My Leap List

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Letting Go of Superwoman

     The clock is counting down the final days of the year of letting go.  The adventure is far from over.  I am learning to accept what is, instead of always focusing on what isn't.  Life has given me the opportunity to be the support for my family, and I am grateful I have a job I love.  It doesn't pay enough alone, but it helped me find another job I enjoy.  I love giving back to the next generation when I teach ed. classes at night.  
     A few years ago I decided to do something just for me and go back to school to get my doctorate.  Jameson's suicide changed my path to being a principal someday, instead.  In the hard times, my friends and my promise to his memory kept me going.  
     I finished a year and a half ago, but I kept going to school.  The near breakdown this fall made me realize that I am human, no matter how much I pretend otherwise.  I thought a break would help, but it is a deeper lesson than I thought.  It is time to let go.  I have been so busy being superwoman, I almost lost the people that mean the most to me.  Thank you for supporting, loving, and cheering me on through school.  Thank you even more for doing the same as I let go.  

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Celebrating the Light

     Tonight is the longest night of the year.  Darkness leaves late and slips away early before the day has even seem to begun.  My family's depression mirrors the darkness.  It is easy to feel the grayness of the air and the gloom seep into my soul.  The world can be such a dark place to be.  We are the best and the worst of God's creations.
     Today I choose not to succumb to the dark.  I celebrate the beauty of the winter solstice and the return of the light.   When we focus on all the evil in the world, we will find it. It is there hiding in the shadows of all of us, but it is no match for the light.  All of us have a sacred light inside to lead the way for others lost in the darkness.  The world is full of miracles and love, laughter and light, if we look for it.  Seek and ye shall find.  The solstice reminds us that we have survived the darkest moments and the light will return.  Hope lives, even on the shortest day of the year.
    Tonight, on this holy night, light your flame and lead the others home.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

No More Excuses

     I have been struggling with my weight since I got Fibromyalgia.  The medicines are rough and exercise usually goes with flare ups.  I keep meaning to do something about it, but I don't.  Today a boy ran away from school and into the neighborhood.  I wasn't able to chase him and make sure he was safe.  Everything ended up being okay because I have a great team, but I never want to feel that way again.  Making sure the kids are safe is too important.  I don't know how I will do this, but I will figure it out.  No more excuses.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

We are in Trouble

     We are in trouble.  When our pain goes so deep we are willing to kill our children, and our children are willing to kill one another, we have lost all hope in our future.  My heart aches on the first anniversary of Sandy Hook Elementary.  Everyone hurt and ranted and raved and blamed each other for another tragedy.  17 people were killed in 22 school shootings this year, including yesterday.  There has been a school shooting almost every two weeks this year and nothing has changed.
      This week safety doors were installed in my school. Now everyone must come through the office before entering the school.  It is designed so the killers have to go through us first.  We are supposed to start practicing with the kids how to hold hands and exit the building after a school shooting occurs.  How do I explain this to my little ones?
     What is our pain that makes us destroy our future?  There are as many answers as there are people.  We need to move past our biases on guns and freedoms and government involvement and all the other things that keep us from looking at the underlying pain so many of us are carrying.  School shootings are just one symptom of the pain.  We all want change, but we all keep hoping someone else will save us.  Superheroes only exist in comic books and movies.  No one is going to save us.  We have to save ourselves.  We have to save each other.  We have to stop finding reasons to hate our differences and love one another in the truest sense.  

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Just Listen

     I have a love-hate relationship with doctors.  It took thousands of dollars, several doctors, years of my life, and an experimental new program to finally find some semblance of my former life before Fibromyalgia.  Before I found the doctor and program that helped, no one listened to me.  They would pat me on the head and tell me I was fine, even though I knew there really was something wrong with me.
       One doctor kept increasing my medication even though he didn't know what was wrong.  I started having seizures and was out of work for several weeks.  My doctor didn't know what to do so he sent me to a neurologist.  She wrote in my file that I was faking it.  The second time I went to see her, she had the nurse practitioner see me.  The nurse looked at me and immediately knew the seizures were because I was being overdosed on the medication.  As soon as I stopped taking the medicine, I was able to return to work.  
     This was when I decided to go to a new treatment center for Fibromyalgia.  The insurance considered it to be "experimental," so they wouldn't pay for it.  I put several thousand dollars on my credit card and decided to take a chance.  My new doctor had the same illness I did and spoke to me from a place of understanding.  He set aside an hour to talk to me and listened to what I had to say.  I will never forget how it felt to have someone truly listen and understand me.
     This lesson has stayed with me.  So many times people come to us from a place of fear, or hurt, or confusion and we make judgements or try to fix it.  Sometimes we are right, but often we are very wrong.  When we listen, we make a difference that goes further than the time we spend.      

