Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Author: Michele Minehart (page 2 of 303)

The Community Act of Getting to School On Time

Today, in the mundane act of getting my children delivered to school, I was overwhelmed by the amount of care that our community provides to our little ones.

Normally a little fairy named JJ takes care of this act of dispensing children; my major responsibility is feeding and making sure they are dressed in a seasonally-appropriate manner. (Let’s remember, 75% is a passing grade.) And then, at the end of the day, they are magically returned to me, typically in a state of hunger. This week, with the fairy tending to other people’s children in DC, I had the privilege/responsibility of this delivery duty.

As I pulled into my assigned drop-off lane, the principal – under coat and umbrella – greeted the children with a smile and helped usher them on their way. Normally when I consider the role and responsibility of a building leaders, I think of mentoring teachers and providing instructional feedback. I think of managing budgets and dealing with student discipline. There are state meetings and building meetings and administrative district meetings and forms, forms, forms. Also, there is the follow up with parents about action for student needs, times 500. This seems, to me, to be the work of school administration, to keep things moving ahead. But here, if not in all buildings, part of the work of leading is standing under an umbrella for an hour to get kids in the door. I have to wonder if, at times, it seems that we could make better use of this leader’s time by hiring out the task. Then again, perhaps opening car doors helps keep us grounded in the why we go to those administration meetings and balance building budgets. I’m not sure how or why the principal became the one who has to be patient with my fancy automatic doors that won’t open unless I’m in park, but I was grateful that someone cares enough to greet my kids on arrival. Without words, my kids know they’re welcomed here.

In leaving the drop-off, on previous days I turned right toward St. Pete’s and thought maybe that was a poor decision. Today I made the mistake of trying to turn left onto Warpole from Finley Street, so I had a solid 5 minutes of reflection on the art of child transportation (before I gave up, turned right and went around the block.)

While waiting, I encountered several buses finishing their work of fetching and delivering children. Now, make no mistake: on my list of Top 5 Jobs I Don’t Want is bus driver (along with kindergarten teacher). I watched these buses complete their given task of safely shuttling kids so they can have a day full of learning, no matter the transportational situation of their parents, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. The drivers, and the school system, are providing for us. Perhaps normal people don’t see driving a diesel as a radical act of care and nurture, but to me this morning, it most certainly was. What a message this act can send to a child: you mean so much, and your education is of such value, that we will come and get you, and then take you home.

On my little around-the-block detour, I drove by the city police making his rounds. We can choose to think, “goodness, in this traffic? Now?” to his patrol route. But this morning, I thought, “Wow, our children are safe.” Beyond the district, the community is protecting our children, keeping drivers accountable to going slow, reminding us to proceed with caution, because these little feet and legs that might sprint across the street, they matter to us all.

Driving out of town, I see the lights on in the many homes of families doing what we do every day. Getting kids ready, reminding them to eat, finding the lost library book, arguing over appropriate footwear, just trying to get out the door. There is a oneness behind these common acts of care. We’re all the same, trying to love and live the best or maybe only way we know.

A community is much more than a town you live in or the people you repeatedly see on your path. It’s the fabric that holds the patterns you see, even when you see them so often that the patterns appear invisible. A community interweaves our roles, blending people and institutions,  keeping the world moving forward. It’s the way the city police support the school, and the way the school supports the family. A community is in busing patterns and patrols as much as it is in the librarian’s face as she helps you find the free-to-you materials you want to borrow.

I’ve been appreciative of my community, especially when we fall into times of distress.  But this morning wasn’t stressful. It was the regularity of it all that made my eyes water. These people opening doors, driving buses, and patrolling side streets do it every day, whether I recognize the need for it or not. They see what needs to happen to support learning and thriving in our community, so they make it happen, even when I don’t understand or acknowledge it. So much happens behind the scenes to make my rights realized, my privileges a part of my routine.

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Here, kitty, kitty

When we lived together, Kristy had a cat named Ned. My archenemy. I’ve never loved cats (like most people who are allergic), but Ned made it easy for that slight disfavor to evolve into an extreme dislike. He was loud, and when Kristy left for a period of time, he got louder. He was a moody kitty, and he gave me the attention of a 7th grade bully – frequent, and not in a loving manner.

While Ned was his own kind of cat, he wasn’t unlike cats in general. My friend Patty once told the most hilarious story of her dad wishing they had a dog, but having a cat instead, and trying to teach it to walk on a leash. They simply don’t do that. They don’t have the obedience and lovable nature of a dog. A person who loves cats tends to love the unloveable. (The world needs more of these people! I’m just not one of them.)

To be fair, let me give the positive qualities of cats:

1) They catch mice. I might be convinced of a barn cat for this reason, once we get  barn.
2) They always come back. In fact, it’s common knowledge that if you don’t want a stray to return, you have to turn off that compassion and the temptation to provide a meal, because if you do, congratulations, you now have a kitty. My sister just bought a house that came with a cat because the former owner fed it a time or two and now she gets to buy the kibble.

