Recognizing Life's Messages
Updated: Dec 5, 2022
My family is from Illinois. Not just Illinois, but Peoria, Illinois. This Texas-raised girl has fabulous memories of making snow angels in a 70s brown-checkered winter coat while hoping to catch glimpses of the bright, beautiful cardinals flitting about the snowy backyard of my grandparent's home. It was not until I was much older that I realized the symbolic importance of these scarlet visions.
Red is one of my son's favorite colors, the color of the heart. His vibrant personality can fill a room. He is quick to crack a joke, but knows when to be warm and serious as he believes in his family, cheers on teammates, and his teacher says he is always kind to others. He is 7 and started 1st grade this year. He finally lost his first few teeth and, oh my, the blood! Not. But the way he carried on, it should have been cascading out of his mouth like in a bad horror movie. His sister knocked out his second tooth while sword-fighting with him in the hot tub, which was brilliant because we did not have to hear the whimpering for weeks before it fell out. However, the tooth was very, very hard to find. This Christmas he will be singing "All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" for Santa. His current nickname - Toothless. It is nice that he is so good-natured because I like to tease and he happily does it right back - all in fun. In addition to losing teeth, he is finally reading on his own - and chapter books, too. He absolutely loves the Magic Tree House series. He is also now a blue belt in Tae Kwon Do, took more swim lessons this summer, and has continued gymnastics at a new gym, ASI gymnastics, where his photo graces the door of all Houston-area locations, and started baseball this fall. Baseball has become a passion and the family has learned what it is like to be cold-weather sports fans. I had to don the old Alaska boots, gloves, ski coat, long underwear, blanket, and winter cap just to see my son score his first homerun on his 7th birthday - an awesome moment. In December, his team, the Astros, who were truly the underdogs this season as they began as a real Comedy of Errors in the beginning, ended up learning how to play the game by working together and won the championship trophy on a late, rainy school night at the local high school.
My daughter embodies the creativity and strength of spirit associated with the cardinal. She still loves to draw and express her individuality. She is now 9 and started 4th grade in August. We spent her birthday this year in San Antonio, which was a real treat, especially when we ran unexpectedly into my best friend and her family. In addition to the ADHD, she was also diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder. Behind closed doors, life has been unexplained challenges for years, but now with answers and help, the future looks hopeful. I know she fights within herself each day to control impulses and overcome struggles that make school and daily life just a little bit harder for her than for others. I admire her will, especially knowing she does not always win the internal conflicts, yet has to learn the hard lessons that there are consequences for behaviors in life, and despite best efforts, not everyone is accepting of those in this world, like my daughter, who are sparkling rare gems. She is still maintaining exceptional grades. She is computer savvy and would prefer to spend the majority of her time drowning in technology, even during school recess. Her teacher says that when she has computer questions, she asks my daughter - and I have to admit, so do I. She loves games like Minecraft and Age of Mythology, but when she is not on the computer, she is reading a Rick Riordan, James Dashner, or other series book, typically in the Sci-fi genre. In May, she earned the Perfect Attendance award for the second year in a row. Due to overcrowding already in her mouth, she started with mouth gear this summer and had partial braces put on this month. The first few days were...less than fantastic, but on the bright side, the rubber bands are red, blue, green, and black, further emphasizing her vibrant character. She also took swim lessons this summer and still participates in gymnastics at the new gym, ASI. In June, my mom and I took her to see her first musical, The Little Mermaid. She loved it! Recently, she asked me to look into dance lessons for her. Oh, joyful day! That will definitely be a priority after the first of the year.
Cardinals also symbolize faith. For my children, I teach love, family, and perseverance. I demonstrate for them that we have to believe in and hold on to one another, despite differences we may have, and how to take on life as calmly and gracefully as possible by believing that everything has a purpose. And so, this year I turned 40. No new gray hairs. No additional wrinkles. No drama. When I woke up on my birthday, everything was still the same - just another day of work. As for my job, I am still teaching 9th grade English, but this October, I made the decision to step down as Team Leader of English I. Changes at school and demands for time were no longer allowing me to put my family first. It was a tough decision for this workaholic, but I have to admit, it has made life easier and has made my children very happy. We are always on the go with activities, sometimes every other night, but I am thoroughly enjoying playing the role of Cheerleader Mom, in addition to Homework Enforcer, Drive-Thru Extraordinaire, Superfluous Advice Giver (because Mom knows best in all things pre-teen), among many of my other jobs. These roles are the feathers on my wings and they expand each year, offering strength and wisdom, and allowing my family and me to ascend to new heights as we migrate through life.
I never really understood my own depth until I became a parent and a teacher. I was meant for both and I travel the right course, but that does not mean there are not rocks I stumble over or storms that temporarily cause me to seek shelter while pursuing personal goals or dreams for my family. I have realized there are times I will get lost or may even have to consider detours along the way as life does not come with a map. So, when I pause to ask for directions, the answer is not always clear - or even there. I trust, though, through one another's strongest traits, my daughter, son, and I will continue to learn from and lean on each other, and we will soar through every new year together.