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?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Righting Some Wrongs

A few weeks ago, I started to write a post about the things we do in childhood and our young adult life that we regret as we become wiser. Strange how these childish things stick with us, isn't it? Those little mistakes we made make us wonder, do the people we hurt remember us? Does it sting, still?

I started thinking about all the kids I hurt growing up and as I thought about these people, I started looking them up on Facebook.  I was shocked to learn that one of my highschool friends had died the night before in horrific car accident. He was with his wife, traveling home from the baptism of his youngest grandchild; a tragedy. It was a sombering moment, to say the least.

Rather than write a tongue-in-cheek post about all the silly things I did growing up, I've chosen another course. We cannot undo our past. I cannot go back and un-hurt the people I've hurt. There are avenues of growth, however.

In some cases, we can right the wrongs of our past. If the people we've hurt are still living, we can seek them out and genuinely apologize. The "wrongs" are often not the things we did, but what we did or did not do directly afterward. Perhaps we did not show remorse, we didn't apologize, we didn't try to make up for our actions. The odd and awkward part of this, is sometimes people don't remember what we did and aren't holding it against us. You have to make a judgement call as to whether tracking down someone you haven't seen since 2nd grade is the most helpful thing to do.

Perhaps equally valuable, if not equally important, is to handle our own thoughts about our past mistakes. For example there is a lot of difference in motive, intention, and blame about my role in someone else cutting their own hair in 2nd grade versus my unkind and callous handling of a break up when I was 17.

We learn from our past when we are willing to look honestly at it and without judgement;  there are treasures there. When I look at that break-up, I remember a couple of life-shock moments that were the catalyst to that event. Those moments point to one thing: I did not believe I was worthy of love. If I had a chance to tell that old flame anything today, I would of course apologize for my appalling behavior but I would also thank him. I would thank him for being the deliverer of the wake-up call that there was, in me, someone loveable and desirable. It was important to hear it even though, at the time, I fended it off.

Sometimes the mistakes we made in our past are simply there to remind us we are human and to teach us how to forgive ourselves.Sure it would be great if everyone we wronged forgave us, but what really matters is that grace has been acting in our lives all along  and now we must forgive ourselves.

Your past, my past, can only hold us back if we let it. We can and should ask forgiveness if appropriate (or even make restitution) but in every case, we can only grow if we look, learn, and let go. Right your wrongs to straighten your path forward but don't forget to look in the mirror while you do it. You will be the richer for it.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sensory Treasure Box

Sounds indelibly imbedded in my memory are the  slow "Zzzzzzzid" of a tent unzipping, the comforting crackle of a fire, the harmless and friendly crunch of  feet passing by our camp and the late night murmur of voices gathered around the dying embers. Such was the soundscape of my childhood summers.

It is a sensory treasure trove, actually. The unforgettable smell of cold water rainbow trout cooking on the campfire, and the taste, something like sweet water and sunshine and dirt. The sight of stars so close and bright and crisp; meteor showers drifting in and out of my consciousness as I struggle to stay awake. I have to include the deeply imprinted sweet, holy aroma of mountain air in the morning and the sound of camp robbers fighting over the crumbs of last night's dinner.

Since moving to Texas at age 19, my sensory treasure box has expanded to include the sounds of sea birds,  and the thrill of walking the beach at night, vast starry skies overhead but only darkness and moon-kissed white caps visible of the sea. My treasure box holds mornings, waking on the beach warm and dry but with the outside if my bag drenched in dew. And more sounds: the omnipresent gulf breeze, carrying away the nonessential bits of conversation, noisy Bronze frogs belting out their raucous courtship songs,  drifting off to the roar of the waves crashing on the shore, so much louder and more tangible at night.

I am unable to think of summer vacation without picturing a campground. I am certain that at times, my children wish this wasn't the case. Yet they have experienced some of the greatest beauty our country has to offer and know firsthand the joys and perils of a life lived outdoors. No matter my flaws as a parent, this is the gift I'm offering them: Creation.

I think boredom is good for humans. Having to entertain oneself, especially in the wild world, opens our pores to the sensory input; I want my kids to know what wet sand feels like, how sparks and ashes feel on your skin, the thrilling joy of waves crashing into you, the wonderful biting freshness of dry, alpine cold. I want them to wonder why the world is wet in the morning, which frogs are keeping them awake, what made that foot print -- camel or dog?  I want them to experience sunrises and sunsets, starry skies, fog and frost alike. I love that when we camp, my kids put themselves to bed at 8:00 and sleep well past sunrise, the kind of tired that only a day of fresh air and activity can create. 

