Monday, May 21, 2018

A letter to 5th graders

Towards the end of each school year I like to take time to look back on the past 9 months and process how my year went and share a personal reflection--Like the one I did last year here.  There’s usually plenty of room for my own self-improvement and changes to be made for the next year (I've already got a list!).  My heart often is drawn to our 5th graders in this time of reflection and goodbyes.  These kids who have been with us since they could first say their ABC’s and now they’re flying from the nest.  They're awkward, smelly, kind of butt heads a lot of days, but also intelligent, witty and driven human beings.  They won’t be back the next year to encourage, to teach, to see grow and succeed.  We grow accustomed to seeing these little people day in and day out and then they leave and sometimes it feels like a part of you leaves with them. 

In honor of their fierce and lovely little spirits, I decided to write them a letter.  A letter that if I were to write a couple months ago might have a few expletives and exclamation points ("Why the *&%@ are you *&%$@!* doing that AGAIN?!), but now that we are near the end and goodbyes are in sight, it's a bit more rational and sentimental---I've regulated my emotions and I'm in the green zone.  Jesus has once again fixed everything by giving educators summer break.  Am I right?!

It's an ode to the 5th grade grads if you will as they’ll never see it, but now it’s out in the universe with all it’s good vibes to reach them wherever they end up.  And maybe, just maybe, there’s a bit of a message for all of us too.

Dear 5th graders,

If you were to know me really well, you would know that I love cameras and love to take pictures.  Whether it’s a super high tech camera with a lens more expensive than my car, or just my iPhone---snapping memories literally frozen in time on a tiny little screen is a treasure I will always find joy in.

I read a quote the other day that---I’m not sure if it was my love for photography that pressed an emotion in me, or the thought of life, goodbyes and upcoming transitions for all of us.

The quote said, “Life is like a camera.  Focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives and if things don’t work out---take another shot.”

Can I break that down for a minute?

Focus on what’s important.  I can tell you from experience---what is important to you now, will likely just be a memory or fad to look back on in your future.  And hey, if you wait long enough—the fads always come back! The latest kicks, the coolest clothes, the most updated iPhone or gaming systems.  They are pretty sweet, sure---but 5 years from now, heck, 5 months from now—they’ll lose their luster.  It’s just how our society works---we’re fed this lie to believe that we NEED stuff to make us feel and look important.   But funny how that stuff never truly keeps us happy—and it’s always changing.  Know what doesn’t change?  That friend that is, has always been and will always be there for you.  That quality time that you get to do something you love with someone you look up to or go out for ice cream and laugh until you can’t breathe.  The sports games that bring your team together like family and that family of yours that makes you feel like a team. Focus on what’s important---because at the end of our lives, we won’t care about our Jordan’s, flossing (the dance. Please continue to floss!)  or how many followers we have on (insert latest social media craze here) or how great your slime turned out, we’ll want to be surrounded by those we love and love us back.

Capture the good times.  Friends, have a crazy lot of fun.  If you don’t have a sense of humor, go find one and live in that bubble, because you need some humor in this world! Have some fun that’ll make you look back when you’re old like me and just smile knowing that you lived your best life and didn’t rush to be older.  Have fun---be silly---and for goodness sakes, don’t take yourselves too seriously—laugh at yourself! We’re all weird---every one of us---embrace the awkward! Capture the good times by enjoying them---don’t hurry into them and don’t fly onto the next exciting moment, but sit in the experiences you get to have and enjoy them until their last drop. They’ll fly by, I can promise you that.

Develop from the negatives. This one stings a bit.  No one loves to welcome mistakes, failures and upsets---but we all experience them—even those whom we look up to.  What do you think drove those individuals to where they are?  Negative and trying times help to mold us into a greater humans if we allow them to.  Don’t push against it and resist, don’t try to cover them up or bury them inside and please don’t be ashamed if you are going through something tough.  It’s ok to not be ok.  We've all been--or will be there.  Fall down, rest in the fact that you’re not the only down there, and then when you’re ready, get back up and take another shot. You are so much stronger than you think! Learn from what just happened and try again, move on or let something go—whether its anger, sadness, fear or guilt---drop those bags of emotions to the ground and walk away.  And if you’re down and you see someone else down in the valley of failure, hurt or loss with you—help each other out.  We need each other.  There is no need for competition here—cheer each other on.  Ask for help too.  Seriously, this is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself AND someone else! Helping is a talent—a skill.  When you allow someone to help you, you are allowing them to use a talent they have---let them. 

Scholars, you’ve done your time here.  You’ve broken your fair share of crayons making your beautiful elementary artwork.  You’ve sung your hearts out at spring sings and musicals.  You’ve been asked to show zero voice and walk in the halls about fifty bajillion times. You’ve got an impressive amount of waffle breakfasts, school BBQ’s, movie nights and carnivals under your belt.  You are our patrols, WDTV news anchors, ambassadors, school store clerks.  You are our future professional athletes, medical professionals, artists, teachers, mechanics, tradesmen/women, engineers, chefs and servers, politicians (hello future president!), computer programmers and so much more.  But it all started here--You are our Woodland Eagles!

