Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Balancing Act


As a parent, I want so much for my children. And I am seeing more clearly with each passing day that I have less control over the plethora of experiences my boys will experience. In fact, I believe I actually will have a more lasting and vivid imprint on the way one can and should react to the world around us.

Through my life I am teaching these boys how to face their fears. How to deal with disappointments, unfairness, and defeat. I am one of their many examples on how to ask for help or reject it altogether. A two-way mirror on how to cool down after an argument or simply simmer to explode yet again.

Thinking this way helps me to put the big and little things into perspective.

Children are resilient. I know I was.

No, I may not have everything in the exact order as I wish, but I can still teach my boys how to thrive. And question. How to seek knowledge and continue to grow.

And that counts for something. A lot, actually, it counts for a lot.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Blow out the candles


This is the last week I will ever be less than 30 years old. And I must say I'm excited. For almost two years I hemmed and hawed and agonized about reaching this cultural/biological milestone before I was ready. I was scared witless.

But now, if you ask me, I'm ready.

I've wanted to grow up and have control over my immediate success and circumstances since I was 15 y/o.

I've been studying and preparing to certify as a teacher since 2007.

I've been walking/jogging/running to push my physical limits since 2011.

And I have learned so much about my personal boundaries and central wishes here in 2012.

So, yes, if you ask me, I'm ready. Ready for 30, ready for life. Ready to release any lingering doubts about what I came here for.

I am here to teach, to learn, to run, to grow, to pray. Happy Birthday Week to me!

Thank you, universe.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Be where you are


I was recently reading by Leo Babauta about being present in the space you are currently in. To cease scrabbling for more, better, faster and simply enjoy where you are.

That's something I've only done a handful of times. Most recently, during our family vacation to Minnesota I was able to leave all my baggage at home and just enjoy the moment. And I do realize that the most awesome times of my life have been when I've forgotten my goals and objectives and just existed.

But doing so more frequently and mindfully is a constant struggle for me. I sometimes think living zen is easier for people who have never wondered whether a bill would be paid, or if their children were receiving adequate education and opportunities  That perhaps stillness is for those who have never had to question their basic safety and well-being.

Then I remind myself that zen is a state of being. Not a state of circumstances. People who are imprisoned can find zen. People who are poor can find peace. People who find themselves in a strange land can still become centered.

Being where you are is about your spirit, not your postal address. And that is the truth I must remember.

Monday, October 1, 2012

You got this

No one finishes a race without support

I was speaking with someone Friday. Telling her some of the things I have going on now and things that are coming down the pike. And she looked a bit taken aback at the totality that is my everyday life. What she said next sounded a bit like my Fairy Run Mother....

"You've got this. You are going to be okay." 

"Think of this as a marathon and you're heading toward the last 6 miles. Marathons are hard, but they are mostly mental."

At this point, a little teary eyed I interjected, "But I have run a marathon! And this is harder than that!"

She shook her head, "But you've got this. You'll be okay."

And just in case I still doubted that advice the universe gave me a break. On Saturday morning, after many tears and dollars and tutor sessions I passed the Math portion of my IL Teacher Test of Academic Proficiency.

I can not fully express the load this passing score has lifted off of my chest. I am still pinching myself to see if it's real. If this mile of the marathon is truly done.

It must be...since I can hear those strong women in my ear saying, "See, we told you you've got this."



Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yes, No, Maybe So


Are you one of those people who likes/needs to be right? Not right in the "I know it all!" way. Just right in the "Is this the good and wise thing to do?" sort of way?

I am a bit of both. While I'm trying to let go of my bossy-know-it-all tendencies I still long to do the right thing. Know the right answer. Have the better outcome. But sometimes it just doesn't work that way.

A certain situation has been plaguing me for years now. And I try to approach it from different angles. Stop caring so much about the outcome. You know, get Zen with it. But no dice.

I just can't figure it out. Or how to make it stop. I just know viscerally how it makes me feel.

No right answers. I do not know at all how to handle it. In fact I do not think I can handle it. It's times like these that I truly hate. Times when you pose a question to yourself and the world and all you get back is a Yes, No, or Maybe So.

What am I supposed to do with that? I couldn't tell you since I don't have the answers.

Monday, September 24, 2012

As fast as you can

As they say...Run happy!
I have a natural proclivity towards drowsiness, which I have to fight like the plague. Running is one way I kick the lazy.

This Sunday I ran for the first time as a Race Ambassador for the 2nd Annual Fort2Base Race. I was joined by hundreds of other runners including my husband, one of my favorite guys, and some awesome ladies from my women's run club.

In fact, my Fairy Run Mother (from my 1st ever run club) won her age division.

As we got ready to line up for the start I asked my husband why do we continue to sign up for these things? It's usually cold, our legs get tired. And sometimes my lungs hurt.

But there's just something about racing that keeps pulling me back. I think its those precious minutes that turn to hours (if you're lucky) where you lose yourself in the miles and the music. It's hard to explain, but its worth finding out.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sons of guns


I have three boys. Three boys who love to wrestle, draw, dance, game, and shoot. Not in that order and not everyday. But often enough for me to have to pull them apart. Yell for people to stop jumping off and onto the couch, turn off that game system....and for the love of god stop making gun noises.

I often have to check myself and evaluate what is just a bunch of boys having fun and what is a teachable moment. Which things should I let ride and what behaviors  should I  I discuss with them.

I gotta say. This gun thing is driving me mad. The pretend shooting. The interest in all things camouflage. The designation of good guys and bad guys.

And for my three sons, I know this play is just not that deep. For them its all fun. But for me....

Well, I wrestle with knowing there are rarely absolute "bad" guys and "good" guys. That often the people deemed "good" are the ones who have won the war and got to write the history books.

