My Leap List

Monday, December 31, 2012

Living in the Now for 2013

    Last New Year's Eve I resolved to make 2012 the year of letting go.  Boy, did I have a lot to let go of.  I learned life is messy.  Nick was diagnosed with severe anxiety.  I knew he was struggling, but I never dreamed he was suicidal.  I'm still hopeful the ghosts are manifestations of the anxiety and depression and not early signs of Schizophrenia.  Mandy was diagnosed with bipolar, on top of the Fibromyalgia.  She dealt with a broken heart and learning to accept herself for who she is in a world that values everything she is not by cutting deep wounds in her legs.  This week she decided to graduate in May, even though it will take immense effort to earn the credits she has missed.  I let go of the job I love to try a new adventure.  Even marriage seemed too messy for awhile.   
     I also learned about love.  I let go of the ideal family I imagined and embraced them for who they are - perfect in their imperfections.  I felt the depth of love from my students and cried at my ability to break their hearts.  I was humbled at seeing myself through the eyes of the people who love me.  They showed me a version of myself I cannot not see yet on my own.   
     Outside my window, fireworks are blasting away with partiers zealous for a new start once the magic numbers turn over.  2013 will need a little magic.  It's already set to be a rough start with challenging economic and political times out there and personal challenges in here.  But, like every year, there is always magic waiting to make life worth while.
    This year I will live every day instead of waiting for the magic moment to start.  It may bring big moments like sky diving or hang gliding.  It may bring small moments when I am truly present and not just pretending to be listening.  Whatever moments come, I will be present in the now. 
     Happy New Year, everyone.  May 2013 bring all the lessons we need to learn, and may we be blessed with the ability to love each other as we travel around the universe together.   

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Darkest Nights of the Year

     There is a heartbreak that you only feel as a parent.  Your life is tenuous, at best.  When Mandy was small, I would turn instantly into a mother bear if anyone threatened her, but I can't fight the threats that torment her from the inside. 
     Her bare legs are scarred raw with cuts on every inch of skin.  Some of the gashes are so deep they look like third degree burns.  Where was I?  Here.  Why didn't I know?  I have been so caught up in saving the world that I forgot to save her first.  Truth?  I am scared.  I am guilt-ridden.  I am what I tried so hard not to be.   I am still new at parenting a girl who suffers whiplash from her bipolar episodes.  I am so heartbroken for this girl.
     So many of my friends are struggling with their families and my heart goes out to them.  I follow them on Facebook and admire their strength and devotion and unending positive outlook on life in the face of such heartbreak.  I struggle to be them.  Some days I pretend really well.  Then I see the newest scars that should have had stitches days ago, if only I knew, and cry. 
     Today twenty children died at the hands of a man who killed his mother and then the children she loved.  My heart breaks for all of us...the children who will never grow up...the children who will, but will always be scarred...the parents who physically lost their children today...and the parents who spiritually and mentally lost theirs...the teachers who tried to save them...the families...the mentally ill...the ones who sacrifice everything every day...the scared ones...the ones who lost their faith in humanity...the ones trying to save us from ourselves...
     It is Christmas time in my small part of the world.  In this time of pain, I hope we come together and help each other through the darkest nights of the year.  In a few days, the world will begin to slowly grow light again.  May we all find peace and love in the light.   

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Trust

     I haven't mastered trust yet.  I actually suck at it, so God keeps giving me new chances to practice
     This morning I spent four hours picking beans and weeds on a real life farm.  The people waiting with us at 8 A.M. were as nervous as I was.  Can I actually do this for four hours?  Will I do it right?  We shook hands and stood awkwardly waiting together.  The farmer briefly explained what he needed us to do and then set off on his other tasks.  He continued working in the fields, trusting us to do more good than harm.  As I moved to another crop, I left the backpack behind so I wouldn't miss the new instructions.  I trusted it would be safe where I left it, even though it held a cell phone, id, and money inside.  When I returned, it was right where I had left it.  Untouched.  When I left, the farmer asked me my name and jotted it on a piece of paper from his car.  I trust that he will send my name to the people that keep track of these things so I get credit for working today.  
     On the way home, I stopped the car in the middle of the road to let a mother duck and her ducklings cross the street.  She didn't even hesitate.  She trusted that I would stop and wait and the other cars further down at the light would not come up the hill until the ducklings were safe.  When they got to the other side, the littlest duckling fell on his back trying to climb the curb.  He tried to hop, but that didn't work.  Then he backed up, ran, and hopped.  He finally made it.  The whole time he tried, his mom waited patiently on the curb, trusting he would make it without her help.  He made it just as the cars came up the hill.  The mother duckling turned and led the ducklings off through the underbrush.
     Today someone I thought was my friend showed his true colors.  It hurt to be betrayed.  It hurt even more to find out that I was played.  Just when I think I'm mastering this trust thing, I find out I have a ways to go.  I am vain enough to care what people think of me.  I want to know that people like me just because I am worth liking, not just because of what I can do for them.  This can make me an easy target for people who want to take advantage of me.
     I'm learning balance.  A tough skin for protection that is thin enough to love and be loved.  Protecting my kids without keeping them from climbing their own walls.  Staying safe, but taking risks.  Trusting in the goodness of people without being a target for our baser instincts.
     A random feather landed on my walk today.  Thank you angels for being with me today for the hard lessons in trust and love.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tested for True Character


      The bottom of the tag reads "Tested for true character."  I don't know how you test a hat for its character, but I am grateful for whoever takes the time to do this every day.  What an awesome job!  This is my new litmus test for life.
     When I'm looking for ways to release the clutter in my life, I shall ask, "Does it have true character?"  If so, it will stay.  If not, I will send it on its way to other great adventures.  It will be epic to see.  Gatsby's flying shirts will have nothing on me. 
     I will surround myself with people of true character who inspire me to grow.  I will guard against the ones still learning what it means to have true character.  I will help those trying to find their own.  
     I will fill my mind with books and movies and ideas  that have been tested for true character.  I can't absorb them all in my lifetime, so I will choose the ones that make me more than I already am.
     When tough decisions need to be made, I will choose the ones that show my true character and not the ones that are easy or cowardly.  I will stand with my convictions, even when it is the hardest thing to do.
     I will speak words that reflect my character and not the ones that debase myself or others.  My words will be a source of comfort and love, not another wound for someone to needlessly suffer.  
     My appearance will reveal my true character, not what society judges to be the way a woman should look.  When I look in the mirror, I will speak kindly to myself as a woman with true character would speak to another human being.  I will stop beating myself up over superficial numbers and inches and celebrate the body I have.  
     At the end of my journey here, I hope someone will judge me kindly and give me a tag that reads, "Tested for true character."
          

Focusing on the Fabulous

     Sometimes I forget how amazing life is and start focusing on the little hiccups along the way.  Luckily I have amazing people who remind me life is a matter of focus.  No matter how perfect our lives seem from the outside, we all have struggles that make us human.
     Baby Joscelyn has gone through two brain surgeries this week, and she is still smiling at her mom and the people taking care of her.  Her indomitable spirit humbles me.  Her mother has the same amazing spirit. Rhea is going through a painful medical treatment that leaves her bruised and battered, but she still checks in on me to make sure I am okay.  There are so many people I could list here that inspire me every day to change my focus and see all the good things in the world.  
     I struggled to write tonight on such an uneventful day, but then I thought of all the amazing people who  would tell me life is a matter of focus.  This is my revised focus day.