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Where I am Supposed to Be

     I hate Thanksgiving.  It is a deep seated hatred that goes back decades.  This week I learned some life lessons that have me rethinking my life.  For the full length details of the day, read http://principalpride.blogspot.com.  In this blog, you get the life lessons without so many details.
     I was appointed to be an assistant principal exactly a year ago.  It has been one of the hardest years of my life.  Friday was one of those days.  It was a long week.  Everyone was mad and negative energy was everywhere.  The teachers were at their breaking point, and I caught the brunt force of it all day.
     The negative energy stuck to me all weekend, but I decided it needed to change before Monday.  I made a tear-away thankfulness card with six things I am thankful for about each teacher.  I snuck in early Monday and hung them on each teacher's door.  The energy changed and people started doing nice things for each other, hugging, laughing, and celebrating.  We each make a choice about who we want to be and what we want to focus on.  That choice ripples to everyone else and affects them.  Our choices "to be" each day are powerful, even when we don't realize it.
     In a 1st grade class, a little girl was crying because the other kids accused her of peeking.  The teacher told her, "It's okay.  You are in charge of you and what you do.  The other kids are not in charge of you.  You are in charge of you."  What a powerful affirmation of self.  If I learned this as a child, the critical voices in my head might not have such a hold on me.  I might not need to be such a perfectionist to feel worthy of other people's approval.  
     The Kindergarteners were having a feast.  The teacher told them to bring a fun Thanksgiving food to share.  The kids ate Ritz crackers, fish crackers, apple slices, Teddy Grahams, and Cheese Nips.  It was the best feast I have ever attended.  I love the way they are not governed by "shoulds."
     Today we learned turkeys lived ten million years ago.  One of the boys said, "They lived with dinosaurs?  There were turkey dinosaurs?"  I will start looking for the amazingness in the ordinary.  Who knew a turkey is just the disguise for the dinosaur?
     The 4th graders were reviewing math facts, but they graphed the answers in a Thanksgiving picture.  The kids told me it was the "funnest math day ever."  The teacher laughed and said, "If I gave them the same thing as a worksheet, they would think I was the meanest teacher ever, but put it like this and they love it."  A spoonful of sugar....  I can make things better for people in the way I present it to them.  
     In 5th grade, one lone boy stood and told the class why he was a loyalist.  I was in awe of his bravery.  I know it is important to stand for what I believe, even if I stand alone, but it's another thing to do it.  His lesson today will stay with me for a long time.
     6th grade was the highlight of my day.  The teacher arranged the desks by the amount of land for each continent, so some groups had lots of desks and others only had one.  She placed students by the population represented for each continent.  It was pretty crowded in Africa.  Then she gave them a baggie with graham crackers to represent the amount of food each continent has.  Some groups had several crackers, while Africa had 1/24 of a cracker.  It was just a tiny square.  After the discussion, she told the kids they could eat their crackers.  Without being told to share, the kids all got up and walked over to the kids who didn't have enough food, pulled out their crackers, and shared with each other.  It was a beautiful moment of compassion.  I wish the world could learn from the children.  My faith in humanity was restored.
     A little first grader told me that Santa was at our school.  She had seen him fall past the classroom window.  The faith of a child gets lost sometimes in my jaded edges.  I need to build the faith that becomes reality.
     Another first grader was having a rough day and screamed for twenty minutes in the hall.  I kept trying to talk to him, reason with him, and fix it, which just made him scream louder.  The second graders were trying to practice the music for their program and stopped when they heard him screaming.  The teacher said, "No guys, sing louder."  They did.  I stopped talking and just sat on the floor next to him.  After a few minutes, he stopped crying and laid on the floor listening to the music.  Then he got up and went back into his class.  I learned that sometimes words aren't enough.  Sometimes you need to sit on the floor and just be there when the world is caving in.  I also learned that music has an incredible power to heal us.
     At the end of the day, a teacher told me, "You are in the perfect spot.  You smooth out the rough spots for all of us when we get so negative.  You bring peace and calm to our school.  We are so lucky you are here."  Another teacher told me, "Thank you for being so positive.  Without you, we'd be up a creek without a paddle."
     Since I had been wondering if I made a mistake taking this job, it reminded me that my life may not have ended up where I though it would, but it ended up where it was supposed to be.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Life Lessons on a Random Tuesday