I wrestle with letting "boys be boys" and wanting to explain to them that people with guns can irreparably hurt one another. More than any fists, speeches, or wrestling matches ever could. People with guns can take out entire populations. People with guns can shoot first and ask questions later.

And that people with guns....I just don't want them to be the people with guns who hurt other people.

When I've asked my oldest what he would even need a gun for he says, "Protection." But how safe would a gun real or imagined really keep my boys?

It's one of those things I have no clear answers on. Just millions of questions.

So I say to the universe...

"Please keep my sons safe from people with guns. Let my sons be keepers of peace. Not of war."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Welcome to the Jungle


You don't have to be from or in Illinois to have heard of the Chicago Teachers' Union Strike. It is now entering it's second week and negotiations and concessions are apparently underway.

It's an all around tough situation for everyone involved. Hundreds of thousands of children are at home or with impromptu sitters, teachers are not being paid, the City of Chicago looks bad, and there's still this massive education system to fix.

Having sent my children to public, private, and charter schools I've seen pluses/minuses/neutrals about them all. And at the end of the day I feel it is my job to ensure that my children are properly educated. And to do that I have sought to place them with teachers who feel it is there solemn duty to teach my children. But my endeavors have not always been successful.

"It takes two to tango"

On the flip side I've seen teachers who are truly committed to teaching children, yet they have to fight with administrators who are notorious time-wasters or micro-managers. Or teachers whose heart is in the right place but their skills do not yet match the class or grade assignment. Teachers who would greatly benefit from working with a teacher-mentor or class collaborating, but with falling budgets that almost never happens.

At least not in districts like Chicago Public Schools (CPS) where there isn't enough money to go around. And the money that is spent rarely shows up directly into a classroom or into lesson enhancements.

Then there are the absolutely terrible teachers who should have never been hired or more immediately fired. The teachers who demean, belittle, or hurt the children by lowering their expectations of themselves and what they are capable of. And these people seem to stick around forever.

Where are the answers?

Professional educators and administrators have countless sources of motivation so I don't purpose to know what's in the hearts of all those striking educators. But if I were in their shoes, as a dedicated educational professional...working in a district where violence is awfully common place, where high-stakes testing is considered a silver-bullet, and where longer school hours were the prescriptions...I might just be picketing too.

Sobbing and picketing.

Educators get into the field to educate. We want to teach even as we learn. Sure impostors join too for the tenure and health care, but honestly if I did not love working with children I wouldn't stick around. And I would trade tenure for a more competitive salary any day of the week.

I guess I say all that to say that I feel a great deal of empathy for the CPU teachers, parents, and children. It's a jungle out there. And no one knows how to clear away the path.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The What


I've never understood bullies. I mean, I get the concept of feeling "higher" by lowering someone else. But I never understood the motivation to actually put something like that into motion. Yes, I could say or do something to take someone down a peg or two. But how does that make me feel any better?

Won't I just feel crummy again later? And maybe that's the case. Perhaps people who intentionally hurt other people do feel bad later so they seek out another victim to damage.


Maybe it's a cycle that isn't easily broken.


I was bullied a few times as a child. Each time was terrifying because I am by no means a fighter. At least not in the physical sense. But with the exception of the time my sisters and I were chased home by a pack of girls (yes, a pack), someone has always stood up for me.

A friend, one of my sisters, or random kid who apparently also knew I wasn't a fighter and didn't want to see me beat up or taken advantage of.

I've been a mixed bag when it comes to standing up for myself and more specifically to bullies. It may be that I over-think most things. I try to understand why someone would seek to undermine me. Or say dishonest things.

But I'm learning that the "why" does not always matter. It's my "what" that means the most.

What am I going to do about it?

I'm gonna stand up for my own d@mn self, that's what!

Monday, September 10, 2012

With a little help


I finally buckled down and got a math tutor for the new Illinois Test of Academic Proficiency. Waiting so long to seek out help made absolutely no sense. But that is exactly what I did. Yesterday we spent an hour and a 1/2 working on practice problems and I honestly feel better equipped already.

It's funny because I know math is not my strong suit. Yet, I pretty much felt if I just kept trying I'd eventually figure it out. Then my husband said that the investment into a tutor was worth more than the trial, error, and defeat of retaking the same test with the same skills.

The funny part is that I'm generally the person that suggests we should look for help. I have no qualms about marriage counseling, therapists, expert advice, or GPS. If I don't know something I know there is a way I can find someone or something that will help me figure things out.

But apparently (and with great irony) my own education is one of my blind spots. Because I preform well in most of the things I need I often think I can just power through the areas that require support.

There's nothing wrong with getting by with a little help from our friends/tutors/therapists.






Monday, September 3, 2012

And we're off


I just experienced the best vacation of my life. At the husband's suggestion our family picked up and headed to Minnesota for Labor Day weekend. We had Mall of America on our mind and were looking to kick back before officially kicking the new school year off in style.

I was a little nervous about the drive. Fearing it'd be congested and we'd come back stressed. But the drive up was fantastic and the trip itself was really laid back. I was able to forget about everything going on back home and just enjoy my family.



"What's crazy is just how thoroughly I was able to completely forget everything that was waiting back home." 

So when I pulled into the garage a bunch of things came flooding back and I let out a sigh knowing the vacation was in fact over.

But after unpacking and settling in a bit I decided to drop the responsibilities and concerns about the future and just replay the most zen vacation of my entire life over and over again.

Even if it's just for tonight.

Happy Labor Day!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Adieu


Goodbye Six Word Fridays. It's been 
fun. But now seems like a 
great time to transition on. I 
am not quite sure what I 
want Fridays to become, but I'll 
let you know when I find 
out! Have a great Labor Day!


