Under Pressure

“…I’m an old lump of coal.”
“Yeah, I know, and I’m hoping if I put enough pressure on you I’ll get a diamond.”

I have had a rough few weeks.

School, for teachers, began three weeks ago. I spent the first week stressing out about whether or not our school would have enough children registered in kindergarten for all four of us on the K team to keep our jobs (for many, many days, we sat at 12 kids/classroom) and wondering if having a full-time intern was actually a good decision. I’ve never had an intern before (or done a teaching internship, for that matter) and the idea of a full-time, “I’m-there-when-you’re-there” person seemed so much less overwhelming in April when Caity was hyping me up for it. “You’ll be so great! I’ve learned so much from just being in your class for 30 minutes a week, your intern is going to be so lucky!” Now that my intern was actually there with me, I felt really inadequate and worried about whether or not she’d learn anything useful from me.

The second week for teachers was the first week for students. Most of the kids I’d seen at Meet the Teacher came back for Day 1 of school (one registered for kindergarten with us, filled out the paperwork I had at Meet the Teacher, and subsequently moved to a city 30 miles south of us. I’m choosing to see those as unrelated events). The problem with Day 1 of school in kindergarten is that it is literally the first day of school that some kids have ever had. It is nerve-wracking and difficult and thankfully, my principal understands that. He told us that as long as we get them to the right rooms, make sure they eat lunch and send them home safely, we’ve been successful on Day 1. No one cried, everyone ate lunch, and they all got home safely. Win.

This past week I tried to remember that I can’t compare this year’s kids to last year’s kids. Including the obvious reason that they’re just different kids, I remember last year’s kids at Day 180 and these kiddos just haven’t had the chance to get to that yet. They’ll learn the routines and procedures and so far, they’re soaking it all up. We’re learning Kagan structures, independence, and kindness. We know why we have rules, we know who the boss is, and we understand the consequences of not following directions. And for only being 10 days in, that’s pretty fantastic.

This past Friday I planned to drive down to spend the weekend with Andy, help him with a project and have good quality time. The past few weeks have been pretty stressful and he promised me a relaxing Friday night, which I was looking forward to. Only when I woke up Friday morning (late) at 5:45 a.m., the first thing that happened was the filling my dentist had put in a little more than 12 hours prior fell out. Literally, I was still in my bed. After the wave of panic subsided, I left a message for the dentist explaining what had happened, packed my car and headed out for work.

I should explain that when the dentist did this particular filling, the root/nerve/whatever it’s called of my tooth became exposed. He put a covering on it and explained to me that in the future, it would be likely that I’d need a root canal but that this would help delay that process.

Did you know that an exposed nerve + coffee = pain? Or that an exposed nerve + air = pain? I tried to teach my class on Friday. I really, really did. I had plans and goals and everything but about 30 minutes in, I knew it just wasn’t going to happen. The office found a sub for me and after a few phone calls, the dentist’s office set up an appointment for me at noon to have an emergency root canal at an endodontist‘s office.

[This is the part where I am reassured that I picked the right boyfriend.]

At this point driving up 13th Street, I had a meltdown, pulled over, and texted Andy. He had offered a few hours prior to scrap our plans and I had (pridefully) written that idea off because I had planned to go down and help him with his project. He had told me he could come up here instead and when I finally called him to ask if he would, he told me he’d run to his house after work and drive up.

Right now, we’re sitting on my couch. He’s been working on fixing my phone issues and I’ve been finalizing lesson plans for next week. He showed up two nights ago with flowers and fancy bacon from Lucky’s. We’ve had great conversations, cracked jokes, and fallen a bit more for each other. Peeking up at him over my computer monitor, I’m keenly aware of how lucky I am. The past few weeks have been stressful, but I have an amazing man who will change his plans to support me when I need it. Having him in my life is a blessing that I plan to not take for granted.

Fifty One Percent

“You’re going to write about this, aren’t you?”

