My Leap List

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011

     The new year always takes me by surprise.  It always seems that the year just started and now it is gone again.  Everyone celebrates the end of the old and the chance to start anew with hopes it will be better than the last.  Hope springs eternal in our world.
     This year gave me so many gifts.  Even the hard lessons of life brought me to where I am today.  2011 brought me enlightenment.  I found peace in breathtaking views of nature and majestic animals.  I made new friends that supported me as I started a new career path.  I shared my deepest secret and found that I was still loved.  I found a familee of support with people that truly understood me, even though I have yet to meet them in person.  I found my voice and began writing again.  I taught many classes and tried to make a difference for the teachers and students in each one.  I reconnected with lost friends and met close friends I hope to hug in person when we meet for the first time.  I was brought to tears by the generosity and love of strangers and awed by the goodness that surrounded me when I stopped running and looked around.  I reached out to others and was graced with love and acceptance.  I was blessed with art that quieted John's mind and music that eased my pain.  I read 46 new books and came away a better person.  I laughed hysterically with my brothers and sisters.  I danced for my daughter and sang lullabies to my son.  I giggled with my grandma and brother at the George Strait concert.  A new bunny gave all of us hope that we could open our hearts again after death had closed them.  I lost someone I loved dearly to suicide and questioned everything in my life.  I found myself at the edge of the abyss more times than I would like to admit, but the dawn always brought a new beginning.  I am still here.  I am patched up, but beautiful in the broken places.  I have much left to do.  I am blessed beyond belief.  So tonight, as the year draws to a close, I want to thank all of you, my angels, the universe, God,  for helping me through the darkness and bringing me light.  Here is to a new year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Gift of Teachers

     Teachers amaze me.  They change lives every day with their magic.  NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) ended a few days ago.  Three 7th grade teachers encouraged their students to participate.  They gave students class time every day, a place to write, and motivated them with praise and competitions.  Their students wrote over three million words.  Seventeen of their students met the adult goal of 50,000 words in a month.  Pure magic!  I can only imagine what my life would have been had my 7th grade English teacher encouraged me to write a novel.  I might actually be an author now, rather than still dreaming about it.
     Three teachers downstairs help students write persuasive speeches, applying the Constitution to their lives today.  Students research their topics, write speeches, and prepare follow-up questions to show they can think on their feet.  In a few weeks, the students will stand before local politicians, business owners and civic leaders to present their speeches to a real audience.  They are excited and involved in political issues.  These students will not be apathetic leaders of the future.
     Down the hall, a teacher makes hot chocolate for his students to celebrate rocket launching day.  With his guidance, students have learned about rockets, created their own designs, and built their rockets from scratch.  Today they launch their creations on a cold December day with hot chocolate gripped tight in their hands.  Every time I smell hot chocolate, I will think of the awe and excitement as their faces followed the rockets across the sky.
     Across the hall, the dance company runs through the final preparations for the three performances of the day.  They twirl and leap and fly across the stage.  We all stare in stunned silence at the way they defy gravity on the stage.
     Up on the balcony, math students prepare their final calculations before sending the GI Joes bungee jumping to the floor.  Groans and cheers accompany the jumps, as students reassess their equations.  I wish I was smart enough to explain what they were doing, but my math classes were limited to endless worksheets and the odd problems in the book.  I got As and Bs, but I don't know how to apply what I learned.  The kids tried to explain it to me, but it got lost in translation.  I wonder what my brain could do today if it had learned to apply math, starting with bungee jumping GI Joes.
     These are just a few examples of the magic going on with the teachers I know, in one school, in one district, in one city, in one state, in America today.  Imagine that number infinitely adding across the world.  Teachers are incredible gifts.  They touch our future every day with the magic they give our children. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Gift of a Sister

     Having a sister is one of my very best gifts.  After spending every year of her life on this planet with me, she understands me in a way that no one else can.  I can't imagine my life without her in it.  She is my biggest cheerleader and my strongest supporter.  When things get hard, she's the first one I call.  She will cry with me until the tears dry up, and then she will make me laugh until I feel human again.  When I am sick she brings me care packages of soup and music and Pepsi and love.  She knows all my secrets and doesn't use them against me.  She loves me through my worst days and hands me an umbrella so we can dance in the rain.  

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Gift of Mandy

     Watching her walk towards me, I catch my breath.  After sixteen years, it is still so hard to believe that I have this beautiful girl in my life.  She longs to be an adult, to be on her own, to be independent.  It isn't a rebellion as much as wanting to stop being an inconvenience for everyone else.
     I don't know where this feeling comes from. Somewhere along the way I've taught her to stifle her needs until she feels guilty for doing something fun for herself for a change.  I wish I knew a way to change what happened, but I wouldn't even know which moments to go back and fix.  They were probably sprinkled throughout her days until they became her truth.
     This girl has my soul.  I would do anything for her.  I never knew the depths of love before she chose me as her mom.  I wish she knew that every moment with her is a joy, never an inconvenience or a burden.  It never even crosses my mind.  I am thrilled to spend time with her, even if it is driving her downtown to meet her friends for a day of fun while I go shopping.
      

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Gift of Lighting the Darkness

     In these troubled times, we long for heroes to shine their lights in the darkness and lead us to the other side.  We are the rays of  light in one another's lives, keeping the darkness at bay.
     We light the darkness when we take a stand for what is right, even at huge personal risk.  We fight valiantly to the end, even when the odds are infinitely high.  We follow an ethical code and live a life of integrity, rather than taking the easy way out.  We take personal accountability for our mistakes and never make the same mistakes again.  We slow down and take the time to actually see people in need, not just the things we didn't finish off our endless lists.  We honor our elders and celebrate our young.  We tend to the wounded and reassure the timid.  We smile at the lovers and mourn with the lost.  We inspire others to follow our lead and add their own lights as a beacon for others to follow.
     When I am lost in the darkness, I look for the people that glow with light and love.  They are the ones that can lead me to safety.  I cannot follow the others, like me, who are lost in the darkness.  It's too easy to fall into the abyss.  I surround myself with peaceful energy and positive people until my light shines again.  Then I go back for the ones I left in the darkness and use my light to lead them home.
     May you always find light in the darkness when you are lost, and may you shine brightly for the others when you are found.  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Gift of Being Good Enough

     I keep putting cruel authority figures in my life and letting them belittle me.  Another attack tonight took me by surprise and left me running out of class in tears.  When I don't listen to the whispers in my life, they throw bricks to get my attention and then a wall falls on my head.  Okay, I'm listening.  You can stop throwing bricks at me.  I'm thoroughly bruised up.  What are you trying to teach me?  What lesson do I need to master?
     These people are all authority figures and have actual power over my future, so their opinions are very influential.  But I am not the same person I was a few months ago.  I am tired of letting everyone else's opinions of me define who I am.  The old me would have been devastated and symbolically ran away by quitting or dropping out.  Then she would have shut down for several days and taken a few weeks to get back to being me.  The new me just cried for a few minutes, raged for a few more and then looked for the lesson in all this.
     I want this and I'm not going to let these people make me give up my dream.  I don't need their approval.  I am proud of who I am and what I have accomplished.  I am good enough now...here...in this moment...just as I am.  A wise woman.      