~Dear Readers, I've participated in the Six Word Friday writing group for a while now and it is now switching out its host (which is perfectly normal and cool). But I've been pondering somethings I want to add to the blog so methinks it's a good time to get off the "prompt" train and tackle some of my ideas. Hope you'll stick around to see what's new!~

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Filling my cup

An open heart and an empty cup

Relationships are so important. Not just in the social aspects. But as a learning/growing/catapulting tool.

Have you ever been surrounded by so much experience or knowledge that you just had to sit back and take it all in?

That is how I felt today.

I had a mid-morning meeting with other tutors, teachers, and educators and they blew my socks off. There had to have been at least 100 years of quality education experience in that room. And it was buzzing all around me.

Ideas and insights. Tweaks and suggestions. I loved every minute this 2 hour meeting that morphed into  4!

I think, aside from being with professionals I respect, my excitement stemmed from knowing I am definitely in the right field. I've found my lane. This is it.

Just knowing this is what I want to do and that I plan to learn and absorb all that I can. Whether it be through continuing education classes, mentorships, or books. There is a world of knowledge that brings me to life and I am going to keep pursuing it and the relationships it engenders.

And to think, I found this group, these people while working in a job I did not particularly like, in a position that was NOT my passion. But through friendly relationships uncomfortable situations have led me from one dead end place to somewhere much more in align with who I am as a professional and a person.

Relationships can have a funny way of doing that. Of filling you up.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The simple life


I am in the process completing my last Foundation of Teaching class before I enter the practicum (where I start going into a school for projects and teaching, etc.). Hip hip hooray!

The biggest takeaway from this summer term has been learning how to assess student learning and developing competencies to measure their progress.

It's something many highly effective teacher's practice. Setting benchmarks for their kids and then tracking the growth. It sounds so simple, yet many students go through classes and coursework every year never knowing what they are expected to learn and whether they have indeed learned it.

On a personal level I can see how that could be problematic. Imagine floating through life with no benchmarks. Nothing to measure yourself against. Or perhaps having benchmarks, but failing to adjust them to the reality of your life and the frequent shifts of your needs and perspective.

If I had to lay out a (rather broad) life objective it would be: To lead a simple life with love and peace.

The tricky part with me is that I LOVE to fill up my time. Pack my days FULL of activity. Pencil in appointment after appointment into my calendar. Which is not simple and sometimes counter-productive to me peace of mind.

So I'm learning to accept my reality. Which is that I DO need to be committed to something (i.e. tutoring,volunteer work), but I also have ongoing responsibilities to my children, spouse, and grand-family to consider.

Assessing my comfort level and changing things up accordingly will be a step toward my objective of simplicity and peace.

Which its something every teacher knows, small steps lead to greater progress.


Friday, August 24, 2012

All in this together


Fun, in a weird and painful 
sort of way, is having to 
get immunization shots right along with 
the boys. Seem's we were due.

~Happy Six Word Friday. The prompt for August is: Fun~


The hubs and I took the boys to the pediatrician for back to school physicals and shots only to discover that he needed one for Uncle Sam and I had never been immunized against the "Whooping Cough", which apparently has been on the upswing.

The boys got a kick out of seeing dad go first. And my middle son held my hand while I got pricked. So, it was fun in a way. The downside? I was shot on Monday and my arm just stopped feeling sore today.

Anything for the kids, right?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What's my motivation?


Self renovation is hard. Telling myself that a behavior is unhealthy and then consciously working to adjust that behavior takes a lot more effort than most would want or expect.

You think, "This needs fixing, I will fix it."

But the motivation behind the behavior does not immediately change just because you've pinpointed the flaw. For example, I may determine that smoking cigarettes is bad for my health and decide to quit smoking.

My decision to cease smoking, although positive, may not acknowledge my initial reason for smoking. Was stress my smoke trigger? Boredom? Anger?

Unless the motivating factor is exposed and dealt with my unhealthy habit of smoking will be replaced by another (more than likely) equally unhealthy habit.

Discovering your true motivation is where things can get sticky. To find the method to your madness you must self reflect. Ponder the past. Think on current events.

And although this process can be uncomfortable it can also be freeing. You may discover that you just don't care enough to let XYZ bother you in to creating any more empty habits.

Or you may find that ABC was so traumatic that you need to call up some professionals to help you purge the pain.

Whatever the source of our personal motivations we must ultimately decide to get our hands dirty as we work toward a fresh and clean slate.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Our sands


My husband and I attended a lovely wedding ceremony yesterday. The bride and groom had been together for a while and there were already children. Yet couple seamlessly incorporated their daughters into the ceremony. And it was simply beautiful.

After exchanging rings the couple had their daughters join them at the alter for a sand ceremony. There were three flasks of colored sand. One for the bride, the groom, and the children. The minster stated that after the sands were combined into the new single flask it would be impossible to remove the particles into individual containers ever again.

And so it would be for their family. Forever intertwined.

This was the part where I got teary-eyed. Because that analogy was so very true. When the girls grow up and move away they will still be connected to their parents. And whether the parents love, honor, and cherish forever or eventually divorce they will all still be irrevocably intertwined.

There is no undoing/untangling of the lives that they have lived together. The memories created and the trials overcome.

Then I thought of my cousin, who (because he is lucky enough to live in Illinois) was able to marry his husband and permanently commit and intertwine his life with his love in the eyes of the state. And although I've supported marriage equality for a while this heterosexual wedding just reaffirmed what I know to be true.

Love, family, and commitment (in their myriad forms) are undeniably beautiful and very much worthy of acknowledgement.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Girls!

ME and some lovely ladies from WRTW after a 5K Disco race

I love, love, love running women!