I spent last week exploring Milwaukee with my Boy, his sister, and his sister’s husband. We ate far too much at their favorite local places, curled up in soft blankets and slept in a bit later each day, and danced, concert-style, to bluegrass, rock, and soul bands at Summerfest. I got to see both condos he’d like to buy if he lived in Milwaukee. He indulged my request for a photo of us which, since he is anti-selfie, meant he set up his fancy camera equipment in the middle of a park and raced across the bridge and up the steps to where I was sitting before the 10-second timer elapsed and the image was captured. (Some of these pictures are more flattering than others.) He held my hand while we drove and I met his people, an eclectic group so warm and welcoming you’d think I’dve known them for years. And when we sat on a bench outside of the Colectivo Coffee that overlooks Lake Michigan, all I could think was “yes. This. For the rest of my life,” even when he quoted the first 5 minutes of Forest Gump line-by-line (something I actually really enjoyed). Because that moment, sitting with that man, knowing that he respects me and values me and chooses me, was perfect.

That moment, though, was vacation. It was five days that I got to spend with my boyfriend and without responsibilities. That gnawing reality of we-live-in-two-completely-different-cities was absent; I kissed him goodnight and then good morning hours later. When we had some of our more serious discussions, I was actually able to look into his eyes. You don’t know how much easier it makes those conversations when you can actually see the face of the person you’re talking to.

But then, suddenly, it was Monday and we were packing again. One of Andy’s major “plus skills” is the ability to find an amazing deal and for this trip that meant staying at three different hotels. Since I had extra room in my suitcase, I nabbed the random things we had both purchased and packed them with my belongings, just like I had the last two times. This time, though, was different. We weren’t just packing to go to the next place, we were packing to go home. To our individual homes, in cities that are two-and-a-half hours apart. His shoes and Penzeys spices would need to wind up with him after we got off the plane and before I started my long drive home. And then my eyes welled up because I realized that he wasn’t just packing his socks and toothbrush into his suitcase, he had parts of my heart in there too, parts that I hadn’t planned on giving away to a man I’ve only known for 6 months, especially not one who is just so busy and far away.

When we first started dating, Andy told me that the absolute hardest part would be distance. Long-distance relationships were something he had much more experience in and I didn’t doubt him. I don’t think I understood exactly how hard it would be and why it would be hard. Besides the typical “I just like being with him” stuff, there’s the “I don’t actually need my anxiety medicine when I’m with him!” part. And the “I want to take care of him” thing. And because of how well we connect, because I see glimpses of what it could be like when we’re together, it’s even harder to drive away from him at the end of the day. To feel like you’re closer than ever to something you’ve wanted your entire life and to know that you’re still not quite there yet is painful. For this season, however long it winds up being, I have to be patient. And, harder still, patient with a positive attitude.

It’s hard. Really, really hard. And I know there are so many other people who have much more challenging situations than I do. I’ve heard stories from people who have happy, healthy marriages after spending chunks of their pre-marriage relationship apart from each other. It is inspiring and humbling. I wish that those stories made it feel easier but for now, this is just something that I have to walk through as it happens.

One day, I will have someone who comes home to me after work, who I can cook for and talk to about his day. Someone with whom I can build my life, raise children, and grow old. And though that day is not today, it is ever-closer.

And I told you to be patient,
And I told you to be fine,
And I told you to be balanced,
And I told you to be kind.

iGeneration

So by now you know that I’m dating a man who lives far too far away from me. What I probably haven’t fully explained, however, is why I’m dating a man who lives far too far away from me. As he and I have both stated to each other when the other person (almost always me) is feeling insecure, if we wanted to, we could each date someone who leads a less complicated life and lives closer. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered it for a minute but it was quickly rejected as an option. I mean, whoever that new man was wouldn’t be Andy. And though there isn’t (much to my chagrin) an established timeline for us to figure all of this out, he’s worth the frustrations associated with long-distance relationships.

