Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I am spent

Typing so much yesterday got me seeing spots. My typical writing binge has been a meager 500 words a day.  Yesterday was like a Thanksgiving day feast...at 2500 words.  Staggering to bed I was barely able to shower before I was out for the count. 

The flow of words yesterday was at times inspiring and other times painfully difficult.  Family trying to be helpful, I am sure, suggested that the best way to get over a momentary block was to do dishes, cook meals or the so very exciting walk the dogs.  It was as challenging to get those words to paper as it was to dodge the helpful suggestions. 

I am not sure how full time writers do this on a regular basis.  Even today I kept fighting the urge to stretch, and take that nap that is beckoning at the fringes of my conscientiousness.  Felt like the day after a tough workout, I didn't want to go near the gym nor do I feel like I am ready for the  fight to write these words.  Yet- after I hit publish for this I will again wrestle the same fights with dyslexia, grammar, spelling, and some times a dried pool of words. 

The end is in sight.  This  first stage is nearing the end and so many stories shudder through my being.   

There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.
~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

Monday, June 28, 2010

I use to slay dragons

Sword dripping held high above my head feeling the power of victory surge through my being, the wind danced in my hair and I was at peace.  In the distance I could hear crowds cheering, chanting my name.  This is the victory I fight for daily. 

I have only truly felt it twice in my life. The first time when I graduated college and the second time when I was a finalist for teacher of the year for my school district.  Both times there was a goal I actively worked toward, obsessed toward.  Dragons were battled in the form of stodgy professors, obstacles  in the form of rusty writing skills and dyslexia to boot.  I attacked each with purpose. 

What victory sits before me now?  I reach into myself and dare to complete a task I've yearned for since I was a child in 7th grade...to finish my first novel.  I've read that there are those that can write an entire book start to finish in thirty days.  I am on year two of this novel.  It is no where what I initially pictured.  I would describe myself as being toward the middle of it...reaching the peak in action.  I've battled with a crazy schedule- waking extra early, and staying up super late to fit in writing time.  I have grappled with a plot that was flat, too fat, too wild and have tamed the beast to what I have now a saddled dragon.  The victory is not in getting this beast of mine published- although that is a goal I will set after it is finished.  The victory is finishing.  It is that Olympic moment of walking across the finish line and knowing that I did it. I won.  There will be no cheering crowds, well except those in my head.  It will be for me.  I make this short today, dear reader...I have dragons to slay.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sticky Words

Thought a little poetry would be perfect for a Sunday.  Enjoy a cup of coffee and think about your sticky words.

Words know their meaning.

They chew it up and marinade until delivery.

Words can be…

                       Ambivalent, hanging like upturned bats in a cave.
                       Sharp, decisively cutting through crowed angry spaces.
                       Pensive, clinging to thought and question.

Words are sometimes wings.
                     Flittering softly like thundering herds of butterflies ready to carry away their target.

All words are sticky.

Their purpose and meanings are tiny drops of resin that are sprayed around a room and never dry.
They clog a swift moving tongue.
                   Bouncy, they rattle between the ears in the voice of the deliverer.

Like hot gum on the bottom on a new shoe,
                                                                 they hold on.

What do your sticky words say about you?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Words of wisdom for your 18 year old self...

Looked into the face of promise it came in the shape of a band new 18 year old high school graduate.  The world sits before him, so many opportunities rest on his shoulders. I remember being there- scared by the vast openness of opportunity. What if I could give that frightened young girl a bit of advice?

By nature I do love to research all things.   I find a blog, Chronicles of a Busy Mind by Alicia Cuthbertson where she gave advice to her 21 year old self. Thought to myself...if that were myself what 10 things would I say to that young girl of 18?

  1. Write, write all the time.  You fell in love with the pen in 7th grade, never let it go.  Don't give excuses- for not doing something that heals you.  Writing is your medicine, take it daily. Actions that bring you happiness should be exercised daily.
  2. Devour criticism, don't let it end you.  I know that college professor will sit and look at you with disgust as she talks about how horrible your writing is. Take it in and be strong.  Use her suggestions and become stronger.  Crumbling is not an option.  Giving up writing is not an option. 
  3. Be bold.  When that incredible man comes into your life don't just standby and let him go.  You deserve to step up and see if he feels the same.  When you get opportunities take them.  Life is for living not watching it pass you by.
  4. Keep exercising.  You are not chubby this is the best shape you will be in- keep up the walks and jogs. Moderation needs to be your mantra. Keeping it off is way easier then having to take a bunch off.  Do it because your life depends on it.
  5. Asking for help does not make you weak. You have friends and family that want to see you successful.  If you need help reaching out does not mean you are a failure it just means you are smart enough to know your limitations.     
  6. Moving on is not giving up. Sometimes things don't work out.  Some times people leave you.  Letting go of them is not forgetting them.  You have the memory of them, of you both together. Those will never leave you.  Being alone is not lonely it can be liberating.   
  7. Bigger is not always better. This may be the unofficial state motto but it does not have to be your own. You don't have to have the biggest plate of food, giant cokes, the biggest house the fanciest car.  Your life is more than what you have.  People survive with so much less.  All the stuff will not buy happiness.  You have to give that gift of joy to yourself. 
  8. Visit the ones you love often.  A busy life is not an excuse for not spending time with those you love.  They are not going to be around forever. The days speed by if whether you acknowledge it or not. Make the time to be with the people you love the most.
  9. Tell people what they mean to you. Sure you are nice to the people you love- well usually.  For your own soul put voice to those words that define the relationships in your life. Don't let a moment pass where you leave and they don't know how you feel.   
  10. Different is not bad. Your future will not be what you envisioned.  There will not be a prince on a white horse that will scoop you up taking you off to the giant castle.  Different is not bad, you can still have a life of meaning and purpose.  You may have to be your own knight in shining armor but that will make you stronger.  I believe a wise person once told me that 'that gives you character.'  Who doesn't want more of that?
The list could go on..stay out of the sun, lay off the milk, say your sorry and mean it...but the top ten would of saved me so much time and unnecessary sadness.  To all those fresh young souls take these words tuck them away and pluck them out as you need.  I wish I had.


