Sometimes It’s Hard to Hope

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Some unrelenting realities walked into this week. Confusion. Pain. Sorrow. The poignant disbelief of grief.

And I  spent  many moments wishing for the time before – the time before knowing –   a time suddenly brighter, warmer, and easier than this darker day.

A young man died this week.

And although the grief didn’t belong to me it was shared by me and many others who can and do imagine the unimaginable, the impossible, and the irrevocable.

Our shared sadness gathered in crowded rooms where no one is at all sure what to say and every single possibility feels so completely wrong.

Because there are no words to comfort a mother who just lost her son.

A gilded gold harp leaned heavily on the shoulder of the young woman in the corner. She encouraged music from its strings,  bravely plucking one string after another, a heaven-like soloist in a roomful of grief and heartbreak for a life gone too soon and the family he left behind.

Sometimes it’s hard to hope.

But maybe hope exists in the holding of hands – mother to mother – and in the gathering of the grieving close into your arms.

Maybe hope comes to places like this and helps us all look for faith.

Our eyes lifted toward heaven.

~ for AJM

Missing Out

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It wasn’t until I took the dog out this afternoon after work that I noticed the weather. Mind you, there’s nothing all that fascinating about the cloudy day out there today – it’s just that I didn’t notice it at all.  Not once.  All day.

It’s a little unsettling.

Sitting here now, I hear cars filled with people on their way to their own homecomings. and I wonder if they feel as engrossed in their days as I’ve been in mine.

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It’s like I need to catch up. Like I want to know what I missed while I was so mentally among the missing. What if I missed more than the weather?

There’s a thing now –  it’s some sort of social anxiety or a kind of nervous condition called FoMO,  Have you heard about it? Fear of Missing Out is like this general uneasiness that you’re going to miss out on something big, something important, or fun, or inspiring, and something nearly everyone else will be taking part in. Except those of us who miss out.

Like me. Because I was too busy – and missed whatever it was I shouldn’t have.

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So maybe that’s what I have:  FoMO.

And  now that I see today’s weather right there out in my backyard, I feel afraid of just how totally my day consumed me – my every thought, conversation, action, and plan.  I don’t know how to be anything other than totally committed to what I do, but still – what about the rest of me?

There’s a difference, I think, between being totally present in your life and being consumed by it. Or parts of it, anyway.

We all wear a lot of hats. It’s important for me to wear them all, but I need time to take them off too.

I need to go bareheaded once in awhile.

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Right about now seems right.

Soul Food

It doesn’t take long to feed my soul.

I’m estimating here, but I think I was out for about an hour with my camera early this morning and empty as I was, those sixty minutes filled me.


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I’m learning my journey’s going to need a few rest stops.

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And I know one of the best ways to understand what’s going on inside of me …    is to go outside of me.

It’s easy to forget in all the details of life how very much more detailed the world around me is. I am only one very small piece of the living world, and each of the other maybe even tinier pieces around me feel so special, important … and sometimes unnoticed by me in all my haste and hurry.

I spent at least ten minutes today just chatting with some zinnias in a bed by the river’s edge. Those zinnias – bold, vibrant, and maybe a little stubbornly petulant about the coming of fall – reminded me color exists in a world which sometimes feels so very black and white.

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What’s true for me is that a conversation with flowers helps to simplify and quiet the almost never silent stream-of-consciousness flowing inside my head.

I love how very big smallness is.

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So there we were – me and my camera – out wandering around just after sunrise.

You can see a whole big bunch of small in an hour.

My soul – I’m remembering – is fed full by the smallest of details and the shortest of moments.

And if I don’t feel beautiful or joyful or at peace inside of me  … it’s possible to find all of that and more outside with my camera.

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And then bring the outside — in.

