Category Archives: Belgium Year three

Laish? Warum? Pourquoi?

Why in any of the languages I barely or fluently know just doesn’t get to the heart of what many of us are really asking.  So far this year according to a CNN article there have been 44 school shootings in America (32 of them at elementary or secondary schools).  That is almost a shooting per week in the very structures we’ve designed to nurture and grow our future.

I love my students, not like I love my own children, but it is a maternal mix of pride and frustration cemented in the sometimes naïve belief that ‘my’ kids can achieve anything they set their minds to — with a little push from all of us.  I began my teaching career at what some might think as the worst place to teach:  a charter school for the kids who got kicked out of inner-city public schools.  Minority students were the few who did not have facial piercings, multiple gang tattoos, and/or parole officers.  Most of my afterschool meetings were not with parents, but with social workers, police officers and drug/violence counselors.

To say these kids were intimidating is an understatement, but they had me hooked by the end of the first week.  Somewhere along the line I earned their trust and respect, and they rewarded me with the children they were — and oh my goodness the high I got from seeing them learn and discover more than their failures.   I moved from that school to others, which eventually led me to overseas teaching, where I have had the opportunity to meet teenagers from all walks of life — from the uber privileged to the scorn of society and everything in between.

Those early years taught me that no matter how abused, how absurd, how unimaginably horrid students’ lives could be that they still had a light in them; they still had hope, and unlike many adults in their world they could still be reasoned with if given the chance.  In my 17 years of teaching I have met only three children who no longer had that light – one was the epitome of apathetic (and hopefully still reachable at some point in her life); two made my blood run cold.  Out of the thousands of adolescents I’ve worked with I have only met two that I’d bet money on were sociopaths — and yet, while I have no idea where their lives have taken them, they did not pick up a gun and shoot their peers during their high school years (who knows what they’ve done since then, but I have not seen their names in the headlines so inshallah they’ve found some sort of normalcy that doesn’t include damaging others).

The Santa Clarita school shooting was done by a child who showed no signs of trouble, other than he struggled with mourning the loss of his father two years prior. One witness described him as a cookie cutter kid.  On his 16th birthday, this child decided to pull out a gun, randomly shoot those in front of him and then shoot himself.

Within 16 seconds a child transitioned from a beacon of hope to a monster.  Whatever triggered him to do this has now caused irreparable damage to countless others, ending the lives of three children (himself included).  Our children are annihilating themselves (literally and figuratively), and this is not normal — not even for kids who witness or take part in violence and destruction on a daily basis (their violence is a misconceived code of survival, which is a whole other subject, but in essence does connect —- why are those children in that situation in the first place?).

Forgive me, but what in the fuck is wrong with us?

Why are we still tearing each other apart blaming this and that and not being the adults our kids deserve us to be?  Gun control isn’t our only issue here (although it is embarrassing that absolutely nothing has changed yet), we are an angry, frustrated lot caught up in a downward spiral of corruption, fear, coercion, bigotry and the poisoning of my profession.  That last bit must play into this because why else would so many of us cave to manipulative messaging and our base biases?  Educated, critical thinkers would know better than to allow that nonsense to rule our newsfeeds and conscience.

I remember my language arts standards used to include teaching the avoidance of accepting logical fallacies and the importance of objectivity: two concepts that feel as extinct as the Zanzibar leopard and the West African black rhino (just two of the many species dying off during our lifetimes).  Yeah I know that’s an awkward analogy, but let’s keep in mind our children — the incredible sponges of all around them — are growing in a world where life and logic are under attack.

Of course we still teach these things, but we’re mandated to focus on so many other things now because of test results or political expectations, which all connect to funding, which we need to do our jobs — and the mandates continually change without really changing, but the ‘changes’ take up so much of our time we get lost in the vocabulary and paperwork that goes with it all. We can only attempt to model rational thinking in an irrational world.  We teach our kids to do the right thing, but let’s be really honest with ourselves:  we are not practicing what we preach.  And I’m saying we because I am part of this problem as are you.

Going back to my first years at the inner, inner city school.  While I was a novice teacher, some of my best teaching took place there because I had the freedom (ah there’s a word that’s feeling a bit shallow these days) to tailor my curriculum to meet the needs of my students, and then guide them to their next levels — all with outdated materials, incompetent management, and unsafe classrooms.  Before I lose you, I am not saying teachers should be left alone to do whatever we like.  We need standards, we need continual training, we need guidance —- just like our kids do.  We also need to be included in the decision making that impacts what we’re constantly being told to do or not do.