  •  I got a surprise visit from a dear friend I haven't seen in years.  She wasn't supposed to be there today, but a fluke scheduling change brought us to the same place at the same time.  
  • There were bunny kisses and bunny paws on my lap while I read the morning paper.  
  • I Skyped for the first time ever and got to hear the voice of a friend in Turkey.  
  • I got a postcard from one of my favorite students.  I was delighted with the picture of a Scottish cow; she is a student ambassador in Europe this summer.    
  • I am down to two Pepsi's a day, which is still a lot, but not bad for a girl who could drink five or six on an average day.  
  • I went for my third walk this week - also a lot for a girl trying to get back in shape.  
  • A cat followed us for part of the walk.  When Mandy kneeled down to pet it, it climbed up in her lap and nuzzled into her neck.  It was amazing to see the instant love.  
  • My sister donated money to baby Joscelyn in my name because she knew it would make me smile and knew I would want to help her.  
  • Many friends offered to join me in a future walk to raise money for suicide prevention.  With their help, we can raise even more money to help kids who need extra love and support.  
  • I got to sit in a hot tub in the rain.  I actually giggled with delight at the combination of hot and cold water on my skin.  
There were so many fabulous things in my life today.  How could I think it was uneventful?  The day was the same; it was my focus that made the difference.    

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Messages from Heaven

     I believe that feathers are messages from Heaven delivered by angels.  When I was fifteen and considering suicide, a voice convinced me not to. When I turned away from death and headed back down the pier, a feather dropped from the sky.  Today the angels sent me four messages from heaven.
     One of my favorite people asked me to join her in the Out of the Darkness walk.  I have Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, so considering a five-mile walk in September when either the heat or the cold could do me in, is a difficult decision.  But, she and I lost two people we love to suicide.  It was heartbreaking for me, but I can't imagine how she survived losing her brother and sister as a young teen.  This girl has my heart and anything she asks, she gets a "yes" from me.  
    After saying yes and setting up a team, Mandy and I set off for a walk to get in training.  After a few blocks, Mandy found a random feather lying the sidewalk.  She held it out and said, "I think the angels like your decision to join the walk."  A few blocks later I found another feather lying on the sidewalk.  I picked it up and said, "A feather for both of them."  By the time we made it full circle to our home, four feathers had fallen on our path.  One for each of my students who have committed suicide.  I think all of my angels are happy with my decision tonight.  I hope I can make them proud.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Never Enough Love

     The one thing we can never get enough of is love. And the one thing we never give enough is love. 
- Henry Miller.





Sunday, July 8, 2012

Seeing Through Mandy's Eyes

     This year is my year of letting go.  One of the hardest parts is letting go of myself.  I hold on really tightly so I don't do anything wrong.  I worry about what people will think of me and what they will say.  I worry about what I write and about how the world will perceive it.  I hate people looking at me, and I absolutely HATE having my picture taken because then I have to change the way I see myself with the way the photo sees me.  I spend forever tearing apart the picture and all the things wrong with it.  This picture would be a perfect example.  There are so many things I could say about what's wrong with it.  Mandy loves it because I look happy...and I was happy in that moment, with my family, Tyler's "celebrations" on my head, celebrating the 4th of July.  I am letting go of the imperfections I see in me and seeing myself through her eyes - happy.  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Best Part of Me

      My sister is, and always has been, the very best part of me.   
Happy Birthday, love.
  

Friday, July 6, 2012

Boy Energy

     I love spending time with this cute guy.  I love his boy energy and his funny sense of humor.  Since his sister was out tonight, I let him pick where we went for dinner.  He was thrilled to pick Chicken Souvlaki because the chicken comes with a stick.  He told me, "Everything tastes better on a stick."  Then he happily speared every one of his fries because they taste better that way.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Life is Fleeting, but Love is Eternal

     Yesterday Mandy and I talked about expectations...and life...and love...and all the other random thoughts that came up as we sat sewing together.  We decided that life, and love, have a way of surprising us and taking us places we never dreamed of at the start of the journey.  Isn't amazing that the life we get is so wonderful that most of us wouldn't trade it for the life we thought we wanted - the children we weren't expecting or the person we never wanted to love or the pets we didn't want or the job that was only temporary?  It amazes me that God, or whoever guides me with such loving grace, knows exactly what we need, even in the darkest nights of despair.
     We all have challenges in life, and I am amazed by people who overcome the toughest times imaginable with courage and quiet strength.  They inspire me to look beyond my little world and see what true strength and faith look like from the ones who are masters of the lessons I am beginning.  Jennifer Dempsey is one of these women.
     After losing her son in a tragic accident, she discovered her baby daughter Joscelyn has horrible seizures that can leave her paralyzed and permanently disabled.  Tonight Joscelyn had half of her brain removed in hopes of saving the other half.  I followed Jennifer's updates all day and marveled at her strength in an unimaginable time.  She posted a blog entry about her dreams for her baby and how they had changed into new dreams.  She has such simple dreams for Joscelyn.  Things that I take for granted as a mother.  She reminds me that life is fleeting, but love is eternal.  Life is much more precious to me tonight as I send my prayers, love, and healing thoughts to Jocelyn and Jennifer.  You can follow their story at http://joscelynsjourney.wordpress.com/2012/06/  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My Declaration of Independence

     Today Patti Digh wrote a blog post that has had me thinking all day.  In it she wrote of her declaration of in(ter)dependence and the freedoms she has gathered to herself in this lifetime.  You can read her eloquent post here .  At the end of the post she challenged us to share our own list today.  I've been trying to come up with an answer all day and am no closer to the answer than I was this morning, but I am going to give it a try anyway.

     I, Tiffany Cooke, hereby give myself the following freedoms:

  • I have the freedom to relinquish control and live in the uncertainty.
  • I have the freedom to be imperfect and love myself completely.
  • I have the freedom to accept life for what it is and to stop waiting for the ideal.
  • I have the freedom to say no.
  • I have the freedom to live my life out loud without censor.
  • I have the freedom to love unconditionally.
  • I have the freedom to feel peace without fear.
  • I have the freedom to be loved.
  • I have the freedom to relax without guilt.
  • I have the freedom to let go of negative thoughts and conclusions.
  • I have the freedom to have a bad day without thinking I have a bad life.
  • I have the freedom to ask for what I need.
  • I have the freedom to forgive.
Happy Independence Day.  Thank you, Patti, for helping me see today in a new light and making me feel lighter.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Letting Go of Perfection

     Sometimes I look at all the things that are still undone and I get overwhelmed. The garden.  Sewing projects still half-finished.  The clutter in my house.  Books still waiting to be read.  I look around and feel stuck.  Today I realized it's part of my endless drive to be perfect.  Everything must be perfect before I can let go and enjoy the moment.