Friday, June 25, 2010

I Dreamed Africa- random writings

I wrote this three months after my return from Africa. 

 Africa is not the only place I have been blessed to see but it did make the largest impact on my adult life.  What held on to me about the experience is how those moments in your life when your experience is making the biggest impact on your future you are not aware of the importance of what you see.  It is only as time passes that we think back and mark that occasion as one of our defining moments. 

Maybe I dreamt it all. I remember being really tired. Could it be?

If it wasn’t a dream where is the proof? My burn turned to a tan and has since faded back to white. My sun bleached hair has grown out, been cut back to the normal brown. What does that leave me with? All that I have as a token is my dream. I can’t hold it, or put it in my pocket. It doesn’t even visit every night. But on those lucky nights, I close my eyes and right in that space between wake and darkness I am there.

The warm sun is beaming against the top of my head. Kalahari wind envelope me blowing the heat from my skin. I am surrounded by wild. The one road I am on is a dusty trench melting into a muddy pit. Nature grows, free unhindered all around. Silence rages for its place among the choir of birds and gossiping animals. I stand alone, the sky swallows me.

The smell is unmistakable; it is green, like the air is filled with a spring time rain. I know they are near. Then they come. From behind the trees, through the brush belting the plain, silent they move toward me. Swoosh, crunch, swoosh, crunch, it almost sounds like the wind is tangled in the trees, but it is them. At first it is one. Then the plain around me is a mass of movement. The grey giants of the Okavango Delta, together in synchronized harmony move as one. There are mommies and babies, all are elephants, calm methodically they plod toward me soundless. As some vanish to the other side of the plain, slowly others just like them appear in a never ending stream.

Among them I notice others sprinkled in who share their peace but look very different. There are wildly colored mohawk wearing beast that mingle quietly munching on grass, and appear gentle as deer. These wildebeest, selective about their company stick to the outskirts of the plain. In the crowd sticking out above the masses grand horns that twirl and twist; crown the head of a heard of pudgy impala who gather in large bouncy communities. Click, click their hooves are heard against the sticks and stones. Together all life mingles. Feet planted to the dusty grass, I stand as the only witness to their peace.

Suddenly, there is a change. All life on the plain can feel it. Predators are near. Their presence is not announced, but the every life knows when it is in danger. The hair on the back of my neck tingles, as my eyes join the others in searching for the uninvited guest. Impala are the first to spot the intruder and cry the alert to us all. All heads spin to the where the rasping shout is heard. The king of the plain is watching. Everyone springs into action, hurrying to retreat a safe distance. Even the moseying giants perk up their floppy ears and move to protect their little ones. My eyes take it all in, but my focus is on the lion. His bushy mane is beginning to show grey. There are old scars that are reminders of a hard life. His tummy is big and full, and I know there will be no danger today. The king lays down uninterested in the sudden action his only focus is resting in the shade. The plain slowly clears. The groups of beast leave as they entered, quietly. They slip away into the surrounding brush. I know they are leaving, but hang on to the hope they will stay. It is too late their mind has been made.

Anxious to see them still, I try to force them in my dream to return. But they never do. Sometimes I am lucky, and wake to find the room has filled with the smell of green. Inside, I know they aren’t there, but I still think if I just wait they may appear around the corner. On those nights, I smile; I hug my pillow tight, because I dreamt Africa.

I still have those Africa Dreams.  They come with rare frequency these days.  When they do hit it is with incredible energy that I awake in the morning.

What Legacy are you Leaving?

"The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it. "
~William James

Being human we are guaranteed few things but birth and death.  When we each step away from this world and existence what will be left?  (I know deep for a Friday...but stay with me.) 

This has been one of those questions that I have been asking myself since childhood when I first read about global warming and what we are doing to the planet. As I listened to Micheal Jackson sing 'Man in the mirror,' I questioned what I would change.  (I was in middle school, but still was anxious to make that change.)  The question again haunted me when my Grandmother died leaving the most beautiful handwritten letter to her family.  In her letter she stated that we- her family were her legacy.  Childless still, I wonder what will be mine.

Today, on the one year anniversary of Micheal Jackson's death I was perusing my blogs, as is routine, and this question grabbed hold of me. Alexa Ispas's posting, Creating Legacy addresses how to set up a plan to achieve your legacy.  She states that your legacy is a chosen decision that you work toward daily. That all your goals must be in reconciliation of this single overarching life choice.  No pressure!

I have a difficult time choosing the correct foods to fuel my body in a healthy way, being active the correct amount of time on a daily basis, adding information that is exciting and interesting to my blog and adding to my book daily.  My initial reaction is sadness.  The idea to achieve my legacy I have to add to the already pretty overwhelming list of daily 'to do' makes me feel like crying.    Slowly the idea began to simmer- I am sometimes a slow processor.  Maybe these could be blended.  Maybe my legacy is not 'something else.' Maybe instead it is the difference I make in the life of my students, friends, family and readers.  Maybe just maybe even a childless, struggling teacher/writer can leave behind a legacy.  It is the quote "Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering. "  Stated by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt that brings the greatest comfort.  This has not been a life of ease.  Struggle shared brings hope to those that are in the middle of their own fight.  This writing is my legacy.  What is yours?


