in the company of children

 

DSC_0416Hope’s been a little hard to find lately.

Truthfully, I’m not sure where to look most days.

Life’s been a little too.

Too much to process.

Too much to feel.

Too much to cope with.

I am the sum of my emotions, reactions, and responses to what I see, hear, and feel around me. Preoccupied one minute and a bit absent-minded the next. Sometimes articulate and then just as quickly in tears and tongue-tied.  I am a confluence of emotions merging one on another and into the next. I am world wary, poorly sleeping, and fiercely protective – making a focused effort to somehow manage and make right my own corner of a world I find increasingly difficult to live in or understand.

If not hope exactly, there’s some sort of solace found within the four walls of my classroom and in the company of children. Together, we enjoy simple things: a good book, card games, coloring, cookies … laughter. There’s renewal to be found – however fleeting – in the routine of our days and in the discovery of new ways to learn. To understand. To grow.

And there’s gratitude among us for each other.

Just there by the window is a blooming pot of bright, red geraniums: summer’s promise that warmth will one day return, and maybe along with it – some hope.

 

the direction of hope

DSC_0388 (2)Just the other day, I woke from a dream where I was taking a walk with my future self. There we were, side by side, walking down a country road. It was summer. We were relaxed. Smiling too, in my dimming memory of the dream.

I’ll take that as a good sign.

This morning, of course, I realize there’s so much I’d like to ask her – this me I’ve yet to be. I’ve had many conversations with the women I used to be, some critical and some congratulatory, but I’ve never to my recollection spoken with the woman I hope to become. Now the thought’s nested a bit, and I find it fascinating.

By nature, I’m a reflective and evaluative person.  My dominant glance is backwards and over my shoulder.  Just lately though, I’ve been trying to live more firmly placed in the present. I’m becoming more comfortable right where I am. This is good growth for me, and I can hear all the women I’ve been behind me cheering and raising a bit of a ruckus. Alleluia!

But what I want to know from that woman just ahead are questions I’m forming here at the crest of a new year – realizing as I ask them, that I’m almost completely in control of how she answers:

Are you happy?

Are you healthy?

Are you fulfilled?

Are you surrounded by people you love?

In my waking middle-of-the-night hours, I review my list of worries and what-ifs. It’s then I find myself wishing that woman from the dream was a fortune teller, reassuring me all will turn out fine in the end.

But what’s truly significant, I suppose, is how she and I walked forward together. Side by side. And I understand now that she’s just as dependent on me for how her life turns out, as I am hopeful for her life to turn out well.

So let’s keep walking. Side by each. Our whole cheering section walks just back over our shoulders and with us every step of the way.

Forward is, after all, the direction of hope.

 

 

 

It Feels So Good … To Be Well

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There’s nothing like a good dose of — I’ve been sick for weeks and I’m not sure what’s wrong with me– to slow, if not stall life on the spot. All the balls in air and mid-juggle, drop to the floor.

The mental rooms I lived in for almost a month felt smaller, more intimate, cleared of superfluous clutter, and I focused only on one thing — getting well. It was a life-shift, honestly. A paring down to the necessary and essential. Rest. Drink. Food. Every day’s decision evaluated by the sole criteria … Is this what’s best for me?

At the time, I found myself wishing for my “old life” back and wanted more than anything to think about something … anything … beyond my symptoms and what caused them. What eased them. What would finally elminate them.

Maybe it takes feeling really, really bad … to decide it’s time to live well.

Because after a week or so back into regular living,  I’ve decided I don’t really want my old life back after all. I want to live a more careful and considered life where the focus question all day, every day is followed by that one and only get-well criteria I lived when I was sick …

Is this what’s best for me?

What choices do I need to make to feel … well?

What should I eat? Drink? When do I need to rest?

Which balls do I pick up? And which do I leave on the floor?

What mental clutter needs clearing?

The very questions that guided me during my illness are guiding me to my wellness too.

And it feels so good … to be well.

 

 

 

 

humanity

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I’ve got a batch of granola in the oven. Tomorrow, when I return to school for my first teacher in-service day,  I’ll bring a glass jar full of it to my teaching partner. A little something from me to her.  A small sharing of something good.  The tiniest of reminders: we’re in this together.

And we are. All of us. Strangers and friends and colleagues alike. Men, women, children. Races and religions. Military and civilian. Haves and have nots. This community and the one across the border. I am human … and so are you. We are human and we’re all in this together.

Maybe it’s time to spread a little more of that humanity around. Probably it’s even past time. It’s never too late for a kindness, though, and now’s as good a time as any to bring such thoughts right smack to the forefront of my consciousness.

As the only humans living here, it’s our responsibility to make the world a better place. Each of us. Your world. My world. Our world. The world we all live in. The world we raise our children in.

The world I’m about to teach my students in.

What do I want those children to know about being human? How do I live humanity out in my own life? In what ways can I be more giving? Who needs my help?

And how?

It is human to help: There are as many ways to help as there are people who need help. Think about family, friends, neighbors. New moms and dads. The elderly. Is there a meal you could cook? Laundry to be washed? A resume you could write? A lawn to be mowed? Who could use a babysitter? A ride? A quick trip to the grocery store? A smile?

It is human to give: When I think about the most giving people I know, it’s easy to see what they all have in common. For starters, they’re good listeners.  They’re quick to recognize need when they see it, and they’re first in line to help. And there’s so much to give! As humans, we have so much to offer! Our time. Our respect. Our attention. Friendship. Love. Guidance. Gratitude.