~Happy Six Word Friday! Our prompt for August is: FUN.~

I must say I'm having a great time with my new running club, aptly titled Women Run The World. I trained pretty much solo for the 2011 Chicago Marathon. Which as you can imagine was fulfilling, yet lonesome. This year, at the coaxing of my Run Fairy I linked up with her co-ed club for Saturday runs. They provided both motivation and accountability.

Then a few months ago a cousin added me to a Facebook running group for women and I haven't looked back. There's something about having partners that puts a little pep in your step. Makes you run a little longer/further/more often. 

So this post is dedicated to all the women supporting other women in healthy lifestyles. 

Who runs the World? Girls!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bird of flight

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free-St. John 8:32

I was in an interview last year and the person conducting the interview asked the most standard, yet most dreaded question: "What are your weaknesses?"

And I looked at her and said "Honestly, my weakness is that I am poor at self-advocating. I have a problem telling authority when something is not working for me or when I need help. But I am working on being more forthcoming with my needs."

And she said, "So you're working on being able to tell the the truth?"

I was a bit taken aback by that rephrasing. I feel as though I am truthful. Yes, I am a master negotiator and people-pleaser. Yes, I try to avoid conflict and find consensus. But I am truthful as well. Aren't I?

"Yes, I am."
But, and its a big BUT when I review my past personal and professional relationships I know I have managed to avoid any direct confrontations. When something becomes unpleasant I am loathe to tackle it head on. I just clam up. That nervous tic that makes me smile when I feel awful appears and I find a way to just try to fly out and away from the situation, whether or not the situation itself ever gets resolved.

I realize this not a healthy solution, yet it's the one I 've been using for years.

There is this fear of being too direct. Of saying the wrong thing and coming off as offensive. Or worse, escalating the situation.

Fear is such an ugly thing. And so is being untruthful about what matters to me the most.

If when I spoke, the words somehow came out printed on beautiful parchment paper I could easily get over the awkwardness of sharing "my iced tea".

Since that can not happen I must work to open myself up to finding healthy ways to speak/live/love my truths.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Go hard


In America we have this phrase "a self made man", which generally means a person who has pulled themselves up by their own efforts or bootstraps to become something or someone special.

An accomplished and fulfilled person without any assistance. Any hand-ups. Any shortcuts.

Only, the notion of a self made anything is a complete illusion. How can anyone become greater than himself without the help of others? Whether it be the tutor who taught him to read. The passerby that gives him a ride. The parent who encourages and cajoles them to success.

"There is always someone in our world that is offering us support"
 Even when it seems lonely and frightening out here, someone somewhere cares. But what we humans sometimes do is shut ourselves off from the love, support, and accountability we all need. We figure we can make it out here alone.

But loneliness brings despair, and despair begets desperation. And desperation causes us to act out in ways that are beneath our human dignity.

We need teams, sisters/brothers, mentors, lovers. We need the warmth and wisdom that human interaction brings.

No man has ever reached his full potential alone. Olympians have coaches. Steve Jobs had a partner. Oprah has Gail. Jesus had 12 disciples, and Buddha had some too.

Its so easy to isolate ourselves when things get tough or hard and our make-up starts to smear. But that is when we need our teams the most.

This is something I have to work especially hard at, because when I start to stress I want to crawl into myself and disappear. But what I've learned as of late is that crawling away is not only selfish (because I shut off the people that love me) but harmful as well.

"I know I go hard for my team, so I have to let them go hard for me as well."


Friday, August 10, 2012

Get it in the morning

How I love thee...let me count the ways

Friday fun fact: Eating sweets with
breakfast can help keep weight off! 

The logic: 1. You have all day 
to burn all those sweet calories. 

2. Having satisfied your sweet tooth early 
you are more likely to resist 
unhealthy snacking or binging later on. 

Now if you excuse me I 
have a strudel calling my name.

~Happy Six Word Friday! Our August prompt is: FUN~~

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The average day

Photo by AP photographer Gregory Bull

As a child I really truly believed in fairy tales. I believed that one day some handsome responsible guy would meet my mom and whisk us all away to sudden, but permanent stability and happiness.

We'd have a huge house. Plenty of food. And wonderful family vacations.

One day millions of dollars would be given to our family and all our problems would go away.

I honestly thought that people who had things/relationships/happiness were just supremely lucky. They had somehow won the "life lottery".

"The rest of us were just waiting for our number to come up."

What I've learned since then is that even though some people do win "life's lottery" (i.e. heirs and heiresses) lasting success/happiness/progress is attained through steps.

Everyday getting up and working on ourselves, our jobs, or relationships. It's so easy to think that if we had just one thing it would be the cure-all for everything. But that's just not the case.

Tiny little steps and precious little actions. They are what we build into the product of our lives. It's the various moments that determine our direction/projection.

"The ugly, boring work that brings enlightenment."

Pretty much every person in the universe knows who Gabby Douglas is right now. But she was Gabby Douglas before her medals. She was Gabby Douglas as she trained and exercised and became sculpted into the beautiful Olympian we see today.

A few days ago told my husband that I would love to have her (Gabby Douglas') legs. But in reality I do not need her legs. I just need to make my way to the nearest gym/trail/bench press and craft the ones I already have.

There is a certain beauty in knowing that. That my life is the sum total of my actions/decisions/encounters.

Even if my "Playdoh" isn't as shiny and new as the others, I can still mold it into something beautiful. Something I can be proud to show my children.

It just puts the average day into a different perspective don't 'cha think?

Monday, August 6, 2012

No clothes


Remember that story about the boy that dares to tell the Emperor he has no clothes on? With hundreds of thousands of adults standing around pretending not to noticed the Emperor's exposed buttocks. But the child does.

He sees it and he tell everyone so.

