Snow in Houston, Texas (and t-rex Christmas cards)

Last night, it snowed here.  In Houston, Texas.  It happened yet again.  What miracles lie before us?  It began after I went to sleep, and didn’t begin to stick until after I woke up for a bathroom break in the middle of the night.  So, I woke up to snow covering everything that wasn’t concrete this morning.  Which, when you think about it, is kind of the best kind of snow – you don’t have to shovel or worry about tire chains or anything, but you get to have beautiful snow everywhere around you.

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The hit of the morning was arriving to school.  My mom drove me in, because we were going to a Christkindlmarkt (German Christmas market) together after school, and the market was too far away for me to drive home first and then go, and it didn’t make sense for us to drive two cars out there.  She was staying for a bit, because we had Mass at school for the Immaculate Conception, and this was a chance for her to see the school a little bit.  Pulling into the parking lot (vacant of teachers, because we were so early), we discovered a sort of snowball fight happening in the picnic table area next to the lot.  We didn’t have much snow on the ground, but the kids were making some snowballs out of it, and throwing them around at one another.  It was adorable.

Naturally, my mom declared that I had to make a snowball, as we were leaving the car.  I grabbed an already-made snowball from the ground, which had lost only a bit after originally falling there, and showed it to her.  As she eyed me up while she finished off her own snowball, I realized that she intended to throw hers at me.

And so the fight began.

My mom and I, shuffling around a parking lot and a small grassy area with snow about it, picking up and throwing odd snowballs at one another, practically screeching with delight.  When I was turned away, a snowball hit her square in the back of the head.  No one was too near us, though, so it had come a long way.  And these were a little tough for regular snowballs, so it definitely hurt her a bit in the moment (stung, perhaps, is the appropriate word here).  It didn’t ruin out fun, of course, but merely added to the silliness of the whole affair – one of my students had attacked my mother with a snowball*.  No part of that declaration makes sense for living here, in Houston, Texas.  😛

In class, before Mass, kids lined up at the windows to stare at the snow in the courtyard below and on the roofs within view.  This was only the second time in their lives that it has snowed here, so their fascination with it was completely understandable, and utterly adorable.

Today had some magic, that’s for sure.

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*I found out later that the student who hit my mom actually was a student of mine.  He asked me ‘who that teacher was, walking with me earlier,’ and, when I asked for clarification, he described the morning snowball affair.  “That was my mom.”  In shock, he declared that he thought it was a teacher and asked me to tell my mom that he was sorry for what he did to her.  (My mom and I laughed at the thought that he apologized for having hit my mom, but that is seems to be the case that he willingly would hit a teacher in the head with a hard snowball, without question.)

P.S.  My task today was to “[d]raw a Christmas card”.  So, I drew one on the roof of my mom’s car tonight as we were leaving the Christkindlmarkt.  Frost had begun to reappear all over the place.

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Post-a-day 2017

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Hers, mine, & ours

I have been teaching during someone’s maternity leave recently, and I discovered something today – when the teacher returns, I will have been with the students more than she has.  Just now, I checked the calendar, and it seems that I have already been with them for longer than she was, due to Hurricane Harvey.  It is odd to me to consider that these kids would be more my students than her students.  It is her class, and I have always seen it that way.  So have the kids.  And so we likely will continue to live in this odd little my world within her world setup, where the kids are, indeed, mine, but we are all hers.  Something like that, anyway.

I will miss these kids.  If I really think about it, …well, no I don’t do that.  Whenever I begin actually to consider it, my eyes grow hot and threaten an outpouring of tears.  I suppose I really do love the kids so much, even though they drive me frustrated so often as they do.  They know I love them, and so do I.  And it is difficult to consider that I no longer will see these people who have been part of my daily life for so long, and as we all have worked through so much together.

