Tag Archives: inspiration

Portraits of Love

D&MAngryEvery day.

Four eyes hit me with judgment and love.

Dark lashes fan the flecks of green and yellow floating in a sea of amber.

Love.

Striking out of a pool of black.

Forgiveness.

But, as they grow I forget that they were always doing this.

Waves of black and brown frame her face instead of pigtails.

Wisps of brown float across his forehead, one eye squinting.

Glaring at me.

Darts.

Hit me with a pinch then a sting.

I know every crinkle in their skin, still plump, even now, at fourteen and ten.

They remind me that I’m just like them.

Not above, not below them.

We dance this dance together.

Flawed.

Crazy.

Fun.

Angry.

Little.

Fierce.

Human.

Love.

Written by Lisa Chesser
Portraits

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To Warm the Soul

Connection
When I wrote about how my grandmother had suffered through Alzheimer’s disease and my struggle with losing her both mentally and physically, the response from fellow bloggers warmed my soul almost as if they were sitting right next to me allowing me to rest my head on their shoulders.

"I'll make ya laugh."
“I’ll make ya laugh.”

Passing Through Madness

Blogging, changed my life because the connections I made became even more meaningful than some long-time friendships and brought other people with similar depth and interests closer to me.

When I write, I connect to a place hidden from the me who I think I am or the me who I want to be or the me who everyone wants me to be. I may start with an idea or a purpose, but within a minute or so, I find the me who I really am and sometimes that secret me connects to another hidden being, someone I never knew existed.

I know other bloggers feel the same.

When I first started blogging, it was here at WordPress. I really knew nothing else. I just knew that I wanted to write and connect with other writers. I’d been busy teaching after being a full-time mom and my relationships with the working world and friendships in general felt stunted and, well, disconnected.

So when I read through all different kinds of blogs, I found myself laughing, nodding, and often-enough crying. So I thought about the idea of creating my own blog and just knew that I had to open up as well.

Four years ago, I was Freshly Pressed with a post about my children’s “Refrigerator Art” Refrigerator Art Changed My Life and the connections I made have lasted to this day. Even the talented Cheri Lucas Rowland liked my post, and here I am writing inspired by one of her discover challenges.

The same people who “liked” and “commented” on that post also comforted me when I wrote about struggles with Scoliosis Exercising My Scoliosis Demons and the loss of my grandmother .

At various times over the years, life became so overwhelming at certain points that I considered and reconsidered leaving WordPress behind. Being a teacher and a mother challenges the best of us, let alone being married and attempting to continue writing and educating yourself. Then throw into the mix health concerns and the death of someone who meant the world to you.

But, it was and is the connections I’ve experienced here that have kept and do keep me blogging. They keep me brave, smart, bold, and loved.

 

Does money matter for teachers?

People used to ask me, “What do you do?”

I’d say, “I’m a Publications Specialist.” Before that I’d say, “I’m an editor, writer, graphic artist, or copy editor.” They’d nod and smile in approval and ask more questions about it. I felt respected.

Now, when people ask that question, I say, “I’m a teacher.” Their eyes pop open, sometimes there’s a gasp or a grunt or even a hiss with a dramatic “Ouch” at the end. I was startled that at first. I stopped wanting to answer people. I avoided the question when we were meeting people. Sometimes I even told my husband that I would just say I’m a writer and editor because I still am so I’m not lying or anything. I’d just leave out what I do the majority of the time throughout the year.

But, I couldn’t avoid it completely. So as I started answering that question more and more, I realized people just felt sorry for me when I said I was a teacher and it didn’t have to be bad. So, I’d laugh and grunt with them. I’d agree and then unload my frustrations on them. It felt kind of good considering that I needed counseling after all the rough weeks of teaching.

However, the underlying problem of telling people that I am a teacher never seemed to change.

There’s a tangible lack of respect for teachers. We are jokes. We are servants. We are babysitters. We can’t do anything else. We are burps in a person’s life that they’d like to forget about.

