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.