     Today was one of those days that hit you with so many life lessons you feel like you are in a dream, especially when there aren't any feathers.
     My story starts with a boy I met ten weeks ago.  He is only nine.  He is small and scrawny.  He is in foster care.  His parents are both addicted to everything they can find.  He has been abused in every way adults can imagine by every person who should have loved him.  He has been passed from person to person in an endless line.  It's a wonder he is still alive after what he has been through.  He has scars and demons that are hard to push away.
     I fell in love with him the moment I saw him.  He smiled at me and told me he loved Spiderman and proudly pointed to his shirt of superheroes.  Days passed and all of us fell even more in love with him.  You couldn't be around him without smiling and being happy.  He always had a smile on his face and a happy wave.  His foster family decided he can't stay with them and with his past, no one else wants him.  Today they took him to a place that houses kids that no one will take home.  I didn't know today was the day until he came to say goodbye.  I managed not to cry, but just barely.  It was the most hopeless feeling wanting to take him home and knowing there was nothing I could do.
     You all know I love the broken ones and he is one of the most broken I know, but he taught me so much.  Life dealt him a crappy hand and he still smiles and loves life.  He still hugs people and tells them he loves them even though no one has ever given him love.  He has taught me how I want to be in the world.  I want to love with all my heart no matter how many times it has been broken.  I want to laugh and smile and find joy in every day because it is a new day.  I want to be able to forgive the people who have hurt me.  I want to trust.  I want to be such an amazing spirit, people will feel joy just being around me.
     This was a big lesson, but not the only one today.  The day started with snow falling from a bright blue sky as the sun rose.  I drove the long way to work so I could see the caribou locking horns and play fighting in the new snow.  The sunrise sent long streams of light through the clouds.  When I was little and the clouds and sun met up like that, I was convinced God and the angels were spreading love and joy down on me.
     I meet with the 5th and 6th graders every Tuesday for the leadership team.  Today was their first day of new jobs, so I was telling them what they would get to do while they worked on my committee.  A cute girl told me, "I am so glad I am on your committee because talking in front of people really scares me, and I want to practice getting over my fear."  I am still trying to get over my own fears and I am long past eleven years old.  Imagine if we had all started practicing getting over our fears when we were barely into the double digits and before the fears solidified in our minds.  
     It was Boss' Day last week when we were out of school, so today the people at lunch threw me a surprise party.  The secretaries pooled all of their own money and bought me a $25 gift card to a restaurant, a balloon, mints, pens, and pencils.  They cooked potatoes and had a pot luck lunch.  These women have only known me for a few months, but they have accepted me and shown me love since my first day.  They make a lot less money than I do and I know how hard it is to donate so much money for me.  It humbled my spirit.  I don't like to get gifts from people or let them do nice things for me.  I don't even like to admit I am sick.  But they were so happy to give to me and show me love that I humbled myself and accepted their offerings with gratitude.  I love doing nice things for others because it makes me happy to see them happy.  I am learning to let others have that same joy.
     I was also humbled by the generous offer from a local hospital.  They gave me $1,000 to spend on anything that helps the kids be healthy.  They asked me to give them the names of eight or nine kids who need a Christmas so they can take care of them.  They volunteered to help with vision screening and hearing screening, get the kids glasses or dental care, and come and help teach the kids lessons on all kinds of healthy things - sleep, stress, exercise, etc.  They offered to bring food in backpacks for kids who might not have food on the weekends.  All they asked from me is to write a thank you card to the people who will donate so much to my kids.  They also asked if they donated all the supplies if the kids would make holiday cards for the people staying in the hospital during the holidays.  I couldn't believe how much love and generosity was offered to my kids.  It humbled me again and made me grateful for all the things I have in my life and all the people who help me give so much to my kids who need so much.
     I am so grateful for the lessons that you all teach me every day.  In a world of so much negativity, it's easy to think we are all in it for ourselves.  Then I look around and see all the amazing things you do for each other, and for me, every day, and my faith in humanity is restored.  Thank you, my friends.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Facing My Demons

