My Leap List

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Year of Golden Repair and the New Year of Meraki

     In 2014 my life broke apart, but on New Year's Eve, I declared 2015 to be my year of Kintsukuroi or Golden Repair.  I vowed to focus on the beauty of the golden repair and not demean myself for breaking.  This year the cracks made life challenging especially when not feeling smart enough and my perfectionism threatened to keep me to from finishing my dissertation.  Thankfully gold made the broken places stronger.  The gold shone in the support of my friends and family when I wanted to walk away.  There was gold in the eyes of the children that loved Olaf.  It was in the words, "Congratulations, Dr. Cooke."  It shone in the acts of kindness everyone did for my birthday.  I found it in sharing the summer concerts with my daughter, and in the laughter of the kids I see at work.  It was always in serving others.  

     This year ushers in Meraki.  It is a Greek word that means to do something with soul, creativity, or love.  It is when you leave a piece of yourself in your work.  This is the year of living life to the fullest; of leaving a piece of me in everything I do and everyone I meet.  Here is to the new adventures that await in 2016.  
     

Friday, December 25, 2015

Blessed on a Homeless Christmas

     John struggles with mental illness that changes names with different doctors and medications and diagnoses.  It lies somewhere between an atypical version of bipolar with severe depression to schizophrenia.  The truth is so much more than the labels.  I have learned so much about what it truly means to love someone because of loving him.  In moments of weakness he tells me that he knows he would be homeless if it weren't for me.  It has nothing to do with me, but so much to do with his illness.  But in my weak moments, I know how easy it would be to let go.  I understand all too well why many people with mental illness are left on their own.
     Long story that my friends and family already know to explain why today meant so much to me.  I was lucky to have the chance to help deliver clothes to the homeless shelter today.  There were almost eight inches of snow on the unplowed roads and my car doesn't have snow tires.  John wasn't feeling well.  Holidays are rough for him, sometimes.  There were so many reasons not to go out today, but I wrapped my arms around him and told him, "Remember how you said you would be homeless without me?  I have to help the others who aren't so lucky because we are so lucky to be here."  Without a word, he got up and got ready to go.
     We stood out in the snow and running water for an hour.  It was cold, my boots leaked and my feet got soaking wet, and my hands were numb, but my heart was full.  Everyone was so grateful for us just being there.  One woman told me that we were sent from the Lord to help them today.  I found shoes for a man and helped him bag them.  He told me that this was the best Christmas he has had in a long time.  Another woman wrapped the pink scarf we brought around her little girl and asked her if she liked it.  The little girl smiled shyly.  A man told me how happy he was because he was going to go call his daughter.  When I asked him about her, he told me that he loves her very much, but sometimes the alcohol wins over a phone call.  Then he smiled and said, "But today I don't have alcohol so I am going to call my daughter."  He was looking for clothes in her size to give her for Christmas.    
     Today reminded me what Christmas means.  I am so blessed to have enough to share with others on this holy day.  Here's to many more years of love, peace, and light for all of us on this beautiful world.  

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Grace Under Fire

     I often feel like a tourist on this blue planet of ours.  Perhaps all of us do, especially now.  The world is perched on the edge with baited breath.  Will we choose love and peace or will we destroy each other and the world in the process?  The macrocosm plays out in an endless cycle of war and hate and racism and politics and...And...AND...infinite noise that drains us, while the microcosm world moves quietly behind the scenes.  
     I used to be a cynic and it made me cruel.  I hated the world and I hated everyone in it and most of all I hated me.  I too was perched on the edge with bated breath, hoping it would be my last one.  In a moment of grace, I chose life and I chose love and I chose faith.  I have been through the fires and emerged through the grace of God to help others through the darkness.  
     There are so many who have lent me their lights in my darkest times.  One of the best people I know lost her mother today.  She stayed with her all night, holding her hand like she promised her mom she would.  She held her mother in her arms whispering the names of all the people who loved her as she passed into the next world.  So much love.  So much grace even in the darkest moments.  If only all of us could be so loved.  If only all of us could forget our own needs and give such love to another.  What an amazing world.  Some might call it heaven on Earth.  
      There will always be things that we can choose to separate us from the others.  It doesn't really matter if we choose a color, a belief, a gender, an amount of money, who we love, our philosophy, or any other way we divide us from them.  It has made us cynical- bitter, cold, scared, and lonely.  We are in fiery times, but we can emerge reborn and purified.  We can be the miracle someone needs, the light flickering in the darkness when hope is nearly gone, the one to make a heaven of the hell someone is living in.  We have so much power as infinite beings of stardust.  We can emerge from the fire with a grace that can save us from ourselves.  The world waits with us on the brink of our choice.  
      

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Luckiest

      I am the luckiest person in the world.  Most people get to fall in love a few lucky times.  I have fallen in love thousands of times.  I am just about to finish my twenty-fourth year as a teacher and administrator.  You would think I would be a pro at saying goodbye - three middle schools, four elementary schools, hundreds of teachers, and thousands of kids.  The funny thing about love is that goodbyes never get easier.  Funny, it also makes the hellos harder.
    As a teacher, I had a seven-year itch that found me at a new school each time.  I managed to start an eighth year at Sunset Ridge, but became an administrator three months into the year.  Since then, I have been moved to a new school every year.  The hello's match the season - so beautiful but tinged with the knowledge winter is coming.
     I used to think I was in control of the goodbyes, but I was wrong.  My kids have always been the ones with that power.  Some of them have stayed in my life.  Others have come back around.  Most I just see in my dreams.  I wonder about all of them and wish them well wherever life takes them.  A few goodbyes are permanent, at least for this lifetime.  No one ever tells you what that loss will be like when you go to college to be a teacher.
     Today is an anniversary for one special guy that broke my heart with his wounded smile.  When I lost him four years ago, I decided to give up teaching and become an administrator because I could help more people.  Today my life is a tribute to him, my thousands of kids, the hundreds of teachers, and the people who spend every day making the world a better place.  Thank you for the laughter, the joy, the lessons, and the difference you make in my life.  I am a better person because of all of you.  I am truly the luckiest person in the world.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Ring Around the Sun Birthday