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Gift of Helping Others

     This week has been a crazy week, but honestly, when is my life not one crazy week after another?  Once again I have taken on way too much, even Atlas would struggle under the weight I carry.
     Today a random phone call interrupted my 4th period class.  I almost didn't answer, but last time that happened, I received incredible news, so I picked up the phone.  The voice asked me to sub a four hour class tonight.  Taken off guard and trying to hand motion my class into being quiet and on task, I couldn't think of an excuse to say no, so I reluctantly said yes.
      The teacher ran in the door to drop off lesson plans.  With tears in her eyes she told me that her daughter had a stroke today and they weren't sure if she would make it.  Suddenly my burdens seemed weightless, but the guilt was a bit heavier.  I wished there was something I could do for her besides just take her class.
      Sometimes the littlest things make the biggest difference for others.  Yesterday I made worry dolls as a reward activity for the kids at school.  One boy told me, "I had to come.  I'm from Guatemala and I want to learn about my culture."  Today a girl said, "Ms. C, your advice really worked.  I was up till 11 last night worrying about stuff.  I put the worry doll under my pillow.  I slept till 6, and I was totally rested."  I wish I could solve more problems with pipe cleaners, beads and yarn.
     Tonight I talked to a special girl in my life.  It's a hard time of year to face without her brother and sister.  Death is always hard, but suicide is cruel.  The guilt and remorse eat her from the inside.  How small my words seemed as we cried together.  I'm hoping that the little things like my love and my words and my thoughts and my prayers give her some small comfort.
     In this season of love and goodwill, I celebrate that my burdens are light enough that I can easily help the others walking this path with me.  Tonight I celebrate the gift of helping others. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Gift of a Beautiful Planet

     The Voyager spaceships are facing the solar winds in the Heliosphere as I ponder the world I live in tonight.  I like to joke that I am a native Martian just here visiting for awhile, but the truth is I love this beautiful planet.  This tiny blue marble is an incredible part of the universe - whether from a greater being(s) or as a cosmic random blip of chaos.
     Seeing videos like this reminds me of the Earth's true beauty and fragile vulnerabilities.  If we all saw the world this way, we might do a better job of walking gently.  Today I celebrate the gift of this beautiful planet Earth. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Gift of Tomorrow

     Time is one of my most precious gifts.  Without time, everything loses its meaning.  When a moment of pure joy enthralls me, I wish I could stop time and keep the moment forever.  Knowing me, I would get bored and want to experience something new.  Endlessly reliving my darkest moments is an obvious version of Hell I do not need.  I do that well enough on my own.  
     With the gift of time, comes the gift of tomorrow.  No matter how wonderful or devastating today was, everything will change tomorrow.  You may not see drastic changes, but there will be changes.  The sea continually washes away the sand, but if you watch carefully, new patterns emerge, seashells wash ashore, and sometimes hermit crabs come out to play.  You never know what tomorrow will bring.    
     Yesterday was one of the bleakest days yet for my family, but today brought so many gifts:  sunshine, music,  good news, a cookie, time to laugh with my daughter and cry with my son,  homemade worry dolls to sing to, fresh starts, and a chance to make a difference for someone else.  Tomorrow made all the difference.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Gift of Words

     No matter how bad life is, I can turn to my writing and pour my soul into my words.   Writing literally saved my life when I was a suicidal teenager.  When there was no one to talk to, I poured my despair into the words.  Writing let me live one more day and one more day and one more day until I could find other things to keep me going.
     Music is a magical combination of words set to music.  Words to say what I cannot say.  Words that replay in my mind when I am lost and confused.  Words to share the darkness so I know I am not alone.  Someone else has been where I am and lived to tell the tale in a song.  It gives me hope that tomorrow will be better.
     Today I celebrate the gift of words and their power to save a life tonight.  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Gift of Joy

     John suffers from severe depression.  Winter triggers the worst of it.  Christmas is a time of joy for so many people, but not for him.  For him, it brings the depression for things long gone, for childhood lost, time slipping through his fingers no matter how tight his fists clench.  
     I am blessed to live a life of happiness.  I love simple things - the laughter of my children as they play games, music, glittering snow on a frolicking bunny.  
     It wasn't always this way.  I have spent more years than I care to remember curled up in despair, longing for someone to save me.  I have sobbed through nights where I would gladly have welcomed death.  My walls were so high that no one could ever hope to get to me.  I remember every one of those moments and fight to stay away from the edge of the abyss.  
     Tonight was a hard family moment decorating the Christmas tree.   Mandy leaned over and said, "It's okay, mom.  You can't get your joy from someone else."  She is right.  I wait for the joy until we can all feel it together.  Luckily I have this wise angel in my life to remind me of the these simple truths.  
     This year if I have to travel to Hell to save the person I love, I will bring a great joy to everyone I meet along the way.  They won't know what to make of me.    

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Gift of Time

     Today I found out about "The Good Samaritan Experiment."  In the study researchers tried to determine why people would pass someone in need without stopping to help.  I was shocked to find out that the overwhelming reason in the study was time.  When people were in a hurry, only 1 in 10 people was willing to stop and help the person in need.  When people were not in a hurry, 2/3 of the people stopped to help.  This baffles me.  I can't imagine what would put me in such a hurry that I wouldn't stop and help.  I have seen many stories lately where people do the same thing - step over people lying in distress on the street or in the nursing home or the floor of the store.  It helps explain why people are willing to trample someone in their rush to get the best deal on the Black Friday sale.  Most of us would like to think we are different than everyone else.  We would be the one person that would stop.
     I like to think the same thing, but I realize that I am the other nine people in a million small moments every day.  When I feel stressed and someone opens my door to ask me a question, I can feel myself grimacing without meaning to.  I cut people off in mid-sentence and interrupt in my rush to get them to finish more quickly.  I snap at people when they aren't doing what I want them to do because it is slowing me down.  In the morning I nag at my kids to get up and get moving.  I cringe at people who take too long in the line at the store.  I say things like, "That was a total waste of my time."  I nod and say "uh huh" a lot, but I don't look up from what I'm doing and usually don't have a clue what they are saying to me.  I am not a fun person to be around.  I can tell when I am like that because people stop smiling when they see me.  Sometimes they stop talking.  Often they say things like, "Sorry.  I''ll come back later when you aren't busy."  Sometimes I feel bad when I see that, but I also feel resentment that now I have to take even more time to convince them that I truly want to hear what they had to say to me.
     Yesterday and today were days like that for me.  I felt frustrated that my time was being wasted, like it something that is worth money, when in reality, what could be more important than people?  The "stuff" will still be there later.  It won't be the thing I regret not having spent time on when I finally run out of time.
     I am so glad to say that the day started that way, but it didn't end that way.  I was able to refocus on my students and truly respond to what they needed, rather than react to what they were doing.  I was able to spend time talking to a former student and buy what she was selling.  I was able to spend an hour talking to a new teacher I mentor, but also consider a friend.  She rarely "bothers" me because she knows "how busy I am."  Luckily, I have plenty of time on Friday afternoons because I reserve every Friday for her and another new teacher.  Sometimes they both come down to visit.  Sometimes we stay and talk for a couple of hours.  Sometimes no one comes and that is okay, too.  I can be completely in the moment because time isn't controlling the moments I have with them.
     Today I celebrate the gift of time and vow to notice all the people along my day that need to be noticed, not just the one being trampled under my feet.  Peace.
     

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Gift of People

"What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?"  - George Elliot
     
      December has arrived with the promise of symbolic gifts.   I am often so busy rushing through my life that I miss them entirely.  To celebrate the season of reflection and love,  I honor a different gift each night.  Focus brings understanding and gratitude, perfect for renewing their influences throughout my life.
     Today I cherish the gift of people in my life.  As a child I learned to mistrust everyone in my life.  As an adult I hide myself from people in many subtle ways.  It is a lonely place to be, but it offers a safe place to hide.  Today I was healed by the goodness of people.  When I needed help with a situation at school, nearly everyone reached out and offered to help me.  They e-mailed, called, and stopped by to offer their help.  
     Tonight I was having a hard time staying centered on learning in class.  On break I went to my nemesis - caffeine.  The machine ate $1.10 of my money.  When I went back to class and shared what had happened, four people pulled out money to buy me a drink.  When things got difficult tonight, they made me laugh and told me everything would be okay.  
     The kindness of the people in my life heals the wounds I have carried for so many years.  I am truly blessed with the gift of people.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reflections

     Today is November 30.  The month has finally come to an end.  Tonight ends the challenge I never thought I could do - commit to blogging every day for a month.  It seems so easy when it's written like that.  It doesn't explain how many days I wanted to give up, to say it's too hard, the nights I wrote with my brain half-asleep, or the days I thought I had nothing to say.
     This was a wonderful experience for me for those very reasons that made it so hard.  I learned that I can persevere through the rough days, whether they be mental, physical, or emotional.  I usually start things and then drop them when things get hard.  I can't tell you how many times I have tried to finish a novel...or start it, for that matter.
     I learned that even on the days I think I have nothing to say, I can open my heart and it will tell me what I need to feel and express.  Writing every night helped me feel better, think clearly, and sleep deeply.  Usually November is one of my weakest months physically and emotionally, but this month was a totally different experience.
     I learned to trust myself and feel confident in what I have to say.  Sometimes very few people read my posts, and that is okay, because I write for myself so I can make sense of my life.  Sometimes lots of people read my blog and that has helped me believe in myself.  I've come a long way from letting the voices in my head tell me that my writing is not good enough.  Being chosen as the blog of the day and having over 400 readers yesterday made me feel that I can speak up and be heard.  It has begun to bleed over into my daily life.  Today I spoke up several times on issues that I felt strongly about, when only a few days ago, I would have let my silence be heard as approval.
     Writing each day has helped me see myself and my family in new ways.  I have gained a new appreciation for all of my life, the worst life has to offer and the moments I will cherish forever.   
     I thought I would be eager to call this the end and going back to posting when something grabs me and won't let go until I get it down on this figurative paper, but I was wrong.  I plan on continuing this through December.  I may not make every day, but I know I can, and that makes me thrilled to give all kinds of new things a try.  So rather than goodbye, I wish you a goodnight.
       

