Art, Don't Judge, Respect, Tattoos, Uncategorized

Tattoo or Taboo?

Tattoos…..once reserved for military (I think of the Navy), and motorcycle gangs, have become quite the norm today.  A lot people consider them trashy or crude, or unnecessary.  It’s actually hard to find someone without a tattoo today. I’ve seen trashy and poorly thought out tattoos, but I’ve also met rude, classless people who have no tattoos.

I am not pro or anti tattoos.  If someone wants to have one, that is entirely their choice.  I wouldn’t want anyone to get one from peer pressure.  I also wouldn’t want anyone to get one just to have one, without giving much thought to what they’re putting on their body.  After all, it is permanent.  I don’t think anyone under the age of 25 should have one, unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as honoring a family member, or commemorating a special date.  What we value at 18 is not necessarily what we value at 25.  Therefore, I’ve told my children that I would prefer they wait….if they still want the same thing at 25 that they did at 18, then go for it. Also, a tattoo or piercing should never keep you from having the job you desire, so location is also something to consider.

I haven’t always felt this way.  I used to think they were inappropriate, and you shouldn’t scar your body this way.  However, as I have gotten older, and have faced some personal tragedies in my life, I don’t have such strong feelings about something that shouldn’t make a difference in my life.  Someone else’s tattoo, and the way they choose to express themselves isn’t my business, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone.  I don’t take issue with someone who is practicing self expression.  If someone wants a tattoo, and wants to express themselves in an artistic way, that is their choice.  I have seen some beautiful tattoos on women who have had mastectomies.  I have seen others cover other types of scars that may be a reminder to them of a painful time.  To cover their scars with beautiful artwork is coping in a positive way, a statement of survival, and it is their choice.  To some, the choice to have a tattoo is a very personal one, and the message they choose to display may mean something very deep, or be very emotional for them.

Some tattoo art is also beautiful (and some is quite hideous!).  Artists of different styles and methods should respect another artist’s work.  I can’t imagine that it’s an easy art to master!  It would take years of practice, patience, and talent.  I would think the skin as a canvas would be much different to work on than a mural on a wall!

Self expression, creativity, and honoring what we love in a display on our bodies is not something to criticize or condemn.  Respect the message.  Respect the artist’s work.  Respect the individual with the display of self expression on their body.  Respect.

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Coping, Just Breathe, Uncategorized, Unexpected Life Events

The Unexpected

Unexpected occurrences can leave us feeling happy, excited, frustrated, scared, sad, mad, or maybe even lonely.  There aren’t a lot of true surprises in life anymore.  One of the real surprises in life is when you find out what gender your newborn child will be.  I never wanted to know because I wanted to be surprised.  I’m still glad I waited on that one. Things happen that we don’t expect, though.  Life doesn’t always happen the way we want or expect. That’s okay. They say it’s all about the journey, right?

The last few years, I’ve had some unexpected things happen.  I went back to teaching after a brief hiatus from the profession…..I had a really bad experience with dishonest people in a private school.  I published my first book about the crazy things my students have said and done.  I married my best friend, and found happiness I never thought was meant for me.  I’ve had one financial set back after another, which has left me afraid and questioning why greed and dishonesty seem to pay.  I’ve had a couple of serious health issues that were just the luck of the draw, and not caused by heredity or anything I did wrong. With each situation, I’ve kept focusing on the positive, trying to stay upbeat, and it isn’t always easy.  Surprises. Unexpected events.  Life.

Like I said, it’s all about the journey.  As I’m typing this, my sweet husband is on his way home from spending a few days in New York with his family.  His flight was delayed due to weather, which is causing him to miss his connecting flight, making it a long stressful day for him, not knowing what to expect, or what time he’ll get home.  It happens when you fly, but still unexpected and frustrating.

Being prepared for the unexpected is almost impossible, no matter how much we tell ourselves the opposite.  We are taught to be kind and respectful (most of us), but sometimes that isn’t enough to get along with everyone.  We are taught to be responsible with money (most of us), but things happen to put a kink in our finances, and can put us in desperate situations.  We are taught to take care of our bodies by eating right and exercising, but sometimes things happen that are out of our control.

Dealing with unexpected events can be hard, especially if you feel alone.  We can pray, sing, breathe, meditate, scream, throw things, go for a walk, work out, read, write, cry, etc. Having someone to help you through helps too….a friend or spouse to provide a hug and a shoulder to lean on….a support group….a counselor.  Whatever helps someone cope is okay, as long as it isn’t drugs or alcohol.  Don’t go down that road to cope with your struggles.  That might make things worse.  There isn’t one solution for every unexpected event for every person.  As I’ve said before, our differences make this world a beautiful place, so dealing with personal setbacks, or surprises, isn’t one size fits all.  Patience is essential in every situation.