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Have a Cup of Joe

My memories have smells- the differentiated effusions of coffee. As a child it was the smell of all things right with the world.  Apparently, researchers have found that it is also the smell of all things healthy with the world.

Grandfather drank it every day. Summer vacations in Midland or on the road with them for our anual pilgrimage out west were kicked off by a cup of Folgers with light cream hold the sugar. On the road Grandpa would stop for a coffee break- the expectation would be that the kids were to get milkshakes.  Who can argue with that expectation? The waitress would bring the standard white cup brimming with their select brand.  Grandpa would add three creams till it got to be the perfect color of soft carmel then relish in its sweet bitter delight.

My teen years came, it was the drinking of my first cup of coffee that I remember as a earmark of my adulthood. I remember, I desparately wanted to like it, the smell had enchanted me since youth.  The family was on the way to California- another trip out west. Grandpa told me to add a sweetener since I was a beginner.  It was perfection.  I remember the knowing looks that both Grandpa and Grandmother shared...they knew I would be hooked. 

What they couldn't know was that they had started a love affair with a beverage that would cause so many health benefits.  Harvard researchers have recently published a study that shows a lowered risk for diabetes, gallstones, lowering of blood pressure, cholesterol and even that it deters a variety of cancers.  The study does not change much for me...I am not a fair weather friend. I held onto my love for coffee through the years when we thought it caused cancer, I drank it queitly knowing they had to be wrong.  Today I celebrate with the good news that it is healthy.  I raise my cup and say cheers- this one is for Grandpa!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Say it in 6

Listening to NPR (National Public Radio) just makes you feel smarter.  It is like drinking a Starbucks latte while reading a Wallstreet Journal but it is free and for the ears.  On NPR there is a segment known as Talk of the Nation, where the host, Neal Conan, talks with authors, politicians and decision makers in a flowing interview that can pull in anyone.     

A fellow blogger, Jan at tomatobaby blog became enlightened by this same show when Conan was interviewing Larry Smith  and Rachel Fershieriser.  This duo shared the purpose of Smith Blog-agazine, founded by Smith that challenges readers to wrap up their entire life story in 6 words. For these two it is a celebration of the regular man.  My favorite on the site...Laundromat visit, low tech social network.  Some are extremely sad, smart, others just funny. It is a study in being concise and knowing your subject. 

Let me give it a try...Got degree, job, house- handyman needed.  Now it is your turn...let me hear it...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Creativity- Where is the on switch?

The summer routine of a teacher, I have to say is pretty sweet!  Up this morning I pull the laptop to me click it on as I try to wipe sleep from my eyes the lights dance on the screen. Staring at the blankness in front of me nothing happens.  "I've only been at this blogging business for a short while...is that really all I have to say?" Is the question that floats through my mind.  Undaunted I pull up google ready to search out something good.  Nothing sticks.  My mind wonders as it is prone to do at 7 A.M. and then it hits me. 

What is creativity?  Where does its magical flow come from?  I think back to times in my life where I have felt the most creative.  Without blinking I know it is when I am driving. On a six hour drive from Midland to Ft. Worth streams of ideas flow through me.  By the end of the drive I am as exhausted from the creating that has consumed me.  For most of my life I believed it was the magic of Midland, or the west Texas roads that go on forever and take my mind with them. 

Checking the blogs I regular I ran into an article from daily zen, that attributes these greatest moments to stillness. It is a zen website...pretty shocking they promote stillness. I do definitely agree there is something to it but there has to be more.  Digging deeper I hit google with a mission.  

After getting lost for several hours I am going to have to go with the classic history teacher response..."it is complicated."  It is so complicated that you can even major in it in at Buffalo State University.  The University defines creativity as a system of relationships between people, places, process and leadership.   It is a university they do like to get all technical.  Fast Company, looked at a study of 238 people and 12,000 journal entries explained it way better. 

Creativity is not some random magical gift bestowed on the few.  It is the result of the winning combination of environment, experience and skill.  Creativity is not motivated by fiscal reward, an imposed due date, fear or competition.  It is the result of being empowered with time to solve a problem. 

Another study, by the Paul Marge Business School suggest that "storytelling excites creativity." My favorite study of the ones I read...being one who loves to tell a few stories myself.  Now I understand why six hours with the music blaring, zen like thought and no time line stress make my drives to Midland most magical.  Think I will have to make due in the mornings with reading a few stories I can.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why I love Summer Vacation

While the druids rise at the crack of dawn to sing and dance around Stonehenge this Solstice I was inspired to ponder my own favorite parts of summer.  Although I am not one who enjoys rising at the day's earliest hours nor trying to navigate my feet into any kind of rhythmic pattern I do enjoy each of those individually in limited doses. 

Up early at the break of 7:30 am, I think back to what summer means to me.  List are one of my favorite things...well crossing stuff off of them is my favorite.  See if you agree with my choices if you can think of any other great things about summer then add it in a comment.  Would love to hear it!

