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My baby

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OK y’all I am SO excited! Why? Because tomorrow morning we get to see our boy after being at camp for nearly a month! For the past 11 years (will be 12 years on Monday, August 10th) my entire world has revolved around this boy.  And you know what? I’ve LOVED it. OK, so it was rough in the beginning but thinking about so many awesome times together I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Who would have thought up into my 20’s I vowed never to have kids?! Yep, I did. I never wanted the “trouble” and even more so I didn’t want to screw them up as much as I felt I had been screwed up by my parents. WELL…not only did I end up having one child BUT my b-i-g-g-e-s-t regret was that I couldn’t have more. I suppose that is what makes it so hard when I see my one and only baby growing up. I often think about our second pregnancy (when Judah was 5) and what it could have been like with a second child. Would it have made a difference in my pain of watching my children grow up? Oh lawd! Probably not! BUT at the very least it would have delayed my fear of having an empty nest. I suppose this is the Jewish momma syndrome?

Another thing…want to know what’s so funny about all of this?  Well, I used to feel “those” moms who were so wrapped up in their kid’s lives schlepping them here and there were TOTALLY NUTS! Yes, I did! I felt they needed to get a life of their own and have their own identity separate from their kids. I often thought how they could just lose themselves in their children because after all those kids weren’t going to be around forever. Well of course I am eating my words because here I am…I AM one of those moms. AND know what? Between you and me I am OK with Judah being the center of my world. Of course his nagging, whining, not wanting to clean up after himself and everything that is frustrating with raising a kid is hard. LAWD those days are hard! BUT, the flip side is I’d NEVER trade any of those days for the days we laugh together and the days he wants a hug or wants me to spend time with him. Of course I love Carol and of course I value our time together. At the end of the day we are the ones spending the rest of our lives together and in time it will be JUST us. I understand that fact and I can’t wait for her to have her health back so we can complete some of our goals together. HOWEVER, there is something special in the connection you have with your child. I never believed that until now. I really am at awe every time I see my kid. The things he’s taught me about myself has been life altering. My heart smiles when I see this perfect balance of his two moms in him. l am so proud of him that I continuously say to myself, “WOW! He’s ours!? We are the lucky parents to get him!”

Listen, I know our goal as parents is to push our babies out of the nest so they can eventually fly on their own. I get that and I know we as parents have no choice in that matter. He will fly on his own. AND that folks is where I have a tough time. Each year Judah has a birthday, my heart aches knowing he’s one year closer to gaining his independence and wanting his own life (without his Momma being around on a daily basis to share). This summer Judah attending a camp far from home (four days shy of a month) has given me a taste of how my life will be when he’s off conquering the world (in a very short 6 years) and I hate the empty feeling. It’s funny because I was worried about Carol and how she’d deal with Judah being gone. BUT, I do think I’ve had the harder time. I suppose because it’s me who takes care of most of Judah’s daily needs. Bottom line though,  I understand whether I like it or not, Judah will continue to grow up and he will fly out on his own. It will happen and I cannot stop it.

You know before Judah was born Carol said we were not going to put him in daycare. One issue was if we did (put him in daycare) one of our salaries would have gone straight into paying for it. Her point was if daycare gave us no extra income then why not just stay home with him and give him more one on one attention? Carol felt it was better for a child anyway to have one parent home with him. I as a daycare child and latchkey kid didn’t think it made a difference. Well, not until Carol pointed out some of my issues as partly because of being at daycare. And so because Carol had the better job, I was the parent to stay at home. When Judah was born I was 33 years old and had never been around babies for too long. To say it was hard for me would be an understatement. I cried a lot and I never wanted Carol to go to work. She was better at playing with Judah and keeping him happy. I was always nervous, impatient and I just didn’t know what to do. But then the tides began to turn and I started to change. OK, it helped when Judah could talk and tell me what he wanted. Even so, I actually started to enjoy being a stay at home mom. Judah made me laugh and always kept me smiling. He brought things out of me, softened me and I (secretly) loved it. This kid of mine had an act for opening me up and showing me another way of life. I NEVER EVER would have thought he would turn my world around.

AND SO, here I am no longer 33 and Judah certainly no longer a baby. It’s August 5th, 2015 and never in a million years would I have thought I’d be eagerly waiting to pick him up from camp. I swore when I was a counselor that I would NEVER be one of “those” parents. AND YET, I HAVE become one of “those” parents. And you know what? I’m OK with that. Yes, I am. In fact I’ll proudly wear that t-shirt. Listen, I’m sure we’ll notice how much Judah has grown since we last saw him nearly a month ago…grown not just in height but in so many other ways. And even though in four days our son will be 12, entering 6th grade and soon to be bar mitzvah’d NONE of that will matter tomorrow morning. NOPE, won’t matter at all… because when I see my kid, I will still see MY baby who I have missed.  AND I will hug him and squeeze him and make him my very own…again.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2015 in Weekly photo challenge

 

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What’s (MORE) worse for a kid than having ONE Jewish momma?

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A year ago I decided our son needed to be around more Jewish kids and to learn about the Judaism that is closer to mine and Carol’s philosophy. I felt strongly that one particular camp would be the one. And so I started the process of seeing how I could find the funding to get Judah to C.J. Why C.J you ask? Well for me, it is multifaceted…not just one reason. First of all, I spent 10 summers there… not as a camper but as a staff member. I did attend their sister camp for the older kids when I was 15, so I wasn’t totally wide eyed when I started working here. During my first two summers at CJ (I was 18 and 19 years old) I was a Madricha (counselor for Offarim) and the remaining years I was the Omanut (art) specialist. As much as I did enjoy being a counselor, I really loved being the art specialist. Gosh, of course I did. It was what I was studying in college and it gave the opportunity to do my own art…was my outlet. And so, I worked hard to start a ceramics program and moved the art program to a bigger space to house the new kilns. (It’s so cool the art facility is still in tact as I left it with improvements. My work wasn’t in vein.) I loved camp and I cared about the well being of the art program. But for me there was another equal reason I have a special connection to this place. Camp was my salvation. It was a place I felt safe and where I never had to struggle. I didn’t have to worry about bills or my next meal. Camp was a safe place for me and a place I felt free and included. Many of my friends there knew my mom had died when I was 15. But the secret I held for many years was that my dad was abusive. Especially after my mom died, my life with my dad was nothing less than hellish. And so C.J was my place of refuge. It gave me many friends who taught me to be the person I am today. It educated me in ways life never did. It gave me Year Course and more life experiences. CJ made me realize I counted in this world and I could achieve any thing in my life as long as I worked hard. Of course some of that was a young person’s “I can conquer the world” ideal…but for me it allowed me to watch my peers and to see I deserved better. And for all of those things I am so thankful.

