My Leap List

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Most Ordinary is my Extraordinary

Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it.– Ralph Waldo Emerson


We are our most potent at our most ordinary. And yet most of us discount our “ordinary” because it is, well, ordinary. Or so we believe. But my ordinary is not yours. Three things block us from putting down our clever and picking up our ordinary: false comparisons with others (I’m not as good a writer as _____), false expectations of ourselves (I should be on the NYTimes best seller list or not write at all), and false investments in a story (it’s all been written before, I shouldn’t bother). What are your false comparisons? What are your false expectations? What are your false investments in a story? List them. Each keep you from that internal knowing about which Emerson writes. Each keeps you from making your strong offer to the world. Put down your clever, and pick up your ordinary.


     Today's post is a hard one for me because I struggle with this issue daily.  When people compliment me, I always discount it by saying something like, "It's no big deal, anyone could have done it."  Somehow it seems if I did it, it is ordinary and no big deal.  If someone else did the same thing, I would think it was cool or be proud of them.  
     I always have false comparisons with other people.  I think I'm not good enough to do things, so I don't even try unless I know I can do it well.  The novel I was going to start earlier in the month is still waiting for the first word to be written.  I keep thinking about all the great writers out there that know what they are doing.  The negative voice in my head loves that.  She starts in, "What makes you think you are good enough to write anything?  These people know what they are doing."
     I also have false expectations of myself.  I can teach an amazing workshop or lesson, but all the good parts seem ordinary.  Instead I focus on the one or two things that didn't go perfectly.  After dwelling on those for awhile, I feel like a failure.  I can't seem to just be "good enough" and not perfect.  When I think about writing my book, I feel like I'll fail.  Chances are it won't be a best seller, so if it can't be the great American novel, I will be a failure.  Since I don't want to be a failure, I don't start writing.  You can't fail at something you don't attempt.  I am sounding like my 8th graders now.  Logically I know it is flawed thinking, but emotionally I short circuit the logic.
     No surprise, but I also have false investments.  No one will want to hear what I have to say.  Everyone else already knows everything I know.  They have thought, read, heard, or said everything I have to say.  They will read what I write and go, "Duh, Tiff."  
     So I hide behind clever words and showy facades to hide my ordinary.  It's funny that the posts that I felt were most ordinary were the ones that resonated with the most people.  When I tried to be clever, few people responded.  
     For Christmas, my sister Tammy gave me a plaque that said "Pick up your ordinary."   Tammy is friends with Patti Digh, the author of today's post.  They have talked about this idea a lot this year.  It even made it into the lyrics of one of Tammy's songs.  I didn't know what it meant until today.  Now when I see my plaque, it will remind me to pick up my ordinary and embrace me - flaws and all - because that's what makes me extraordinary.  

Friday, June 24, 2011

Intuition Disguised as Music

The secret of fortune is joy in our hands. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

     My intuition talks to me with music.  Every time I have something important on my mind, the songs I hear on the radio or my I-Pod answer my questions.  
     When a song suddenly gets stuck in my head, the words tell me what I have on my mind.  Earlier this week I was feeling anxious about sharing a personal story in my blog.  All day I kept randomly singing a section of the song "Falling In" by Lifehouse.  "Don't be scared; it's only love.  I would never do you wrong or let you down or lead you on.  Don't look down.  It's only love that we're falling in."  Once I published the blog entry for the night, the song stopped playing in my head.  Now I like Lifehouse and I like this song, but it hasn't ever gotten stuck in my head before.  Just the moment I needed to stop being afraid and send my message out to people who needed  it.    
     At first they seemed like funny coincidences, then it got a little freaky, and now I listen for the messages my intuition is sending to me in a way I can understand.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Facebook Friends Make all the Difference

Men imagine that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that virtue or vice emit a breath every moment. - Ralph Waldo Emerson


