Monday, February 29, 2016

The Curveball

I'm a baseball and softball Mom. It still surprises me. I, of all people, am raising athletes!

In baseball and softball, there is a pitch called the curveball. I knew about this growing up but I didn't understand the amazing power and magic of the curveball.  It's a pitch thrown with a lot of downward spin.  It nears the plate at strike level but just when it gets there, it drops suddenly and veers off to the side. It's pretty hard to get a good hit off this pitch, but it's not impossible. According to STATS, if you're a pitcher, you have better than a 50% chance of getting a strike with a curveball.

As young ballplayers mature, they learn how to throw a few pitches to take the batters off guard. The Captain is in his second season of the age bracket (10u) where kids actually do the pitching. This spring, I expect he will start to encounter some boys who can actually pitch. (The fall season was all about getting the ball reliably to the plate!)

The first time your child stands at the plate and meets a curveball is unforgettable.  The ball is coming, it looks like a strike, they square up and give it a good swing, and the swing is nowhere near the ball. It's so confusing. They look at their coach, befuddled. What happened? Often, this swing into the air throws them off balance. They spin around, they fall over. Nothing they know about baseball so far has equipped them for this pitch.

Eventually, they will work this out. They will learn to keep their feet when a solid swing hits thin air. The best will learn to see and hit the curveball, or at least "get a piece of it."

In the last two weeks, life has thrown me a couple of curveballs. Quite a few things I really did not expect have happened, some catastrophic. These curveballs have thrown me off balance. I have had long hours of grief and uncertainty. In the end though, my training has paid off.

One unusual thing was the feedback I got. I kept hearing, "You're so calm. How are doing it?" My typical answer is, "I'm good in a crisis," but honestly, it's more than that. After years of dealing with my lifeshocks -- aka curveballs -- by noticing them, processing and clearing them, making choices and then getting to a place of gratitude with them, I simply weather them more easily now. What's true in baseball is true in life, practice makes perfect. The more we choose to do our work, the easier it is to do it in a pinch.

Typically, I would weather these storms without so much as a backward glance but because so many people very kindly offered help in this hard time, I was more aware than usual of the curveballs coming my way. Instead of just standing there at the plate fouling them off, I've been aware that there is a team of people surrounding me, letting me know I'm not alone and even offering to pinch hit.

What I've come to realize is that no matter how good I am at noticing and clearing my lifeshocks -- and I have done a lot of it and fast lately -- in the end, I need my team. Even if I say "no thank you" to the offers of meals, I still need to know they're there. Even if (maybe for the first time ever ) I said to my Mom, "No, stay home, save your money," it's good to know my folks are standing behind me. Somehow that text, "You are in my prayers," or that phone call offering meals, or that tuna casserole that turned up on a very stressful Lenten Friday, or that offer to babysit, somehow those things are the fuel. I may have struck out and limped to the bench, but I did it with my head high and knowing I was a part of a community and a very loving and solid community at that.

In the end, I'm tired, I'm a little beat up, and I've learned some more about the game of life. But mostly, I'm grateful. Thank you.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

2016 Resolution Epiphany

On the Feast of Epiphany, I had an epiphany. I do want to write down my resolutions this year. I thought I wasn't making any resolutions -- not sure why I thought that -- but I realized on Epiphany that I already had made them. Acknowledging them made good sense.

Image result for resolutionI like the six-word resolutions I've made for many years. It's a concise form that works for me. This year, I took the "burning issues" in my life and made resolutions around them. But first . . . . a story.

In 2005, I made a set resolutions as I usually do. I recently ran across them reiterated in an entry from December of that year. They were simple and relationship based. I don't remember all of them but here are the basics:

  • Play games with the girls (then 7 & 9)
  • Spend more time with family (his, mine and ours)
  • Right some wrongs
  • Sew more 
  • Be more spontaneous. Enjoy my life. 
Per the note in my journal, I was trying to see what I had left untended or unfulfilled. By December, I'd completed a lot of them. One thing stood glaringly unfinished: I had not made amends for breaking the heart of a sister-friend. I hadn't done it on purpose; it was more a slow building of a wall between us, brick by brick. I resolved to correct this.