Now, as good as CJ was to me I must be honest about my last summer with them. That last summer I worked there, it was not one I like to remember. I have to mention it because it is so relevant as to why I knew Carol would not approve of sending our son to CJ. And I must be honest, I totally understand as I am still baffled how such a place…a place that was my home could betray me in that way.

It was the late 1990’s and Carol and I were dating. Because camp was one of my favorite places on earth I wanted Carol to see it…I wanted her to love it like I did. And so, I had permission for her to come to camp to spend every Shabbat with me. Because I was a specialist in charge of an activity that was not allowed to be done on Shabbat, I had that time off.  Carol and I were good friends with the horse staff and a few of the Israeli’s. The Teva specialist has been our dear friend ever since. Anyway, Carol got to know camp well. She hadn’t converted to Judaism yet but she still learned many of the prayers and Israeli songs. We’d have tea with the two shaliach families. At first she enjoyed all of the things I loved about CJ…Shabbat, Havdallah. But what happened…the reality of us being a couple, the dark side was exposed and I was shocked. I couldn’t believe how people’s attitudes changed when they realized Carol was not just my friend…I’m sure it became obvious as we were in love. I couldn’t believe how it was people who knew me for years and I called many of them friends could just start treating me as a freak. Carol and I never displayed any affection in public but that didn’t matter as staff members started horrible rumors about us. They’d laugh and whisper when we’d walk by and they’d get campers to ask me questions that were NOT appropriate. Even the Shaliach got in the hateful action…she made it clear that because I was gay I should not be around children. She demanded I be fired and even held meetings with staff members who felt the same way. I know this because our friend Bosmat, who was the teva specialist was the only one to stand up for us in those meetings. We were so grateful to her loyalty and can’t even begin to tell you the love we have for her and her family to this day. Not many have stood up for us over the years. Bosmat did and she never cared how that alienated her. If only we had more Bosmat’s that summer.

After many years at CJ I was shocked this could happen in a place I felt so comfortable. I felt betrayed. Carol was appalled by the behavior especially coming from a camp who prided themselves on being accepting. AND SO as I thought about sending our son to CJ, I knew Carol would not be happy. She rightfully still harbored anger. And folks, that’s not all. Back when it all happened I wrote a letter to the big Kohuna of Young Judaea about what happened to us, I gave examples of other staff members who’s opposite sex boy and girlfriends were allowed to come visit…I told him about how we were treated. W*E*L*L, I got a letter back from him blaming me for what happened…after all we chose to be out and never tried to hide who we were. I won’t even mention this director’s name as he is still very involved and well liked among Judaeans, But a mensch, this man is F*A*R from it. My movement I loved and was an integral a part of kicked me out like a piece of garbage and I was hurt. Carol was furious and never forgave them for what happened. AND SO It didn’t matter that it had been almost 20 years later. I knew Carol would NOT be happy with my decision to send Judah to that camp.

Listen, I knew Carol was right. Why would I want to send out kid to a camp that rejected his parents? Why would I want to support a place that didn’t support us. That very thing was the reason we no longer attended Synagogue in our own town. In fact at the time when many in our Jewish community turned against us, the only ones who embraced us was the the Rabbi and his wife from the Chabad house. Y’all, kindness can go a long way even when I know and understand their interpretation of Judaism. But, we didn’t have to justify who we were or argue about why we were. There, we just were.

AND SO, I knew the first thing I needed to do was to find out how and if CJ had changed. I had friends who told me it had but to be honest, they could not really know if it had as they weren’t us. Would they really be aware of the bigotries…would they even notice the subtle hatred?  SO, my first course of business was to find out how GLBT staff and campers were treated at the camp. How would our son be treated because he has two moms? It was important to know the philosophy at camp had changed and negative behavior against GLBT would not be tolerated. After months of my friends assuring me it had changed they encouraged me to speak to the new director. After receiving a call one afternoon from the director and speaking to him for a good hour, I felt confident things were different. Gosh, it had been 20 years later and after all our kid now 11 had never even had an issue at school with having two moms. How people viewed us had changed. But, I knew my partner well…I knew she still would not like it ….she would not like sending Judah to a place that harbored such a horrible time for us. For me though, I couldn’t condemn CJ because of that one summer even as bad as it was for us. There was more to that place…and if they had changed I knew Judah would be a good fit there.

Without telling Carol I began the process of looking into scholarships to pay for camp. I knew there was no way we could pay for it. We had just bought a house…the dog of the neighborhood just so we could afford it. A lot of work needs to be done to the house and we both committed that any extra money would go towards our house to get it fixed up.  SO, I knew sending Judah to camp would be a long shot. There was no reason to even worry Carol (or to tell Judah) if I couldn’t make it happen.

After a few months I had a plan of action. The only thing was it would meant we’d have to take a good amount we were using to fix up the house and put it towards camp. YIKES! It was time I told Carol my plan and to convince her of the benefits of sending Judah to this camp. I was nervous to say the least. I wanted her to be as excited as I was BUT I knew that was not going to be reality. Not only was I suggesting we send Judah to the camp that ostracized us BUT I was also saying we needed that money that was to go into our house. I won’t lie y’all. Carol was not happy with me. If Judah had not been excited about going, I know for sure I would have lost this battle. And y’all know what? Carol would have had a case no doubt.

