Sunday, May 30, 2010

How am I spending my time?

Family time.
dancing, games, municipal park, cooking and eating, laughing, teaching, reading, TV, Fallen Timbers chaperone, Shrek Final Chapter, swimming, cleaning

Me time.
walking, YMCA, reading, hair highlight, more reading

walking, treats, petting, playing, enjoying

sorting, packing, throwing, boxing, deciding, remembering

singing, praying, listening, learning, communing, sharing, loving

phone, e-mail, Facebook, blog, Tom, Dick and Harry's, neighborhood hangout, home visits, hiking, cookouts, guacamole, swimming, cards, hugs and tears, hellos and goodbyes.

reading, planning, reading, reading, emailing, reading, taking notes.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Last Lecture

As I walked from my church to my school to attend one last commencement ceremony there, I began to realize that I, too, am graduating from my school. I guess I'm slow - taking 17 years to graduate. At any rate, I feel like a graduate in the sense that this commencement marks both an ending and a beginning for me as well. I, too, am venturing into the "great unknown." So while I didn't give the speech, I find it fitting to wonder what I would say in my "Last Lecture." (For those of you unfamiliar with Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture, find it and read it!)

This blog will not be as well-thought out as his, nor as all-inclusive. As a matter of fact, in some ways my entire series of blog-essays is one long "last lecture." But for our purposes here, let's just say these are some of the things I would want to say if given an opportunity to deliver such a lecture.

Trust in God. He really does know what HE is doing. We can do pretty well on our own lots of the time. But I've found that the times I have most trusted in God is precisely the most marvelous and miraculous times in my life: Choosing a college? (Trusted in God.) Choosing my husband? (Trusted in God) Choosing adoption? (We both trusted in God.) First teaching job? (God) Second teaching job? (God again.) Most recent teaching job? (Pretty certain we can say this is God again.) Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying life is a cake walk and certainly there were heartaches and trials leading up to the "happy endings" but trusting in God got me through those times, for sure.

Don't put a period where God has put a comma. This saying works hand-in-hand with the "Trust in God" advice. But it is a bit different. It has to do with ACTION and MOVEMENT and MOVING ON and GETTING THINGS DONE and VENTURING INTO THE UNKNOWN. Too many times we seek to be comfortable which can turn into complacence. Too many times we think too much about "success" and not enough about "making a difference." Too much of the time we get engrossed in ME rather than the OTHER. Don't get me wrong; I've enjoyed nearly 2 decades living in my city and working at my job, meeting new students and parents, teachers and administrators along the way. Things can be constantly changing at the same time you are staying put. But actually being willing to think outside the box and take a risk and move on to something brand new is energizing, as well. And it can be just as much about others as it is about yourself. If God calls you to move outside your comfort zone, trust that He knows what He is doing.

Don't waste time worrying. This idea is follows closely to my previous point. I made a decision when I began college to not be a worrier. I've gotten better at not worrying as time has gone by. The way I see it, worrying is a waste of precious time. Rather than worry about something, DO something. If you can't DO something, then PRAY instead. Place the worry in God's hands but don't count yourself out of the equation. When we struggled with fertility issues we did a bit of everything; we prayed (a lot), we DID what we could and what doctors suggested we do, but we didn't waste much time worrying. Que sera sera. Which brings me back to the first point: Trust God. My readers know that within a few months we will be repotting ourselves in S. Korea. This could be an occasion for much worrying, but I'm not going there. I'm preparing myself and my family the best I can; I'm placing the rest in God's hands, but I'm not worrying. And don't you either.

Fall down. Or, as I told my freshman the first day of school this year, "I want you to fail." Not literally, of course. But there is much to be said for not getting it right the first time (whatever "it" is). We aren't perfect. We shouldn't think we are perfect. We shouldn't try to be perfect. We shouldn't expect ourselves or others to be perfect. It is through falling down that we realize we are fallible. We expect a baby to fall down many times before walking; we expect a five-year old boy or girl to skin their knees from time to time. We expect an inventor to have many wrong tries before hitting the jackpot. Why shouldn't we expect the same from ourselves? Give yourself a break. Allow yourself to get it wrong. Don't apologize too much if you do get it wrong. But. . .

Get back up. Here's the secret, really. Yes, fall down. But get back up! Keep trying or change direction. Take a new angle. Think outside the box. Get some others on board. Ask for help. Create a team. Get lots of people working with you. And, you know what? Sometimes success just isn't going to happen. So, spend some time reflecting on what is really important. And this leads me to. . .

