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I’m not a huge fan of summer weather. While being cold isn’t great, I hate dripping with sweat just from standing outside. Breathing is too hot. Anything above 82° and I don’t get along, even lower temperatures if the humidity is rocking, which usually happens in Michigan. I grew up with no air conditioning and summer nights were brutal. I vividly remember being miserable unless I was in the lake or we begged the next-door-neighbor to let us swim in his pool.

That being said, I love the season of having a break, especially since I now have air conditioning and can escape the stickiness. I can get things done. I deep-cleaned our bedroom today! I never have energy for anything more than superficial dusting and Swiffering during the school year, so you know I’m relaxing.

I’m getting my soul back, too. I’ve been sleeping in way more than I thought I would; my body is apparently taking charge of recovering from the stress. It’s been almost a week and I feel a million times better already. I feel more like me. I haven’t been cussed out in a week.

For thousands of years, summer has been held in regard for more serious reasons than a break from school. While we have several examples of how our ancient ancestors welcomed this, Stonehenge in England really stands out to me.

Seven years ago today, my aunt and I visited said Stonehenge with a tour group. (Rob from Trafalgar, btw, made that an amazing trip. Just saying.) It was the day before the summer solstice and the field around the monument was already packed with people who wanted to celebrate the next morning. Stonehenge itself was crowded, but not enough to detract from its beautiful simplicity. I could feel the ancient vibrations, the thing that lingers after the people are long gone. It was that significant for me. As we watched the news the next morning, we learned that a few arrests had been made as some of the celebrations had gotten out of hand, something I think the ancients would have probably understood. At this moment, 11:30 EST, they’ve been partying all night at Stonehenge and the sun is about to rise, so it’s a very exciting time.

Those stones, arranged so carefully by people from so long ago, echoed deep inside me and still do today. The people who placed those stones welcomed the summer, more than I do. Summer was a reward for surviving the harsh winter, a time for tending crops and enjoying life. They worshiped the sun, the giver of life in their eyes, and felt the need to commemorate that particular spot as sacred. Somehow, they calculated the solstice, got those impossibly heavy stones to the sacred spot, and arranged them in the perfect way. Most of them still exist in perfect form, not bad for being around 5,000 years old.

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I have deep roots in England, going more than 1,000 years, and some from the town of Salisbury not far from Stonehenge. Did my many-great-grandparents dance around the stones? Did they dance the pagan dances, worship the sun, drink the mead? If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here. It’s very sobering to think that I could possibly have had people there at that crucial time.

So, in spite of my distaste for excessive heat, welcome, Summer. Welcome, ancient holiday that meant life and respite to our ancestors.

Respect.

Summer-Solstice

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Father’s Day is always a bit tough for me. My father died in an accident before I was born so I was never able to meet him. I always think about him on this day, what he would have been like, how we would have celebrated. Would he have been a BBQ type of dad? Would he have watched baseball or (ew) golf? Maybe a bonfire and s’mores with a beer or two? It does make me sad, but then I remember what I do have and that I am blessed.

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I had two wonderful grandfathers who loved me. This I know. They didn’t always say it, but they showed it through their actions, whether it was paying for me to go to beauty school, slipping Marty $20 to make sure I got a Zehnder’s chicken dinner in Frankenmuth, or just showing up on my birthday every year. Grandpa Nick didn’t live long enough to see me get married and have kids, but I had the privilege of seeing Grandpa Ballantyne hold and play with my boys. He was a real softy by that point and it melted my heart to watch them together.

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My uncle, my dad’s brother, stepped up seven years ago to be Uncle-Dad. He and Aunt-Mom didn’t hesitate when I asked if they would help me get my rightful name on my birth certificate and I love how they’ve embraced me as their Daughter-Niece. It means the world to me.

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Then, there’s my husband. From the day I told him he was going to be a father, he’s been all in. It’s been fun to watch him grow as a dad and see how his relationship with our boys has evolved over the years, especially as they’ve entered or are getting close to adulthood.

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So, even though I don’t have my dad here to spoil today, I have plenty to celebrate. I wish a very Happy Father’s Day to every father and father figure out there. I hope you know that you are loved and appreciated.

 

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There are five school day wake-ups left this year. I am not sad.

This has been a rough year for behavior. My own students’ behavior has improved greatly over the year, this has been a goal, but they’re still not where they need to be. We’ve been working on basic things all year long, like being respectful, not putting hands on other people, and raising hands when there is a question as opposed to just shouting things out. The exception is my first hour. They’re pretty awesome, for the most part. Of course, there are many great kids in my other classes, it’s just an uneven ratio this year and I’m exhausted. Not from the teaching, you understand, from everything else.

The students who aren’t mine, who pass in the hallway, enough of them are ridiculous enough to mentally drain me almost every day. You would not believe what happens in the hallways of a middle school sometimes.

Seriously, this is the most difficult job I’ve ever had, and I’ve been through a few since I started babysitting at eleven years old. Babysitter, waitress, hostess, retail worker, historical presenter (on a historic farm), carriage driver, educational programs presenter, and administrative assistant, just to name a few. Those people who think we have it easy because we have a few weeks off in the summer (when we attend workshops, trainings, and mandatory meetings) can take a long walk off a short pier; this job will kick your butt, which is why so many new teachers don’t make it the first five years. I took a break a couple of years back, which was a really good thing for my mental health.