A teacher friend of mine sent me a message tonight, saying how we needed to do something, because she missed me.  It turns out that neither one of us has done much other than school lately.  This time in particular, even more so than other times I have taught, the students are my social interactions in life.  I call my mom in the evenings, because I am craving adult interaction.  I don’t have interaction with friends.  I just have these kids.  In a sense, they are my friends, and I have no others (whom I see, anyway).  And so I will miss them all greatly, and even some of the stupid stresses they force upon me, like throwing ice at one another in class or unknowingly rejecting a beautiful opportunity to learn and to help themselves become beautiful successes in life.  Yes, I will miss these kids who are not mine, but mine.  I love them dearly.

Post-a-day 2017

It really is all relative

Tonight, I was reminded of a girl I met, while I was living in Toulouse, France.  She was in school (high school, I believe), and doing a temporary internship at the place where I was doing my volunteering.  She was from a small country that was at war (and it might still be, but I haven’t kept up with the news).  She had a boyfriend and a baby of her own, in addition to a younger sister, I believe.  She taught me much.

What I was discussing with my mom tonight is how relative things are in life.  Just as in Aesop’s last fable today, with the bunny rabbits about to drown themselves in their exhaustion of living in fear, and suddenly discovering the frogs at the pond afraid of them, causing them to realize that someone had it worse off than they did, so is life.  No matter what one’s struggles and turmoils, there’s always someone worse off.  And I feel like our turmoils and struggles are saddening next to the real turmoils and struggles of other parts of the world.  This girl spoke to me about her country of origin, and how they moved to France.  And, when she spoke about it all, it were as though she were telling me about a class project, or how she went grocery shopping yesterday.  Those, however, were not the subject matter.  What I remember most of her story, is how people broke into her house one day/night, beat up her parents (and possibly her, too), and then took her father.  Her family tried offering money as a ransom for her father’s return, but no information was even received regarding her father – they never found out if he even was alive or dead, or who had taken him.  Just some men, she’d said.

I mean it that it were as though she were telling me about what she did yesterday after work/school.  She was not sad in her words, nor was she hauntingly depressed in her eyes or spirit.  She was living life as I was, and merely sharing about something.  ‘Yeah, I don’t know where Josh went after dinner, but he left.  We called him, but never got a response.  Maybe he went home, instead of coming for coffees with us.’  That’s was the easiness with which she spoke – no premeditation or practice.  It was just what’s so, and so that was how she told it.

I say a prayer for the world tonight.

Post-a-day 2017

Being a teacher… ouch

Being a teacher is hard.  And by “hard”, I mean “incredibly difficult”.  What calls to mind this idea today in particular – because we all know that there are loads of reasons being a teacher is difficult – is the aspect of life outside of school.

You see, to be a good teacher, the best one can be, requires arriving early to school, working through free periods during the day, actually teaching classes, working privately with students at lunch and/or after school, and then working at least a little bit more before going home for the night.  By then, exhaustion is just about ready to set in, leaving time only enough to make it home, eat some food (maybe), and crash to bed.  And then the alarm goes off at five-something in the morning to start it all over again.  In other words, a truly dedicated teacher, at least in his/her first several years teaching a specific subject, works at least a ten-hour day daily, and has little to no time and/or energy to pursue anything else during the week.  Social life just doesn’t exist alongside being a good, dedicated teacher.

Right now, everything is working for me.  Right now, I have almost zero social obligations or immediate opportunities.  I go early and work late every day, and I have this strong sense of ‘got-it-togetherness’.  I am prepared for the following day by the time I leave for home in the evening.  But I have no active friends.  Sure, I chat with people at school from time to time, but we aren’t friends.  Besides, they all seem to be doing things for various clubs and such for the school on the weekends.  When I have wondered how things might be if I were a permanent teacher at this school, I have been almost certain that I would be staying even later for club activities, and sooner or later would find myself on campus or at activities (sports, possibly) for the school on the weekends.  It really is wonderful to be an active part of a school.  And that unfortunately means giving up most outside opportunities.