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Honoring Myself

     My daughter and I share so many things, including Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  In trying to prove my own self-worth, I have taught my daughter to dishonor herself.
     I have taught her to ignore her body's signals and power through the pain and fatigue because she sees me do that every day.  She pushes until her body collapses and then feels like a failure because she can't keep going.
     By always saying "yes" to everything, I have taught her to put herself last on the list because that is what I do to myself.  By not saying "no" to anything, I show her that everything is an emergency.  It wears you down to try to complete an endless list day after day.
     She has watched me run myself ragged.  She's learned not to ask me for things she needs so she doesn't add to my stress.  She has become a perfect mini-adult to help out in my absence.  Her love for me keeps her from the things she needs from her mom.
     I am definitely the wrong person to come to her today and ask her to honor herself and ask for the help she needs.  Cute girl she is, she agreed, even though it was incredibly hard for her to do.
     So, today I am learning from her. I was offered a scholarship today to renew my national board certification, and I almost e-mailed a "yes" immediately.  Then I realized that this wouldn't change me as a teacher or impact my students.  It already did that the first time.  However, it would take many hours of time and energy and focus and little sleep...all the things I am asking Mandy to stop doing.  I would be doing it for the prestige and the honor and the approval of people who really don't care and sacrificing myself in the process.  I realized that it is time to honor myself and say yes to things for the right reasons for a change.  Thank you, baby, for helping me learn a powerful lesson today.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Simple Moments are the Priceless Ones

     Sometimes I get caught up in the rush of day to day survival and forget to enjoy the simple moments.  It always gets worse at Christmas.  I want my kids to be happy every day, but this time of year, my brain confuses "happy" with "things I can buy."  Luckily, the kids keep reminding me that the simple moments mean the most in their lives.  Here are some of the simple moments I will treasure from this year.
     An impromptu read-aloud by the fireplace while the kids roasted marshmallows was the highlight of Halloween this year.  The candy and costumes and decorations were fun, but I will always remember the look of contentment as they snuggled in their pillows and blankets, firelight flickering on their faces.  It was a moment I almost missed in my rush to do homework and get everyone to bed.  Luckily Mandy reminded me of Nick's one request he had made in passing that afternoon.
     Mandy has wanted a bunny since she was a little girl.  This year I broke down and got her one for Easter.  Every moment with Floppy brings pure joy.  There are so many wonderful moments to choose from, but today was my favorite.  When Mandy put out her hand to pet Floppy, Floppy laid her head down on the floor.  As Mandy petted her, she put her ears back and began to purr.  Every time Mandy tried to put Floppy in her cage, Floppy would nuzzle Mandy's hand until it was back in the place she likes to be petted, closed her eyes and purred.
     Nick is also in love with the bunny.  He gives a play-by-play update on the newest cute thing she did throughout the day.  Today he told me she is the best part of his day because every morning she is the first thing he sees.  These are moments they will never forget, and I owe it all to a small bunny I thought was too expensive and time-consuming to get before now.
     I will always remember the simple moments curled up in bed with my kids reading a wonderful bedtime story together, laughing and sharing our random thoughts as we read.  I hope they never get too old for those moments.
     On the Fourth of July, I told the kids how my sister and I used to watch fireworks from the hood of our car when we were little girls.  They convinced their dad to take us to a parking lot near the park, got out, and climbed on the hood of the car to watch the fireworks.  Listening to them talk and giggle as they tried to stay on the hood of the car was the highlight of my holiday.  The gorgeous fireworks were just the setting behind their joy.
     For the state holiday, we climbed in the hot tub and watched the neighbor's fireworks going off all around us.  It was simple and free and one of the best moments of the summer because we were together, sharing our favorite things in a new way.
     This fall we went to our favorite place - Silver Lake.  We have been there many times, but this year brought us face to face with a moose family.  The mom and baby lay in the reeds, while the dad stood nearby letting us take his picture.  The fall leaves, the golden sunshine, and the majestic animals made it a moment frozen in my mind.  It was another moment that we almost missed with all of my commitments and the physical energy required with my Fibromyalgia.  A perfect single autumn moment, together, as a family.
     As December eases in, I will focus on the simple moments that make the holiday special - baking cookies together, singing carols, making gifts for the people we love, looking at the lights.  I will stop worrying that the kids don't have enough and focus their attention on the simple moments that bring us all priceless memories.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Rule Book for Parenting - Err on the Side of Love

     My mom told me today that parenting would be a lot easier if it came with a rule book.  It would be lots easier, but it wouldn't be nearly as much fun.  Parenting is one of the areas that I break nearly all the rules.    
     Mandy can paint her room in whatever style or color she wants to and change it on a whim.  I don't care if it matches the rest of the house.  She can pick up any hobbies and drop them when they no longer suit her needs.  She can dress how she wants and wear her hair long and short and every style in between.  She can read any book she chooses - banned or not while listening to Christmas music in June.
     She is a free thinker and a lover and a poet and a dreamer and an artist and the girl of my heart.  I couldn't be more proud of who she is or who she has been.
     As a new parent, I tried to follow the rule book and was ready for the scheduled milestones to occur.  Mandy quickly let me know that wouldn't be the way things would work for us.  When I was at a loss, she taught her self sign-language and taught me to talk to her before she could speak.  She has always known what was best for her and set out to do it.  All I had to do was get out of her way and enjoy her adventures.
     If we had done it my way, I never would have heard her say "I love you" in Latin or learned about her favorite quotes from the murals on her wall or had a turtle or dressed her as Antarctica for a comic/anime festival or heard of her dreams to travel in Paris or any of the other wonderful gifts she gives me every day.  I wouldn't have her.  I would only have a pale imitation.
     It sure would have been easier with a rule book, but sometimes you just have to put your faith in the universe and err on the side of love.  Lots and lots of love.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas Greed

     Hours after celebrating a day giving thanks for all we have, people trampled one another in their greed for more.  People left stores black and blue, battered, crying, terrified, and in one case, stepped over as he lay dying on the floor.
     This is a sad commentary on one of the richest countries in the world.  In a world where most people live off less than a dollar a day, we each consume a cities worth of goods a day and throw away a feast because we have too much.
     Some justified the day as "fun" or "bargain shopping" or as "necessary in a bad economy."  How do any of these words equate to what happened?  How did stepping over someone as he lay dying become the deal of a lifetime?
     We worship the mighty dollar and lose the meaning of Christmas.  If Jesus was there helping the man up and carrying him to heaven, I am sure he wept at what he saw us doing in his name.   

Friday, November 25, 2011

Letting Go

     We have been through so much, you and I.  We were kids together a lifetime ago.  I thought I would get used to this roller coaster ride, but the older I get, the more it just feels like whiplash.  I don't know how to get off, but I don't want to spend my life upside down anymore.
     Every wish on every star and every birthday candle is for you...to find a way to save you from yourself.  I feel so helpless all the time.  How do I know if letting go will force you to find what you need or if it will kill you?  How do I take that chance?
     