As we age there is a necessary filter process that grows as we mature. It works as a screen between our thoughts and our actions/words.

We learn that everything that springs to mind need not be spoken. Yet there are times when the uncomfortable truth must be spoken.

When remaining silent is just plain wrong.

I think, even in those times when we know something must be done, it is not always easy to speak up. Or reach out.

Fear can make us just hope someone else will take the risk in being honest. That someone else will bear the responsibility.

And if they don't? What then? What will we do with our humanity?

Will we help or hush?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A word from our sponsor

~This post has been interrupted by a "Pep Talk to myself". The official sponsor of my Zen.~

You feel overwhelmed right now. That is okay.

Embrace the feeling and look around you.

Why do you feel overwhelmed? Downcast? Defeated?


When I look around this room of overwhelm-ment I see hundreds of thousand of "I's" floating around.

"I have to make this better" "I have to get them help" "I have to keep working" "I have to be strong"

Your "I's" seem invincible, but in reality they are shallow pieces of pride. A belief that you can make/do/control things.


You control nothing but your actions and intentions. Do not make believe that you control the outcome of others.


Release yourself from your "I's" and you will feel the dejected-ness ease away. 

Separate yourself from the outcome of others and you will gain strength.


Inhale. Now exhale slowly and blow the "I's" away.


~You have reached end of this installment of "Pep talk to myself" the official sponsor of my Zen.~

Monday, July 30, 2012

Waiting for genius

Summer is nearing her end, which means it's pretty much now or never as far a road trips go. Our family hit the road this weekend to return my niece and nephew home in time for their early school start date.

We ended our trip with a detour to Springfield, IL and a visit to Abe Lincoln's home and tomb, which was such a lovely experience. One that I highly recommend.

But by far my most favorite part of a long drive is when everyone else drifts off to sleep and I turn my news/tapes/podcasts on full blast. During this nighttime drive I got to hear Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame give a TED talk on creativity.

Gilbert spoke of the anxiety writers feel, or any creative person, to strike gold. Or produce something GREAT. She spoke of the dread of not being able to produce results. Then she spoke of the origin of the word 'genius' and how Romans felt it was something bestowed on a person. Not an IQ any one being could 'own'.

Thinking along that line, of believing that creativity or genius is temporal, relieves the pressure to do any thing other than your best effort everyday. Regardless of the results, acclaim, or lack thereof.

Just showing up for work and doing your part, resting in the knowledge that the genius will come, or won't come.  And either way is okay.

I can get with that.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Good, bad, ugly


Sitting with an elder at the 
doctor's office a few days ago 
I gazed at this person I 
love and experienced a tiny revelation. 
"People make and live their choices. 
Good, bad, ugly, sweet, painful, bliss. "

And the most interesting part is 
that the choices that hurt the 
most are not necessarily the ones 
others would change. Because each life 
must be lived in it's entirety 
by it's individual, it's probably best 
for us to love, honor, and 
give space for the people around 
us to truly live. As I 
looked at my elder in the 
twilight of her life I wondered 
which turns she would take if 
given a fresh/newly cleaned slate. 
Which boys would she date and 
dances would she attend. And I 
realized that she would not change 
much at all. She has lived 
her life largely on her own 
terms. No sense going back and 
regretting it now. The thought put 
a smile on my face and 
in my heart. Each day as 
it comes, our choices to make.

~~Happy Six Word Friday! The prompt for July is: FOUND.~~

 What I discovered this week during a quiet moment while waiting for a doctor to return is that I am less fit to judge the lives lived by others than I had previously thought. Many people are perfectly happy with the choices and decisions they make. And if they aren't there isn't much I can do about it anyway. 

Life is a constant evaluation about the things that are important to us. Children, career, school, fun, faith. Our order of operations changes from time to time to reflect our current values. But the crux of the matter is being sure that we can live with ourselves when we are 78 years old and waiting for the doctor to return with a verdict. 

That's what I've found.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My down


Things have certainly been heavy around here lately. Though I would still say it has been a necessary occurrence. To have progressed from the angst ridden posts on success to the reflective processes of gratitude has been cathartic.

Despite Contrarily, because of my recent proximity to death and enriched mental health awareness I feel a lightness within myself. A release of sorts. A consciousness of the freedom that everyday life provides. Freedom that previously alluded me.

I feel as though I have been fighting myself for years to just accept myself as human. Flawed, but still worthy of self acceptance and respect.

If I could describe the feeling currently residing in the center of me.... it would be that of a duck that plunges into a glistening body of water and immediately dips her head below the surface. As she resurfaces and gives a shake beads of water disperse all around her. Both into the air and back into the lake. Gently she glides along the surface, her down reflecting in the sun.

Today my down is simply enough for me.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hold and Release



A man that I deeply despised for hurting someone I love has died.

I can't say that I hated him, because even during my hottest anger at his actions I did not hate him. But I did wish he were dead. He hurt his wife deliberately and repeatedly.

Multiple hospital visits a year. Rehabilitation to learn how to reuse her hands/legs/speech after his whippings triggered strokes.

I just wanted her to leave. The support network was there but she refused to leave until it was a decision between returning and surely dying or missing him and living in peace.

August 8, 2012 would be a year  to the date of her choosing her life over her love.

When I found out he died I had to swallow the "Good!" that started to form on my lips but instead lodged in my throat.

Karma had come. And that felt good and warm.

Yet the part of me that knows it is wrong to wish ill/hurt on any living thing felt guilty of the immense relief the news of his death brought me.

I would go on to discover that his human existence was nothing short of tragic.

His mother died when he was a baby and his father left him to be raised in a orphanage. During the periodic visits he did have with his father he experienced the abuse he would later use on others. He was not taught how to love and apparently never learned.