     Millions of incredible souls share this planet with me.  It would take many lifetimes to meet all of these amazing people.  Luckily, the universe knows which people I need to know in this lifetime, even though we haven't met in person. 
     Two years ago the National Fibromyalgia Association asked me to like their Facebook page so they could win some money.  I created a Facebook account and started making friends around the world.  
      Frank is one of my favorite Facebook friends.  He is the most positive and happy person I know.  He always looks on the bright side of life, and I admire him.  He is a writer and middle school teacher.  He just finished a book about some of the people he has met on Facebook.  I am honored to be in his book.  
     Three weeks ago one of my favorite students committed suicide.  Some amazing teachers understood in a way no one else could and  reached out to me.  We have never met, but I will never forget their kindness.
     Some friends are members of support groups I have joined.  They challenge my thinking and call me out when I fall into old habits.  They send me encouraging words when I  feel hopeless and lost.  Many of them know more about me than my family and friends.  
     Patti is a writer, speaker and prompt writer for this challenge.  When I found out what she was doing, I signed up to write every day.  I never dreamed people would write to tell me what a difference I've made in their lives.  Their encouragement has quieted the critical voice in my head.  It is a priceless gift.  

Enthusiasm

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

     Teaching is my passion!  I love every minute of it, even the hard days.  In 20 years of teaching, I've had more kids than the little old lady who lived in a shoe.  I talk about them incessantly.  I even dream about teaching.  On the nights I talk in my sleep, you can hear me teaching a great lesson.  It's really tragic I can't remember it in the morning.  
     If you are a fellow teacher or want to see my passion, go to http://www.kissingmyfrogs.com  
    

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

All I Know

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. - Ralph Waldo Emerson


     We are all connected together in ways we cannot even see.  What you do in this moment affects me in my moment in a thousand ways neither of us yet understands.  
     When you depend on someone else for happiness, you will always live in despair. 
     The universe has a sense of humor; so you may as well laugh at the ironies that rule your life. 
      What you send out into the universe always comes back to you.  When you send out love and peace, it surrounds you with bliss.  Be careful with this one though - karma has a wicked sense of justice!
     Love is the most powerful force in the universe.  There is no pain that cannot be healed through love.  It is worth every moment, even when you end up broken-hearted. 
     People are more important than money, things, or even time.  When someone walks in the room to talk to you, smile and give them your full attention.  At the end of your life, you will never regret the time you took out for others, but you will regret letting everything else steal you away from the difference you could have made for someone else.
     Let your face light up the moment your children walk in the door.  They should know they are truly the light of your life.  Your love is the gift that allows them to love themselves.  
     Even the hardest times in your life are temporary.  It may take longer than you would like, but it will always get better.  
     A smile and kind word does wonders for any situation.  Chocolate doesn't hurt, either!
     There is no right time to follow your dreams.  Time is elusive.  Live your life; don't wait for life to start.
     Live your life out loud.  Don't hide who you are or what you believe in.  When you try to change yourself to be loved, you will never be secure in the love.  Find people who love you for who you are and embrace the freedom it brings.
     Dance in the rain and jump in the puddles.  It's easy to change into dry clothes when the rainbow fades away.  
     Nothing is impossible, just more of a challenge.
     Always accept gifts given in love - even burned marshmallows.
     Hearts are fragile.  Don't trample someone's emotions.  Be gentle and kind, even if you can't stand him.  He will never forget the kindness.  
     Be grateful for miracles.  There are so many in your life, you stop noticing them anymore.  Look at life through the eyes of a child and see the miracles you are missing.
     The more you separate yourself from nature, the more unhappy you become.  You were not meant to live under florescent lights breathing recycled air.  When you have no choice, bring nature inside.  Animals and plants do amazing things for your psyche.
     Music has the power to heal you emotionally and physically.  Be careful the music you listen to; it has more power over your mind and soul than you realize.
     It is never too late to ask for forgiveness for the mistakes you made in the past.  
     Holding on to your anger and grief slowly poisons you.  Don't give them that much power over your life.  Forgiveness doesn't mean it's all okay.  It means you won't let the bitterness destroy you anymore.  
     Do something for someone else every day.  In a lifetime, you will have over a million acts of kindness for others.  Now that is amazing!  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Greatness

