My Leap List

Saturday, December 31, 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 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.