     Although I have faced some demons in my life, the ones that still haunt me are the ones that live in my head.  They wait just behind my consciousness to attack me the instant I stop being "perfect."  They have been in fine form lately as my life has been spirally out of control.
     I am used to living with controlled chaos and pride myself on my ability to manage everything so well it looks effortless to the casual observer.  Just don't look too closely at the person behind the mask.  For some reason I haven't been able to do it this time and the more balls I drop, the more controlling the demons are.  I have been miserable and unsure what to do to fix it.  The more I tried to control things, suck it up, and carry on (the usual things that somehow worked), the more out of control things got.
      I ended up in a dark hole where I couldn't get anything done.  I was mean and snapped at people for silly things.  I cried for no reason.  I slept for days at a time and called in sick more times in a month than all of last year.  The doctor said my heart sounds stressed.  Finally Mandy said, "How many signs do you need to know you need to let go?"
     Last night a time change, a missed calendar date and some bad scores pushed me ever further over the edge.  I put my head on the table and sobbed.  Then I shut down the computer and sobbed in bed.  The demons were at their best.  "You are a failure.  No wonder you aren't good enough to be loved.  You are letting everyone down.  What about the kids who say you inspire them to keep going and not quitting?  What about the people at work?  They are going to know you are a failure.  They will all know you were just faking all this... It went on for a long time as I listened to them and cried.
     Then there was grace.  A white light.  A calming.  A voice that was louder than the demons said, "Would you talk to someone who was hurting this way?"  I was horrified at the thought of treating someone else like this.  Then the voice said, "What would you say if you actually loved this person?"  I began thinking of all the things I would say to someone I loved that was in this much pain, and the demons went away.  The voice said, "That's better, love.  Choose you for a change."
      I am still struggling with anxiety today.  I'm not naive enough to believe the demons won't be back, but I am putting my life back in order today.  Thank you to all of the people that treat me so gently and lovingly even when I have been far from my best.

  

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Life is a Miracle

     The moment I saw this ball of fluff, I fell in love.  


     This boy had his heart broken when our pet gerbil died.  He wasn't sure he could ever love another pet again because it was too scary to be so vulnerable.  She healed his heart with her kisses.  She adored Nick, and kissed him every time she saw him.

    This cute girl named her Floppy because she had always wanted a bunny named Floppy as a little girl.  She definitely fit her name with her cute floppy ears.


     Not only did she have all of us wrapped around her finger, she even got this guy to fall madly in love with her.  

                                 

     She was so beautiful.  I loved her lioness mane around her neck.  

     She loved being outside on the deck and out in the grass near the garden.  

My favorite moments were having her jump in my lap and start kissing me.  She loved to do that when I had lots of homework to do.  I loved those excuses to be in the moment.    
 

She absolutely loved sitting in the beanbags.  Sometimes she would share and sit on my lap.  Sometimes she pushed me out of the beanbag and would lay there like the queen.  She liked to sit with all of us in the family room.
                 
     
She died unexpectedly on a chilly fall day, September 27.  I wasn't here, but John told her how much each one of us loved her and sang to her as she started her new adventures.  I am sad, but I am happy to have a reason to hurt.  Without loving her so much, I wouldn't have a reason to hurt so much, and life wouldn't be the miracle it is.  

May the angels take good care of you until we meet again.  I love you, sweet girl.  Thanks for helping all of us learn to love again.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Bipolar Love

     Loving someone with bipolar disorder is a hard love.  You never know who you will come home to at the end of the day.  Life is out of your control.  You can't plan anything because it all depends on the day's cycle.  Life has the highest highs and the lowest lows.  It's all great at first because you feel so alive.  After a while, you just get whiplash and want off the ride.  You never know what new secret will jump out at you when you least expect it.  It is endless bill collectors for bills supposedly paid.   It is hopelessness to help the person you love the most.   It is cleaning up the aftermath.  It is losing the person you once loved.  It is being forgotten.  It is putting aside your own needs for the extreme needs of someone you love.  It is staying up all night on suicide watches.  It is avoiding social situations.  It is loneliness.  It is mental illness.  It is my life.  

