Friday, October 7, 2011

Teeter Totter---Finding the balance

I used to love riding the teeter totter on the playground.  Granted, the proportion of fun directly related to the size of my co-totterer and their desire to play at the same speed as my expectation.  Sometimes it was fun to go just as fast as two silly girls could jump, but other times the process of finding perfect equilibrium and balance between the two of us proved a more significant challenge.  It required thought and teamwork.

Isn't that funny how life often mimics this same pattern.  Sometimes it is fun to simply chase through life as fast as you can with no regard to tomorrow or even the next minute.  A person devoting all their time to school, or their job, or even their church.  But usually a time comes when there develops another priority that gains in value and later requires a balance, such as a significant relationship, a child or a friend in need. Finding the true balance is the difficult part.  Ask any working parent how hard it is to provide for their family while making sure each child feels love and importance within the family.  It's a daily investment and choice.

Finding balance is everywhere.  I think my greatest struggle comes with my eating habits.  I can either eat very little in strict compliance and work out like crazy, or snack on the ice cream while laying around watching a movie.  I know that the ultimate success occurs when I eat and exercise with balance, instead of riding the pendulum from starvation to gluttony, back and forth, back and forth, sometimes just as fast as the teeter totter in warp speed mode.

I think most people today fill many roles throughout their 24 hours around the sun. mother, father, daughter, son, sibling, coworker, friend, boss, neighbor, member, etc.  I hate it when I feel as though I've performed many jobs throughout the day, filled several roles, and none completed in a way that allowed me to feel proud.  I feel sometimes like I merely half-ass do everything simply to reach the "end of the daily list". And I know when my soul feels this way, I'm searching for balance, and not yet finding it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Falling off the pedestal

Do you consider yourself a judging person? Do you make assumptions about others based on their circumstance, attitudes and appearances?

In my younger days I would argue that I was nonjudgemental...I tried to accept everyone for who they were.  I didn't judge based on race, income or religion. Blah ti Dah Blah

In reality, I judged all the time. I don't think I set out to be this person basking on the knowledge pedestal casting my wisdom around, but the truth of the matter was that I did think I owned all the answers in my wise 20 year old brain. 

I'm a teacher.  When I first began my career, I like many recent graduates thought many children in special education classes simply misbehaved because their parents didn't discipline them properly.  I could not fathom the idea of a parent placing their child on medication to merely get them to "act right".  I was appalled. I truly felt that it was a cop out for parents to place the blame of their poor parenting skills somewhere other than where it squarely belonged, their shoulders. 

Some of those judgements are valid in individual instances, but I made the blanket assumptions for all.  Luckily, God blessed me with a child who suffers from ADHD. I say luckily because I have tremendous faith in God's plan, and out of all the kids in the world He could have chosen for me, I got the son that is mine. 

Maybe I don't possess the greatest parenting skills, and I know that you should constantly learn.  But I had a son that was once on Adderall, and we constantly work  on behavior, impulsivity, acting out and all those other annoying habits that drive people crazy.  I must add that he's improved so much in the last year, and he no longer takes the medication for which I'm thankful.  I can't tell you how many books I've read.  If there was a behavior and discipline plan, I tried it at one point.  I tried supplements and changes in diet, and everything before resorting to the medication after 2 years.  But having your 9 year old telling you he wants to die because everyone at school, including the teachers hate him...well then that changes your perspective a little.

Now, I am enlightened, and no longer blaming all the parents for every ill that befalls their children.  It's a controversial subject.  Feel free to judge, but I made the best decision for us.  One parent I know said, "If parents were perfect, then our kids wouldn't need God."  I love that, and with that said, my son definitely needs God. I am better person now, and a much more empathetic teacher because of this life experience. 

Another great example is when I used to not fully comprehend how a woman could live with physical or mental abuse.  Why would you keep going back for more? Especially if you had a job, or family and a means out?  How could a woman be so weak?  To be honest it almost irritated me at times to hear the cycle of a woman going back to her abuser. 

Here again life helped me answer that little question with a second husband who appeared normal to the outside world, but was full of anger and control on the inside.  And while I was lucky in the fact I wasn't really physically abused, the mental angst was fairly substantial.  How do you get so weak, I asked? You inch there slowly a little bit each day, making excuses, hoping and praying for a change until you wake up one morning with no recollection of the eyes staring back at you in the mirror.  And you realize that when he tells you how pathetically weak you are...that he is exactly right.

