Friday, December 14, 2012

Sandy Hook School Tragedy

Sandy Hook School Tragedy

I found out first from a colleague. My first thoughts were not the worst. I felt bad that it happened again, but the magnitude hadn't set in. We were standing in a room of children working Math problems and, of course they had no idea. So, I continued the lesson, gave the assignment and sat at my computer to check the updates. I was interrupted continuously by typical classroom happenings and questions, but got enough of the story to be horrified. 

As a teacher, I played through horrible scenes in a matter of seconds. Except the setting was here. In MY school. I second guessed many of my daily "routine" habits and realized I had become lax on some things that could prevent trouble. Very quickly I realized that it would be very difficult to prevent someone really determined from getting in here. At any school. Except, I do think our staff is very alert and could react in a hurry. We have taken precautions. We have a plan in place and it will be revisited again and again. 

As a parent, I started thinking about my own kids. Were their teachers attentive to potential situations? Would they know where my kids are at every moment and be able to protect them from any harm? Again, this is an amazing staff. Some of the best professionals in the business are in this building and I know they would do their best to protect any child. However, there is just no way to know when and in what way a scenario will play out. 

Back in the classroom, I wanted to shut the door and keep the kids as close to me as possible. I wanted to keep them in from recess and put adult guards at the door. I wanted to tell them that they were safe and that they could trust me and everyone else in the building to keep this from happening here. I wanted that for their benefit -and for mine. I resisted this, because I knew we were safe. I read a primary teacher's post on Facebook exclaiming that she gave each one of her students a tight hug as they left for the day. I wanted to do this too. And I'm not a hugger. My students are a bit older, so I high-fived each as they walked out the door and told them to have a nice and safe weekend.

The truth is (and every reader will already know this) that we can simply not control every aspect of our lives. We can take many, many  actions to make our lives safer, but ultimately we just don't know how our end will come about. That is the scary part. That's what I fear about death. I guess a tragedy like this is supposed to get us thinking and re-planning and questioning. Perhaps that is what I can take from this. 

I feel great sadness and empathy for the people going through this horrific tragedy. It's impossible for me to wrap my head around any possible motivation for something of this nature. How screwed up does your wiring have to be to decide that this was the reaction needed for any situation? As the story is told in the next few days, I am sure there will be anger, fear and more sadness. I've stopped looking at the pictures on the internet for today- I can't stand the anguish and hurt I see in the parents' faces. I can pray for them.

Monday, April 16, 2012

One Year, One Month, and One Day Later

It's been a while and I feel bad about it. I really like to write this blog, but I really have a hard time "finding" time to write. I also have a hard time "finding" the motivation.  And then its difficult to "find" a topic interesting enough to write about. So, tonight due to a little bit of obscure and out-of-the-blue inspiration, I am going to steal the time and force the motivation. Taking the time from when I should be sleeping probably isn't wise, but I do it so often that its easy this time. The topic, I suppose, is to catch up all my readers (thanks mom!) on the changes in my life. I know that I am not a fan of long posts so I will break this one into three parts and attempt to keep it brief, but WARNING: I am a rambler.

There have been some major changes in my life and more are coming. I am trying to glean as much as possible from these experiences and as usual try to find my purpose and role in each. Looking for the silver lining has become a habit as much as a survival mechanism. In other words, I don't have as much control as I'd like, but I try to spin it to make me feel better.

The first major change has really been gradual. It happens to us all, and I am sure it has happened to many of you. This is the first time it has happened to me. At least like this. Everyone gets older and we all aspire to keep doing so. It is such a wonderful thing to watch your children grow up and mature. Its a great thing, with a few horrible times (middle school) thrown in, to grow up yourself.  It is such a bittersweet thing to watch your older family members grow old.

I am very close to my grandparents.  They have had a pretty big hand in who I am.  Grandpa taught me the farming and so many other things (I'll save those for another blog post). Grandma helped me appreciate food to the fullest.  What an amazing cook she was.  She still dabbles in the kitchen, but it has gotten very hard on her.  She is 84 and has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. She has been living with it for many years now and has been very admirable in the fight against it. She is losing. It is claiming her slowly.

Grandma was born in 1927 and grew up in the time where women in the country grew up as strong as the men.  She worked on her parents' farm in Eastern Oklahoma and has some very interesting stories of those times. When she graduated high school they asked her back to teach for a short time. She then went to work at Woolworth's in Enid, OK and met my grandfather while he was working as a soda jerk (How's that for a stereo-typical, movie picture worth story?).

She and Grandpa and Mom moved from Oklahoma to Kansas to Illinois, then back to Kansas and finally settled on grandpa's family farm in Oklahoma. She was a preacher's wife, and most often also worked herself.  She has worked for companies such as Vulcan, Farm Bureau, and John Deere. She was a full time mother, preparing amazing spreads at each meal and doing all the household duties such as ironing, sewing, canning, washing, etc. She even raised two other kids (cousins) from her extended family for several years.

I point these things out to illustrate what type of woman she was. She was active and strong. She was bright and proper. She was proud and extremely loving.

She was such a positive part of my life that it hurts to write the rest. As stated before she is losing her fight against this dreadful disease. It is not sudden and it is not kind. I hate this particular disease because of what it is doing to her. It is taking away my grandma who is an amazing person and quite frankly one of the nicest, most caring people I have ever known. It has turned her into a weak, confused, overly dependent patient. Fortunately, she hasn't demonstrated the meanness, but we know it is coming. It is not necessary to continue with this train of thought as it is painful both for me and the reader and serves only to bring us down and focus on the negative.

Despite all the negative effects, I believe that she has really fought it to the fullest. Grandma has done crosswords all her life well (I bet she can whip your grandma at Wheel of Fortune).  She was a book keeper working with figures and troubleshooting issues within the corporate world for years.  She stayed active in the churches, community and at home. She ate well and has watched her health well.  I think this has helped her retain much of her brain power.

This has prompted a change in the way we do things on the farm. She still works the garden as much as she can, but does so mostly at the direction of grandpa (on second thought that may not have changed much).  She can make the meals, but has to be looked after through most of the process.  She still demands to do the dishes and almost gets angry when you suggest she stay in her seat and let you do it. My mom is the best at this and grandma usually lets her. Grandma follows grandpa out to the wood shop and helps him with his "tinkering." She wants to be near him. She checks on him constantly and feels that she has to watch after him.

I go to the farm at least every-other weekend and help with the farming/gardening/whatever-the-heck-else.  Usually, my little buddy, Joshua is with me. He loves his grandmother and looks after her when he needs to.  On occasion, grandpa needs me to take him to town to buy parts, supplies, etc. This is something much more difficult to do with grandma in tow. Joshua can stay with her. She really can take care of herself, but what Joshua does is answer her questions that come shortly after we leave and very often.  He is very patient and I am extremely proud of how respectful he is. She might read his T-shirt a dozen times a day and ask him the same questions over and over. He answers every time.

Through this horrible metamorphosis, grandma greets us every time with a big smile and a "I'm so glad you came to see us." She stays positive and really feels she is doing fine. When I ask her how she is doing on the phone her reply is always, "Pretty good for an old lady." I love that she is so cheery and full of heart. I love my grandma.