Just like our kids, if you throw too much at us and you don’t give us a chance to share what we’ve learned in the way we need to share it (don’t even get me started on the paperwork trail we have to follow to prove we’re collaborating, assessing and incorporating rigor into our worlds) we get confused, lose our focus, and, sometimes, implode.  We’re old; exploding takes too much energy for us. Some of us give up and just go through the motions or leave the profession.  Others become militant with their words — mostly through teacher chat boards or in faculty break away corners (we don’t really use our break rooms for breaks anymore).  A few lose their shit with the kids.

And that’s just my profession, which I do so very much still love, regardless of not always understanding the way it’s managed (and that’s not to say the folk managing it are the bad guys; they too are being pulled this way and that and running backwards on a treadmill trying to do the right thing). I’m sure it’s the same in other professions.  Are we at a time where the cogs are destroying the folk who turn them?

How many of us go home deflated, disenfranchised to bury ourselves into the distractions our phones, TVs, or computers provide?  How many turn to drugs (legal or not) or booze to put some calm into the crazy?  I’m not judging:  lord knows I love my wine and champagne and my Netflix.  I’m currently writing in my blog (while ignoring my husband and dog) to work through my shit now, which I will share to distract you with — all thanks to the same technology I sometimes blame for our bad.

My point is that while we the people have always struggled with the balance between the work world and our real worlds, it feels that maybe the crazy has taken over a bit too much.  We can debate until the cows come home, but come on we all know something is very, very wrong — just as Hamlet knew about Denmark (I cannot believe I’m at a time in my life where I’m seeing literary characters I thought of as weak and sniveling in my own being).

Our children do too.

This wrong begins with our us versus them mentality.  It’s definitely wrapped with greed, politics, climate change (yep), and all the uglies that continue to surround us, but it’s rooted within our divide.

I’m not smart enough to know how to fix any of this, BUT the teacher, mother, critical thinker in me knows that we will remain impotent to preventing the death of our children, our future, until we realize that the them we blame for all of this is us.  We cannot keep sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone else to cure what ails us.

Our school shootings have become the metaphor for our own crazy.  We have got to figure out a way to make this stop.  And, yeah, I know my little rant in my little blog won’t change anything, BUT it’s done.  I’ve taken my first step and posted it despite the fact that I try so hard to keep my views private because I just don’t want to bother with the fallout from folk who might not agree with me or like what I say. I like playing it safe and keeping my shit to myself.  I am not here to blame you; I’m here to say come on people we can do this.  We can hold our leaders — in all aspects of our lives — accountable and tell them to act like the adults we teach our children to be.  We can remind them that they are just as accountable for doing their jobs and fulfilling their mandates as we are ours.  We can change the goddamned cogs if they are destroying the essence of who we are.

Our babies need us to do this.  We need us to do this.

 

Fall Break!

I’m off for a week and spending most of it in Germany.  Woo hoo!  I sooooooo need this time off to breathe and reflect and enjoy the beauty of living.  Joe and I joined some friends for a long but fun drive to Munich where we spent the weekend sipping, strolling and eating.  Today, Joe is off to Prague with the friends, and I am off to Hamburg to spend time with family.

I always love being in Germany, and I still hope to one day find myself getting transferred to a school here.  It won’t be much closer to most of my family since none of our locations are up north, but Stuttgart is near my niece and sister — so, fingers crossed, one day.

That is not to say I don’t also love Belgium.  Germany is just so much easier for me since, well, some of it is in my DNA.  I’m more at home here.

We were blessed with beautiful weather yesterday.  Munich is ablaze with autumn colors.

But the long, dark, cold, wet days are right around the corner.  I’m okay with those too because it means candles, hearty stews and soups (a fat girl’s heaven), and the holiday season — whoop whoop!

My sister Angie and some of her family are visiting from Virginia; we’ll meet up again today.  Her first few days here I was so busy with work I didn’t get much chance to enjoy time with them, so the next few days will be all about fun, family time.  We head back to Belgium on Halloween where I’m sure more fun will be had, and when they leave Shannan arrives to spend a few weeks with us.

Sooooo, I’ve got plenty of cheer ahead of me.

My only complaint is I won’t get to spend Halloween again with this little guy..

But, isn’t he adorable in the space suit I bought this summer?!  Cannot wait to see him in December!  He’s hobbling along now, so he’ll be running all over the Christmas markets.