Or, we are honored for being so special that we work for scraps thrown from the dinner table and educate the children who will someday rule over all of us and either save or destroy the world. This latter “honored” reaction, I’ve found, happens a lot less than the other negative ones.

Somewhere, far, far away

According to an article in The Guardian, How the job of teachers compares around the world, there’s respect for Chinese teachers and teachers in Finland receive the monetary rewards that make teaching worthwhile and transform it into a respected, even sought-after profession.

So, yes, asking “Does money matter to teachers?” is a loaded question, I know. Many teachers would say, “Sit down and let’s talk for at least two weeks about why teachers absolutely need to be paid more.” Still others would say, “It’s not about the money.”

Despite either reaction, let’s just say this, teachers deserve more money based on the fact that they work endless hours and hold the world’s future in their hands. And, of course, I’m talking about the good ones. Those who look like they’ve been through WW III after the first week of school and lug stacks of papers back and forth from the school to their homes.

There was a video I watched about a year ago about applying to a demanding job.

People who were applying for jobs were asked by their potential employers to do what moms do without knowing that it was actually a list of tasks that every mom does. And, we all know moms don’t get paid for what they do. The people interviewing for the jobs were horrified and immediately rejected the jobs. In the end, when they were told that they were really applying for the job that all moms do, their faces changed to a knowing, a deep appreciation, a realization that only mothers do something so insanely valuable for no pay whatsoever.

I would argue that good teachers come close to that idea. Is it the same? Absolutely not, just the same idea.

To say we as teachers don’t work for the money is quite true. To say we shouldn’t demand more pay is not fair and ridiculous.

Dedication

We don’t work for the money because we’re paid nothing compared to the amount of hours we put into it. We grade stacks of papers at home throughout the week—if we are good teachers. We chase students around about homework, classwork, quizzes, and tests. We counsel them when they make mistakes and think they can’t go on. We care for them like they’re our own children. Then, we send them home to hopefully do homework, study, and sleep. We start over the next day even if we know they stayed up late playing video games and didn’t do homework.

Given that we are a world that runs on money, teachers need it not only to survive but to hope for more, to fuel their own fire if they’re giving so much of their energies to teaching.

It’s a profession with very raw, concrete value; yet, it’s treated as a volunteer opportunity offering little respect. Why would anyone with an ounce of respect want to teach or even continue to teach then?

We wouldn’t. In fact, any teacher worth their salt and willing to be honest will tell you that he or she contemplated leaving more than once. Many teachers make other plans and go as far as to pack their materials, but they remember their students, their lessons, the challenges that made them better human beings, and they think of the future without dedicated teachers.

We don’t do it for the money, but that’s precisely why teachers, good, hardworking, dedicated teachers, should be paid as much as any professional and respected equally or even more.

What’s interesting though, is that as a writer, editor, graphic artist, and publications specialist, I started out getting paid significantly less than an average public school teacher yet I got a whole lot more respect.

See You In the Next Life Joan Rivers

Seeing her face plastered all over the news brought me right back here. I wrote about my sister, Jill Michele Melean, who’s also a comedian and actress like Joan Rivers. When they met, it was magnetic. My sister never forgot her time with Joan because it was genuine. Experiencing authenticity in Los Angeles tends to be a rare event.

When she gripped Joan’s hand when appearing on Fashion Police, my sister felt the energy of an Olympic Torch being passed to her. This is what I mean. Being a comedian in Los Angeles, let alone being a woman comedian anywhere, takes guts and resilience. When Joan and Jill connected, it set off fiery sparks that ignite when two people walk the sam plateau.

Whenever my sister felt down, she remembered Joan and steadied her shaky footing.

That’s what our heroes give us. That’s why they live on.

Read more at Woman of Steel Uses Laughter as Weapon.

For some chuckles in between the tears, check out Jill’s website and YouTube 

 

Keep Your Head in the Clouds

Oh, look at that!
It’s a panda. You see it? There’s a ship. Look look look.
Where?
Right there, follow my finger. You see it?
No. Well sort of.
Ooowa! That one’s weird. I think it’s an old man. He’s smiling. See?
Yeah! I see it…

See anything?
See anything?