Yeah, I didn’t actually answer the “why?” question there, did I? Ugh. I know. I got a little sidetracked! Okay, trying this again…

Part of why I’m dating this particular man is because of the conversations we have. I’m a fairly intelligent person so I need someone who can not just keep up with me, but challenge me. He’s able to bounce between serious and inane, handle my squirrel-moments (sudden shifts in topics that aren’t concretely connected), and express his thoughts articulately. He has opinions and while they don’t always match mine, we can have actual discussions about our unique points of view.

We talk about the future a lot. Not just ours, but the future of the world. As much as I’d like to continue to live in my safe, happy kindergarten bubble, the world is a really scary place right now. It doesn’t look like it’s going to get much better, either. There’s terrorism, racism, human trafficking, violence, destruction and disasters featured prominently in news feeds of every variety across the world. And in between recountings of sorrow and hatred, we’re inundated with the latest celebrity gossip. Do I think it’s my business to know the intimate details about Bruce Jenner’s transformation from “him” to “her”? Nope.

There’s also a different, yet equally haunting issue that scares me. It came up in a conversation this weekend with my Boy. He was pointing out the irony in how many creative-type people solely use Apple products, which are more rigid in design/function and thus limit creativity. (Note: I love Apple products. I’m actually typing up this blog post on my MacBook Air. I do, however, see his point.) This discussion shifted into one about how the younger generation has an easier time understanding how to use new technology but cannot troubleshoot their own problems.

Here’s how this all connects for me: we’re raising the iGeneration, a group of people who are impatient, self-centered, and alternate between feeling numb and indignant. And it’s not going to end well.

Earlier today, I was helping a nephew make cookies for his dad for Father’s Day (translation: I made cookies for his dad for Father’s Day. It’s ok, he’s little) with Lego’s Ninjago cartoon playing in the background. At the beginning of the episode the ninjas were asked, “what is the best way to defeat your enemy?” The answer [SPOILER ALERT] was “make him your friend.” I was really not expecting that much wisdom from a cartoon. And it’s easy to write it off or claim that it’s just for kids because we grown ups deal with “real issues” but that’s a cop-out.

I’m not suggesting that we round up all the child pornographers and invite them out to coffee, just that we need to do things differently. We need to pray, for protection, Godly justice, and wisdom.

What if we were different? What if we were people whose first reaction was love? What if we raised our families to value kindness, solve problems using critical thinking and effort, and attempt to see things from other people’s perspectives? I know it wouldn’t solve all of the problems we have going on now, but wouldn’t it make things easier?

What I’m saying is this: there is enough gloom, doom, and destruction already. It’s time for hope.

154 Miles

About a year ago, I started doing life coaching with my friend Kate. Mary, #bff extraordinaire, had been working with her on growing her freelance business and I thought, “hmm…I wonder if Kate could do life coaching with me for building up my concept of self-worth.” See, while I had (and thankfully, still have) parents and friends who clearly loved me while I was growing up, I never really connected with that whole “you have value independent of the tasks you’re able to perform” thing. That’s where Kate came in, asking questions that made me look at myself a different way. And after a few months of intentional, pointed conversations, it was clear that was I growing so I took a big step and plunged into online dating. I spent my Sunday afternoons chronicling my “adventures” on this blog for several weeks, partly because they were so ridiculous that they became hilarious, and partly because I wanted to help show all of my friends who are considering online dating that it’s actually not all that scary. And while I met more than a few, umm, special people, I got connected with a pretty great one. We’ve spent the past several months learning more about each other and having 8+ hour dates. He brings me flowers and I send him little care packages to his office. And it’s great.

Only, he and I live 2 1/2 hours away from each other. Our lives are busy and complicated and I only get to see him every 3 or 4 weeks. After I hang up the phone from talking with him, I think through these things and that’s where I stop: with sadness that for the time being, the bulk of my “time” with this man isn’t in person.