     Today I remembered I can choose to let it go.  You can read about my resolution here - 2012 is my year of Letting Go.   This month I will let go of the perfection and enjoy the process.  I will be present in the moment and let go of the rest. I will focus on the beauty and not the weeds I'm still battling.
    I will also do a little bit every day to help the process.  I can't get everything done in a day or two, but I can celebrate the progress at the end of each day.  I will let go of one more part of my endless drive for perfection.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Love Emerges

    Last year the person you loved offered you the world. You said, "I already have the world."  Even when I kicked you out, you refused to go.  This summer someone offered to love me, but I couldn't go.  It's always been you and me. 


    No matter what happens, love keeps coming up from the depths.  Our roots run deep.  Even when it seems the end, love emerges stronger than before.   

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Quarter Century of Love

     "How are you today?"
     "In love."
   
     Summer has always been our time.  Our first summer, I was lost.  I was scared.  I was broken.  The love of my life was getting married to someone else and I was determined to be gracious in love and wish them well.  John stayed by my side and even made me laugh once or twice.  On the way home, he told me he loved me.
     A lot can happen in twenty-five years, even to people like us.  Love affairs aren't ever the perfect arc we imagine them to be.  Yet, here we are, together.  My best friend and my love.  For better and for worse.  

Friday, June 29, 2012

An Almost Evil Stepmother

     "You may be her stepmother soon, who knows?"  Suddenly it all became clear.  Stepmother.  There is an adorable six-year-old girl out there who needs a mom.  I have been pretty selfish the past few weeks.  I knew I was playing with fire, but I loved the attention and compliments.  We were unlikely to ever meet, let alone get together, so it was easy to flirt with danger.  I forgot the real people on the other end that would be hurt by me, including a little girl.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Leading Me Home

I write alone, in the middle of the night, 
looking for clarity, peace, perchance to dream.  
During the night, a magical thing happens...
your love keeps me anchored to the shore.  


When I'm afraid to see the sun rise 
and know I have to try again,
you put your arms around me 
and cheer me on from the sidelines.



You take my hand and whisper, 
"Remember, we all stumble,
every one of us,
that's why it's a comfort 
to go hand-in-hand."
- Emily Kimbrough


I am amazed by your love,
when I am lost in the darkness.
Thank you for coming back for me
and leading me home again.


J'taime


The Thing About Getting Your Heart Stomped On

     "That's the kind of thing about getting your heart stomped on - it never get's any easier."  As I tried to console my heart-broken daughter, I wanted so badly to say, "It gets better.  It won't hurt so much next time."  But in the moment, the lie wouldn't come - even a white lie to heal this girl who has my heart.   Instead I told her, "It never gets easier, but we never love in vain.  We make a difference in their world, or they make a difference in ours, or in some rare, beautiful moments, we can do that for each other at the same time."
     I always knew being a mom would be hard, but I didn't understand what made it so hard.  It turns out it isn't having less time, spreading the money in thinner slices, or even the daily stress of taking care of them.  Love is what makes it hard.  
     The first time they had their shots, I knew I was in big trouble.  Just hearing them cry brought me to tears.  Now I look back and smile when I think of Mandy at a few months old, crying every time she heard a baby cry on TV and giving me a look like, "Mom, fix it."  Back then I looked forward to becoming the "all-knowing" adult in their lives and being able to fix everything like the TV moms I admired.  I am still waiting.  
     There are so many things I wish I could fix for them.  Band-aids don't seem to have the magic they used to have, and my mom bag of tricks is getting low.  I really want a Mary Poppins' bag that has everything I need to save the day.  There must be something in there for helping my son stop wishing he wasn't alive anymore.  Or maybe something to block night terrors and the ghosts that torment him when he is alone?  Perhaps a song to replace the voices screaming in his head?  If I ask really nicely, maybe I could borrow her secrets for explaining love and broken hearts.  I bet she has a way to help my daughter accept herself in a world that hates who she is.   She could teach her the lessons I failed to teach - dealing with anger, trusting blindly, and loving like you have never been hurt before.  I need a bag like that for a day or two...or three...or four...
     So, it never gets any easier, does it?  It doesn't matter if it is us or the people we love that are hurting; it still sucks.  But we never love in vain, either.  Loving them makes my life worthwhile.                 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Broken Shards

     Trusting people scares me.  I am really bad at it. I either trust people too quickly or hold them at arm's length for years.  I don't know where my boundaries are when it comes to trust.  Ironically, I am a good judge of character.  It's probably a self-preservation gift since I have survived this long.
     When I realized the person I love was in love with someone else, I actually felt my heart break.  When he couldn't deny it, the broken pieces felt like a heart attack.  Time has numbed the broken places, but sometimes shards stab me unexpectedly.
     I get random online messages from guys all the time, but I never answer.  It's all I can do to handle the life I have right now.  For some strange reason, this time I decided to trust someone.  He snuck under my defenses by saying he would "like to be my friend, if I didn't mind."  His uncertainty was endearing, and made me like him from the start.  He says the perfect things to me.  I'm sure they are the same lines I have been immune to from other guys. I guess my heart just wants the fairy tale love affair I never had. He makes me feel things my numb heart stopped feeling.  I know I shouldn't trust him.  This is just one of the shards of broken heart that I didn't realize is still unhealed.  
      The sad thing is once I trust someone, I never stop, even when they break my heart.  I still love the boy who broke my heart.  What I really want is for him to love me like that.  I want my heart to be healed.  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Miracles Happen

     Miracles happen every day in my world.  These interconnected miracles touched me deeply and changed my life.
   
     Miracle One - Patti Digh is an author, mother, and woman extraordinaire.  Patti has a young daughter named Tess that is as amazing as her mom.  I love this little girl, partly because she reminds me of my daughter when she was young.  Last week Tess had a difficult day coming up and decided the event called for dressing up.  She looked so proud and brave in her new dress.      
     Miracle Two - Amy McCracken is another one of my favorite people.  Everything she does is magic.  She spreads love everywhere she goes.  She also happens to write a blog with Patti in her spare time.  She posted Tess' picture and wrote about how amazing it is to face the things we don't want to face with courage, a dress, and each other. This is a link to that post.  She started a "Dress for Tess" page for everyone to post photos of themselves dressed for Tess.  It is a page of love and bravery and support.
     Miracle Three - Rhea Kelly was the first one to post, and her blog brought me to tears.  You can read her blog post here.  This amazing woman is facing more hardships right now than I have faced in my entire life.  She talked about how Tess' bravery and Amy's idea made her see her own problems in a different light.  She put on a beautiful white dress to wait for the UPS man to bring her a medicine to try and stop the lesions growing in her brain.
     Miracle Four  - Suddenly my life fell back into perspective...every single part.  I was a better person today because of Rhea's courage and grace.  I wrote to her today and told her the impact her story had on me, and this woman thanked me for making a difference in her life.  I am truly humbled.

     Three amazing women and one small courageous girl are miracles in my life.  We have never met in person, but their overlapping stories have given me back my faith in humanity.    