As much as his wife loved him he could/would not give her the same care and provision he received. He met sugar with salt. Fire with ice. Embraces with fists, gabs, and pushes.

And now it is too late to redeem himself. To make things right. To love and be loved. He died sick and alone. That makes me sad. It must be hell to die alone.

Perhaps I did hate him. I release that hate.

Humans are not build to carry toxins in our hearts and minds.  It eats us from the inside out. I did not just learn of the death of a wife beater, but a broken child/boy/man whose life will be always be remembered with pain and derision.

Tragic.

I feel as though I should give alms for his soul. Pray that he returns as a flower. Something gentle that brings comfort. A second chance to give and receive love this time around. If only....

I need to go hug someone. Please hug someone in memory of the child/boy/man who never learned how to love.

Hug them tight.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hmmmmm.....


I think these children truly believe
that they are allergic to bedtime. 
Why else would they fight sleep 
like the plague? Hmmmm....beats me.

~Happy Six Word Friday! The prompt for the month of July is: FOUND.~

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Reasons


"Everything happens for a reason" is one of the most common refrains when bad or unexpected things occur. I always found that phrase to be problematic. Mostly because it appears to assume that even the conscious decisions that humans make (which may negatively impact others) are somehow part of a cosmic plan.

Personally, I fall more along the "Things happen when someone sets the laws of nature in motion" school of thought.

Which I suppose could also be called "You reap what you sow".

And I realize that, some actions or outcomes cannot be controlled and are products of happenstance, genetics, or environment. But others are in fact pieces in a series of chain reactions.

I say all that to say that I've been thinking of cause and effect lately. And how terrible or unwanted circumstances can still hold hidden treasures.

Reflecting on various events in my life that have gone from lemon to lemonade, made me ponder if I had perhaps come down too hard on the side of human activity versus cosmic direction.

I mean don't some things just seem to be the result of  mysterious phenomenon or divine intervention?

But the truth is that I don't really know. This, however, is what I do know for sure, that very often life's tint & hue is more a matter of perspective than pre-destination.

How we choose to see and view the world. What we do with the information we receive. They all factor into the "goodness" or "badness" we see around us. It is a conscious process to pull the good out from the dirt and cherish it.

Noticing how the earth is watered by the same rain that ruins our cars' shine. Appreciating the house that needs work but still provides shelter for our family. Those are the things that really count.


Whatever the reasons, the beauty is still the same.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Window seat


Have you ever experienced a situation where what was below the surface was far greater than what you had previously thought possible? Like an iceberg with only it's tip exposed.

Just last week I learned of The Siwe Project, a foundation dedicated to providing support and alleviating the shame of mental health issues within the black community worldwide. When I blogged about it I was thinking about someone I know who seems to be dealing with PTSD but has so far declined to seek treatment or help.

Little did I know that four days after that blogpost I would be faced the reality of mental health needs within my own family tree. A history of insufficient resources, misdiagnosis, defense mechanisms, and silence.

Upon hearing of the in-family situation I booked the first flight available. I can not fully articulate the shock and bewilderment that accompanies seeing/hearing a loved one agitated/confused/combative/frantic.

It was overwhelming. 

Not only were the person and their spouse reluctant to seek a mental health evaluation, but even after several more traumatic episodes they felt everything was under control and the concerned family members were the one's not seeing clearly.

Searching for advice I contacted some elders. I learned that what I was seeing had been indeed seen before. The paranoia, denial, highs & lows were all common threads of this condition. But I also learned that after receiving the initial medical attention long term stability could be achieved through therapy, diet changes, and stress management plans.

But all those words and pleas to seek help fell on deaf ears.

Left with no alternates I departed for home feeling saddened and defeated. No solutions, no management plan. Just failure and uncertainty.

I boarded the plane tired but restless, so I pulled out the book I had brought along: The Story of Buddha: a graphic biography. I had no hope that anything, let alone a graphic novel would assuage my heart and mind.

Inside this book was the story of how Buddha, as the world knows him, came to be. His questions about life and the answers he found.

At one point in the story Buddha, then a Prince, stumbles upon an old man weakened and neglected. And he ponders on the fact that youth only ends in death and infirmity during old age.

What then was the purpose of life?

After much seeking he concludes that life's purpose is to live each day one at a time, basking in a glow of gratitude versus sinking into a sea of cravings. He concluded that life is suffering. But it is also beautiful in and of itself.

When I first heard of this principle of accepting life as suffering I was extremely repelled. I felt the purpose of life was to mitigate suffering. To work toward the life one wants. Accepting suffering felt like accepting defeat.

But sitting on that plane with a throbbing heart-ache and depleted energy I realized I cannot control members of my family. I cannot make every one's life manageable. I cannot make other's accept reality.

But I can minimize the harm I do. I can find pleasure in loving my family. In being a wife. In being a student. I can stop striving and stressing and fighting to be successful and instead enjoy the day I am in.

Seek the beauty that is already around me. See the little blessings that rest in the atmosphere.

In my window seat I found peace. 

Will I still advocate for appropriate mental health help? Yes. But I can do so from a place of peace. This is life. There is no getting around it. And it is hard.

But still, I am blessed to have been born a human.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Clarifying



I am sure that the express 
purpose of meditation is the clearing 
of one's mind. But I have 
found it to have overarching clarifying 
properties too. As I sweep away 
the cobwebs with each breath pictures 
grow clearer and my focus sharper. 
Tell me, which outcome was I 
truly seeking clearance...clarity...or both.


~Happy Six Word Friday!~

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

True life: there's no safety net


I often study people. I like to see and understand the hows and whys of their operating systems. Hear their stories and ascertain their perspectives.