Get your priorities straight. I don't know what your priorities are or should be, but for me? God. Family. Relationships. Work. Self. (Not always exactly in that order.) One of the things I like about or impending move is that it has jolted us back to our priorities. For me that is family and friends, at the moment. I love that we are taking time to get together with good friends and that they are taking time to see us. I LOVE IT! Work tends to always demand center stage. Then homework, housework and supper. For me packing a house and getting prepared for a garage sale and selling some big items are demanding my attention. That's all good and fine, but I don't want to miss out on those visits with friends and family!

Read. Write. Walk and Play a little piano.
Okay. That's me. I love to read, write, walk, and play piano. What do you love to do? Are you doing it? What gets you centered? What helps you relax? What healthy activities keeps you positive and energized? Take time for those things. Okay, let's not fool ourselves - MAKE TIME for those things. I find early morning and before bed the best time for "me time." What about you?

Find your passion and let it inspire you and others. Don't deny yourself your passion. More than that; don't deny it to the world around you. You've got that passion for a reason. Are you seeking purpose? Look to your passion! There it is. I feel fortunate to have several passions - reading, writing, teaching, singing, my family. I pray that engaging in my passions fulfills my purpose.

Leave the place better than you found it. What better way to show your respect for your room, home, community, nation, and world than to simply keep it clean! Dropped a towel in the bathroom? Pick it up. See some garbage on the neighbor's lawn? Throw it away. Don't write on the desk. Plant a tree. Recycle and reuse. Shut off the water while you brush your teeth or shower. Volunteer to clean up your downtown. Ride a bike to work or take public transportation. The Iroquois have a way of thinking - the Great Law of the Iroquois - which holds appropriate to think seven generations ahead (a couple hundred years into the future) and decide whether the decisions they make today would benefit their children seven generations into the future. That sounds about right to me.

Have a pet. No explanation needed.

Enjoy your journey!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Race to the End

I'm sitting at my computer for a few quiet moments while my two kids are playing nicely in their bedroom. Who knows how long it will last? I'm trying to reflect on the imminent ending that awaits me at my school. Ten days from now it will be over (mostly). The Spring exams will be done, graduation will be over, the final in-service of the year will be complete and my 17 years of service will be essentially over, as well. Why doesn't it seem real?

I think I must be experiencing what some retirees experience. It just doesn't seem real at first. As a teacher I'm quite used to endings. I like both the beginnings and the endings that come with teaching. Each new school year I get a new batch of kids to meet, greet, and come to love. By the end of the year we've gotten to know each others quirks and idiosyncracies; we've come to appreciate each other. We've learned some things together, too. And then the end of the year comes. We say our good-byes and that is that. Perhaps we run into each other at the mall or the grocery store, but pretty much the relationship is over. I'm used to the rhythms of the school year; this feels much the same.

Yet different. The days are passing too quickly-racing by. I imagine the seniors are feeling the same. It's exciting and daunting at the same time. Endings and beginnings. Beginnings and endings.


I'm back. Since the last paragraph my two children have just run their first race. My husband came home saying their was a race just about to begin - 1 K sponsored by the Cellcom Marathon. Why not do it? They would race by age group, leaving the Lambeau parkinglot, running through the player tunnel and into and around Lambeau field, and back out again. The horn blew. They sped off with about 30 others not venturing into something new. Their hearts raced. Anna had to walk a bit; Alec did not. The finishline came soon enough. They both finished and they did great! They were so excited to get medals at the completion of the race. We were very proud of them. It was all over in a blink of an eye.

There must be an analogy in here somewhere, right? Funny how that works. This leg of my race is soon done.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Tribute to Mom

My mother is a poem
I'll never be able to write,
though everything I write
is a poem to my mother.
~Sharon Doubiago

It’s Mother’s Day! Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms out there reading this. As one who wished for many years to become a mother, let me say I know this day isn’t always a happy one for my female friends. Let me also say, whether or not you are a mother, have a living, do or don’t know your mother, mother’s day can be an emotional day.

While I could muse about being a mother or becoming a mother, I’d like to use this platform to honor my mother. (Sorry, Mom, this is it this year – no diamond necklace or flowers!)