Surprises.  Unexpected events.  The journey of life.  Hold on.  Breathe.  Be patient.

Back to School, Respecting our Educators, Teacher Salaries, Uncategorized

Back to School…..and the Poor House!

Well, it’s that time of year again…..back to school!  I’ve seen the displays in the stores since right after the 4th of July, which I believe is way too early.  When I was younger, school didn’t start until late August, or sometimes (depending on where I was living), after Labor Day.

Getting school supplies was always a high point when I was a child.  I would take them home and organize them, and my mother would write my name on everything, in her beautiful handwriting.  I remember taking my own children to get their school supplies, and letting them pick out their notebooks, folders, pencils, lunchboxes, backpacks, etc. Excitement was in the air!

As an educator, I still have to buy school supplies.  I usually wait for the tax free holiday to save some extra money.  You see, I teach in a title school, and most of my students can’t afford supplies.  I buy extra, and try to stock up during the back to school sales, to get through the whole year…..extra boxes of crayons, glue, paper, scissors, pencils, erasers, highlighters, dry erase markers, folders, 3-ring binders, tissues……and so on.  That doesn’t include the trips to the teacher supply store, buying new charts and classroom decorations.  Elementary school teachers need to make their classrooms appealing, inviting, fun, and colorful.  It needs to be a happy, friendly environment for our students. I could easily spend $500 on this.  Then throughout the year, I have to replace these items, and buy more supplies.  I can spend over $1000 every year just on my classroom.

Here’s the problem….in case you aren’t aware, teachers don’t make a lot of money. Currently, my district has yet to settle on our contracts for the year we just finished, and now we are going into another year, working on a contract that is two years old.  This is quite normal, so I’m not criticizing just my district.  It’s the whole establishment.  With increasing insurance premiums, some of us make less money each year without our cost of living raises.  I’ve been in this profession for 27 years, and currently make what I made 20 years ago.

Times are hard. I saw a teacher on the news this week who took to the streets with a sign (much like homeless people do), requesting funds for her classroom.  I thought it was a brilliant idea, but why should we have to swallow our pride, and stand out in the 100 degree heat to have enough money for our classrooms?  We are college educated professionals.  It shouldn’t be this way.

My district pays us in June for the whole summer.  We won’t receive another paycheck until September 15th.  If there are any unexpected expenses throughout the summer, it can set you back, and leave you short of funds.  In my case, I have had health issues the last two summers, resulting in medical bills not covered by our insurance.  Where will we find money to pay for our living expenses?  House payment?  Car loans?  Medical bills?  Utilities?  Oh, and then there’s those school supplies that everyone expects us to buy…..  We don’t have it.

I once had a school board president tell me that teachers are not the “sharpest tools in the shed” because if we were, we would have chosen a career that paid better.  He inherited his position as president of a manufacturing company, and I was apparently sharp enough to teach his son, but he didn’t have any respect for me or the profession! This was one of the most disrespectful comments I have ever heard when it comes to educators, and from a board president, no less.

I won’t go into detail of how packed our days are at school.  That would take entirely too long.  My day starts at 4 AM, and it’s an exhausting day!  Let’s just say if we were paid what we are worth (education, experience, professionalism), none of us would be struggling financially, or begging for supplies or financial assistance.  And maybe we/I wouldn’t have health problems if I weren’t worried constantly about finances.  Yes, we get our summers off, but a lot of us are working 2 or 3 other jobs during this time to make ends meet.  And, with health problems, it makes it hard to work another full time job in the summer.

Something needs to give when it comes to teacher salary.  The powers that be need to start respecting the profession, and those who have dedicated so much of themselves to educating our future.  My bank account can’t afford this, and neither can my health.

drama queens, Uncategorized

Drama Queens

Drama queens…..we all know them.  Some of us may admit to being one.  Some of us are drama kings.  I’ve even heard my 6 and 7 year old students call each other drama queens.  I’ve heard people proclaim, “I hate drama!” while they are in the thick of creating a dramatic thunderstorm.  Men claim that women are more dramatic, but I’ve been around plenty of men who create their own drama.  Some people really seem to thrive on it, whether they are creating it in their own lives, or creating it in someone else’s.  I think to some extent, we have all probably been guilty of that, especially as children, but there comes a time to let go of that.  There are also different levels of dramatic behavior. Some dramatic behavior is less harmful than others.

