A “Bad B” Stream of Consciousness (31 Lines For Turning 31): POEM

1. Love them. Period. Plain and simple. 

2. Except for when it’s complicated. 

3. Love them through their stupid mistakes. 

4. But not if they keep making them. 

5. That’s a decision. 

6. A conscious incision into highly sensitive heart space. 

7. It is not fair and you are better. 

8. Insist upon your worth in action and pocket value. 

9. You keep on clearance rackin’ your sanity and now you can’t afford the operating costs. 

10. Your psyche is free to the highest bidder. 

11. Perfect peace passed like communion to the lies of pious n***as. 

12. Please, add tax. 

13. Scan all this. It can’t be copied. That’s fax. 

14. Hard conversations clear your mind like sativa. 

15. Saying how they hurt you wins you no fans but my God, the way it frees you. 

16. Insist upon not laying awake wondering how the vocal sleep. 

17. Never be ashamed about playing for keeps. 

18. Comfort is key. Heels are cute but I am sexiest when not twisting an ankle. 

19. Get healthy. But don’t attach pants sizes to your worth because you were always the prize. 

20. Worry most about facing the truth in your own eyes. People’s acceptance is a fickle thing. 

21. Don’t be a slave to fear like she is. Green hair and nose rings are little things that mean you went for it. 

22. Love the ones that loved you first. 

23. In Yoruba, they say that a river flows far but never forgets its source. 

24. Never regret it. Replace “it” with that decision you sweated. 

25. Never abandon a goal ‘til you get it. 

26. When the chacha slide asks how low can you go, go low. 

27. You won’t always be this flexible. 

28. Purdue professions that stretch you. You will perish when you become complacent. 

29. You can never relinquish holy once you’ve had the chance to taste it. 

30.  was good to you. Bad to you. Highs and lows, a taste of what’s to come. 

You are pure magic, baby. Here’s to 31. 

When It’s Finished

Hello beautiful people!

First off, can we shout a hooray plus a hallelujah to the fact that school is OV-AH?! Towards the end, I think I made it very clear whenever students groaned about the remaining time that I was just as excited as they were. (Side note: I think that students think that we are devastated to see them go. To kids everywhere, we get a little sad to see you go, but NO ONE is gnashing their teeth. Except maybe your parents. Your turn now…suckaaaaaa!)

Seriously though, this week was one of many endings. On Tuesday, the 8th graders showed up to Morgan State resplendent in their white for their evening farewell ceremony. I’d joked that I would be the one in the back of the room doing a praise dance, Image result for praise dancer but remarkably, I didn’t shed a tear. I really am proud of these girls and know they will go far. On Thursday, we had our awards ceremony and my Crew represented well: out of 11 girls, one received an attendance award, 2 girls were on honor roll, one girl is on principal’s honor roll, one received an award for Collaboration and one received a Mindset award. Thankfully, we bid them goodbye at 1pm, cleaned the room and tackled the updates on their files.

This brings us to Friday–for our staff retreat, we had a day of debriefing, planning, and learning at Art With A Heart‘s beautiful new office space. During one part of the day, we had to make word art on these little canvases that will eventually be combined into a mural in our school. The mural was the end result of us having to pare down a list of core values from its original state of probably 50, down to ten, five, and finally three. My three words that survived were Integrity, Belonging, and Joy. As we finished our murals and got ready for lunch, someone noted that my principal was still dutifully painting. Her response was “that’s ok. It will be beautiful when it’s done.” I immediately noted that that was an incredibly succinct way of summing up our approach as a school, but the more I think of it, isn’t that life?

Image result for beauty when finished quotes When Damia said that, I immediately grabbed my phone to write it down, because even in the moment, I realized that that quote was profound in it’s simplicity. It speaks of faith, belief, and a desire to do work because the end result will be something greater than it was to start with. While prepping to write a blog post surrounding her statement, I came across the above quote. Buckminster Fuller was a teacher and an architect, even though he only went to school for the former. He enjoyed lecturing to large groups in the classroom, particularly young ones. He was a poet, an inventor, and a philosopher, and he bucked (har har!) a lot of the traditions of his time and simply decided to make his mark differently. His website says that he believed that “Humans have a destiny to serve as “local problem solvers”, converting their experience to the highest advantage of others.”

Image result for buckminster fuller “Bucky’ here, also created the term “Spaceship Earth”, which meant that all of mankind needed to work together ‘like the crew of a ship’ in order to advance humanity as a whole. Expeditionary Learning’s (the system my school follows) motto is “crew not passengers”, because students are expected to take a large role in their own learning. Coincidence? I think not.