Well, I’ve got to pack up and get myself ready for the train ride to airport.  Happy Halloween and Harvest cheers to all of you!

p.s. I’m including this photo only because it’s a rare good one of me (lol I’d make a terrible model with my crazy facial expressions).  Thanks to Joe for knowing the right angle to snap his wife at! AND, hello?  I’m outside in Munich this time of year without a jacket on — in short sleeves!

Rain & Rainbows

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It’s been way too long since I’ve posted, and, of course, a lot has happened since August.  Work is super busy, and whenever I try to upload photos to this blog it seems to take me forever no matter what I do.  In big part it’s because of my shitty wifi.  I love where I live, but it has its issues.

Since I’ve last posted, I’ve had a visit from my Al Ain neighbor Haneefa (back in August), and we had fun on a weekend trip discovering Rotterdam.

Cubed houses and interesting street art just to name a few things to find in that city.

And, we’ve gotten plenty of play time right here in Belgium.  Mons had its annual Tanks in Town event, which is always a good time.

Plus, we’ve gone to plenty of fun dinners, concerts, fests on base (including Octoberfest!) and God only knows what other local shenanigans.  There’s always something going on; I just wish I took the time to post about them while they were happening.

The weather has been literally rainbows and rain, but the temps are still lovely.  Today it’s in the 70s (fahrenheit).  It makes for a good metaphor for my life as well.  Nothing bad has happened, but it’s that time of year when I’m just so slammed with work stuff.  It never seems to end, but it’s all good.  Kids are learning, and I’m still energized by them.IMG_E1327

Although sometimes it’s a little too much zap because I’m also exhausted!

I do so love this time of year though because you can feel the shift in season.  The chill is making its way in, and the days are darker longer.  I’m also getting ready for a bunch of visitors and festivities.  My sister and part of her family arrive Oct 23, then we’re off to Germany for a bit, then Shannan arrives for a good visit, and whallah we’ve got Thanksgiving and Christmas time upon us.  Aaron arrives Dec 16, and Kaylene and her crew arrive Dec 23, sooooo I’m all a jingle with holiday planning.

All of which gave me an excuse to visit Champagne country again.  Oh, how I love Epernay and Reims as well.

When there’s so much champagne to sip, water comes in warning bottles.

I’m totally in love with my new champagne bucket/table from the ‘widow.’ Veuve Clicquot champagne is famous thanks to a woman who made the best out of her husband’s passing, so, you know, I’m totally a fan (not that I want to off my husband).

AND for all my visitors, I’m all stocked up on most excellent champagne and wine.

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Oh and there’s goodies in my fridge and cave (basement storage room) too.  Bring on the good cheer!

Badger is hanging in there, but old age is kicking his hind quarters a bit, so we’ve ordered a doggie sling for him to help when he has to use our stairs.  That’s right folks, I’m buying handles, so I can carry my dog like a suitcase.  I’ll update his blog in a bit too since we want to get as many shots of him loving life while he is.  If the doctor keeps giving him morphine, I imagine he’ll hang in for quite a bit longer.  That dog totally digs being stoned.

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He’s also a lush because he keeps wanting to go to the bar across the street from Park du Poo.

Well, I’m sorry I’ve not shared too many details this time around on our travels or expat life.  Like normal life, sometimes we’ve just gotta hunker down and focus on what pays for all that fun.

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It’s all good though when the path we’re on is loaded with colors and cobblestone — and cafe sipping.  Good God do I love cafe sipping, even in the rain.

Fingers crossed I’ll post again soon.  Cheers to all of you!

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There’s no place like home

The thing about having moved too many times to count is you’re perpetually homesick for somewhere.  This ache for a place you once called home and then the joy of revisiting it is a constant see saw of emotions and memories.

We returned to Belgium on Sunday, and we’re so glad to be back.  We missed our dog, our bed, our life here.  But, it comes at a cost because we will now go back to missing our loved ones ‘back home.’

I cherished my time with my kids, and I’m glad Joe and I got to travel around so much of the U.S. this summer.  I have not been on American soil for that long of a time since I moved overseas.  In 5 weeks we got to visit our nation’s capital, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Indiana.  Here’s a quick rundown of our highlights.

Arizona

Staying in Phoenix in the summer at homes without pools is tough.  I missed my pool more than ever during this visit.  I’m an outdoor kind of girl who loves to sip her coffee with the birds and, well, the bees (or flies).  It’s hard to do that when you’re melting (I used to sit in my pool and sip coffee), but it’s all good I did get a little pool time in during our vacay.  Besides this trip was truly about soaking up family time, and I got to spend time in each of my children’s homes.

