Saturday, April 22, 2017

Things I've "Learned" From Being a Widow

Note 1: There is some math content embedded at the bottom, so scroll through the beginning parts if that's what you are looking for.

Note 2: Someone dies, and there is no purpose, and it is not a learning opportunity, and there is no reason, so that is why I put the "learned" as it is.

My husband of 20+ years died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 53 last school year, one week into school. These days, any time I think back to last school year, I don't know how I muddled through, or more accurately, I don't remember lots of things that happened. I guess I know how I muddled through, you just go through the motions each day, concentrating on keeping your mind occupied and making lists of things you need to do, and you just mindlessly do it. In fact that is how I muddled through: keeping my mind occupied with chores, so I wouldn't have to think of the horror that was my circumstances.

It seems obvious once I write the following, and it's still unreal to me, but the fact is that I am a different person now.  I guess, how can you not be when something so traumatic happens in your life. I used to be a more bubbly and easily-cheerful person. I used to think that everything would always work out (since it seemed to for me). I took tons of things for granted because I was sure they would always be there. My first thought NEVER was (as it is now) that you could die soon, so you better soak up all the goodness that is in your situation. Also, what I spend my energy on these days has changed. Thus, why I blog way less.

And then all this seems like I am probably walking around moping and sad sack all the time and raining on others' parades. No. In fact, today for example, I had lunch with a friend, and my stomach hurt from all the laughing we did. This has happened many times in the last 20 months. I cherish these moments more now since I know that quite possibly later something could trigger an Andrew memory, and I will be a sobbing mess for a bit. In fact, the other day, I couldn't figure out why he was so suddenly on my mind that day as nothing in particular reminded me of our life together. Then it hit me. I was having one of THOSE weeks where I was so school/life stressed out, that I just needed him to hold me and pet my head and reassure me that things were going to be okay. I wanted not to be an adult for a bit and to be taken care of in that loving way. 

So that is one thing I am more conscious of, being grateful for the many great moments in my life. Another thing is that you have to really listen to what people are saying to you, regardless of the words that are coming out of their mouths. 90% of the times when I mention I am a widow to someone in a conversation, it just goes on and the person glides over that fact, like I had just mentioned that I had a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. My tone is not crying and sad when I mention it, but it is a horrific thing, and it is not an every-day occurrence. I didn't realize how much it bugged me until one day I was in my favorite co-op grocery store near school and mentioned it to a worker as we were chatting. I was ready to continue the conversation, and then he stopped and said, "wait", and got up from where he was sitting stocking something and came over and hugged me. I almost started crying because of his generosity and humanity. That's the person I want to be. The one that processes things someone says no matter their tone, and makes sure to acknowledge their pain or their joy and celebrate or commiserate with them. 

There are many other things I now know, but I think those are two life skills that everyone should embrace and practice regularly.

Now onto the math. I have 5 preps this year, and one things that is kicking my (time) butt is Algebra 1 for grade-level students. The awesome teacher who is teaching one of our 3 sections and I are constantly creating new worksheets and figuring out the right recipe to engage them and to make things stick in their heads. We most definitely don't always get it right, but I am proud at some of the things we have come up with. 

I think we taught factoring and quadratics effectively. After we taught the multiplying of binomials, we explored and made connections:


Next, instead of just saying "here is how you factor", we made it into a challenge on that same sheet with some "skeleton notes" that had them figure out numbers that went in the slots. We seem to have less students complaining about not knowing how to factor, so there is that. HERE is a link to this file.

Then, of course, we taught solving by factoring. I liked the fact that we had them explore on the graphing calculator and make the immediate connection to x-intercepts and reinforced the fact that y = 0 at these solutions, and kept asking out loud, "what would you plug in to make y equal to zero". Since we are also on a time crunch for the state test (Thank you, Texas, for shoving more topics down to Algebra 1), we also tossed in some parabola terms on this sheet as we went over it (vertex, axis of symmetry). A side note, we got in the habit of putting "name" and "date" on our worksheets in different languages. So that's why that is in Navajo. HERE is a link to the packet. Ackh, also, we noticed a typo on all the "e" problems. That should be "y = ...."