I think that a lot of people create drama for attention.  They have a need for attention, and if they aren’t getting it, they will create something to draw attention to themselves.  I think others really enjoy creating havoc in someone else’s life, and like watching people either hurt or scramble to pick up the pieces.  That takes me back to middle and high school, with the girls, and talking about each other, flirting with each other’s boyfriends, etc.  Fortunately, I had some pretty good friends growing up, and there wasn’t much of that.  Most of us are still very close and supportive of each other.

But where does the need to dramatize, or stir up trouble come from?  Why is it a thrill for some people to try to “win,” cause trouble, or hurt each other?  We see it in politics, hear about it through the gossip of Hollywood, see it in the workplace, or within our own families and friends.  Is it to get people to like us, or pity us?  Why is it satisfying to intentionally hurt people?  Is it learned, or are we born with a “mean gene?”  Is it about competition?  Is it about attention?  Is it just human nature?  I had an employer once who got involved in the employees’ personal lives, and even started rumors about which employees might be dating!  It didn’t matter that one of them might be married!  She just found joy in stirring up trouble, all the while proclaiming, “I hate drama!”  WHY?!

I am one of those who truly does hate drama, and tends to keep to myself in order to avoid it.  I actually feel sick to my stomach if I find myself in the middle of it! Why can’t people be nice?  We all have our differences, and that’s what makes this a beautiful world.  But no one needs to be mean, cruel, or create problems for others for entertainment purposes or for attention.  No one.  I have found myself in tense or dramatic situations, and because I’m a “doormat,” I say nothing and let it eat at me.  If, however, I see someone else being treated unfairly, bullied, or laughed at, just to satisfy a drama queen’s thirst for creating havoc, I will put a stop to it.  My fuse tends to be much slower when it comes to myself, but that only lasts for so long……maybe I will write about that another time.

I’ve heard that people create their own drama in their lives, but I don’t believe that is the case all of the time.  I believe that some people create their own drama, and if that’s what makes them thrive, then that’s ok….as long as they aren’t hurting anyone else.  The rest of us are just doing the best we can, trying to be nice and compassionate to each other, facing each day, and what it brings.

Doormat, Loyalty, Self respect, Uncategorized

Nice to Meet You….I’m a Doormat

Have you ever known a doormat?  Some of us are doormats.  I believe it’s a choice to be this way, but a lot of my problem is that I was brought up to be nice, and non- confrontational, not doing anything to embarrass myself or family, or show any anger. Sometimes I really wish I could stand up for myself more without being looked at as a bitch.  I tend to stand up for others a lot faster than I do for myself.  I am fiercely loyal and protective of those I love, and will stop at nothing to defend or protect them.  However, when it comes to standing up for myself, I’m a doormat.

I am extremely sensitive, which can be a strength and a weakness.  I can hurt for others, and feel their pain, but I also get my own feelings hurt pretty easily, especially when I try so hard to be a good person, and be compassionate to others.  The difference is that when I hurt for someone else, I attempt to reach out, console, or comfort them.  That’s just the way I am.  I can’t let someone suffer with sadness, anger, grief, or guilt without attempting to help them.  I believe this is one of the reasons I’m a good teacher…..I feel for the struggling student. But when I get my own feelings hurt, I need the same type of compassion and comfort, and there aren’t a lot of people who can see it in me because I suppress it, and hold in that pain, so as not to be selfish or embarrass myself. Believe me, those scars run very deep! I don’t want to make situations worse, so I keep my mouth shut.  Sometimes it comes out as sarcastic humor, or self deprecating humor.  That’s a defense mechanism I learned early, which I discussed in an earlier blog, in trying to entertain everyone.  Then I go home and cry because of the pain.

I realize that suppressing hurt is not a healthy trait to have.  My parents were both worriers, and it affected their health.  I’m afraid I got a double dose of it.  I’ve always wanted to make others feel good about themselves, be supportive, show an interest, cheer them up, make them laugh, and even if they have been hurtful to me (to my face or behind my back), I still treat them with respect and kindness.  I might tell a funny story about my escapades, or make people laugh to hide any hurt I might feel.  I know that being nice is the right thing to do, but it sometimes makes me mad that I allow words or actions of others to hurt me, and I don’t say anything.  Some would say I need a backbone.  If I were a man, I’d be told to “grow a pair.” I’ve been told to stop being a doormat.  I have stood up for so many people over the years, and all I want is for others to stand up for me when I need it (or deserve it).  I need a “me” to stand up for me!

