A Day of Thanks

It has been a hot second since I have been on here, and that is all for good reason. I started substitute teaching for the biggest school district in Tennessee. It is also the most under funded school district it seems like. When I went to orientation for this they told us that 78% of the children pre-k through 12th grade were considered to have a learning disability. My mind was blown.

I have worked now off and on for two weeks. The first week I only worked two days. I had high school and elementary school. High school I didn’t really know what I was getting into. It is a school that is closest to us in mileage so I took it. I didn’t know that it was one of the worst schools in the district going in. I had freshman mostly with a few sophomores mixed in. Some of the freshmen still acted as if they were still in middle school, but they weren’t too bad for me. One class in particular stuck out to me.

The class that stuck out to me was the honors English class I had. One kid was leading a pretty in-depth conversation. He was talking about how because they are a predominately lower class school they were expected to become drug dealers, to use drugs, or just not do anything with their lives. Their mission was to break the cycle. They had dreams. They also got off on the subject of kids coming out of the closet, and that they knew people that wouldn’t because they needed their parents who they knew wouldn’t accept them anymore if they did “come out of the closet.”  The conversation ended with the same guy talking about how he was working on his relationship with his mother. She wanted him to become a doctor or a lawyer, but that wasn’t what he wanted to be. He had been working on putting together YouTube videos since he was 12 to build a portfolio for when he graduated to do something in that area. I was blown away by their conversation. There is adults that can’t carry on conversations and talk about topics like they were in an orderly manner even when some of them didn’t agree with the opinions they had.

The next day I got to go to an elementary school. When I was in elementary school we had less than 100 kids total in the entire school Kindergarten through 5th grade. This school had 60+ kids per grade that went there. This was also my first time having an aid in the classroom with me while subbing. This was the day that I learned that aids can be a great thing for a sub or they could be a subs worse nightmare. Elementary kids are cool because they still like to do their work. There maybe one kid out of twenty that doesn’t want to do their work, but hey there’s always one in every crowd. Until you get an aid in the classroom that is just as wild if not wilder than the children in the class. Not only are you having to take care of the children, but you are having to take care of the adult that is acting worse than the children. Thankfully that aid didn’t last that long in the class, and a new one came in.

I had an eye opening experience at this school too. I had a dad bring in cupcakes for his little girl. I asked her if it was her birthday, and she responded no. She then proceeded to tell me that he does things like this from time to time because he will be gone to rehab for a couple weeks ever so often, and it’s his way of making up for it. She was in the 4th grade. I realized that day that I still lived under a rock for the most part in my sheltered world. This wouldn’t be the first time this got pointed out to me.

The next week I ended up working 4 days. 4 days for an 8 month pregnant lady is a lot of work. Shout out to you ladies that work up until you deliver. You’re the real MVP. That Tuesday I was with high school again. It was by far the easiest I had and would have. I got lucky, and got one of my friend that used to work at the school his old classes. When I told them I was friends with him they were ready to bow down to me because they thought I could get him to come back and teach them. Sadly he isn’t coming back to them, and they have to deal with the teacher that they all loathe.

Wednesday I was at the middle school that fed into the high school I was at the previous day. I didn’t exactly know what class I had signed up for, but I quickly realized it was going to be a challenge. I had the special needs class. Luckily I didn’t have them by myself. There were two other people in their with me. If you know anyone that teaches special needs kids or helps out with them give them a hug, a high five, a shout-out, or something because they really are a gift from God. There are no words to explain how you handle almost 10 kids at one time that do not have the same disabilities. Structure is definitely key when it comes to teaching them, but with them the day is never the same. Needless to say I was mentally exhausted after being with them all day, and I didn’t even do a whole lot in my book.