There is a delicate balance between having a life outside of school and making the school one’s whole life.  Sacrifices must be made in either case – either giving up social time for school events, or giving up involvement with the school and kids (when kids are truly at their best, too) to go get drinks or coffee with a friend or family member.  At my last two jobs, I wasn’t fulfilled as a teacher without being involved in things with kids outside of class.  Be it playing in the band for certain events, singing songs together at the community piano, coaching lacrosse, or choreographing and assisting with the musical, those were the necessary pieces to rounding out the teacher experience and being fulfilled as a teacher.  Unfortunately, those all meant giving up time that could have been spent on a life outside of school, getting to know people my own age or, believe it or not, older than I am. I could have spent the time running in the park.  But I spent it with the kids instead.  So, I was fulfilled somewhat as a teacher, and hardly at all as a person in life.

Anyway, that’s what’s been on my mind this evening, and is one of the many reasons why teaching is hard

Post-a-day 2017

Love Notes for the World

My mom sent me an e-mail today that reminded me of one of my fun activities in college: my (love) sign.

You see, when I was in high school, I was doing partner dancing.  A guy in the dance community in Houston died at some point, and it caused people to reminisce often.  I’m not sure if I ever met the guy, because he died shortly after I began going out dancing (as opposed to just dancing at the studio and in classes), but there’s a chance our paths crossed a handful of times.  Nonetheless, I have always remembered this guy.  My friend’s dad was talking about this guy, and talked about “his signs”.  I inquired, and discovered that this guy would carry around signs – I think they were poster boards, actually – with various messages, and would use them when at the club for dance socials.  The specific example I remember was how, if two people were really flirting or kissing, he might hold up a sign that read, “Get a room.”  As this is by no means a social norm, the idea always stuck with me.

In college, for some reason, this memory arose right at the time my flatmate was in an art class and had extra art paper at home one night.  It’s the really thick, soft paper that is similar to poster board, but is used specifically for drawing or painting (or possibly both).  So, that night, I had a torn-off section of this art paper, and I decided to make my own sign.  On one side, it read, “you should, too”.  The other read, “I love you”.

I carried this poster around with me almost everywhere for the remainder of that semester.  I think I even had it while I rode my bike (actually, yes, I do remember riding my bike as I held on to it).  It was incredibly odd, but completely accepted by my college.  I was really nervous about it at first, but very quickly became comfortable with carrying around the sign.  I mean, come on… kids do all sorts of odd things in college, so this was just one more in a million odd things we would cross.

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Anyway, I loved it.  I miss it at times, even.  I don’t exactly live the same sort of lifestyle now as I did in college, however, I think I could work out something.  The thing my mom sent me was about business cards that read simply “YOU MATTER”.  And I think I want to make some more of my own things, but following this fashion of a small card that can be given to others.

When I lived in Vienna, a friend found a stash of the ‘Our Daily Bread’ cards, which is a sort of deck of little cards, where each is shaped like a bread basket and has a bible verse on it (these had German on one side and French on the other).  We handed them out to people at the train station late at night, while another friend would do his regular harp serenading for the late-night folks waiting at the station. (Yes, that is a whole other story.)

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So, I guess, my point is that I am now planning to combine these three ideas.  I don’t know exactly what I’ll put on my cards yet, but I know that I want to do them.  I can start this week, and see what comes up, see how I like them, and see what to change for the better.

 

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What I wrote with this one on Facebook, back when I originally posted it:


A girl in the WG found a bunch of little cards with Bible verses on them. One side was in German and the other side was French. I think they were made in Belgium. No one really knows whence they came, but the girl decided to start giving them out to people, specifically in the subway station when David, the harpist, would play late at nights. I am now hooked, and want always to have some on hand, that I can give out to people as food for thought – you never know what people have going on, and thus never know what might make a difference in someone’s life. So don’t let anything stop you from sharing your love and care for others. Rather, find a way to have those things that are holding you back actually Help you to accomplish that which you wish


 

Post-a-day 2017

The article my mom sent to me today

Tess and E-mails

Tonight, as I showered, I found myself thinking of Tess of the d’Ubervilles, a character from Thomas Hardy’s book of the same name.  I, therefore, began also to think about the book itself, and the events connected to my reading of the book.  I easily discovered that I wanted to share with the world a good section of the e-mail I sent to a former high school teacher of mine shortly after my conclusion of the novel.  Be forewarned: Spoilers are included (regarding the novel).