We have taken our kids to amusement parks and the older kids have been on cruises. Yet they talk less about those experiences then the fun they had on the nighttime scavenger hunt with their cousins, or the amazing shells they found on the beach. I cannot manufacture the experience of waking to a seaside covered in huge sparkling square spider webs. Even Disney cannot build a theme park that can hold a candle to the Perseids Meteor Shower and there is not a restaurant on earth that can top a rainbow trout caught from an Idaho stream and cooked on a campfire.

I believe the difference is the sensory component. We are born sensory beings; our first input is taste, touch and smell, hearing and sight come along soon after. These experiences touch our heart, the very core of our being. It's good for grown-ups too; our recent days on the beach revived me in a way I'd forgotten possible. It all serves to remind me that I need, we need, more time outdoors and less time with cell reception. We need the long walk, the smell of trees, our hands in the dirt. We need a mental and physical break from time in cars and in front of screens.

Yes. We need the deep breath. Go forth and breathe!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A few random thoughts for a dreary Thursday morning  . . .

. . . It's cold and dreary outside but warm and bright inside. I'm pretty sure with my love of electric lighting and central heating I'd have had some bad winters as a pioneer!

 . . . I am reading a book I am enjoying more than I thought I would: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. The last book I read was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn -- quite tantalizing -- so I was not holding too many high expectations for my next read. Although The Goldfinch did win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction, so of course it's wonderful! I also recently read and quite loved Rebecca Well's first book, Little Altars Everywhere. It's the back story to The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. These are quite diverse reads, so whatever your genre, if you're inclined to wait out winter with a good book, any of these would be a great place to start!

. . . We remembered Frosted Cauliflower a couple of nights ago. Tinker made it for us, all by herself. Here's a photo. You'll have to take my word for it that the shiny orb in front of her is Frosted Cauliflower. We got this recipe from my Aunt but really do it all by guess now:

  • Clean and de-leaf a head of cauliflower. Place in a pie plate with a couple tablespoons water, cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 7 minutes or until not-quite done.
  • Salt and pepper it to taste.
  • Cover it all over, lightly, with a layer of mayonnaise. 
  • Cover the mayo with shredded cheddar cheese; pat it lightly to stick it down.
  • Put it back in the microwave, uncovered, for 3-5 minutes until the cheese melts. 
  • Cut into wedges and serve!

. . .  Baseball and softball season starts Saturday. My life is already a whirlwind of practices and snacks and dinner in the car, aka peanut butter sandwiches. I will enjoy it all a lot more when it warms up!

. . . Pepper is coming home this weekend. That means good eating and stimulating conversation; can't wait!

Have a wonderful Thursday!

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Path: Elusive but Omnipresent

Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence. 

Henry David Thoreau

I've had a calling on my life from an early age. In my twenties, I was able to put words to it, "Be an advocate for children." Since then, I've followed that calling in a variety of ways, some less gracefully than others. All of these ways of these paths have had their pratfalls and dead-ends but I keep on "faith-ing" my way forward.

Now, and quite unexpectedly, I'm on a path wide and bright  which I can follow for some time. If you had to hang a sign over the fork in the road which I crossed last August, that sign would read, "Special Ed."

I am home here in the world of Special Ed, and especially in the world of autism. I love the 5 beautiful boys and our one girl who fill my work days. I love the intricacies of working with these amazing kids. I love the intimacy of the small class and my team and teacher . . . they are an inspiration to me every day.

It's challenging work, don't misunderstand. Every day there is some new mystery -- usually in the form of undesirable behavior -- that we have to unravel.  It is very challenging and yet, it is all joy, too. That sparkling moment when the light bulb goes off and someone does something completely amazing, it's rapture, pure bliss.

My greatest joy in life has been being a mother. That last paragraph completely applies to parenthood too, right? And this, this world of autism and Special Ed, it is a very close second. 

I have said all this to say, simply, it's never too late. If we are faithful, God (or Life or "Thou", if you prefer) is faithful. If we keep following our path, "however narrow and crooked" and if we walk it with "love and reverence," it does lead where we want (and perhaps need) to go.