Friday, June 22, 2012

Real Love Snores

     It's been a long, hard few years in my world.  Sometimes all I can do is laugh at the newest absurdity life is throwing my way.  Other days I barely manage to keep breathing through them.  I found out a broken heart isn't just a figure of speech: I felt it break.  I've put the pieces back together, but it still aches when I see people in love.  I had given up on feeling beautiful or loved or special any more.  
     A few days ago a man became my friend.  He sends me hundreds of messages.  He is kind and attentive and says the most romantic things.  He thinks he is in love with me.
     It's easy to love a stranger.  He is new and exciting and kind and attentive.  He doesn't watch annoying tv shows or snore or leave whisker hair all over the sink and tub or any of the millions of things that stop being endearing after 22 years together.  He hasn't let me down or gotten mad at me or ignored me.  He is still on his best behavior.  He isn't a real person yet - just an ideal.  I forgot how much I love beginnings.  The suspense of waiting to hear from him, the fast heart beat, the glow of feeling loved.
     But endless beginnings keep you from developing anything that lasts.  When I am sick or tired or hurting, I always know there is someone in the world who will drop everything and take care of me.  When all is said and done, I want a real love that is flawed, not a perfect fantasy.  Love is messy and scary and painful and raw, but it makes life worth living.    

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My "Soul"stice

     Today I celebrate my "Soul"stice on the first day of summer.  A symbolic day of deep personal meaning.  I greeted the day by  cutting the dead wood and overgrowth from my lilac bush.  No small feat - the bush is nearly twenty feet tall and 12 feet deep.  It took me several hours, but as I began to work, small wonders appeared.  I had no idea that there are actually two bushes inside the leaves.  Once I cleared out the undergrowth a bit, I looked up and found a bird's nest that I couldn't find last year.  I knew I had baby Magpies hopping around my yard, but couldn't ever find where they came from.  Somehow the nest survived the winter and stayed patiently waiting for me to discover it today.  
     I have learned a lot about myself the past few weeks.  The only thing my soul needs is love.  When I feel worthless and unloved, I stop being strong in myself.  When I am weak, I am easily manipulated.  I depend too much on what other people think of me.  I wear my heart on my sleeve.  Stupid things make me laugh until I cry when I've pushed my feelings way too deep for too long.  
     As the sunlight fades on the longest day of the year, I celebrate the woman I am today and thank the woman I was yesterday for doing the very best she could.  Together we clear out the clutter we fill our life with to see there is beauty; there is life.  

What's Love Gotta Do With It?

     This summer is turning out to be a Summer of Love.  You may have missed the message because it often gets lost in other news stories.  Being a hopeless romantic, they always catch me eye.
    Around here, I've been following my friend Steph's support of the Pride Parade because she values human rights, not just her own.  I admire her ability to take a stand on issues.  I want to be more like her.
     I've also been following the debates on love and whose love is valid in America.  Ellen Degeneres responded to her protesters, "I mean if they have a problem with spokespeople, what about the Pillsbury Dough Boy?  He runs around without any pants on...what kind of message is that?"  I hope I can be as graceful under fire.
     Josh and Lolly Weed shared their story on their tenth wedding anniversary and Club Unicorn began.  Their story also made front page news here.  Josh said, "It is about one human being connecting with another human being they love."
     Dan from Single Dad Laughing wrote a response to Josh and Lolly Weed today.  His words also affected me deeply.  "Knowing how hard people I love have tried and tried and tried until that trying completely broke them, and how trying has done nothing but hurt them and leave them alone and desperate..."  
     Two people I love are experiencing the same debate in their own lives.  To protect them from my need to find meaning late at night and forgetting other people sometimes read what I have to say, I dodge issues and hide behind vague words that you can puzzle meaning from if you know my story.  I hope someday all of us can realize that love's gotta lot to do with it so we can all be our authentic selves and not have to hide who we are.  
      A new friend in the blogosphere reminded me today that we all deserve the most incredible earth shattering romantic love imaginable.   May we all be blessed with love.

Banning our Freedom of Speech

     Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum were banned from speaking on the House Floor in Michigan because other representatives didn't like their choice of words during the debate.  Apparently the other representatives forgot that the Constitution guarantees all of us the right to freedom of speech.  Even women.  Especially women who are representing constituents on the floor of congress.
     We may not agree, but our country was founded on this principle.  It is our first amendment.  When elected officials are banned from discussing bills that affect them and the people they were elected to represent, our country is in big trouble.  Whose rights will be the next to go?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

If Love were a Whisper

"If love were a whisper, what could I give you to speak?"
- Matchbox 20 in the song "Can't Let You Go"

     Words.  They hold so much power.  Even when we can't communicate by sound, our hands make words and phrases to express what we are trying to say.  Our minds translate everything in our world into words.  Few of us think in pictures.  
     Babies and children become frustrated when we cannot understand what they are trying to say.  We never outgrow that frustration.  Our moments of rage are fueled by the betrayal of not being understood.  How could he do this to me?  She should have known that would hurt me.  So often we think people prove their love by reading our minds.  If they really love me, they would just know what ...I need....I mean...I want....I feel....  It is so true, it is a running joke between the sexes.  When a woman says, "Wow!"  It doesn't mean, "Wow!  That is terrific!"  It means, "Wow! I didn't know anyone could really be that stupid."        
     All of us want to be heard.  Truly heard.  Understood.  And loved anyway.  We want it so much, we are ashamed.  We try to push it down.  Not care.  Be tough.  We learn early on how cold the world is and how deep the pain can go.  Better to push up the collar on our jacket, thrust our hands in the pockets, and turn our backs on the world.  Hurt first before you get hurt.  It is just a facade for the tenderest of hearts.
     When we finally break down and share our deepest fears...our secrets...our dreams...we just want to be heard.  No need to fix it.  No need to "do" anything.  Just "be" with us in this moment.  Be there...totally in the moment.  Just listen.  You will suddenly have a forever friend.
     All of us search for a way to show the world who we are.  I write random words to myself as I struggle to make sense of my world.  Some create buildings or art or websites.  Others dress up in costumes and meet other costumed people to reenact the favorite characters they love.  Some write songs that change the world.  Others create movies that leave us with a new view of ourselves.  It is the magic of seven billion people who share this fragile planet together composing and singing and dancing and writing and sharing and talking and always looking for the one who matches our piece of the symphony.  
     Sing your song.  Write your words.  Share your vision.  There is only one of you and the world needs your voice.  Without you, we are all a bit incomplete.  Together, we sparkle with magic the universe has never seen.     


Friday, June 8, 2012

An Imperfect-Perfect Love

     This little guy is Carson.  We've never met, but I am in love.  I fell in love with him the moment I saw him.  I can't explain why.  I'm not really a dog person, especially for little dogs.  He isn't adorable, at least not in that perfect, YouTube, "I must have him" kind of way.  He has one eye.  He is not a puppy anymore.  So many reasons not to love him, but I do.
     When someone sees our imperfections and loves us even more, love is perfect.  People may be infatuated with our perfect facade, but we all want the perfect love that comes from growing old together and being loved for who we really are, warts and all.
     We are all broken in perfect ways.  A pane of glass can't cast rainbows all over the room, but a prism of broken glass is magic.  When I truly see you in all your broken perfection, I understand.  I can forgive you for not being the perfect person I thought you would be.
     All of my favorite people are broken in one way or another.  They weren't chosen first for dodge ball or voted most popular.  They still aren't rich or famous.  In a zombie apocalypse,  they will probably be left behind.  So many reasons not to love them, but I do.  They are perfect.
     
