am writing to ask you who will fund either the additional bathroom my school will require to be built in my classroom or the updates needed to the bathrooms two halls down from me. I will explain this in detail in a moment.

At first glance, HB2 is a disgusting bill because it legislates legal discrimination against my neighbors and friends. Personally, I have never felt threatened by someone in a restroom based on their anatomical parts, and to be honest, I really don't pay much attention to the anatomy of those in the bathroom with me, as I am usually too focused on taking care of my own business quickly before something unfortunate occurs. I do, however, know people who have felt threatened in a restroom before because they WERE threatened. I have LGBT friends who have been discriminated against their entire lives, who have been threatened and assaulted verbally and physically for either being true to who they feel they are, or for "pretending" to be something they aren't. This HB2 proposal seems to say "that's okay" to those who are doing the threatening. If you can't see why that is wrong, I can't see voting for you in the future.

However, this bill goes deeper than the blatant discrimination. As I previously stated, I am a teacher. A public pre-kindergarten teacher, to be specific. I'm sure you know the laws regarding NCPK licensing and sanitation, as well as the current state of our schools and our education budget, so none of the following should come as any surprise to you...

I and another teacher share a large classroom, split into two small rooms by a wall of cabinets and a shared, multi-stall bathroom. All of our prekinder students use that bathroom throughout the day. If HB2 passes, that bathroom would legally need to become a single-gender bathroom. Anytime a student who is not that specified gender needed to use the bathroom or had an accident, they would need to be escorted down two hallways to the next nearest bathroom. Because of NCPK adult/child ratios, this would mean that up to six students would need to be walked down those two hallways to the next nearest bathrooms anytime one student needed to go or had an accident. (And yes, it's as messy as you might think... and yes, that mess would trail us down those hallways to the bathrooms). Also, the class I share my current bathroom with is a self-contained autism classroom, meaning all of their students have diagnoses and several of their students are in diapers. So every single time one of their students needed to have their diaper changed, they would need to be escorted to the nearest same-gender bathroom, as well. On top of all of this, the nearest bathrooms are not "pre-k certified" which would mean they would need to be inspected and updated to NCPK licensing and sanitation standards. I'm sure these bathroom updates are not in the budget considering all of the budget cuts being made to NC education lately, so I am wondering where that money would come from. Keep in mind, this is just one elementary school in the entire county. I'm sure reviews would need to be made to see how many other elementary schools, as well as middle and high schools who educate students with special needs that include toileting, in the state need bathroom updates to comply with the mandates in HB2.

If I sound angry, it's because I am. My anger is not directed at you in particular, but at this bill which seems to cause a lot of hassle for a ridiculous reason. It should be no shock to anyone that teachers in NC already have enough on our plates. "Walking students to the bathroom" seems like something small until you look a little further into it, and realize you would be adding a LOT more to my plate. And if you still don't realize that, I sincerely invite you to come spend a day with me and my wonderful students. You will see that, when taught compassion and love from an early age, it's much easier and more fulfilling to be concerned with the important things in life (such as treating others with respect) than it is to be concerned about whether someone has a penis or a vagina when they pee next to you. I hope this email does not come to you too late*, as I just learned about this bill a couple hours ago. 

Thank you so much for your time in reading this. And I truly mean it - come visit my classroom. We will welcome you with open arms, and you'll be welcome to use our bathroom if you get the urge to "go". 

Have a lovely evening."

*As it turns out, I was too late to reach my House rep. Maybe the Senate will listen. Wake up, North Carolina. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Paris.

My heart swells because it’s suddenly too full, holding so many people inside.

My heart holds those who lost their lives. The families worrying and waiting to find out if their loved ones will come home. And the families who already know they won’t.

My heart holds the ones who had to choose between outrunning a bullet or laying down and holding their breath. Those who chose to lay down. Those who ran.

Those who carried the injured. Those who comforted the wounded. Those who watched their neighbors die.

My heart holds the first responders who - I am always amazed by this - sped toward the danger, risking their lives to save others. The commanders who had to make the call - head in and sacrifice innocent lives to bring down those causing the terror, or stay back and continue to let the terrorists reign.

My heart holds the leaders who are expected to reassure nations.

My heart holds the medical professionals who have to treat wounds and pronounce deaths. 

My heart holds the refugees who cannot enter through closed borders, and will continue to live in daily fear of the destruction and terror we’re witnessing now. The refugees who have already entered and will most likely face terrible backlash as they search for a better life.

My heart holds those of us who stared in shock. Those of us who closed our eyes and prayed. Those of us who ached for strangers.