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know I. - Ralph Waldo Emerson


     "...the whole distinction between greatness and meanness."  The greatest among us have incredible gifts and talents, but they are also amazing people when no one is watching.          
     Very few people achieve greatness in today's world.  It is easy to trade your soul one piece at a time for immediate gratification.  Hollow shells of ourselves desperately searching for something to fill the void; we turn to the addiction du jour.  We idolize the rich and famous thinking we will finally find that elusive something if we can just be like them.  We don't notice they are often even more lost than we are.  
     It is easy to turn bitter and mean when we lose ourselves.  We don't love ourselves and we are tired of changing for everyone else.  Rage bubbles up and erupts at everyone who knows our flaws best - our lovers, our children, our inferiors.  It doesn't seem to cost anything to yell at the store clerk or smack a noisy child or swear at co-workers.  It's even easier to blame them for causing our behavior.  We don't know the damage we do them and ourselves.
     The greatest among us don't want fame or fortune.  They are quietly saving the world behind the scenes.  It doesn't matter who is watching or what the job pays or what is in it for them.  They are doing whatever needs to be done for anyone that needs help just because it needs to be done. 
     You will know if you have met greatness because you feel better when they are near.  They give you energy until you can face the world again.  They help you before you even know you need help.  They love you for the person you are, but inspire you to be even more.  They fight evil with no fear for themselves.  When faced with the hardest challenges, they turn them into life lessons for the rest of us.  
     If we are lucky, we will have one or two of these amazing teachers touch our lives.  The rest of us will turn to the historical teachers.  Either way allows to us achieve greatness in ourselves and lead others on the path to enlightenment.   
     

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Coincidences? I think not!


Greatness appeals to the future. If I can be firm enough to-day to do right, and scorn eyes, I must have done so much right before as to defend me now. Be it how it will, do right now. Always scorn appearances, and you always may. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

     A few years ago my sister Tammy joined a group of people interested in talking about life and choices and being themselves.  Patti Digh was a member of that group.  My sister told me all about this amazing woman who wrote books and traveled the country and lived life out loud.  When I heard Patti was part of a blogging challenge, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.  
     In the last nineteen days I have met fascinating people thinking and writing about the same things I am pondering.  People I have never met comment on my posts and give me the courage to share my writing.  One woman wrote, "I've always felt this way too that there is a reason for everything and every person that touches your life... I look forward to reading more of your blog. Not even sure how I found my way here but I know I was suppose to."  
     When I started noticing the "coincidences" that happened to me, I began to see the beautiful hand that steers my life where it needs to be. Those "coincidences" are amazing things; trust your intuition! 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Trio of Dreams

Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

     I am a dreamer by nature.   Today I have three dreams floating on the horizon.  Two of them are lifelong dreams, and one is a new addition.  My friend Patti likes to say that everything comes in threes, so a trio of dreams seems perfect.  
     My newest dream is opening a school for at-risk students.  Losing someone I loved to suicide last week reinforced the dream I've been playing with for over a year.  Yesterday I started a program to get my license.  Now I need to find the money and learn the process of starting a new school.  
     I've always dreamed of being an author.  I could say I don't have time, but if I'm honest with myself - it's fear.  The negative voice in my head is loud and strong and so easy to believe.  Being part of the daily blog challenge and publishing my thoughts are baby steps.  I'm forcing myself to share what I write with family, friends, and fellow human beings.  Your comments convince me that the things I write have value and worth, even if only to me.  
     When I was ten I believed if you closed your eyes and counted to 30, you would see your future when you opened your eyes.  One beautiful summer afternoon, I opened my eyes and saw myself in a cap and gown holding the book I had written.  I was standing between my granny and my grandma who had both passed away.  They told me I was graduating with my doctorate degree and they had come to celebrate.  I didn't know what a doctorate degree was then, but I knew I needed to get one.  I started my doctorate two summers ago, but I switched gears to start my school.  It seems like there are kids heading my way that need the school to be ready for them.  Then I will finish my degree.  I am excited to see two of the women I most admire walking with me at graduation.

