Monday, May 22, 2017

Re: Sacrifice

Good Monday morning. 

Despite the ninety percent chance of rain in my neck of the woods today, it is indeed a good morning because I am, at long last, fairly well rested. I'd like to share a few thoughts about last week's events & share more than a few pictures of last week's events & bow out. Two things happened last week that took a serious physical toll on this aging schoolteacher. Number one: I stayed up all night Monday night & Number two: I fell victim to food poisoning. The food poisoning came on the heels of Monday night's all-nighter & the combination was punishing. 

Monday was the big day. I found this, below, at Cracker Barrel last Sunday night. It was on the 40% off shelf so it cost almost nothing & I love it. It's cute in my classroom & it builds a few seconds into every day (well, every school day) during which I manually mark the day's date, a few seconds during which I note with incredulity the astonishing speed at which time flies when your life is full of people you love who're growing up & moving on while you're still in your classroom, melancholy but temporarily placated by the deal you scored on classroom decor at Cracker Barrel. 

What follows are pictures of the day's first graduation, Miss Reagan's. I deserve credit for almost none of the photos.

Late on a Thursday evening in January of 2014 I returned home with Henry after spending hours at the hospital. Reagan was initially diagnosed with diabetes by an ER doctor & then moved to PICU where they began the process of stabilizing her blood sugar. Henry was still nursing (& technically too young to be a PICU visitor), & so Trey stayed overnight with Reagan & I drug myself & my infant son home, crawled into bed with him, & fell apart. 

One of the many things I wondered that night was what in the world we would do when Reagan, barely three at the time, wasn't constantly in my care. I guess I should've had enough faith to trust that things would work out, & they worked out beautifully this past year. Reagan's A1C has not ticked up this past year as she transitioned to a five-day, all-day school week. These ladies below texted me constantly, often to let me know they'd already done what needed to be done & to inquire about further instructions. They know more about blood sugar than they probably ever wanted to learn, & they were always patient despite having nineteen kindergartners in their care. We totally failed the family photo (see below) after Reagan's graduation but this is the picture I wanted so I was satisfied.  

Reagan was (understandably) hot in the gym post-ceremony so we sauntered over to my classroom & attempted some family pics. This is, believe it or not, the best.

Reagan spent a fun-filled day with her Nana post-graduation while I enjoyed a few dry-eyed, emotionless hours in my classroom until mine & Henry's school day ended. 

The emotionless hours were few & far between last Monday. I went home long enough to settle the kids & change my clothes & I was off to graduation No. 2. 

This was one of the first faces I saw after my trek through the overflowing parking lot last Monday night. I know the robe & all the fancy collars seem to signify an ending but he can earn however many degrees he pleases & I'll probably still be in his business . . . in a healthy, loving way. Maybe at his next graduation I'll manage to look at the camera. 

You remember Jack. We're working on managing the separate lives we now lead. We only had dinner once last week, & we let someone else join us. #babysteps 

If I were in a Lord of the Flies-type situation & could hand pick the people on my island, this, ladies & gentlemen, would be my tribe. Admittedly we'd probably not survive long. Unless you can start a fire with sarcasm.

You've met Luke. I've actually known Luke his whole life. His mother taught me in fourth grade. The separate paths that led me & Luke both back to OCS are probably not incredibly interesting to you, but I'm so thankful to have been a part of his senior year. He's genuinely sweet & makes me laugh & that's a combination for which every teacher longs. Also he saw me eat nachos over the weekend & still thinks I'm cool so we're locked in for life now.

You may recognize Elana (on my left) & Rae (on my right) as they do a little modeling when they're not making straight As. And yeah, sure, I didn't make straight As in high school, nor did I model. I think I had a D in chemistry one nine weeks, & I rarely bothered to wear eye make-up. Maybe we'll delve into all that next week. 

Some post-ceremony photos:

I slipped my shoes off for this one so I wouldn't tower over Sarah & that worked out well as my sandals make a lovely addition to the foreground of the picture: 

Then I posed with Sarah & her other halves, Faith . . . 

. . . & James:

I initially bought the dress I wore to graduation because (1) it was on sale at Target, (2) I'll buy basically anything that's on sale at Target, & (3) I thought it would compliment the green robes nicely in graduation pictures. But look at how this worked out with Francie, sans her robe in this lovely blue dress? There really was tremendous grace given to us all that evening; I took more decent pictures in one day than I typically take in a year. Photo grace: it's a topic you don't hear much about from the pulpit but it's a thing.