My heart holds the ones who will have to discover a new normal, full of fear or loss or war. And those of us far enough away who will continue living our own normal, while trying to find a balance between remembering and forgetting.

My heart holds all of us. All of us, we who cannot comprehend the incomprehensible. 


My heart swells because it’s suddenly too full, and it overflows through my eyes.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Car shopping and chicken teriyaki, like punches to the gut.


Eight years ago today, my dad died. As I drove to work this morning, I thought about the timeline of that day. Waking up at what I thought of then as an ungodly hour and driving towards Graham, the same as I did today. Calling my mom and getting the phone lines crossed. Answering her return call and hearing the news. Thinking as I drove that those would be my last moments as a whole person with a whole family. Realizing that, in less than an hour, I would see his body and suddenly I would become a girl without her dad. As I pulled into the school parking lot today, the time on my clock did not go unnoticed, as I remembered it was the same hour I was pulling into my dad’s driveway eight years ago. Life changed forever in that hour.

I have documented my journey of grief throughout the years. I have felt anger and disbelief and sadness. I have forgotten him and remembered him. I have accepted that life and grief are both cycles. And I have written. I write because there are moments when I miss him so deeply that it literally feels as though the air is being sucked from my lungs, and writing helps me breathe again.

I was wrong back then, back when I thought it would never get easier. I move on through life and try to make him proud, and as time passes, it does feel easier to breathe and walk and laugh without him here. As the years go by, I think of him less throughout each day, though he is always in my heart.

Still, sometimes I become overwhelmed with missing him. His absence is a deep chasm in my soul. A missing puzzle piece in my life. A hole that keeps me from being whole. I find I am still the girl without her dad that I became eight years ago.

My life is a happy one right now. I am surrounded by children and animals and close friends and my most treasured loved ones. And yet. As I grow up, and the years seem to fly by at breakneck speed, I stumble across moments that take my breath away with wanting. Wanting my dad here.

There are times I anticipate how difficult certain parts of life will be without him, and I know I will want him next to me.

I recently bought my first new car, and in the months before the purchase, I procrastinated over every little detail. From whether to scrap my old car or sell it, to which features I wanted in my new car, to the amount I could afford, I put every decision off as long as I could. My dad was a car guy. He showed me how to check fluids, how to test tire pressure, and how to drive country roads. I knew it would be painful, going through this new-car-process without him here to guide me.

I know the day will come that I will walk down an aisle to marry the man I love. And I believe my dad will be there in spirit. But I also know he won’t be holding my hand as I walk to the altar, he won’t be twirling me around on a dance floor at the reception, and he won’t be giving any break-my-daughter’s-heart-and-I-will-break-your-bones speech. I know I will be crying both tears of joy and tears of sadness when that day comes.

Then, there are the moments I’m not expecting him to cross my mind, but he does and I am crushed by the wanting.

Planning meals to cook for the week and coming across a chicken teriyaki meal online. Breaking down into tears, knowing that no chicken teriyaki will ever be as good as his was. Knowing that his secret recipes and kitchen hacks died with him.

Watching Matt drag our dog around the apartment on a blanket, and thinking back to a similar scenario. Remembering my dad running down the hallway with us girls sitting on the quilt he pulled behind him as we laughed and squealed for him to go faster. Silently crying into my pillow as I realize he will never play these same games, as a grandfather, with my own children some day.

And speaking of children. Talking about the future with Matt and starting to sob as I realize our children won’t have anyone to call PawPaw, as I lovingly referred to my father’s father. Who could have ever thought that a silly little term of endearment could bring on such a deep wave of grief?

These moments, the ones that I know are coming and those that catch me off guard, they are like punches to the gut. In these moments, I feel as if I’m having a nightmare I can’t wake up from. Like life is playing a really cruel, one-sided prank on me. And sometimes, I am almost embarrassed at how emotional I still get, all this time later, over the smallest reminders.

It is easier. But it’s not easy. It has been eight years and I still feel the need to write about him because, tonight, I feel again like I can’t breathe. I miss him and I want him here. 

Love you, Daddy.

"If I stayed here with you, girl,
Things just couldn't be the same.
I'm as free as a bird now.
Bye-bye, it's been a sweet love."

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Uncommon


people say beautiful but that is such a common word.
when a mother holds to her outsides the baby she grew in her insides
or meets for the first time the baby she prayed for but didn’t grow at all
that bond
when a father walks his daughter toward her destiny
or a groom sees his destiny walking his way
that kiss
when a country salutes her soldiers returning from battle
or twenty one guns salute those who did not
those tears
when strangers rise up to stand as one during tragedy
and suddenly become so much more than strangers
that unity
when generations of a family gather in one place to celebrate
or when they gather to say goodbye
that history
when one finds another and suddenly 
there is no understanding of how life worked before
that love
people say beautiful but that is such a common word
to describe a sight a moment a feeling
that takes your breath away
and helps you realize how to breathe
all at once in a single breath's time
there is no word for that

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanks to my favorite veteran...

