Friday, February 26, 2021

Why I Hike

     Three years! Three years ago on this day I had my back surgery. It changed my life.


      Three years may have passed but I can distinctly remember the pain, the inability to move, curling up in a ball, the attempts at relief, the feelings of isolation, the fear, how the nerves screamed out any time I took a step or tried to move. I remember the hours of physical therapy, traction, my saving grace, the reason I was able to gain the strength to go to work. It was a battle those months leading up to surgery. There were many things I could not do for myself. There were things I could not do for my family. I remember. 

    The decision for surgery did not come easily. While the majority of those months were one step at a time and pain filled, I was seeing improvement at times. My diet changes had improved the inflammation. The therapy had allowed me to get up and go to work. The meds took off the edge, most days. Even so, every day was a struggle and as the days passed it was clear that this was not how I wanted to live my life. 

Some people ask me why I hike. It's complicated. The simplified answer is because I can. After my surgery, I vowed to never take my mobility for granted ever again. I decided to live life to the fullest. When an opportunity arises, I seize it. Europe? Absolutely. Those feelings of being trapped, unable to move. I could barely make it from the bed to the bathroom most days. So when offered to cross the ocean and explore, it was one that I could not turn down. Travel I must. It launched a new kind of exploration for me. When my daughter took a fascination with Broadway and musicals, we had to go. We had to see as many shows as we could. (Glad we did! We miss theatre.) There are things that I have done in the last 3 years that I probably would have found excuses for prior to my surgery. I'm frugal. I'm practical. I am still those things but they will no longer stand in my way of an adventure. Another big contributor to my not taking life for granted, is the loss of my sister in law. Cancer took her far too early, and it solidified in my heart and mind that we are not promised tomorrow. We must live today. So I do. I hike! I get outdoors! I say yes to nature and exploring the world. I seize the day. I marvel at each sunrise for it is a new day. I cherish each setting sun as it is another reminder of a day well lived. I find beauty in the smallest of things, for I don't want to take anything for granted. 

Today marks the anniversary of a surgery. But for me it is far more than that. It is the anniversary of getting my life back and putting me on the path of adventure. For that I am very grateful!

Friday, February 05, 2021

Trail Support

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost

    A younger me would have sworn that this quote belonged to my father, as he quoted it often. I was born into a family that loved the outdoors. From an early age I was immersed in camping and hiking trips. If urban legend is true, I went on my first camping trip when I was a week old. I remember jumping over and playing in creeks, looking up at the night sky, trudging up hills and over yonder. I climbed trees. I could tell the time by the sun. I knew how to use a compass and identify animals by the tracks. Both of my parents appreciate nature, but it was my dad that taught me many of these skills. He was a Boy Scout leader back in the day, and an adventure at heart. His passion and knowledge seeped out of him and made its way into my little heart and mind. 

    As time has passed, I find myself still a lover of nature, an adventure and explore. This year, I have challenged myself to hike 1,000 miles and spend 1,000 hours outdoors. This means spending  significant amount of time both outdoors and on the trails. 

    Sometimes, I have hiking partners. Sometimes, I go it alone. But never truly alone. You see my dad, while no longer hitting the trail, he is still with me. He is my virtual hiking partner. My support. My lifeline should an emergency occur. How? Thanks to Google location sharing. Whenever I go somewhere new or far away, I share my location with my dad. He then tracks me throughout the day. I will get texts, "Stop for lunch?" He knows because I have stopped moving. As long as I keep moving, or keep checking in, he knows I am on track. If I stop moving, he checks in. If I go AWOL, he takes note. If I don't finish a trail in the time expected, he gives me a call. My dad is pretty awesome!

    Sometimes, I know the reception will be crappy and that the signal won't be reliable. If this is the case, I give him the itinerary with the intentions to check in as soon as service is available. This works. He is calm and can pretty well sense my next moves, so it works. 

    We have done well, my trusty virtual support and I, except for that one time I lost my keys in the National Forest in the UP. Well, to be far, we both did well, I just sent him into alert. Here is the full story because a picture and small caption do not do justice to the happenings of that day. 

    This particular day, I was not traveling alone but with my 19 year old son. We were on a tour of waterfalls in Michigan's upper peninsula. For most of the day we had  good cell service and dad was able to keep good tabs on us. Then Google lied to us. Instead of reading the waterfall book in the back seat, we decided to follow Google to our next destination. Mistake number one. Then we found ourselves on a two track. Going over a flowing stream, a mogul, and a few decent crevices. Mistake number two. Then we found ourselves next to the beaver dam, we inspected to see if we could make it in the Jeep and determined no, that would be unwise. Wise choice number one.

     We parked the Jeep and decided to traverse the remaining mile or so to the falls by foot. It was at this point that our Google location for the falls got deleted from the phone, mistake number three. We picked up using AllTrails, and started recording the hike, wise choice number two. Off we went on an obscure path, where probably a week prior another human had gone before us. I named the footprints, "Our Human," and tried to follow them carefully to avoid the deeper drifts. On we went, over a mile. Then a blip of service as the notifications dinged. I was able to at least get the falls back in view on Google, but it was unclear how the path connected, so on we went, with an updated distance to the falls. As we continued the number got larger instead of smaller, our human was not on the path to the falls. Bummer! We had a decision to make, make our own difficult way through the woods, or turn back. We decided to turn back. It wasn't worth the uncertainty or the risk. Wise choice number three. We turned around, and had THE BEST TRAIL MIX there is as a moral boost. Wise choice number four.

    Then I had to pee. I weighed the urgency of the matter and determined that it was desperate enough to pee in the woods. So I unstrapped the snow pants, hiked up the coat, dropped all three layers of bottoms and did just that, while my son waited up trail for me to finish. His resting spot was a nice downed log, so I joined back up with him there and handed over my coat so I could try and readjust my snow pants. This peeing in the woods in the winter is not an easy task for a lady. Once I had everything back in place, he made me stop and listen. Quickly I located the woodpecker that was tapping away at a nearby tree, oblivious to my clothing woes. Then we were back on our way. When we got to an intersection in the path we decided to take it to the left to see if that would get us to the waterfall. Sadly it did not. So once again we were on our way back to the Jeep. As we neared the Jeep our hunger set in and we decided it was time for some lunch. I ripped off a huge chunk of bread from the loaf in the Jeep.

     I started to get around my other food items when I decided I should probably turn on the Jeep to defrost the window. Except I couldn't find my key. I started patting down every inch of my body, checking and rechecking pockets. Nothing. No keys! Ah! I was in the middle of NOWHERE! In a national forest! On a remote two track and my keys were lost. Gone. Somewhere in the woods. Thankfully we had stayed on a pretty straight track. I volunteered as tribute and we quickly drew up a plan. I would retrace our steps. It should take me less than an hour to get to the two locations most likely to have the keys. My bathroom spot and the woodpecker spot as they were when I was fussing with clothes and had the highest probability of falling out. We planned for my boy to stay at the vehicle and only come looking for me after an hour. I also relayed my plan to make arrows at the intersection so he would know which way I went and at what time. Wise choice number five.