He caught me in the parking lot on my way out & I was like okay, fine, I'll take another picture now that you've added that fancy giant medal to your already sagging collection of accolades:

I finally made it to my car & once again raced home. I kissed the kids goodnight, changed into lounge wear that was comfortable but still said, Hey, I'm your English teacher . . . or something, & made a whole lot of coffee. Students were to be transported via buses to Louisiana Tech's Lambright Center, home of a variety of activities I suppose are fun but in which I'd never, ever want to participate after midnight. 

Having no desire to drive back to the school or ride a school bus, I sipped coffee at home & contemplated how much I love to sleep. Around eleven thirty, armed with an array of ponytail holders I'd been asked to bring & my Yeti, I steeled my resolve & drove toward Ruston, where I remained until three in the morning. 

I was admittedly curious about grad night. This is a tradition that began at some point after I graduated high school so I'd heard about it over the years but never experienced it. It's kind of like camp, except everything is crammed into one night: no one's wearing nice clothes, you're tired, people are exerting themselves physically & sweating while you half-watch, half-nap & wonder how they have the energy, & you're pretty hungry but surrounded by nothing by carb-laden, unhealthy snacks. 

While at Lambright my Yeti & I drifted from one center of activity to another. It was fun watching them & listening to them, always cognizant of the fact that this would be their last time together as a group. As the night wore on I kept that thought at the forefront of my mind, because oh man did I want to be in my bed.

This is one of only a few pictures I took, circa two am. I think Holly & I look pretty fresh & chipper for two am.

I snapped a few other pictures during the grad night festivities but I look super awful & won't share them. 

I left Tech when the buses did but made a pit stop on the way back to the school to check Reagan's number. I checked her number, made another cup of coffee, looked briefly at my bed, & drove to the school, arriving around four in the morning.

Around five am I found myself curled in a ball on the track at school. I was both on top of & underneath a blanket I'd brought, having been promised slumber party-like fun on the track in the early morning. For a variety of reasons there was little chance of me sleeping at all. For one, I'd been ingesting coffee steadily since midnight. Also, it was cold. Also, it was damp. Also, my mind was racing. I listened to the students murmuring & giggling. I wondered where they'd all be a year from now, scattered to the wind, pursuing degrees, discovering a field of study or a person - or both - that will change the trajectory of their life. Physically I was pretty miserable, but I didn't regret my decision to forgo the night of sleep. I thought about the above quote from Hemingway . . . up there, at the beginning of this blog. I also thought about the open question from the 2014 AP Literature & Composition Exam because I admittedly have, over the last year, become obsessed with AP Lit open questions & sometimes think about them & possible answers to them when I find myself reclining on the track at five in the morning. 

This is the 2014 open question:

It has often been said that what we value can only be determined by what we sacrifice. Consider how this statement applies to a character from a novel or play. Select a character that has deliberately sacrificed, surrendered, or forfeited something in a way that highlights that character's values. Then write a well-organized essay in which you analyze how the particular sacrifice illuminates the character's values and provides a deeper understanding of the meaning of the work as a whole.

It has often been said that what we value can only be determined by what we sacrifice. There are few people for whom I've sacrificed sleep; that's a short list & one that, until recently, was pretty heavily populated by people to whom I've given birth. As the sun rose last Tuesday morning, as tired as I was - & despite the misery I knew was ahead during the workday - I was glad I was there. We watched the sunrise. We saw a deer. We pointed at people's hair & laughed. 

So about the misery. As luck would have it, Henry's end-of-the-year party was Tuesday morning at nine o'clock. I drove home around seven, tried to make myself look presentable, dressed Henry, & drove back to the school. 

I even did the good-mom thing & took a few pictures, including one of me at around hour twenty-eight of wakefulness. I managed a smile; he did not: 

I'm not really sure what else happened Tuesday. Henry had a full day at school after his party. I believe I saw (most of) the students, the juniors, in my seventh hour class. Believe it or not, I attended a meeting with the other English teachers during which we discussed important English stuff. I mean I assume we did; it's unfortunate we have only a handful of meetings a year as a department & this one fell on a day I likely appeared to be stoned (I'd probably have been worth more had that been my problem). 