A Tribute to MOM

That best academy, a mother's knee. ~James Russell Lowell
One good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters. ~George Herbert

My mom cannot separate herself from her role as mother and her role as teacher. This has always been true and continues to be true in her newer role as grandmother. She’s always teaching. She’s most in her element when she can read a story, give a story or activity book, play BINGO or YAHTZEE, or ask questions on a myriad of topics. Living with a mom for whom buying toys usually meant something “educational” quite likely brought me to my career as a teacher. That and our long homework sessions when she helped me memorize the multiplication tables in grade school and later the 50 inventors, their inventions, countries of origins, and years in 9th grade. And who could forget how we learned what rodents and insects were thinking when mom would begin talking for them and carrying on full conversations!

The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness. ~Honoré de Balzac

My mom has the patience and forgiveness of a Saint. I’ve never known her to hold a grudge or to grumble about someone “not getting it.” I wish I could say both of these qualities have found their way down the bloodline, but I fear my capacity for forgiveness is greater than my patience.

The mother's heart is the child's school-room. ~Henry Ward Beecher

My mom has a heart of such capacity that she managed to mother not only her two children successfully, but hundreds (maybe thousands) of others, too. Confirmation kids, grade school children, youngsters with special needs, and English language learners. Through her love and care we’ve all grown to reach our full potential.

One of the very few reasons I had any respect for my mother when I was thirteen was because she would reach into the sink with her bare hands - bare hands - and pick up that lethal gunk and drop it into the garbage. To top that, I saw her reach into the wet garbage bag and fish around in there looking for a lost teaspoon. Bare hands - a kind of mad courage. ~Robert Fulghum

I can beat that. My mom could stick her hand into a drawer in the bureau at our cabin and pick up with her bare hands the mouse nests there (or in the outhouse!) Once she even actually picked up baby mice! (Okay, that time it wasn’t so impressive as she screamed so long and loud that Dad thought she must be having a heart attack.) But she did it. She also could scrub bat guano off the floor or furniture. Set a mousetrap or empty a mousetrap without flinching. She could cook eggs in a cast iron skillet on a cookstove without burning it. Those same hands could cook Sunday dinner (Preacher’s casserole or chicken and rice or potroast or goulash) or Christmas supper (Norwegian meatballs, riced potatoes, apple pie, and lefsa) or something for a Sunday potluck (green Jello with celery or a pie) or make homemade jelly, homemade soap, homemade candles, or handmade clothes. Those very same hands could pour alcohol on an open wound (yes! It really hurts like heck) and then squeeze you tight.

For all you do and all you are, THANK YOU, Mom! I love you no matter how near or far we are.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


The morning began with a milelong walk with the family in the YMCA Healthy Kids Day walk held at Shopko Hall (directly across from the Packer's Lambeau Field). We first walked to the walk from our house. The Walk itself was wonderful and the first one for the kids (at 6 and 9) - first milestone.

It was refreshing to go to a kid's event that didn't end in a bagful of candy (it would be ironic at a Healthy Kids event, no?) Nonetheless, Anna had a stellar day. First, she made it to the top of the climbing wall for the first time - milestone. Then she tried some juggling techniques for the first time - milestone. Then she won a Disney Radio hoola hoop contest against several other kids, even some older than she - milestone. Alec had his share of fun, as well. Three hours later we returned home.

Before the afternoon was over, I had acquiesced to Anna's most recent pleas. . . to get her ears pierced. Ah! Here is the biggest milestone of all. Next to a tatoo at 18, isn't the permanent disfiguration of your earlobes the biggest moment of a young girls' life? We rode our bikes to the mall. She chose the blue daisy earrings at Claire's. She was so ready that she never waivered in her resolve. The way it's done nowadays there's no numbing of the earlobe, just an instantaneous insertion of the earring through the lobe by a stapler-like device that apparently feels "like a pinch." With two practicioners, both ears were done simultaneously. Over before you know it and no tears. We celebrated with free samples of chocolate at Seroogy's and rode our bikes home. The sky was blue. The sun was hot. And all was right with the world.

The day concluded with a mother-daughter trip to Cabaret Night to see high school kids perform in three different venues. I knew Anna would appreciate the art show, which she did. We listened to vocals and guitar, girls' choir, piano, brass quartet, and jazz combo (while eating chocolate covered strawberries). My favorite was the fencing demonstration in the auditorium.

Will there ever again be a day that I can say I've seen my daughter climb a "rock" wall, win a hoola hoop contest, juggle, get her ears pierced, and eat three chocolate strawberries for a $1? I doubt it.