Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Yes! . . . There is a Santa

 We had all gathered for our annual Christmas Eve festivities. The house was decorated with the sights and sounds of Christmas – a green tree with ornaments and decorations in shades of beige. Garland adorned the railings and the walls. Christmas music floated from iPod dock. We were laughing and talking, stuffed from eating enough food to feed the block. There was the traditional fare of turkey, dressing Mac & cheese & string beans & so much more. There was something to please even the pickiest palettes.

While we were anxiously waiting to play what we’ve come to expect as a hilarious game of the white elephant gift exchange, my sister and her friend, both retired teachers were weaving this elaborate tale of how Santa manages to see children all over the world in a single night! The adults were laughing at the absolute absurdity of their story, but the children were enraptured! They had been tracking Santa on the iPad, and he was in Canada headed to the United States.  My nephew told us that Santa sent him an email. I shook my head because even Santa had to get with it and move into the digital age.

Their bizarre story had something to do with Santa being able to protect the reindeer as he traveled through the sound barrier. And because he traveled through different time zones it was possible for him to see all the children in one night! It didn’t hurt that he also traveled faster than the speed of light, and that he had the help of an elf in every state.  I laughed at the silliness of my sister’s story, and went home with it in my head. I woke up with the story on my mind-- thankful for its true meaning. Their story represented innocence. It represented faith. It represented good will.

I thought about the various ways I saw children preparing for Santa’s visit. There were of course the numerous pictures of children posing with Santa, but there were also the Official Zay Zay and Jo Jo videos, a picture on Facebbook of siblings praying over the cookies they baked for Santa, and of course the tracking of Santa on the iPad. 

Every year the postal service actually gets hundreds of thousands of letters to Santa, and there are people who adopt children to make their Christmas wishes come true. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Letters to Santa program. In lieu of Christmas gifts this year, my family chose to sponsor a family in need. This whole week I’ve been constantly reminded of the countless ways that people bring joy to the less fortunate during the holiday season.We may not be fat, white men with beards in red suits, but we are Santa. 

In a time when there is so much ugliness in the world, children deserve to have something magical. We all do. What's wrong with that?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sandy Hooks Elementary

Friday, December 14 started out like any other day. I'd been tired all week, but I knew at the end of this school day that I'd be on vacation until the new year. We were having holiday parties, and middle school students were either going on a field trip (6th grade) or going to a dance in the afternoon (7th & 8th grade).  The energy in the building crackled like a November bonfire.  
Students in my 8th grade writing class were bouncing off the walls. So I had them decompress by journaling while listening to soothing music. Everybody was smiling. Happy. Excited. Little did I know that in a small town in Connecticut, a deranged gunman was spraying six and seven year-olds with bullets.

During lunchroom duty, while I was making sure that meatballs didn’t take flight or cupcake icing doubled as make-up, murder and mayhem was erupting in Sandy Hooks Elementary School. When I first learned of the shooting, I couldn’t watch it or read about it. It was too close to home, and unbelievably scary. I teach in an elementary school prek to 8th, and I know the vulnerability of being in a public space charged with the safety of children. 

So while I was ushering children out of the building for winter break, I didn’t want to know what went so horribly wrong that some depraved person would open fire on children in classrooms. I couldn't wrap my mind around the reality of it as I scanned the faces of the students that I see every day. I couldn’t imagine me or my colleagues being gunned down in our school—a place that supposed to be a safe haven.
We do disaster drills of all types, and I’m constantly stressing to my students the importance of following directions and taking the drills seriously because I take the safety of my students seriously. Parents send their children to school in good faith that their children will be there waiting for them at the end of the day. But on Friday a sicko in Conneticut shattered that faith. 

About two years ago, I was in a school where we were doing a lockdown drill, and it was ironically on the same day that there was shooting outside a school in Mexico and the teacher kept the children safe and calm singing the Barney song. The gunman that seemed so far away that day is too close for comfort now.
I have been to the funerals of my students and it is heart wrenching. Earlier this week, I asked my students to write about where they see themselves in 10 years, and one wrote dead and another said in jail. My students are in 7th and 8th grade. They see no future. The students in Connecticut were in kindergarten and first grade; their future was snatched before it even started. Children deserve the chance to grow up, but how do we prevent our children from becoming part of the carnage in an increasingly violent and dysfunctional society?

Friday, December 14, was our last day before break, a time to enjoy family friends and refresh for the new year. But for the families of 27 people in Connecticut it was their last day of life. Can someone tell me how to deal with that?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Little Spice in Your Life

I am my mother’s child; I love food. I am not my mother's in that I do not love to cook good food. I grew up on freshly prepared meals made from scratch. So, I appreciate the rich, savory taste of food well-cooked food. But I’m happy with someone else being in the kitchen.

When I got in high school, I fell into the habit of eating fast food. And my mother warned me about always eating out of a greasy bag. I slowed down on the fast food, but not dining out. I just upgraded my dining experience. I spent lots of money on meals. Hung out with my friend Denial and thought I could eat whatever I wanted as long as I worked out. Wrong!  I remember this guy telling that if I was working out I, but I wasn’t eating right I was fighting myself. His words found a permanent parking space in psyche. It didn’t change my dietary habits, but the words didn’t budge.

I was loving some food and it was loving me back! So much in fact that it wouldn't leave me. And truth be told, I didn’t want it to go anywhere because I wasn’t doing what I needed to do to part company. But back in the spring, I decided it was time to make a change, and I needed an intervention. So, I joined Weight Watchers. I’ve lost more than 30 pounds, and I still like to eat out! And lo and behold, the God of Good Food was listening to my prayers. She said that I didn’t have to starve myself all day to dine or nor did I have to stick to the b-o-r-i-n-g bland low calorie options. She knows I like to taste of food on my tongue.
So, she led me to Bombay Spice Grill and Wine – a restaurant devoted to healthy Indian food. A friend and I went before I joined WW, and I enjoyed it. A group of us were going out one evening, and I suggested Bombay Spice. Since joining WW, I have gotten into the habit of planning my meals. I know what I’m going to eat, and how much it’s going to cost me. So, you can imagine the size of the smile on my face when I found out that not only did Bombay Spice boast a healthy menu, they had the Weight Watchers point values listed online. I was in heaven!
The food is satisfying especially if you like a little spice in your life. The appetizers are great to share which means I use even fewer points. I love the chef’s surprise where you choose ingredients and a sauce and allow the chef to prepare your meal. There are vegetarian options. It has nice ambiance and is perfect for a Girls’ Night or a couple's outing. I have a new attitude about food, and Bombay Spice Grill and Wine fits perfectly into my new lifestyle.