Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Where does the time go?

Wow, I knew I had been slacking but it has been far too long since I sat down and shared a little bit with the world wide web.  There have been many thoughts and moments where I thought, "Hmm, I should write a blog about that." Alas, those thoughts were fleeting enough that I did not ever actually act upon them.

The basic 411- Life keeps moving.  As we grow and continue to age, time and life take on a more basic reality- it just keeps going.  Stress, sadness, happiness, anger, frustration, and every other emotion that we experience in  life simply happens as each day progresses regardless of our intention. However, it is the choices in how we handle that progress that not only define us, but also direct the additional paths we will follow.  

It is those choices that led me back to the classroom, though it was only dipping my toe back into the water.  An opportunity presented itself to return to the part of teaching that I love- actually teaching.  Though it was only six weeks and five students, it was one of the highlights of my summer.  This foray back into the teaching universe has led to additional opportunities that I have been able to pursue at my leisure, slowly easing myself back into the arena.

Also on the burner, churning and boiling away in the back of my thoughts is the possibility of returning to pursue my Master's degree.  The issue is that I have not fully convinced myself that I am, well for lack of a better term, "smart enough" to actually do this.  Although there are many people who have encouraged and assured me that I am quite capable of this pursuit, at the end of the day it is my own self-concept and perception that matters.  Until I truly feel that this is something within my ability to pursue and complete- the pursuit will remain stalled.  This is true of so many things in life when I look back- that it wasn't until I believed it could truly be, that it truly was.  So the next time you or someone you love is facing a new challenge, try to remember that the support of loved ones is crucial but is not the final thing to tip the scales one way or another; it is what is within us that will finally set the scales in motion towards a final decision about what we can or cannot do in life.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Happiness surrounds

Well, in true blogger style I have failed to post for far too long.  Partially it is because life moves pretty fast, and the other part is because we are less likely to stop and share our feelings out in the ethos when life is good.  Right now, life is good.  It is not that there has not been heartbreak, for life always has its ups and downs; but over all.... life is good!

Recently I went through the extremes of grieving over the end of life and celebrating the joy of new life.  Both gave me the opportunity to reflect on what it means to live and how priorities are selected.  My great uncle Paul passed away just a few days shy of his 101st birthday.  Sitting there reading over the summary of that century of life; for that is all that you can do is provide a brief summary; even those few details spoke volumes about the type of guy he was.  He was married to my aunt Jane for 50 years, remarried several years after her death and was in that marriage for over 10 years.  He then spent the last eight or so years dating a wonderful lady named Edna.  He was caring and kind. He was a veteran, a post master, retired in 1976, spent his time with family, friends and the partners who filled his many years with love.  We should all be so lucky.  Then just a few weeks later I welcomed a new nephew into the world and my heart swelled with love and happiness.  As I sat filling in his baby book with all the random "the world right now" details, I found myself wondering what the world will look like if he were to surpass his 100th birthday in 2114?

Change is the only constant in life.  If life went on from day to day staying exactly the same with absolutely no fluctuations of any kind, it would be boring.  Though change can be scary, change is what keeps us going as well.  Often the best changes come when we are least expecting them.  It was one year ago that I was starting to pack up my classroom, planning for what I thought would be the next step in my life; yet here one year later I could not have predicted in any way what has transpired since that decision to leave the classroom.  I miss teaching, I do; but I don't miss the stress, the frustration, the over whelming amount of time I felt I had to dedicate to that one area of my life.  Life is a journey that follows many winding paths, and the best thing to do is have the courage to follow the path your heart tells you too.  It will not always be easy, but it will always be worth it.   If you ever find yourself standing there wondering "is this all there is to my life" or "am I actually happy" also remind yourself that this is but a moment, how much can change and occur in the course of a lifetime- even if it isn't over 100 years.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Stop and Smell the Roses