Thursday and Friday I was a lot closer to home. I was also in middle school. I was the same teacher two days in a row, and I thought I knew what I was getting into. Middle school kids are the definition of cray cray, and also the definition of can’t listen. I learned that this school was in the bottom 5 of the district. The children were very interested in me being pregnant, and I even had one child ask me how I got pregnant. That question caused a very stern reaction from me when I said I wasn’t discussing that with her. I had one rule for them, and that was to go easy on the cussing. I got told that everyone cusses these days, and if you didn’t you weren’t from the 21st Century. I guess this meant I wasn’t from the 21st Century. These children worked my nerves. They couldn’t keep their hands to themselves, and some of them actually acted like animals – I wish I was kidding. They also liked to skip class. I ended up with a lot of extra children because they wanted to come hangout in my class instead of going to the class that they were supposed to be in.

Progress reports also went out while I was there. I didn’t know it was possible for someone to score less than a 30 in a subject until I saw some of these reports where it had less than a 10 in some classes. With being 8 months pregnant, and this being middle school I couldn’t just leave them and go to the bathroom. There has to be someone in the class at all times. I would have to wait for an admin to come to the classroom so I could go to the bathroom. They were more than understanding when it came to my bathroom breaks. When I left there I apologized for how crazy the kids were, and I was told that I actually had the most control over them then the other people that had subbed for them. If they were “good” for me I would hate to see how much worse it could get.

While I had been trying to get as many jobs I could get, I forgot that my immune system was not prepared for children. Especially children that want to touch you all the time, that always have a runny nose, that sneeze on you, or cough on you without even thinking twice about it. I started to feel a little bad so I started taking over the counter items that I can take due to pregnancy. You are limited in what you can take when you are pregnant, and a lot of things they offer over the counter do not work for me at all. I thought I could fight it with shoveling OTC’s into my system, but that was wishful thinking.

I was hanging on pretty good until Saturday hit, and I lost my voice. It randomly hit out of nowhere. I already had the runny nose, a sore throat, and a little cough. I knew what was coming next, a full blown sinus infection. Monday of this week I broke down and went to the Dr to get antibiotics which is the only thing that will ever help. I was told previously by the baby Dr that while in your third trimester your immune system goes down for yourself, but it takes care of your baby because that is it’s first priority. It took forever for me to get some drugs that would work for pregnancy and also not interact with my seizures.

The antibiotics are finally starting to knock out the snot, but not doing a whole lot for my voice and my cough I still have. I have finally cut back on the amount of tissues I am using. I did try Robitussin last night to see if that would help with the cough – it took my entire voice away. At maximum volume for me it was barely a whisper you could hear when I was talking, and I don’t whisper! I decided to not go that route, and hopefully between hot tea and cough drops the voice and cough will get better.

Today is Thanksgiving, and I have had two weeks to be ultra thankful for all the good that I have in my life. These last two weeks have also brought about some eye-opening experiences as well as a lot of prayers for children that I probably will never see again. I hope that some of these children do find their own path and march to the beat of their own drum instead of following in the steps of those before them. Little man has also made his presence more known this week, and is starting to get super active where you can see it if I am just sitting down. It really does look like an alien is in my stomach! I hope you guys got to enjoy some time with your loved ones, and put your “Thanksgiving pants” on and feasted like Kings and Queens!! Until next time 🙂

Servant Leader

Have you ever met a servant leader in real life? We are told in the Bible that we should emulate Christ, but do we actually ever see it in action out in the World? I can honestly say I have seen it firsthand. And her name was Gilda.

When I was a Freshman in high school I had a crush on a fella that was a Senior. He was the President for Key Club, and was looking for people to join for the next year. I had no idea what Key Club was, but hey when a cute guy asks if you want to be apart of something how do you say no to him? August rolls around and we have our first Key Club meeting. This is when I met Gilda. Gilda was our local Kiwanis Club sponsor. She would come periodically to meetings, and invite us to local events that happened in the area. My first event that I had signed up for was the pancake breakfast. And I loved it. I have never had that much fun serving other people breakfast.

My Junior year I decided to run for President of Key Club. I got it, and I got to spend more time with Gilda through this – luncheons, conferences out of town, meetings at school. She was a blast. Her personality and her laugh were contagious. My Senior year I stepped down as President since I played sports year round, and it was hard for me to get people involved in afternoon activities when I couldn’t even go myself. I was still present for the monthly meetings, and I never missed the pancake breakfast.