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Theory of Relativity

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. – Ralph Waldo Emerson


     The future is now.  Every breath, every action, every word solidifies the future.  A conversation today sparks these words and invites your response tomorrow.  I dream my future and plan for the probabilities, but respect the unknown.  Life is fragile and we are at its mercy.  
     We are connected - you and I.  Even when you are most alone, your decision creates my future.  You set ripples in motion that you never dreamed of.  A theory of relativity in its loveliest form.   

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hi, St. Peter; It's me, Tiff!

When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name;—— the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new. - Ralph Waldo Emerson


    Life!  What a journey, eh?  I have a few battle scars, but I wear them proudly.  This face has laugh lines and a few more wrinkles than before, but they are well-earned.  Hard lessons came early and often, but my heart now understands all.  I've carried the world on my shoulders, so I can easily lighten your load for a moment.   I've looked at life from mountain vistas and traveled to the depths of Hell.  Somewhere I stopped worrying about the destination and started to enjoy the view.  I've lost all hope in the death of a child and praised God at the birth of another.  The hardest forks in the road came from wanting to please but needing to be me.  My deepest regrets were following the paths marked "Should."  It will take me a lifetime to forge a vision of myself, but I will proudly tell St. Peter my name, knowing I didn't live someone else's life instead of my own.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Future Great American Novel

Do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. – Ralph Waldo Emerson     

     There's nothing like being told that you should have started yesterday if you want to accomplish everything you want to do in 100 years.  Luckily Facebook is down, so I can start the great American novel today.  I have plenty of excuses and projects waiting on my to-do-list, but they will still be there tomorrow.  I have no idea what I will write about or if it will be any good, but I am in for the ride of my life.

My Real-Life Fairytale

When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name; the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
    
     This is not the life I dreamed of as a girl:  a knight in shining armor to sweep me off my feet, apparently enough money that I never even had to dream it into the picture, a castle nestled in the woods, and singing birds.  A grand wedding and then....well, Happily-Ever-After, of course.  A Disney Cinderella scene, minus Maleficent. 
     Well, I had the grand wedding and quickly realized that Happily-Ever-After is a lot of work.  My jaded prince is battle scarred.    My feet are grounded in reality.  There is rarely enough money to not dream it into the picture.  (Perhaps I should have visualized Rumplestilskin instead!)  My cottage is falling apart around me and the weeds are taller than my knees.  I do have singing birds though, along with two turtles and a floppy-eared bunny.
     If I knew this was what my life would be like, I never would have chosen this path in life.  That would have been a tragedy because I would have missed all the magic that comes with this version.  
     My son looks at life with an optimistic sense of humor that helps dispel the gloom.  His compassion inspires me to forgive the evil witches and wizards in my life.  My daughter looks at the world through old eyes and gives me sage advice on our journey.  She keeps me sane and reminds me of who I really am in this story.
     My prince is battle scarred and most of the time I save him from the monsters that rage in his head.  But when I feel most lost and alone, he lifts me back up and gives me the strength to keep fighting.  
     This cottage may be falling apart, but it is mine.  It has protected us through many storms.  The dents in the wall from a little guy learning flips and stains on the floor from an artist in training, add to my life.  The carpet is threadbare in a few spots from a new baby bunny, but without her, our lives would be muted.    
     We may struggle for money, but the jobs I take have brought so many wonderful people into my life.  Besides, I love needlepoint, but I would get bored sitting in a tower every day.   
     In my darkest moments I rage, "This isn't the life I wanted.  It isn't fair.  How could this happen to me?"  
     In my lucid moments, I rejoice that this isn't the life I wanted.  It isn't a fairy tale.  It is real and messy and hard and painful and amazing.  As Frost would say, "That has made all the difference."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Phoenix Rising