Today is one of those days where I’ll be parenting solo for the majority, on the verge of a week where I’ll be parenting solo for the entirety. I’m thrilled that JJ will get to enjoy experiences he loves – and we all know he puts up with my own tendencies to leave for an adventure or two. Yet even before I went to bed, my mental state began to shift as it does in these times: preserve and endure. Make it through without going mad.

There’s a space for survival mentality, for sure. And there’s nothing wrong with hoping to preserve your own sanity. Yet, as I woke and turned to a poem by Victoria Erickson (a new favorite; I’m reading Rhythms and Roads), she had words for me:

“when you give this day all the courage, love and intensity you can.”

I have to admit, those words to not reflect the way I tend to approach my days of solo parenting. I don’t bravely face the challenge or seek the potential joy. Which, perhaps, is why I tend to never find it.

Maybe joy is a little like the stray kitty. When you feed him, he’ll keep showing up. 

You see, I tend to conserve. Any leftovers go back in the fridge, “just in case.” On these days, and in these situations, I don’t have the generosity of spirit to be tossing my scraps into a bowl on the back porch to tempt joy my way, which might just be the reason that nothing appears.

And why wouldn’t I be tempting joy my way? My girl, Brene (when you quote her enough, you get to be on a first name basis, even if she doesn’t know your name), says joy is one of the most vulnerable emotions we experience. To abandon yourself to love – to open so completely to another, or to a situation – can feel overwhelmingly vulnerable, which is why it’s easier to slip into my preferred method of Survival. If you don’t open yourself to joy, it won’t reject you, right?

So my tendency to shut out joy like a stray cat hasn’t served me well. My days of survival will end exactly as I direct them, with exhaustion and, likely, frustration. A day filled with joy will also likely end with exhaustion, but wouldn’t I rather live with the tiredness that comes from showing up, engaging, and loving? I can tell you, I would. I do.

Just because I have this habit doesn’t mean I have to continue in its pattern. So here’s to bravely showing up to joy, today. With all the courage, love and intensity you can. The day awaits.

Here, kitty kitty.

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Funerals and Musicals

It’s no secret that our family hates October. Actually, I feel a large proportion of Upper Sandusky hates it. Everything dies in October; the leaves and the the people we love.

I’m not sure if the Star Players, the local community theater group, intentionally chose October as the season for their annual all-ages musical, but if they did: genius. It’s exactly what we need. Not just to “take our minds off of things” or to “numb the pain.” Of course, escaping into a story for a few hours is a good way to set down our grief for a moment, but it’s more than an epidural for our funeral season.

Watching the leads yesterday finish the first act in complete harmony, my eyes automatically started watering. The tears returned when the whole chorus set into a song about being our weird selves – and not just because I identified personally as a misfit. I watched the Pinocchio character step into his role and show no restraint. He lived and danced into his character fully and it. was. beautiful. The Sugar Plum Fairy danced big and loud and you could see something come alive in her eyes that radiated all the way down from her soul.

I’ve yet to go to a community theater production and not cry at the curtain call. Not because I’m reliving my stage life (because I don’t have one) but because of the connection it evokes. There’s nothing I love more than seeing people live their gifts so feely. Community theater is unpaid and under-appreciated, yet these folks show up for the rehearsals, put in the hours for practice, and subject themselves to critics and criticism.

All for the sake of beauty.

Their voices, their acting, their delivery of certain lines of comedy isn’t something that can be mass produced and easily found. They conjured that up from deep inside and then shared it with the world. It’s as if they were willing to dig into the muck in which we wade and pull out the treasure chest of jewels and hold them up to everyone willing to show up for a $15 ticket and say, “See! It’s here! There is beauty among us!”

Despite what I feel right now about the month of October, this world does hold so much beauty.

I see it in the parents who gather together to send their children off to homecoming.  There is so much beauty, not just in the kids cleaning up and dressing fancy, but in the shared sense of Where did time go? How did s/he grow up so fast? amid the excitement.

And even in the heartache, I see a beauty in the full-force recollection of one of our community’s favorite educators as we learned of his passing. The shared grief reveals a certain element of connection as people light the darkness with their individual memories of a shared beloved. Each comment, each photo, each quote is a candle, held high.

I’m reading Brene Brown’s newest, Braving the Wilderness, and she writes about these elements of Inextricable Connection (emphasis mine):

All of these examples of collective joy and pain are sacred experiences. They are so deeply human that they cut through our differences and tap into our hardwired nature. These experiences tell us what is true and possible about the human spirit. We need these moments with strangers as reminders that despite how much we might dislike someone on Facebook or even in person, we are still inextricably connected.

Perhaps that’s the lesson of this particular October. Not just that it continues to be a terrible time, but that it can be terrible for all of us and we can share in it’s terribleness. Perhaps it’s the brokenness of this season that binds us together, forming its own kind of beauty.

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