    Off I went at a fast pace as I was now racing daylight. Thankfully the ground was a solid white making for an easy contrast for my black key remote. I got to the intersection and made my arrow and time stamped it. Then I made it to the spot where my phone dinged with service. I tried to send a message out to my dad with a picture of our location but it didn't go through. Instead, the phone rang seconds later. It was Dad. "Everything good?" Me: "No. We have an issue. Repeat we have an issue." Dad-"Wait, things aren't good, what's going on?" Me- "We lost our keys to the Jeep in the national forest." Then the phone connection is lost. Ah! Such is remote locations and spotty cell service. I keep moving on, in need of finding the keys, when he calls back. Dad- "Alright, what is going on? Me- "We lost our keys. I am on a two track that is called 399 to the best of my knowledge It is next to a beaver dam." Dad- "Hold on a second, you keep going in and out." So I repeat and the call is dropped. Now Dad starts trying to figure out where I am and weighing his options on getting us help if needed.  I push on. I get to the woodpecker spot. No keys. I dig through the snow a bit, just to be sure. I time stamp my arrival to the spot. Then my bathroom spot. Sweet hallelujah! There they were. They had dropped out of my pocket when I pulled up my pants and I failed to look around before meeting back up with my boy. My mistake, what number is that? But the keys were found and we were going to survive. 

    I may have failed to mention that people get lost in the woods in the UP in winter and it can take weeks to get rescued. Two sisters once survived on Cheetos and Girl scout cookies for 13 days until they were found. We thought about these two ladies when we were without our keys. My son decided in my absence to ration food and skip the extra lunch he had planned. Just in case. He also thought of all the ways we could die or be found. Fun stuff! But we did not die. We did not need to be rescued. The keys were found. Once I had my blip of service again I called dad to let him know all was well again. Much to his relief. Then I sped my way back to the Jeep to show the good news to my son. The funny thing, right after I found the keys, the sky opened up and the sun was shining  even the heavens rejoiced. 

    We left that two track behind and were onward to our next adventure. 

    So all that to say, my dad is the best! And even if he no longer joins me on the trail, I am so thankful he still travels with me, in my head with his years of wisdom, in my heart with mutual love, and remotely with his support. I will keep hitting those trails. I will keep taking the path less traveled. Because of you, Dad! I love you!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Dear Daughter as You Travel

1. Go with eyes wide open. You are going to see things you have never seen before. Ornate architecture, with the most intricate designs. Take a moment to really see. Marvel at the craftsmanship! Appreciate the colors. The details. Let them resonant with your soul. Then after you have truly saw it, snap a picture.  Use your artistic eye to capture the essence of that moment. It's more than a building, or a cathedral, or a sculpture, or a landscape; find it's story. Retell it.

2. Try local. Eat the food. Find out what makes that location special  and taste it.  Fish and chips in the UK, croissants in Paris, chocolate in Switzerland, spaetzle in Germany, whatever it may be. There are so many new things to try. Have courage!  You may be skeptical, that's okay, try it anyway. No one demands that you love it, but you may. Also don't underestimate a good picnic. A baguette and cheese with a new flavor of crisps might be what you remember most from a new spot.

3. You really only need 6 hours of sleep each day as you travel. Sleep will come. It may be short but it will be sweet. You have so much to experience every day. I've seen your itinerary and it is packed full. Make the most of it. Try not to think of how tired you are. Push through. Keep your eyes open. If you really need a power nap, take one. Just remember, these 16 days will go fast. Every minute is an opportunity, seize it.

4. It's not worth it to complain. For the overall enjoyment of your trip and the goodness of the group, let the difficulties go. Yes, people will annoy you. Be kind anyway. Yes, you will be exhausted and your feet will hurt. Take your next step anyway. You may have a different agenda, be willing to compromise. Whenever you find yourself shifting toward the negative, stop yourself and find something, anything to be grateful for in that moment.

5. Talk to the locals! Even a two minute conversation can enhance your experience. Ask questions. Go past your comfort zone. If someone does or says something that you find meaningful, ask their name. Remember them. Journal it.

6. Get to know your fellow travelers. You are sharing this incredible journey with others. Find out what you have in common but more importantly, discover what makes you each different and unique. Ask what they thought of your shared experience. Notice things. If someone seems lonely, talk to them. If someone seems homesick, share a picture of your puppy. Have empathy. This is a new thing for most of you and while it is and will be amazing, someone may have anxiety or fears. Be a friend. Be kind. Be you.

7. Know your limits. As an introvert, you are going to be pushed into socialization around the clock. If you need solitude, find it. Take a minute with your headphones in to tune out all the chaos, just don't stay there. Recharge then reengage.

8. Journal! Of course I want you to share all your experiences with us back home. I found Facebook to be a wonderful way to do that but it also had many benefits to me as well.  I also want you to document this trip in your own way too. You will want to remember everything you experienced. The stories told. The people you met. The food you tried. The things you saw. How you felt in each place. Write it down. Make it your own, but do it. And if you get a chance, we really would love a Facebook post and pictures from time to time.

9. Travel smart! You are an intelligent young woman. I have every confidence you will use common sense and be safe. Tuck away your passport and cash. Be aware of your surroundings.  Don't talk to the men on the stairs of Sacre De Couer. They are hustlers, they will want to put a bracelet on you. In this instances, be firm, be confident, be rude in necessary. In general, be kind, but if someone is putting you in danger or making you uncomfortable, your safety comes first.

10. Communicate! Have a plan and stick to the plan. If your group is meeting up at a certain time, be there. If there is something you are interested in doing, let someone know. This trip is what you make of it, speak up.

11. Sing your heart out! When you are standing in those cathedrals and your voices blend and reverberate off those high ceilings, close your eyes and feel it. I get tears just thinking of the beautiful music you are going to make. Sing baby girl. Let that beautiful voice of yours find its way into the rafters. Let your story be left in the timbers of those magnificent buildings.

You are loved! I am so proud of you. You are blessed. You are a world traveler. Ever growing.
I am praying for you every step of the way. Be safe sweets. Have fun!


Saturday, January 07, 2017

Is It Even Worth It?

This week has been rough! So many thoughts and feelings are swirling around my mind. I recognize that in my life, I have been best able to work through these kind of moments if I put words to those thoughts and feelings. It is freeing for me, it is my inexpensive therapy. It is usually when I have my epiphanies and ah-has.

After a refreshing Winter Break, I returned to work, joyous, energized, and ready. Seriously, like ear to ear smile, happy. I love what I do as an Interventionist. I feel like I make a real difference in kiddos lives. I build deep meaningful relationships. I get to help struggling kids reach their potential. I encourage them to grow and bloom. I get lots of hugs. I see progress; physical, emotional and academic daily.