Said e-mail section:

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 Hi, Ms. B[…]!

Hannah […] here (photos attached), […] class of 2009. I was in your Junior English class of 2007-2008, and likely gave you a hard time in the various class discussions (I always have been one to challenge ideas, even if I believe them already myself, just to find a new perspective). I believe it was around the end of the school year that you gave me a copy of Tess of the d’Ubervilles. I’m not sure what I mentioned specifically that had you give the book to me, but I do believe I had asked for some sort of recommendation.

It took me forever, and I’m not sure why exactly, but I finally got around to reading the book last year (I think it got stored away when I went to college, and I just never saw it until I cleared out a lot of books in my move last March.). As I was going through it, I was captivated. There was some magic-like force drawing me to the book. Most nights, I had to force myself to stop reading and just go to sleep, Hannah! As I reached particularly exciting or nerve-wracking parts, I shared with my flatmate about the book. We eventually were both excited to see what came next – each night, after I explained what I’d read the night before, we would sit in the hallway before bed, discussing our thoughts, predictions, and hopes for the story, and then I’d go and actually read right before bed.

At the end of the book, I came storming out of my bedroom one night to my waiting flatmate (she’d already heard me fussing). I told her how the book ended, and she was flabbergasted. “Are you for real?” was the phrase of the night for the two of us. Thus the reason I am e-mailing you.

I’m hoping you can shed some light on the book for me/us. Why on Earth did we have to go through all the ridiculous and terrible ordeals with Tess, always with a lining of upbeat-ness and hope, only to find her doomed in more ways than one at the end. I mean, come on, who destroys herself so pathetically, while always acting the victim, and then deciding ‘This is what must be done,’ and going insane when an alternative arrives, landing herself in prison with a death sentence? It all just seems so outrageous. (You can sense my outrage, I imagine [Though, I wouldn’t call it outrage so much as dislike and disappointment.].)

Anyway, I can only imagine that there was something more to the book – a societal background, a cultural issue being addressed, a historical event receiving his commentary… that sort of thing.

So, do you mind shedding some light on the situation??

I realize this is a rather big question, but I figured you’d be the perfect person to ask!

[…]

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The e-mail continued on, discussing another book that I had recently re-read from her class, and asking her thoughts on that novel as well.  However, my thoughts were on Tess tonight, so I’ll leave it with the Tess section for now.

What I love about this e-mail is the fact that it exists, as well as the fact that it turned into an actual exchange between the two of us.  My high school was one where teachers were not only high quality regarding their subject areas, but impactful and accessible enough that I easily considered e-mailing one of them (and one with whom I wasn’t even all that close) when I had such an inquiry, despite the fact that this was years and years after my time studying at the school.  I just love that.  Love it, I do!
Post-a-day 2017

School Clubs

I was thinking about school clubs earlier today, a little ruffled underneath about how Japanese schools expect students to be in one club only, and to be in that one club for all of their middle school and high school years.  This is in great contrast to the USA, where we are all about the well-rounded student.  Colleges and universities just might pass up the student who only ever participated in a single club activity, despite having amazing grades, in the USA.

However, it occurred to me, as I wondered how on Earth this benefitted these kids, only learning one skill, doing only one club, that it is absolutely preparing them for their futures.  When Japanese kids graduate college, and are interviewing with companies, they – now, this is traditionally, you see – are hiring for life.  Those kids are expected to remain loyal, and to stay within the company that first hires them after college.  So, doing the same one thing every day for years in their single club absolutely prepares them to go to the same single job at the same company for the rest of their lives.  It’s just nothing like the USA, making it so bizarre (and rather depressing) to me, someone who was in upward of 15 clubs in high school alone.
Post-a-day 2017