Reading Lessons and A Note About Gratitude

The last couple of months have been a whirlwind of activity–beginning with a serious career adjustment. I “hit the streets” in Midtown as a sales rep for a food distribution company, and the learning curve has been massive.  Serious highs, and serious lows.  I joined our local pool board just in time for the chaos of summer and started a boxing class at the gym around the corner.  I signed up to teach “Julie’s Can and Jam” classes at a local co-op, where I’ll teach 21 and up classes on making homemade jam and the canning process.  At the same co-op, I’m re-launching some new branding for my detergent line and attempting to improve my image and marketing.  Last, but certainly not the least, I began teaching reading classes for the elderly, two nights a week.

I get overwhelmed sometimes, and then anxious about daily to-do lists left undone and the tasks of the week that I’m not sure I’m completing with the attention they deserve.  I dream about sending an order of groceries to the wrong food truck, and I’ll wake up in the middle of the night thinking about whether or not I sent the correct allergen-free pan spray to a particular account.  I stress about not knowing enough, not working hard enough or long enough, and not knowing how to ask the questions that make sense in my head.  And then I met a few people with amazing attitudes and a seriously challenging situation in life.

My “students” for evening reading classes are incredible, resilient people, who at the ages of 70-85 are looking to better themselves, and learn to read.  Their reading levels vary from Kindergarten to 2nd grade, and are quick to set goals about their future.  “Ella” told me that she throws away all her mail because she can’t read it anyway, so what’s the point? Tomorrow we’ll begin reading her mail together and making sense of it. “Wallace” told me that he’s never been read to before, and can only drive within a mile radius because he’s memorized all the street signs…beyond that mile, he wouldn’t be able to read the signs and get back home.  “Nellie” cried tonight when I read her a Bible story, because the only time she’s been read to is over the pulpit at church, and when I told her that she’d be able to write a thank you note by the end of summer, she wept openly and told me she never imagined she’d be able to master such a task.  Talk about a reality check–and a serious dose of gratitude.  I’m a month in, and they do their homework, get excited about evening class, and thank me profusely at the end, in spite of the fact that they have harder lives than I’ve ever even read about.

I know that I’m a blend of blessed and fortunate, and as stretched as I feel these days, I’m super thankful for my new batch of students who have already taught me much more about life than I’ll ever teach them about reading.  I also love that my role of teacher will never really be over.

Pink, Glitter, and My Dear Friend Harold

Yesterday I ran across the street to the gym in an attempt to counterbalance another late night round of snacks.  I pulled up an old play list and fervently tried to distract myself long enough to get in a bit of cardio. The next thing I know, “Glitter in the Air”  begins as my opening number and I’m transported to San Antonio—it’s spring, I’m staying with a dear friend until my teaching contract is up, and I’m jogging the side streets listening to Pink and “training” for Beach to Bay.  It’s funny how a song can do that to you.

I’m obsessed with Pink, and by this I mean the color and the artist (both obsessions may be slightly unhealthy.) 🙂  Although it’s certainly not a song to keep pace to, I loved listening to “Glitter in the Air” every day on my jogging track in Live Oak Park last spring.

This time last year, our house sold and Nicholas got transferred back to Atlanta, all within a couple weeks.  We had three weeks to vacate our house in San Antonio, and while we had desperately hoped we’d get our transfer, we never dreamt it would all happen so soon.

A dear friend–let’s just use the name Harold to protect the innocent—offered to let me stay with him until June, when my teaching contract at Judson Early College Academy was up. I remember the day he offered and was shocked at his generosity; I didn’t have many close friends in SA, and after our house sold so soon, I had no idea where I would stay, or how I would manage to live and work so far from Nicholas and our future life.  We both moved in with Harold for a couple of weeks, then Nicholas transferred to temp living in Atlanta, and I remained in San Antonio until the first week of June.

It was a tough semester of transition; Nicholas was far away, super busy with a new job and extended retail hours, and we had limited time before his temporary housing would run out and we’d have to make a decision about a place to call home.  I flew in every few weekends to house hunt and spend time with him; our time was fast and furious, and I hated Sunday nights when I had to fly back to SA and leave him again.

Harold was my saving grace.  He understood life as an educator.  He understood the challenges of long distance relationships. He didn’t ask a lot of questions. He was easy to live with and brought laughter to a time in life that was really difficult; he helped me through a semester that could have been unbearable, and instead of feeling alone and homeless, I had someone to cook for at night and a place that became my temporary home.

The semester was a blur, as I had plenty to do: find a new home and job in Atlanta, finish my Master’s degree courses and sit for my exam, teach an eager class of juniors and engage in all that teaching entails…the list goes on.  The point is, I appreciated Harold, but didn’t realize quite how much I missed him until “Glitter in the Air” came blasting through my head phones, threw me back a year, and blurred my vision with unexpected tears; sometimes the hardest moments in life hold their own sense of glitter and attraction and we just don’t realize the entire beauty and magnitude until later.  They say that hindsight is always 20/20, and while I hate clichés and usually attempt to avoid them, I think this one is most often true.

It’s funny how an over-played radio hit can transport my mind and invigorate my sense of gratitude.

P.S. Harold, I hope your recycling situation has improved since I moved out, and if it isn’t obvious enough, I really miss you.