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Four-Year-Old Thanksgiving

     It's hard to be four.  It takes a lifetime for Thanksgiving to get here and then it flies by.  You admire your big cousins and want to follow them everywhere and do everything they do, but they don't always want a four-year-old shadow.  You think you have endless energy, until you crash in your plate of potatoes.         
     Someday you'll laugh to hear the story of how everyone put their heads down on the table to convince you that we really do take naps after Thanksgiving dinner.  
     Four is magic.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving

     Thanksgiving is my least favorite holiday.  I hate everything about it.  It brings back bad memories for me and I dread it every year.  It's ironic that it is my daughter's favorite holiday.  To help me stay in a positive mindset for her holiday, I am thinking about all the things I am thankful for in my life - big and small.
     The first great thing is music.  I love music.  Upbeat songs put me in the mood to face a new challenge, exercise, or clean my house.  Sad songs console me when I'm feeling lost.  When the Fibromyalgia flares up, I actually feel physically better after I listen to music for awhile.  When I can't sleep, my I-Pod comes to bed with me and sings me lullabies.  When I feel sad and can't find the words to express my feelings, the lyrics that capture the perfect feeling get stuck in my head until I make a note of them and see what they are trying to say.  Music enriches my life in a million different ways every day.
     My friends are amazing people.  I am a very shy person and it is hard for me to make new friends.  I have been blessed with incredible people that help me every day.  They make me look forward to going to work each day.  They send me positive notes and well-wishes in person, through Facebook, and e-mails.  My friends make life worth living and I am thankful for every one of them.
     My kids are the best part of my life.  My life used to be black and white.  When they joined my life, I suddenly had color.  As they grew, they taught me to see shades of gray, so I could be a better person.  They give me faith in humanity and a reason to keep going when I want to give it all up.
     My job is amazing.  I love teaching.  I love the kids.  I love seeing them grow and watching them become better thinkers, better readers, and best of all - better people.  They teach me new things every day.  Just today, they taught me compassion, patience, and perseverance.  They teach me more about life than I could ever hope to tell them about English or reading.  I am thankful I have the chance to have a job I love.
     I am thankful for writing.  It has literally saved my life and saved me from myself.  No matter how horrible or wonderful life is, I can get it all out in writing, see it, assess it, and move forward with a fresh take on everything.
     I am thankful for my bunny that lets me slow down and enjoy quiet time.  When I am most rushed, she nips at me or eats the carpet or any of the other things she does that I have to pay attention to.  Then when I go over to her, she nuzzles me and asks to be petted.  When I stop and snuggle her or nuzzle her ears, I feel my blood pressure and heart rate slow and I feel calm again.  She helps me smile and enjoy the little things in my life that are actually big things.
     I am thankful for my Fibromyalgia because it has made me a compassionate person.  I have learned empathy for others that struggle with disabilities.  It has also helped me focus on what is important in my life.  When I faced losing the job I love, it helped me focus on enjoying the things I do have in my life.  I am still not perfect at this part of my life, but I am glad I am working through the lessons.  I am also VERY thankful for modern medicine so the pain is tolerable most days, even though it never goes away.
     I am thankful for my sister and my brothers.  Whenever I am struggling, they come to my rescue.  Some days rescue is a care package of music and soup.  Some days it is a surprise gift of flowers, Christmas Minions, or Thanksgiving doughnuts.  Other times it is a phone call to make me laugh or let me cry.  Sometimes it is taking my kids for a special day when things are hard for them.  They are the ones in the background that support me so I can keep going.  I couldn't do most of what I do without them.
     I am thankful for art that brings quiet to John's tortured mind when he battles depression, bipolar episodes and Schizophrenic hallucinations.  He makes me appreciate the quiet moments.  When he laughs, the kids and I stop and laugh.  We all love those rare moments and happiness permeates our home.  Watching his struggles has made my kids caring and non-judgmental people.  It has made all of us stronger and more thankful of the good times we have with him.
     I am very lucky and have much to be thankful for.  I raise my glass to all of you that help me in so many ways that can't be expressed in one small post today.  I love all of you more than you will ever know.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Language of Money

     I want you to be proud of me, so I tell you the things I wanted to buy, but didn't.  I know I spend way too much money on everyone else and we go without so many things.  I know that is hard on you and one of the things you like least about me.  I am a bleeding heart and I want to save the world, even if I have to live in poverty.  I didn't mean for you to have to join me.  When I tell you the things I passed up, I'm trying to show you that I am trying to make things better.
     To you, it seems like I am rubbing in all of the things I could do if I didn't have you.
     No wonder our finances are such a mess.  We speak a different language when it comes to money.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Watching

     Today I was asked to have a student I didn't know in my classroom all day for In School Suspension (ISS.)  The first hour went by and he didn't do anything.  I just watched to see if I should push him or leave him alone.  (I'm practicing when to hold on and when to let go.)  I decided to go over and ask him if he needed help.
     He said, "No."
     I asked him if he finished all the work they had sent already.  He said, "No."
     I decided to nudge him a bit, so I said, "I bet they will want you to have some of the work done, so you might want to do some in case they come to check on you."
     When I came back over, he was working on some of his work.  He said he didn't need any help.  By third period he was asking for help.  By lunch, we had bonded enough for him to tell me a bit about his mom.  By the end of the day, he came up and gave me a picture he had drawn for me.
     As I hung it up, I asked him why he was in ISS.  He told me that another student had been threatening him, so he pushed the boy who was bullying him.  I told him next time to come and tell me and I would help him take care of it.  He smiled, patted me on the back, and told me I was an awesome teacher.
     Today this boy taught me an important lesson about judging people.  Since I knew he needed ISS, I assumed that he was a trouble maker.  Luckily, he also taught me a second lesson about giving others what they need, not what I want to give them or what I think they need.  I often jump in to "fix" things before I see what the problem is or whether or not they even need my help.  If I would have jumped on this guy first thing this morning instead of just watching, he probably would have shut down or had a confrontation with me.
     I am glad this cute guy passed through my life today and taught me some lessons I struggle with in my life.  I'm keeping his picture on the wall to remind me.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hollow Spaces

     When you never had the love you needed as a child, you struggle to fill the emptiness with anything that will get you through another day.  It is never enough.  
     I promised to never have hollow children.  I am so used to stuffing the hollow places, I don't know what to do for people that are already full.  They are stuffed so much, they rage against the stifling love I offer.  I know I am doing it, but I float outside myself and watch it all unfurl.    
       I'm finding my way back, breathing, trying to find balance, forgiving myself for my mistakes.  It's hard for this hollow person to know what to do when I can't fill the holes in their lives.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Breath Before the Grace

     Darkness and light dance endlessly through my life.  I know I can't live without the light, but I forget the darkness gives my life meaning.  Wisdom comes by looking back and seeing the patterns of grace through my darkest moments.  Lost in my darkest moments, feeling I cannot take one more breath, grace shines through, and I breathe deeply.
     John's mental illness is a dark abyss for all of us, but every time I fall into despair, grace brings him home.  These brief moments give me the strength to face the darkness with him.  No one should have to walk through Hell alone.
     Nick's ghosts surround him and keep him from ever feeling totally safe in his life.  Grace brings him a dry sense of humor and an empathy for everyone that leaves me speechless.  Just being around him makes me feel peace and quiet joy.  He brings grace to my life every day.
      Mandy's health keeps her bedridden for days at a time, but her spirit is undiminished.  Her empathy for others runs physical, but she would rather hurt herself than see the people she loves in pain.  Her sensitivity helps her understand people better than they understand themselves.  Her writing is poetic and tragic and beautiful.  She gives me strength and beauty in my life.
     After crying myself to sleep on the darkest nights, the sun not only rises, but a beautiful sunrise to remind me that there will always be a breath before the grace.  I am never alone.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Broken Ones

     I love Dia Frampton.  Her song "The  Broken Ones" is incredible.  She captured my words so much better than I could tonight.  Thanks, Dia.  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Angels Among Us