I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, if we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last. – Ralph Waldo Emerson


     Eight years ago one of my students committed suicide.  The grief and guilt kept me from seeing my students that year.  I didn't love.  I didn't hurt.  I stayed numb and went through the motions.  I didn't feel any joy or satisfaction.  It was time to leave the job I loved.  I couldn't teach without giving my heart and soul, and fear clung to my heart.  A dear friend of mine shared a video with me that changed my life.  I decided that I would let each child know what a difference he or she made in my life.  
     Three years ago her brother came into my life.  He had a smile that lit up a room and made me happy just to be near him.  Every time I saw him, he gave me a big smile and a hug.  No matter how bad things were, he never complained or said anything negative.  He always looked at life's bright side.  I loved this kid and hoped it would be enough to protect him from all the things he kept inside.
     Last week he killed himself.    
     Earlier this spring I decided to get my administrative license and open a school for at-risk kids.  I applied to a program and was accepted.  Classes start this week.  
     After his death, I became immobilized with fear.  As a principal, I would have even more students to love and risk losing.  The stakes would be higher because I would be in charge of the outcomes.  I didn't know if I could risk this kind of pain again.
     My brothers reminded me to focus on all the lives I have changed and not the ones I lost.  My husband convinced me the stakes are high, but I have more power to affect the outcome.  My daughter whispered, "I am proud of you for loving the kids even when it's scary.  They can hurt you in so many ways and you keep loving them anyway.  I admire that about you."  
     So today I surprise myself by rising from the ashes.  Loving him has made me a better person, so now I can help kids I might not have been able to reach.  The Phoenix arises stronger from the tempered flames.                                                                   
   

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I'll Deal with the What-ifs When I Get There

These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

     I am so afraid of failing...afraid of not being good enough...afraid of being alone.  My fears protect me and keep me safe, but they also keep me from living.  This week I learned a life unlived is worse than no life at all.  It is time to step out of the shadows.  I am still afraid, but I will deal with the what-ifs when I get there.  


Friday, June 10, 2011

Contradictions

Imitation is Suicide. Insist on yourself; never imitate. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

     I am a woman of contradiction.  An Aquarius on the cusp of Pisces.  A rebel and trailblazer hiding in a traditional job.  A core of steel hides inside these sensible clothes .  Tell me what to do and I will do the opposite just to show you I can.  I speak my mind in such sweet words you will thank me when I am done.  I break into random songs that reflect what my heart can't say.  I love with all my heart, but have a hard time trusting anyone.  I never forget what is important to my friends but often forget my phone number.  I am a flower girl born a generation too late.  I rarely get mad, but when I do, my claws leave scars.  I only draw stick figures, but give me a needle and thread and I can create a tapestry that rivals the masters.  I can sit for hours doing what I love, but not for a minute if you waste my time.  I will defend the lowest common denominator we all share and then I will defend your right to tell me why I'm wrong.  I will face down a bully in the middle of the street, but cower in fear at losing someone I love.  I live life to the letter of the law, but not to the intention; look for me in costume because you are supposed to "dress" up.  I am often so tired I can barely walk, but I am freakishly strong.  My tastes are eclectic, but my opinions are solid.  I can read your energy, but I can't make decisions.  I love to dance, but only in my kitchen.    