Of course Carol reminded me of how we were treated and what that could do to Judah. She never wanted him to be treated badly or differently and up to now Judah hasn’t been. Listen, Carol wasn’t concerned with the kids. Judah knows how to handle that. After all Judah once said, ” All kids get teased…it’s just what it means to be a kid. But, it’s not worth my time to respond to the other kid (who’s doing the teasing). They’re dumb. I know they won’t go anywhere in life by being that way and I know I will. SO why bother getting upset or angry or anything else? After all you can’t change stupid.” Carol was confident Judah would be fine with the other kids. It was the adults that concerned her. For Carol it was  not knowing the staff and trusting total strangers to care for our kid. Listen, I understood her fears. However, I felt confident that the director was supportive and would never allow anything to happen to our son.

Of course I had my fears. One being I never had been away from my kid for that long. And the other was Judah being in culture shock. With us living in a small Southern town it’s not easy raising our kid Jewish. It’s not easy being the only Jewish, lesbian couple raising a son. We went through many hard years not in the community at large but just in the Jewish community when we came out. It’s been very difficult to get over the meanness. And as I mentioned before one group who accepted us without question was the local Chabad group. But as nice as they are, their belief system is not ours. Their religiousness is not ours. It’s not the Judaism we belong to…it’s not our philosophy. I also know Judah feels like an outsider there. That was why I felt CJ would be good for him. I just knew if he could get used to all of the Hebrew and be comfortable with attending services…if he could just find his own purpose and place at camp, he’d love it as I did. AND who better to have as an addition to CJ than a child of the new generation of “family.”

I know people laugh at me and Carol for our worrying about our kid at camp. But, there is the reality here.  He’s a kid who has two moms and that’s not like the other kids. We are learning from Judah every day. He has taught us his norm is having two moms. It’s just what it is. Because of that he does’t think so much about it as we do. He also doesn’t worry about it as much as we do. Even so, it’s still hard not to worry. Our kid is only 11. The world around him is not a sit around the campfire and sing Kumbaya. He will hear other kids and adults say things and those things may possibly be hateful. Not knowing every staff member at CJ and not knowing how accepting they are, it’s hard to simply relax. For us it’s not just about our son being away from us. There is that added worry for us that most other parents don’t have to be concerned about when they send their kid to camp. For the most part our son has come through his 11 years unscathed from those bigotries.  But, him being away in at place for nearly a month it’s difficult to not concern ourselves with what he may come across. We can only hope we have given him the proper skills, the courage and the strength to handle any situation that may come his way. Listen, when I was a kid I got teased for being Jewish and Carol did for wearing glasses. But y’all this is our son. It’s so different being on the parent side. OY is it hard!

I do want to thank Carol, my love, for allowing Judah this opportunity…for sacrificing. I know letting go was not easy and until he’s back home won’t be easy.  Your bravery is beyond words as I know you have added fears that are justified. We can take a little comfort in knowing Judah was ready. We do have to put our faith in our kid and know that “we done good” preparing him. He wanted to go even though he was nervous. We’ve done a great job.. we should be proud how far he’s come from those days he couldn’t even walk into a crowded room let alone stand on a stage. Who would have thought Judah would go to a “strange” camp and feel comfortable even before we left. We have to try to focus on those good things.

AND SO, here we are not even at week one and these two Jewish moms are pacing the floor. You can rest assured we will continue to check the camp website every 5 minutes for pictures of our son. We will analyze every facial expression we see to make sure he is OK. We will look at his clothing to see if he’s changed them…please don’t let it be our kid who gets the camp talk about the importance of cleanliness. We will wait with bated breathe for a letter from our kid and complain every day we haven’t gotten one. After all what’s (MORE) worse for a kid than having one Jewish Momma? YEP, that would be to be THE kid who HAS TWO Jewish Momma’s!

P.S. My kid swore he would NOT do the following when he got to camp:

* Go horseback riding * Do any kind of dancing * Be on the stage * Participate in any kind of cheering * Do the climbing wall * The zip line *Anything art related * Singing * Wearing something silly

AND NOW NOTICE THE PHOTOS THAT CAMP CAPTURED OF MY KID: Not bad for his first week of never doing these things.

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Horseback riding

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Dancing

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On stage

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Art..far right.

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Singing: Birkat counts, yes?

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Wearing something silly…glittery bow tie and a belt on his hat.

This is my first letter from Judah from camp that arrived on today (Tuesday, July 21). I already knew what chug Judah chose- I found out through another kid’s (who’s in the bunk) father. But, that’s all I knew. Y’all, I’m so glad he’s having an amazing time but gee whiz! Did he just HAVE to add the part about not missing me? REALLY, KID? Anyway, here it is…THE LETTER!

Judah letter

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2015 in Weekly photo challenge

 

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What does our kid do on Father’s Day?

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Well, today is Father’s Day… a day we acknowledge and honor our fathers. It’s a day that both me and Carol have celebrated with our fathers since we were born. However, this year will be Carol’s second year without her father and well, as for me, even longer than that. It was just a given today would be a day we’d tell our dads thank you and that we loved them. And even if they were a bad dad like mine, we still seemed to have that obligation to recognize them. It’s funny how that worked. After all when I was a kid Dad’s had different roles in the family than they do now. At that time they weren’t expected to change diapers, do any cleaning and most of all they were not responsible for raising their own children. SO, as a kid this was my perception of my “dad”… He was a man who lived in our house. He often walked around in his boxer underwear and a t-shirt because, well, that’s what made him comfortable. He was very good at yelling at us kids and telling us everything we were doing wrong. Up until the age of 10 I was scared of him and hated to go anywhere with him. He never played games with us or volunteered to do things we kids liked to do. He was a menacing figure who I was supposed to love and respect, well, because, he was my father. And so, for the longest time I did. But as I became stronger and had a child of my own, I could no longer continue to be the brunt of his explosive behavior. I stopped all contact with him until his death in 2007. That’s not to say I don’t miss him…but to be frank, I always missed him. I wanted the dad next door…the one who was loving, caring and wanted to be with his children. Sadly, no matter how much I dreamed for that dad, mine was never to be capable of it. MaLea graduation