     Today I walked among so many angels in disguise.  I am the leader of the National Junior Honors Society at my school.  One of the things we focus on is giving service to others.  Last spring a kindergarten teacher asked us to help make file folder games for her students so they could get extra help with some skills.  This school is a high poverty school with many struggles.  Right after I got the file folder games from her, we had to stop offering service projects for the year.  I lugged them home for the summer and planned to finish them myself, but didn't get it done.
     This week I went on the announcements and asked the kids to consider stopping in to help me.  I didn't know if anyone would because it wasn't the funnest activity offered.  Today, fifteen girls showed up to help.  Most of them weren't even in the honor society.  They just wanted to help the kids.  Several of the girls asked if they could take a few home to work on during their free time this weekend.  One girl stopped by after school to get a few more.  I couldn't believe fifteen teenage girls could be so compassionate and concerned for others.  Not only did they give up a free period activity to help the kids, they were willing to give up their free time this weekend to help the kids.  It touched my heart and gave me hope for the future.
     Another angel was disguised as a nurse today.  My daughter has been very sick for several years with Fibromyalgia.  She has had to drop out of school twice because she has been so sick.  There is one juvenile specialist in my state.  She has a waiting list that ranges from months to years.  Last year when my daughter had to drop out of school for a second time, I called but didn't have the right kind of insurance.  I asked if I could pay it myself and was told it would cost $1,000 a visit.  I was devastated.  There was no way I could pay that, even with the extra jobs I work.
     She dropped out of school and I prayed that she could make it until the fall when I could switch insurance.  I called in September and was put on a waiting list.
     Mandy has been very sick the past few weeks and was worried that she would have to drop out of school for a third time.  I called again yesterday and the nurse told me that she would see what she could do.
     Last night Mandy got up in the middle of the night and passed out cold on the bathroom floor.  After getting her to bed, I stayed up all night to make sure she wouldn't get up and fall again.
     Today, during class, my phone rang in my classroom.  It is not supposed to ring through during class.  Somehow, the nurse managed to get through to tell me that someone had cancelled an appointment two weeks from now, and if I could get the paperwork, she would save the spot for me.  I couldn't thank the woman enough.  She was an amazing angel in my life.
     Another angel took the persona of a fourteen-year-old athletic, popular, special education student.  Although he is in special education classes, he is on the honor roll and the national junior honor society.  He offered to help tutor other special education students during his free period.  Today was his first day.  He went over to an autistic boy that was in tears over his grades and disorganized folder.  The boys hit it off instantly. They scheduled a study date for tomorrow.  Then they walked to class to explain to the boy's teacher why he was late.  On the way, he introduced the boy to all of his friends.  The boy he helped is often bullied and doesn't have any friends.  Today he was friends with a popular 9th grader.  I have never seen such a big smile.
     It was an incredible day.  I was truly blessed to walk among so many angels in my life.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Arrogance

     My least favorite people in the world are arrogant.  I hate the way they treat everyone around them as if they are inferior.  My favorite people are the ones who are amazing and so secure in themselves they don't need to share that fact with us.  We can tell just by being around them for a few minutes.  If you are as amazing as you think you are, people will know it instantly by watching what you do.  If you aren't, no amount of your telling us otherwise will ever be enough to fool anyone.  I know it stems from a feeling of inferiority, but they bring out the worst in me.  I instantly get defensive and want to protect the fragile people around me.  Today the universe seemed to think I needed to practice patience and breathing...lots of breathing.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Addiction

      Today I watched a man risk his life for a cigarette.  He pulled up next to me at the red light, got out, went to the back of his hatchback truck, pulled out a pack of cigarettes, and got back in the driver's seat.  It was cold and dark on a November highway this morning, cars whizzing by at highway speeds.
     I can't imagine an addiction so powerful, you would risk your life for "it."  Addicts must be some of the saddest people on the planet.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Surrounded by Joy

     If you feel a little down, spend some time with kids and surround yourself with joy.  For them, little things mean so much.  A smile, a kind word, a Tootsie Roll Pop now and then, mean the world to them.  
     Today I offered a Wii activity for the kids who had good grades so far this quarter.  12 kids played Mario Cart for thirty minutes in my room.  They giggled and plotted against one another.  No matter that every screen was basically the same race after race, for them each screen meant new adventures and fun with the other kids.  One boy befriended me and jabbered excitedly for 30 minutes about how great he was at gaming.  Every time he took a breath, the boy on my other side would catch my attention and start talking.  Their joy was infectious.  
     A girl I thought hated me for nagging at her to stop talking, focus, and do her work, (the opposite of joy) came in before school to give me something under her jacket.  I wasn't sure what to think about that, but she pulled out a DumDum Tree that she had made for me with suckers and Skittles.  It was one of those "just because" presents that are even better than ones you expect.
     Friday two of the girls wrote on my board at the end of the day.  One drew cute little chicks and wrote a sweet note about me.  The other girl asked me if she could draw a picture of poop on my board.  I must have given her a strange look because she added, "Well, it's Ninja Poop."  When I answered, "I don't know what to say to that.  In all my years as a teacher, no one has ever asked me that before,"  the girls giggled and went back to their drawings.  The Ninja Poop was a classic.  Pictures had to be taken when they were done.
     We all start as joyful souls, but our joy gets tainted as we get old and jaded.  They keep my soul joyful and young, even when my body feels a million years old..

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Journey

     It's crazy that I'm still blogging, thirteen days in, fourteen posts with the mix-up on Daylight Savings.  I really only write for myself, to keep myself sane, and not scar up everyone around me with my venomous words.  So why decide to write every day, even when there is nothing to say?  I could say I like the challenge.  I could say I like the fame of a dozen readers.  The truth?  Even on the days when I think I have nothing to say, the random events of my life begin to have clarity as I write them.  Writing brings a quiet mind before I pick up the journey again tomorrow.             

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Leap of Faith

      Today I took a leap of faith and put my trust in the person that can hurt me the most.  I don't know why I did it or what will happen next.  The only thing I can do is trust the angels to keep me safe from another heartbreak.
      Such a small moment in the world.  Most of us do the same thing every day.  We take a leap of faith that tomorrow will be better than today.  We believe the loved ones we say goodbye to will still be there when we get home.  We trust the small moments of our lives will have meaning and purpose when we get to the end.  We take chances and hope for the best while we prepare for the worst.  Opening our hearts again to find love and forgetting the betrayal.  
      

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Power of 1

      Today is a once in a lifetime day according to the numbers.  11-11-11.  A day that opens a spiritual awakening on the planet.  People lined up to get married, play the lottery and make wishes.  We all hold our breath waiting for a hero, a savior, a number alignment, anything or anyone to save us.  We don't see the people here already saving us from ourselves.
     The soldiers who sacrifice their lives, their health, their families and jobs to protect us, defend us, and help people in need on either side of the fight.  So many men and women forgotten when they return.  We  are patriotic until we pass the homeless vets on the streets and turn our heads the other way.
     The police officers who risk everything every day for anyone that calls in for help.  Modern day superheroes we thank with derogatory slurs.
     People who risk reputation, career, and safety to come out of the closet to tell kids it gets better.  They couldn't do it for themselves, but find the strength for bullied and suicidal teens.
     Amy never met a dog she didn't love.  She is tireless in her search for good homes for abandoned dogs across Virginia.  Through her pictures, writing, and fundraising, she helps them find homes all over the country.
      So many people surround us, showing us the true power of 1.  1 person makes a difference in the world.
So on this magical day, 11-11-11, I drink a toast to all the ones out there changing the world on all the other days we don't notice.   

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Childhood Lost

     When someone you trust, sexually abuses you, it damages your soul.  It makes you believe you are inherently bad because this person you admire or love wants to hurt you.  When your abuser is a well-known or respected member of society, you feel crazy because you can't see the person everyone else sees.  When someone walks in on you, you feel relief, hoping it will finally be over.  When that person does nothing, you feel worthless in everyone's eyes.  You are never able to trust anyone because you know no one is going to help you.  You lose your faith in humanity.
     It's horrible to be abused at any age, but it is devastating as a child.  It takes years of emotional stress and hard work to overcome childhood abuse.  It damages our relationships as adults.  Many of us never recover and turn to drugs and alcohol to deaden the pain.  Others turn into abusers to gain back our power.  Others descend into mental illness or kill ourselves.  Memories haunt you, years later, and can come out of nowhere.  So many triggers bring nightmares and physical pain.  One of those triggers is stories of abuse.
     It is hard for me to hear people say they feel sorry for the coaches at Penn State for losing their jobs "when they did nothing wrong."  I have yet to hear anyone say they feel sorry for the children.  How can football or money or fame or prestige be more important than a child's future?  It is horrible for anyone to sexually abuse a child, but it is even worse to be the one who could have saved the child, and did nothing.  An abused child knows the person abusing them is wrong...until someone else lets it happen.  Then you know you deserve the abuse.  It is hard to recover from that kind of self-loathing.  Losing a career is nothing next to what they have done to the children they betrayed.   