I am fortunate in the regards that I got out and now recognize that woman who smiles back at me today in the mirror. But I no longer cast doubts on those in their own predicaments. And when I cross someone in that awful place, I try to offer hope and strength, not criticism.

So what about you? When you see a person holding a sign for food, do you think they could just do better if they WANTED  to work.  Do you think they may be a con like the ones shown on 20/20? Or do you have empathy?  Do you think that given their circumstances that you would never stoop so low, or that your character wouldn't suffer a few dents?

What about the rich guy who passes you in his flashy convertible? Do you automatically assume that he must be a snob or a jerk?  It goes both ways.  Or the lady who cuts in front of you without her she automatically an idiot? Maybe she just heard some earth shattering news and is having trouble concentrating.  Or how about the kid with the saggy clothes and the baseball cap on sideways?  Is he presumably a thug?

I still catch myself from time to time, but I really try to watch it.  I always ask God for forgiveness because mainly he just always has to show me the lesson, and I've already lived through a couple.  I'd rather just choose to stop passing judgement and not have to learn from the field trip. 

It's a challenge.  In one day, how many times do you presume to know someone's character or personality simply by a small observation, but without really getting to know them as a human being?  Make a guess, and then see how close to that number you are at the end of the day.  I'm working on bringing my two numbers closer together, and lower in general.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011


    Whose side are you on?
    What church do you go to?
    What team picked you?
    Are you in the green turtle group or the blue dolphin group?
    What's your last name?

    At an early age we are taught divisiveness that doesn't include a single numeral or symbol.  We learn that there is a place we "belong", and simply because of that we learn a loyalty to whatever group that may include.  Family, school, church, activities.  All of these offer an identity within a group, and the strength of that bond and connectedness allows for the learning of loyalty.  The sad news is that this process is slowly dying in our country.

    What happens when parents divorce?  How can a child truly stay loyal to one parent without the feeling of betrayal to the other?  What happened to "For better or worse".  Too many times when the "worse" comes down, the loyalty to each other evaporates.  Our generations are learning that the average length of forever is 7 years.

     The very act of staying with an establishment even in times of disagreement is a rarity.  Explain why there is a church on every corner?  Is it because we just have so many Christians that we fill one and another house of pews needs to be built? Or is it that the inside bickering and disagreement of theology lends those to create their own church rather than remain loyal and work through the conflict?

    I think the very core of loyalty is unselfishness. When the bonds of loyalty are tested and stretched, the truth shows one willing to honor a commitment,or oath, rather than choosing a different self serving option.

    I suppose I think that loyalty should follow the following hierachy. Faith, Family,Country,Self. Certainly, the last one is important, but too often remains forgotten.  I think being  loyal to yourself makes it possiblle for your loyalty to grow in others.

     I know that one remains loyal to other things, but with the invention of free agency it's a little more difficult in football.

    Monday, May 30, 2011


    "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

     Remember those questions as a youngster?  My answers varied with my age and changed from a horse jockey, veterinarian, horse trainer, computer programmer, teacher, actuary, psychologist, and back to teacher.  Most all of my ideas based my "success" on wins or money, or both.  My personal gauge for success or failure fluctuated at the money in the bank, or lines in the newspaper.   Probably no different than many other teenagers, and so I always answered that question based on attaining my inner view of what would make me "successful".  No one answers the "What do you want to be when you grow up?" question with an idea of unsuccessful.

    The journey to reality happened as I lived "life", and not necessarily my mythical expectations.  So many things that I thought were "easy", turned out to be what really means success, and I realized some of the other worldly measurements really didn't mean that much.

    I naively thought that marriage would be easy if you truly loved someone.  I learned that even when you truly love someone, they can still hurt you.  I've survived divorce, and realize that an anniversary, no matter what the number, is success. 

    I believed that labor was the most difficult part of being a mom.  I later understood, that success is potty training, hearing a thank you, the honor roll. Difficult is teething, the first day of school, and later the misunderstood hormones of a teenager.

    I thought that joy came from money and a prestigious job.  I later learned that money doesn't buy appreciation or satisfaction at the end of the day for me.  As a teacher, success is a high school senior who passes their exit exam when they have never passed before.  My bank account never fluctuates when that happens, nor does the newspaper feature a story.  No wait, the newspaper does report on the whole school, especially if the scores go down, but it is not about me anymore.