But if there is one thread that runs through every individual I admire it's the absence of an umbilical cord. You know, the piece of safety and nourishment that ensures your survival. A piece of attachment to the security of the nest.

These people who trail-blaze, conquer, who've mentored and advised me...they don't/didn't have one. Whether the cord was cut prematurely by unforeseen circumstances, an ill equipped parent, or they simply disconnected themselves. Nearly all of these people had determined to sink or swim by themselves.

The reason I find this interesting is that I've often longed for a safety net myself. Especially when my husband and I were first starting out. We knew it was just us. There would be no returning home or calling for cash influxes if we failed to budget.

No weekend babysitters. No one else to cover the 1st and lasts month's rent. If we couldn't cut it, we'd be completely out of luck.

Now we sometimes reminisce about the terrible apartments, or times we were left with $10 after paying the bills and getting baby food. I don't know how we made it, or even when it ended.

I guess there was a gradual 'getting better'. A loosening of the belt. But the irony is that although we are okay (and so are my idols) I still strive to ensure that we will be in a position to be that for our children.

To be their safety net.

I remember the scary and uncertain feeling that launching into real-world responsibilities is and I want to lessen the blow for my boys. But is that wise? Is that fear an essential coming of age rite?

I honestly don't know. I don't know what it feels like to have the net, but I have seen the damage it can do to the less ambitious and mature.

What say ye world? To net or not to net? Better yet, how to net? That is my question.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Declarations

Saturday morning found me at the University Center, with hundreds of other teacher candidates, preparing to take my state content exam for Social Sciences: History.

Being there with so many future colleagues made me think of the steps it took to get here: the last lap of my degree plan.

And to think, it all started with a heart-felt declaration. A decision that I would go to college and finish it.... 


During high school I had worked my butt off to qualify for scholarships and find the perfect school. Only to graduate and discover 6 weeks later....I was pregnant.

I was so shocked I could barely function. I had come so far only to hit a snag all to familiar for far too many girls.

So I enrolled in my sister's Alma mater instead of my original choice. I figured being closer to family and home was what I needed. But even with her support when school started I just seem to couldn't perform. I was depressed. Suffering from morning sickness. And embarrassed to be the pregnant black girl.

So I quit. 

That winter my husband and I married and we started the type of stable, dependable, two parent family we both wanted for our children. And I somehow convinced myself that this would be enough, and for a while it was.

But overtime, even with frequent moves and busy toddlers, I craved school. I craved learning and growing and discovering new truths. Just heading to the public library was no longer enough. I needed something that was my own.

After my last son was born and our family headed to Japan I made a promise to myself that I would find a way to go to school because I had to finish what I had started. 

Looking back on it now, it seems as though this process has taken ages. Well....actually, I guess it has. Yet the time factor no longer bothers me. 

Why? Because I am fully accomplishing what I set out to do way back in 2001. And it feels so good.

In the fitness world there's this thing called "runner's high". It's the rush a runner/athlete feels at the end of a race or event. A splendid burst of endorphins that sweeps you up enough to make you momentarily forget the pain and fatigue and instead ride the wave of victory.

That's how I feel. Yes, I'm tired. True, I still have a career to nurture and build. But right now the run has me so high. I am still running this thing, but I know it's heading in the right direction. And that gives strength to my tired bones.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hill, Yeah


Found out that I can take
that hill 7x. Alright, darn right!

~Happy Six Word Friday! Our prompt for July is: FOUND!~

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Shame, Shame, Shame


As a tribute to freedom I wanted to talk about a post I read on one of my favorite blogs about a new organization, The Siwe Project, which is dedicated to helping people of color who live with Mental Illness.

The mission is to: "Promote mental health awareness and education in the global black community".

If you are or have ever serviced/worked/been part of a black/brown community you may have witnessed the stigma Mental Health issues still holds. And the extent to which help is rejected.

Whether it's the neighborhood "crazy" who was once the community's prom king or star athlete, but now wanders around with what may be untreated/diagnosed bipolar disorder.

The mother who refuses school services and support for a child experiencing emotional/development/mental disabilities because their "Kid ain't crazy".

The uncle, father, brother, spouse who suffers from extreme emotional highs and lows and self medicates with marijuana or by simply withdrawing from family life and relationships.

If any of that is familiar you may have witnessed the immense shame living with a mental illness has on people of color. This shame phenomenon may be universal, but it is especially detrimental to black/brown culture, family life, and of course mental health.

So I guess this post is a PSA.

If you or someone you know or love is dealing with mental health difficulties (frequent episodes of depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive behavior, severe anxiety, unexplained bouts of anger, etc.) please check out The Siwe Project  or here to learn how to find resources and get help.

I know that members of the military and their dependents often face a similar shame when dealing with mental health treatments so here is a link for that too.

Just as with seeing the doctor for a broken finger, there should be No Shame in seeking treatment for our hearts and minds.

Claiming independence from shame is as good a way as any to celebrate our nation's freedom. Happy 4th of July!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Judging many


I was such a judgmental child/teen coming up. I had very definite views about the world and about how people should live. And while I've always strived to treat people kindly, I know my thoughts about their behavior affected the way I often interacted with others.

As I've grown a bit older I no longer harbor the illusion that my way is the best way for everyone. In fact, I actually found out that MY way wasn't neccesarily the best WAY fo me.

"To each his own"
We all have our own battles, burdens, and decisions to make.

Practicing the "Live and let Live" principle isn't some apathetic mumbo gumbo.

It's an actual way to release the stresses that come with trying to manage other peoples's actions and beliefs. And in the same token we start the process of freeing ourselves from our own self condemnation, or judgement.