  1. The idea of being able to sleep late.  I usually never do- but just not  being chained to a clock brings such joy.
  2. Staying up till the crack of midnight reading trashy mystery novels.  I look at it as research for my own writing. 
  3. The promise of hot days, sun heating your skin as soon as you step from the shade.  It can be over done- but it feels great in small doses. 
  4. Picnics!  I love them mostly I love the foods that go with them.  The preparing for them, the picking the perfect spot and the very best sitting with family and friends with baskets of already made food great conversation, wind and sun all around. Some of my most remembered ones were gathered around at Shakespeare in the park, or celebrating the forth of  July.
  5. Swimming.  At this stage of my life the two piece days are limited to memories...but I still love the water.  Nothing more healing then being weightless and swimming till you sweat.
  6. New projects have always been associated with every summer.  Either crafty or some that are house needs.  Painting, spring cleaning (not my favorite), researching, writing I actively volunteer for all of it in these magical few months.  
  7. Vacations define summer.  Whether it is just a local day trip or an extravagant one over seas there is no greater thrill.  It combine my favorite things list, research, planning and being with family.
  8. Movies hold such a strong importance for the making of a great summer.  Those big action blockbusters that hit every weekend.  The experience of dressing up, going out to eat and making a night of the entire event.
  9. Reading mysteries, romances, historical dramas there is no better way to lose yourself then in a big fat well written book.  Finding that book that sucks you in and doesn't let you go is the best way to spend those extra hours of free time.
  10. My most favorite is the late nights in the family room gathered with family and friends talking late into the night. Laughing till my sides hurt and my face is red and streaked with tears.  Throw in games family competition and prepare for a lively memorable time.   

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Love you Daddy

Waking up at my childhood house I can clearly picture you, Dad, sitting at the kitchen table- paper spread in front of you, hair wild from sleep, and that dangerous robe that never quiet covered what it was suppose to.  You would start off silent.  Then your 'good morning' would be a discussion of politics, discoveries, and global events all over a bowl of cheerios...even though we are both allergic to milk. 

We are a lot alike Daddy.  Although I have yet to purchase the barely there robe, the list is still pretty long. 

We love photography. Remember when you gave me my first 35m camera- I do.  With a single focused eye; you gave me the power to show the world what I see.  I continue it today and still get that surge of satisfaction from a well framed shot. 

We love technology.  I blame my 'gotta haves' on growing up with one of the first DVDs, computers, Internet and remote controlled fans. Today, I was one of the first to have a 'smart' phone and got my eye on those beautiful ipads...mmm they are pretty.  Don't even get me started on all the gadgets I have for my classroom.  The tradition continues.  

You instilled in me a deep appreciation for nature.  Before it was cool we were recycling, composting, conserving energy and growing our own food.  The generations of farmers that led to you flow through my veins.  Even living in apartments I found myself happiest outside. At the most stressed out time of my life when I was sent to Africa I felt at home.  Wild all around, brought my life back into focus.  

Daddy you are a teacher at heart.  You spent hours with us on the sofa explaining intricate political relationships, and science theories.  Refusing to read children's books you opted for National Geographic. Remember those hours you tried and tried to show me how to change my own oil.  And the time we mixed up those poles for jumping the car.  Apparently you aren't suppose to...the sparks were exciting.  The only exception being teaching driving.  Wow!  It is a wonder we all survived.  The school building was getting so close so quickly, you really do move like a ninja in getting to that pedal.  

Daddy we both work too hard.  Since I can remember you have had more then one job.  Always dedicated to making sure we had what we needed.  I too work more then I should for those that I love.  I use to think that you did it to stay away from us.  Now I know that it is because it was what had to be done. You did it out of love. Never asking what was in it for you.  

Daddy you have suffered the laundry list of bad gifts from us.  Know it is not from lack of love, but you do get what you want when you need it making it impossible to find something.  On this Father's Day I give you my love!  Wrapped up in photos I took using what you taught me.  Taped together with words of my affection, and appreciation for all the sacrifices you made for your two little girls. 



Friday, June 18, 2010

Bipolar 101

“Men have called me mad but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence–whether much that is glorious–whether all that is profound–does not spring from disease of thought–from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.”
— Edgar Allan Poe

Yesterday, with my head still foggy from sleep I picked up the laptop and typed with reckless abandon.  I think it is in these vulnerable states we are the most honest.  In this eyes-half closed flow I spilled the beans on a family secret that upset some close to me.  Being from the South, we don't like our business all out in the open.  I did not do it to upset anyone.  The beautiful out pour of comments has inspired me to turn this coming out into a learning experience...suppose you can't turn off the teacher switch.

Many in my family from this generation are bipolar. Although we felt we were alone there are over 5.7 million adult Americans that have been given this diagnoses.  That is 2.6% of the population. (National Institute of Metal Health) The average age that people are diagnosed is 25, guess my sister was an early bloomer.  Unlike other illnesses this is a disease that does not discriminate- spread equally among races and between the sexes it is number six in debilitating illnesses according to the World Health Organization.

For those that do not have the intimate knowledge with the illness- it is a when someone has extreme mood swings from deep depression, to periods of dramatic mania or highs some swings are so high one thinks they are godlike.  This is not like every women's favorite time of month when we feel like we got that edge and are ready to claw out someone's eyes.  Take that and multiply it by a hundred.  The shifting back and forth between these two extremes is known as cycling and can take place within an hour, days, weeks or months when stabilized by medication it is closer to months.  Women are more likely to have the rapid cycling. 

Most bipolar patients suffer for ten years without getting the correct diagnoses. If that wasn't bad enough bipolar people have a 9.2 year reduction in life span because of the harsh medications.  Even worse a third of patients attempt suicide twenty percent are successful.    

The most intriguing facet of being bipolar is the link that patients have to the arts.  This could be why when my sister was withdrawn she sketched, painted and created even if she didn't talk.  The list is surprisingly long of well known artist that are afflicted.

What can you do to help?  Be a friend.  Be forgiving of the random odd statement.  Be there for them.  Love them at every stage in the cycle no matter how challenging they might make it.  Listen when they need it.  Be there for family because even though we get frusterated we still love them. 