    

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Tribute to the Women in my Life

     Mother's Day always makes me sad for all of the things I didn't have in my past.  Tonight I realized when you don't have a great role model, you have to find your own.  I am blessed with wonderful women that teach me everything I need to know about life.
     My sister Tammy is an amazing woman.  While raising three beautiful, strong and independent young women, she helps run a gymnastics business, writes and performs music, creates original artwork at a glass blowing studio, and still finds time for anyone in need.  She randomly buys candy bars for the cashiers at the store to make their days a little better.  She stops and helps people on the streets and sends care packages to people when they are feeling down.  Although she faces her own demons and struggles, she faces the world head-on and doesn't back down from doing what needs to be done.  I owe so many parts of who I am to her.
     Colleen is my friend next door at work.  I love her strength.  Before I knew her, I didn't have strong women role models in my life.  I saw women deferring to society, men, and what we are "supposed" to be.  I thought strong women were a B word like...bad.  Colleen is a strong woman, but she never abuses her power.  She will stand up for herself and the people in her life.  She stands up for what is right and never backs down.  She adopted a beautiful girl from another country and became a single mother because she wanted to be a mother and wasn't willing to compromise on what she needed from the men in her life.  I am a stronger woman because of her.  Thanks to her, I have learned a woman's strength is a beautiful thing when it is used to change the world for the better.
     Stephanie is one of my oldest friends.  I have always admired her ability to be true to herself.  Even in high school she was able to say what she thought, dress how she wanted, and be who she was without spending time worrying about what the world thought about it.  She is the exact opposite of me.  She is one of the greatest role models in my life.  As I watch her protest injustices for everyone, not just the safe to defend people that don't get you in trouble when you support them, I am awestruck.  When I write here and begin editing myself, I think of her and stop censoring myself.  Watching her put her dreams on hold so she can take care of her ailing parents makes me love her even more.  Steph makes me proud to be a woman.
     I am fortunate to work with Kandi.  She can make you laugh at anything and everything.  She has a special light that makes you feel happy just to be around her.  The kids at school love her, but she never lets them get away with anything.  She is like a Pied Piper.  The kids and adults in school are always flocked around her with smiles.  She goes out of her way to make people feel good.  You might find out later that she was sick or tired or stressed or busy, but you would never know it.  She is totally focused on you in the moment and gives freely of herself.  You never feel like you have been a bother to her.  She inspires me to be a better human being.
     Patti D. is a writer, a mom, a public speaker, a blogger, and a woman extrordinairre.  Every time she goes through a rough time, she turns it inside out to be a beautiful experience to help others.  By sharing her lowest moments, she lends me a beacon to see through my own tragedies.  I have never heard her utter or write a negative word about anyone or anything.  She is always focused on the lesson to learn and the beauty through the pain.  In a torrential rainstorm, Patti would put on her vegan boots and dance in the rain until the rainbow came out.
      Amy M. is my favorite Facebook friend.  This amazing woman saves the world, or at least her small part of it.  She works tirelessly to save lost, abandoned, and injured pets.  She raises money for RAL and dedicates infinite hours to making animals' lives better.  In her free time she helps raise money and awareness for people with cystic fibrosis.  When a cute little girl was struggling in the hospital, Amy stayed with her and gave her cute disguises for her breathing tubes.  Amy gave her a leash for the cute puppy waiting to be hers as soon as she left the hospital.  When she was worried about passing her check up, Amy took her shopping.  They bought matching outfits so Amy could take over if the breathing test was a struggle.  Amy has been through some of the worst moments you can imagine.  Her childhood was a lot like mine, but she shares her past honestly and compassionately for everyone involved.   Amy always looks on the bright side of life, and never lets herself turn bitter and cold.  When winter depression rears it's head, she asks all of us to send pictures every Sunday at 6 to brighten the dark winter nights.  When I begin to feel sorry for myself, I think of Amy and stop.  She is my Phoenix and reminds me I can rise above the ashes of my life.
         My grandma is my role model for grace.  Watching her age has shown me the woman I want to be in the future.  When I start to criticize my gray hairs and wrinkles, I think of her and smile at the woman I see in the mirror.  I want to age with dignity and grace.  The poem "Warning" by Jenny Joseph begins with the lines, "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple with a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me..."  This poem has always reminded me of her and who I want to be as a wise woman at the end of my life.
     Amanda is my pride and my joy.  I never knew how wisdom could be held in a sixteen-year-old body.  Whenever I get side tracked and lose my way, she always says the words that lead me back to myself.  She sees through the masks we wear and sees us for who we are.  Then she helps us see the people we are meant to be.  Her life has been anything but easy, but she always comes through everything even stronger than before.  Loyal to a fault, she will never leave anyone behind.  She loves with her whole heart and never apologizes for who she is.  When I am at my lowest moments, she is always there for me and helps me survive to see another day.  Tonight she said, "Without you, we wouldn't have a life, so the balance is still out of whack."  It's true.  The balance is out of whack, but what she doesn't realize is that the balance is mine to her.  She is the one that taught me to LIVE and stop going through the motions.  She brought the joy and the colors to a life that was pale in comparison.  She is the reason I celebrate today.  Happy Mother's Day, baby girl.  And Happy Mother's Day to all of the amazing women in my life.  I wouldn't be who I am or who I will be without all of you. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Words and Feathers and Streams-of-Consciousness

     Words are the most powerful part of being human.  A word separates us from exhilaration and devastation. We never outgrow the power of words.
     Tonight my sister's words brought me to tears as I read her online journal about a musician who tried to kill himself.  He is here today but won't make any other promises.  She sent words into the darkness hoping to anchor him until the sun comes back around.  There is so much suffering. We all want to stretch across the distance and hold on to one another, but the fall will kill us if the hand is refused.  Better not to admit we are dying inside until it is too late to do anything but jump.
     My Hansel and Gretel went into the forest.  Gretel couldn't find her way back out and Hansel couldn't live without her.  The rest of us do the best we can without them.  My words were not enough to lead them home, but I keep sending them anyway.  The forest is still dark and cold and lonely.  Sometimes words are all we have to offer.
     A friend stopped by today to tell me what a difference I had made in his son's life this year.  He struggles in unimaginable ways, but his life is turning the corner.  My heart glow put E.T. to shame.  A few words, a two-minute conversation, and my world washed into new colors.
     A later message started, "I don't know if you heard this or not..."  Disappointment and another loss added to the week's list.  Everyone tried to tell me, "It is for the best...one door closes...God works in mysterious ways..."  My hollow words echoing back at me.  I smiled politely and nodded my head, but I wanted to cry and scream and swear and any other thing that polite women do not do when a dream may not be shattered but is pretty damn cracked at the moment.  I know tomorrow will be better and I will look at it in the best light again, but today it totally sucked.  I needed someone to call it what it was and feel with me.  Another lesson about being what the person needs and not relying on my stock answers of support.
     Checking e-mails and finding more messages that should never be written to or from the people they are going to.  Promised messages are eternal in my world.  I can forget them in the moment.  I can stuff them down with the best of them and act totally fine, but after all these years, the stuff is running out of space.  New messages that show I am making the best decision I can make for the people in my life.  Things will never change and it's futile to believe the words that pretend otherwise.
     When I opened the garage tonight, a feather floated down at my feet.  The angels had lots of bricks to throw at me lately, but the feather message was a delight.
     Tonight I am blessed in my darkest moments to have angels all over my life looking over me.  I have words to rage and cry and rejoice.  True friends that love me in my brokenness.  My kids that comfort me in ways no one else can - snuggled noses and sleepy hugs and chocolate chip cookies.  My sister's music as the soundtrack to my lost days because I can carry her with me when I am alone.  My brothers planning a guys day out for my son fighting his own battle out of the forest.  So many blessings and angels and feathers and messages and words...I never would see if I didn't take the time to write these words.  Tonight I am living life out loud.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My Warrior