Today, though, I had a revelation. See, on one of our last phone calls I was explaining how everything just feels so crazy right now in pretty much every area of life. The Boy pointed out that as long as my foundation is solid and made up of what actually matters, I’ll always ultimately be ok. Things around me can get shaky and feel like they’re crashing down but if a strong foundation has been laid properly, I can rebuild whatever falls. Today I connected that conversation to these moments, when I’m sad because what I want more than pretty much anything is just to be able to actually look into his eyes when I talk to him and I realized that I can see the distance as a huge burden or as an opportunity to lay a solid foundation. I have no idea whether I’ll marry this guy, or the next guy, or the guy after that, but I do know that I want a relationship rooted in good communication. Having 90+% of learning about someone happen over the phone is an insurmountable task if you don’t connect with that person communication-wise. So today, I’m choosing to see a blessing in this.

But don’t me wrong; long distance still sucks. A lot.

I’m not sure I would’ve been able to handle a long-distance relationship with someone in a healthy way if a good friend hadn’t helped me learn more about the value I have. I definitely have moments of doubt where I think (and typically text these questions to this patient man I have found) “why is this guy even with me!?” but those are undoubtedly fewer and farther between than they would have been 18 months ago. I now know a bit more about what I bring to the table in a relationship. The man I wind up marrying will be lucky, indeed.

And I’m positive I will be, too.

Week 1

A week or so ago, I announced to the internet (via Facebook) that I have joined the online dating world for the next few months. Since online dating could either be frustrating or hilarious, I’m going to choose to see it as hilarious and document it on this blog. These will just be quick, blunt bullet point entries and I’m totally willing to elaborate on things. Read it if you want, skip over it if you don’t.
Reflections from Online Dating: Week 1

– Holy CRAP there are a lot of middle-aged men with guns in their profile pictures on christianmingle.com! And most of the guys I’ve seen are divorced, have only completed high school, or both. Ideally, I’d find someone who hasn’t been married before and since education is a huge priority for me (and, you know, my job), bachelors degree, please.
– writing “I have a job” in the space allocated for your profession doesn’t actually convince me that you do.
– also, writing “I have no education” and then claiming to be a scientist or an engineer gives me the feeling that you maybe cook meth in a trailer.
– a guy from christianmingle who said he just wants to follow what Jesus says stopped talking to me after I said I was a virgin waiting til I got married to have sex.
– eHarmony had a deal for 3 months at a SUPER reduced price, so I joined that too, just to see. So far I’ve found some ridiculousness and a few cross-overs between sites.
– this week a man on eHarmony messaged me to ask if I was ready to “settle down and get married.” He likes Hillary Duff and looked like maybe he’d make a coat of my skin, if given the chance.
– if the age gap between me and you is big enough that you could be my father, I am going to reject your advances. Fair warning.

Overall Realization: I’m a lot prettier than I give myself credit for. I may be fat, but that’s AN adjective that describes me, not THE adjective. And all I’m actually looking for out of this experience is a date that helps balance out the last one I went on with an internet man.

Watch What You’re Teaching

No matter who you are,
somebody’s learning from you.
– Kid President

Dear Celebrities,

We haven’t been formally introduced; I’m Kyla. I’m a kindergarten teacher at an elementary school in a small town. I’ve been meaning to write a little something to you but honestly, I just haven’t had the time. #99problems, right?

I spend each work day with 19 5- and 6-year olds. Contrary to popular opinion, kindergarten isn’t about nap time and finger painting. Yes, we teach ABCs and 123s, but more importantly, kindergarten sets the foundation of a child’s education. I’ve spent my entire adult life working with children for a few reasons, the biggest being that I believe in the importance of what I do. In addition to teaching kids how to read, write, and essential foundational math skills, I teach my students about character. I’ve built reading lessons around valuing kindness, spent hours teaching students how to express their feelings in non-destructive ways, and have done my best to instill the values of integrity and respect into each of my students.

Here’s the thing: you, dear celebrities, are making my job harder.

Now, it’s clearly not all of you. It’s not even the majority of you. I’m fairly certain I could google dozens upon dozens of names of celebrities and not immediately be linked to articles depicting that person’s latest destructive shenanigan. For those of you who don’t feature on my Facebook newsfeed or CNN’s front page for negative behaviors, thank you. Seriously.

But the problem is that some of you have figured out that if you have enough money and enough people know your name, you can be immune to the rules, whether they’re laws or just rules of general common decency.