We could all use a bit of freedom.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Happy-ness Reloaded


In the pursuit of happiness a
funny thing can happen. We may 
discover that the object of our 
attention was not the thing that 
brought us the most happiness. But 
rather it was the pursuit itself. 
Or perhaps not at all. Neither 
objects nor chase fill that happiness 
void. It is the stillness of 
no chase at all, that brings 
immeasurable glee. Whichever the case we 
determine what our happiness means today.

~Happy Six Word Friday! Since it is the last Friday in June this is also the last day for the HAPPY prompt.~


I often think of happiness. Of what it is and what it is not. 

And I've read of detaching oneself from trivial pursuits and the constant attainment of things. But honestly I know I shall "pursue" til I retire to a beach house in Okinawa. 

The "pursuit" is firmly intertwined within my DNA. The history of my family and the history of our people will always propel me forward.

And more than likely I shall always want nice things. 

As a little girl I recall looking at my grandfather and his wife as my ideal. The real life version of The Cosby Show. African American. Educated. Successful. That is what I would be when I grew up.

Not poor. Not mediocre. I would be a testament to my family name. I would leave a legacy for my children.

But I realize that because of this, my biggest challenge remains in detaching anxiety and pressure from my pursuits.  And in appropriating honest valuations to the things I wish to attain. 

Learning to accurately determine whether this "thing" is truly what I want or a stand in for elusive childhood wishes.

When you grow up largely without, it is easy to confuse "things" with happiness. A good job with success. Status with fulfillment.

The obvious source of my anxiety lies in my need to get it "right". To fit in with my idea of The Cosby Show. And the logical part of my brain knows that no two educated, successful African American families are exactly alike. Yet the socio-emotional side just wants to ensure that I will one day fit into that Cosby category of affluence.

But my baby step to today's happiness is taking that anxiety/pressure/fear as a cue to meditate. To take a moment to detach and breath.

To release myself of my expectations.  To bask in today's unfettered happiness. That is my step today.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Patterns


There's something to be said for patterns and prejudices. For one, they save time. No need to think up a new reaction or thought process. The future has already been determined by your pre-conceived notions.

Which can be a good thing. For example, I know pitbulls can be sweet. In fact I am a former owner of a playful Blue bully. But a deeply ingrained prejudice tells me to treat ALL pits with care. A prejudice that has helped keep me safe in communities where bullies are plentiful, but responsible ownership is rare.

Similarly the patterns we establish in relationships offer us a sense of comfort and security. We know our partners. How they think and what they respond to.

I think the trouble comes in when our patterns are flawed. Or perhaps incomplete and outdated.

I know how my partner responds when I say or do certain things, but what happens when we get stuck in ruts and need new ways to relate? Its in those times that pre-established patterns can be the most detrimental.

The easy give and take becomes bitter. The words turn manipulative. Kindness is withdrawn.

And its all for lack of new habits. New patterns. New prejudices and ways to deal.

The general consensus for adults seeking new patterns is to seek guidance or couples therapy. But what do you do for children?

I've been struggling with forming a new pattern for my boys. 

When I was coming up, my sisters and I were not allowed to fight. My mother wanted us to be friends. But that did not immediately transpire. Instead, what my mother ensured with her "no fighting" rule is that we would not commit damage while young that would be irreparable when we aged.

So I am trying to strike a balance with the boys. I know I can't force them to be BFF's but I do want to break their constant pattern of anger, mockery, and double teaming.

And I'm still not sure if this is just how boys roll.

But what I do know for sure, is that the way I respond to them and they respond to each other needs some renovation.

A little pattern re-adjustment.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Moving On UP


It's official! My Iced Tea has it's own spot on the web: myicedtea.net!

Not to worry. You can still access this blog through whatever means you did before...Facebook, Twitter, email, Kindle subscription, or just plain typing in the address.

All of those methods will still send you to the NEW myicedtea.net site.

And although I am still working on updating and integrating this site I will continue to bring you my thoughts, concerns, hopes, and perspectives as usual.

So let me take a moment to thank you for being a faithful reader/subscriber. I appreciate your taking the time to follow this blog and it's progress.

Each individual reader means so much to me. Again, thanks.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Happy-ness List


I am happy that I've practiced
2 minutes of meditation. That my 
husband is home. That my children
are healthy. That my grandparents are 
near. That my sisters are satisfied. 
For these things I am happy.

~~Happy Six Word Friday! The prompt for June is HAPPY so I thought I better dive into happiness before June was gone. But I am curious, if you had to name 5 things that made you Happy, what would they be?~~

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

(Here)say


Lately I've been studying the principles of Buddhism and meditation. Reading on the process of being present in one's life and circumstance.

Not dreaming, or planning. But simply being where you are right now. This idea is so completely contrary to my core American values. The values that say "Dream big, the sky's the limit!" or "Keep climbing up that ladder to success!"

If you can picture it, I was calmly sitting in the hospital waiting area with my Kindle when I came across the section on being present. And I thought to myself that the very idea of simply being where I am and not planning for the future was a terrifying prospect. I do not think my body language changed, but on the inside a tidal wave of fear rushed over me.

I mean, since I was a little girl who knew the likelihood of getting the one thing I had requested for my birthday was nil, I had planned to become an adult and change that. I planned to marry. I planned a powerful career where my voice would matter. I planned the type of house I would have built.

And as I've mentioned before I planned out my entire high school career down to the clubs I eventually joined.

I have wanted since forever to have the reins of my life, without being tethered to the will and disappoints of others.

So to stop. To stop. To quit planning and be where I am. God, that's frightening since I am not at all satisfied with my here and now. The thought of basking in the glow of the present brings waves of anxiety into my chest.

And yet I know I must do this. I have to try this. This being here-ness. If I can just get through two minutes. I think I can tackle two minute.

Then we'll go from there. We'll go from there to being here. Two minutes at a time.