     I know a man who talks big and acts small.  When push comes to shove, he realizes he cannot do what needs to be done.  It is easier to sacrifice the many for the needs of the one.  Most of the men in my life continually teach me the same lesson.
     I am a woman who acts big and talks small.  If the decision will impact other people, I will make any tough decisions you throw at me.  I am slow to anger, but this warrior will relish the battle that was worth my fight.  My favorite women teach me this lesson every day.
      I don't usually see this warrior woman when it comes to saving myself.  She likes to save the fighting for the others in need and hide her own scars under golden armor.  As long as it is only me hurting, I can make all the excuses in the world.
     It is time for the two women to unite into one.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Poison

     In the face of your ultimate betrayal, my truth shrivels.  You even killed my words.  The only thing I carried with me from the dark days.  I circle and circle and circle around you and me and us.  There is no sense and no solution.  Love and pain and who we are is trumped by who we believe we are.  I love your best self and you despise your worst and opposites explode. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Perfect in our Imperfections

     Forgive me if I have been a little off lately.  I've been learning some hard life lessons and letting go of my perfection.
     When I was most broken, I dreamed of motherhood and my impending perfection.  I would be all of the things I never saw in the imperfect people around me.  A perfect daughter, a perfect mother, a perfect love.
     From the very first moment, it wasn't the way it was supposed to be.  Nine months of morning sickness, placenta deterioration,  intrauterine growth retardation, Christmas IVs, bed rest, low birth weight...everything was off.  My dreams were off...a crowded store with shoppers, a small rat running underfoot, no one hearing my pleas to stop stepping on my baby.
     Once she arrived, things still weren't the way my parenting books said they would be.  She never slept, ever, unless sleeping in my arms and then only for a few minutes at a time.
     She taught herself sign language at nine months because it drove her crazy I didn't understand what she wanted. Then she kindly taught her language to me by dragging me to what she wanted, pointing to it, and making the sign for it each time until I learned what the sign meant.  
     She hated clothes because of the way they rubbed on her skin.  It took hours to line up the toes of her socks on her feet with the shoes so she wouldn't yank them off her feet.
     She didn't cry but she would literally scream for hours when she was angry.
     She didn't just talk in sentences; she talked in complete adult conversations at one and a half, leaving strangers with their mouths agape.
     She was not the person I imagined.  She was my dream rat, and I wanted to protect her from all the people who couldn't see the girl I saw.
     Seasons have passed and her patience with me has been immense when my instincts are still to protect her from those angry shoppers in the world.   
     This month she fell in love for the first time, faced tough realizations about her family, her sexuality, and being diagnosed with Type 2 Bipolar Disorder.  It was a tough month to be my girl.
     It was a tough month to be her mom, but not because of her.  In the small moments, it is hard enough to be a good enough mom.  In the big moments, I just hope I'm ready, pray, breathe, and do the best I can.  Through her tears, I held her and breathed in her scent and loved her even more than the heartbeat before.  I can't shelter her from the world outside, but I wish she didn't have such a steep climb to where her road is taking her.
     Months ago I promised her we would go to the Junior/Senior Mother/Daughter tea party.  My ironic life deemed the tea party for the only time I can't go.  Tears of guilt and remorse streamed down my face.  She smiled and said,"There are more important things in life than tea parties.  I'm glad I have a mom who loves all these hard to love things about me.  We can have our own tea party, in our pajamas, if we want."
     Somehow in all the big stuff we were going through, I let the tea party become the thing that the perfect mother would do for her.  Luckily my imperfect girl doesn't need  that perfect mom.  She needs a mom with a broken smile who loves her through everything, for who she is, where she is, and who she will be.  We are perfect in our imperfections.      

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Keeping the Promise Anyway

     You know truth the moment it walks in the door.  Your soul jumps up to welcome it back.  I found my definition of love in John Green's The Fault in our Stars.   
     "Sometimes people don't understand the promises they're making when they make them," I said.
     Issac shot me a look.  "Right, of course.  But you keep the promise anyway.  That's what love is.  Love is keeping the promise anyway."
     Today I am keeping the promise anyway.
       

Saturday, March 31, 2012

I Love the Broken Ones

     How can you love them?  They are broken, used, discarded, abused, and lost.  It's so much easier to love the ones that are happy, smart, kind, talented, and mature.  How can I love them?  How could I not?  I love the broken ones.
     I was a broken one.  The shy girl who never talked.  The one who cut herself and picked at scabs.  The head banger.  Hiding in silence and downcast eyes, blending in and not standing out; avoiding the danger of being noticed.  The broken one who nearly died.  The perfect girl.  The one everyone loved but no one knew.
     I love a broken man.  Depression is a constant companion, but other mental illnesses often tag along.  Lost and lonely no matter how much love I give. If there was any way to wish or pray or or love or think your way out of the darkness, he would already be home.
     I love a broken boy who fears the deaths of everyone he loves.  Ghosts clamor for his attention and death meets him when he is alone.  A shy boy who lives in books and video games where he can conquer death every time.
     I love a broken girl who lives every day in excruciating pain.  Struggling to just be a teenager when she can barely climb up the stairs.  Battling her own mental illness.  An empathy so strong she literally feels the pain of the people she loves.
     I love the broken ones.  All of them.  I live their lives every day.
     All week people have asked me the same questions with different words.  "How can you love the broken ones?"  It's easy.  They've never been loved enough.  If no one ever loves you unconditionally, you never learn to love.  There are already enough people in the world unable to love.  They need my love the most.
     "Why do you keep trying when it's obvious they don't care?"  When you are broken, years of lies and broken promises line your heart.  Pain masked by indifference.  They lash out and push you away, lie, steal, anything to prove you are just like everyone else who gave up and walked away.  They can't believe you love them when no one else does.  The hardest, non-caring kids are the ones who want to be loved the most.  Keep loving them when they are most unlovable and a miracle occurs.  They become the people you knew they would be.
     "Why do you keep trying when it won't make a difference?"  It takes years to get over being broken and some of us never do.  Emotional scars heal on their own time frame.  I would have been the broken one you gave up on.  My love may not make a noticeable difference today or tomorrow or by June 1st, but love makes a difference.  I don't have to be there when it happens.  It is enough to know that their lives will be better because they were loved for the 180 days we shared.  180 more days than they would have had without love.  That is enough for me.
     "Why bother when no one notices what you are doing?"  I am glad no one notices.  I don't like the attention.  I don't care who gets credit as long as my kids are taken care of.  For me, it is not about the fame or the accolades or the money.  I was a broken child and a teacher's love saved me from myself.  I honor her by paying it forward.
      I've been disappointed, angered, hurt, and frustrated, especially at the beginning of each year.  Love is hard.  Love is messy.  Love is scary.  No one has more power over you than the ones you love.  But, I have laughed and sung and danced and rejoiced in their love.  
     "How can you leave the classroom and become an administrator?  It is tragic to lose a good teacher."  I will always be me, wherever I go.  That won't change.  Now I can teach others how to love the broken ones and help so many more people who need me.  It might be worth not giving up on the broken ones like me.  We need the most love when we are most unlovable.
     "The Broken Ones" by Dia Frampton is my teaching theme song.  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