The Courage to be Human

     I used to be a master at hiding myself.  I had walls so high no one could ever hope to get in.  It was safe, and it was lonely.  It served me and the people I knew well.  
     When I first became a mom, I realized I was in way over my head.  It was hard and lonely and boring and exhilarating and I felt like a failure because I wasn't like all the other moms who never had a moment of anything but bliss.  It was a dark time.  I didn't want my daughter to grow up and go through the same darkness if she became a mom.  I started writing letters to her as she grew up about being her mom.  It was hard to tell the truth because I didn't want her to ever feel for one second that I didn't love her more than anything in the world or feel like I didn't want her. 
      As she got older, I started keeping a blog because I was tired of pretending to be perfect.  I wanted to be honest in my truth, even when it made me look whiny or bitter or stupid or any other label that kept me hidden with fear.  
     Sometimes it hits too close to home and hurts me or the people I love.  I try not to share their truths, but only my own, but sometimes I fail and do damage I never meant to cause.  Sometimes I keep too much of the truth out of my story to do any good.  We are all fighting battles no one else knows while we pretend to be perfect.  
     It takes too much energy to pretend.  I am the first person to admit that I am as imperfect as we come.  I don't have all the answers.  Most of the time I don't even have enough answers for me.  I can't judge anyone else for being as human and fallible as I am.  
     My daughter gave me a card this week to thank me for being brave enough to tell the truth.  She says it gives her the courage to not be perfect.   We all need someone to show us we are not alone in being human.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Reflections of Myself

     Some of the people I love most reflect the best parts of me.  A few minutes with them are magic.  I am suddenly smart and beautiful and kind and everything I forget about myself in my normal world.
      Other people I love show me the worst parts of myself.  The fear, the hurt, the confusion.  The little girl I work so hard to hide.
      I hate the reflections of what I still need to learn.  The little girl who never feels good enough chooses someone to prove it.  Her fear of abandonment leaves her lonely in crowded rooms.  Changing emotional pain to body-wracking physical pain.  Sacrificing herself to save the people she loves from things they don't want to be saved.  Angry no one braves her Fort Knox defenses.  Filling life with so much busy-ness, she never has to see the emptiness.  Passing on broken-ness to the babies.
     I hate the reflections of me, but I am thankful for the people helping me learn.  We truly bring the people we need into our lives to help us learn the lessons we need to learn.  Someday I will finally master them.  
     By the way, life, it's okay if you want to send me some of the people that reflect the best parts of me tomorrow.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My Dream

     5o years ago a man had a dream.  On the surface, we are opposites.  Where his skin is dark, mine is pale.  I see the world through a woman's eyes.  His life as a Baptist minister is nothing like a Mormon girl growing up in Utah.  But surfaces are never our truths.
     I knew true greatness the moment I heard him speak.  Though too young to be aware of the race riots and wars being fought around me in the 1970's, I knew his fight for equality would be my own.
     Today numerous people of all races and religions can participate in a country where they could only dream before, including the White House.  His dream has led us so far, we now have the luxury of arguing if the majority of us are discriminated against.
     An optimist by choice, I know how easily we can change the world to suit our views.  We have come so far, it is easy to become complacent.  In his letter from the Birmingham jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. said complacency and hate are the enemies of progress.  If we are content to accept the world as it is today, we will never achieve greatness.  We give our children a world that is merely good enough.  I am not happy with just good enough.  Our children should not be allowed to inherit a world where life is good, if you are one of the chosen.  Half of my life has been spent working with kids who live on the fringes.  This world is not good enough for them.
     I have a dream that all the world's children will have a safe home.  Being homeless is not a seven- year-old's dream.  I won't argue whose fault it is.  I will only give them food and some semblance of safety while they are with me for eight hours we have together each day.
     I have a dream that we will celebrate love in all its glory.  I will not argue about the choice of homosexuality.  One of my most precious loves is willing to cut her body to shreds to change it.  It is not good enough to leave her a world that offers that kind of self-loathing, choice or not.
     I have a dream that we will accept people whether they are born here or not.  Immigration arguments are pointless when a twelve-year-old girl just left her father and sisters behind in Mexico after her grandmother's funeral.  She sobs as she begs me not to tell, for fear they will send the rest of her family away.  
     I have a dream that we communicate without the barriers of language.  I have seen a man reduced to tears because he couldn't speak English and no one would help him register his son.  The vulgarities people said after he left still haunt me.
     I dream that we stop killing people because we are afraid of differences that make us feel threatened.  Travon Martin's life speaks more loudly than my words ever could.
     The day my hero shared his dream, he was ten years younger than I am today, but I will not let the dream die.  We must turn our vision outward to others.  As so many great people have told us before, this is the way to peace.  We must stop keeping score of who has more.  This terrestrial world is finite; we will never have enough when we are focused on ourselves.  We are spirit.  We must recognize the humanness in all of us, not the surfaces that hide us from each other.  Love is the only thing that fills the void.
     I have a dream that my children and I will stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, 100 years from Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream and 200 years from Lincoln's dream, to gaze on a world that truly has liberty and justice for all of us.      