I got a big old plate of grace when a few days after making the note in my journal, that very dear one called me and asked me to attend a conference with her. I did so and within a few hours of arriving there, I sought her out to make amends. Being the large-hearted person she was, she forgave me and we spent those several days mending our relationship.

In 2006, I spent tons of time with her; we were working closely together professionally but more, we were sisters and super-friends again. We spoke on the phone every day; we saw each other once or twice a week. In April we made a spontaneous decision to go to a meeting that evening in Houston. On the drive down and back, sans the distraction of both of our kids, she told me stories I'd never heard about her life. I relished every moment of that day and sent silent prayers of gratitude that I'd kept that resolution and brought her fully back into my life.

A few weeks later, she was dead. Even though it took me 11 months to keep that resolution the year before, making  the resolution was what eventually spurred me to do the hard thing and tear down that wall. Thank God I did.

So there you have it. Most year's resolutions are not so prescient. Nonetheless, I have never been sorry for making -- and attempting to keep -- my New Year's resolutions. 

Without further ado, here is my streamlined plan for 2016: 

Exercise 3 days, track steps, food
Daily quiet, reading, writing, and knitting
Sort and cull; clear the clutter
Love my 6 most beloved more

To support these actions, I've SMART planned them. I'm happy to have accomplished this, though a few days later than typically. 

What are you/have you resolved to do this year?
Image result for resolution

PS - I write about resolutions most years and often more than once!. Here are several of those posts:

New Resolutions:

2015: More is More, Less is More and More is Better!
2014: Six Word Resolutions to Write on the Clean Slate
2013: Resolutionary Manifesto
2012: A Single Resolution
2011: New Year's Revolution
2010: Resolution Revolution
2009: God on Speed Dial

Taking Stock Along the Way:

Dec 2015: The Un-listened to "Provided That"
Dec 2014: A Change of Face
Feb 2014: Resolution Reality Check
Jan 2013: Hope for my Resolutions

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Un-Listened to "Provided That"

Image result for new year's resolutionIt's a bright new year. Another new beginning, second chance, one more time. That's right folks: "One more time " . . . it's not "too many times." 

It's so easy for my mind (and yours?) to go there: "You're a failure. You work on these things every year. How many times will it take to get it "right?" There's something wrong with you. You're a fraud. You should give up."

Here's the big news: Not everything you think is true. In fact, I'd venture to say a lot of it is not true. It's never the right time to give up on yourself. We do learn from our successes but the real growth opportunity is in our failures. It's in trying and not succeeding that we find out what are our "provided thats," and what are our stumbling blocks. On our next attempt, we have a chance to factor those "provided thats" into our new plan.

Are you confused yet? Here's an example:

When I look at my resolutions from last year, I see that I did not completely fail. Ha! Take that mind-talk. That said, I immediately notice a resolution I did not keep 100%:

"Take time each day to meditate, reflect, process, choose and -- the biggy --be grateful."

I made this about 50% of the time.  Why not? 2 reasons: 1) I had a hidden "provided that" and, 2), once I got off track, I had a hard time getting back on track, even completely forgetting for days at a time.

The hidden "provided that" was "provided that I got a reasonable amount of sleep (6+ hours) and I wasn't sick."  Whew.

Now I have to decide if I want to factor in my "provided that" into my plans.  Having 5 kids means that someone is having a crisis a LOT of the time. And it turns out that kids and crises and sleep aren't good friends. So between lack of sleep and occasional illness, I would probably be hitting about 60-70% of the days. That's actually not close enough for me.

Mid year, I decided to amend my resolution based on what I'd learned: "Take time to meditate (etc) at least 5 times a week." This was an acceptable compromise to me and allowed me a couple of days for my life to interfere with my plans.

I haven't made my 2016 resolutions yet. When I do, however, I will spend a little more time plumbing out my "provided thats" at the beginning to increase my odds of success through the year.

What are your resolutions?  Image result for new year's resolution

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Dreams do Come True


Yes, it's been a while. (I sound like a 70s song!) In fact, I have "thought about us for a long, long, time," My summer took a few unexpected turns and landed me here, on November 5, thinking about how long it's been since I've taken time out for blogging.