I lied.
I saw nothing. Really. Just nothing. It was humiliating.
I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t even see shapes in the clouds. I’m broken.
My son sat for another thirty minutes on the car ride to the Keys pointing out dragons eating ice cream and flying mermaids while I gave up and checked my email on my phone.

Where did my creativity go? What happened to my imagination? I kept asking myself that as I sporadically searched the sky for the latest cloud news flash.

Look, wait, yeah, it’s a turtle! Right there. There’s the head, the shell, it’s moving.

Anything?
Anything?

I saw nothing.

Later, when I walked out on the jetty, to sit and listen to the water pat the rocks below. I watched the fish spring out, the birds zoom overhead, and the clouds float by. I squinted at the sky. I drew images with my eyes.

Anything yet?
Anything yet?

I saw nothing.
I tried again the next day and the next, but found nothing.

And this is what I’ve decided. All literature, the books that have guided me though rough times, the prayers that have steadied me, could never have shown me exactly why I’m so lost sometimes.
But, that boy and those clouds did.
When you look up into the sky…
See something.

Anything.

Everyone should have to teach middle school.

Vortex
I’d entered a distorted dimension, splintered and shapeshifting, grew into a full-time stint as a middle school.

The uncertainty and shock of feeling as if I’d entered a distorted dimension, splintered and shapeshifting, grew into a full-time stint as a middle school teacher. Everyone should have to teach middle school. I’ve said this ever since I realized I wasn’t going to quit teaching after all, ever since I got through those first few years.

I usually say it at a disgruntled moment when it seems as if the people who I’m listening to or observing just don’t appreciate the complexity of heartache and the simplicity of discipline.

Those people usually have Bobble Head egos and tell really bad jokes that they laugh at because nobody else will. But, sometimes those people are people who I would normally get along with and they’ve forgotten what it’s like to be shoved into a tween body and told to cheer up and be happy about it.

Teaching middle school reminds me of this on a daily basis.

If you pressed rewind to the day I began, it feels like one of those nightmarish dreams or thematic moments in a film. I’d spent fifteen years as an artist, writer, and editor and then I woke up in khaki pants and wearing a bun in my hair with a bunch of tweens and teens blinking at me.

What’s worse, I had to attempt to entertain them for hours on end, a daring and nearly impossible feat in a society where social media and video games rule the world. So, I didn’t. I did the opposite. I talked to them. I looked them in the eyes and I talked to them. And, it was eerie.

Swirl
The world went winding around into a useless array of clutter speckled with static electricity.

There were moments when the world went winding around into a useless array of clutter speckled with static electricity that reminded me there was still energy left somewhere for me to tap into, even though the exhaustion accompanying my new career left me broken at times.

Teaching hundreds of students that reading still mattered shifted my perspective of right and wrong. It buried my sense of reality and scraped at my soul. Students openly berated me for daring to talk to them about the beauty of reading, for deigning to announce that the written word stands more powerful, more insightful than the latest flick.

Every fear I’d shut away in the dark corners of those storage closets, where you can’t even reach in order to pull down a box or everything tumbles out, those fears fell, crushing parts of me that I had thought were never to be seen again.

It was subtle at first. Sometimes, it was just a simple observation. A girl cried because someone called her a name. I needed to listen. Yes. These things happened. And, it happened to me so, really, I could help her. But, inside me all these emotions arose from somewhere left alone, somewhere kept quiet.

And, I tried to quiet them again.

But, there they were staring at me, waiting for me to recognize their existence. So, I did and what a twisted ride I took from there.

You’re pushed to a point that most of us runaway from and never really address. We simply encounter it over and over in our lives. We have run-ins with the classroom bullies who insidiously stick a foot out while we’re just walking to our desk, but this time, the bully’s a co-worker or even a boss, maybe even the person we love.