Carol’s relationship with her dad was much different. Now, as she is 9 years older than me, her father played even more of the traditional role in her family. He went to work and her mom stayed at home. However, her childhood photos tell a much different story than mine. She has wonderful photos of her dad taking her motorbiking and going on family trips. OK, well, I do know it wasn’t all peaches and cream. Her dad also had a temper and not a lot of patience. He liked to do what he wanted to do and if one of his children had the same interest then they were lucky to be able to share it with their dad. However, there was never a doubt the love Carol’s dad had for his children and wife. He made mistakes like we all do as parents BUT he did so all the while loving his family very much. I got to know him and grew to love him as my own father. That’s not to say we didn’t have our arguments…we both loved a good debate. And we had many. BUT, at the same time, we had some good laughs. Boy did I like his barrel laugh. The best was when we’d bring over our dachshund puppy. Edward loved that dog. He’d put him in his lap. Our puppy would lick his face and Edward would just laugh and laugh. Even to this day that memory makes me smile. It was devastating when Edward died a year in a half ago. It’s weird because since he passed, there does seem to be a piece missing in the family. No doubt he will always be missed.
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It’s interesting because just comparing my father to Carol’s father there are vast differences. We both had one but their roles in our lives were not the same. And even though I had one, I always wanted a different one. I wanted the one that lived next door. There was my friend, Anne, who had a father who was always smiling and caring. He even played tennis which I thought that was cool. It’s as we say, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” As a kid we seem to dream up how the “other” would be better. In my case, I’m thinking it probably would have been better BUT I was dealt this lot. This was what I was given. Bashert.

And now on to our son who as y’all know is being raised by two moms. It boggles some people’s mind he can be a normal kid without a father. After all, he needs a man in his life, right? Well, first of all people… we do NOT void our kid of men in his life. On the contrary…our kid has many wonderful men who spend time with him and love him. He has fabulous uncles, cousins, teachers, coaches and men friends who he calls uncle. Judah probably gets more attention from those men than Carol and I ever did from our own dads who lived with us. SO, sorry Charlie’s just because we are two women who love each other does not mean we are anti man. The other question I get asked is what does our son do on Father’s Day. Well, today he woke up late, made himself some coffee and is now watching basketball on the computer. To him Father’s Day is like Christmas and Easter…he doesn’t celebrate them but has many friends who do. AND, just like the Jewish kid who has never celebrated Christmas, it’s just not part of his world to miss any part of it. Let me give an example. Let’s say you were raised celebrating Christmas but converted to Judaism as an adult. You had wonderful memories of your childhood during that holiday. When you have children you long for your kids to have those same memories. You begin to feel bad that they can’t have them because of the choices you made. However, if you look at this example with a more neutral perspective you’ll see that you are only projecting what you long for or miss onto your kids. Because it’s something WE miss, we assume our kids are missing it too. BUT, how can our kids miss something they never experienced or had in their life? Listen, Carol and I often forget Judah’s normal is being raised by two moms. Our normal was being raised by a mom and dad. Two different experiences. And yet we still find ourselves projecting onto Judah which is very unfair. And yet it is bound to happen simply because of how we were each raised. And y’all know what? It’s OK.

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Two moms

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Listen, our kid has taught us a lot. Each day is a learning experience for us. Judah seems to know exactly how to settle our many worries. He has often pointed out that our concerns are steeped from experiences that are not relevant to his world. To him it’s like apples and oranges. Both are OK but both cannot be eaten in the same way.

I’ll never forget when Judah was 4 he came home from preschool and announced, “I want a dad.” Mine and Carol’s first instinct was to freak out. Here we are two woman raising a son AND how many people (including family) would tell us how he’s going to miss out. And now here we were being confronted by it from our kid. However, our panic subsided as we thought about his age. FOr goodness sake he’s 4…the very age they can ask where babies come from and when you go to tell them about the birds and bees they cut you off and say, “No, I mean what hospital.”

Listen, when Judah was four he was in the bathroom with Carol. He was on the counter looking in the mirror with his mouth wide open. After a few minutes he asked Carol,”Why do I have a scrotum in the back of my throat?” And so, we knew Judah’s question about wanting a dad was a bit more basic. We asked him why he felt he wanted a dad. He told us that Christopher’s dad would get on the floor and wrestle and he really liked that. Carol and I laughed. We pointed out his other friends and their dads…all of whom don’t get on the floor and wrestle. Judah looked at us. He smiled and said, “Oh, I know.” He pointed to Carol and added, “Mom, you always like to dress up with me to play pretend stuff. I DON’T know ANY of my friend’s MOMS or DADS who do that!”

And so, friends, family and strangers don’t worry about our kid. He’s just fine. He has two big Momma’s who love him with all their heart. If A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G feel bad for him on Mother’s Day…because on that day he has TWO gifts to give!

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gram, C,J

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Hugs to all who celebrate Father’s Day today!

 

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“We need more Jesus and God in our lives.”

In the last few days there have been a ton of responses on Facebook to the horrible shooting that took place at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. Now, before I get on my soap box, I want it to be known that I find what happened horrific… it saddens me tremendously that 9 beautiful lives were lost. Also, I want to make it clear that I am not against any religion and my comments here are to address (and yes, give my opinion to) a comment that many have made. Many of you have written: “The reason this shooting happened as well as so much other violence happening is because of the lack of Jesus and God in our lives.” Y’all, I find it so fascinating that one can point their finger at the white supremacist, the anti-semite and homophobe to say they are wrong BUT saying one must believe in Jesus and God is considered OK. Um, I hate to break this to you but that statement too is one of exclusion and lack of respect for others. When one has a belief that their way is the only way and everyone must follow it, in my opinion, is the same mentality of the extremists. No matter the scale of exclusion a group creates when one is so adamant they are right nothing good ever comes out of it.

For those who may not know… I am not only Jewish (more culturally than religiously), AND…are you ready for this? Well… I don’t believe in God. Gasping for air? Wanting to pray for me now? Oh, don’t bother. I’m totally fine with it. AND the last time I checked… this wonderful country of mine has allowed me to own who I am and to be able to express it freely. SO, no need to feel sorry for me or as if I am lost. Oh honey’s, I found myself a long, long time ago. It’s been years since I was lost. Frankly, my path has never been as illuminated as it has been today. And you know what? Would you believe I am totally fine with others who do believe in a deity? It’s true. In fact I not only respect that in others but I appreciate it. I love learning about it… not for the purpose of me taking it on but understanding other’s perspective of life. I never expect someone to believe as I do. I firmly believe it’s NOT necessary for everyone to have the same beliefs. Gosh, how boring would this world be if we all did?