Yet shortly into the day our team had a meeting and found out that everything is changing. I can't really go into details but just trust me when I say my world was turned upside down and shaken. And at first I was taking it in stride and optimistic. Then as my analytical mind went to work, that shifted. I began to realize all the things affected. The way my mind works, I quick scan all potential results. I see cause and effect very clearly. I usually recognize details often overlooked because of this. So I question everything. When I find it to be noteworthy, I express those things to those around me. Which I did in both the meeting and one on one. I have an amazing boss, don't be jealous but I do. I was able to speak my heart on how I was feeling and potential concerns that I had. I was heard. Yet as the day progressed the finality of it all was evident. My mind could grasp hold of the big picture. I could support why the change was being initiated. I could also see the ripple effects. I could see the strain on co-workers faces. I felt it. I know they felt it. When I finally at the end of the day, after an all staff meeting gave that final hit to the gut, I made my way to my car. Where the tears started to fall and did not stop falling. That night I shed more tears than I could count as the grief process kicked in.  I was honest to goodness grieving. The loss of relationship with kids I have been servicing. I felt a loss of space. A loss of identity. A break of trust. Feeling like I was abandoning fellow teachers and my kids. This last point was a huge trigger. Abandonment. It is real. While I realize it is not my doing to no longer be servicing some of my kids, I know there will be disappointment. And for some of my kids that have been abandoned already in this world, be it death or imprisonment of a loved one, neglect or just lifes flows, the hurt is real in these kids lives. To be another notch in that hurt, stung deeply. To the point of lost sleep and shed tears.

 When I got to work the following day, I thought I was going to be okay. But just a few words in the lounge and it was evident, I was not okay. I had to get out and as I did I bumped into a dean immediately followed by our principal. "Is everything okay?" and before she could even finish the words, she saw the tears and sobbing which had started, it was evident, NO EVERYTHING IS NOT OKAY. I was quickly ushered into my bosses office, which was conveniently located right next door. I spent the next 15 minutes sobbing and pouring out my heart. My grief. My frustration. My feelings over the loss of my space. My rationals. My understanding. A plea. Slowly the tears stopped. Yet again I was heard. By both my immediate boss and the principal. For which I am thankful. I know not everyone gets opportunities like that. Not that bawling your eyes out is a super becoming experience to have with your co-workers and leadership, but I'll take it. I was able to hear some of their perspective. My boss spoke some truths about me. She reminded me that I am amazing and I can and will thrive wherever I am planted. Also that my passion is one of my strengths and in cases like this, my weakness. I do care  and I care deeply. This is one of the things that makes me a great educator. These words of encouragement were enough for me to take a deep breath, dry my eyes and get on with my day. I was able to talk briefly with my fellow teachers that I felt like I was abandoning and that helped with that issue. Miraculously, I was able to make it through the day, kicking butt on bench marking.

Wednesday and Thursday passed. I was going to make it through. I was sad but functioning. In the workplace, I was driving myself with the task at hand, getting it done. Whisperings in the hallway, validate what I am feeling. I'm not the only one. The stress and the strain is there. I am watching some of my coworkers slip into depression. I find myself heading there too.
Friday, whispers find words and discontentment. During the day, I plug away, testing. The kids none the wiser to the anger that is rising. By dismissal, the words 'Is it even worth it?' are playing on repeat. And I don't know if it is.

When I got home, I slipped into bed. Depression had arrived. I laid there for four hours, not moving.  I had spoke with hubby and he gave me his blessing to give my notice if that is what I felt best. In all honesty, I don't do my job for the income. I would do it for free. In fact, I have done this and more as a home educator, for free. So the income is just icing for me. But at what point does money not matter and you have to honestly ask yourself, is it even worth it. It was quickly becoming that moment. I was ready to give notice, yet I did not want to act rashly. I knew I needed to give myself time to process it all. I knew I needed to wrestle it out with Jesus. I knew I was slipping into darkness so I reached out and solicited encouragement from my people.

As I laid there I let my mind do what it does. I let it scan. It took inventory. I looked at job postings, there are some promising ones. I reflected on relationships, past and present within my school. All the while my son is encouraging me to come home, so that I can homeschool him again. And then the encouragement starts pouring in. Kind words. Perspectives. Condolences. Bible verses. Job leads. Things that made me smile. I would not get out of bed, but I was smiling. I'll take it. Some of them caused me to reflect even deeper on different aspects. Things from my past life that I miss. Maybe I should homeschool the boy. What would that look like? What is best? ....some checked in via PM and another called me. Thank you! All part of the processing. Validating. The comments kept pouring in. It made me so very grateful for my village. It made me think of each person's personalities, their gifts, their talents, some I was able to recall experiences that individuals were able to persevere through, some it triggered past conversations.

Perseverance. It just so happens to be the moral focus for the month of January in our school. Part of me was flippant in my response. Give my notice and take that perseverance. I'm out. And yet. I am not one to give up. My anthem, yes I have an anthem, is I Won't Give Up. Excuse me for a sec as I go retrieve this from My Music. I know that it wasn't originally written or performed by the Royce Brothers, but that is the version that is now playing on my phone. When I first accepted this job, this song rose quickly as a favorite. Especially these lyrics:
🎶I don't wanna be someone who walks away so easily
I'm here to stay and make the difference that I can make
Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use
The tools and gifts we got, yeah, we got a lot at stake
And in the end, you're still my friend at least we did intend
For us to work we didn't break, we didn't burn
We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in
I had to learn what I've got, and what I'm not, and who I am

I won't give up on us🎶

It became my anthem. Whenever I faced a difficult child. I would sing this song in my heart. I made a commitment to not give up on these kids. Dang it! Even listening to it now, I know. I don't give up. I have learned what I've got, what I'm not and who I am. I've got mad skills when it comes to working with kids. I am not perfect. I have my limitations and frustrations. I am not a quitter. I am an educator. I am professional. I am a champion to the forgotten and lost. I am a defender of what is right. I am a speaker of truth. I am a difference maker.
Can I persevere?

And then past conversations. I clearly recall the moment God spoke to me that I was to apply for this job. Clearer still that he called me there. And I can recall in conversation with a particularly awesome mentor that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he called me there and that is where I would stay until he called me out. He has equipped me for this exact work and place. He prepared me for the messiness of kids broken hearts. He did not prepare me for the messiness of corporation, maybe that is a lesson for now. So this dear mentor posts a comment and it is SPOT ON. And I know.
I am not to shrink back. I am to have faith and persevere. I am to lift my hands to the heaven and ask Him to guide me. I am to strive for peace. I am to stay.

I fell asleep to those thoughts. I awoke in those thoughts. So again the question, is it even worth it?

Yes! Yes! Yes! These kids are worth it alone. He who called me there will be faithful to see me through. The hugs are worth it. Making a difference is worth it. Having my name called out with joy and expectation is worth it. Seeing beauty rise up out of the ashes is worth it. Seeing test scores rise, while not an end all be all, it is gratifying and worth it. Each name. Each face. Each story. Each letter learned. Each story read. Each struggle that ends in overcoming. Yes! Yes! Yes! It is worth it.

Is the corporate hogwash worth it? Um, no! But that is not why I am there. So I will make my way through all of that and continue to be a voice for what is right and good. Who knows, maybe my voice will be heard and we will all be the better because of it.

Lastly, as I was concluding this writing a friend shared this song with me and it is perfect! Bringing me back to pure joy! It is going to be alright!

Thanks everyone who prayed me through this week! I love you! My village is awesome. You too make life worth living. You make me smile. You make me ponder. You make me better! XXXOO

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Hajurbaa in the Window

He sits there gazing out. Sometimes smiling, sometimes nodding his head or raising his hand in greeting to whomever passes by. He is Hajarbaa, my Nepali Father/Grandpa, sitting by the window.

