What are the chances?

My maternal grandfather was a pretty big deal. He was a 6’3″ “Dennis-the-Menace” turned football star turned businessman.  In the 1950’s, he had a successful football career that began as a player at Bucknell University. But to everyone who knew him, he was so much more than his resume. He was witty, charismatic, intelligent, and quick-on-his-feet. Yes, he could be rather intimidating with his unique sense-of-humor. Above all, he was a loyal husband to his teenage-sweetheart, my grandmother, for over sixty-years. He was a proud father who worked his butt off for his family.  To all of us grandkids, he was just our ‘Pa.’ I remember bringing the Wall Street Journal into my first grade class for “Show and Tell.” There was Pa, on the front page. We were always so proud of him and his biggest fans. He had such unique relationships with all 8 of his grandkids.

I visited Pa one of the last days he was awake. He was in the ICU at Yale fighting an infection that his body simply couldn’t fight anymore. After years of battling dementia, he was no longer the same “Pa” we all knew. Somehow, there was one thing that remained constant- his humor and charisma. Even as he was unable to drink through a straw anymore, he was still cracking jokes with the nurses.

During our last visit, he tried to sell me to several cardiac residents while they did their rounds. Like, literally sell me. “I will even pay you to marry her,” he teased as I sat in the corner laughing. You never could take Pa too seriously or be offended by his humor. He truly was hilarious.

I remember my mom urging me, “Tell Pa what you’re doing tomorrow!” I rolled my eyes in an attempt to hush my mother. Daughters always have a subtle way of doing that. I finally told Pa, “I have a date on Friday with a Bucknell-guy.”

“A Bucknell football player,” he insisted.

“Well, no. He was a Bucknell tennis player.”

He nodded, smiled, and said, “I’d prefer a football player, but that’s good enough.”

It was so ridiculous that I was telling my grandfather about my upcoming Match.com date. (Insane, right?) Pa passed away one week after my date with Ben.

I forget sometimes that Pa and Ben never actually met. I know they would have bonded over so much more than their shared Bucknell pride.  Visiting Bucknell a few weeks ago for homecoming was such a special experience.

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In front of the chapel where my grandparents were married in the 1950’s
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Grabbing beers at the Bull Run
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Pa’s favorite golf hat

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My Advice to Teachers-Think of Those Six

As I begin to write this post, I don’t even know how to start. I’m about to write things I’ve wanted to say for nearly six years. I did not attend Sandy Hook Elementary School as a child nor was I at the school on 12/14/12. I grew up just 2 miles from the school, where my parents and sister still live. Countless childhood memories include Newtown; a place that used to be nothing more than a tiny dot on the map. The place where Scrabble was invented. I can’t pretend to know what those directly impacted by the tragedy experience on a daily basis. A childhood friend published this beautiful article a few days after the tragedy, and it is his raw and real reflection.

I don’t want this post to focus on the feelings I had on 12/14/12. The feeling of confusion that then turned to fear as I texted with my mother as so much unfolded that day.  I remember looking out at my class that afternoon as they worked at their desks. After my family, my students are my world. How could someone do this to first graders? As the day went on, it became more real. The realization that, “Oh my gosh! She used to make my coffee at Starbucks!” as we heard that Lauren Rousseau was among those killed. I’m not a crier, and I remember crying myself to sleep that night thinking that perhaps that would make things better. It didn’t. How could God let this happen to children and teachers? Classrooms are happy places. My classroom is my happy place, too.

So, here is the point- here is what I feel that God wanted me to learn since 12/14/12. Here is what I feel like I need to share with every single teacher I talk to- EMBRACE EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY. Embrace the moments that leave you exhausted, over-worked, and frustrated. Embrace the never-ending to-do list. Embrace the overwhelming new teacher-evaluation system. Embrace those sticky-handed high-fives and moments where you have to say, “We don’t hit friends in first grade.” Embrace those ‘should-have-been-snow-days’ that turn into slippery-rides to school. Save every sweet note and picture your students give to you. Even if you can’t read them. Heck, even embrace the copying machine that jams whenever you try to double-side copy some packets. Embrace every difficult student for he or she will teach you to be a stronger, better teacher and more compassionate human-being. Embrace the kid who accidentally spits all over your face whenever he whisper reads to you. That type of enthusiasm should be celebrated.

Teaching isn’t glamorous, and sometimes it is really hard. It is so easy to forget why we do what we do. Those days where we wish our Powerball ticket was the winner. Whenever I have one of those days, I think of the six educators who were murdered on 12/14/12. I’m sure they would give anything to experience any of the moments I mentioned above. Even my worst days (which are few and far-between) still contain moments of such joy. We are so blessed to be able to spend our days watching young minds as they read, talk, grow, and learn.

So, teachers, whenever you have a bad day, be grateful anyway. Put a smile on your face and think of those six.