Contradictions

Imitation is Suicide. Insist on yourself; never imitate. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

     I am a woman of contradiction.  An Aquarius on the cusp of Pisces.  A rebel and trailblazer hiding in a traditional job.  A core of steel hides inside these sensible clothes .  Tell me what to do and I will do the opposite just to show you I can.  I speak my mind in such sweet words you will thank me when I am done.  I break into random songs that reflect what my heart can't say.  I love with all my heart, but have a hard time trusting anyone.  I never forget what is important to my friends but often forget my phone number.  I am a flower girl born a generation too late.  I rarely get mad, but when I do, my claws will leave you scarred.  I only draw stick figures, but give me a needle and thread and I can create a tapestry that rivals the masters.  I can sit for hours doing what I love, but not for a minute if you waste my time.  I will defend the lowest common denominator we all share and then I will defend your right to tell me why I'm wrong.  I will face down a bully in the middle of the street, but cower in fear at losing someone I love.  I live life to the letter of the law, but not to the intention; look for me in costume because you are supposed to "dress" up.  I am often so tired I can barely walk, but I am freakishly strong.  My tastes are eclectic, but my opinions are solid.  I can read your energy, but I can't make decisions.  I love to dance, but only in my kitchen.    

The Abyss

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius. – Ralph Waldo Emerson


     Suicide and I are old friends.  At fifteen, I stood on a pier trying to get the courage to jump.  The waves were so beautiful that day.  It all seemed so easy to just let go and be part of something beautiful for a change.  I heard a voice ask, "How would you feel to kill yourself and see your soulmate still here waiting for you?  You must stay and help the kids that are lost.  You are never alone."  
     John has schizophrenia and severe depression.  Sometimes the voices tell him that we are better off without him here.  He struggles to battle the voices, but it's hard to battle what your heart believes in the night.
     Marissa was a part of my life for three years.  She often came before and after school to talk about her life, her friends, her problems, and her family.  She struggled with anorexia and bulimia.  I worried about her talk of suicide, but was unsure of what to do.  I approached the school counselors and they said she was just doing it for attention.  I argued that we should give her the attention, but they assured me they knew best in this situation.  When she went to the high school, I hoped for a fresh start.  She killed herself that fall.  
     Jameson was Marissa's brother and her death shadowed most of his life.  Jameson was easy to love.  He had a big smile and a huge heart.  Jameson often came to visit me before and after school to see how I was.  He always gave me a hug and a huge smile, even when things were hard for him.  Friday life got to much for him and he killed himself.  I didn't know until yesterday when I saw his smile looking at me from the obituaries.  
       My daughter has a friend she has never met in a country she has never seen.  Yesterday her friend posted a comment about how difficult life was for her as a gay teenager.  The girl's mother posted a response saying, "How do you know you are gay?  You have never had a guy ask you out because you are so fat."  When your mother feels this way and publicly tells everyone else, you have very little to hold on to when you are on the edge of the abyss.     
     Our lives are so hard, but we always seem to think everyone else has it so easy.  Even our online support groups judge us on how fast we heal, how positive or negative our posts are, and if our situation is better or worse than theirs.  When we can't even give support to one another virtually, we become numb to one another.  We lose our humanity.  
     Please try and see outside of your own abyss and help someone else today.  You never know when it will be what they use to hold on to for another day, rather than proof life isn't worth living anymore.  
     RIP Jameson and Marrissa.  I love you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Death's Lessons on Life

The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

     Death and Life.  Yin and Yang.  Darkness and Light.  Without one, we cannot grasp the other and our understanding of life is diminished.  Today I experienced the death of a person I loved very much.  The universe sent me the words of two women dealing with death themselves.  I have never met either woman, but their words changed me today.
     Alice X is a fifteen-year-old young woman who lists her profession as a full time cancer fighter.  She has been fighting cancer for four years, but her spirit is unstoppable.  She has a bucket list of all of the things she hopes to accomplish before she dies.  She is not asking for money or help; she just wants to share her experiences with her friends.  When I read her blog this afternoon she had 2,000 followers.  Tonight she has over 4,000.  Her joy is contagious.  We cannot choose our circumstances, but we can choose the way we live, and in so doing, change the world.  Her blog is http://alicepyne.blogspot.com/ 
     Bronnie Ware is a singer and writer from Australia.  For many years she worked with terminal patients who had been sent home to die.  The article I read today was called "Top 5 Regrets of the Dying."  She shared five themes that seemed to continually surface for the people she cared for in their last days.  
  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

     If today was my last day, I would find myself in several of these themes.  I work way too hard.  I struggle with the courage to express my feelings.  I often do the responsible thing, rather than what makes me truly happy.  So today I work to become more alive.  Through death come lessons on living.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

England???