In the classroom, everything WILL NOT be pretty–and if we get caught up on that fact, we waste valuable time that could be spent teaching. Like my friend and colleague Amanda (you should read her blog here) said before, “this sh*t is urgent”. Matter of fact, if we are honest, if we put down the Pinterest boards, trainings, pep, pomp, and circumstance, teaching can honestly be eons of bull interspersed with magic moments, not the other way around. From the legislators who have never taught but make policies that affect educators, to teachers in other states (and probably this one too) who have to Uber and tend bar and waitress in addition to teaching in order to pay their bills. From kids who are overly exposed and underly (yes, I made that up) mature, to their parents who seem to care more about whether they look good than whether they ARE good. From schools that push ’em through, back to the legislation that makes it infinitely difficult to do anything but, regardless of whether they need it. From the “soft bigotry of low expectations” to the haughtiness of those that forget that grace and high standards walk this race together. And on and on and on.

Image result for teacher respect 1950 today comic

Still and even still, take a look at what Bucky said; when I am working on a problem, I never stop to think about beauty:

When I am up late racking my brain for another way to meet a kid’s accommodations;

When a parent is yelling at me for 57 minutes at 8pm because a teacher that is NOT ME didn’t let her child bring home makeup work,

When I sit through the 4th PD this month on what feels like the same thing,

When my incorrigible Crew member or student has given me their most perfectly practiced eye roll as I remind them that technically, the work was due already;

When I am JUST trying to get this group to June with no casualties as my patience is fraying;

But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know that it is wrong.” Beauty takes a multitude of forms. It could be 6 out of 11 of my Crew kids receiving school wide recognition. But it isn’t always that flashy, right? It could be a passing grade on that assignment that I had to nag about. It could be the teachers in another state’s school district who got the government to grant 11% increases (not enough, but still) because they got up and walked OUT of their classrooms wearing red—because they were tired of bringing home $34,730 a year in spite of their advanced degrees. It could honestly being committed to taking a mental health day–or walking away from the field entirely because as much as we believe in other people, our own mental health is most important.

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Little black girls–magical, imperfect, and most likely sick of my shh–tuff (lol)  cheering for each other as I call out awards, in a world that tells them that little black girls are catty at best and violent, overtly sexual, and statistics at worst. That’s beauty.

My partner in crime this year, on the last day of our officially working together as she moves on–taking a moment during our lunch hour to watch a coworker’s daughter show her super (shoeper?) lace-tying skills. That’s beauty.

A girl at the crossroads of SO MUCH taking time to squeeze the woman who has poured out her LIFE for her for the past three years at our school…can you imagine the love and tears and bitter sweetness in that embrace? That’s beauty.

A woman who has been a literal superhero to the City of Baltimore–healing, acknowledging, organizing, representing–speaking and pouring into a young girl who wants to heal her city just as much. That’s beauty.

A class of 42 newly minted ninth graders turning to look at the village that got them there. That’s beauty.

I don’t always know fully what “finished” is. On more grounded days, I have a vision so crazy that it takes my breath away. On others, I’m just trying to make it to finished without bill collectors on my tail and with some semblance of my sanity intact. I also don’t know what YOU are working towards; what blood, sweat and literal TEARS, you have invested in your purpose. I don’t know how many years are behind you, how many ahead. I don’t know if this is your barren season or if your fields are ripe for harvest. But I do know this: like my principal said, it WILL be beautiful when it’s done. Take heart, ok?

Image result for if you aren't happy it's not the end

Amen.

 

Love always,

Stephanie

Love Language # 6

So I am staring down the barrel of the end of a relationship. Side note: be careful when you date a writer, because pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is one heck of a catharsis. I am honestly at peace with the whole idea, and honestly I am thankful that I kept this one pretty close to pocket…it minimizes the fall out. But I’d been struggling with how to explain when the few people that DID know about *him* ask what happened. He wasn’t disrespectful. He had a romantic bone somewhere in his body. He loved the Lord, which is always my line in the sand. He is a great dad. He works hard and knows how he wants to grow his passion project to eventually be his main source of income. On paper, he was everything that I’ve prayed for and everything that I think I deserved, so what on earth was the problem?

The problem is that I never saw him. And I spent a large amount of time rationalizing and asking and begging and questioning friends (I tend to bounce things off of people because I am highly sensitive and I know this–thank God for sisters who tell you to chill!) I never felt like he was being dishonest or unfaithful, but as someone who LOVES quality time, I struggled to foster a connection with someone who was never around. Even when I came to that conclusion, something still nagged inside of me, though….and then I came across this post on Instagram from @messinabottle:

lovelang  who would have thought that a social media post would be the thing that would click?

