My Leap List

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.