The summer after my Senior year my parents had what we like to call a “coming to Jesus” meeting. They told me I had til I turned 18 to find a job or I was getting kicked out of the house. Talk about a shot to the heart…I thought I was going to have a free ride all the way through college. I had no idea where to start so I went and talked with Gilda. Gilda worked at a tuxedo store as a manager, but she had connections all over. When I walked in I was in shorts and a t-shirt, and slightly looked like I hadn’t bathed in a week. I told her what the conversation was that I had with my parents, and she offered me a job on the spot. She also told me I had to dress up for this job.

This was a job that was a blessing from the Lord. I learned so many life lessons from her while I worked there. She taught me that handwritten thank you notes go a long way, and people appreciate them, that the customer isn’t always right, and that if you listen and try to connect with the customer you might become friends for a long time – and yes that last one happened more often then not.

Not only was she managing the tuxedo shop she had a program that she had come up with. That program was called Ambassadors and it consisted of about 20 teenage boys. She taught them how to tie a tie, how to set a table, that community service is a must, and then she also had a dance team. These guys would be able to earn points which would go to their tuxedo rental. At first you could see that the guys were all about getting tuxedos for free, and then they transitioned into loving the community service and hanging out with Gilda. Throughout the year I would go along with the community service projects because Gilda knew that I loved it. When it came time for the prom fashion shows when the boys would dance that was not my cup of tea, but Gilda had taught me how to be able to run the store by myself. She trusted me with that huge responsibility.

Throughout the years I worked on and off for her. She supported me when I started adding jobs that took away from working with her. I started working at Starbucks, and also a small company called Sport Seasons as well as helping her out occasionally. There was a lot of nights that I would be there with just her. We would talk about life, sports, you name it we talked about it. One night we sat down to take a breather from the busy day we had, and we were listening to the radio. They were doing one of those contests where you could win free tickets to a concert. The question was “if you were the opposite sex for the day, what would you do?” Her response: “I’d be gay. I like boys too much.” Somehow I talked her into calling the radio station to give them that answer because it made me laugh. She ended up winning the tickets, and we went to see Gwen Stefani.

I was there when she decided to open up her own shop, and work for herself. She worked countless hours getting everything set up. When she finally got everything in order she broke the news to her boss, and took me and another girl with her. The saying “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, was a motto she lived by. She would bend over backwards for you, and that made you want to bend over backwards for her as well.

It got time for me to get a “big girl” job, and Gilda knew it was coming. It was time for me to break away from her, except I didn’t. I still worked the community service events that I could, and we would get together and catch a Nashville Sounds baseball game. Bob, Gilda’s husband, was a big baseball fan and we would go catch a game together. When Dustin and I got serious, Gilda had to approve – which she did. She took Dustin in just like she took me in. We were her family.

The last time I saw Gilda was at a Nashville Sounds baseball game for her to let us know that she was retiring from the tuxedo business, but would still be doing her Ambassadors and Social Graces (she added girls a few years back to the program). She had sold to another local tuxedo business, but they were going to let her keep on doing her thing impacting teenagers lives. We had text back and forth about the baby, and also my obsession with nuns. (Side note: if you aren’t in awe by the work of a nun then there is something wrong with you…just sayin).

September 22, 2018 Gilda was driving home from an event and got hit in a head-on-collision by a young lady that had been drinking. It killed her instantly. It’s still hard to believe that she is no longer with us. Her death didn’t just impact her family, and those that she added to it, but it rocked the community as well. She was a no-judgment, always had an ear to listen to you, and if there was work to be done in the community she would be the first one there.

Here’s a few links to get a glimpse of what an impact she had on everyone she met:

The Tennesseean

Talk of the Town

I am so thankful that she came into my life 17 years ago. It will take time to heal, and fully comprehend that she is no longer with us on Earth. I am also upset that my son will never get to meet her, and have her spoil him. He will however know how great of a person she was and what an impact she left on the world.