You’ve exhausted us a little (okay, a lot)....but you've also helped us to understand the world better and have taught us more about ourselves than you will ever know. Thank you for that and for the sheer joy that working with you brings to our souls. 

“Life is like a camera.  Focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives and if things don’t work out---take another shot.”

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Our Magical Christmas

This holiday break we took a detour from our traditions and norm and decided to have a destination Christmas with just our little family of four.  We traded the hustle and bustle of consumerism and opted for the gift of experiences this season. We'd been excitedly planning it for years and couldn't have done it without my grandma Alice.  You see, grandma passed away a couple years ago and when she did she was generous in what she left her grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Again, with this we were a bit untraditional and instead of setting it aside, we wanted to use it to honor her in a way that she would love--happiness.  What better way to have happiness show up than to be a family traveling around surrounded by sunshine (which she adored!)  She lived for making memories, sunny skies, laughing children and all around joy.  We made those memories, soaked in the sunny skies, laughed with our children and experienced so much joy.  It was a true gift.  Grandma was with us, I'm sure of it.

In part of honoring grandma on this trip, I wanted to take a piece of her with me.  So, I brought her travel mirror.  A bit unusual, I know.  Now, to some this may be just an ordinary and honestly not the most attractive little mirror.  But, to anyone that knew my grandma or ever ate with her, this mirror was special and actually a coveted piece of plastic after she passed.  It was just so.....grandma.  After every meal she would whip that little yellow mirror out of her purse and carefully inspect her teeth (not before asking us if she had anything in them first) And after a full inspection, she would take out her bright pink or red lipstick and carefully and meticulously apply it.  I always watched her do this in awe of how she could be so precise and careful and also kind of giggling inside because the whole process was a hoot to watch.  So, while I did not use grandmas mirror to check my teeth or apply my lipstick, I did use it to make sure she was a part of every adventure and memory we had here--especially the ones she would love to be a part of. Because after all, this trip was her gift to us.  So, if you see a yellow mirror in a picture, it's just a little piece of grandma Alice.

The First day and a half, we took advantage of the pool, surrounding restaurants and visited Disney Springs.

mozzarella sticks--grandma's fave!

The next day we went to what is now my favorite park--ever, Animal Kingdom.  This place was magical and fun and super entertaining.  Everywhere you went they entertained you with little things and big things and made is so fun for everyone.  Heck, even the tram ride over was entertaining with the beat-boxing and singing tram director!  Everett and I "accidentally" got on the famous Everest ride with a fast pass we didn't actually have--oops!  What a fun ride! Our family even got randomly picked for special VIP seating at the Lion King show where Everett got to be a part of of the dance.  Ah, I wish I could go back and watch that show again--so good!  And every time we visited "Africa" we were met with dancing, singing, music and stunt tricks--by far my favorite part of the park!  At the end of the day, Curt was able to get us a fast pass to ride the safari and even though it was in the dark--it was such a cool experience to see the wildlife so close.  It was just the best day and I can't wait to go back!

 The next day was Christmas eve so we practiced our lazy bones by going out to breakfast, swimming at the pool and going to a Christmas eve service at a random church we found.  Funny how even when you're miles from what you know, you always seem to find the message you need to.

On Christmas, we decided to be gluttons for punishment and did Magic Kingdom.  It was like a whole day of black friday shopping crowds.  BUSY!  It was magical to see the castle and watch the kids experience the wonder of the rides and characters they met. However, I'm not gonna lie, part of me was wishing we could have ditched the Magic Kingdom and gone back to Animal Kingdom.  Some highlights of the day were the Christmas parade, Space Mountain with Everett, Seeing Grey meet Ariel, the fireworks show and the long line to get back on the tram home---oh wait, that was torture.  Literal torture--crying and cold kids begging to be held while in a large shuffling group of pushing people.  They need to create a fast pass for that shiz.  Yikes!  All in all it was a fun, but exhausting day.  I think we calculated that we logged around 30,000 steps!  Until next time, Mickey!

About to meet her favorite princess--Ariel!

After a good long sleep and some breakfast donuts (hello Krispy Kreme, I've missed you!), we took to the road for a little day trip to the beach and to visit my grandma Manias in Jupiter, FL.  The beach was a bit on the chilly side, but for us hearty midwesterners, we survived just fine and left with a load of shells and some sand in every crevasse.  After the beach we picked up my grandma and took her out to dinner.  It was great to catch up and see her since we don't get to very often anymore now that she is in Florida.

Our last full day in Orlando, we treated ourselves to a day without an agenda and sat by the pool all day long.  We even snuck in a nap--a Christmas miracle!  It was probably the best weather day we had all trip, so it was an enjoyable way to close our time in Florida--even if we'll be grabbing for the aloe vera.

These two crazies snuck in one last dip the morning we left in like 50 degree weather!

Overall, this trip was magical, joyful, fun and just the experience our little family needed.  Not too busy, not too lazy, but just our speed.  I am so thankful we had the opportunity to do this as a family and will look back on these memories fondly as I know my grandma would wish for us to do. 

Now to unpack and brace our brains and bodies for the 80 degree temperature difference! It's always good to get away, but nothing beats being home.

Happy New Year! 


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