Anyway, so, back to the comments I have seen. Because of my beliefs I feel compelled to respond to the idea “we need to have Jesus and God in our lives” in order to make the right choices. Here’s the thing. I hate to tell y’all BUT one does NOT need (anyone’s) religion to know what is the difference between right and wrong. Believe it or not even though I don’t believe in God, I FULLY understand the sanctity of (any) life and I hold it in very high regard. Folks, I save worms from the middle of the street and lizards from my cats. I am devastated when I hear someone is ill. Just because I don’t believe in God does NOT mean I am excluded from feeling love and compassion for others. Honestly, I don’t even believe religion can teach that value… that is something one is born with.

Listen, here’s the thing. Throughout history groups of people have been murdered in the name of religion. And sadly, those who believed in Jesus and God were among those violators. Take the crusaders… the destruction and death they caused in the name of Jesus and God was mind-blowing. Some today may say but they were excessive and they really weren’t true believers. Others have said the Crusaders were using their religion for the purpose of power. Well, folks, I hate to tell you but every religion who states their way is the only way is a form of power. And no matter the extreme of the religion or a person in that religion, that one way of thinking gives permission to the “believers” to place themselves on a pedestal (with “non believers” below). It sets up a hierarchy where those who don’t believe as you do viewed as being lost and needing help. And I can’t leave out they are seen as uneducated. There is no room or as I like to call it… respect and acceptance for another person’s beliefs. And this is where I feel so many of us are missing what is so clearly in front of us…actually slapping us in the face over and over again. That lack of respect and acceptance that is built into so many religions, I feel, is the very place where bigotry stems and grows. Come on. How many out there are judging me (and others) right now because I don’t believe in Jesus or God? How many see me as lost, needing help…to be educated? If only I could see the light or open my heart then I could know the world of Jesus and or God, right? Well, here’s the thing. Because that belief prohibits and leaves no room for any other belief system, it helps facilitate hatred. Gosh, how does it NOT create a built in system to grow bigotry and hatred? After all, it’s human nature to feel powerful when we feel we are right. It’s human nature to judge others when we feel we have been given spiritual truth. And yet it is in that mentality where I see the acceptance of injustice, discrimination and supremacy.

OK, so, I know my example of the Crusades was from a long, long, long time ago. Here, let me give you a list of more modern day examples where the person who committed the crime said Jesus and/or God came first in their lives. 1)Wisconsin Sikh Temple massacre, Aug. 5, 2012. 2) Dr. George Tiller, murdered May 31, 2009 3)Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church shooting, July 27, 2008 4) Dr. John Britton, murdered July 29, 1994 5)Centennial Olympic Park bombing, July 27, 1996 6) Suicide attack on IRS building in Austin, Texas, Feb. 18, 2010 7) Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing, April 19, 1995.

Listen, when I think of those victims in Charleston, it angers me that their lives were taken in the very place they should have been safe. They were in their place of worship celebrating what was so important to them. A madman took that away from them and that is inexcusable. I would NEVER condone what he did AND I am NOT suggesting at all that religion caused it.

My point is when so many have said “all we need is more Jesus and God” in our lives, I ask that they take more time to think about what they are saying…to understand that by saying that they are excluding many good people. I ask that they be more sensitive to those who believe differently. I ask that they look internally (and inside their own religion) to identify how their beliefs and teachings may facilitate hatred of any kind. Hell, if we each took responsibility within each of our spiritual homes, I feel strongly we can make positive changes for the better. Will it stop crazy people from killing others? I’d like to think if it stopped ONE person then it is well worth it. It’s crucial that each of us stop pointing our finger’s outwardly and turn them inwardly. Let’s stop pointing them to the religion next to us and point them at our own. Let’s begin making changes from with in our own communities and taking responsibility for the things we are responsible for AND can change. Our children are some of our greatest gifts… we have the power to leave to them a better world … one where our differences are celebrated instead of disregarded.

And for the victims in Charleston…as we say in Judaism…may their memory be a blessing.

 

Giving everyone the finger!

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After my partner left for work around 7pm it was time to get my 11 year to slow down and begin his nightly ritual. First course of action was getting him to take a shower. He had his tennis lesson and was outside playing basketball for most of the afternoon so his body odor was as his other mom says, “Ripe!” It took me 30 minutes to finally get him into the bathroom to start his shower. And even then he didn’t just jump right in. Instead, he turned on his music, unclothed down to his underwear and then began practicing his basketball moves while looking into the mirror. Well at least he was in the bathroom, right?

And so, while my kid was occupied I thought I’d finally go and sit down. I had already taken my shower and I was so tired. But then just as I was going to do just that I noticed our kitchen counter was filled with dirty dishes. It bothered me and knowing Carol, my partner was just as tired as I was, I figured I’d go ahead and get those done. It had been a tremendously busy week. Carol was working nights and coming home just in time to take Judah to school. Then, she’d rightfully sleep all day. I was up at 5am and by the time I got I had gotten home at 4, I was also exhausted. And so, I thought washing the dishes then was as good of a time as any.

Just as I started to rearrange the dirty dishes to get them ready to wash…that’s right folks. No dishwasher. We hand wash our dishes. And yes, we do that by choice. Anyway, as I’m starting I can hear Judah singing in the bathroom. That was a good sign he was about to step into the shower.

As I was entertained by my kid singing I reached for the first glass to wash. It was an actual glass, glass with the letter “B” engraved on it. We had gotten a full set of them from an estate sale. Folks, how often do you find glasses with your initials on them? We had to get them. And so, Carol and I agreed they were to only be used for when we had guests and for special occasions. That rule came about because well, we were of the klutzy kind and knew we’d break them all if we used them daily.