Over a month into the New Year and frankly, life is going in a much more relaxed and enjoyable direction.  To be honest it is frighteningly normal, thus there is not much of consequence to post in the ether.  However, an article from the Washington Post recently caught my attention for a variety of reasons and has sparked a few thoughts that seemed worth sharing.  Here is the link to this article:
The general premise is that the Post conducted a social experiment with the aid of a world renowned violinist in a Washington DC metro station during the morning rush hour.  The question posed was simple; would people stop and appreciate this remarkable musician or simply rush by in a time driven distraction without a second thought.  The results of this were documented and spoke volumes about the world we find ourselves operating in.  The monumental implications of this simple experiment reach far and wide.  Although this was conducted in 2007, it seems that the results would likely be similar today.
So why did this old article stick out and prompt the clicking sounds of keys on a keyboard- many things.  The first was the violinist- Joshua Bell.  A few years ago, two dear family friends had tickets to the Kansas City Symphony that they gave to my father and I.  Huge fans of music in general this was a first for both of us to go see the KC Symphony live at the Kauffman Center.  One of the featured musicians that day was none other than Joshua Bell.  He is talented, amazing to hear, astounding to watch and most definitely a musician that leaves an impression of the musical beauty that exists in the world.  At the end of 2013 we lost one of those generous friends who afforded us this brilliant experience that is still vividly in my mind.  A subtle reminder of how lucky I was to know her, to call her a second mom, to be able to remember the awesomely wonderful experiences that I was able to have in large part because of her generous spirit and how I will always have that beauty with me forever.
The second is the utter astonishment of how many people simply missed this moment.  Walked past this world famous, highly paid musician, playing an incredibly difficult and complex piece of music on a very expensive instrument like there was nothing worth noticing.  How time obsessed are we in this society; is this possibly the root of our problems and issues in general.  In general it seems to indicate that we become so focused on time that we no longer have the ability to focus on anything else. This general thought process applies to so many things really that connect to our understanding of “time.”  Take for example texting and driving- is there ANY message that I could possible get or miss that is worth my life; that cannot wait another 5, 10 or even 30 minutes- doubtful.  I say this because that information will likely still be the same whether it is read the moment it reaches your phone or once your car is in park.  Don’t believe me, look back through your text history and see if there was any recent message that you simply could not have waited 30 minutes to respond to.  The same can be said for speeding as well, is 5 minutes really going to make that much of a difference in the grand scheme of the places you need to go- probably not.  Sure you might get in a small amount of trouble, or you might even get fired if it is habitual but that is a different issue that has nothing to do with speed, other drivers, or rules of the road. 
We are so obsessed with time and tasks associated with time.  I think back to how many times I was so concerned about what needed to be done that I was unable to really stop and take in what was happening.  The tasks that were somehow associated with a timeline in my mind took over my whole thought process.  Often I would be unable to tell you what I ate for lunch or even who I talked to at lunch because of this.  Now this is even more compounded by the technology we are attached to.  Thinking back can you remember the little things in your day or did you miss them because you were focused on something else that was “time” related in your mind.
The third then is the connection to the message of the experiment.  Could this simple message that we have all heard in our lives truly be the key to those moments of pure happiness that seem to be missing from the world sometimes.  I want to believe that if I had been one of the commuters that day in the DC Metro station that I would have decided that today was a day to be late; that I would have stopped and taken in the beauty and wonder of that experience.  I want to believe that I stop and enjoy the little things in life- the beauty of the falling snow, stories from friends or other loved ones, that I take those moments to focus and clear my mind of all the usual stuff that weighs upon it and just focus. 
Mostly, thinking back over recent events in my life, there is a ping pong match occurring for me.  When I read, or dine out my focus is more often on remembering and savoring the experience that I am having at that moment.  Since the changes in my life I find myself more willing to wait for the trains to pass, taking in some of the amazing (though illegal) art that decorates many of the cars; more willing to slow for pedestrians or other cars; more patient when cleaning off the snow or trying to get through the snow.  Occasionally; however, I do get caught up in the details of time.  I have to get to the bank so I drive less courteously, I get anxious and less patient with others in general.   What’s the rush?  The store will still be there; the bank will be open again tomorrow; work will not cease to function until I appear.  The rush only really occurs when I decide to let it rule, or poorly plan out the general events of my daily life and routine.  This is something that I can control.

So, that is what I have decided to make my resolution for 2014 (yes it may be a bit late in the traditional since of time of year; but a resolution can be made at any given moment if you are resolute in your pursuit of it).  This year I will stop wearing a watch every day and instead only wear it occasionally.  I will stop obsessing with the clocks in my life by either removing them, covering them, or simply training myself to not look at them as often.   I will focus more on moments and the things around me than what is on the future “to do” list.  I will make a concerted effort to plan my general day to day appropriately so that “rush” or “I’ve got to get this done” is no longer a part of my daily vocabulary.  It may not be the answer to everything, but it is a start. This is not to say that time does not have a place in life, it does.  The goal is that life not be driven by time but simply guided by its principle. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dear 2013

Dear 2013,

This is hard for me, please know that.  We have had some really great times together, shared some laughs, met new people, reconnected with old friends, and even taken amazing trips!  However, I think we both knew that things have been more rocky which did not bode well for our future.   This may be really hard to hear, but I think it is time for us to go our separate ways and move on to "greener pastures" if you will. Years from now I may look back on this time with you and see how instrumental it actually was in the grand scheme of my life, but right now the cloud of emotions obscures this image from appearing.  Please know that I don't blame you; it just is the way it was and neither of us could do anything about that.  I just had higher hopes when we began this relationship and thought things would be so different.