I have a secret

“Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy.” ~Nora Ephron

Ever have a secret that was so big you felt you would be swallowed by the enormity of it? In 7th grade my family was desperate to hide our secret and still in many ways is. I remember all of the pressure and fear of being discovered, judged that I was unworthy of fitting in because we were broken and that made us dirty.

My sister has never been a true older sister. She never looked after me- I was put in charge. She believed in unicorns and that her stuffed animals talked when she was out of the room. She was content to be lost in her head, rather than be bothered by other people. My sister was my best friend when I was not getting on her last nerve. She was shy, awkward it was easier for me to make the friends and she would just befriend them, eventually. We were a packaged deal and it was okay with me.

The change was slow at first. I remember walking in and she was playing with her Barbies- but Ken was arranged in ways that made me uncomfortable.

Middle school hit, Mom thought it would be good for us to be on our own. We were separated. I missed the best friend I grew up with. Always having someone to hang out with, eat lunch with, and complain to. She no longer had someone to help her make friends, or protect her. She got into her first fight that year. After that Mom decided it would be better if we went to the same school. It did not help. Middle school was bigger. Kids don't tolerate different very well. She was picked on but I couldn't help her. I wasn't in the same classes. I was struggling too.

Then the sleeplessness started. There would be days where everyone could hear her up wondering around the house unable to fall asleep. She would try but she was antsy. She couldn't just lay there and let sleep take her. We tried pills, warm milk, bad movies, reading, hot baths, exercises...nothing made it better. I remember the frustration we all felt. You know how it is...when one member of the family starts to struggle with something everyone is impacted somehow.

 I would hear her up at night and pray she would just lie down and try to sleep. Felt like she wasn't even trying. Dad in desperation had an idea we would each take a turn sleeping with her (not in a oogy way) but so we could remind her to stay still so sleep could come. That idea lasted one night. Now if a member of your family was no longer able to do something that they use to be able to do quite well like walk wouldn't you take them to the doctor and get whatever it was fixed? It was sleeping...everyone can do that. It is a natural there was no reason to take her to the doctor at that time...everyone thought you just close your eyes and then you sleep. End of discussion.

The sleep left soon so did other things. She started getting the voices. We all were sure it was from the lack of sleep, or the stress from school. We were a normal family no crazy here! Apparently when the voices started it was a muffle. They told her she wasn't good enough. That others thought she was unworthy of friendship and love. We trudged on. When things fall apart we cling even more desperate to routine.

I remember being at school and kids I don't know coming to me and asking about what my sister had done in gym or during Math. I had no idea, I wasn't there. About the time for state testing she was out of it. What she did say didn't make sense to anyone but her. She was positive that girl in front of her did it. Kicking the silent girl's chair and yelling at her in the middle of the test as she sat in front of me put me into sweats. I silently willed her to stay quiet, to just get through the test. I prayed that she wouldn't bring any more attention to herself or me. She was removed. I sat there bright red from the embarrassment left to finish my test, left to sit with the eyes looking at me for another three hours.

We had end of the year award ceremony during school. Mom had said she would get off work to come. I was supposed to get a certificate. I don't remember the certificate but do remember the office lady bringing the note to my row. Everyone read it and passed it down to me. Mom was taking my sister to the doctor. My stomach clenched I knew for that to happen something big had to have taken place and I just had not heard about it yet. I could hear whispers around me filled with her name and the mention of gym. Hot tears fell; I looked straight ahead willing myself to not look at anyone.

The doctors all said that she had to be hospitalized. We all went to take her. It was not for us but her, to show we loved her and we wanted her healthy. In between choked tears and her comatose stare we got her up stairs to the ward. She had to be strip searched it was routine. She couldn't move. She just stood. My Mom is the strongest person I know. She alone was in there while my father and I cried in the hallway. My mother working with the nurse did what had to be done. Walking away from her that night was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Sitting the car, we all wept as we drove home.

This would have been a huge strain on a strong marriage, but my parents were already on the last inning of their union. Fights of blame were shouted. They withdrew so did I. School was still there the next day. I went because ‘we don't just go around missing school’ in my family. Students by this time were passing around rumors that my sister had killed my mother and that she was in jail. I was horrified but relieved. Murder was way more acceptable then crazy. I said nothing. At home I told Mom, she didn't like the idea of being dead so she told me to tell people my parents were getting divorced and my sister was living with my grandparents.

I use to pray she had a disease that was more acceptable. I wished she had a disease that we could all wear pink ribbons for and race for a cure, a disease that a community supported. Mental illness has never had that. A child with bipolar will grow into an adult with bipolar. No races or celebrity visits to the hospital. Instead of people running in hopes of making you better they run away from you fearful that your social stigma might stick to them like a bad smell. Crazy doesn't rub off.

This was not the first time my sister was hospitalized. She did not come home cured. She came home a stranger mistrustful of everyone and everything. Every time she has one of these breaks with reality she slips away from us more and the distrust grows. The childhood friend I grew up with is gone. I love her still, but she is much different.

We are all braver now. We know it is not anyone's fault she has bipolar. We know that just because she is flexing the bounds of normal does not mean the rest of us have lost touch with our mental stability. My parents are separated. I now teach middle school- hopeful to help that lost little girl whose world is crumbling around her. The secret is out. We celebrate her regardless of what she has or is.