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Love is Unselfish

     When you hate yourself, you can't love me or anyone else.  I have watched you since we were kids hating who you were and the way you felt, trying to repress who you really are.  No matter how hard you stuff, the soul can't be kept down.  It's time to stop stuffing and be who you are, even if that person is not who I'd hoped you would be.  It's going to be hard, but I love you.  The real you. It will be nice to see you fly again. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Little Things Mean so Much

     Sometimes we are so busy waiting for those big moments to make a difference, we let the little moments slip away unnoticed.  For me, those little moments make life worth living.
     Today was my turn to go on the morning announcements at school and share something I am thankful for.  I told the story of my grandma and the amazing difference she has made in my life just by the kind words she says to me.  Sometimes she gets tired of life and says she's ready to go home.  The first time she talked like that, I made her promise to hang on until the George Strait concert.  It was the best I could do, knowing the huge crush she had on him.  It was her first concert and she danced and sang and giggled over how hot he was.  We made a deal that night - any time George is in town, we will go together.  Such a little thing and it means so much to her.  Every time I see her, she talks about how wonderful it was to see George.  She even sleeps in her George Strait night shirt so she can say she's sleeping with George.  It is wonderful to give back a little something for a woman who has given me so much.
     A huge Office Depot box was delivered to my classroom today.  I knew I hadn't ordered anything, so I eagerly opened the box.  Inside was a note from my friends at the elementary school I interned at this summer telling me how much they loved and missed me.  Under the note were four packages of the cookies we loved sharing over the summer.  I couldn't stop grinning the rest of the day because someone loved me enough to send me a care package.  I'm sure if you asked Jana, she would say it wasn't a big deal to send a gift, but it was huge deal to me.  I was a better teacher today because I knew someone cared about me.
     My sister saw a homeless man sleeping in the park today, as she took her daughters to school.  She went home to get him warm clothes, some food, and a bit of money for the bus.  By the time she returned, he had moved on, convinced no one would actually come back to help him.  When she finally found him and sent him on his way, she felt small next to the enormity of his problems.  Everyone kept telling her how amazing she was to help the man, but she humbly wished she could do more.  She doesn't know what today meant to this man or how much of a difference she made.  I know she changed several lives today, his, and all of us who will think of her as we truly look at people in our lives, rather than just seeing through them.   

Monday, November 7, 2011

Apology Accepted

     Today my friend apologized for a wrong he had done weeks ago.  I brushed off his apology and gave him several excuses for why he had done it.  He wouldn't let me off so easy.  He held my arm and said, "No.  It isn't okay.  I have no excuse.  I am sorry for what I did."  After talking for several minutes, I told him we were okay.  He rubbed my arm, smiled and said he was glad.
     Tonight I realized this was probably the first time I ever actually forgave anyone for anything.  I thought I was a forgiving person, but what I thought was forgiveness was avoidance.  I hate confrontations and will do anything to avoid them.  When I get mad, I feel guilty for giving in to anger and resentful of the person that "made" me mad.  After I get mad, I want everything to return to normal quickly.  I'll accept any kind of apology and say it's okay, when when it really isn't.  Then I pretend everything is fine, but I never actually forgive the person.  The grudge festers and things never go back to normal.  My friends and family will tell you - I can hold a grudge for years.
     This is so normal for me, I slipped into it the moment he said, "I owe you an apology."  When he wouldn't let me go there, I was forced to stop and actually let him apologize.  Listening to him tell me he truly understood how he hurt me and why he was wrong, allowed the grudge to fade away.
       I never knew the power of the simple words, "I am sorry."  
     

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bedtime Stories

     There is something magical about curling up in bed with your kids and reading a bedtime story together.  I started this tradition as soon as my kids were born.  It is our longest family tradition.  I knew all the great things it would do for my kids, but I didn't know all the great things it would do for me.
     Spending quiet time snuggled up together every night has given us an incredible bond.  When we talk together, we have thousands of characters and scenes to refer to, and it helps us understand one another in ways no one else quite can.  Almost every night they interrupt the story to share their fears, beliefs, or hopes.  Reading together helps us share ourselves with each other.
     I have to actually slow down, snuggle under the blankets and take time to be fully in the moment.  My blood pressure drops and my muscles relax.  At the end of each night's story, I feel young again.
     There is nothing like having my kids snuggle close, wrap their arms around me while I read, and say, "I love you, Mom."
     Time goes so fast.  I am so grateful each night they aren't too old for stories with mom.     

Tomorrow Comes Too Soon

      Usually the depression and schizophrenia keep him lost inside himself, but he was here, today, with me.  It was a perfect day for his arrival.  The first snow fell through the night and made the world sparkle and dance.  Our bunny frolicked in the newness of snow and made him laugh for an endless moment, with me.
      We blasted music and sang as we cleaned the house.  Such a small thing, it might have gone unappreciated by those who never live in silence, but we knew better.
     The night ended with a "practice" Thanksgiving dinner on a random Saturday night.
     As he drifted off to sleep, he smiled when I told him what a wonderful day I had today.
     These moments are more beautiful because they are so fleeting, but I wish tomorrow didn't have to come so soon.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

You and Me

     Time is something that I still can't quite figure out.  Today someone asked me if I had kids.  I told her I had two and she asked me how old they were.  When I told her I had a sixteen-year-old, she was kind and said I didn't look old enough to have a sixteen-year-old.  Then we figured out we were the same age.
    It's crazy to think that sixteen doesn't seem that far away from where I am now.  My friend, Steph, has been posting "old" pictures of us from high school.  All of my friends are sharing memories of us back in the day.  Since we left high school, the world sped up and I got lost along the way.  I don't recognize the person in the mirror most mornings, and I am always shocked that the photographs capture this new stranger, but not me.
     I enjoy seeing the old pictures and remembering my high school friends as crazy teens, but I like them even better as adults.  I love seeing who they are now and all of the great things they are doing with their lives.  I like myself better now, too.  We were awesome teenagers, but we are incredible adults making a difference in the world every day.
   It has been an amazing ride with incredible people that have made a huge difference in my life.  So today, I raise my glass to all of my old friends who helped me make it to today, and to all my new friends and the sparkling lessons you will teach me.  A toast to you and me and a life worth living because of what you bring to my life.  Cheers!

Thank You

     Whatever we focus our thoughts on becomes our reality.  When we focus on anger, we become more angry.  When we focus on joy, we find joyous examples sparkling through the day.
     No matter how hard everything gets, when we stop focusing on what we don't have and focus on all the wonderful things we do have, we change.  Our heart rate slows down, we breathe more slowly, and our muscles relax.  We feel better physically and that positive energy surrounds the people around us.  They feel the positive energy and love being around us.  When people are happy to be around us, we feel loved and wanted, which makes us feel better.  It is a cycle that begins with gratitude.
     Yesterday our school talked about gratitude.  Everyone was asked to write a post card thanking an adult in the building for something he or she does to make our lives better.  As soon as the kids began writing, you could feel the energy in the room shift.  It suddenly felt lighter and more peaceful.
     Today the postcards were delivered to the people we were thankful for in our building.  I had the joy of reading notes from kids thanking me for things I never knew I had done, like this one - "Thank you for helping me and being there for me on my first day of school.  I was so confused and I didn't know what I was doing and you really helped me."  It was anonymous, and I don't remember doing anything amazing the first day of school, but I am glad I helped someone in ways I didn't even know.  All day as negative things happened, I pulled out a postcard and read them.  Instantly the feeling of peace returned.
     Today I am challenging myself to end each day with a moment of gratitude for all the things in my life that are amazingly wonderful.  I vow to let others know how wonderful they are and how much I appreciate everything they do.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gratitude

     Lately death has been stalking the corners of my world, so today brings endless gratitude.
     Four students have been hit by cars the past few weeks; only 2 survived.  My friend watched a boy die today and can't wrap her mind around the size of the loss.  I am so grateful that my children are here with me, safe in bed for a little longer.
     Another student asks why she even lives in a world that is so full of violence and hate.  I stammer over an answer.  My small answers pale next to her story of abuse.  I am grateful that she is in my life and pray my answers might be enough for her to last another day.
     Today I am grateful that as winter sets in, John is returning to his art.  Last winter it was often the only thing that quieted the voices in his head.  I am grateful for quiet minds.
     I am thankful for a son who is growing to be an incredible young man, although he faces challenges no one else can see.  I am grateful for a daughter who forgives my bad example and is learning to let it just be good enough.
     I am grateful for laughter.  I can never have enough laughter in my life.
     I am grateful for the strength that saved me in the dark times and the strength that lets me carry others when the road gets too hard to climb.
     Most of all I am thankful for my life and all its vast complications and stress and goodness and love.  Although I don't always understand, and even less often appreciate it all, I am truly blessed to travel this road with you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

You Say it Best

   When we are in our darkest moments, we lose our words.  We lose our connection to people and feel truly alone.
     When someone we love is in pain, we don't know what to say.  We dare on the side of silence, just when our words matter most.
     Our words don't have to be eloquent or inspired, they only have to be from the heart.
     

