MrsbusdriverladyAngie

Every year the school year begins with a new crop of little ones on my school bus—4Ker’s. They are four-year-old kindergartners filled with fear, excitement and every emotion in between. We are into the second week of school here in Wisconsin. I am beginning to see their individual personality’s blossom. There is nothing like a new clutch of four-year-olds to teach the virtues of a good sense of humor.

Usually I tell the little ones to call me, Ms. Angie or Angie. This year I have a sweet little 4K boy that insists on addressing me as, MrsbusdriverladyAngie. He is bursting with questions about the in’s and out’s of riding on a school bus. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to hear them because our conversations go something like this…

4K Boy: “Mrsbus…..driver…”

Me: “Yes?”

4K Boy: “Mrsbusdriver…”

Me: “Yes?”

4K Boy: “Mrsbusdriverlady?”

Me: “What do you need Hun?”

4K Boy: “I forgot your name.”

Me: “Angie”

4K Boy: “MrsbusdriverladyAngie.”

Me: “Yes?”

4K Boy: “I forgot my question?”

Repeat conversation every 5-10 minutes until you reach the school.

I thought he would tire of the long winded introduction by now but he shows no signs of shortening the preface to my name. He is a bright colored blossom!  It is with great honor and dignity that I have decided to accept the title of MrsbusdriverladyAngie bestowed upon me by a gusty four-year-old. Life is so much easier with a good sense of humor. When life tickles you don’t hold back the laugh.

“A sense of humor is just common sense dancing.” ~ William James

Strange Love

I’m subbing this week for a 4-year old kindergarten driver while he visits his son out of state. I drove a 4-K route for several years but gave it up last year. My full life overflowed and priorities got shifted. I do love substituting though! Why wouldn’t I? Their sweet wisdom gave me enough material for a whole chapter in my book! Little souls possess a superpower to simplify wisdom.

The teacher has been consistent in her strong suggestion to the little ones to make good choices and behave on the bus while the regular driver is absent. I guess they figured the best possible way to insure staying in good graces with the teacher was to compliment me as she observed them loading on the bus. And compliment me they did! As they filed on I got complimented on every possible body feature and item of clothing I had on. Not a single flaw from the grey hair on my head to my unpolished toenails.

“Ms. Angie, I really like your earrings”. They were simple silver hoops.

“Ms. Angie, I really really like your hair”. My hair was styled by the wind rushing through an open window. Most of it no longer contained in a ponytail.

“Ms. Angie, I really really really like your shoes”. I’m pretty sure they can’t see my feet.

Running out of complimentary options the tail end of the line started to say, Ms. Angie, I love you. Aw, the crème de la crème of compliments! Those already seated had to tell me that they loved me too. Tiny voices in a wild stampede shouted out,  “I love you!” until the teacher reined them in.

Some might think the “love” was meaningless coming from children I hardly knew but the gesture touched my heart. The meaning is in the power of the super feeling to lift spirits up, up and away—together. Breaking through the barriers of the mind. I guess you could say love is our superpower. Maybe we just don’t fully understand the capabilities of love connection power. Even a stranger. Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Love connects us for infinity and beyond.

Feel love. Love the feeling. It’s hate’s kryptonite.

Old Life

They came before the sunbeams pierced the darkness. Two sets of heart-shaped foot prints lead to, around and then away from the small hills of corn I placed at the woodland’s edge, an offering to the wild things to gather strength and sustenance during an extended period of subzero temperatures. No remnants of the corn’s golden shell remain. To see my small hills of goodwill consumed fills my heart with joy.

From the size of the tracks, I decide it’s a doe and her off-spring from last year. Others have come, too; a rabbit, a field mouse, and several crows but it’s the deer tracks that take hold of my imagination. It’s safe for me to assume the doe is eating for two or three. The burden of nourishing the new life in her womb and her own life is greatest at this time of year. The shrubs and forages they have been eating over the long winter are depleted and spring growth hasn’t begun. It’s truly a time of life or death for some in the herd.