Today I read two articles that disturbed me. The first discussed how Ray Rice could be reinstated in the NFL in a matter of weeks. You remember Ray Rice. The man who was videotaped delivering a knock-out punch to his then-fiancee? Were he just an ordinary person, he would have been arrested and charged with battery. But he’s famous, so that didn’t happen. That’s old news though. How about Joseph Randle, the Dallas Cowboys running back who just became a spokesman for MeUndies – after he attempted to shoplift underwear last week? Yes. Underwear. The article reports that he makes roughly $500,000. Public record will show you that my annual salary is $35,345. Never once have I debated pocketing a package of panties and scooting out Target’s front door. If I did, I’m positive I’d be waiting arraignment, not profiting from a decision to break the law. He already makes more than 14 times my annual salary. And now he’ll make even more.

I’m sorry, can I just have a second to freak out? 14 times my annual salary. 14 times!! I mean, I’m a teacher so I didn’t take my job for the great pay, but seriously. Come on. Buy your own underwear.

Let’s shift focus though, because I could very easily get stuck here and I really did intend for this to be a short letter. I know you’re busy and I am too.

I understand and value the 1st Amendment. I mean, it’s what allows me to write this letter to you. You also have the right to express yourself, and boy-howdy have some of you taken that right seriously! I mean, Miley Cyrus really went for it at the VMAs a few years ago. You could argue that it’s a parent’s job to censor what their child is exposed to, and you’d be right. But what am I supposed to tell a parent whose child has heard the first line of Jason Derulo’s song “Wiggle” belted across the kindergarten playground for the 3rd time in as many weeks? Just as you cannot control who hears your music, I cannot control who repeats it.

How, then, am I to teach my students that respect, integrity, and kindness are crucial values when they have so many examples to the contrary not only readily available to see, but that the people who make these choices are often rewarded for their bad behaviors?

There’s a lesson that I teach my kindergarteners that I think pretty much everyone needs to learn (sometimes, myself included). It’s really quite simple: you are not the most important person in the world; other people matter too. Oh, celebrities, if you truly understood how much my tiny, innocent kindergarteners looked up to you! I am not asking you to change who you are, I’m asking you to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

You reproduce who you are. Be worth reproducing.

Love,
Kyla

10 Quick Things

Over the past 2 months I have written at least ten blog posts in my head. Some of them were at moments when I was angry, like when I read Facebook status #68 in my news feed that claimed all teachers were monsters who care only about implementing standards at the expense of student learning and using highly-inappropriate curriculum because they don’t care about their students (ok, so I embellished that one a little, but seriously, it was almost that bad). Some of them grew out of moments of gratitude for the little tiny things that happen and some from a deep-seeded desire to change the world for the better. None of them made it out of my head, though, because it isn’t the right time for them, especially the ones on teaching. One day I’ll be able to compose my thoughts about Common Core and education and present them in a way that won’t get me fired from my job or make national news. And for now, Kid President has a decent grasp on changing the world for the better. So instead, here are ten things I’ve learned over the course of 29 years.

  • The fastest way to feel good about yourself is to do something good for someone else and not seek anything from them in return.
  • The most important things you do probably won’t be big. In fact, most of them will likely seem tiny and innocuous. And almost all of them will be things done for other people.
  • You are responsible for the choices you make and the consequences that come along with those choices, whether they’re immediate or happen 10 years from now.
  • Mistakes are only good if you actually learn something from them.
  • There are things that you won’t want to do because they require time and/or effort. Do them anyway.
  • Expecting a person to meet all of your needs isn’t fair to that person. That isn’t the job of your best friend or boyfriend or spouse and the more pressure you put on them to be your everything, the more quickly your relationship will deteriorate.
  • What comes out of your mouth really is what’s in your heart.
  • Life is better when you choose to be kind, regardless of other people’s decisions.
  • If you let it, the one bad moment of your day will destroy the memories of the 35 good moments.
  • True strength is shown when you’re vulnerable and transparent with the right people.