And so, as I reached for this glass to wash I wondered why it was with our daily cups and not put away with our special occasion dishes. Meanwhile, it really didn’t matter at that moment because it had to be washed regardless. As I was washing it I could see some crusty stuff on the bottom. Not able to rinse it out, I took a wash cloth and proceeded to reach inside of the glass with my hand. For a quick second I did think it may not be a good idea to do that but obviously I didn’t listen because that folks was when all of the excitement began. Just as I reached into the glass, it exploded. And when it did I felt a snap and then a rush of pain that went straight up my arm. I instantly grabbed my fingers and screamed knowing I had really cut myself. In fact I screamed so loud I fully expected Judah to run out of the bathroom but his radio was too loud for him to hear me. I stood at the sink for a second watching the blood dripping out from my squeezing hand. And so, I squeeze harder but the blood kept on coming. I panicked. Listen, all of the times before when I cut myself all it took was me squeezing my hand and the blood stopped. BUT, not this time. Holy shit! I knew I had cut my finger badly. It hurt like hell and the more blood I saw, the worse I felt. I got scared and any rational thoughts of what to do were gone.

As I hung my hand over the kitchen sing squeezing my fingers and watching the flood drip, I started yelling for Judah. But, I knew it was a mute point with his radio on so loud. I I’d have to go to the bathroom to get him. BUT, what about the blood? It would get all over the place? And letting go of my hand and wrapping something (like a towel) around it was not an option. Why? Well, I don’t know except that I couldn’t let go.

SO, with no other option I ran to the bathroom and banged on the door yelling,”JUDAH! JUDAH! JUDAH!” At that moment I had a quick thought of how I was sounding like the Big Bang Theory character, Sheldon, SO I added another, Judah!” as if that made a difference. When Judah didn’t hear me, I really panicked and yelled, “I hurt myself… emergency! Now, for those who know me. For some unknown reason when I panic I seem to yell, “Emergency!” Not sure why except that I am so panicked that is what I am able to get out.

Well, finally, Judah runs out of the bathroom. He’s in his underwear. He wasn’t concerned at all. I knew he felt I was over reacting. He asked to look at my finger but I told him I couldn’t let go. He could see my hand was full of blood and only then did he realize it wasn’t good. I tried to think of friends I knew who handled emergencies well. And so, when Judah asked what he needed to do, I told him to call his aunt Jackie. As Judah was doing that I began walking around crying. The pain was intense. When Judah returned from the back of the house to tell me Aunt Jackie didn’t answer her phone, I asked him to call his best friend’s mom. When she didn’t answer her phone I asked him to call my partner, his other mom. OK, so when she didn’t answer the phone, I really lost it. I couldn’t stop crying. Meanwhile, Judah was as calm as a cucumber. He kept telling me it would be OK and told me to put my finger under cold running water. I walked over to the sink, turned on the cold water and held my finger’s under it. Grant you, I never let go. I kept squeezing my hurt hand the entire time.

Finally, Carol, my partner, called back. As Judah was talking to her he walked to the back of the house. I suppose that was because I kept yelling and crying and he couldn’t hear on the phone. Judah told me later that he had told Carol there was lots of blood but what was really bothersome to him was I wouldn’t stop crying. Anyway, Carol told him to get the neighbor across the street. So, when Judah hung up the phone he quickly put on his pants and shoes to head towards the back door. He tells me he’s going to get Brian across the street. I went into a different panic. How could Judah go get our neighbor when our house was such a wreck!? I told Judah I didn’t want him to get the neighbor. I can’t even remember if I told Judah why but it didn’t matter anyway, Judah didn’t listen. As I’m yelling at him, he proceeds to leave and run across the street. With in minutes our neighbor came over with a first aide kit. He asked to look at my wound but I told him I didn’t want to let go of it. Well, folks, he was awesome. He was as calm as could be and got me to let go so he could see it. The entire time he was worried I was going to pass out and had Judah get me a chair.

Just as I sat down there was a knock on the door. It was Brian’s parents. They were concerned and came over to help. Ten minutes after that there was another knock at the door. Tt was Judah’s best friend and his mom. Y’all my worst nightmare…a messy house and 100 people inside. OK, so the only mess was the dishes and obviously it was not 100 people BUT it felt like it. I was on death’s bed, blood was everywhere. I was delusional. No not really. It’s just that blood and me don’t get along.I HATE blood and on top of that the fear of needles. And knowing I’d need stitches did not help the situation.

As I sat in a chair holding my hand in the air to try to stop the bleeding our neighbor and Judah’s friend offered to take me to the hospital. I didn’t mind our neighbor taking me but as upset as I was I really wanted someone I knew. So, after a few minutes of figuring out what to do, Judah’s friend’s mom, Beth, said she’d take me to the urgent care place that was nearby. Y’all, I can’t tell you how much I love what our neighbor did for me. We really need to do something for them and as a thank you. Special people that’s for sure! Anyway, my neighbor went back to his home and I went to change my bloody clothes to go to the urgent care place.

About five minutes later we were in the car and heading to urgent care. As we were driving there Beth says she needs to get dinner for Christian. I suggested stopping at McDonalds on the way to the urgent care place since it was right next to it. Now, let me say this. My finger wouldn’t stop bleeding so my neighbor told me it was important to keep my hand/finger up in the air. SO, as I’m riding in Beth’s car I have my hand up in the air the entire time. And as I am doing this my son and his friend were hysterically laughing about it. They said I looked like I was flipping everyone off who was driving by our car. And you know what? They were right! Each person who drove by gave a second look every time.

When we got to the McDonald’s it was packed. The drive through had a good 9 cars waiting in the drive thru. However, I wasn’t in a hurry to get to the urgent care. It took a good 15 minutes to get the boys food and then we headed to the Urgent care place. As we drove into their parking lot I asked Beth, “Should I be concerned that there are cars here?” Well, there were a couple. Beth tells me that’s good that means there won’t be a wait. Well, dammit were we wrong! Wouldn’t you know it? They were closed! Urgent care after hours closed at 7! It was 8. The fact that Carol was leaving work about 30 miles away and meeting us there, I had to call her to help come up with a plan B.

We decided to go ahead and head to the hospital emergency room. I hated the thought because of the long wait, however, there weren’t any other choices. Beth needed to get home. She needed to get her kid home and ready for bed. So, I ask her if she could drop me off at the ER where Carol would be meeting me.