Friday, August 23, 2013

Prayers and Faith and Feathers are Funny Things Sometimes

     Prayers and faith and feathers are funny things sometimes.  Sometimes they are answered in mysterious ways.  Today one of the people I work with came to work in a panic because her husband had just gotten a full time job.  He has always been at home with the kids.  He won't make enough money for a while so she can stay home, but she has never had to worry about finding someone to take care of her kids before and now she needs someone before Monday.  She confided in her mentor at work who came downstairs to see if we knew of anyone who could help.  For some reason, I was standing in the office right then and had the feeling Mandy would want to help.  I told the woman I would call Mandy and see what she thought.      Before I could call, the teacher came down almost in tears to thank me.  She said, "When I found out he got the job last night, I fell to my knees and prayed.  I told God, 'If this is meant to happen, you have to help me find someone to take care of my babies, and I need it by Monday.'  Then the next thing I know there is someone who might be able to help me.  You are truly the answer to my prayers."
     I called Mandy and told her what the woman had said.  We made arrangements to have them meet later in the day.  A few minutes later I walked out of the office to help with lunch and in the middle of the hall was a feather.  It wasn't by the door or any windows and no one was around.  I knew it was meant to be.
     When Mandy got there, I showed her the feather and told her the story.  She smiled and said, "Remind me to tell you a funny story later."  We went upstairs to meet the teacher.  As soon as she saw Mandy, she offered her the job and without hesitation, Mandy said "Yes."
     Later as we were out on our walk, I reminded her to tell me her funny story.  She said, "After I heard that she thought I was the answer to her prayers and got off the phone with you, I got down on my knees and prayed. 'God, if I am the answer to her prayers, you are going to have to help me so I don't let her down.  Help me be able to take good care of the babies.'  I bet that was the same time you walked out of the office and saw the feather.  When you told me that and showed me the feather, I knew that my prayers were answered, too."
     Prayers and faith and feathers are funny things sometimes.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

Guiding Words

     I am humbled to be a part of this world.  The last few days have reminded me of the impact each of us has on everyone around us.  I have always been honest in my own truth, so I guess I forgot that there are people new to my journey.  I am humbled to hear that my story has inspired other people and made a difference in their lives.
      I believe everything happens for a reason.  All of those dark times made me a better person.  I truly believe that God and the angels saved me that day and I dedicate my life to making a difference for others.
     Sometimes it is hard to be honest with our imperfections and tragedies and commonness.  But as I look to my heroes for inspiration and guidance, Mother Theresa's words guide me.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  
Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  
It was never between you and them anyway.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Becoming

     I am a coward at heart.  I am only brave when I have to be and that is usually just a facade.  I like the foods I always eat and even those must be eaten one at a time without mixing.  I hate feeling out of control so I don't like driving because there are so many things out of my hands.  I have a quiet life with little adventure.
     Today I did something totally out of my ordinary.  I got a tattoo.  I was scared, but I walked in and trusted that everything would be okay.
      I am different.  Empowered.  Strong.  Capable of doing anything.  Fearless.  Independent.  Brave.     I am becoming the me I was meant to be.

