Good Morning from 35,000ft

Good morning from Europe!  I am over Glasgow, Scotland making the final push for Amsterdam.  Currently it’s about 9am here even though my watch and phone read 2am.  I feel pretty accomplished stealing around 3-4 hours of sleep, albeit an hour of that was spent contorting my body in a new ways to ensure blood flow to my posterior.

The most surprising and delightful part about the flight was tasty food, especially a mango sorbet which was served.  I would’ve been happy without my spinach lasagna if I could’ve opted for another sorbet.  Zoe and I agreed on this point.  More mango sorbet for everyone!  It seems a little thing to be happy about, but it’s always the little things that make a difference when most of the time my flights have beverage service consists a few pretzels or snack mix, if you’re lucky, and 8oz of your drink of choice.

We did fly through a storm last night that was rocking things pretty good.  It was an exercise in how well I could balance food on my fork instead of wearing it like an artist’s palette on my shirt.  Afterwards it was the impetus that rocked Zoe and I off to sleep.  It’s good to know we can sleep during a storm even at 35,000 feet.

All in all the flight was uneventful except for the scare the facilities in the lavatory gave me when they flushed.  It immediately reminded me why I don’t go more often on flights.  Loud noises aside, I still remember the stories my Dad would tell to discourage my sister and I from wanting to go on the plane.  Needless to say, his tactics still work.

For now, it’s time to say adieu.  The map cycling on the screen informs me that we descended about 20,000 feet and are 15 minutes away from touchdown.  As much as I love flying, I’m ready to stretch my legs out and feel the weight of the ground pushing against my feet as I set out to explore Amsterdam.

This post initially appeared on Mis Ross’s Blog via my school district.
Featured Image: My view as we descend into Amsterdam on the morning of April 10th.

Embarking on an Adventure

I have always wanted to travel internationally.  The cultures, ethnic food, and historical locations have been a magnet drawing the vane of my imagination since I can remember.  Once, back in college, I was this close to spending a semester abroad in Cork, Ireland.  Through a series of unfortunate events, my passport was packed away in a keepsake box, and a few years later I entered the field of education and worked to open up worlds of possibilities for my students through teaching literature.  Looking back now, it seems almost serendipitous that I would find myself drawn to San Antonio, AFIA, and the chance to dig out that old passport and dust it off.

We had been gathered together by Mr. Rockstroh sometime in late November.  It was the holiday season for the school, and there were quite a few announcements that needed to be made.  Admittedly, my mind was wandering towards lessons and planning and grading, as it’s wont to do, when something stuck.  “We’re sending one facilitator and one student to Amsterdam to participate in programs with the Anne Frank House.  How cool is that?”  How cool indeed!  Immediately, the fire of memory and expectation sparked inside me.  

Reading the Diary of Anne Frank as a young girl, the prose Anne wrote that elicited such youthful earnestness and a timeless evocation of wisdom and worldly understanding spoke to me and helped me find an escape during a time when I struggled with self-identity and angst.  The beauty of the diary’s words helped me to see the beauty in the world, in myself.  Now, as an adult, Mr. Rockstroh’s announcement sparked the desire for the opportunity to go to Amsterdam and to learn in order to bring that beauty back and use it as a mirror for my students to look into to see their beauty and potential.

The decision wouldn’t be made quickly, but we would be receiving information to follow.  An anxious Christmas break ensued and a return to classes in January was full of anxiety as I waited to hear how the facilitator would be selected to attend.  The application and selection process had commenced for the student, but still no word had been given on the facilitator selection.  I checked my email messages every day and casually inquired about it in passing conversation as I didn’t want to pester or seem overly eager.  Then one morning my email dinged “Facilitator Application – Amsterdam Trip” from Dr. Etienne.  Without hesitation I opened it and devoured the contents.  We would be writing an essay explaining why we would like to attend.  I both simultaneously groaned and cheered.

There are three internal voices that speak up when I really want for something: the “I’m going to get it no matter what” competitor’s voice that makes me seem too ambitious at times; the “I am not good enough to make this happen so why should I even try for it” self-conscious voice that talks me out of achieving as much as I could; and the “Carrie, don’t listen to either of them – just do your best and speak from your heart” voice that echoes the soft intonation and kind encouragement of my mom.  Ultimately, I listened to my heart because you can never go wrong making that decision.

So now, I am a week away from stepping on a plane that will whisk me across the world to Amsterdam, to exploration, to growth, to discovery.  In the days to come I will have to pack, unpack, and evaluate everything: clothes, preconceptions, learning, language, emotion, and things I can’t even think of yet.  I don’t know how to feel except as a bundle of excitement and hope.  I am the proverbial wide-eyed and slack-jawed child staring at presents wrapped in the colors of joy, reflecting back the twinkling lights of promise, and I am beyond thrilled to bring you along on this journey.

This post initially appeared at Miss Ross’s Blog via my school district.
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Luggage” by MikeBird (CC0 Public Domain)

Nature Walk

I went on a nature walk with my creative writing students a few weeks ago.  A week of lazy afternoon suns had warmed up the little bit of winter we received here in Texas, and Spring was vividly pulsing through the air.  The Texas mountain laurel had just put on their blooms, and the smell of grape kool-aid made me light-headed as we walked the trail behind our school.

We had begun to study haikus, and it seemed the perfect day to experience the birth that nature gives to writing.  After our brief repose, we came back and wrote haikus about things we noticed the world was saying to us.  It has been almost a month since then, and our work with haikus has undoubtedly improved.  Here are a couple I wrote on that first day:

Mister Butterfly,
what are you doing here, sir?
Your flowers sleep still.