When I see kids come to school with their hair cinched into a bun or even disheveled, I chuckle. They don’t know how to just live, just be. If they do, they overdo it. They don’t have a sense of individuality and if they do they hide it. Muted and blended, they try so hard not to be different. But, when their appearance masks missing homework or no pencil or even a missing backpack, I know there’s more to it.

No matter how hard I try to forget, there I am too. I’m sitting in school without my pencil, no homework. My mother had had a fight with my stepfather. My grandmother had too many kids to care for and I had to help. My sister’d thrown a fit. I’d stayed up late doing my work because what else was there to do? I needed something to get my mind off the fighting. But, in the morning, sleep and chaos left my work at home.

I sat in class, reprimanded for not doing my work. It wouldn’t be the first or last time.

I remember that, my past, when I stay with my students organizing their folders. I remember that when I sit at lunch listening to their problems. I remember what it was like to be them when I give them the extra bag of chips I buy because I know one of them will be hungry for many reasons. Someone forgot to pack lunch. They just have no money. Or, maybe they just starve themselves. But if a teacher hands them a bag of Tostitos and everyone else is grabbing some, they might just take some too.

As adults, we get caught up in our problems and forget the kids who came with those problems. As adults, we forget the life we left behind. We forget what’s important in order to chase meaningless wants and desires.

Sometimes, as parents, we look at the social media and general consensus that education and agree knowingly. But, it doesn’t really matter when kids still go to school anyway. We love to justify our neglect, our smug lives, our rush forward. But, we shouldn’t.

How do I know? Well, I’m a middle school teacher. You should try it someday. You might learn something.

I Remember My Dream

Digging graves, unconsciously, just digging.

Scaring everyone.

Dream
Dream

Dreams…well…they change.

They morph into something scientific, to be dissected or picked apart. Between disillusionment and the idea that you needed to be more than what you should be or than what you really wanted.

You don’t really dig graves. You dream, like every single one of us.

We dream.

It’s what we do.

There’s an echo in it. There’s a peace in it. It’s more real than reality.

So, when I woke one day to find myself digging my own grave.
I remembered my dream.

It had nothing to do with graves. It had everything to do with love and happiness.

There were diagonals, horizontal, spirals, eyes and lips scattered around a field of purple crayon with push pins and buttons chuckling at the silly behavior surrounding the onlooking scrutiny.

Admidst the blur of sanity came a gaffaw of irony.

We dream.

Then, we remember.

It’s always a little late.

But, sometimes. We remember the most important part.

Love.

So…

when you dream,

remember love.

Just like the man who dreamt that graves should be dug. He remembered love and reminded the mother to stay close.

She did.

Then, he remembered the graves.

There was one less.

The Evolution before the Revolution

Those sinewy blue beings link arms and chant, rocking in unison for love, Avatars who sync into the power of the earth while the “smarter,” more intelligent beings exploit them. I think of this often. I thought of this when I saw the new J.J. Abrams series Revolution. For those of you who don’t know the basics, the premise of the series questions our reliance on technology and asks, what if the lights went out, forever?

Needless to say, there’s a laughable character who once brandished $80 million dollars from his exploits in the Google empire, but now, without lights, he’s just the victim of “schoolyard bullies.”

The Evolving Revolution
The Evolving Revolution

It’s about the loss of power, but more importantly, our loss of true power without electricity, our inability to come to grips with what’s really important to us. Many characters realize at broken moments what that power is, the enduring, everlasting power of love.

I just read a WordPress post about bringing more traffic to your blog. It was an informative and helpful post. I’ve read others like it and learned a lot including some of the posts written by Michelle W. and Cheri Lucas. I even explored these ideas over summer when I had time to write more often and when I even used StumbleUpon for one day. It was bizarre, Twilight Zonish.

But, as I read this WordPress post about traffic, I thought, well, what happens when the lights go out? What happens when there’s no electricity, no money, no this, when it’s just stories and survival and hopefully love?