So, a few days ago I wrote about a place I have always wanted to go - England.  I didn't have a plan in place to get there.  Today my daughter and I made plans to go to England next year for the Olympics.  We don't have the details or money worked out yet, but it's a start.  Thanks Ralph Waldo Emerson.  

5 Years

There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour. – Ralph Waldo Emerson


     To the woman I was five years ago, thank you for the decisions you made large and small that brought us to this moment.  Trust in your intuition.  You will do better when you know better.  You are loved and appreciated more than you know.
     To the woman I will be five years from now, thank you for being patient with me.  

Dare to be Bold

Our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us. We are parlour soldiers. We shun the rugged battle of fate, where strength is born. – Ralph Waldo Emerson


     Aquarians are experts at living boldly, but I only live on the cusp of the sign.  My natural personality is shy, but I work hard to appear otherwise.  The only thing more terrifying than public speaking is the dentist.   I am not a risk taker by nature, only by trade.    
     Seven years ago, my life caved in on me.  Little things like taking a shower and getting dressed left me crying with exhaustion.  Every part of my body ached.  Unable to quit working, I stopped doing everything else, even the things I loved.  I bounced from doctor to doctor with no luck.  In the meantime, my life became very small.  I stopped reading because the words didn't make sense.  Even watching TV took more attention than I had.  I crawled home from work, curled up in a ball with the covers over my head and slept.  I even slept through birthday parties and family gatherings.
     One day I heard about a new clinic for pain and fatigue, and made an appointment to hear their advertising claims.  My insurance declared it "experimental" and denied payments, but for some strange reason, I handed over my credit card for the first few hundred dollars.  I couldn't afford it and worried I was being scammed, but something told me to do it.  That moment made all the difference.  Through their experimental care, I finally got some semblance of my life back.  
     Since then, I live boldly.  Even though I hate talking in front of people, I teach at a local university and force myself to present at conferences.  I completed a year of my doctorate degree.  I started five blogs and walked for March of Dimes.  I am reading 111 books to celebrate 2011.  I make homemade gifts for the people I love.  Next week I begin work on my administrative license so I can open my own school.  Of course, I still need to write my book and finish my doctorate degree.  It's a lot of work to live boldly.  
     

Monday, June 6, 2011

Coming Alive

Life wastes itself while we are preparing to live. – Ralph Waldo Emerson


     When I was a kid, I couldn't wait to be older.  Every birthday would take me closer to that magical number when life would happen.  Turning 8 and getting baptized...double digits...being a teenager...sweet 16...18...21... I finally gave up waiting for life to happen in 1995.  
     That summer I was thrilled to be pregnant with my first child.  My doctor was so sure that this pregnancy would be easy, he jokingly told me he should pay me for the delivery.  I began patiently waiting for life to happen with a new baby.  
     A few weeks later, I was deathly sick with morning sickness.  Nothing helped - not even an IV, home nurse, or medication.  I knew it would pass by the 3rd month...the first trimester...the second trimester...okay, really?  Even after I had the baby???  So much for waiting.
     I was getting impatient for the baby to come.  My body must have been sending her messages to come early because I went into labor 3 weeks early.  I was so excited - until I saw my doctor's face.  "You have an IUGR baby.  The placenta is disintegrating, and she isn't getting enough nutrients to grow.  She will die if the placenta disintegrates from the uterine wall , but she may die if we take her early.  She is so small, her lungs may not be developed enough to live."   
     For 22 days I waited on bed rest- not sure what I wanted from time.  22 days with nothing to do but wait for life.  
     Finally the doctor decided we were out of time and induced labor.  I spent the day waiting for something to happen, but nothing ever did.  That night he did an emergency c-section and delivered a 51/2 pound bundle of joy, but life couldn't quite begin yet.  
     Her weight continued to drop and the doctor warned me that he wouldn't let her leave the hospital if she fell below 5 pounds.  The nurse put her on the scale and I watched the scale drop down to 5 and hold steady.  I promised to bring her back for daily weight checks if they would just let us go home.    
     When we got home and she fell asleep, I counted out 100 days on the calendar.  I knew if she made it through 100 days, we would be fine.  I marked off every day, faithfully waiting for that magical day to arrive.  When it finally did, I began to live.  
     In a few more weeks, my baby will turn Sweet 16 and it will be a day like no other.  Being a patient and wise soul, she will remind me that every day is like no other.  Life is what happens when you are waiting to live, so let's go live.   