* Back by popular demand, this is a reposting.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Daily Blessing and the Simple Things

Do you count your daily blessings?  At lowest points in my life I have run through the list.  It is one of those things you hear so often you think there has to be something to it.  The problem is I notice my list must have a repeat loop.  Or I have some major ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and I forget I've already mentioned them twenty times already.  The list starts..."I am thankful for..."
  1. A healthy family/pets/ friends (the order is on purpose- the pets are my babies.)
  2. For having a place to sleep and food to eat. (At times I have not had both and am so happy not to be there again.)
  3. A job that I love.
  4. The gift of writing.
  5. A fit and healthy body that can breathe easily.
  6. Africa and those that made it possible for me to see.
  7. A long the same line...elephants and the smell of wild sage crushed beneath their hooves.
  8. An artistic mind.
  9. Air conditioning...this is Texas in June.
  10. The Internet
  11. Spell check
  12. Travels I've experienced and those I have yet to get the stamp in my passport for.
  13. Lavender and music and all the memories that they brings me.
This is where the list hits that loop...back to family.  It is not that I have had a deprived life.  It is rich in trials, that bring me greater appreciation for those things that really matter.  This morning while reading Zen Habits, I started thinking about this looping list of mine and wondered if others  struggled to come up with these daily list without repeats.

I am grateful.  When seductive depression licks her lips in my ear it is these thoughts that pull me out of a free fall.  The song 'The Simple Things' by Elizabeth Withers put it perfect. It is the simple things that we must focus on and celebrate daily.  The list spotlights the simple things, but does not end there.  If you struggle with the "loop" like I do, celebrate the small things focus less on the list.

Read and See into My Soul

Today I saw bright green clover lilies eat away at a lake.  Worried it was choking the life from the water I had to get a closer look.  Walking along the worn wooden planks the boom from my foot fall woke up the small ducks nesting in the nearby grasses.  Baby ducks slept exposed their only protection a lone mother duck.  They eagerly walked over to me seeking any handouts I might have.  The haggard, watchful mother followed behind them eyeing me- desperate to see what my purpose would be. 

I recognized the look in that haggard mother's eyes.  She was tired, ready for help, scared and hopeful for her young.  My blog is my baby duck.  I tried to keep it to myself- for 21 months safe, stuffed in an online closet.  

Writing is the spilling of my soul onto a screen for the world to see.  Danger lurks everywhere but so does opportunity.  It is this terrifying duel that I send my baby ducks into on a daily basis and hope for them that they meet with those that love like I do.  

Dear reader, I send to you bits of my soul in the form of daily post.  I've tried to protect these babies but they must go out on their own without my watchful eye of protection. Treat them humanely. It is parts of me you see. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fated too

Stepping through any agonizing decision there is an inner need to feel that your decision has already been fated.  That this is the path you are suppose to take regardless of the trials that await you along the way.  No matter how many landslides you get thrown by that this was all how it was suppose to be.  There a some times when feel that fate is the driver of our life is not enough.

As Chere Michelle put it, "I realize there are people out there who just can’t make that crucial decision that could alter their path in life…it just seems too hard. That’s OK. Nobody can force anyone to do something they aren’t ready for and when the time is right, I truly believe we all make the best decisions for ourselves."  

There are times in our life when we know what the right decision is and we are not ready to make it, or do not know how to.  Whether it be getting rid of a friendship that is draining rather then  building us up. Or putting ourselves first when we have spent a lifetime doing just the opposite.  I believe in these times of our lives we just need to reach out- to God, family, friends.  The path will be revealed. It won't be easy but it will be that defining moment of character that will turn your entire life around.  The most difficult times are the times of greatest power.  Embrace them.  Celebrate your strength.  Know that strength building requires stretching and some pain.  You will be better for it.    

Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer Vacation Begins

Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person's physical, emotional, and mental states. ~Carol Welch

Woke up at the crack of dawn- meaning 8:30 this morning.  Headed off to the gym feeling good. No linger of a wheeze.  I am back in fighting shape.  After an exhausting weekend tieing up lose ends and taking care of family it was the perfect way to start the week.  The perfect start to summer.

Sweat pouring from every part of me and cardio had not even started.  Last summer I did cardio daily.  For multiple hours.  I was walking, swimming, jogging this year it is different for some reason I cannot capture.  I sweat on the floor during the muscle training.  Then get on the bike and can only last for fifteen minutes.  Last year there was a drive that felt like it was fear based- this year I have so many things going it is just something else on my list. This is the very reason that I have battled this my entire life, I have many things on my list.

It is this early morning workout that sets the tone for the day.  Before I can talk myself out of sitting with a hot laptop on my legs, out of cleaning, out of moving forward on the goals that I decided are important to me.    

I am fighting an up hill battle.  My mother is overweight.  My grandmother was overweight.  My great grandmother, and her mother are all farmers wives, chubby and hardworking.  I am corn fed Midwesterner from old German stock.  I am fighting history, for my health regardless of my list. 

Summer is a time of rededication to my goals regardless of my genes, my history.  It is time to let it go.    

Goal progress
1) Eat well.  Worked out and cardio done.
2) Wrote 250 words.
3) Muph...not so much progress.

Friday, June 11, 2010

GOAL...Time to get started

“What you get by achieving your goals is to as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”
(Zig Ziglar)

Sun beaming down cool breeze blowing- it is summer time in Texas. There is so much potential as I step from the steps of the school.  Every day I wake and the day is mine to decide what I feel like getting accomplished.  Free from the normal schedule I must set my goals and make the right decisions.  It seems so simple- I guess it really is. 

The struggle of reaching for goals are daily battles of the mind.  The body at rest wants to stay that way.  There is a war waging in my head as I step off that curb.  Would be so nice to go home take a long nap and wake up in the morning.  Would love to read and not move from that spot for as long as my body can take it.  Would love to stop at the store and buy the largest ice cream and pack of cookies the store has and call it dinner.  I know these feel amazing because I have done them all.  I loved it in the moment- then the bloating, stiff muscles, weight gain sit at the other end of these indulgences.  I hope in the truck and instead go to the gym.  This summer will be magical, I declare to myself.  I will come out the other side transformed from my journey.