In his time he has seen many things. Experienced life from many places and perspectives. He has lived in three countries. Bhutan, the country of his birth, where he farmed, married and started his family. Nepal, the place of refuge, where his family fled after he was persecuted in his homeland. The United States, the land where his family has settled and the place where they now call home. After six years in Michigan, Hajarbaa made the decision to move to Pennsylvania to be closer to his daughters. It was not a decision that was made lightly as he left other loved ones behind. Even so, on a sunny day in February they moved, my Nepali family. Six in total.

I have missed them dearly. Phone calls are nice but I wanted more. I longed for more. I needed to see for myself. Where are they living? Are they happy? Is Hajarbaa and Hajurama happy? Are they surrounded by a community that will care for them? Will they have a piece of land to grow a garden? So for spring break we decided to hop in a car, drive the 9 hours to their new home and visit. While our time was short it was filled with many happy moments. Memories I will cherish. Answers to my questions. They have a cute home. They are happy, missing Michigan and those they left behind but also settling in and making a go of their new environment. Hajarbaa and Hajurama are definitely happy. They are surrounded by a beautiful community. While the community garden is full and there were no spots available (we drove by and he will register next year) my Nepali brother will help his sister in her garden. There will be potatoes, tomatoes, African eggplant, beans, spinach, mustard and more. This makes my heart happy.

As our time was drawing to an end, others were laughing and enjoying charpati in the kitchen, I slipped into Hajurbaa's room where he sat looking out the window. He smiled at me as I entered and pat the bed for me to sit with him. Hajurbaa speaks only Nepali but he knows exactly what words I understand. He is a man of few words, but his few words are purposeful. I asked him if he was happy in Pennsylvania. He smiled and then spoke. He spoke simply to make sure I understood and this is what he told me. I sit in the window and I look out. From the window I can see my second daughter's home. Nearby is my youngest daughter's home. I am with my son. I sit and watch the people. I watch as the train goes by. I sit in the sunshine as the sun rises and falls each day. I asked again if Pennsylvania was good. He said, "Romro cha." meaning good. "family good." His heart knew what it needed and that was to be near his daughters. Sitting in a sunny window watching as those he loves come and go each day. Watching. Loving. Sharing family moments. Before I left he smiled at me and blessed my travel home. Until we meet again. I will always cherish this sweet moment alone with grandpa. I know now that he is exactly where he needs to be in this season of his life. It brings me happiness knowing he has found his place, be it sitting in the window and that he is happy.

As we drove away, Hajurbaa and Hajurama were both there, smiling and waving at the window.  The rest of the family on the porch sending us off. I now have family in Pennsylvania. A place I will always be welcome. A place I will visit often. I am grateful.

Dhanyabad my Nepali family! I love you! I miss you! See you soon!
Your Nepali sister/daughter,

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Number Talks

Alright everyone a little mental math for you: multiply 49 x 5

This is the question I posed to a few unsuspecting employees while my daughter was in music lessons. I have a pretty good bantering relationship with two of them so I asked them to humor me for a second and play along. Requesting that once they had the answer to give me a thumbs up.

Within seconds, one guy, M, flashed his thumb high and proud. A few seconds later J gave me his thumbs up. E stood there stratching his head, thinking about it but not really getting anywhere. While I waited patiently on E, a fourth employee entered the scene and I asked him the question as well. To which he gave an honest 2 seconds to it and then walked away saying, "I'm out!"

I let E struggle for a little while longer and when he gave a shrug I turned my attention to M. "How did you get your answer?"
M: "I took 40 and multiplied it by 5 and then 9 x 5 and then added it together."
Me: "Awesome! J, how about you? Did you do have a different strategy?"
J: "Yeah, I made the 49 a 50; Multiplying 50 x 5 and then subtracting 5."
E: "Why didn't I think of that!"
M: "Ah, I would not have seen it that way, cool."
Me: "I love that you both got the answer but did it different ways."

What transpired from that was a cool conversation about Math. M shared with us a strategy he has for squaring two digit numbers. Which he modeled and we discussed. K came back on the scene and I asked him what had happened to him in his earlier life that made him give up on math. He said, he was abused by three or fourth math teachers along the way and that has affected him ever since. Insert my huge sad teacher smile. To which he replied, I did not have cool, relevant math teachers like the parents we see in here. Mine were old and mean.
By now E had caught up with the rest of us and leaned over to the guys. "The answer was 245, wasn't it?" They nodded yes and encouraged him. E said, "I used J's strategy. In school I would have been the kid that copied off someone else. But that wasn't an option today."

The conversation continued on what Math looked like for each of us growing up.

At some point other parents joined us and one dad asked, "Are you guys talking about that NEW MATH?"

Me:"Common Core? I actually like Common Core! It is teaching our kids the why of Math."
The consensus in the room was that parents did not know how to help their kids with their homework. One mom leaned in and asked for my number.

Less than a year into teaching Math at the public school and I can say that I truly do like Common Core Math. It teaches kids the WHY. It breaks down multiple strategies and then let's you decide which way is best for you. I understand that entering into it at 5th grade or later is frustrating. To fully appreciate it I think you need to start it from the beginning as it builds, piece by piece.

My kids entered into Common Core pretty late in their academic lives, half way through sixth for my daughter and the end of seventh for my son. While they were both in the higher Math class this year, they both struggled out of the gate. They are gaining ground now. They were not used to defending their answers. There were gaps that are filling in. I am super thankful their Math teacher is cool, relevant, and patient! 

The book I am currently reading, Number Talks is helping me to build these conversations with my students. My goal is to help my students love math, understand it, defend it and use it appropriately. I want my kids to have the tools to be successful now and in the future. These conversations start now, with enthusiasm. ;)

Quick: anybody know the answer to 70-37, more importantly how did you get it?

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Snow Day Intentions vs Reality

Having two official snow days in the books I realized a few things during my time off.
1. My best intentions to do nothing, while sounds great, is not really a reality when you have one or more of the following; children, a house, an appetite or social/moral obligations.
2. A mere watch of a video on Youtube can send you down a long and powerful thought train.

My intentions for Thursday were to curl up with a new book and read it cover to cover. The night before I had finished off a book, so it seemed completely conceivable that I could stay in my jammies and read the day away. It sounded lovely. I picked up the book and read chapter one. After the first chapter, I did a quick calculation and figured it would take approximately 8 hours to read the whole thing. Dang! That was longer than I originally expected. Maybe I better eat breakfast first. And check my email. And sort the laundry. Oh and then do some laundry. And play a couple games on my phone. Oooh look, there is Facebook. Ah, a video. I should watch that. So I did.

First, let me say I am a sucker for real life stories. If you were to write your life story, I would read it. If you were to video yourself sharing your struggles and triumphs, I would watch it. I would because I love learning from my fellow man. So here was this video with a post stating, "Statistically, I am supposed to be dead, in jail, or homeless. So what happened? ONE. CARING. ADULT."
If you have not already watched it, you should. Click on the link below and do yourself a favor and watch it. Yes, I know it is 16 minutes and 42 seconds long. Watch it anyway.

In it the speaker, Josh Shipp, shares about his time in the foster care system. His intentional process and plan to get himself kicked out of his foster homes. In which he successfully did, time after time, until he ended up in the home of Rodney and his wife. Now I don't want to spoil it, you need to watch the video for yourself.

