“Oh, I am fortune’s fool!”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
I have tried my best to be productive during my spring break and today I have been setting my cooking timer in 20-30 minute increments to multi-task a variety of projects. Do not worry, I built in some computer time and healthy snack breaks. I am supposed to be relaxing and regrouping, after all.
Mike and I have a small, three bedroom, ranch styled home and he has converted one of our spare bedrooms into a walk-in closet. The handy-man that he is, he had already made one of the spare bedrooms a walk-in a few years ago, but it was not very aesthetically pleasing. The room had ugly shag carpeting and it felt unrefined since he had used whatever supplies we had on hand. We envisioned a room that was uncluttered and calming; with standing closets that would not be bolted to the walls (just in case we had to sell our house). We knew that being able to stage the room as a bedroom might be more appealing to potential buyers.
Last summer we decided to make the dream closet a reality. Because we are on such a tight budget we tried to be as resourceful as possible and decided to upcycle the new
furniture pieces. Mike converted standing wardrobes from entertainment centers we found at St. Vincent DePaul’s for a mere $11 each. With some paint and new hardware, I transformed a Goodwill acquired desk into a purple vanity for the make-up nook that Mike converted from the room’s closet. It already looks spectacular, but to make a long story short, progress on our new closet ceased when Mike started classes at Northern Michigan University in the fall. While he moved most of his belongings into the room, my clothing and make-up has been scattered between the two rooms. Organizing these two spaces has been my priority today. As we continue to develop this new closet, I promise to give an update and will dedicate an entire blog piece to Mike’s handiwork. I think others may benefit from his ingenuity.
In addition to organizing our living space, I also sat down and planned out some lessons for my 9th grade English class. We are nearly 3/4 of the way through Act I of Romeo and Juliet and I am excited to commence with the play. The week before break felt like the first couple weeks of school. Any educator knows what I am talking about. The feeling of extreme mental and physical exhaustion when you could go to bed as soon as your feet cross your door’s threshold. I put 100% into making Shakespeare come alive for my students and there is nothing quite like seeing their eyes light up when they realize that they can decipher a text that was written over 400 years ago.
Today as I was lesson planning, I stumbled across Romeo’s quote, “I am fortune’s fool…” and I felt tears brim in my eyes. I am not sure why this quote, which I have guided my students through for going on twelve years, suddenly struck a chord with me, but it did. I have been feeling a wild mix of emotions lately as things seem to spiral out of our hands. Our household financial stress and the budget crisis that my school district is facing. The challenging physics class that Mike has to pass to receive his degree in the spring. A long and gray winter and the tension of Mike being able to find gainful employment so we are able to stay in the area. Sometimes it is easy to feel that we are luck’s play-toy; tossed here and there by whim. Though, the reality is that sometimes stress makes us stronger and empowered. I had to remind myself that one day Mike and I will be able to look back and smile, knowing that our past shaped who we became. As an educator, that is the message that I try to instill in my students. I must model this behavior. My parents, Jim and Karen Armstrong, raised me to be resilient. I am strong and so is Mike.
As I contemplated Romeo and my own life, I sought out other quotes about luck. I felt an emotional response to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s, “Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect” and felt goosebumps thrill with a quote by Alice Hoffman. I searched my digital photo files until I found one of my favorites. It is a photo that Mike captured when we were on a hike through the Old Towne Heritage Trail in Negaunee. I wish I could remember the moment more clearly. In my mind’s eye I am certain we were walking slowly because our dog Phoebe, nose to the ground, was in her full spaniel glory exploring. I am not sure who looked down first, but there they were, TWO perfect four leaf clover. Mike (who I swear sleeps with his camera) snapped the life-affirming photos. Though, tempted to pick the clover, we knew that they were not a gift just for us. I hope others witnessed the message of hope as well.
Today I took Mike’s photo and combined it with the beautiful quote by Alice Hoffman. It speaks more eloquently than I can. The quote embodies the kind of thinking that I am learning to embrace. Every experience we encounter can be our teacher, if we listen. Financial hardship can make us learn how to stretch a dollar, become resourceful, and appreciate luxury. An especially challenging class makes us appreciate our ability to see things through and value our intellect and talents. Moments that stress us make us realize what is truly important. Sometimes gifts come in unexpected places and do not have a material value. They are priceless because we stopped to savor. I am thankful that I have a great partner to share this wild adventure. This post is for Mike. I thank you for the perspective we gather together. Here’s to a healthy, bright, and abundant future. ♥