Honoring Your Memory

     Most of us cheated death today and we wore masks to celebrate, invisible or not.  We talked around the the important things and we rushed through our day.  We tried not to ponder time or death.  Our minds were unable to hold infinity for long, so we stared at our computers and our televisions, wondering how we got so old.  Life was supposed to happen by now, wasn't it?  How could it pass us by when we've been waiting for it to start?
     Halloween wasn't the same this year without you here to share it with me.  Just knowing you weren't somewhere on this planet with me, sharing a favorite holiday, made it hard to move.  I wanted to curl up in a ball and hide, but I couldn't do that to you.  Instead, I refocused today to celebrate your life.  I got up early and made Halloween muffins to surprise the kids.  We put candles in them and started the day with wishes.  I led class celebrations of our hard work this quarter.  I comforted a friend and read bedtime stories by firelight while the kids roasted marshmallows.
     I hope the veil was thin today, so you could see the difference you made, even now.  I love you.  No one should have to die alone, feeling unloved and misunderstood.  Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Impact

     I looked up and instantly recognized him, even though he was a foot taller and a foot broader.  You never forget people that change your life.  He stood in the door shyly until I ran up and threw my arms around him.  He smiled shyly, but I could tell he was happy I remembered him.
     Six years ago, Eric was a small, shy, hurting twelve-year-old boy who hated school, hated life, and everyone in it.  His mom and I did everything we could think of trying to help him be successful.  I wasn't sure if any of us were going to survive that year, but we did somehow.
     Today he stood in my room, looking so much the same, but totally changed.  Here on a ten-day leave after finishing bootcamp, he stood with a grace and confidence I had never seen before.  He wanted to spend one of his ten precious leave days with me to say thank you.  He told me Boot Camp was nothing compared to what he had gone through in 7th grade.  Then he told me that if it wasn't for me, he wouldn't have made it to today.  His mom came with him and as she hugged me, she said, "I know for a fact he would not have made it if it weren't for you."
     Last night I got an e-mail from a new co-worker who told me what a difference I made last year for a student.  Thanks to what she learned last year, she was able to be released from special education recently.  I was having a horrible night and sliding quickly into the pit of feeling sorry for myself and wondering why I bothered to do anything for anyone because no one even cared.  Tears forming behind my eyes, I put everyone to bed and began working on my homework.  I opened my work e-mails and felt the touch of my guardian angel showing me the way.  
     It is so easy to get caught up in our own lives and forget that we are here for one another.  We are not here for our jobs or our video games or our sports or any other things that take our attention from one another.  We are here to make a difference in one another's lives.  When I start to feel resentful of the time or energy it takes to care for people in my life, I remember these moments.  We all have them once we stop running past each other and stop to put an arm around each other.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tickle, Tickle

    Surrounded by glowing moms-to-be, I wished there was a room for people waiting for bad news.  I stared at the floor and the walls and the ceiling, lost in my self-pity.
     "Hi," a little voice said.  I looked over into the big brown eyes of a two-year-old boy with a big smile.
     "Hi." I smiled back.
     "Christian..."his mom warned.  He shot me a smile and scampered off.
     A moment later, little fingers reached up from under my chair and tickled me.  Christian giggled and pulled back under the chair.  The third time the nurse caught him as she opened the door.
     "What are you doing?" she scolded.
     He stood up proudly.  "I tickled!"  he giggled as he followed her back to the room.
     In my lowest moments, the universe sends me an adorable messenger to remind me that this isn't real.  This is just school.  We learn our lessons and help one another through this crazy challenge we call life, but it isn't real.  Tickle, tickle.  Tomorrow we play again.  

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The View from in Here

     All of us are prisoners of our own minds.  Every person we meet, every fact we learn, every dream we have filters through our minds.  Over the years, this reality becomes so ingrained in us, we forget that it is only one version of reality and that everyone else has a totally unique version of reality.
     Sometimes we judge everyone else by our own experiences.  We are proud of what we have accomplished, and think everyone else should follow the same path to success.  We forget that our reality is just that, "our" reality.  It is not "their" reality.
     Lately I am hearing many people repeating the words, "If I can do it, anyone can do it."  These words are generally meant to be kind.  They are supposed to be words of encouragement, words to motivate us to overcome the obstacles in our way, but they are harmful words.  It comes with a note of superiority.  If you do this, you, too, can be as great as I am.
      These words also assume you have the same reality as the person speaking.  This is never the case.  Even siblings come with a unique view of life, skills, interests, and abilities.  These words cause guilt and frustration because it is so easy for everyone else, but is not easy for us.
     Whether the words are used to explain why immigrants should only speak English, or why you shouldn't "allow" yourself to be sick, or explain why people are victims of abuse, or why depression is a guilty pleasure or any of the other millions of ways we use these words, they are hurtful.  Even when you say them with kindness.  The next time you hear yourself saying these words, stop.  Breathe for a moment.  Come to a place of empathy without judgement.  It will mean the world to them.  If you listen long enough to their reality, it may change your view from in here.
     

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Woman of Integrity - Day 12 Challenge

     Today I saw a woman treat someone with such subtle prejudice, you might have missed it, if you were a white woman like me.  Although I am in a situation where any wrong actions or reactions could affect my future career, I saw the prejudice and couldn't let it slide.  I stood up for the man and took a stand, knowing it was risky to do so.  It is not like my heroes who fought injustice in the Civil Rights Movement, but I am glad to know that I am a person who can stand up for what is right, even when there are personal risks involved.    
Day 12 of the challenge to find myself - you are a woman of integrity.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sending Compassion into the Universe

     He said she was difficult to work with, but I knew it would be a good experience for me.  After all, we have something in common.  We are both moms.  I could tell how much this cute boy loved and respected his mom when he teared up thinking about what she would say.
     I told her truthfully what a cute and polite boy he was, how he never planned to smoke, and teared up thinking about how disappointed she would be in him.  Then we talked about the reason I had to call her.  She wasn't difficult at all.
     You may be wondering what this has to do with August's Trying Something New for 30 Days Challenge.  My challenge is to find myself and learn to live in balance.  Today I honored myself by dealing with another mom with compassion and respect.  By sending compassion into the universe for others, I learn to have compassion for myself.  The negative voice in my head has been silent today.  (Day 8)

The Lesson of the Hummingbird

     Usually Sunday is a crazy day for me trying to do everything that I never have enough time to do.  Yesterday I decided to change that and spent time enjoying the August sunshine.  Random bees and insects kept flying around me, waiting for me to brush them aside.  A big shadow came up and startled me.  I wasn't looking forward to seeing that bug, but when I looked up, I saw a hummingbird.  It was only there for a moment and then flew away.  A beautiful symbol of what I miss when I act like a hummingbird in my own life.  (Day 7)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pretend I'm Amazing

     It is such a strange feeling to realize how much you you are loved.  This week my niece told me that I am her role model.  It's been hard to wrap my mind around this huge compliment.  I am so good at seeing all the weaknesses and flaws I have, I wonder why she would see me as her role model.  As I struggled with this amount of love, my daughter told me, "You know, she has always felt that way about you."  I am awed and humbled that she would feel that way about me.  
     I spent Thursday morning with a cute boy with autism.  Though we just met, he wrapped his hand in mine.  I was New Guy and we made paths in the wood chips and talked about dragonflies.  It wasn't until later I learned that this cute boy didn't like new people and rarely went over to strangers.  What trust to put your hand in the hand of a stranger and let them into your special world. 
      There are two reasons my life gets unbalanced.  The bright side of my motive is wanting to do anything for the people I love.  The dark side is trying to be worthy of being loved.  They look the same in my life, but they have very different effects.  When I am coming from a place of love, I feel alive and send bright energy into the universe.  When I come from the darkness, I resent the demands on my time and make people feel like they are burdens on me.  Balance also comes from my motives, not just my actions. I will choose to do things for the people I love and stop doing things from a need to be loved.  These two beautiful souls reminded me that I am worthy of love because of who I am, not what I do.   
     