Recently, at the school where I teach, a first grade class discussed Veteran's Day. Their teacher, Mrs. Moize, asked students to write a letter of appreciation to a United States veteran, expressing thanks for their service to the country. I gave her my grandfather's address and promised we would respond to a letter if he were able to receive one. A little over a week later, we received an envelope containing a letter from Abygail, and a photo of Mrs. Moize's students holding American flag pictures they made.

Abygail wrote:




Dear Veteran,
Thank you for your service to our country.
Thank you for keeping my family safe and free!
Your friend, Abygail

Tonight, I sat down with Grandaddy to help him write a response. For those who don't know, my grandfather suffers from Alzheimer's and struggles with speaking. What I thought may be a half-hour process continued on for three hours. We started out slow, and he kept finding himself unable to come up with words. I went in search of some photos from his time in the military, and after looking through several, we began talking about the memories of his service experience. From there, the words just flowed. Here's what we came up with:


December 1, 2013

To the students of Mrs. Moize's 1st grade class:

Thank you for your letter! I am responding to tell you a little about my time in service, and after.

I was eighteen when I entered the United States Army. I completed my basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. From there, I traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to attend mechanics school training for about six months. After that, I was sent to California to board a ship called the General Nelson M. Walker, which would carry me to Okinawa, Japan.

I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan for two years, and served as a Tool Room Clerk.. It was my job to take care of tools that Army mechanics used to work on military vehicles. In addition to that, I was on an artillery unit with about fifty men. We worked together hauling weaponry and practicing firing drills.

It's been over sixty years since I was in the United States Army, and I don't remember a whole lot from the time I served in Japan. I do remember that it rained QUITE A LOT while I was there. Once, I was stationed on weekend duty in the stockade, which was like a civilian jail, and we were working with the prisoners. We had just gotten lunch when it began to rain again. It rained so much, it washed the food right off our plates!

When I first got to Okinawa, they told us we would be there for about thirteen months. Then the war in Korea began to intensify, and it became pretty obvious that we would be in Japan much longer than that. It felt like we might be there forever! It ended up being two years before I was able to return home.

When I got back to the United States, I served a few more months before trying out a few different civilian jobs. I worked for two newspapers, taught 8th graders, and went to college. I attended Campbell College, Atlantic Christian College, and eventually, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I earned a master's degree in Social Work. Because I served in the military, the United States government paid for my college tuition! I became a psychiatric social worker and treated patients for over 30 years, until I retired. I met my wife, Frances, and we had three children, and four grandchildren. One of them is Miss Moore, one of the teachers at your school!

Now you know a little about me and I will leave you with this advice that I've learned throughout my 82 years: Try your best at everything you do, learn as much as you can, and be kind to those around you.

It made me very happy to receive your letter, and I appreciate you taking the time to write to me. Have a wonderful school year!

Sincerely,
Corporal Bartel Frauendorfer
United States Army, Retired



Before we came up with the advice to offer the students, he said he didn't know how to end the letter. I asked him to just tell the students the same thing he'd tell me, anything he might've learned in his lifetime. He was still drawing a blank, and so I told him what I'd tell my students. "Try your best, continue learning, and be kind to the people you surround yourself with," I offered him. He said, "Yeah, that works." I laughed and wrote it in the letter. Although he may not have formed those words or that advice on his own, it's certainly the advice he has given me over the years through his every action and word. He taught me to work hard at everything I do, that even if I'm not the best at something, I can do my best at it, and no one could ask any more from me. He taught me that I should never stop learning, whether it be through school, the workforce, or from life. At eighty-two years old, he is learning new ways to communicate, get around, and function through his challenges. He taught me that it is better to be kind than unkind, because at the end of the day, we can only answer for ourselves and our own actions.

As I read to Grandaddy the final product of our letter, tears welled in my eyes. I am so proud to say I call this man my grandfather. The accomplishments he has made - his service to our country through his time in the military, his time helping patients through his social psychiatry work, and his time raising and loving his family - are the epitome of our advice to these first grade students. Do your best. Keep learning. Be kind.

I wanted to share this because I was so inspired by this project and the work these first graders did, and because I am inspired every day by my sweet Grandaddy. Thank you to all who have served our country, through military service or otherwise! Happy Veteran's Day, every day.




We included a few photos, shown below, with our letter to the students.