You have just broken my heart to many times; pushed me to the edge of reason and sanity; made me question if I had a clue about what I was doing.  I need to be done with all of that.  I need to move on with my life, find happiness and peace of mind.  You, I am sorry to say, just didn't quite fit the bill. 

I have learned so much from you though and I will always remember those lessons (both good and bad).  I am stronger now than I was a year ago.  I have more faith and courage to take risks than I did a year ago.  You were instrumental in those lessons and for that I thank you. I will treasure the happy memories that we shared, but I will also remember the utter heartbreaks suffered in our time together.  There were just too many tears shed for this to continue.

I have packed up all of the mementos, papers, belongings and keepsakes.  They are stored for safe keeping because there will come a time when I will want to remember, but right now it is just too much, too overwhelming with emotion.  I do so hope that you will understand that parting is for the best and storing all of those things out of sight is just the way it needs to be right now.  

I wish you all the best as you move into the next phase of time for you.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bells Will be Ringing

I find it hard to come up with the right words to express all of the feelings and emotions that I am experiencing at the moment.  I struggle to find a topic, a lesson, a reason to write a short passage in this little blog.  When I started this, the intent was to share knowledge and great adventures that I had as I "flew the coop" and left the land of Oz.  Life; however, had other plans for me.   In reality it has worked out exactly as it needed to and for that I am humbled and grateful for the strength to adapt, to shift, to accept new direction as it appears.  Yet, there is still a sense of disappointment that the turn could not have been a more joyous one.  Hope springs eternal in my heart that it will eventually lead to that joy, but first I must get through the brier patch.  

As my mother continues to heal (quite nicely I might add), our family prepares to say good-bye to a close friend, my mom's best friend, a second mom, a very special member of that family you pick to be family.  There is the blessing of knowing that it is coming, as it allows you to hold them a little tighter, share the stories that make you smile, say all the things that you feel need to be said; yet, the pain, the grieving, the sadness can not be lessened or avoided.  In a year where I have found myself asking how many times can you be knocked down before you don't get back up- I am surprised that I do manage to get back up and keep going.

There is always a balance to the hard stuff.  Sometimes we can not see that balance because the pain, frustration, sadness, anger are too consuming to allow us to see it.  Yet, the balance is there.  It is there in the faces of those who care about you, support you, lend you comfort or strength in times of strife.  Maybe there is a magical moment where for a few minutes, an hour, or even a day you laugh and smile because there was a reason to be happy even in the midst of tragedy.  The balance might even be the realization that you are not as alone as you sometimes feel because someone calls at the right time, or there is someone unexpected there to rub your back, hold your hand, hug you tight when the unexpected or expected news arrives.  The balance may even be a lottery ticket randomly purchased on the worst of days that you win $4 on, though the people in the store may have thought you won so much more because you shouted so loudly- because on that day, $4 did feel like winning a huge jackpot.

The holidays signify joy and happiness.  Bells ringing, gifts wrapped, carols sung, foods filling the air with distinctive smells of deliciousness.  Though the Christmas spirit within me is going to have to duke it out with the other emotions that are warring inside, there will come a moment, a second, maybe even longer where it will be triumphant and there will be pure joy that overpowers all the rest.  It may not last long, but I for one will try so very hard to recognize it, hold on to its feeling, and cherish whatever moment it is, for as long as I possibly can.  

One day at a time, ever forward we walk. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Medical Melodies...

The year 2013 will hence forth be known as the year of the hospital.  This is not because I myself have had to stay in one this year, but so many friends and loved ones have.  It seems that I have spent a vast majority of my year reading updates on health developments or sitting in waiting rooms or sitting by the bedside of someone who is trying to heal.  I know that in the grand scheme of life there are others who have likely spent even more time with the medical facilities this year, but this is the most for me.

That being said, it seems as if this entire process and year has been preparing me (unbeknownst to me) for this round with my mother.  All those lessons in faith and patience were drawn upon to get through the waiting.  All those times that things did not go as planned but still ended up fine were drawn upon when there was a hiccup and recovery did not go as planned.  Every step lead to the next and path was always there, even though I may have struggled to see it.

So what have I learned from all of this?  Well quite a bit actually; so here are the top 10 things!

1.) If you sit long enough to be present for several nurses rounds, you pick up a vast amount of Medical Jargon that will be useful if there is a next round. (Also helps you to figure out the "right" questions to ask)

2.) Interior designers of Hospital waiting rooms have clearly never had to sit in a hospital waiting room.  Somehow, they always find chairs that seem like they would be comfortable and cushy but after about an hour have become more like rocks underneath you.