Friday, August 5, 2011

Knock, Knock, New Guy

     Today I tried something new.  I spent an hour and a half with the autistic students attending summer school. It was their last day of summer school and they had earned a party for their hard work the past four weeks.  There was coloring and Wii games and flying stuffed monkeys and giant cardboard box houses and tornadoes in a bottle.  It was total chaos and total bliss.  The kids pretty much ignored me until we went to lunch.
     As I stood behind them in line, they began to realize I was there.  They started petting me and hugging me and touching my nose.  I sat by a boy who told me my name was "new guy."  When I told him my name was Tiffany, he said, "Okay, new guy."  Then he started to tell me a knock knock joke.  It made no sense, but I laughed anyway.  When the kids saw I laughed, they all started telling me knock knock jokes over the top of each other.  Then the first boy grabbed my face and turned it to look at him.  Then he told me the joke again.
     This little guy was suddenly my best friend.  He held my hand and held on to my arms the rest of lunch and recess.  We played in the wood chips and made paths, giant dragonflies, and letters.  It was a great day for new guy and her new friend.
     Being around kids who were so full of life, without the socialization most kids have, was refreshing.  Every emotion was felt honestly and fully.  They picked flowers that were off limits because they were so beautiful.  They ran with their faces smiling up at the sun.  They debated the way dragonflies talk, and they played together because they both wore green.  They welcomed me with hugs and kisses and held my hand the entire time.  In my world, it's rare to be loved so openly, and I fell in love with them just as fast.
     Today, these cute kids taught me how to embrace life, to live honestly, and to live in the moment.  That hour and a half gave me balance, love, and lots of joy.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Small Moments of Joy

     It's a crazy time to take on a new challenge.  I will spare you the details.  Don't you hate it when people complain about something when your life is so much worse than theirs?  Anyway, this has been a busy season and I knew there wouldn't be a lot of Tiff time, so I made a conscious effort to appreciate small moments of joy today.
     It started with finishing a book while I blow dried my hair this morning.  I am re-reading the Harry Potter series because I love the early books.  I had school books to read, but I gave myself permission to enjoy a novel.  After all, you can't blow dry and highlight a textbook at the same time.  (Don't tell me if this is untrue!)
     I thoroughly enjoyed calling and offering two people jobs today.  I loved hearing them yell the news to their families in excitement.  It is so rarely we get to make someone's day with good news.  It is too bad there isn't a job that requires continuously calling people with good news.
     Although I was busy today, I took the time to eat lunch with the secretary and her daughter.  By talking to them, I learned how others see me.  I also learned that HOW we treat people is way more important that what I do.  If you make someone feel special and appreciated, they will follow you to the ends of the Earth.
     I took time to read a chapter with Nick.  It was late and I was tired, but time passes so fast.  Every book we finish makes me wonder which will be our last.  When will he decide he doesn't want to cuddle up with me and read bedtime stories anymore?  These moments are precious and sleep can wait.  I was thrilled to hear him say, "So tomorrow we start book 3, huh, mom?"
     And now it's late enough to be a new day.  I am enjoying these last moments sharing my life with you, learning from my mistakes and practicing honoring my accomplishments.  Baby steps to joy today.  Cheers.  (Day 3)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Neither Do I

     Today I realized how unbalanced I am in my life.  I told John I was doing something because a co-worker didn't have anyone else.  He looked at me and said, "Neither do I."  It was one of those comments that stopped me and made me cold.  Ouch!  My wounded ego realized he was right.  Why do I keep talking about it and never actually DO anything about it?  (Day 2)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Try Something New for 30 Days

     Today is August 1st.  I live on school time.  Summer is my time of renewal and reflection.  A time of new beginnings with new students.  I rarely accomplish January resolutions, but I always accomplish the goals set in August.
     My friend Rich has an amazing mom with a wonderful idea - Try Something New for 30 Days .  The idea is to pick an area of your life that you struggle with most and do something large or small every day to work on this area of your life.  Baby steps to big changes in your life.
     I struggle with balance.  I overdo everything, and I make sure I never let anyone down.  I take care of everyone  - except me.
      Today my friend Patti Digh wrote, "August is a time of turning."  Her words have been whirling through my mind ever since.  August is now my time of turning, a time of turning to myself and honoring myself as much as I honor everyone else in my life.
     August's posts will share my baby steps to Tiffany and hopefully lead me to myself.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I'm not Super Mom

     I  always wanted superhero parents.  They'd have x-ray eyes  to see through my lies and know what I truly needed from them.  Of course, they would fly to the rescue the instant I needed help, but not a second before.  It wouldn't be a problem when I wanted them near, but didn't want my friends to know...they'd just stay invisible for a while. Their superhuman strength would take on all of my troubles and they would offer to turn back time when I needed a second chance. 
     The parents I had were all too human.  They did the best they could being raised by their human parents.  I come from a long line of all too human parents.  Today my daughter learned a secret that I was hoping to hide a little longer - I am human and being human today wasn't enough.  Today she needed a mom who could read her mind and give her what she needed, and not believe what she said.  I let her down today and she let me know it.  I have never seen her so mad at me before.  I wish I could turn back time to the days when she thought I was Super Mom.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Change Your Thinking

“If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson  
     When I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, the rheumatologist came in and said, "I have good news and bad news.  The good news is it won't kill you and the bad news is it will never go away and there is nothing I can do for you."  I was on a leave of absence from work, barely able to move, and feeling sorry for myself.  One night I realized that he was right.  There was nothing I could do to make it go away and all this energy feeling sorry for myself was making my body feel worse.  I started to think about the positive side - it wouldn't kill me.  Well, that's not such a bad diagnosis when you think about it like that.  There are plenty of worse things I could have.  Once I started thinking about that little glimmer of positive energy, I began to feel a little better.   
     There are so many things in life I can't change or control.  I can't change mental illness or sexual orientation.  I can't change hallucinations or money issues.  I can't change the people around me or the way the world is.  Focusing on the "can'ts" doesn't change them, it only makes me feel miserable. Accepting the "can'ts" doesn't mean I like it or it's okay, it just lets me focus on all the "cans" in my life.  It's all good because life works out the way it's supposed to be.  None of us gets out alive, so we may as well enjoy the journey.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Original Thought

“The arts and inventions of each period are only its costume, and do not invigorate men.”
Today's Prompt is:  Think of the last time that you thought, said, or did something that was original. What inspired or invigorated this?   (Author: Michael Brajkovich)

My answer to today's prompt is another Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, "All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Legacy Today

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Today's prompt is:  One definition of legacy is what someone feels, thinks and says when they hear your name. What are you doing today to build the legacy you want?  (Author: Tim Belber)
     
     Today I took a risk and did something scary.  It's probably not scary for you because they are my fears - the fear of not being good enough and the fear of not being perfect.  They keep me from doing something I love - writing.  My fears stifle my words until I give in to the "nots" and remain silent.  
    I have met some wonderful blogger friends through this blogging challenge.  Rich decided to start a new challenge for himself and anyone who wanted to join in.  We would each write three paragraphs of a cooperative story and then pass it to another person to add three more paragraphs.  I was excited until it came to me, and then I froze.  I was sure I would have to back out, but somehow after all this soul searching and reflecting in my blogs, I forced myself to breathe and keep writing.  I managed to write three paragraphs and it felt amazing.  I didn't let the negative voice stop me this time.  Today my legacy is someone who is brave.  Brave means being scared but being able to do something anyway and today that is me!  
     Today I wanted to go to a celebration with my friends, but I was supposed to work.  I REALLY wanted to go celebrate, but I thought of the lesson that would send to my kids.  I decided to be a mature adult and do my work, rather than blow it off to go play.  Today my legacy is someone who values commitments to others and does the right thing, even when it is not the fun thing.