This summer I started studying for my teacher's credentials and found it very compelling. I completed my coursework to the point where I could take my certification exams and then, 4 days before school started, I -- almost accidentally --got a teaching job!

I came home from my second exam feeling a little bummed; I just wasn't sure how I'd performed and my wise friend Colleen Waller told me that applying for jobs would restore my faith in me. I agreed to apply for two jobs. It was late in the hiring season and I did not think there were many true openings. I saw an FAC position was open at a Title 1 school near me (you know my heart) so I applied for it and something similar in Austin ISD.

Mere hours after I applied, I got an interview for the job at Xenia Voigt Elementary and only hours after the interview, was hired. The next two months have been a whirlwind. I was in no way prepared to set up a classroom, much less start teaching, 5 days after my interview and 6 days after I sat for my EC-6 Generalist exam. Now my world is filled with children aged 5 to 7 and -- yes -- lesson plans, supply lists, art projects and bulletin boards. Several of my students are featured in this RRISD showcase in the playground photos.

More importantly, however, my heart is filled. I am living, walking proof that it is never too late to respond to a calling on one's life and follow your dreams!  I love teaching. I've always known I would! And now that my first home-schooler is a junior in college and my last home-schooler is a senior in high school and my Littles are all in public school, it is the perfect time for me to venture out on this new path.

Here are the two awesome Paraprofessionals who are in this with me 100%. So grateful for these two women and their dedication to our students.

Here I am on the first day of school:

So there's the update. Back on the blogging train now so more to come!

Monday, June 29, 2015

I'm not sure when it began, but there has been a slow and steady shift in me. I felt it on the inside a couple of years back but I'm now hearing about it from the outside, a sort of confirmation for me.

I talk a lot in this blog about "lifeshocks," those wake up calls we get from God or life that tell us, "Wake up, be present!" Sometimes they are subtle, like a child misbehaving in a way that looks exactly like me. Others are huge, like the death of a loved one or losing a job (or the converse, a new baby or a windfall of money).

Since 1992, I have made a conscientious effort to pay attention to the lessons in my lifeshocks. Like everyone, I go through periods of sticking my head in the sand and trying to ignore these nudges and when that happens, they just get louder and louder until I have to pay attention! Back in the early 90s, my main goal was to find joy, to have a joyful life. That happened almost the instant I started paying attention! My secondary goal was to be a serene person; I wanted to learn to weather my lifeshocks with grace and tranquility.

That one took longer. Honestly, sometimes Life batters me around like a raft in a hurricane and tosses me, shipwrecked, on some foreign shore. Yet I notice it happens less and less often. It takes a big one, these days, to throw me off completely.

I had an unprovoked and amazing affirmation toward the end of school. Someone I work closely with and whom I greatly admire said, "Dreena, I want you to know I am trying to be more like you. You are a pillar of calmness and serenity in here."

Lifeshock! I do feel very calm and do not let little things or things outside my control rattle me, but it was so evocative to have someone notice it and call it out. Wow!! It's good to know, too, that my serenity does not look like complacency because -- on the inside -- it is anything but! I am focused on doing as an old Rudyard Kipling poem says, "keep my head while all about me are losing theirs."

I read a quote from Jean Nidetch, founder of Weight Watchers, after her death.  She said, "I do believe people can change." I believe it too. Genetics play a huge role in our personality but so do habitual responses. Automatic behaviors and learned responses so often rule the day. We are not slaves to these bad habits! We are able to learn to curb a harsh tongue, take a deep breath in crisis, learn to be less defensive, or become empathetic. Awareness is the first step. Choosing to be different is the second.

It's a self-serving time; we are in another "me" generation. Yet it is also a reflective and growth oriented time. As a nation, we have the opportunity to make a real difference in arenas of poverty, child welfare, hate crimes, our political system and climate change, as a start. Change happens from within. When, as individuals, we recognize our power to break free of the crippling habits and behaviors of our pasts, as a whole, we are then empowered to act on our collective conscious and work to reform our communities.

What is solid and holy and blooming in you? What steps can you take to nurture it and let it bear fruit?