It made me think of my kiddos at work. I am working with the at-risk and struggling students. My kids have stories that make you shudder and some that make you cry. The things I have heard in my short time at the school, well quite honestly, it sends me to my knees. Sometimes I would really like to sit down with the "adult" in their lives and have a little heart to heart. "Do you not know your influence?" "Do you not know there is a better way?" "Do you know Jesus? Let me introduce you to Him." "Do you know where your child learned their interesting "vocabulary?" "Have you ever heard of Celebrate Recovery? Any hurt, habit or hang-up!"  "What is life like for you? Do you have anyone supporting you?"

Because the reality is, many of my kiddos parents are also from broken homes. They are also struggling. They themselves are at-risk. They too need one caring adult in their lives.

So around and around my thoughts bounce. Thinking through the kids who intentionally push, prod and provoke. What is their motivation? For Josh, he was scared, confused and hurt by the things happening to him and around him. One of the lines that stuck for me, "What kids do not talk out, they act out." Kids are acting out.

Then there were Rodney's words, "We don't see you as a problem. We see you as an opportunity." How I can relate to Rodney's words. I don't see my kids as a problem. I see the opportunity. The possibilities. I see these kids with bright futures. Every day I show up at their table, I have the opportunity to make a difference in their lives. Beyond math facts and strategies, I am an adult that truly cares about each one of my students. So I smile. I hug. I encourage. I teach. We talk through moral characters. We talk about perseverance. We talk about respect. We talk about self-control.
Opportunities. I look them in their eyes. I listen.

Something I am doing is working. I have seen tremendous growth in the last couple weeks. I have earned their trust and I am seeing results. In test scores, yes. But more importantly, in how they respond at the table. Kids that used to tear down, encouraging. Kids that used to give up, keep trying and because they kept at it, master a concept. Kids that used to throw around furniture for attention, sit respectfully (not yet quietly) and excitedly work on whatever I put in front of them. I see eager faces. I see compassion. I get hugs, lots of hugs. One of the things I emphasis with my groups is struggling is okay. Frustration is okay. How we respond to the struggle and the frustration is up to us. We can act out or we can ask for help. I let them know I am there to help. I am there to be a caring adult in their lives. I believe in them.

God knows I had people in my life that believed in me! My parents for one. But beyond that, I had a few amazing teachers. People that at just the right moment spoke life into me. Because the truth is, I could have been a statistic. In some regards I was a statistic. I relate more to my students than most of my coworkers. I was that girl that went to school with her hair unkempt in elementary. I was that girl rushing after boys in middle and high school. I made choices. Others forced their choices upon me. I fell into wrong circles. By the grace of God I fell into the right ones. I have a history. One that makes me know without a shadow of a doubt, that each child is worth it. There is value in every child. That hidden among the arguing, complaining, and obstinance, is a life that can do marvelous and beautiful things. I know because I am that child. I see myself in the kids that I serve and where others see the behaviors and failures, I see the opportunity and potential.

See what happens when you watch a video? It requires you to respond. At least that video did. It made me put down the book. After shoveling the drive and spending time with my own kids, I never did pick the book back up. Instead I picked up a better understanding and appreciation.

Plus there was always, Friday's Snow Day... a day to binge watch the new Fuller House series.

It was my full intention, except life happened. I watched the first six episodes. Then, I ate tacos and  found myself at the Magnusson Hotel with the Homeless Angels . Three generations of my family putting away winter coats and relocating furniture; making space for new donations. Running to the store to pick up 2XL men's underwear because there was a man in need and no clean underwear to give him.  Making a difference; one smile, hug, moment, donation at a time.

My book is still resting on my end table.
I did not do it in one sitting but I did finish the Fuller House season one.
My intentions ended up different than my reality. And for this I am grateful.

Here's the video:

Every Kid is ONE Caring Adult Away From Being a Success Story
Statistically, I am supposed to be dead, in jail, or homeless. So what happened? ONE. CARING. ADULT.More videos & resources at:
Posted by Josh Shipp on Monday, February 8, 2016

Saturday, February 13, 2016

MTF's Musings of my Mind

I'm not exactly sure why I wait so long between posts but by the time I get back to the blog it appears there are so many thoughts that have been swirling around my mind, ready to get sorted out into coherent thoughts in print. Hold on, in no particular order, these are the most recent musings of my mind.

There are moments at work that I hear the phrase, "It's not my job!" Where someone has been asked to do something that they feel is not really their responsibility. I get it, I do. Yet a part of me doesn't, it is not really my mindset. I am a former home school teacher. As a homeschooler you never have the luxury of something not being your responsibility. The moment you decide to home school you are acutely aware that you are responsible for EVERYTHING! There is no curriculum committee, it is you spending hours upon hours, reviewing all the options. There is no administrative staff; all phone calls, orders, copies, medicine distributing, arrangements, appointments, it's on you. Discipline? The majority of the time it is you making a phone call to the dean of discipline, aka Dad. Yet there are times when it you that deals with it, in the moment. You are the field trip coordinator.  You spend hours prepping and preparing; Calling establishments and organizations, making the magical memories happen. Custodian? Ha! Let's be real, that is you all the way. Data? It is you analyzing your students progress. Deliberating painstakingly, if those curriculum choices, YOU MADE earlier in the year, are effective. Are they meeting needs? Are you seeing growth? Are your students engaged or bored out of their mind? What are the areas of struggle? How can you support each student to be successful? No intervention team, it's you. Then there is the actual act of teaching. The lesson plans. The time instructing. The grading. Repeat. How about the home school community, that we choose to participate in? More lesson plans, teaching a multitude of other kiddos(5-50), in whatever area of (sometimes)expertise or interest you may have.  At the end of the day it boils down to one main truth, success or failure, it comes down to your effort. It is your responsibility! Oh and let's just for a second talk about the pay. There is none, not even a tax deduction. In fact, it is YOU financing the bill of hundreds (possibly thousands) of dollars educating your children at home. So maybe it is just me but after being responsible for everything for ten years, I just assume whatever comes my way at work and embrace it because it is a small fraction of what I was responsible before. No fretting. No worries. Bring it, I got this, I was a home school teacher!

The elderly are beautiful! Today, my children's choir had the privilege of singing at a local nursing home. First, all the children sang for the residents in general care. Then, a smaller group went to the memory retention ward, where the Alzheimer patients were. These residents rarely receive as the head RN put it, entertainment. Immediately, you notice a difference in the cognitive level within this ward. Some have clear looks in their eyes, where others are clouded over, perhaps lost within their own minds. Yet when the children sang, they responded. Their faces brightened. Some tapped their feet, feeling the music. Some smiled. Another, slept through the entire thing. After the children finished singing, they greeted the residents. Speaking with them based on their ability. The church had provided a valentine craft for each resident in the building. The kids used this as an ice breaker to talk with each person they reached out to. They made the valentine for them. It was really rather sweet, watching these kids interact. A small group went off into the wards dining hall to make the craft and connect. I love the connection part of going to the nursing home. Some of the kids are shy but more so they are so open and uninhabited in their interactions with the elderly. The seniors just eat it up. They love having the children there. Each time we go, there are a few resident that make their mark in my mind. Today, it was Ed, Mary, and John. Ed and Mary have been married for nearly 67 years. 8 years ago she was diagnosed with Alzheimers. One year ago she came to the nursing home, every day he comes and visits her. He hasn't missed a day! Talk about the Notebook in living color. So sweet!   John? John was a sweet man that recently turned 102! Yet he looked more like he was in his 70's. I wonder all that he has seen in his life. I wonder what goes on in the mind of each of the residents in the memory ward. In a short amount of time I saw such a contrast of sadness and joy.