I also got to sip coffee outside in northern Arizona over the July 4 holiday weekend (at a lovely house we rented in Oak Creek Canyon) and another weekend in Flagstaff.  I loved that I got to whoop up the 4th with this crew!


For some reason I can no longer format the way my photos post — argh.  I’ll figure out how to fix that next post.




It was also fun visiting Flagstaff, Williams and Prescott.  It’s just way too hot to stay in Phoenix in the summer.  And, I did get to play with Torin in a pool.

Little monster is just too too cute.  I miss him dearly.

New Mexico

We drove from Flagstaff to Santa Fe, New Mexico where I got to catch up with an old friend.  We stayed at a lovely hotel in the art center area.  It was beautiful, and we so wish we could have stayed an extra night.

I’m really annoyed by photo editing right now, so it’s messing up my writerly vibe as well.  But, oh well,  you see that plate full of green goo — OMG I crave that  now.  I’ve discovered hatch chiles and christmas sauce.  I may have to go back just to eat that meal again!

Colorado

It was so good to visit Kyle and Kendra in Castle Rock.  The only thing missing during our July 4 feast was these two.  Plus, you can’t go wrong visiting the big C during summer.  It’s always gorgeous there.

Kansas

From Colorado we headed to Indiana to visit Joe’s sister.  We spent a night in Kansas next to a truck stop.  Lol there’s really not much I can say about Kansas (although we didn’t explore much).  The highlight for me was taking a side trip to the Oz museum and Oz winery.  Those snazzy slippers that start this blog were bought there — love them!

Indiana

Before reaching Indiana we spent a night in Missouri near Columbia.  We regret not taking an extra day to explore the Ozarks (especially since we love the show set there), but perhaps another time.  Again we didn’t do much sight seeing, but we did spend a lot of time having fun with Joe’s sister, who lives in a Disneyesque town called Carmel.  LOL I swear they even pipe in the wildlife because while we were sitting at the fire pit we were entertained by racoons, foxes and a possum.  During the day blue jays and cardinals stopped by to peek at us peeking at them.  No need to do much exploring when it’s all right there.

I loved the artwork all over the town center, and a cool restaurant had my favorite bathroom ever. Who knew Indiana was so progressive?!

We spent a day sitting waterside sipping bevies, which was wonderful.  It made me miss living by a lake (but that was several lifetimes ago!).

And then our road trip was over.  We flew back to Phoenix for a few days, packed up and returned to Brussels.  Luckily we totally missed the heat wave.  I cannot imagine attempting sleep in my third-floor, non air-conditioned apartment in 106 degree temps.

I wish I would have taken the time to write the many reflections I’ve had during this trip, so that I could share the good ones with you, but I didn’t and now that I’m typing I can’t think of any of them.

I am torn between wanting to move back to the states to be closer to my kids (and their kids) and staying here where I’m in a bipolar relationship of peace and wonder and frustration and WTF (you never get used to eets a problame, which basically means “bitch you’re gonna wait another week, two, three or maybe four before this shit gets fixed”).

But, I do so love my home here and my job and the life, so it’ll be a while before I go back (unless my employer has other plans for me).

I am also heartbroken and enraged that a few days ago I messaged my children that I loved them and to please, please be safe and vigilant. All of the places where mass shootings take place could include any of us.  We love festivals, shopping, drinking and getting educated.  The story of the young mother dying in Walmart while shielding her infant crushed me.  The only saving grace is that wouldn’t be my daughter since she probably owns stock in Amazon by now, but why oh why are we so violent?  America I love you, and all my people there.  I truly believe there are more good of us than bad, so please, please, please let’s get our shit together and quit letting shit talkers stir it up (and noooo I’m not blaming politicians for the murders, but our leaders aren’t helping make change for the better, and we’re getting caught in the web with our own arguments and circular reasoning.  Bottom line: conservatives and liberals want the same for their children:  safety, growth, freedom and opportunities).  We know how to get along and play nice in the sandbox, so let’s get to it.  And, yes, that includes me.

Okay, this isn’t a blog about my country’s issues, so let me get back to the whole point of this post.  It was great to go home for a bit, and it’s just as great to come home!  I loved time with my people, but most of all my absolute favorite thing was rocking and singing my grandson to sleep.  OMG it is amazing how much a baby can fill your soul with love and hope. (um, maybe we need to all rock babies before problem solving?)

 

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