I obviously got some sleep Tuesday night, though I felt kind of lousy when I got up to shower for school Wednesday morning. Every step I took toward the shower said thirty-six, thirty-six, thirty-six

What happened next was tragic & shocking. This blog is dragging on as it is so I'll try & sum up the food poisoning as best I can while still conveying to you, dear reader, how absolutely horrific it was. 

The cafeteria served no food on Wednesday, & having no students in my room all day that day, I lost track of time & looked up around two o'clock & realized I was starving. Long story short: I ate some chicken & a salad from a local restaurant. By six o'clock that evening I was not feeling so great, & right before the stroke of midnight I spent about half an hour violently retching. 

I suspected food poisoning immediately. There was something different about the whole ordeal, something that didn't jive with the stomach viruses I've had in the past. I was actually hoping it was food poisoning because, as you know, as mother to a diabetic, the stomach virus is my great nemesis. 

My mom arrived Thursday morning to stay with the kids as we'd planned. It would've been a great day to take a sick day since I felt very, very sick, but I needed to get some things finished & turned in at school & so I forged ahead. "Forged" may be overselling it; I had to sit down in the shower to wash my hair. I was pretty certain the vomiting was over & banking on my assumption that it was non-contagious food poisoning, & so I went to school feeling puny & terrible but secure in the knowledge I was not spreading germs. 

I was correct in thinking the vomiting was over, but did not anticipate the aching. By mid-morning on Thursday my lower back & both of my legs were aching so much I thought my body was mounting its revenge for my having rolled around on the track in the pre-dawn hours on Tuesday. My hipbones were actually kind of twitching. A few moments of the lower back pain were so intense I would, having experienced back pain during Henry's birth, rank the pain as "dilated to three or four."

I limped to my car & drove home where I spent the remainder of the day in the bed with my heating pad. Thankfully Reagan is a doll. She was a tremendous help to me all afternoon; Henry was, well, not a tremendous help to me, but Reagan did enough for both of them that I didn't have to get out of bed much. At some point, I believe via text, my mother told me that my sister, who's suffered from food poisoning in the past, said the body aches post-vomiting were pretty bad, so while I felt terrible - still tired from missing an entire night of sleep, my body aching from *literally* being poisoned - I was happy to learn I was definitely not the victim of a stomach virus that could spread to my loved ones, both the diabetic & the non-diabetic variety.

It's long past time for me to wrap this up. On the heels of Mother's Day, & on the heels of a most excellent first year in the high school classroom, I again reiterate: what we value can be determined by what we sacrifice. I think the clever people who compose the AP Lit open questions make an excellent point. What do you deliberately sacrifice, surrender, or forfeit that highlights your values?

I love to sleep; I highly value sleep, particularly since having babies. I despise the way I feel when I haven't had enough sleep. If I willingly sacrifice sleep - or time I could be reading, or time I could be drinking hot coffee alone - for a person, there's no clearer, surer sign that they've got me. I could write students another ten letters or compose a poem for them, but know this: if I'm voluntarily watching you bowl at two in the morning, then you know where we stand. If I am taking a nauseating train ride with you at nine in the morning after sleeping not a wink the night before, well then you can bet you're my three-year-old son.

God sacrificed His only Son; I thought about that as well early last Tuesday morning as I was tempted to pat myself on the back for placing a full night's sleep on the altar of love for my students. With His actions, God said: I love my Son, Jesus, but I desire your salvation - the mere possibility of your salvation - more. While sleepless nights are a downside to having kids, an upside is the greater understanding you gain of what it took for the Lord to allow Christ to go to the cross. I think most mothers & fathers would say to the fallen, sinful world: Too bad. You sinned, you deal with the consequences. My innocent child will not be tortured & slain in your stead. And the Lord would have been completely justified had that been His answer to the fallen world; we'd go to hell - even those who diligently attempt to avoid it - which is what we deserve. Think about that next time you're fired up about someone getting what they deserve. 

Instead of telling people you love them, or perhaps in addition to telling them you love them, show them by sacrificing something you value for them.

When you love you wish to do things for.
You wish to sacrifice for.
You wish to serve

Hemingway didn't always practice what he preached, but he understood human nature, & he understood the limitations of mere words when the goal is the expression of love. He, perhaps more than most, understood the ways in which words can be useful, & he knew when to omit them, when silence or action were the proper substitutes.

Have a wonderful week. I'm actually signing off having not yet unburdened myself of all I want to say. We'll pick up next week, the Lord willing, with summer plans as well as book club happenings. 


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