     Two weeks ago I asked my Facebook friends if they would help me do 46 good deeds before today, my 46th birthday.  As you know from earlier posts, I've faced some challenges in life and been in some dark places. One of the things that saves me is focusing on the good things in life.  The bad things are still there, just as the good things are still there when I am lost in the dark.  Both exist together all the time, but what I focus on becomes the reality.  I've been struggling a bit the past few weeks, so I wanted to do something to help me focus on the good things happening around me.  My friends did 61 good deeds for me and I wanted to share them all with you.  I thought about highlighting some for you, but they are all so amazing, I don't want to make some seem more important or less important than the others.  I listed them in the order they were shared with me.

  1. Noelle covered 2 periods of french for a sub that didn’t speak English
  2. Carrie helped a mom with money and diapers who couldn’t afford them
  3. Trisha saved a dog from the road and found its owner
  4. Christina helped someone change a tire
  5. Kristi made cupcakes for a friend’s sick daughter.
  6. Kristi made goodie bags for her kids going to competition.
  7. Kathy donated to “Smile Train.”  This organization operates on kids with cleft palates.
  8. Spencer went into work on his day off.  
  9. Jannifer gave a Dr. Pepper to a student that had a migraine and let her sleep in class.
  10. Karlee helped a teacher during I-Flight to help kids who struggle in science.
  11. Karlee went to school early to be in a focus group to help teachers understand students.
  12. Ellie cut 2 people’s hair without charging for it.
  13. Nikki sent a get well card to a sick friend in another state.
  14. Mandy helped a woman who didn’t speak English practice her English and get off at the right train stop.
  15. Tracy helped the elderly woman who couldn’t get her car to work.  
  16. Tammy is doing a benefit concert to raise money for a friend who broke his arm, needs surgery, and doesn't have insurance.
  17. Mandy and I got the mail out of the tree for the neighbors.
  18. Karlee helped kids understand how to use a microscope.
  19. Whitney’s mom picked up sister missionaries and gave them a ride.
  20. Echo helped a man pick up plants he knocked over at Home Depot.
  21. MJ made dinner for a lady that just had surgery.  
  22. MJ bought socks for a student that doesn’t have any.  
  23. Noelle’s husband helped an elderly woman who was lost and ended up at his soccer practice.  He used his phone to get directions for her and then wrote them down for her.
  24. John gave 2 kids a ride to Magna
  25. John volunteered to mentor and meet with an administrative candidate
  26. John and Jake did yard work for an ailing neighbor.
  27. Jana helped an elderly man who dropped his groceries on Trax. She got a concussion when she hit her head when the train started while she was picking them up.
  28. Katreena gave a family $20.
  29. Ellie took care of a sick nephew.
  30. Ellie helped a homeless man.
  31. Ellie helped her aunt clean houses when her mom hurt her arm.
  32. Kristi picked up trash in the park.
  33. Kristi took a neighbor’s daughter to the park with her.
  34. Kristi made cookies for family and friends.
  35. Mandy helped a deaf student in her class.
  36. Noelle helped new student drivers find alternate routes to a competition in stormy weather.
  37. Dena let drill team parents in to see their kids compete for free.
  38. Tyler made dinner for a friend who had a miscarriage.
  39. Mandy helped a worker load his truck.
  40. A lady from SLCC gave $5 to help get 5 more kids candy grams to know they are special.  
  41. Nick helped an autistic boy with his report
  42. Meggie watched her friend’s kids while her friend went to the doctor
  43. Ali’s friend dropped off ice cream and let her cry when her friend killed himself.
  44. Christina paid for her team’s breakfast.
  45. Christina bought a co-worker’s child valentines because they couldn’t afford them.
  46. Noelle watched her friend’s kids over the weekend so they could have a nice Valentine’s Day weekend.
  47. Nicole’s little girl gave a homeless man her bag of chips.
  48. Alie paid for the next person at Starbucks.  
  49. Dena gave me a piano for a very good deal. It made a huge difference for John.
  50. Matt and Scott came and moved the piano on a Saturday morning.
  51. Ashley called police when she saw a domestic violence incident while driving home.
  52. Jamie made cookies for neighbors on Valentine’s Day.
  53. Kristi picked up trash on her walk.
  54. Cindy gave birthday cards and gift cards to kids who lost their dad this year.
  55. Cindy did Operation Valentine for the kids who lost their dad.
  56. Christina gave hats and gloves at bus stops -17 degrees.
  57. Christina gave people roses on Valentine's Day. One was a new widow who never thought she would get a flower again for Valentine's Day.
  58. Kalene babysat her seven grand kids at once so all of her kids and their spouses could have a nice Valentine's date.
  59. Whitney, Brandi, and Lydia spent their day off in costume for free for a little girl's birthday party.
  60. I spent my birthday dressed as Olaf to give a little girl a free birthday party.
  61. John bought a friend lunch at the game today.