Saturday, June 4, 2011

If we live truly, we shall see truly. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
   
   I have always been homesick for a place I have never been - England.  Just thinking about it brings back smells and sights and the feel of a cool breeze near the ocean.  I am almost certain that I will step on English soil and instantly know where I am going.  It's a funny feeling - like going home again.
     I want to see Shakespeare's home and Anne Hathaway's second-best-bed.  I want to avoid ghosts in the Tower of London and explore every castle I can find.  I want to see Big Ben and sit in the English Countryside under a rare sunny sky.  I want to stand on the White Cliffs of Dover and look out over the ocean; walk the halls of Oxford and soak up centuries of learning before relaxing in an English pub. 
     Now for the hard part of the question.  It isn't easy to travel on a teacher's salary while supporting a family, but I will put a little money away each month.  When I graduate with my doctorate degree or publish my first book (whichever comes first) - I will celebrate by going to the place I dream about in my happiest dreams.

Friday, June 3, 2011

That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? . . . Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today's challenge is to change a problem in your life into a question, post it somewhere you will see it every day, take a picture and think about it for 48 hours.  This is a picture of my sticky note.  Orange, of course! 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Purposes

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
     I believe that everyone in my life is in my life for a reason.  While some people give lip service to this idea in good times, they quickly ask "Why me?" when times get hard.  This is one of my deepest beliefs.  It makes me uniquely me.
     Today I finished my 19th year of teaching middle schoolers.  Now, as you can imagine, teenagers are difficult to work with for more than a few minutes.  You can get whiplash from the mood swings.  They have boundless energy.  The sophistication of drugs and sex one minute morphs into hugging a teddy bear and looking at Junie B. Jones books the next.  You never know what they will say or do at any given time.  They are self-centered and egotistical, but mercilessly judge every one of your flaws.  It is not a job for the faint-hearted!
     Many good teachers get frustrated and think the kids have it in for them.  My view of life makes a huge difference in my job.  Rather than seeing the kids as "being" in my class, I meet each of them and wonder what great meaning they will have in my life.   Rather than being frustrated by the kids, I feel a sense of adventure at the lessons I will learn.   By changing my perspective, we build close bonds. 
     At the beginning of the year, a boy drove me crazy with his loud voice and endless need for attention.  I found myself agreeing with the other teachers about what an annoying child he was.  After about three weeks, I remembered this belief and refocused on his purpose in my life.  Our relationship changed drastically and he became one of my favorite students. 
      One day he felt comfortable enough in our class to break down in tears and tell us his story.  His mom is in prison for trying to kill him.  He misses her terribly and writes her poetry on his I-Phone hoping she will get strong enough to choose him over the cocaine.  He taught me the power of love and forgiveness and faith and perseverance and that my life is really great.  All lessons I would have missed if I was focusing on his behavior instead of why he was in my class this year. 
     I even believe that I am writing this blog for a reason and that you are reading for a reason, even though I don't know what either reason is yet.  I am excited to see the lessons we have to teach one another. 
 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Living in the Present

Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. The force of character is cumulative. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Today's prompt reminds me to live in the moment and asks me to summarize my day in a sentence...

"After taking care of everyone else, I return home to my reason for being in this world - you."