From the Urgent Care place to the hospital ER it was about 15 minutes. To get there we headed through one of the scenic areas of Augusta. To occupy myself and to try to keep thinking about having to get stitches I look around at the old house with my hand up in the air obviously giving every one who drives by the finger. Just as I was taking in the scenery Beth slams on her breaks and yells, “Wiener dog! Wiener dog!” That was when I noticed a dachshund that looked like ours almost get hit by a car coming from the other direction. Now just to show you how the site of blood makes me delusional, I actually asked myself (quietly) how our dog, Bessie, had gotten out of our house. Meanwhile, I knew it wasn’t our dog. Well, just as Beth stopped the car, I jumped out and ran towards the dog hoping to get it out of the street. Of course I did this with my damn arm held up over my head and my finger in the air. Honestly, I can’t imagine what people were thinking. I’m guessing they thought my arm in the air was my way of getting the cars to stop. Surely, they saw my bandage? If it had been daylight they would have seen the blood but then again that may have made me appear even more crazy. At any rate thank goodness the owner was nearby and I was able to get the dog over to the side walk.

When I jumped back into Beth’s car she started laughing and saying that it was the injured person who was the one who ran to save the dog. Listen, it wasn’t as if I was in a hurry to get to the ER. The other thing I hated just as much as blood and that was shots/needles. SO, sure, I’ll stop and help out! No problem.

The remainder of the ride to the ER was uneventful. When we got there Carol was already waiting for me. Beth dropped me off and took our kid with her to spend the night. By this time it was 9:00pm. The ER was packed. We hated to think how long the wait was going to be. We check in and I go to get my vitals done. Folks, would you believe the woman asked me if I ever tried to commit suicide? Um, hell no! I can’t even stand blood! How could I possibly accomplish that!? And wasn’t it clear I was a total whip when it came to any bodily harm?

Once my vitals were done we went back into the waiting room. It was so packed we had to go into another room that was less crowded. As we sit down we were almost immediately approached by this young man in a wheel chair. Of course I’m sitting there with my hand up in the air feeling like the statue of liberty but a lot less green. He bean talking to us. He apologizes up front and says he’s really scared because he had accidentally stabbed himself in the wrist with his knife when he was cutting bamboo. Now folks. There I am sitting with my damn hand in the air. I’m in pain and terrified of getting the stitches. BUT my injury certainly did not compare to that man’s injury. He by all means won the award for worst injury. I felt bad for him. He was so nice. He even asked about my injury and was concerned for me. It really made me feel bad for my piddly ol injury. Hell, I couldn’t compare to his. I could try to tell him I cut my finger on a glass and that I cut it to the bone BUT even that couldn’t match his by any means. Listen, the guy was so sweet. He fully admitted he was scared and was looking at talking to someone so he could keep his mind off things. HOWEVER, when he kept talking about holding his veins and such, I just couldn’t handle it. The worse part was when he told us he had been waiting in the ER for 3 hours! Damn! We had only been there 30 minutes! I wasn’t sure which I was more worried about…getting stitches or having to hear more about his injury. It was funny when the man told us he was embarrassed because he had just gotten some kind of award from the Boy scout’s for teaching a troop about knife safety. Whoops.

About 45 minutes later my name was called and we were able to head into the back. Because my injury was cut and dry…pun intended, they could sew me up quickly and get us on our way. Oh how easy they made it sound. I have to say the staff and PA were so nice. They handled me very well. The numbing shot which was given directly into my wound was crazy painful. Where in the hell is the Star Trek medicine they promised us? You know the kind with out any needles or pain? OY VEY!

Only 3 hours in the ER and six stitches later, the PA told us we were cleared to go. But before we left the PA stresses that it’s very important to not move my hand a lot, keep it rested and upright to get the swelling down. She tells us we need to go buy a finger condom…yes, you heard me right. A finger condom to put over my bandage to keep it clean. Nothing like thinking about heading back to my teaching job teaching teenagers all while wearing a finger condom on a finger that has to remain in the “flipping off” position. Oh, this is going to really be good.

The PA continued to tell us more. I need to keep my finger clean and from getting any dirt in it. WHAT? NO DIRT? Folks! I work with clay and was working on this awesome piece! Great! Just great! No playing in dirt for at least a week? How will I manage? Meanwhile, all of that isn’t even the best part. Y’all want to know the best part of this entire thing? Tomorrow morning I am taking the first part of the GACE test. It’s the test that if I pass will allow me to apply to the art teacher position at the school where I have been teaching art since this past October. WELLLLLLL, tomorrow I take the WRITING portion of the test. Yes, it’s on the computer BUT without the usage of my right hand I will have to hunt and peck just as I’ve had to do when writing this piece. Oh, my life has never been dull.

After we get home and both Carol and I are lying in the bed, I begin to laugh hysterically. Carol asked me what was so funny. I tell her, “You realize you’re going to have to do my hair in the morning?” For those who know my partner hair is NOT her thing. She didn’t even know how to open a burette. All I can say is the next 7 days of not having full usage of my right hand it going to be very interesting and in some cases very comical. OY VEY! Only I could manage this!

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2015 in Weekly photo challenge

 

Today, I say goodbye

1450922_10205930670894961_622139848023438804_n So many emotions and so many thoughts flying around my already ADHD brain. A friend died today after only three months since she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I have known her (and her family) since I was in my early 20’s when I moved to Augusta. Gosh, I was just a kid and still so fragile from living with my abusive dad. I was renting a room in an older couple’s home and was always looking for ways to earn extra money. I’ll never forget when Debbie asked if I could stay at her house to watch her two boys while she and her husband went out of town. Of course I jumped on the chance…I can’t remember the exact ages of the boys but I want to say they were around 8ish and 12ish. Before I was to stay that weekend she asked me to come over a week or so earlier so she could show me around and explain the schedule (while they were gone). At that time they had a dog named Avery. She was a big Golden Retriever. The day I came over for Debbie to show me around I clearly remember ringing the doorbell and hearing a deep voiced dog barking from behind the door. For those who know me know the bigger the dog, the more I love them. And so, when Debbie opened the door, I said hello to her but walked passed her to pet the dog. As I was on my knees petting the dog, Debbie chuckled and said, “Oh, OK..good. I’m glad you like dogs because well, we have one.” Not knowing her well at all back then I remember just smiling. However, thinking about it now it was strange of me to walk right past her into her house and kneel down to pet the dog.