I thought about this because I’m sick and grappling with the idea of staying home from work and just lying here, trying to get well. These are the times when I’m in highspeed mode but get shut down as if all the lights just go out one day. It’s similar to the opening scene in Revolution when the cars are driving, the TV’s talking, the phone’s ringing and then it all just goes dark.

I had decided that when I started using WordPress that I’d put more energy into writing, like many of you I assume. But, I’ve found once again that loving to write doesn’t mean losing your love of everything else. I’ve spent years in the field although right now my main occupation is teaching.

I’ve seen and read about so many writers and journalists who give up their lives, meaning everything else they love, in order to write. This sounds exciting and even noble at times, but is it, really? Do we have to give up everything else for that one thing we’ve categorized ourselves as being or pursuing?

When I was Freshly Pressed, I wrote about my love of writing. And I slipped quite neatly into this category. I wrote:  I write to breathe to sleep to wake to sing to love.

I do, but only when I can. I actually miss feeling that way, but there are other parts of my life I’ve decided to love more. That is my own personal evolution before any other revolution within any other large-scale change that I or you will ever encounter.

For starters, I love my children a whole lot more than writing. They remind me that writing was something I started doing on a regular basis because I was so lonely and had no one to talk to. Second, my students need me more than they know. I always choose them over anything, even my own sanity sometimes. Third, my sister may be 3,000 miles away but when she needs me, I drop everything and stay up all night with her or even worrying about her. Fourth, my husband, my mom, my grandmother, my in-laws, my friends, even my fellow bloggers and writers, your insightful stories and photographs, your art, come before my writing.

I’ve evolved because before there’s a necessary revolution to this tendency to obsess and ultimately to destroy the beauty around us, I saw who I was, who I can become, and I changed.

Sometimes, we just don’t need to talk.

Relationships grow, crumble, fade, part, and regenerate. It’s when they’re quiet that you know you’ve done something right. It’s the kind of quiet where neither one of you needs to talk. You don’t need to ogle each other like teenagers or stare lovingly into each other’s eyes like you desperately can’t live without the other person.

You just move quietly together allowing the other to be, to exist without you, with you, it really doesn’t matter.

Space Clouds
Space Clouds

My husband and I have had these moments and I’ve thought, well, we’ve finally arrived. We’ve made it. We really just don’t need to talk.

We can just float together.

But, he doesn’t see it that way. He wants to talk, as if there’s something wrong with me for not joining in the sea of incessant chatter that bulks up the world around us. I know it’s not all just him. I know that between his coworkers burping on about how people should “talk” and the mounds of general media telling us we need to talk more, he’s bound to agree with them.

Couples must communicate, yes. I do this and that’s when he decides that he’s too busy to talk, which is completely different from what I’m talking about here.

On vacation, he pointed out an older couple who read the newspaper, looked up to check a noise or just enjoy their whereabouts, and ate quietly together, barely talking. He scoffed sarcastically, “You think that’ll be us someday?”

I thought, I hope so.

He said, “They haven’t said a word to each other,” and he said this bitterly. I then realized he needed to talk right now so that he knows that I love him so I tried. I still try. I try to do a lot of listening more than anything. It’s rough because I prefer silence. He doesn’t understand it but he does know how I feel. At least I think he does.

So much of my life consists of talking that I cherish the quiet space between it all. I literally gulp, choking up when I hear the blowing wind against the palms of trees.

Tears build, fall, and drop when I see clouds swirl and that beat that blends with the flap of a bird’s wings. Silence seems to slip through my fingers like water running through the tap. So when I’m wrapped in it, when it surrounds me, I warm myself with it.

It’s not the same as people who stare at the glare of their smart phones and just ignore each other.

Two people appreciating silence seals their bond as if sitting together in a temple or a church. Only, there’s nothing to worship or think about because you’re already there…in heaven.

There’s that breathing, the heavy kind. The kind that you hear right before you fade into each other.

Merging
Merging

Written by Lisa Chesser