Update on my loss of consciousness: the chiropractor was pleasantly surprised that my neck did not show signs of trauma. In fact my neck and spine looked pretty great. Yeah! I went back to work the following Monday, armed with gatorade. It took a few days to get back to 100% but I got there. I am feeling pretty darn good these days. My son however did have a bout of the flu. He slept for a day straight, barely waking to take meds. Knock on wood, Formica, plastic, whatever is nearby, we are all healthy now and hopefully stay that way.

Our school appears to be the only school that has school on Monday. McCuse me! If anyone tries to rub this in, I may throat punch you and tell you Carla sent me. Please don't gloat! ;)

A huge shout out to my daughter, she earned her master badge in the make-up guild tonight. She can now crew head the make-up crew at our local theater. She has worked diligently towards this goal and I am super proud of her.

It is no secret that I love my Nepali family! In one week, some of my dearest friends will be moving to Pennsylvania. They are not just friends, they are family. To say they will be missed, is a huge understatement. I am so thankful for current technology that will allow me to facetime them and stay in touch. Today, I was able to chat with hajur ama and hajur baa on a smart phone. Such reassurance that we have this capability. When I think about the mark this family has made in my life, I tear up. When I think about the fact that they are moving 10 hours away rather than being just down the road, I feel sad. I know we are forever bonded. I know I will be making trips to their new home. I am already plotting when that trip can be made. I really wish I could take the week off so that I could go with them. Instead I will be helping load the U-haul and wishing them well. They are going to be so missed. I don't even want to think about the garden this summer without them. :(

The garden. What is it going to look like this year? With me working full time and mom's commitment to the Homeless Angels, it will probably look differently. Yet essentially carry on all the same. My plan is to do garden registration during Spring break while I have the week off. If weather allows, I hope to do the plotting that week as well. Sadly, this will be without my right hand man.

Without. Thursday, towards the end of my work day I found myself without my phone. I checked all the logical places it could be and it simply wasn't around. When I truly came to grasp this, it was time for dismissal. Not good. My responsibility for dismissal is to gather a group of kids and take them to their bus. I have to do this in a timely matter so I really did not have time to deal with it at that exact moment. As I went to make my first pick-up, I grabbed my daughters iPod and had her bring up the tracking feature to try and locate my phone. It was clear that it was somewhere in the building but I had no idea where and the battery was too low to send out the alarm. So I went about the dismissal process. As soon as all my kiddos were safely on their buses, I checked in to see if I could pinpoint where in the school my phone was. Except it was no longer in the school it was slowly and steadily moving away from the building. Ahhhh! Not cool, this could only mean one thing. A student stole my phone! So not cool! I watched it go...I could clearly see the direction in which it was moving. Do I chase after it? Ahhhh! I still had after school tutoring. What to do? I activated the lost mode, that shows a message on the main screen stating the phone is lost and allows you to add a contact phone number should it be found. I called the police. A little while later, my hubby called the school. He had received a phone call from someone that had my phone. The long short of it, the cousin ratted the guilty party out and it was now in the guardians hands. Phew! Off to tutoring knowing it was at least found. I had an address and a phone number. Hello my darling tutoring kids! After tutoring, I had a decision to make. Go to the address (in a sketchy neighborhood), go to the police station as they had not yet shown up to the school, or call to see if they were willing to meet me somewhere. At this point I did not know who had the phone. I did not feel safe going to the house! I also felt like I needed to follow-up with the initial call to the police. So I decided to go to the local precinct for advise. Only the local precinct apparently doesn't have office hours after 5pm. Ahhhh! They did however have two phones on the wall, a red one for emergencies and a brown one for non-emergencies. I picked up the brown one and spoke with the dispatcher. She found my initial call and transferred my location to the the precinct. She told me an officer would be there at their earliest convenience but they weren't sure how long it would take. Dispatch also advised me, "Do not go pick up the phone. Wait for the officer." Alrighty then! So I waited and waited and waited. We were late for theater. More waiting. After an hour, I picked up the brown phone again. The officer was in route and would be there in approximately 10 minutes. I saw the officer approach the door and then saw her walk back to her patrol car. I had to run after her. She took the report and said she would go retrieve the phone. Phew! She said she would bring it by my house sometime between 9-10pm if she was able to recover it. Yeah! Off to theater, better late than never. At this point I was pretty frustrated over the inconvenience. It was looking like it would all work out though. I came home from theater and decided to read to pass the time. I read and read and read some more. I was about to call it a night when the phone rang. The officer had my phone and was willing to drop it off if I was still up. Yeah! It turns out it was a FIRST GRADER that took my phone! I went from frustrated to disappointed which later turned to sadness. The officer spoke with the child, which I am thankful for. I hope it will be a turning point for this child. But the reality is, as the officer stated, this is probably just the beginning for this child. Perhaps it was a learned behavior from the adults in this child's life or as I believe is more likely, it is a result of neglect in the early years which has caused this young one to hold tight to anything they can get their hands on. This is not this kiddos first time with sticky fingers. They have taken things off peers desks, out of other kids back packs, school supplies and teachers property. My phone was probably the item of greatest value but it is really one item on a list of many. Will the visit from the police make an impact? I hope so. If it does, that afternoon of inconvenience was more than worth it. I pray for this child's sake, that it makes a difference. I am not even angry at this kiddo, just sad. The reality of my job is that not everything is as it seems. I have no idea what my kiddos have survived, what they face, what they have overcome...I must be vigilant and love them exactly where they are.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Hold your loved ones close. Tell them you love them. What you do makes a difference!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Loss of Consciousness

I am choosing to write the following more for myself than anything else.
I don't care if you read it too.
Some inquiring minds may want to know, but really I need to sort it out and document it for medical sake. Why not here?