During my weekend stay with the Katcoff boys I got to know Avery well. OR should I say Avery got to know me well… One afternoon Jason, the oldest son, came into the living room where I was watching TV to get me. He told me he had some bad news and was so sorry. I couldn’t imagine what he was talking about…he asked me to follow him into the bedroom I was using because he didn’t know how to tell me. When I got to my room I could see clearly for myself. It turned out Avery had eaten my entire box of tampons! And in fact Jason caught her in the process of consuming the box once the other stuff was gone. My first thought was I had killed their beloved dog with my tampons! And Jason (just a kid) was worried because the dog had gotten into my things. When Debbie and Gary got home I knew I had to tell them because I didn’t want something to happen to the dog. And so when Debbie asked how everything went I told her. She looked at me, looked at Gary and then said something like that’s funny Avery ate an entire box of tampons. For a while after that it was a running joke Debbie would tell others about. I’m happy to say my tampons did not harm the dog. I did laugh with Debbie later telling her that I was certain I had killed their dog and would never be able to baby sit again.

Another funny time was when I was driving Debbie’s son, Jason, and another boy home from a youth group meeting. While driving I noticed a woman up the way walking down the street. In my mind I could tell she was as naked as naked could be but I didn’t want to believe it. That’s when I asked the boys (who were in the back seat) what the heck the lady was wearing. They too didn’t want to believe she was naked but as we got closer there was no denying it. The boys began yelling, “She’s naked! OOOOH! YUCK!” as they put their hands over their eyes. The boys were chattering back and forth to each other how the woman had flab and how her boobs were droopy. I told the boys that was what real women look like. They were laughing hysterically. I was laughing hysterically. One of the boys told us that their parents would never believe them. And so when we got to the Katcoff home to drop off Jason we had to go inside to tell Debbie about what happened. As I started to tell Debbie, the boys cut me off. They started talking about how she had flab and how her breasts (which they refused to say the word but used their hands to say) were drooping. Debbie laughed along with us and also told the boys they described what a real woman looked like. And as she was telling the boys that, they started yelling “oooh” and “yuck” which made me and Debbie laugh even harder. Just as we got done Debbie’s husband walked into the house. Debbie said, “Hey Gar, you’ll never guess what happened to Jason today. He saw a naked woman walking down the street.” And to that we all busted out laughing…well except Gary who had no idea what we were talking about.

Even though I knew Debbie from helping out with her kids and later subbing for her art classes, I really got to know her on a more personal level after we were on a committee together. We had to put together a year book and spent an entire summer meeting every week to work on it. Folks, we laughed. We cried. It was better than Cats. We talked about our crazy families- about motherhood (as my son was just 2 at the time and always went down for his naps when Debbie came over), about our mom’s deaths and about our own mortality. When we’d laughed we did so all the way to tears. And when we cried we did so with even more tears. Debbie spoke about her mom’s death and about her own fears of dying. Today that is what I keep thinking about as the news of her passing begins to hit me.

Carol and I have been talking. We can’t know what we’d do in Debbie’s shoes but the dignity, strength and bravery she showed during these last month’s of her life really were something else. She was forced to retire from a job she loved without any closure or real good byes. She handed over her classroom to me and through her support wanted nothing more than to see me take it over. She’d text me, call me, e-mail me to remind me to do this or that with her students…to have them apply for this or that art contest…to make sure her AP students were on track and had their portfolio’s completed. I would send her text messages with pictures of her student’s artwork, of the display cabinet and anything else I knew she’d like to see. I also would text her and e-mail her for advice to which she always would respond quickly to help me. During my last visit with her I was only going to stay for a little bit but ended up staying much longer. She had a sense of urgency to tell me anything she could think of about her classroom…about her students. She told me to not be afraid to fail those students who refused to try. She told me we are there to give the students every opportunity to be successful but they have to care and do their best. She told me to not hesitate to write up the students when their behavior was bad and she told me about certain parents she had met. And of course she ended with encouraging me and telling me I have a lot to offer the students. Gosh, I have to be honest. I think I would have been pissed off that someone else had taken over my classroom (even if I knew the person) especially without having had any closure. However not Debbie. Oh no not Debbie! Instead she did everything in her power to help me and support me. She even continuously (whenever there was an opportunity) would tell the administration wonderful things about me and would tell them they should hire me. I never did tell her how much that meant to me. It’s not been easy to fill her shoes. Her students and staff loved her. They were rightfully loyal to her. She really was beloved by all at the school where she taught. I never told Debbie but I had a particular problem with one of her classes. The students as a group refused to bring in their homework. So, the principal came to talk to the class. He told them a story about how Mrs. Katcoff failed the assistant principal’s son because he chose not to do the work. I know it wasn’t the moment to smile but I couldn’t help it. His story made me smile. I know the students thought I was being caddy but I wasn’t. I smiled because that was Debbie. That was Mrs. Katcoff.

The last time I spoke to Debbie was just last Friday when she called to tell me she was having a meeting and she didn’t see artwork from my students. It turned out the woman who had them had car trouble and didn’t make it to the meeting. It was something though. When Debbie called she sounded like herself…her voice was strong. It was hard to believe she was so sick and that in just a week she’d be gone.

I have been at awe these last three months when I have watched Debbie live life to her fullest. She maintained as much normalcy as she could. Even through bouts of nausea and pain she went on outings with her grand kids and spent time with family, friends and many of her students. As for me she took time to comfort me, guide me and teach me until she physically could no longer do it. Debbie, it’s going to be really hard to walk into YOUR classroom tomorrow. Your absence will be felt by all. I’m going to miss being able to reach out to you for your advice…to be able to send you a text with a picture of something only you’d appreciate. I will think of you when I open a desk drawer and see your stash of napkins, skinny girl popcorn and chocolate raspberry coffee you left for me. And for the next months as I see different reminders of you in the classroom I will do my damndest not to cry. Thank you so much for all you’ve given and taught me. I won’t ever forget those things OR you.

Love,
MaLea

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in Death

 

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Weekly photo challenge- Achievement

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Posted by on November 14, 2014 in Weekly photo challenge

 

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