None of Us are Free

     I look at the world my children live in and cry for who we are.  All my life I heard we children were special; we were chosen to live in the end of days.  I'm grown up now, with children of my own, and it turns out we weren't so special.  We were just like the ones who went before.  We hide behind sound bites and our religions and our conservative views.  Too full of hate and anger and prejudice to listen to anyone else, let alone understand.  The rest of us hide in fear awaiting the winner.  If we are lucky enough to not be hated, we turn a blind eye and hope we won't be next.  Hitler would be proud.
     My students are beautiful; all colors and hues.  They don't believe me when I tell them; no one else sees them that way.   I weep for the boys with the beautiful dark skin who ask me why we never learn from the past and why black hoodies are so bad.  I cry with the beautiful girl of Hispanic descent, tears rolling down her cheeks, asking me if it's okay her teacher just called her a dumb Mexican..  I hug the shy girl embarrassed to admit that her dance recital is "only" native Mexican dances.  None of them have faced physical death yet, but they die a million small deaths every day.  What a hopeless way to see fourteen.
     My children and I have white skin.  We don't face the situations my students face every day, but we fight for  all of us.  For as Ray Charles says, "If one of us is chained, none of us are free."

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Perfection

See that woman over there?
She is perfect.  
Nothing ever fazes her.
It must be so nice to be her.
Everything comes so easy for her.

I hear them whispering about me.
They can't see behind the mask
to see the purple circle bruises
and the racing heart bursting out.

43 years in the making?
The craftsmanship is exquisite.
I must get one of my own.

I would offer you this one
but I can't pry it loose anymore.

Perfection.  






Sunday, March 4, 2012

It Just Sucks Sometimes

It sucks to miss a boy who should have been 16 today
to see his face smile back at me through my tears and
wonder what should have been and how to let him go.

It sucks to love a boy of my own, fighting all his demons,
standing at the gates of Hell to bring him back from death,
trying to lead him through the woods to a moment of sun.

It sucks to be helpless to do more than scream silently 
praying someone, anyone, will pick up on my frequency
and get through my defenses and take care of me today.

It sucks to see the sins of the parents on my childrens' heads,
teaching them love will just have to be enough for all of us,
wishing they got to see the beauty before they lived life raw.

It sucks to be Atlas when everyone goes home for the night,
and it sucks to be everything and nothing at the same time,
to be the lucky one and unable to just be human for a day.




Monday, February 20, 2012

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Peanuts

     I love this title!  It pretty much sums up my life, and the fact that it was a birthday gift from my brother makes it even more perfect.  This book of wisdom pairs up a lesson on the left with an example cartoon from Peanuts on the right.
     One lesson is "How to Eat Ice Cream" and shows Snoopy and Woodstock eating ice cream together on top of Snoopy's dog house.  Snoopy says, "I always have the vanilla on the bottom and the chocolate on the top."  When Woodstock answers, Snoopy replies, "You like to have the vanilla on top and the chocolate on the bottom?  That's interesting.  It takes all kinds to make a world."  What a wonderful world it would be if we could all see that we like different kinds of ice cream, but it takes all kinds to make a world.         

Sunday, February 19, 2012

43 Revolutions

    This week marked my forty-third revolution of the sun.  Each revolution spirals me back a little older and wiser.  Life is always a surprise around here.  I never know what will be ahead, but it is always a grand adventure.  I am even learning to feel comfortable in my own skin and loving the imperfect me.
     To celebrate, I completed forty-three acts of kindness for all my fellow traveler's on this revolution.  So many wonderful friends took up the challenge and spread loving acts of kindness into the universe for the best birthday ever.  They made cookies for another family, befriended someone sitting alone at lunch, accepted undeserved criticism with grace, paid for a young girl unable to afford to go to a music summer camp and a student who couldn't afford to take a class needed to graduate on time.  They provided food for boys at a wrestling meet, took co-workers out to lunch, volunteered time to help register new students, were more genuine with their students, and switched schedules with a co-worker so she could go back to school.
     The following list is an act of kindness for each of my revolutions, but as my daughter says, if it is tl:dr (too long; didn't read), then the epiphany is: Be nice to each other!

  1. Used my free period to make school easier for some kids in study skills.
  2. Counseled kids about their grades for another team of teachers.
  3. Built a website for three teachers.
  4. Made blankets for children with cancer at the local children's hospital.
  5. Volunteered to do two assignments for my team when everyone was having a rough week.
  6. Provided treats to make a difficult meeting a little bit better for everyone.
  7. Listened to a friend's problems even though I was really sick and wanted to go to bed.
  8. Gave treats to kids for having all of their assignments turned in for a month.
  9. Presented to a roomful of principals as a favor for my principal.
  10. Taught two classes for free.
  11. Presented to English teachers in the district.
  12. Donated money to a student so she can be a student ambassador this summer.
  13. Let another teacher use my room after a student was sick in his room.
  14. Helped a friend when she was really sick.
  15. Agreed to take a new position at work because it will help more kids.
  16. Sent a kind e-mail to smooth hurt feelings. 
  17. Helped people see in a new way.
  18. Created a lesson for three teachers.
  19. Gave up several class periods to help students with projects for other classes.
  20. Let a cute future teacher interview me for her assignment for 2 hours on a Friday night.
  21. Planned fun activities for intervention time at school.
  22. Taught a six-week class because no one else could take it.
  23. Did something for a friend that he forgot to do himself.
  24. Listened to a woman going through a hard time, even though we aren't friends.
  25. Registered future students for three hours.   
  26. Stayed up late talking about philosophy to a girl on her own revolutions.
  27. Helped students struggling with an assignment for another class.
  28. Organized a folder with a new teacher for his evaluation this week.
  29. Met with new teachers to help them with their needs.
  30. Spent lunch time listening to a student going through a hard time.
  31. Helped two new teachers with students. 
  32. Signed up as a mentor for student writers.
  33. Created a project that helped my students take pride in their thinking.
  34. Stayed for an extra hour after school for three days to help students with homework for another class.
  35. Listened to every person present their vision boards, even though everyone else left when they were done with their own presentations.
  36. Let a friend use some of my ideas to help her with another presentation.
  37. Recorded the chapter of the textbook for struggling readers and their teachers.
  38. Gave templates and suggestions to help some teachers with an upcoming lesson.
  39. Proofread a friend's paper for him.
  40. Gave someone another chance.
  41. Made a sick girl smile and feel a little less alone.
  42. Inspired others to do acts of kindness the past few weeks.
  43. Let someone vent at me for days, even when none of it was my fault.  
Thanks to Robin Bomar for the inspirational idea!      





Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Birthday Bonanza of Kindness

For my birthday, I decided to follow Robin Bomar's example and do 43 acts of kindness in the three weeks before my birthday.  Then I challenged all my Facebook friends and family to do acts of kindness for others sharing the planet and post their results on my Facebook page.  Here are the results of our kindness.

My Acts of Kindness  
  1. Teaching another teacher's class for her during my free period.
  2. Counseling another team's students on grades during my free period.
  3. Helping another teacher put assignments on the website.
  4. Making blankets for the kids with cancer at the children's hospital.  
  5. Doing the assignment for my team when everyone was having a hard week.
  6. Buying treats to make a difficult meeting a little better.
  7. Listening to my friends' problems even when I was really sick 
  8. Planning fun activities for students that had their grades updated
  9. Meeting with all of the elementary principals to explain a new reading program for my principal
  10. Teaching two classes for free and then paying to attend the event
  11. Presenting to all of the English teachers in the district for a friend 
  12. Paying $20 I can't afford for a student so she can be a student ambassador this summer
  13. Offering my classroom to another teacher when a student got sick in his room
  14. Helping my pregnant friend when she didn't feel well
  15. Taking a new position at work because it will help more students
  16. Writing my words and managing to write what others needed to hear
  17. Creating a lesson for the history teachers and making all the copies they needed
  18. Helping my students do a project for another class even though it took several days away from mine
  19. Spending 2 hours being interviewed by a future teacher about how to be a good teacher
  20. Planning a fun activity with food and books for intervention activities
  21. I agreed to teach a class I didn't want to teach because they needed help
  22. I did something for a friend when he forgot to do it himself
  23. I listened to another teacher who was going through a hard time.  Her husband left her and she is raising 17 kids
  24. Spending 3 hours registering new students on a night I had tons of homework
  25. Doing the team assignment even though I was busy because they had a busier week
Other People's Acts of Kindness
  1. Making cookies for a family
  2. Sitting by someone at lunch that struggles with social skills
  3. Accepting criticism with grace, even though it was undeserved
  4. Paying for a child to attend a summer music camp
  5. Providing lunch for all of the kids who didn't get lunch at a wrestling meet 
  6. Paying for a student to take an online class so they didn't have to postpone graduation
  7. Volunteering time to help students register
  8. Taking co-workers to lunch and paying for it
  9. Being genuine with students

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Time for Letting Go

     I am not naive enough to believe that there are still happily-ever-afters and riding off into the sunsets, but I do believe in love.  Still.  After all the heartbreaks and betrayals and loss.  It is who I am.  I am an eternal optimist.  I believe in the best in people.  I believe in a world that will come to its senses before its destruction.  I believe in people choosing to love one another through everything.  I trust in a world that rejoices in the dawn of a new day.  Just because it didn't happen for me doesn't make it less true.  Without that, life is meaningless.  What hope do I have for my children?  How can I fight so hard every day for a world that has nothing to fight for?  It is no wonder depression surrounds you and suffocates the ones who try to get close to you.  This is your reality and years spent with me have done nothing to change your world for you.  No amount of love or time or prayer changes this for you.  I can't live there.  I won't survive this view with you.  It is time for me to see what I want instead of what I do not want in my life.  A subtle change that would have made all of the difference had I been strong enough before.  A time for letting go.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Her Own Form of Protest

      My daughter is almost as good at denying her own needs to help others as I am.  Today one of her teachers made a huge mistake in planning and put her in charge of pulling together a week-long project in one night because he wanted it done for the class and tomorrow is the last day of the semester.
     My girl of a few weeks ago would have stayed up all night to help the teacher and crashed for days, unable to go to school.  She has Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and struggles to make it to school on a good day.  A day with this kind of stress and no sleep would leave her bedridden for days.
     Today she practiced letting go.  She did what she could in class, but purposely left it at school today, rather than stay up all night.  She also decided he didn't need the handmade thank you card she made for her other teachers tonight.  Her own form of protest.
     That's my girl!    

Letting Go of Fear

     Even though it is the middle of winter and there haven't been any feathers for weeks, Mandy brought a baby white feather home with her today and gave it to me with a kiss. I knew it was an important day when I got a feather message
      Today I let go of fear.  I have let it control my life for too long.  Some of my fears have come true, but my fear didn't stop them from happening or change the outcome.  I lost decades of time and energy worrying over ones that never came true. Three wise men taught me this lesson today.  I haven't met any of them, but they all sent me the same message in different ways.
     The first man was Yashar Ali.  I do not know him, but he writes a blog that I recently started following.  Today he posted a blog that was unlike any he has ever written before.  This one was personal.  I read it and was blown away by his honesty, his understanding, and compassion.  Today he wrote about being sexually abused and becoming perfect so no one would know he was damaged.  He lived in fear of letting anyone get close to him and finding out his truth.  He could have been writing about me.  He ended the post with the words, "Like that afternoon in October, when I finally let go of everything, and learned how to trust."  You can read Yashar Ali's blog here.   
     The second man was my friend Rich.  We haven't met before, but we became friends through our blogging this summer.  He asked me to read a book he had written a few years ago when he had lost his job.  It is the story of the great things he learned from having the tragedy of losing his job.   I have been thinking about him all day.  I want to be able to face what life has to offer and change the bitter into the brilliant.  
     Tonight, as I was reading to my son, a passage jumped out at me.  We are reading The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan.  
     Leo said, "When a demigod like me comes around, bad things happen.  Really bad."  
     "Maybe it's the other way around," Jason suggested.  "Maybe people with special gifts show up when bad things are happening because that's when they're needed most."
     I used to live my life thinking I caused the people around me to be bad.  I am learning to see that I am more than my past.  I meet amazing people out there doing amazing things, but they think they are ordinary.  I think that makes them even more amazing.  They are the heroes we all need now more than ever.  Today I let go of fear and join them.    

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Baby Steps to Letting Go

     As a recovering perfectionist, I am following the wise advice of Doctor Marvin in my favorite movie What About Bob? and taking baby steps to letting go.  
     
Baby Step #1 - Stop Saying Yes
     Yesterday my friend Renae reminded me that not saying yes is not the same as saying no.  She is so right.  It is my first baby step.  I have a 30+ year habit of saying yes to everything and then feeling resentful at the people who asked me.  For the past ten days I have not said yes to any new commitments, including volunteering for any new jobs or responsibilities.  I

Baby Step #2- Let Go of the Negative Self-Talk
     My poor soul listens to all kinds of trash talk that I wouldn't let anyone else ever say to me.  It is unconscious, but now when I hear it, I stop it.  I'm doing pretty good, except when I catch my reflection.  For now I'm avoiding mirrors as much as possible until I have mastered this baby step a little more.

Baby Step #3 - Let Go of the Weight
     I have plenty of excuses about my weight - some valid and some are just excuses - but the results are still the same.  I am letting go of the weight by jogging in my virtual shower cap, eating better, walking around as much as I can at work, and then letting my energy focus on all the other great things in my life, rather than obsessing on my weight.  

Baby Step #4 - Say Yes to Me
     Like many working parents, the only times I make an appearance on my to-do list is when I need to do an errand like go to the dentist to fix my tooth.  By saying yes to everyone else, there is never time for me.  I have spent years waiting to finish this infinite to-do list so I can finally do all the things I want to do.   It is time to say yes to myself and spend time doing the things I love.