Soon her instincts will cause her to drive off the yearling. She does this to focus all her energy on raising this year’s vulnerable fawn(s). The yearling’s old life will come to an abrupt end. I’ll probably see it wandering around the fields looking lost and confused for a few weeks. Independence will come at a high price for some, crossing roads safely is a skill taught by experience. Others will adapt well to this time of transition, venturing out into a new way of living without hesitation, being an example of gentle strength and resiliency for all of us.

The thoughts of the big changes ahead for the yearling stayed with me as I walked on. The enduring trust the doe placed in her instincts is indomitable. She has clear knowledge that it is a lesson she can’t teach her yearling. Trusting its instincts is something the yearling can only learn by being driven off to live a new way. Nature reminds me of life’s continual cycle of renewal. Harsh as that may be at times, life never gets old.

As the years pass, I am beginning to understand that life doesn’t grow old. I do. And if the aliveness in this old life dies away, I will find a new way to live alive.

Note: The photo in the featured image is of an unusually friendly yearling that seemed to find comfort hanging out in our yard and around the horses last summer.

I’m Listening

Child #1: “You’re not supposed to do that!”

Child #2: “I’m not listening to you!”

Child #1: “Yes you do! I’m 5 years old!”

Child#2: “I don’t have to listen to you!” (Child #2 is 4 years old)

Child #1: “Actually…..I’m 5 ½ years old.”

Child #2: “I’m not listening to a 5 ½ year old! Bus driver, how old are you?”

Me: “I’m 52. Actually…I’m 52 ½ years old.”

Child #2: “I only listen to old people like the bus driver. Humph.”

The conversation reminded me of the times I yearned to be old enough for someone, below or above my age, to listen to me.

Now that time has passed and my childhood is far and away, I’ve learned to choose wisely which voices I allow to influence my decisions. What matters most are not the voices I listen to but the one voice I try to silence. That voice, which is so easily quieted, is the keeper of our deepest knowing about ourselves. Our intuition. Whenever we say, “I don’t know or I can’t,” we are communicating to our higher self in no uncertain terms, “I’m not listening to you!” There is nobody telling you  to listen except yourself. We’ve all felt our intuition’s silent shouts, “Yes you do!”  echoing in our gut at one time or another.

Experience (age) has a way of gaining this understanding. If we could all simply take a breath and feel what we are feeling before tying up our knowing in a “not”, there would be no stopping any of us from reaching the unlimited potential untangled in an I do know or I can! Listen to your gut and you hear your heart.

Do make it an imposition to listen to your intuition.

Tale of a Tattler

I’m a school bus driver. Our district has a “no eating “rule on the buses. Mostly, to protect those children with food allergies from a medical emergency while they are in transit. It also helps deters bees and wasps from coming onto the bus looking for sweet treats in the garbage.

On this particular day, a kindergartner tattled on a friend for eating candy on the bus. The candy was a large lollipop. I gently asked the little boy to either throw it away or put back in the wrapper for later. School buses now-a-days have high backed seats. You can’t see anything that is going on in the seats which makes enforcing the “no eating” policy extremely difficult. I’ve adapted a strategy of intentional listening (it sounds better than eavesdropping) on conversations that light up my misbehavior radar.

I can hear a quiet exchange of indiscernible words between the tattled on and the tattler. Within a few seconds, the tattler had another tale to tell, “He’s still eating his candy, Bus Driver!” I now resort to pleading. “Please, put the candy away. You know eating isn’t allowed on the bus”.

That’s when I hear the rule breaker speak up. In a loud, deliberate voice directed at the tattler he says, “For the last time, I’m not eating. I’m LICKING!”

I can’t help but bust into a big smile. Good one! I’m admiring his manipulation skills with a limited vocabulary while at the same time leaving the tattler tongue tied. Then the pure innocents of the situation revealed a profound truth.

We all know we should talk less and listen more. This experience taught me what we should be listening for—meaning. The meaning given to words is defined by the speaker. If we are not giving our complete attention to listening, talking is meaningless.

