Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Working From "Home"

This morning I attended the "new teacher breakfast" for Mountain Brook.  Last week I attended the Learning Conference that our Foundation helps fund.  Next week I will attend Institute Day--a day dedicated to the faculty, staff, and administrators in our system to get them prepared and motivated for the upcoming school year.  Then, on August 13th, a new school year will begin.  It's been a great summer, and as much as May felt hectic, I am ready for that new beginning.  I really don't have any explanation for that other than I have the best job in the world.  

I don't know how many of you have the opportunity to work in a place you call home.  Perhaps a church or school where you grew up.  A family business.  Maybe you're simply working in your hometown.  I also don't know how many of you have the privilege of working in a place that produces excellence in everything it does.  Somehow, I lucked into the combination of both of these things.  

Today I stood at a podium to address the newest crop of teachers in the Mountain Brook School System. As I looked out into the crowd I saw not just new faces, but old ones.  My high school principal who is now our superintendent. My high school volleyball coach.  And even the Trig teacher who is solely responsible for me passing high school math after spending his daily free time helping me understand concepts that felt foreign to me.  Eleven years after I graduated high school these people are all still there.  Still impacting lives. Other faces have changed.  There are new teachers much younger than I am, nervous and excited for their first jobs.  There are veteran teachers who have come to Mountain Brook from other districts for the opportunity to work with (as one said today) "the best of the best."

As I stood at that podium I felt ownership.  A sense of home.  A sense of pride.  Not just because this is an excellent place, but because it is MY excellent place.  This is a place and a school system that reared me.  A place that taught me what it was to learn.  To strive to be my best.  It challenged me.  Or, I should say, the people in it did all of those things.  It is not a perfect place.  Now, like when I was a student, it has its struggles, as all places do.  But it is a place where excellence is the standard while at the same time individuals are cared for and nurtured right where they are.  It's not a private school.  But it doesn't really feel like a public school either.  It's hard to explain to someone who has never been a part of it. But today I heard it described as family, and I can identify with that.  

Somehow, after nine years away, I was able to come home and work with my family.  For that, I am extremely thankful. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Riding with Meme and Paw Paw

Almost a year ago we moved my mom's parents from their house of 50 years into an apartment at St. Martin's in the Pines.  They are getting older (my grandfather turns 90 next month) and growing more frail, both mentally and physically.  In addition to the move, another result of their age is the preference of my mom that they not drive at night.  Seeing as how St. Martin's and Fox Hall are practically neighbors, this has given me several opportunities to play "chauffeur" for them anytime we have a family gathering.  These car rides have become precious to me as they have been times for us to catch up, for me to update them on my life and for them to tell me about the most recent speaker or musician to visit St. Martin's.

Last night on one of these rides, as I was taking them back to St. Martin's, somehow we got to talking about the Bible or church or something.  My grandfather casually spit out "Yeah, I just finished reading the book of Isaiah to Meme."

Sidenote: Meme is my grandmother who, up until just a few years ago, was the quintessential grandmother.  Dodding on her grandchildren.  Cooking for us.  Keeping up with our every move.  Thinking we were perfect.  Then the dementia set in.  And although she still (thankfully) remembers us, it is easy to see how this disease has taken a toll on her spirit.  The roles are now reversed.  We are now charged with being HER biggest cheerleaders and reminding her of how wonderful she is and how much we love her.  My grandfather is still with it.  For being almost 90, he has all of his mental faculties, but it's easy to see how Meme's disease is also taking a toll on him.  I remember one day thinking "this is kind of like The Notebook."  He has to constantly bring her back to reality.  Remind her where they live.  One time he even had to convince her he was her husband, not her brother (who has been dead for most of my life).  Last night, I realized this is a lot more like The Notebook than I had originally thought.  Except instead of re-reading her the story of their lives together, every night Paw Paw reads Meme THE story.

He told me last night that he has read through the Bible 10 times now in his life.  He has recently started reading it to Meme.  He didn't tell me this to brag or condemn or even challenge me. He just casually said it as though it were essential to his daily routine; which it is.  "Yeah, we finished Isaiah last night so now we'll move on to Jeremiah."  I wanted to say "Isaiah! That's a tough book! Did you have a commentary?" Or, "Jeremiah, did you know he is known as the 'weeping prophet' and that he also wrote the book of Lamentations?" But I didn't.  Because for some reason my know-it-all self realized in that moment that this was not a time for me to show off my Bible knowledge.  This moment was a gift.  A time for me to just listen and observe what it looks like to love someone for 70 years.  To walk humbly and faithfully.  The realize your need for grace in the most basic way.  So, instead, I just said "wow, Paw Paw, that's awesome!"  To which, Meme replied "Yeah, he's read it enough, maybe one of these days he'll memorize it!"  She still clearly believes the best about the ones she loves!