Of course there are many more ways to be human.  I’ve written about the verbs of kindness before and reaching out in humanity is sort of similar – it’s just that humanity is also understanding the commonalities we share, the hand-to-hand-to-hand connections between us, and the knowledge that I see you and honor you … and I hope you see and honor me too.

So I’ll be looking around more consciously human than ever before.  I’ll be more consciously looking to see, honor, help, and give.

And maybe that’s what I want my students to know first: I see you and honor you.  I will help you. From one human to another … I will give you my best.

And we’re all in this together.

 

 

 

 

it’s time

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Got a minute?

I’ve been thinking a lot about time. (Because I’m about to have a lot less of it wide-open to my whim … and much more of it scheduled and spoken for.)

Think of  verbs associated with time:  manage, save, spend, use. We make time for this, that, and the other. Fit people and appointments into our schedule. If we’re not multi-tasking, we’re doing one thing at a time. We waste time, fritter it away, and wish we had more. In any daily life, there’s a time to rise, time to work, and maybe a little play time if we’re lucky. And thankfully, at the end of the day, there’s bedtime.

And all of the time … I’m trying to find time.

As though time hides somewhere out of sight. And maybe it does. But maybe all I really need is a moment. A conscious moment. In the present. Here. Now.

Give me a minute and I can restore a bit of order to the kitchen counter.  Give me another, and I can pluck a flower from the garden out back to brighten the table. In a minute’s time I can brew a cup of coffee or tea. I can sit on the porch and catch my breath. Or make that call to the dentist I’ve been planning to make – when I get a minute.

Just a moment ago, I spread some lotion on my dry hands and a bit of balm across my lips. In the minute after that, I remembered to take my vitamins and drank a full eight ounces of water. Sixty seconds of self-care. Easy to do … and it only takes a minute.

I’d rather life be less time-management and more time-enjoyment.

Time waits for no one and never stands still, but I can slow it down a bit when I live a little more intentionally.

More aware of the minutes, and savoring each – one at a time.

 

today

About 14 hours will pass from the time I leave home this morning until I return much later tonight. And as I’m about to start walking the thousands of steps I’ll walk in this day, I find myself wondering how I’ll be changed by the time I return.

So much of life changes slowly, too slowly almost to recognize any change as it’s happening.  But I wonder if I focus on the noticing of the steps, minutes, and hours in this day, I’ll be able to observe more closely the subtleties of a life — my life.

Because sometimes, of course, life change is more dramatic, sudden, and infinitely more unpredictable. According to the Ecology Global Network, 210,000 people will be born in the 14 hours I’m away from home and 88,424 will die. Beginnings and endings. And every bit of living in beween.

In the 24 hour revolution of this single day, the earth journeys 1/365 of its way around the sun.

And we’re all along for the ride.

Day up to down, wake to sleep, we’ll live the day we’ve been given. We’ll speak, daydream, smile, share, hug, read, write  and maybe pray.

Hopefully, we’ll listen – maybe even more than we speak. The people in our lives have a lot to say.

We’ll worry, debate, and weigh our options. We’ll answer and ask questions. We’ll plan, opt-in or out, and make decisions.  We’ll talk, text, email, and call.

We’ll think. We all have a lot on our minds.

Some of the day’s 24 hours are scheduled. If we’re lucky, we choose how we spend the rest. We’ll eat, drink, sleep – some soundly, some restlessly. Maybe we’ll spend the day inside. Or out. We’ll exercise or not. Adventure or stay home.

Come what may, we’ll find our way.

The world’s out there waiting for me … and you, too. Ler’s walk out into it – arms wide open and willing to change and be changed.

One thing’s for sure: no other day in your life will be lived exactly like today.

life lessons: at the far end of mothering

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I almost never see a dandelion patch without thinking of a little child – student or son – arm outstretched with a loving fistful of droopy, yellow dandelions for me. And since it’s been awhile since I’ve received one, I’m caught a little surprised at how nostalgic I feel about the prolific yellow bane of our backyard.

There are scads of books on mothering and parenting and raising children.  How-to tomes. What to expect, what to avoid, how to be hands-free and all that. Maybe mothering today’s a bit more complicated.  Or so it’s probably always been to anyone who’s living it.

Personally, I’m at the far end of the mothering spectrum. And I’ve found few books to guide me. There’s a few about boomerang kids, but not much else beyond transitioning through the teen years and we’re past that too. And as far as flying objects go, I’m not much worried about boomerangs and more concerned with balloons.

I’ve had a whole handful of four, beautiful, bright, helium-filled, boy balloons and one-by-one each string loosens from my grasp. One day soon, the final of the four will lift, floating off free. And away from me. As should be. After all, independent, self-sufficient, productive citizens are the end-zone goal.

It’s just that when it comes to expecting … no one ever talks about what to expect at this point in the child-raising timeline. Saying goodbye is  not something you think about as you rock your infant, chase after your toddler, or sit across from your child’s teacher at a parent conference. Honestly, raising children is about as in the moment as it gets. Who has time or energy to think about the future when the here and now is so very consuming.

Truth is, the little dickens start leaving and living their own lives from the very first defiant, No! They have thoughts, dreams, and ideas of their own, and sooner or later – you’re in the way. You know it’s coming, but somehow you don’t expect it. Each milestone stands on its own, a point on the timeline toward departure. And once that last balloon wrests itself free, you watch it float skyward and wonder whatever in the world you’ll do next.

It’s been a wild ride couple of decades through each age and stage, but no fair lasts forever. Near as I can figure out, mothering young adults feels no less puzzling than the first years did. It’s another stage, another question mark in the life-long series I signed up for. I’m guessing I’ll be finding my own way just as my children find theirs – each of us simultaneously starting a new stage of life, on our own – together.