Next year, sadly, I don't think I will be teaching Algebra 1. I have loved it, and the 9th graders are so fun to harass and talk with, even though they are squirrelly little puppies with non-developed study skills. And, rumor has it I will be down to 4 preps. Woot! 

16 comments:

  1. Last year, 2 days before school was over, I was in a head-on collision on my way home. I am aware that I could have died - it was that bad and yet I didn't break any bones (cracked some ribs, but no arms or legs) - but there was an underlying condition that could have gone fatally south. This year was hard, but I have muddled through. My point is, I make a point of appreciating what I have every day. Thank you for sharing your story.

    I hate that the bad things have to happen first.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Holy Crap! How scary is/was that?!?!? I am glad you are "okay". It is so jarring to have that slap you in the face, the fact that horrible things can happen to anyone at any time.

      Delete
    2. I am about 95% back. Thank you for sharing your story - (I said that) - I think all of us at some point need to be reminded to look around and appreciate what we have - or maybe I am just a 2X4 person. (Old joke: farmer is selling a mule, says he is a really good mule. The buyer asks some question about the mule and the farmer whacks the mule with a 2x4 between the ears. The mule staggers to his feet with a dazed expression on his face. The farmer says - he's a really good mule when you get his attention. Sometimes I feel that God thinks he has to whack me too to get my attention.))

      Delete
  2. Thank you. I have read your blog for many years and I'm grateful that you shared your story. It reminds me of something I read yesterday. Our much loved football coach was diagnosed with ALS last summer. At a fundraiser the other night, he mentioned in his keynote address that he's often asked "What's it like to live knowing you're going to die?" and his response now "What's it like to live like you're not?". Life is so fleeting and it is important for us to recognize that, to treasure the people in front of us, to live life with no regrets. I can't imagine the heartache and sorrow you have lived and continue to live through. Many prayers and hugs to you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a powerful question: "What's it like to live like you're not?". Just wow, and how true for everyone, and especially the "uninitiated". Thank you for sharing and being you.

      Delete
  3. Shireen, sending many, many hugs to you. Thank you for reminding us to be better humans. :)

    I'm now trying to think of what other common words I could put in different languages...maybe I need to look up all the ways to say math!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Meg! It's so funny with this language thing. When we forgot to do it, the kids mentioned it. Hope you have a great spring and ease into the summer.

      Delete
  4. A powerful post. Thank you for it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Very glad that the Global Math Department led me here today. An important read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank You! Hope your year has a ton of fun memorable moments.

      Delete
  7. I've missed reading your blog, and I'm thankful for the fact that I landed here today. Sending you love and hugs. I can't imagine your loss, and I am glad that you have the friends in your life that can make you laugh so hard your stomach hurts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Slowly but surely I am navigating a different life than the one I envisioned. Hope you are having a great year.

      Delete
  8. Shireen, You are such a giver! Your blog is one of the first I ever read and for whatever reason I was sent over here today to appreciate you. Thank You! So sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your pain and change and you cope and don't. Important words. I am soaking them up. I just called my husband to tell him I love him and to ride his bike safely and to tell him thank you. So thank you for that too. We do pretty well, now I will do better.
    My biggest fear of TMC, or any time with a huge group of people I don't know, is how to find those connections. I need them. I need to talk about something real everyday. Thank you for making it real today.
    My favorite poem in the universe is by Mary Oliver, Lead. It is about heartbreak, as in breaking the heart open.
    "The next morning
    this loon, speckled
    and iridescent and with a plan
    to fly home
    to some hidden lake,
    was dead on the shore.
    I tell you this
    to break your heart,
    by which I mean only
    that it break open and never close again
    to the rest of the world."

    Your decision (I don't want to put words in your mouth like courage) to hit "send" will ripple deep. I appreciate you. Here is a virtual hug. And I too, am grateful you can have friends that make you laugh so hard your stomach hurts and random people to to hold you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your kind words about death and marriage and life and such. I love Mary Oliver, and I was not aware of that poem. It's beautiful and thought-provoking. And I know what you mean about connections with people. That's really the only thing, right?

      Delete