Feather Tattoos

     When I was a teenager I went through a hard time when suicide seemed like the best answer to everything.  When it came to the final moment, I heard a voice ask me what it would feel like to kill myself and then realize there were people here that needed me.  I turned around and no one was behind me, but I'd heard the voice as loudly as if someone was standing next to me.  I turned and started walking down the pier and a white feather fell in front of me.  There wasn't a bird in the sky.  An angel saved me.
     That day I promised God that I would spend the rest of my life serving others in return for being saved.  I still had dark days and sometimes it was so easy to fall into the abyss.  I started noticing random feathers appear where they hadn't been moments before, even in closed buildings.  A message of comfort from my angels.
     When Mandy got older, I told her my story.  She began to collect the feathers she found in her day to bring home to me.  I have quite a collection now.  When she had her own struggles, we would stay connected by walking.  On difficult days we would talk and walk and feathers would appear from nowhere.  I knew we would both be okay because angels were looking over us.
     At 16, Mandy announced she wanted a tattoo.  I was against the idea, but knew if I told her she couldn't do it, she absolutely would.  To buy time, I told her that was a great idea, but legally we had to wait until she was 18.  I even told her that I would get a tattoo with her on her 18th birthday, thinking she would change her mind.
     The funny thing was as time went by, I began to think it was a good idea.  We continued talking about it and imagining all the great tattoos we would get.  During one of our walks I told her, "I have the perfect idea for our tattoo."  Before I could tell her my idea, she said, "A feather."  We both had the same vision of an angel feather.
      As the day got closer, we began to worry about all the what-ifs.  What if it hurts?  What if we hate it when it's done?  What if it hurts?  What if we don't want it on forever?  What if it hurts?  What if people think less of us?  What if it hurts?
     Today we faced all those fears.  We each got an angel feather on opposite shoulders, so together we have angel wings.  No matter where life takes us or how far apart we are, we are connected in another way.  When we feel alone, we only have to glance over our shoulders and see the protection and love of our angels and each other.
     Mandy told Nick he could get a tattoo when he turns 18 so he can be connected to her, too.  He looked at her and said, "But, Mandy, you're my sister.  You're tattooed on my heart."  Angels all though my life.  

Snap Judgements

     My teacher accused me of cheating this week.  I didn't.  He didn't ask me about it.  He just gave me a zero.  The worst part was when he wrote he expected better from me.  I haven't cheated since 6th grade and felt so guilty I swore I would never do it again.  I have been judged and labeled.  I know I am innocent, but the judgement and label still hurt.
     As an administrator it is easy to make snap judgements and assume I know who is at fault.  It's easy to believe that I know the whole story without asking questions and truly wanting to know the answers.   It's easy to hand out a punishment or consequence and move on to the next situation.  Situations come up so fast some days, snap decisions feel necessary.  This situation reminds me how hard it is for all of us to be judged, labeled, and punished without having a voice to tell our story.  We deserve better than that, especially from the adults in our lives.  

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Loving Imperfections

     This week I had to call a woman I have idolized since I was eleven.  She doesn't know that she broke my heart in December.  She doesn't know how hard it was to call her.  I called her with a decision that was very difficult, hoping she would be able to support me and help me see what was best for me.  Instead she presented all the things she had done for me and why I would lose it all.  Once I agreed with what she wanted, she told me how much she loved and cared for me.  It was actually good for me to hear because it taught me a lesson.  The people I love are actually humans.  They make mistakes.  They may not be able to love me perfectly, but they love me the best they can.  I can learn the lessons they teach me, become a better person, and love their imperfections.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Beacon in the Darkness

     On September 11, 2001 I was a scared mom with two little kids wondering why I thought bringing them into this crazy world was a good idea.  Today the worst of times have come around again.  Bombs at the Boston Marathon, a fertilizer plant explosion, mass shootings, parents killing each other and their babies in the name of love...
     My world mirrors the outside world I try to lock outside.  Bitter custody battles, threats, fist fights, and bullying mar my days.  A little boy I love is dying.  A lost seventeen year old boy tries to kill himself and comes so close to getting his wish.
     It is the worst of times, but I am not scared anymore.  I am sad for us.  I am mad for us.  Most of all I am finding all the best humanity has to offer, big and small.  I am believing that we are still worth saving.
     I see people saving the lives of strangers.  I am there in spirit with men risking their lives climbing into an abyss to bring a grieving family the body of their son.  I fall in love with the mother cat who finished nursing her own family and adopted the abandoned kittens at the shelter.  I cheer my daughter's acceptance to college because of the mountains she climbed to get here.  I celebrate the smiles of children and the love you always offer me when I get lost in the dark.
     We are amazing infinity.  The chances of us on a planet that is just right at the right time amazes me. We have such a choice in our lives and our world.  We can focus on all that's wrong in the world, but the darkness is hard to live in for long without becoming what we hate.  We can focus on the love, the light, the goodness, and shine for the others struggling in the dark.  I'm sending my light in the darkness.  If you are lost, let me lead you home.  Rest for a while, and then shine your light with me.  Let us be a beacon for all that is right in the world.  
  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Happily Enough Ever After