First step:  Set goals.
I love list.  I love checking stuff off list the most.  I have been know to do something just to find it was not on the list so I add it just so I can cross it off.  Goals flow naturally. 
  1. I will lose 40 pounds by the end of August. 
  2. I will finish the rough draft of the novel I have been slaving over.  I will revise it and send it off for publishing.  
  3. I will purge my cluttered house of all things I don't need.  (This one is the most over whelming.) 
Second step: Break it down.
There has to be a starting place and smaller steps to get this all accomplished.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  This is the daily action that I am pledging to you to accomplish every day. 
  1. Exercise 5 days a week.  Eat a high fiber low fat diet.  Track calories. I have been working on this goal for many years.  I find creating accountability makes everything way more easy. Set your virtues as a social network status.  I am pretty sure that it is a whip to all my friends who read them but they will celebrate with you and encourage you when you slip.  www.sparkpeople.com is a free calorie counting site that is amazing!  
  2. I must and will write every day.  The goal is five thousand words a week.  I write very slowly- a by product of dyslexia but worth the effort.  By achieving this I will have the book complete by the end of July.  Again it takes a village to build greatness. I consider myself a writer and I share those dips and successes with everyone.  It has the most amazing by product.  People start asking about this book you are working on and how much further.  It shames you back to it, if you have let it sit for too long. 
  3. Must break it down.  First the living room.  The mail that has sat, files that need to be gone through and dusting that has been ignored for too long are top of the list.  Then the bedrooms- purge the closets, and dig through those drawers.  Donate what you can and throw out the rest.  Then garage and back storage the most scary due to the increased likelihood of finding spiders.  

I pledge to you to tag every post from here on out with the daily progress of my goals.  I will share the falls the celebrations. I am ready change.  I want to share this journey with you. Comment with your own goals. Your wins and falls.   

  1. Worked out hour and a half.  Walked the dog one mile. Eating in the acceptable range.
  2. Wrote 250 words.
  3. Cleaned the kitchen...okay I did nothing for this goal. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

End of the School Year

High-fives, a pat on the back and random hugs mark the end to another school year.  This week is so different from those in my memory.  Physical anticipation fought with the relief from being finished with exams.   The thrill of months of solid sleeping late use to all be kicked off in a paper snow storm as students ran from the school building.  I am now on the other side.  Instead there is a flurry of last minute meetings, angry emails anxious to help little Johnny pass and writing the fifty page final exam with all the reviews and answer keys for each ability level.

Each year comes with greater speed.  The students, my children for a year, leave.  The few that return arrive as strangers.  Little chubby smooth faces full of braces are transformed into defined, angular adults.  The individual groups of stories have melted into a solid lump- no longer able to be pulled from the others.  This first shocked and saddened me when it first started to happen.  The mind making room for more clumping those you hold dear and letting the rest go. 

Introspection hits me every May.  I wish other situations in our life had such clear cut beginnings and ends.  We could look back at the last year as a platform to move forward for the  following year? Instead we have this jumble of restarts and half ends.  It is only months later that we ask ourselves why?  In life there is much rushing here doing, cleaning, getting, meeting but not just letting go.  This summer that will be my first order of business.

My goal- let go of the weight that I have carried and added to over the last 35 years.  Let go of the clutter that has consumed my house.  (Although I am not exactly a candidate for the show Hoarders it is still bad.)  Let go of the time killers that eat away at my life.  In all of this letting go- I will live.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bad Day

Horoscope told me, 'have a scoop of ice cream and stay in bed.'  It is sad when the cosmos confirm haunting thoughts that have tailed you all day.

Woke up in sweat, the air conditioner struggling to keep up to the raw Texas summer didn't improve as I went about my morning routine.  Walked out of the house without my inhaler, pretty sure I can blame the heat made me dizzy with thoughts of getting to the cool comfort of the truck.  Drove to work in a daze.  Looking back probably due to a lack of oxygen.  The school district in a play to save money does not heat nor cool the hallways- great for asthma.  After lunch went to chat with a friend, friendship has a way of hitting that reset button on a bad day.  She got news that her Grandfather, a young 89, has declared himself too old to travel and has canceled the family vacation. 

Unwilling I was back at my Grandmother's house listening to the delicate breaths from her hospital bed. Breaths, turned to soft whimpers morphing to moans of discomfort and aggravation that reverberate around the room.  I didn't want to bother her.  Didn't want to grab her frail hand.  Didn't want to say good-bye in hopes it would make her stay till I was ready.  She didn't wait.  When something huge happens in your life your brain takes it in then lets you deal with it in smaller chunks.  Grief can swallow you whole.  Grandmother passed two years ago yet I still get flashes of intense sadness and regret.  Witnessing my friend go through the first stages of the letting go brought it all back with a cruel intensity.

I carry an image of myself as bent over- back loaded with bags feet stumbling trying to find footing up a steep almost impossible mountain.  Seems many times that my friends, coworkers and everyone around me are on this same route but their load is smaller and they are flying past me.  I've seen some that don't have to carry a thing and are being carried instead..  I fight with the twelve year old urge to shout at them that this is not fair but they have already left me here alone.  Is it their fault that my burden is so much?  Is it their fault that they don't carry a burden?  Maybe instead of shouting at them I should be going through my baggage and throwing some off the mountain.  I stand looking at the bags I have carried with love and determination and cannot pick which one has to go.  Instead I stand on the mountain crying wishing someone would help me pick up my pack and keep climbing. 