Sunday’s Face

I am the sum of my days.  Each week’s worth of minutes reflect in my mirror every Sunday morning.  I wear my heart on my face, it seems, and looking back over the week I know where my heart has been. Sunday’s face might need an extra splash of water.DSC_1002 (3)

Because I left it all out there on life’s playing field this week. Even though I’m exhausted, I feel inspired. This is the way my life should be lived. Beginning and ending each day a little breathless and sweaty because I’ve been fully engaged in all the minutes between my feet hitting the floor in the morning and tucking back under the covers at night.

Anticipation. A little fear. Some small amount of euphoria. The usual worry. Pride. Satisfaction. Contentment. A wee amount of regret. And, of course, hope.

It’s all over my face this morning.DSC_0932 (3)

It takes all kinds of focus to live my life this way – one minute, conversation, and task at a time. To see the people instead of the projects.  I didn’t keep all the balls in the air this week. And what’s really best of all:  I didn’t even try.

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Half begun was good enough,  and I refused to measure myself by the list of what got done or didn’t.  The earth will rotate around one more time with or without crossing all the to-dos off of the list. Each minute comes, it goes, and I dignify it by paying the full respect of my attention.

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I’m happy to greet the woman looking back at me in this morning’s mirror. She and I meet, eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart, and care worn face-to-face.  I know she has piles of paper all over her desk and she knows I didn’t wash yesterday’s dinner dishes.

And we love each other anyway.


Lessons Learned from a Can of Spray Paint

I rescued an old filing cabinet this weekend.  A bit rusty and battered, it was headed for the dump.  A little pale periwinkle blue spray paint brightened it up for me and it fills a need in my personal organization.

As an added benefit, this little Labor Day weekend project reminded me of some professional priorities too.

Here’s five reminders I”ll be passing along to my students tomorrow when we’re back to school:

  1. Learning takes time. This project took chunks of time away from all four days of this long weekend. As learners, we need to be patient and committed for the long term.
  2. Learning takes you out of your comfort zone. I wasn’t sure my d0-it-yourself restoration project would work. But it’s okay to be unsure and lacking in confidence. The important idea I want my students to remember is they’re not the only ones who feel uncertain or even anxious – and I want them to try anyway. Use your uncertainty to fuel your desire to know more.
  3. Learning is messy.  This project spread across the backyard: three spray paint cans, two drop cloths, two paint brushes, a screwdriver, several purple sheets of sandpaper, and a mountain of blue nitrile disposable gloves. Slowly, the mess evolves and  you’re done. Use all the tools you need and be sure to clean up afterward.
  4. Sometimes you need a little help. It was hard for me to slide the file drawers back on track. Another set of eyes and pair of hands helped.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help because you often learn even more with a friend than without one.
  5. Do-overs are likely. I didn’t get almost anything right the first time. The paint dripped. I needed to re-sand and start again. The final product is all the better for my perseverance. Don’t give up.

Of course, as a veteran teacher, I know all these things. But it’s interesting to me how much and how often my students are on my mind – even in the middle of a huge project like this.

I’m still learning too. We all are.

And I want my students to know that fact most of all.

In the spirit of #writereal, I need to tell you that in the end, the filing cabinet did not fit in the intended space.  And maybe that’s another lesson too.

Learning means you need to be flexible.

On Beginnings

Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.

-Meister Eckhart

There’s a better view of beginnings when they’re standing side by side with an end.  We live always in a contrast of night to day, week to month, and season to season.  And somehow we need to navigate the transitions between them.DSC_1034 (2)And while beginnings feel full of hope and opportunity, endings feel a little wistful and nostalgic. I always weep a bit at farewells, but keeping one foot here in the present and one foot behind is a little uncomfortable.

Maybe it’s best to embrace a beginning.

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Walking in the light of a new morning today,  I understood its value and found faith in its purpose.  Beginning light is timid but brave.  Steady and growing stronger.

And so am I. Each time I begin again.


So let’s believe in beginnings. And let’s begin today. And again tomorrow.

Both  gentle and bold.

Willing and ready.

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