My Leap List

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.