I can count on a few people to stand up for me, and I’m fortunate to have them.  They know my heart and my struggles. They know how tender my heart is, how much I would do for others, and how much I value the positive happy things in life…..the beauty in our world, and always looking for the good people in it.  Maybe someday I will stop being a doormat, and learn to love myself as much as I love those around me.

Be Happy, Happiness, Married to My Best Friend, Passion for Living, Relationships, Uncategorized

Happiness is…..Wherever You Find It

What makes us happy?  What are we passionate about?  Recently, my pastor made the statement that you “can’t teach passion.”  He was talking about ministry, but I’ve been thinking a lot about that statement, and how it applies to our happiness, and where we find our happiness.  Is it truly from within?  Without some type of outside influence, we may not find our happiness, whether it’s our jobs, our children or grandchildren, a hobby, or significant other.  Can we be happy just to exist without others, books, art, pets, music, entertainment, or writing? Some people find their happiness in making others miserable, and that’s something I don’t understand.  I’ve spent time being unhappy or unsure of things in my life.  Haven’t we all?  Yet, the last few years I have felt more confident and sure of myself, and my place in the world.  I believe I am much more kind than I used to be.  I would have to attribute that to the love I have for my husband, and strength we draw from each other to be better people.

I had a “friend,” a few years ago, who I will refer to as Olive.  Olive was a very unhappy person, and was in an unhappy marriage.  She and I worked together, and really hadn’t known each other for very long.  Because Al had not yet moved here, and Olive was in a bad marriage, we had time to go to lunch or movies together, or hang out occasionally. If you know me, you know that I keep my circle of friends very small and personal.  I have a lot of friends that have been my friends for most of my life, and I don’t let too many people in my “bubble.”  My friends are spread about throughout the United States from all of the places I’ve lived.  I prefer to keep it that way because I don’t like the cattiness and competition that a lot of women practice.  I don’t like the gossipy, manipulative, controlling ways of a lot of women.  I don’t trust easily because of this, so even going to lunch and movies with Olive was venturing outside of my comfort zone in the friend area.  I witnessed her be rude and catty to other women, and it made me uncomfortable.  She enjoyed telling people what to do in their personal and professional lives, and came across as very bossy.

After Al moved here, he and I were spending our time building our relationship.  We had taken a long time to build a friendship, and then move into a committed relationship. We had both spent time being unsure of ourselves, and our places in the world, and had made the commitment to be together because we made each other happy.  It was time.  Olive did not like this one bit, and was very jealous.  She was still in a very unhappy marriage, and was jealous of Al, and our commitment to each other.  We are now in our 50’s.  We don’t know how much time we will have together in this lifetime. We want to enjoy what time we have.  We had both had failed marriages, and had learned from our mistakes.  Our focus is, and was, on each other, and building our future together.  Our passion and happiness became being together, and just being happy……just BEING.  Our true friends were very happy for us, and several have said that they would love to have what we have…..not petty, or jealous.  They just see and appreciate what we have and what we are building together, and are sincerely happy for us.  We give each other the space and time we each need, when needed, to spend with friends or family.  We respect each other.  It’s very easy to be together because of the respect we have for each other.

I can honestly say that we never meddled in Olive’s personal life, even though she felt compelled to meddle in ours.  We both tried to be there for her when she was struggling with the end of her marriage.  As I spent more time with Al, and less time with Olive, she became very mean and treated me terribly. One day she looked at me with pity, and shook her head, saying, “Ohhhh Lauri! You’ve LOST yourself!” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!  I was happier than I had been in a very long time, and was trying to focus on the man I chose to be my partner in life.  I was hearing this unhappy woman condescendingly tell me that I had LOST myself!?!? But then, maybe she was right…….I lost the negativity and anger I had about men and relationships.  I lost the insecurities, and feelings of low self worth.  But I FOUND a much happier person that I didn’t know existed anymore.  I found that I was much calmer, and less anxious.  I had a partner to lean on.  I found a passion for life, and was happily building a life with my best friend.  I found that my passion is our life together.  Why was she trying to kill that?  That was very near the end of my friendship with Olive.  She just became too hateful and nasty.  Recently, I heard that Olive is getting remarried. I hope she’s marrying her best friend.  I hope she understands now that being committed to someone else, and being married to your best friend is a really beautiful thing, not something to try to kill in someone else’s life.  I hope she loses herself in this relationship, and finds a kinder, nicer person when she looks in the mirror.

Whether your passion is your children, your travels, music, restoring cars, painting, animal rights, fitness, cooking, entertaining, story telling, friends, religion, reading, or your significant other…..be happy……and remember that we all deserve that.  We all want it and deserve it.