    Now I believe success is finding joy every single day, no matter how small.  It comes from within me, and not directed by someone else, and I strive to not allow anyone to steal that joy.  Success is looking into my eyes in the mirror and liking what I see, aside from the crows feet.  Success is those closest too me know that I love them unconditionally, and friends knowing who to call in times of need. Success is a smile and laughter.

    I've learned that my ideas of success are never static, so even as I write this they continue to evolve as do I. And for that I'm grateful, because this journey is so much more exciting than I ever envisioned.  The following is a poem that is framed on my desk.  I give a card sized version of it to my seniors. 

    Inaccurately attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson

    To laugh often and much;
    To win the respect of intelligent people
    and the affection of children;
    To earn the appreciation of honest critics
    and endure the betrayal of false friends;
    To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
    To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
    a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
    To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
    This is to have succeeded.

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    The Summer of Expectation

    It starts about January with the anticipated arrival of seed catalogs in my icy mailbox.  For as long as I can remember, I've enjoyed gardening.  My love began with my Dad and Granny as a young girl, and something about the emergence of life from a simple seed that "I" planted always fascinated me.

    When my son was a toddler he would go missing in my garden.  Later I would find him with tomato seeds and pulp all over his chubby cheeks and T shirt. Green or red, he ate them all.  He enjoyed planting too, but mainly eating was his main objective.

    Last summer, something changed.  We had recently moved to a new house with a huge yard from an apartment with a balcony.  A great growth in our cultivating space, and since I hadn't planted a garden in five years we both were excited.  He became obsessed with our garden, reading vlogs, articles, books, almanacs, etc to learn about different techniques. Make no mistake, he is not the bookworm type.  School is a struggle, but he has definitely found his niche.

                                                                          Summer 2010

    This year we are a little late getting started, but the expectation of this garden has grown since that first catalog arrival in January.  He is a sixteen year old boy, which often correlates into this mother feeling misunderstood, unappreciated, and often unloved.  I'm sure he is equally frustrated with me, so the  undertaking of this garden is more than simply growing vegetables.  Its growing our relationship.  His step dad helped him build a cold frame to start seedlings, and again it wasn't all about the plants.  It was nurturing the seed of acceptance and trust.

    So the summer promises to be full of work and compromise.  This garden isn't made with rows like my Granny used to make, but is more unconventional designed by the creative mind of a teenager.  I possess the expectation that we will grow closer, and he will find satisfaction in a job well done.  We may experience a hail storm, or flood, or horde of grasshoppers, but right now, right now at this very moment I have hope of tremendous success.  Its the same hopeful expectation I feel as I anticipate the initial sprout of the seedling pushing through the earth and reaching for light.

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    The End of Tomorrow?

    Tomorrow is May 21st, 2011.  The end of the world according to some.  The beginning of a marriage according to a friend.

    I do not even want to pretend an interest in arguing Biblical scripture and prophesy on the End Times and Armageddon.  I know a little, but concede my novice knowledge compared to many scholars of religion.

    What I did start to ponder on this evening was that if tomorrow truly was the end of the world as we know it, what exactly would that mean?  In my serious frame of mind, I think I would be joyous! I'm a Christian, so there would be exhilaration that what I believed finally came true.  I'm in trouble if Muhammad is the true answer.  I suspect relief might fill my thoughts as it registered that I no longer had to look around with disappointment at the state of humanity.  Maybe this is pessimistic, and I also know there are many positive, loving people in our country, but lately I am saddened by a lack of compassion and respect in our world.

    I know that I also would feel regret from lost time not spent with family, or possibly lost opportunities at earthly experiences I wished I had done; sort of a bucket list that never got checked.  When I think of those lines still open on my To Do before I die List, most are not governed by my job, or bills, or cleaning house which is exactly where I spend the majority off time.  A glaring revelation that I choose to spend my most precious commodity (time) on not so worthy causes.  Now, my family needs to eat, and I"m not advocating living in a Hoarders arrangement, but truthfully it does not hurt to reflect on my choices of the size of the slice in my pie chart of time.

    On the less serious note...if there were no tomorrow, what would procrastinators do?

    Blessings to you on the 21st, and see you on the 22nd.