Monday, January 30, 2017

This Is Who I Am...

When asked my profession, I don't think most people understand the reply "I'm an ESL teacher." More understand "I teach English as a Second Language." To that reply, I get the occasional nod. To the latter, I sometimes get a blank stare and then a request to explain more about what I do. 

Sometimes, as in the Kroger checkout line when my teaching badge is still hanging from my shirt, I get lectured. The one that sticks in my head the most: "Those kids should be learning English as their FIRST language! They live in America, for God's sake! I can't believe that's what you do!" To outrageous replies like this, which have been few and far between (thank the Lord!). I have a standard reply that I give that's very calm and collected, factual and straight-forward. Those of you who know me know it takes a great deal to get me riled up about something. 

But what I do, the profession that I choose for my life, is one thing that tugs at my heart strings. It is who I am, and it is not something that I always feel is understood outside the world of education. And at this moment in time and with the state of our country, I feel riled up.

So here it is:

For those of you who don't know exactly what I do, I educate immigrant children.

And I love what I do. 


The students I teach have immigrated to this country in various ways or for various reasons. Some students have been adopted. Other students' families are fleeing war. Some students' families come for their job or to further their education. Some had no jobs, no money, no way to keep their family above water, so they moved here: the land of opportunity. Some students' families have been here for generations, just like mine and many, many of yours. 

It honestly doesn't matter how they got here. I teach them English all the same. I teach them English to be successful in school and to be successful in life. That is my job. Even if it weren't my job and I didn't get paid to do it, I would still be honored to be a part of these families lives and their stories, helping them when and where I can.

You see, it doesn't matter whether these students and their families are Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Atheist, or non-denominational.  It doesn't matter whether they're from Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Norway, Kenya, Mexico, or Venezuela. 

These immigrants--these families---are just like us. 

They love, they laugh, they cry, they work, they pray, they get frustrated just like us. 

Their religion doesn't define their humanity. Their homelands do not define their humanity either.

As a member of the human race on this planet, I am standing with my students and their families who are immigrants. I support them and I care about them. I'll be damned if anyone decides that because they are immigrants of a certain faith or homeland that they are not welcome in this country. 

I am American. I believe in American values and I stand with these immigrant families for now and always. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

When Love Has No Place to Go

Ever since my dad passed away almost 9 years ago, the holidays have been different. The first few Christmases were definitely not the same. Of course, I shared Christmas breakfast and lunch with my family. We exchanged presents and ate Christmas cookies. Even though I walked through the motions and traditions of the holidays, they didn't feel the same. I missed my dad; the ache in my heart that started once my dad passed was hard to ignore. 

At 26, I had not expected to lose my dad. The shock of it all gripped me for some time after he passed. Eventually the shock gave way to extreme sadness, missing my fun-loving dad especially at the holidays. Seeing my mom struggle through those first few years was just as difficult and added to the sadness. I was trying to learn how to live my life without my dad, and it wasn't easy. My new normal was one that I had not wanted and accepting it was even harder. 

Nine years later, I still miss my dad with all my heart, but the ache and the pain are not what they used to be. It was so much easier to enjoy the holidays this year: cooking great food, playing with my niece, having a nice drink, anticipating my family opening the gifts I got them, and just relaxing. This was a good holiday. 

As I get older I also believe that it is easier for me because I know my dad is with me. Every day when I wake up, while I'm driving to school, while I'm cooking dinner, I know he's there. I feel him with me every day. It's hard to explain, but I just do. I always have, but as the years have passed, I have gotten used to his new role in my life. My dad's there when I need to vent. He's there when I feel like chatting. He's there just to be there. And I'm okay with that now. 

I recently read a quote that changed my perspective on how I was feeling in my grief process. I can't remember where I saw it, but it really touched me and I'm glad. At the time my dad passed, a lot of things in my life changed and a lot of things in my family's lives changed. We were all in survival mode, so I know I did not get the chance in those first months and years after he passed to grieve the loss of my dad completely. Over the years, I have been able to grieve his loss, and this quote also helps explain why the process was so difficult for me:

Image result for grief love building up

I realized this was what I was feeling all along. I had so much love that I wanted to give my dad. I wanted to hug him, to have him walk me down the aisle, to share my new home with him, to just call him and tell him I love him. That was the hardest part to deal with. I had so much love for my dad, and it would just build up inside of me with no where to go. After awhile, I realized that I could send that love to him in other ways.

I talk to my dad in the car, while cooking dinner, and walking the dog. Sometimes I feel his big hugs while we talk, and I can't help but smile. Just thinking about him and picturing his smiling face makes my heart swell. My life without my dad is definitely different, but I've realized that this is the turn my life has taken. I've found other ways to send him love, and it makes me happy. 

On Christmas morning, I closed my eyes and saw my dad with his bed head in his pajamas. His baggy pajama pants a little too short for his six foot one frame. His long white t-shirt had stained with tea on the collar from dribbling his drink while reading the paper. He giggled childishly, shaking the present I handed him trying to see if he could guess what's inside. I laughed. My heart smiled as it always does when I think of him. I sent him my love, he sent me his, and I carried him with me hoping he enjoyed Christmas this year as much as I did. 

To anyone grieving the loss of a loved one through the holidays, you are in my thoughts. Sending you so much love and healing energy. 

Love and happiness <3 Holly