Thursday, August 25, 2016
On Saturday, I attended a funeral.
For a single mom...of 8 children.
Yes, 8 children.
Her name was Bernadette.
She was the definition of love and light.
Sunshine and faith.
It's an absolutely huge loss for all of us.
Impossible to understand.
Please keep all of us in your prayers, but most especially, Bernadette's beautiful kids.
On Sunday, I dislocated and fractured my ankle.
I wish it was a good story but it was a terrible combination of a basketball near my desk.
I had the gift of an incredible crew who stabilized my ankle and got it ready for more x-rays and orthopedist recommendations --
Dr. Angel lived up to her name. I am forever grateful for the kindness and care I received in that emergency room:
Alicia, the nurse, Mike, the X-ray guy, and many others.
It's no fun.
A real drag.
On Monday, Patrick had to get his blood drawn and we had to wait for the blood count numbers.
Tuesday, he had his big appointment with both his cardiologist and his oncologist to just have a check up...see how his heart is doing...make sure it all still looks good after having leukemia years ago.
Those blood count numbers still, 11 years later, haunt me.
All day long, I wait on the panel of numbers.
The numbers should be good.
Everything in Patrick's world has been healthy for quite awhile.
I try to talk myself down off the ledge.
So, on Monday night, waiting for the numbers,
I try to check Patrick's email and Kaiser account that would give me the full range of numbers.
The nitty gritty details.
But I couldn't remember his pin code.
So I had to call for help.
If you're 13 years of age or older, your medical information is private and separate from your parents.
Parents need their child's permission to see anything in their record.
That's messed up.
I know I will have medical bureaucrats telling me why it's not messed up...
but on Monday night, it was messed up...
and on Thursday morning, it still is.
I just wanted to know his blood count numbers.
So, I call up Kaiser and ask them to give me the numbers.
I ask to have access to Patrick's medical online information.
AS HIS MOTHER.
I even use the Down Syndrome card, thinking it might give me an edge.
"Oh well, now that you mention that, Mrs. Foraker, I can help you get in to his records."
I'm so stoked.
Leg up on pillows, I follow the voice's advice.
I click this and type in this and get to new page after new page that is letting me into the system...
...and then I have a choice:
I have to click that my family member has "diminished capacity".
What on earth??
And then, like some movie with a million tiny photos flashing by, I picture Patrick...
typing up Romeo and Juliet into a screenwriting app.,
creating his favorite crazy sandwich combo,
riding his bike to school,
chilling in the backyard with John,
giving relationship advice to Jack and Mary Kate,
directing his cousins and younger sister in various stage ensembles,
backwards in time...to tying his shoe
taking his first shower on his own
winning school awards
surviving open heart surgery and looking up at me as a tiny baby waiting for me to be brave enough to nurse him afterward
dancing and thriving through freaking leukemia...
...and I am embarrassed to admit that I clicked that damn button and agreed with the computer that my kid has "diminished capacity"
I sold my soul to the devil.
Yes, I protested it as I did it.
I let the voice know that I didn't agree with it...
but I was desperate.
I wanted the numbers.
And then, the universe did what it does in moments like this...it gave me a one-two punch.
"Oh, wait, you live in Northern California, so that won't work, you'll have to get your child's pediatrician to let you access your son's records."
The voice did have the courtesy to let me know they were
"in the normal range".
But, being a leukemia/blood count expert, that didn't help much.
I wanted the numbers.
Ever since that moment, I've been trying to wrap my brain around those sickening words
It's settled on my heart that this is the reality of how the world sees Patrick.
The truth is that at this very moment, I'm way more diminished than he is.
Can't get around at all.
I need tons of help.
Nobody begrudges me that help.
We all need help.
I've found solace with Desmond Tutu's wisdom.
Speaking about Ubuntu:
"It is the essence of being human.
It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours.
I am human because I belong.
It speaks about wholeness;
it speaks about compassion.
A person with Ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share.
Such people are open and available to others,
willing to be vulnerable,
affirming of others,
do not feel threatened that others are able and good
for they have a proper self-assurance
that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole.
They know they are diminished when others are humiliated,
diminished when others are oppressed,
diminished when others are treated as if they are less than who they are.
The quality of Ubuntu gives people resilience,
enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them."
So, somehow, some way I feel the need to clean the slate...
to let the world know and Kaiser know and every other person on the planet know that
I DO NOT BELEIVE THAT PATRICK IS
DIMINISHED IN HIS CAPACITY
That legal term needs to disappear.
That medical model of disability needs to have bricks thrown at it.
We are all human.
Inextricably bound together.
Vulnerable and Needy.
We all need support.
I want to live in a world where Ubuntu is what we expect of each other...
what we give each other.
I'm starting with myself.
World, I pledge to offer Ubuntu.
Please join me.
Let no one be diminished.
by words or deeds.
Saturday, August 20, 2016
If I had to pick one, I'd Be A Lamp...how about you?
Light, for me, is magic.
Finding my way in the dark of night, stumbling and bumbling, feels like my true self.
Opening my eyes each morning and receiving the gift of sunlight and new eyes that can see clearly feels like some sort of angel sitting on my shoulder guiding my way.
Flash of a camera.
All of it - every last twinkle - makes me smile and fills my heart.
My other love...books.
Ever since I've been little I've escaped into their world.
Books are friends.
They share dreams, wisdom, an alternate universe, the dangers of evil, the strength of heroes,
the laughable, the cringeworthy, the thought-provoking.
They are what I turn to in times of deep sadness.
In joyful moments of lounging.
They provide supreme comfort.
Books are also a link to friends and strangers.
I remember standing in line at midnight for not one Harry Potter book but four different ones.