Bartel Frauendorfer, United States Army
circa 1947-1948 (?)


Damaged Japanese anti-aircraft artillery left behind after WW2



My grandfather's room in the Gorha Hotel
(where military members [and their families] stayed before they were assigned barracks)



Bartel Frauendorfer (left) and friend John Tonkin (right)
Touring Naha, Japan on a pass


My sweet Grandaddy and me!




Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dear Daddy.


It’s been six years and you’ve missed so much. And I know... they say you aren’t really missing anything, that you’re right here with us. But it’s not the same, you know? So much has happened.

Alex turned 18 this week. Your first grandchild is officially an adult, which would’ve made you officially old. He graduates next month and will head off for East Carolina University in the fall (although he had his choice of colleges since four of them so far have sent acceptance letters!). You’d want to jerk a knot in him for all the tattoos he has, but you’d be so proud of the man he has grown up to be.

Amber graduates from ECU next month. She leaves, and Alex goes... small world! And she already has a full time job working for some rich surgeon. She’s living all on her own in Raleigh, finishing school on time with close-to-perfect grades, working full time, and she just ran a 5k with Hannah last weekend. Not much has changed about Miss Do-It-All-and-Do-It-All-Right. She’s definitely our Amber. If you were here, you’d be bragging about her list of accomplishments to everybody.

Brycson was just in the newspaper yesterday. Front page, top photo. She was named Captain of the Burlington Police Explorers program a few weeks ago, and they were volunteering for the Clean Sweep river clean up. Also, she just passed her driver’s ed written test, and after four rounds of instructional driving, she’ll get her permit. Your first granddaughter is about to start driving. I’ll say it again... Dad, you’d be old.

Sissy is busy raising the babies, who aren’t really babies anymore, and becoming a master chef. And Heather is busy with school, and on and off, she’s helping raise a zoo of teenagers who aren’t even hers. I know I’m the little sister so it might be weird for me to say it, but they make me so proud. And I know you’d be spoiling all those kids of theirs rotten.

There is so much you’re missing out on, and sometimes, it breaks my heart.

I wish you could’ve been here to meet J and Alicson. J plays T-ball now. I wish you were here to help him practice his swing and his pitch. He talks about you sometimes, like he knows you. Maybe he does. And Alicson is the little princess of our family. You wouldn’t be able to get enough of those fat little cheeks she has. She is starting to talk now, and we’re working on getting a “GO DUKE!” out of her.

And there’s me. I finally graduated. I wouldn’t have, except I remembered how important it was to you. You didn’t get the chance, so you expected it from us. You got your wish, Daddy. Four college-educated daughters. 

There are a few things you’d want to kill me for. Like Alex and Heather, I have a few tattoos of my own. One is for you. One is for Jami Hinson, who died the year after you did. And the others are just ones I wanted... I figured after the first two, a couple more wouldn’t matter.

And I have a boyfriend. I think you would approve... secretly. I know you’d never actually admit it. You always said no one would be good enough for your girls, but I think I got pretty close with this one. Even though he’s a stinkin’ UNC fan, if you were here, yall could be friends during the off-season and talk about cooking and sports. Maybe you’d even go play terrible games of golf together.

My lifelong dream finally came true this week. I got a puppy! His name is Simon, and you would DEFINITELY approve of him. He is beyond adorable, a tiny little rescue Dachshund mix. I know we both like bigger dogs, but I just couldn’t say no to this little guy. I wish you were here to meet him, even though I know you’d sneak him people-food when I wasn’t looking.

We miss you, Daddy. We’re all doing alright, but there’s a big, gaping hole in our family puzzle, and the missing piece is you. I know I shouldn’t cry, but sometimes I wish so hard for you to be here that it actually hurts.

I wish you could be here to see all of this, to be a part of it. I wish you were here to see Alex and Amber walk across those stages. To teach Brycson the “look inside the curve” driving trick. To see J’s first real home run and to introduce Alicson to “Mr. Hand”. To petsit Simon, and to give Matt the “hurt my daughter and I’ll kill you” lecture. I wish you were going to be here to walk me down the aisle and dance at my wedding someday, to hold my future babies and see if their eyes are as blue as yours were. I wish you were here lecturing us and encouraging us and doing all the things daddies do for their girls.

I wish you could be here to let us all know that we really are doing alright, that we’re making you proud. I know we are, but like I said, it’s not the same. We really miss you, Dad. We really love you. We really wish you were here.



I wish you could have been there for the sun & the rain & the long, hard hills. For the sound of a thousand conversations scattered along the road. For the people laughing & crying & remembering at the end. But, mainly, I wish you could have been there.-Brian Andreas, StoryPeople