Yesterday was normal enough. School. Tutoring. Home. The water was heating up on the stove, not yet a boil. I went to the bathroom. As I was leaving the bathroom, I paused and really looked at myself in the mirror. My lips were dry; cracking. I noted that I was probably dehydrated so I picked up the water bottle that was setting on the counter. There was only a couple of ounces left but it sounded like a good idea to finish it off. So I guzzled it down. Mistake number one, instantly I felt this pain in my stomach, it was weird like nothing I have ever felt before. A legitimate pain, for what, from what? From drinking water? It all happened rather quickly as the world blurred and I remember I needed to just brace myself and get through the pain. Kinda like a brain freeze when your drinking a slurpee too fast. The pain hits but it quickly passes. So I braced myself and tried to breathe through it but I felt really dizzy. I must have thought it would be a good idea to go sit down because I took a step, mistake number two.
The next thing I knew I was struggling to open my eyes. My kids were hunched down over me, calling my name. "Mom! Mom!" I caught a glimpse of their faces. "Mom, how many fingers am I holding up?" It was my son and I desperately wanted to respond, but I couldn't put my thoughts together. I would glance but was unable to put together a response. "Mom, how many fingers am I holding up?" I tried to concentrate. I tried to bring the light back into focus. I tried to answer the question. I took a breath and tried to put the pieces together. A few times I tried to say how many fingers there were but it didn't make sense. Why was I on the floor? Oh, yeah the water. The pain in my stomach. "Mom, how many fingers am I holding up?"
Things started clearing up a little. My mind regaining it's senses. "Three." I mumbled.
Relief on their faces. Words expressed I don't remember. I remember feeling like I needed to get up off the floor. To take a look at myself. The desire to put the pieces together. I stood up and stood in front of the mirror. Something was off. What was it? I put my hand to my face and instantly felt the pain. My nose,  ^&*t I must have hit my face as I fell. Then came the blood. Surprisingly, not pouring out of my nose. No not even a dribble. Yet, there it was collecting in the back of my throat. I coughed and spit into the toilet. The brightest red blood. Not good.
I wanted to lie down. I needed to lie down. The kids came and checked on me. What was it? What caused it? Was I hungry? The water was now boiling on the stove, so my daughter said she would make some pasta.
Things seemed so fuzzy. Confusing.
I called my husband, ER would say this was mistake number three as I should have called an ambulance. But in my defense I wasn't really thinking clearly. I remember sounding quiet and weak. He had just arrived back to his warehouse over an hour away after being gone on business for over two weeks. He assured me he was on his way home and asked me to call my mom or dad to have them check on me.
So I called. Dad answered and I tried my best to relay what happened and asked if one of them could come over to check on me because I wasn't sure if I was ok or not. He was sending my mom over. Thankfully they only live a couple miles away.
While I waited for her to arrive I tried to bring things into focus. My bedroom looked blurred around the edges. Like I could focus on one thing but everything around it was gray and black. Not great, I thought. My son has a sign on his door across the hall and I could see it. Even better I could read it. Well, that's good.
More blood. Then I noticed the shaking. Whole body tremors. Was I cold? Not really.
I laid there trying to relax. My daughter brought me a bowl of mac-n-cheese; gluten free. I love that girl. I ate. I winced. The chewing motion made my nose throb. But since I wasn't sure what caused the black out I forced myself to eat. If it was because the water hit my empty stomach then I better get something in my stomach. And my daughter made it. Mom arrived as I ate.
"How are you?" "What happened?" I told her I though I hit my face on the vanity when I passed out. I could see the concern on her face as she tried to figure out what to do. I told her I thought I should maybe get it checked out in case it was a concussion. Out came her phone and my daughters iPod as they google searched concussion. Hit your head. CHECK Do you feel: dizzy, confused, unable to focus? CHECK Any nausea? no Headache? CHECK Then my daughter read a line, if you hit your head and lose consciousness go to the ER immediately to get checked out. Loss of consciousness. CHECK. So it was decided to get checked out.
My daughter not wanting to get left behind, quickly changed. I took the last bit of my mac-n-cheese and prepared myself to stand up.
I still felt a little light headed. Not real steady but steady enough to walk on my own. I asked for my tennis shoes because I did not want to wrestle with the laces on my boots.
As we pulled out the driveway the discussion turned to where they should take me. Urgent Care is only 2 minutes from the house. Could they handle concussion? We decided to send my daughter in with the following statement, which I remember repeating it many times as she wanted to get it just right. "My mom passed out and hit her head. Can she be seen here at Urgent Care or should we take her to the ER?" She barely got it out as the lady quickly insisted I needed to go to the ER. So hospital it was.
By now the head ache was definitely present. It was more evident with each passing pothole.
The ER was empty. My admittance immediate. In the triage, my vitals quickly taken. She asked me a series of questions. Except when she asked for my height, I told her my birth date.  Oops. I know the difference. I was gently chastised for not calling an ambulance.  I remember thinking, hey, at least I didn't drive myself this time. Then the calls came over head, "Neuro to ER. Head trauma." As she took my vitals she explained things were going to happen pretty quick. That I was going to have a cat scan. Then a few other tests. As soon as she got the words out of her mouth, the tech arrived with the wheelchair and I was whisked away.
The CAT scan was pretty uneventful. The took a look in my brain to make sure there was no bleeding on the brain. As for my nose, no scan of that, but maybe I would came back later for one if the doctor or I thought it was necessary.
Wheeled back to ER and I had a bed all ready for me, with my mom and daughter waiting in it.
Then there was the EKG. More vitals.
The gown. The trip to the bathroom to pee in a couple. Except when I got there the seat was covered with blood and I refused to go in it. I was redirected down the hall. I walked. Alone. Slowly but steady. All to pee in a cup. I had my gown and my cords, yet I was still fully dressed from the waist down. It was all rather awkward. The fumbling. The peeing. The washing of my hands. Awkward. Yet there was the reassurance of the pull cord should I need assistance. Thankfully, I did not need assistance.
Back to the bed. More vitals. A visit from the doctor. A full recount of what happened. Apparently, my story jived with a certain medical condition in which the vagus nerve decides to freak out. Sending messages to your brain that causes it to go AWOL. Hence, the loss of consciousness. Most likely caused by dehydration. Then he checked my nose, deciding it wasn't broke because I did not scream in utter agony nor did I punch him in the face when he prodded it asking where the pain was. Instead, I winced and said, there, when he hit the spot. Of course there was a chance I had a small fracture that could be detected by CAT scan if I so chose to go that route. But it did not look serious to him so it was completely my choice on whether or not to proceed with that. Even though honestly, there is not much that would be done, except let time heal it. Hmmm..let me think. Nope. Don't think I want another scan then. The verdict: I am a low risk person, so he did not think it was going to be anything serious. Get rehydrated by IV with a liter of fluids and take a Tylenol.
Tylenol, God bless the Tylenol. They offered something stronger if I thought I would need it but by this point, my mind was functioning again so I kept with the Tylenol.
It felt good to be returning to normal. The blurry vision was gone. The head ache significantly dulled. The nose? Still ouchy but not uncomfortably so.
I took a picture and posted to facebook.
Hubby arrived. WELCOME HOME HUBBY! Not really what I had planned for his homecoming.
Mom and daughter went home.
And we settled in to hurry up and wait.
It took a long time until someone came in to do the IV. When they finally did, my veins were showing signs of the dehydration as they were having a hard time finding a vein. Attempt number one was a fail. Darn it! So my nurse came in and she put the tourniquet on. Why do they have to be so pinchy? She didn't find a vein she felt confident about. Time to call in the vein whisperer. He came in and whispered to my veins, really he did. At first he did not see anything he liked so he switched to the other arm, as the previous ladies had done. He thumped and pumped and finally found one he thought he could work with. He got it! (You should totally read that in the same voice as the announcer for MSU basketball.) Woo hoo! Drip drip drip.
The CAT scan came back good. The blood work came back good. Besides my nose, all was good.
40 minutes later, we were on our way.