3.) No matter how many times a hospital has been added onto, there is almost always a grid to the layout, get the grid you will be able to navigate whatever hospital you encounter.

4.) Names matter! Not just the names of patients; but the names of Nurses and Doctors that come in to help.  Get to know the names, use the names, and you will feel more comfortable conversing and asking questions about what is happening to your loved one.

5.) The POWER of THANK YOU can not be truly measured.  Hospitals are high stress environments not just for you but also the people who work there.  Say thank you whenever you can.  Make it more powerful by combining this with #4- Saying "Thank you Joan" can make a world of difference.

6.) Balance patience and boldness.  There is a lot going on and sometimes people forget things, it is normal in every job, in every environment.  However, when it comes to our loved ones in a hospital they are the only focus for us.  It is up to the support people to ask questions and be sure that things are not being forgotten (but always try to speak with calmness and kindness... will get you farther.)

7.) Remember while in waiting rooms that you are surrounded by other families who are also worried and stressed out. 

8.) Sleep whenever you can!  Similar to a new mom who is told to sleep whenever the baby sleeps, this is also true of support people in hospital settings.  The days tend to be long and rest will be needed.  It is amazing how much sitting around being worried and/or stressed can take out of you.

9.) EAT!!! Take the time to walk around, go to the snack shop, the cafeteria, a coffee shop and get some food in you.  If you bring some snacks with you, try to remember to take a brief walk every time you snack. 

10.) This is probably one of the most important and one of the hardest.  It is in essence the combination of #8 & #9 but is more encompassing.  It is impossible to be supportive and caring for another if you do not take care of yourself.  Sometimes that means you have to be okay with asking someone else to sit with your loved one so you can leave the hospital and take a break from it all.  This may not seem like a big deal, but you would be surprised how hard it can actually be.  There is always that thought that something might happen and I wouldn't be there.  This may be true, but everyday, every minute of your life, something might happen and you may not be there.  Take care of yourself so that you can truly take care of your loved one.  

Of course I always end up thinking of an 11th so here it is.......
#11 DO NOT BE ASHAMED TO ASK FOR HELP!  Often the hardest part of this is that you may not know what kind of help you need.  If friends and family offer to bring food, sometimes you should say yes even when you think you are not hungry.  Base the answer on when you last ate, not if you are craving food.  Offers of taking over so you can sleep, take a break, run home, shower, or change; should also be accepted because of #10. Be accepting of even just the quiet presence of friends or family beside you, holding your hand, giving you a shoulder to lean on, offering an ear to listen; taking someone up on this shows more strength than you can ever know.

So there are my tips and observations after my rounds through the halls of six different medical facilities this year.    No offense to 2013, but I am sure looking forward to locking you away in the record books and moving on.  Hopefully this will be the last round in the halls of a hospital this year, but who knows.  With a little over a month left in 2013, I am hopeful; but then again I am always a bit hopeful.  Hope is what keeps us going and gives us the motivation to chase our dreams. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Roller coaster of Emotions

There are always those days in life where it seems like you are on a roller coaster of emotion with no way to prepare for the twist, curve, or drop of the up coming tracks.  Yesterday was one of those days for me.  

A beautiful windy fall Sunday with a birthday party scheduled for a rambunctious and excited soon to be four year old; I woke up with a clear expectation of what the day had in store, but how wrong I was.  While driving to the party I received word that a wonderful educator, who I had spent five years teaching with, had been killed in a tragic car accident.  In an instant everything that was expected from the day was changed.  Yes, the party was still fun and exciting but for me it was tempered with sadness.  Then it was on to visit a friend who is ill followed by the news that another friend received an engagement ring.  Roller coaster of emotions marked the day, and all you can do is hold on and ride along with it.

We get bogged down sometimes in the sadness and hardships of life, especially when it feels that they are being heaped upon us in spades.  However, we must remember that our list of blessings far outweighs the burdens; though sometimes it takes really sitting down and listing them all out to see that. Even when we think that the burdens upon us are too much to carry, we turn and find someone lifting part of it with us.  Though it may seem to drag on day, after day, after day, someday this too will pass.  Through it all, there are still all of the emotions to go through and sometimes we must just accept the twists and turns as they come. 

All the people that come in and out of our lives have an impact on us even when we aren't always aware of it. I was lucky enough to meet an amazing woman and teacher, lucky enough to call her my friend, and have the opportunity to see her impact young lives. There is nothing that will ease the ache and sadness that comes with her passing, but I have some great memories to hold onto while I grieve for the loss. She will live on in the memories of family, friends, and in the knowledge that she imparted to so many students over the course of her career.  Rest in peace my friend and former colleague, you are missed.