Breathing quiet life
like frozen pond lilies do –
Silence calls to me.

In response to Daily Prompt: Vivid
Feature Image: Pixabay – “Walking” by PublicDomainArchive (CC0 Public Domain)

An Educator’s Soul

A week ago, my school selected me among several staff members to travel to the Netherlands.  I am beyond excited to have been given this rare and wonderful opportunity to attend the educational programs and participate in discussions at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.  Below is the essay I wrote as part of my application.  These words move beyond the page to my very soul.  They are my beliefs, my hopes, my dreams.  I hope they help you dream, too.

I want to be a world builder, an architect drafting plans for human greatness.  I draw inspiration from those who have come before me; their words reaching back through the ether of a dusty page.  With this raw material, I form it into dialogue and reflection, and I use it to brush away the ash of anger, insecurity, fear, hate, and war that the world tries to slip under my door.  It is the lens through which I see beauty left in this world.

Being an educator gives me the opportunity to share this beauty with others.  I could live a thousand lifetimes and not experience the full gamut of joys that come from dedicating one’s life to the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge.  My Dad has an old saying: “The only thing in this world they cannot take from you is your education.”  The older I become, the more I read, and the more I see the tribulations in this world increasing, the more I understand its truth.

I believe Anne Frank inherently embraced this truth, and it was through her understanding that an etching of its beauty was placed upon the soul of the world.  Even though her talent and proclivity for evoking the human spirit through word was taken too early, she achieved her dream of becoming a writer, and while she may not have wanted it, she became a most wondrous educator.  I, too, want my words to matter, to have them leave etchings on the hearts of those I teach.  I, too, want the quiet conscience of having done all the good I can to build up my students.

Armed with these beliefs, I want to participate fully in all things to increase my capacity for human greatness.  I owe it to the futures of my students to increase their capacity to hope, love, and dream – to be resilient in the face of adversity.  I want them to look out the windows of their school and see the beauty that awaits them.

Featured image: Pixabay- “Tulip” by corinaselberg (CC0 Public Domain)

Antiseptic

This new antiseptic aesthetic
has erased the trappings
of what it means to be human,
slandering the gamut
of emotions and experiences
which define our very existence.

I thought I knew what I wanted to write about when my fingers flew over the keys and the words above poured forth.  Sitting here, now 15 minutes later, there are no other words bubbling up.  Truthfully, it wouldn’t matter if the words that came next moved the mountainous foundations of the hardest hearts.  They would be empty because I am deflated.

This is how I feel – antiseptic.  Stripped bare of all the fierceness of my human frailty.  That in a society that spends its good names in service of some “money knows best” dais of superiority, there is no room left to feel anything else.  It just hurts too damn much.  The words, at least for today, are in short supply.

In response to Daily Prompt: Aesthetic
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Depression” by Unsplash (CC0 Public Domain)

Optimizer Prime

If an item on the table is askew, I will square it.  If a drawer is left ajar, I will shut it.  If something needs to be done, I will devise a strategy to accomplish it.  If finances need to be assessed, I will budget them.  If a project needs to be completed, I will manage it.  If you need a superhero who has great attention to detail, I’m your girl.

When I read the most recent Discover Challenge, I had no clue what my superpower would be.  I don’t particularly excel at anything unless you count procrastination.  Instead, I turned to my significant other to find out what he thought my superpower might be.  His response was immediate and without hesitation: Optimizing systems.

I’m not kidding.  Those were his words.  Who even says that?  Perhaps his superpower is clever turns of phrase, but I digress.

After seeking affirmation that it meant what I thought it did, I learned I excel at planning, organizing, management, and just generally bossing people around.  Only slightly joking about that last part.  Pleasure surges through me at defeating to-do lists, and I relish saving the day with a well-coordinated system of schedules and events.  There is no project too great, no party too small.  I approach each one methodically and analyze it all.

However, my meticulous planning and insistence on having things “just so” seems a hindrance at times.  When plans don’t “go to plan”, I can spiral down and lose focus.  My arch-nemesis, loss of control, has caused anxiety attacks, but like any superhero worth their cape, I have found ways to combat its poisonous barbs.  It helps to breathe, reassess, and approach with a slight feint to the right and the one-two punch of Plan B.  Chocolate and cherry coke help, too.  

Managing a classroom, organizing a school, tracking the plots of multiple books, arranging social events for a state convention, assisting with the operation of one of the largest guilds in a MMO, balancing the countless tasks that need to be completed before week’s end on Friday – Optimizing systems is a tough job. But somebody has to do it.

In response to Discover Challenge: Superpower
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Superhero” by alan9187 (CC0 Public Domain)

Hello, 2017

The ball in New York dropped.  In Texas, the last few minutes of 2016 tick away.  I had considered seeking out some event to attend to ring in 2017, but I am spending a quiet night at home with the love of my life instead.  Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to welcome the passage of time.

In my perusal of blogs reminiscing about the past and looking forward to the future, one theme holds prominent – hope.  It’s such a simple word that carries the weight of immeasurable possibility.  I think we as a society, a brotherhood of human beings, could do with a little more hope in our lives.  The simple act of having enough faith to hope can change many worlds.

So, here is to you my my fellow writer, reader, friend, lover, brother, sister, father, mother: I hope your New Year is as full of every kind of love, joy, kindness, achievement, and possibility you dream.

Happy New Year!

In response to Daily Prompt: Hopeful
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Winter Bloom” by LarsBorris (CC0 Public Domain)