When I got home I checked in with my boy. He had been a little shaken by the event and he helped me piece together a few missing pieces. When I did a reenactment for my hubby, my son stopped me. "No! That is not what happened. We heard the huge thump and ran out. You were lying face down!" I had thought I hit my head on the counter and rolled off it to land on my back as my first recollection was face up.  As it turns out I probably did a full frontal face plant. OUCH! No wonder my nose hurts.

 This morning I woke up with lesson plans on my mind. I was having an internal war with myself. Go to work? You probably shouldn't. But I don't want to let my kids down. Your kids deserve the best you, not a tired, confused you. Even though I do feel much better I know my head is still recovering. Do I call in? I probably should. What about....? Ah, the torment. Yet I knew that a day of rest and hydration is really what I needed.
So a day of rest is what I chose. It was the best choice. For me and my students.
I sent off a quick lesson plan for my sub. Checked in with my boss, who was relieved I was staying home to rest. She thought I may try to be stubborn and come in anyways. ME!??

Destined to a day of rest I checked in on facebook and received the well wishes of my friends and loved ones. Thank you everyone for the support!  While the boys slept, I decided to watch The Fault in Our Stars. When I told my girlfriend my plan, she said, "I'm not sure crying will help with the dehydration." Muwahaha. I must still be a little dehydrated because while I cried, I did not have the overwhelming flood one might expect. Time to drink another Gatorade. 

As it stands now, I have a minor black eye.

I have some swelling and a dull head ache. I also have an afternoon appointment with the chiropractor. I felt it was best to get checked out to make sure all was well. I did fall on my face and experience some head trauma after all.

Now, I think it's time for a nap. May sleep be the only loss of consciousness I experience from this day forward.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Warning: the following is one big conglomerate of thoughts, read on if you dare.

It started with the Power Ball. Good Lord that is a lot of money! I didn't even buy a ticket but that did not stop my mind from playing what if games. You know what I am talking about, what if I won the lottery and was suddenly a millionaire/ billionaire, what would I do? First, I would pay off all existing debt. Probably buy a new car. Then I would start donating by the thousands and millions to the various charities and people I hold dear to my heart. My church, my kids children's theater, my school, the garden project, the food bank, the Homeless Angels ( I would totally buy the Magnusson hotel for Mike Karl and a few other while we are at it,) I would bless as many people as humanly possible and then I would still show up at work the next day because I love my job. I really do. And I really would do all of those things and more.
Yet I didn't buy a ticket. No millions of dollars in my bank roll. :( Yet also :)
Why the smiley face? All this dreaming led me to a pretty amazing thought. I don't need millions of dollars to make a difference. I can make a difference right now! Whatever I hold dear, I can influence now. I can give my time. I can give my resources. I can use my gifts and talents to bless others. To help organizations. I can use my network. And sure I can throw some cash on some causes.
I am extremely blessed to be following in the footsteps of family members with a heart for community service. My mother is a champion volunteer!  I remember as a toddler running the hallways at school long before I ever attended. Why? Because my mom is awesome and she volunteered. I can remember charity benefits with my mom at the helm, raising money for friends who lost their home to a fire and another friend who lost her dad to cancer. Mom has a way of seeing needs and doing what she can. I get this from her. We do what we can, when we can, for whomever we can. Because we can and someone should, so why not us?
Mom and I have had many volunteering adventures together. The garden being one of my favorites. This weekend we opened a new door. We stepped foot into the Magnusson Hotel and were introduced to the Homeless Angels. Mom felt led to go and just see what they needed. She showed up ahead of me and did what she does best, dove right in. This weekend they were gearing up for what they call their Street Store. Over the last three weeks, donations have been pouring in. All these donations needed to be sorted and set up. I have had a few bags sitting idle in the closet for a couple months. I sorted them out and took them on over. Once I was through the doors, I too dove right in. Sort sort sort, all day long, sort sort sort while I sing this song. Clothes, shoes, linens, hats and scarves. The generosity of the community was amazing to see. This organization is also amazing! They are a non-profit with no one on a bank roll. 100% of donations go to help the homeless in our community. While there we met a few of the guys. People I am sure I have seen on the streets. Some of them asking for money on corners. Another walking around with a box on his head, a voice for the homeless, the happiest homeless guy you will ever meet. This weekend homelessness in my world gained a name.
A name. Isn't it true that we can ignore many things until they become personal? When do they become personal? When we can attach a name to it. There are many things in my world that have names attached to them. To protect the identity of those I hold dear, I will refrain from sharing their names publicly but know that with each of these things there is a name attached. A story. A life. A mark on my life. Childhood Leukemia. Breast Cancer. Adoption. Abortion. Gay. Lesbian. Transgender. Gay Marriage. Divorce. Abandoned. Advocate. Athlete. Refugee. Survivor. Deaf, Blind. Bi-polar. Depressed. Those who have taken their own lives. Others whose lives were taken....
Oh how I could go on. Each of these people have shaped my world. I realize that not everyone thinks the same as I do but it is each of these people, each of their stories that form my world view. My beliefs. My desire to respond to the world with love rather than hatred.
This last week, a dear, sweet teenager that I had the privilege of meeting, took her life. She was the same age as my son and served alongside him at Fenner Nature Center. She had an infectious smile. She was a lover of people. Always inclusive. She had hugs for any and all that wanted one. She was an AMAZING artist! A fantastic poet. She was a life full of promise. Yet the burdens of this world weighed her down and for reasons people can only speculate, she felt this life was no longer worth living.
Which sets my mind down a whole different path. Friends, your lives are worth living! You have so much to give. You are loved far more than you will ever realize. I know Sydney was. At her funeral today, the church was overflowing. I would venture to guess over 500 people came to remember  her and celebrate her life. She was loved. Yet she may not have realized just how true this was. She changed lives for the better. She smiled at people when they themselves felt the darkness, she was a light to champion them on another day.
There is now a hole. A candle on her desk at school. A remembrance of someone brilliant, gone far too soon.
Following the funeral, the girls and I headed over to the Street Store to volunteer. People were lived up at the door when we arrived. The doors had opened early to get people out of the cold. Throughout the afternoon we folded, handed out, sorted some more, put more things out, we smiled, I held a sweet baby girl that was screaming her head off until I put her on my lap and started talking to her. She calmed right down. Relief for some weary parents. I ended up holding her for nearly an hour as mom was trying to retrieve her keys from inside their locked car. I rocked and sang, she melted into my arms and fell asleep for a bit. I saw the homeless today. Some rode the bus. Others walked. All had need. All were blessed. They had a gentlemen giving haircuts. Ladies painting nails. They had food. They took what they needed, free of charge. Others from the community came as well, some on the brink of homelessness themselves. The poverty was obvious. Needs were met. The Homeless Angels and their slew of volunteers pulled off a pretty spectacular event.
I got to be a part of it. Their story and my story collided and I won't be the same because of it.
Not every person on a street corner is a con artist or scammer. Some of them are truly homeless. All of them have names.
What we do matters my friends! Don't cry over losing lottery tickets. Take the resources and talents you have and do something with them. Get out in our community and make it better. Smile at people. Hug people. Tell others they matter. Tell your loved ones you love them. Ask yourself what you would have done if you won the lottery and do it anyways.

Oh and if you have clothes you no longer need, consider donating them to the Homeless Angels Street Store because rumor has it that they will be doing it again real SOON!

I love you!