God Boss

Conversation on the pre-school van I drive:

Little Boy: “Bus driver, did you know that Santa works for God”?

Me: “No, I didn’t”.

Little Boy: “He does! Mom says so. It’s because God watches over us…everyone…EVERYTHING…ALL THE TIME! Not just at Christmas like Santa”.

Me: “Isn’t Santa supposed to watch you all year long to know if you’ve been bad or good?”

Little Boy: “Yea, but Santa just watches you, not everything. God knows what you’re really feeling too”.

Me: “I guess you could say God created the business (life) …lol… so that would make him the boss in a way.”

I thought this part of our conversation was kind of funny. Since one of the first things that pops out of their four-year-old mouths when another little rider tells them to do something is, “You’re not the boss of me!”

Then the wisdom is revealed.

Little Boy: “Did you know when you’re sad you can go inside your head and talk to him. God, I mean. Not Santa. It makes you feel better”.

Me: “I do and it makes me really happy to know that you do too”.

As I write this I can’t help but relive the feeling that flushed through me when he spoke his words. I wish you could have felt the feeling in his words, heard the inflection in his voice and the way his speech softened and slowed. You just knew the conversations were heart to heart.

Holy Headache

The celebration of Saint Nickolas Day can spin a household and a school bus into a tizzy. The event begins with having to find a place to hang stockings. For those of us without a mantel, it can take repeated reassurances to our little ones that St. Nick can find stockings wherever they are hung.

Then you have to get the much-anticipated night of his arrival correct or face self-inflicted parental guilt until Christmas arrives. Is it the night of the 5th or the night of the 6th? Which is it? A quick call to Grandma and she recites the catchy rhyme I can no longer remember and, after a quick check on Google, the day of Saint Nicholas’s arrival is confirmed. Heaven help us if St. Nick should come a day early, a day late or forget us all together. All three scenarios play out in full production on the rolling stage of my school bus in early December.

Children whose houses were visited by the stocking-stuffing Saint console friends whose houses were mysteriously missed. When that happens grey vinyl bus seats convert into therapy couches as little minds wrestle with impossible reasons for their misfortune. It’s heart wrenching. The crushing blow comes to the empty stocking children when defiant peers conclude that St. Nick isn’t coming to their house at all…ever! Quiet sobs and snuffling filter through the bus’s chatter. Emotions go amuck.

Eager to show and share what was stuffed into those stockings, therapy sessions end as quickly as they started. Backpacks fly open. Crying subsides. Dollar store trinkets rouse excitement and a clamor of “Let me see! Let me see”! echoes inside the bus. The happy distraction lightens the

mood. That is until the last of the cheap Dollar Store trinkets falls and breaks. Crying resumes. But there’s still the candy, I say to myself. Maybe it will last until we get to school….

By the end of the week, most of Saint Nicholas’s gifts have been broken or eaten. The bus settles back into its “As the Wheels Turn” elementary school age daily drama. Or so I believe.

Then this happens:

Giggles burst above the seat behind me, the infectious kind of laughter that raises curiosity and lowers good intentions. A young voice says, “Now put a mustache on me”! I glance up and ask, “You two aren’t drawing mustaches on each other, are you”? Without hesitation the response comes.

“Nope. We’re playing with our St. Nick stuff”. Hmm. Traffic pulls my attention back to the road. The mustache mystery is on hold for now. As I am about to revisit the mustache mystery, a face pops out from the side of the seat and into the aisle. That little face is trying to catch a glimpse of its reflection in my rear-view mirror. Looking up at me is a face covered in what appears to be stamped blue paw prints. Several layers of the stamp cover the child’s upper lip. An audible gasp escapes me. My lower jaw drops. My mouth gapes open. OMG! “I thought you told me you weren’t drawing mustaches on each other”! Response: “We weren’t drawing them. We were stamping them on.” St. Nick, you are giving me quite the holy headache. You’re really “stocking it to me” this year!

My lesson in all of this? If your life isn’t giving you the answer you want, maybe you’re asking the question wrong.