At work, I have to be the adult, I have to set the example. That’s part of my job.  Sometimes, I’m not a great example when I’ve been pushed to my limit. When I screw up, I apologize, not for being angry, but how I handled it. Since I became a teacher eleven years ago, I’ve probably been called every name in the book, in a few different languages, no less. It gets to you, especially when it happens on a daily basis. Not an excuse, my skin is a lot tougher than it used to be and I’m constantly working on it. Sometimes, I really wish people could see how their kids really act at school, but like my brother said, those parents would probably blame the teachers.

So, at the end of this school year, I’m not looking for accolades, pats on the back, or anything else. I just want peace and quiet for a while. I want to not be called names and talked back to. I want no one to laugh in my face. I no one to blatantly lie or cheat and think I’m stupid enough to not notice or figure it out. I want to be myself for just a little while, to go to the bathroom when I want to, and to not grade. Not. One. Single. Paper.

Teaching is not for sissies.

Happy Summer!

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During a conversation with my husband the other night, we happened upon the topic of change. It came up because I’m going to Detroit Pride this weekend to join up with Free Mom Hugs. For those that don’t know, Free Mom Hugs, a group which also includes dads, gives free hugs, high-fives, fist bumps, and encouragement to LGBTQIA individuals who have been rejected by their families. I’m totally stoked about being able to show a bit of love to someone who may just need it, lord knows we all do from time to time.

I reflected on how this was not what I was raised to believe, and how people can grow and change.

I know because I changed.

I was raised in a very conservative home where I was taught, especially in church, that being gay, or at least, being in a gay relationship, was a sin. It was never really an issue, just one of the countless sins we were told about. I didn’t know any better until I actually met people who were “out” in high school and in my first year of college. Listening to their stories really made me question the belief system I had been taught. Why were people being judged and condemned for how they were born, for who they were, for who they loved? The more I reasoned, the more my views changed and I struggled with what my religion said vs. what I knew in my heart to be true.

My brother came out soon after. He had been raised with the same teachings, I know he didn’t choose to be gay. Why would God make him that way if it was sinful? Why would God make anyone gay if it went against what He wanted? It didn’t make sense. I started reading more and researching, not only personal stories, but articles and studies on religion to see what was actually being said in translations and realized that I didn’t agree with the interpretation that had been preached to me for all those years. I was soon completely convinced: people don’t choose their sexuality, it’s hard-wired from the very beginning.

With this realization, I made it a point to be an ally. We’ve raised our kids to be accepting of everyone. We’ve also been very fortunate to belong to a church where everyone is welcome, no matter what, with no agenda to “fix” people. One of our pastors even risked her job to marry two wonderful men a few years ago and we became an official Reconciling Ministries church the year after. The current pastor and his wife are all in, letting the rainbow banners fly. Our denomination is in a struggle right now to officially adopt a policy where gay marriages can be performed without penalty and I’m happy to say that there has some progress made on this. It looks much more hopeful now than it did a few months ago. We have wonderful new members who came to us because they have faith, but have not felt welcome in other places. There is still much to do.

Faith is important to a lot of people and it makes me sad that being gay is a reason for some to shut others out, no matter what the religion is. Do the homework, not just “research” from the conservative side, but objective research from real science. Talk to gay Christians, or gay Muslims, or gay Jews. You’ll find many. There are plenty of gay atheists, too, in case you’re not religious. Get their perspective, and really, truly, listen to them without judgement. Listen to religious scholars on the other side with an open mind and pray for understanding.

There’s another reason I think this is an incredibly important topic. According to The Trevor Project, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-24 and LGB youth seriously think about suicide three times more than heterosexual youth. (https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/preventing-suicide/facts-about-suicide/#sm.00001dqohxj19xof4dx2kuf9llet1) They would rather die than deal with the pain they feel from being rejected by the world, their places of worship, even their parents. That should say something to even the hardest heart. Think about that. Children would rather take their own lives than subject themselves to the humiliation heaped on them by those who think they are less than. As someone who has been on that precipice, that decision is born out of desperation, not attention-seeking. The methods used to change children are bogus, as proven over and again. Conversion therapy is cruel and it doesn’t work. You can’t “pray the gay away”, you can’t beat it out of someone, and you can’t change their mind. That’s not how it works. Again, do the research. Hear them.

LGBTQIA people are not broken, they don’t need to be fixed. Like everyone, they need to feel loved, they need to know that they are accepted, and treated with dignity and respect. I thank God, those long-ago high school and college friends, my brother,  and my sister-cousin, for being brave, for opening my eyes, for opening my mind. My life is richer and fuller for that, for the friends I have, for the love I am shown daily. I shudder to think of what my life could have been like if I hadn’t followed my heart.

Growth is often uncomfortable, because you often have to fix stuff, but the rewards are wonderful. When I see anti-gay protesters, so angry, waving their vile signs, it’s difficult to not be angry myself. I want to jump in and defend my friends and family so badly, but getting in someone’s face rarely changes their mind. Instead, I try to love. I try to set a good example. I try to stand up for what I know to be the right thing. I teach my students that using the word “gay” or “queer” as insults is not acceptable when the situation pops up, besides teaching acceptance of all as a norm.

I’m also still learning. As I mentioned, I want to be the best ally I can and I want to do it right. I make mistakes sometimes (I still have to make myself think of and say correct pronouns for the gender fluid, just because it’s a habit) but that’s part of growth and understanding and I welcome it, even when I screw up. I can do more.

So, Happy Pride Month. Much love to my family and friends who are celebrating and know that I have your back, always. May God bless you always.

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