What is Your North Star?

This past week the headlines have been filled with the news of the untimely death of a pop icon- Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 7.47.26 AMTributes and memorials are flooding social media as people want to share memories that reflect how his music was meaningful to them, personally. His passing left many remembering moments  when his music was the soundtrack of their own lives. So many words of adulation are filling up that empty space he once occupied.

More quietly, and yet more importantly for many, we marked the passing of one of the sweetest teachers I have ever had the privilege to work with.  She died of cancer a few days before Christmas, but her memorial service was held yesterday. Jane was a passionate and caring teacher who nurtured hundreds of our youngest students for decades in our district. She taught me so much about seeing school through the eyes of a child.

As we gathered yesterday to remember Jane, many words of admiration were floating IMG_6052about the room… Kind. Dedicated. Amazing. Committed. Sweet. Strong. Determined. These were mostly from the teachers who worked with Jane.  I’m sure there would be others from her husband, daughter, mother, and childhood friends. Memory pages were being passed around in which we were invited to share some remembrance.  How do I choose 1 memory to represent years of friendship and collegiality? How can I adequately pay tribute to this beautiful, courageous, and gentle soul?

Later, I continued to think about others who have been a part of my life and then passed on. Many, like my brother, are with me almost every day. Others find their way back into my life when a memory is tripped by a song, smell, or image.  Some are nearly forgotten. I think about those who have influenced and impacted my life and feel such gratitude for those experiences.  I hope that I have in some way reciprocated in their lives.

Then I move on to the inevitable existential questions.  How will I be remembered?  What words will someone choose to describe my existence? What memory will resonate enough to be inscribed in an album? Who will feel grateful for shared experiences? What mark will I have made on the world that will survive me?

These are questions for which I will never have an answer, but I can think about them as a compass guiding me to my North Star. I want to live a purposeful, compassionate, and joyful life. I want to be overwhelmed by gratitude.  I want to love and be loved. I want to leave this world richer when I exit than when I entered.  I want my life to matter.

Each day my North Star can guide me to do my best work, be my kindest, try my hardest, and love my most fervently. It will help me to be grateful for what is, and not perseverate on what isn’t. As I end this spring break and head into the homestretch of this school year I will strive to be more present and purposeful; savoring my daughter’s senior year, being thankful for the dedicated teachers I work with, and appreciating my loved ones.

Life is tentative. What will be your North Star?

What’s On My Book Radar?

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 8.45.08 AMAfter I read Salt to the Sea (by Sepetys) I found out she had written this book previously that is a companion (not prequel) and I had to read it. This book tells the story of 15 year old Lina (Joana’s cousin) who is preparing for art school when the Soviet secret police barge into her house one night and deport Lina and her brother and mother to Siberia. Their father is sentenced to death in a prison camp. Now they must struggle for their lives, wondering why they are enemies of the state, and if Hitler will be their savior! Lina risks her life to create art that will send a message to her father and others to document their experience. It is estimated 35-50 million people died under the ruthless reign of Stalin. Will Lina and her family be among those forgotten victims? Will she ever see her cousin Joana again? Definitely YA (8th+) with genocide and inhumane experiences.


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