The 5 Love Languages is a theory by Dr. Gary Chapman that has been around since at least 1995, but maybe longer in some form or fashion. Dr. Chapman asserts that everyone in the world responds best to one of five “love languages”, and by learning which your partner appreciates most and which one you respond to, a couple can practically and effectively love each other at length. These five languages are:

WORDS OF AFFIRMATION: This language, according to the website “uses words to affirm other people”. In other words, I know that you love me when you tell me–in person, through a mushy text message, on a post it note in my lunchbox. Cards are as good as gold. Tell me so I know it’s real.

ACTS OF SERVICE: This can be summed up by these sage words from Migos:walkittalkit In other words, talk is cheap. I need to SEE that you love me. Make me lunch, offer to take me out, drive me to catch my flight. Serve me somehow.

PHYSICAL TOUCH: I know that I am loved when I can physically feel you next to me. This could be hugs, kisses or…sectionalceiling.PNG…heh.

RECEIVING GIFTS: Buy me stuff. Gets no simpler than that.

and finally…

QUALITY TIME: The important thing here is not just hours logged, but the fact that the time is meaningful, undistracted and undivided.

koality isn’t he cute? I can’t bear it. I’m here all week folks!!

One thing that Dr. Chapman also notes is that there can be different “dialects” of love languages, meaning that within the love language of Acts of Service, for example, there are fifty thousand ways for a partner to express his or her love. My primary love language will always be words of affirmation, however I have come to realize that quality time and physical touch are biggies as well.

Guess what, though? I think I have discovered a 6th love language–or maybe the one that makes all of the others possible. It all came from a conversation that I had today as I was driving to Philadelphia with one of my close friends. Her brother and a friend were asleep in the backseat and we were on I-95 for what felt like 200 miles…felt like the perfect time to talk. I mentioned to her that I wasn’t seeing *him* anymore, and how I wasn’t even all that upset about him specifically–and suddenly this popped out:

“I just really want someone to study me.”

I was taken aback by that thought, but it really does sum up what has bothered me about both platonic and romantic relationships in the past. Let me explain:

Scenario One: My grandmother is family famous for buying things at random throughout the year and designating them as Christmas gifts when the season hits. I am sure that this saves her the stress of a holiday rush, but it means that we sometimes (usually) get gifts that are random. In my case, this has meant the ENTIRE bath set of grapefruit scented Clinique (including talc) or 3 floral cardigans, size 3x.

Scenario Two: My grandfather got me a keyboard for Christmas. I have never played the keyboard. I have never mentioned wanting a keyboard. The keyboard is still in the box that it came in, and one friend has mentioned wanting to take it off of my hands but I haven’t regifted it yet for fear that my grandfather will ask me to play it randomly on a Tuesday.

Scenario Three: I told *him* at least eleventyseven times over the past 9 months that I wanted to spend more time with him. On each occasion, he agreed that this was a thing that needed to happen. It didn’t happen.

In each of these scenarios, there has been me, someone else, and a complete overshoot of how best to love me–and it boils down to being able to study the one you love like your favorite textbook and figure out how best to make them tick. That’s love language 6. The art of the study.

In my phone, I have lists with initials attached to them. These lists have favorite colors, scents, places, hobbies, musicians, etc. One list, titled S.M. has the color red, Boston Baked Beans, The Roots, anything sociology, superheroes and princesses, fo’ the kids. Another, marked MD, also has red–but it has Nas, blue, anything with elephants, sneakers, Skittles, earrings, etc. List TC has gospel music, vegan food and list AB has anime, a favorite brand of wine, nursing and dog paraphernalia. JUs list has Nigerian food,  macarons, recipe books, a favorite flower, and I just added a place in her town that she likes to get food from. There was a list that I’d started called DJC–that had the color blue, watches, music, certain cities, etc. None of the things on these lists were acquired through asking pointed questions. I have found that if you really listen when people talk, you will eventually get everything that you need to know–because everyone’s favorite topic of conversation is themselves 🙂 What I have also found is that people are used to not really being listened to–so when you take them to that local spot to eat or buy them an oil in a scent they love, they are shocked:

How did you know I liked this?”

You told me so.”

I think that what I am looking for–what I am missing– is people who compile lists about me–who love me enough to hear me and translate my love language. I am on a continual search for people that have SO lists and who go out of their way to show honor the way that I really try to be intentional about doing. That love language of studying people–their mannerisms, the songs they hum over and over, what makes their eyes light up–that is the one that makes the hugs and gift giving and rides to the store possible. It creates the “OMG I needed this!”s and the “How did you even guess?”s. It engineers the surprised reactions and the tears.

So yeah, I think that when I am in conversation with my Christian friends—my girlfriends–my searching for something real and we’ll know it when we find it friends–and the topic of love languages comes up, my answer from now on will be study. I feel that I am loved when the research spans pages and the results are tangible. I don’t think that this is too much to ask for, and I know that I love a God that goes above and beyond.

Yours in the waiting,

Steph ❤