 Take courage, pilgrim, and take up your staff and walk.  Happy trails.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What Blocks Me

ImageSometimes inspiration comes from unexpected sources. Recently I came across these thoughts by producer Chuck Lorre:

The things I have spent my life depending on are undependable. Because they are things. And things are, by their very nature, subject to change. This applies to people as well.  People change. People leave. Inevitably we all leave. The world, therefore, is essentially an unstable, uncertain environment. 
That's why I choose to believe in, and depend on, an unchanging , eternal, omnipresent non-thing. . . I try to experience it.
Easy to do do looking out at the ocean. Hard to do looking up at the ocean. Easy to do when you look  at a baby. Hard to do if the baby is next to you on a long plane flight. Easy to do when yo look at a pretty girl. Hard to do if were were once married to her. 
Clearly what blocks me from transcendence is judgment. If I were able to suspend having an opinion on drowning, other peoples' baby's vomit, and alimony, if I could simply see these things as they are  - actions devoid of meaning until I give them meaning - I could experience some semblance of union with the infinite sublime. . .  
Chuck Lorre Productions, #482 (vanity card)

"Judge not. . . lest ye be judged" is a warning common to literature and religious teaching throughout the ages. Perhaps I am particularly afflicted by it; it's a regular and big battle in my quest to become a kinder, gentler version of myself.  In fact, as Lorre so gracefully said, judgment is what blocks me from "union with the infinite sublime." 

What helps, when I can remember to do it, is to notice the judgmental thoughts and autopsy them as they come across. It helps to make a conscious effort to look more deeply at the person or situation I'm judging. It helps to refuse to gossip. It helps to remember it's not all up to me. It helps to remember to "worry about myself; judgment is God's realm. It helps, often, to simply take a deep breath.

In judgement, compassion, humor, and rational thought all go by the wayside. I am not able to be my best self. I am not able to provide clear and unbiased support, to laugh at my own weakness, or to make a perspicacious plan in an emergency.

I endeavor to live my life faithfully and with gratitude. I hunger for that treasured "union with the infinite sublime." Being present with what is delivers it.

Friday, January 2, 2015

More is More, Less is More and More is Better! Happy New Years!

It's a new year  I am celebrating one more beautiful year on this planet and 20 beautiful years with my dear hubby. I love the new year and the new start.  After several years of Six-Word Resolutions to plan my leap into the new year, this year I decided to begin with images that evoke me. I started with Pinterest.

I took some time to reflect on what has inspired me this year: beautiful, healthy food, time with my family, some really good reading, putting away my computer and getting back into knitting, a friend returning from her year away, starting work at a school . . . the list is a long one. Then I selected the images that inspire me to fly high in 2015.  (Here is my visual board.)

After sitting on these for a couple of days, I am happy with my final list, loosely divided into six categories:

Take time each day to meditate, reflect, process, choose and -- the biggy --be grateful.
Shore up my support system.
Remember, quality is more important than quantity.

Eat healthy to live happy. Listen to my body.
Add steps and exercise; push my potential.
Reach my goal weight, 1 pound at a time.
Remember, to consider both quality and quantity.

Keep a jar full of happy memories to review on December 31.
Spend more time with those who matter most (and the converse: consider carefully time commitments)
Write letters - 1 per week
Remember, more is more!

Possessions and Finances
Live in a way that is congruent with our values. Buy into loving them more and buying them less.
The above includes fast food.  Schedule a fast food fast and Foods stamps budget - planned abstinence.
Remember, less is more (fulfilling).

Consider certification; reach a decision by fall.
Continuing education on autism.
Remember, work smarter, not harder.


Knit more!
Read good books - at least 12
Go camping 5 times this year.
Play games with the family weekly (or better, more often)
Remember, more is better!

Live my faith: Serve at church and in the community; nourish a generous spirit.
Create a plan to pass on leadership in the hospitality ministry.
Remember to do less, but better.

I find making resolutions really helps me keep my focus on what matters to me.  I write them on pretty paper and post them on my fridge and look at them quite regularly. I fall out of step with them at times but then step back in again in due course. If I did not make resolutions, I would be less purposeful in creating the life I love to live!

I'd love to hear what you are resolving this year, and how you are going about it!