Maybe I'll just go to bed, after a scoop of ice cream.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Day in My Shoes

Every morning my eyes fight to open but my mind is clear.  In relaxation my thoughts are churning through fantasies, day dreams, news stories, conversations and quotes working through the patterns fitting them into stories. I peck out top ones on the notes on my phone once they become so sticky they refuse to let go of me. Waiting till the last minutes click across the clock I am cling to those numbers every morning.

Running late is how I typically start the day.  Rushing, sweaty faced I pack myself in the truck for my daily hour commute to work.  There is great balance in the daily commute.  Driving the same route everyday allows for autopilot, driving subconsciously muscle memory takes over.  Looking over to my neighbors on the road I write their story in my head.

Sipping coffee John chokes on the ringing phone coughing as he looks over seeing her number pop up.  Side things had their place. 

Why had she stayed the night?  How was she going to explain this?  Her husband had to know.  Brushing on more concealer would do nothing.

Some times the stories stay and build as the miles roll by my window.  It is pulling in the parking lot I take a minute add to the notes app on my phone. 

Walking into the school, the smell of cleaner and sweaty teens have forever attached to the walls.  Smiles and hellos break me from thoughts that have consumed my last hour. Doing something you love is a gift not everyone has the opportunity to celebrate.  I love teaching. Seventh graders are in an evil battle between adulthood and childhood.  Unfortunately we all know who will win but the battle rages on.  In a single day I will have to say "stop pulling your shorts up to your shoulders, spit that out, what do you mean your fingers are stuck, are you sure some one took your chewed up pencil?" I wouldn't have it any other way. 

The day ends and it is a rush to get out of the parking lot and to the gym before 'she' gets there. If traffic catches us then it is women's locker room doom.  We throw on clothes in a flurry of action- both us elbowing to get done and out of there first.  If we fail...we are trapped.  The bush lady will corner us in another awkward conversation while she walks about naked and we desperately try to escape without appearing rude, because that would go against Southern upbringing. Once free it is a bevy of beautiful men, sweating, grunting and burning muscles. Concentration on form, pulling, pushing, and don't forget to breathe flood my brain with endorphins.  Two hours later and back on the road to another commute. 

The yeng to the early morning yang.  Relaxation sweeps over me.  Instead of developing secret stories for my highway neighbors I let the music fill me and search the roadside for natures treasures.  Sitting still is a just a part of the ride home.  I photograph my treasures eager to share or hoard them for myself. Pulling into my neighborhood the stress of the day melts away I know it is only minutes from the time I will be in my perch with my sweet laptop finding my inner flow plugging in the snapshots the day has revealed.  Some times flow spills from me fluid like rain, other days it sputters stumbling over misspelled words and disconnected images.  In all of it there is happiness. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Back on Track

The track belt feels good beneath my running shoes.  The smell of  hot men, and running machines fills my still congested lungs. I'm still clinging to the cough that kept me out of the gym last week.  It is not wall shattering having evolved to a dry rasp of annoyance. Still rude not to cover it, but barely worth the effort.

My workout partner is undaunted by my hacking and has mastered the art of ignoring it.  Favoring instead to bark orders- corrections in form and challenges to my counting, which admittedly can some times be inflated based on my mood.  She is exactly what I need.

Working toward any goal you can count on stumbling. It is not about if, it but rather a question of when.
Getting sick, working exhausting hours, family situations can all be used to hold us back or to drive us onward. Working out clears my mind, sets the mood for the day focusing me on what is important.

A fellow patron at the gym wanting to be helpful asked my buddy and myself once what our goal was?  Was it to build bulk or to build long lean muscle.  She adjusted the ginormous amount of weight we had set up for ourselves to a third of what we had and showed that slow and deliberate movements are what we want to use to carve our bodies.  The fellow patron has probably long forgotten the question.  The encounter spoke to me.  Her question is one that can be used for many areas of life.  When eating, shopping, writing, living- is it bulk and the itch to gather bulk that drives us or is it the drive to have lean figures, and meaningful text. Since speaking to that patron I have tried to focus on those words as I work each muscle.  Focusing on being lean in my actions for the day and those at the gym. I have sweat over words, pulling slow to find meaning rather then extraneous fluff. 

This is not the first time I have lived this lesson.  Not long ago I found myself in a hungry scramble to get, to have and to do more.  I was desparate to change careers, getting my MBA so I could count myself successful with all the stuff that would be the jewels in my crown.  Angry with my position I went to Botswana working with a travel company to present a possible partnership- a step to the goal.

Driven around in expensive German cars, to five star resorts made me feel empty.  It was stepping out on to the open national lands surrounded by the unpredictable wild that brought me home.   On one of the evening safaris our group spotted two lions, 'the boys', were a short distance from our camp. After good fellowship with locals and local dinner we all retreated to our tents.  Laying in bed the night breeze licked at my bare feet.  My chest began to rumble, the boys were close.  Blowing out my light, still blind to the world outside my tent I listened.   The boys entered the water, exiting to the dry land behind my tent.  The low rumble got close, and the licking of their mouths, the dripping of the water rolling off their coats boomed feet away.  Looking, straining to see behind my tent they were doing the same.  Walking over, sitting next to my tent, they were curious.  They leaned in to smell. My limbs shook I still don't know if it was fear or their constant rumble.  Holding my breath we all waited.  As if taken on the wind they were gone, nothing but the dream of it remained.  Sitting next to raw unrestrained power, was like being in the presence of God.  I found myself not worried about the having more, it was about the moment. I worried about breathing, being.  Nothing else was left.  Lean living was and is my concern not how much more could I have or get.