    This is a real life love story.  Not the kind that ends happily-ever-after, but the kind that ends happily enough.  John and I met in a French class in high school on a hot early fall day, when the teacher said we had to work with a partner.  That day he wore his band shirt, and being a flag girl, I knew we would have something in common.  We became fast friends and were inseparable in class.  He made me laugh and there was rarely laughter in my life that year.
     It wasn't love-at-first sight, at least for me.  It was an instant friendship grew into best friends grew into love.  He helped me through the hardest times of my life and never flinched when life got ugly and raw.
     As we got older, the darkness came for him more and more often.  The medicine made him hallucinate dark and horrifying scenes.  The doctors were hard pressed to find answers from bipolar to schizophrenia.  They were dark and lonely times on my own hiding behind a smile.
     The kids never knew the boy I fell in love with, his gentleness, his sense of humor that could make me laugh until I couldn't breathe, his passion for his family, and his amazing intellect.  I was working two jobs and left them home alone more than I wanted.
     The people that loved me wondered why I stayed.  Even the therapist told me to leave while I was still young and cute enough to find another man.  But no matter how bad things got, I couldn't stand to leave the boy I loved who had stood by me when I needed him most.
     My kids have inherited some of the same dark struggles as their dad and added some of their own to the mix.  Yesterday my daughter told me that seeing the way I stood by her dad had been one of the reasons she didn't kill herself.  Seeing us taught her that families stand by you no matter how hard life gets.  It helped her know that no matter what she was going through, she would be loved.  There would never be a point where we gave up on her when life got too hard, so she wasn't giving up, either.
     This is the love story that ends happily-enough-ever-after.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Racism is Alive and Well

     Racism is alive and well in America.  I don't care what political party you belong to or how you feel about who is in office.  I don't care where you stand on abortion or gun control.  But at least have the dignity to call it what it is.  Fox News can choose to shut down for routine maintenance for twelve hours.  It is unbelievably rude to stop showing your channel because you disagree with the president, but you do have a right to free speech that I will defend.  But when you spend those twelve hours showing a montage of white faces, you have gone beyond a differing viewpoint.  You have shown racism to be alive and well in America.
     My family were immigrants.  Most of us were.  I only have a few friends who count native American heritage in their genes.  My family was fortunate that they could come to America for a fresh start away from the political and religious persecution that existed for them.  America was proud to be a country that welcomed all of us with open arms.  When did we become the persecution instead of the ones helping the oppressed?

     I cannot speak for how Martin Luther King, Jr. would feel today.  I wish I could say I knew the man and marched with him arm in arm.  I can only say what his life, his words, and his sacrifice, as well as countless others have done for me.  Because of him, students of all colors and nationalities can learn together in my school.  My children can grow up in a world where even a poor boy with a mixed background can be president.  He taught me to be human.
     Why is there so much hatred for a color?  Why is being different so threatening?  Are we really that insecure in ourselves that we can see no value in anyone else?
      It is easy to become angry at the way the world is.  That is how violence begins, isn't it?  Violence never heals.  It merely breaks us further apart from one another.  
     Today, although the world is full of hatred and bitterness and racism, I am choosing love.  I shall follow in my idol's footsteps and bring about peaceful revolution in my part of the world.  I will bring everyone I meet love.  I hope you will join me in continuing his dream.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Falling Into Place

     Mandy has overcome more challenges than you should have to face at 17.  High school graduation is the newest challenge.  With the other challenges, this one seemed out of her reach.  For over a year she has been resigned to earning her GED and not graduating with everyone else.
     Last week she changed her mind and decided to take on the multiple requirements needed and finish in a semester.  I knew she was serious when she asked for help, something she hates to do.  The universe tested her resolve when the school lost her schedule for the new semester and she faced hundreds more hours of requirements.  This would have been enough to spiral her back down into the depression.  Instead she looked at me and said, "I don't care what happens, I'm graduating.  They can throw whatever they want at me, but I will do this."
     After being told that my instructor, who has been one of the biggest inspirations in my life, was disappointed in me, and a mix-up that put me on academic probation even though I had gotten straight A's, made me rethink getting my doctorate degree.  That night I realized that Mandy was right.  They could throw whatever they wanted at me, but it wouldn't stop me.  I went to school today and while I was sitting there, pieces began to fall together, and I knew with certainty what I wanted to write my dissertation on for the first time.
     Sometimes the universe tests our resolve.  If we give up, we fall just inches from the finish line.  Once we let go and trust the universe to lead us to where we need to go, everything falls into place.