I got teary seeing all those people lining up, excited and energized, for a book!
Those were my people.
So it only makes sense that a book would lead me to light.
Do you know Susan Branch?
I feel like I might have shared her with you before...
she's a cookbook author who handwrites every page of each book and then sprinkles it with watercolor pictures and quotes and provides the most delicious of recipes.
Her first book is called The Heart of the Home.
Her vibe is all about the beauty of home:
a carefully made meal, a mindfully set table, flowers in a vase, family.
She's about comfort and care.
Love distilled into food and friendship and family.
I found her cookbooks probably from my mom and then became a hard core fan.
I just knew we would be besties if our paths could cross. :)
But over the last few years, things have changed.
Susan Branch has moved from writing cookbooks to sharing her life story.
In the span of four years, she's written three books:
|If you look carefully you can see all my tabs...loved too many pages in these books.|
And so it came to pass that I shared Susan with anyone I could...
...my friend Michelle made a spontaneous road trip down with me and toddler Caroline to Susan's store in Arroyo Grande, California when it was closing
...my sister-in-law, Audrey, would share her favorite Susan Branchisms
...my friend, Kim, would read and share and meet for coffee...and even come with me to a book signing when Susan and Joe made their cross country road trip to independent bookstores all over the nation.
Martha's Vineyard was always a place to visit...someday.
I live on the west coast...it is all the way across the country.
That's a thing for another day...
...only it didn't feel like that any more.
My Somedays need to be more present-day.
How many Somedays do I have??
Only this day right here.right.now.
My friend Kim was convinced we should create a trip to Martha's Vineyard with our husbands...that sounded pretty great to me...so we speculated and dreamt and discussed over coffee.
Months later she uttered the truth out loud:
"We're never going to go to Martha's Vineyard with our husbands, are we?"
It sat there...getting dusty...before I could wish out loud:
"Nope...but we could just go."
It rolled around in my head.
It flexed its muscle in my heart.
The seed was sprouting and I found myself randomly smiling at the thought.
And then, well, I started poking around...
how was John's work schedule, the kids life schedules, were there sisters who could pick up after school, a babysitter who would hang out for some hours???
Those pieces of the puzzle felt like border pieces. They felt smooth and possible.
What about flights?
Hotels? Ferry rides? Airport shuttles?
And like some crazy meant-to-be moment the universe kept saying
Nothing was hard.
The flights weren't expensive.
The hotel was available.
Everything worked...so we leaped!
Within ten days of wishing out loud, it happened.
|This is real. Oak Bluffs Ocean Park. |
Please go there.
We chose to make our way to Martha's Vineyard in August so that we could attend
The Grand Illumination.
Something that Susan had described in her book.
There is a Methodist campground in Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard.
In the center is an outdoor covered amphitheater.
It's used for church services on Sundays...
and outdoor movies and concerts and gatherings all the other days.
Surrounding this amphitheater is grass and trees and on all four sides, tiny Gingerbread cottages. (their words, not mine)
These tiny homes are built on what used to be tent platforms.
They are every color imaginable...
blue, purple, orange, red, yellow, pink
a rainbow of relaxation.
Nothing is serious here.
In this little spot, family is everything.
For 148 years these families have been celebrating The Grand Illumination.
They decorate their gingerbread cottages with Chinese lanterns - every front porch is adorned - and then these families sit on their front porch and chill (as Patrick likes to say) until dark.
They want to talk to you and share their family's story.
They make food for you to snack on while you visit.
Free drinks. Some houses give away glow in the dark necklaces.
But they all give away friendship.
Two tourists with no clue...meandering...and visiting and everyone wanting to share the secrets:
Get their early.
Bring a picnic.
Be ready to sing.
Ask the people about their houses.
Soak it all in.
|These two were born on the Vineyard...lived their whole life here. Lucky.|
Hand painted lanterns...just because.
|A veteran just waiting to share his story.|
And then the emcee called up the person who has come to The Grand Illumination
for the longest time.
For us, the woman was attending her 68th Illumination.
She had the honor of lighting the first lantern.
In the dark of that giant amphitheater we strained to see the tiniest light surrounded by a paper lantern...the woman walked to the very edge of the theater and like magic, all of the lanterns on the theater lit up in a gorgeous circle of light.
And then...poof...all of the 300 gingerbread cottages lit up.
The entire place was dark except for the glow of those lanterns...
|No other way to describe it...magic.|
|The full moon was even trying to be part of the party.|
|Just in case you wanted to see the hand-painted lanterns in the dark.|
The crowd was reverent and fun if that is even possible...but yes, things that seem impossible are common place around here.
The crowds were full of joy and genuine wonder...
like we all were holding our own personal firefly.
We wandered and followed the light...never caring which direction we meandered -
feeling like we were nestled in a cocoon of candlelight.
We walked our way back to our hotel and couldn't really let it go.
Laughing and smiling, it still felt like a dream.
I'm back now.
A seashell tucked into my purse right in the spot I can see it every day...
to remind me of the light in the darkness...
of dreams coming true...
of friendship and Somedays lived in the Now...
of books and authors and the magic of connection...
of beauty all around us.
|Light the way.|
Friday, July 15, 2016
I needed to say that.
Our world is having a bit of a tizzy.
Actually, it feels like a volcano oozing magma...getting ready to blow.
Nasty. Mean. Cruel.
I think we've forgotten that there are grandmothers in our world.
Would you act that way around your grandmother?
Or a brand new baby?
We have prejudice.
Needlessly lost lives.
So much trauma for so many people that it feels like an overwhelming wave.
As Billy Joel once so wisely said,
"We didn't start the fire."
I know that...but what can we do to at least try to douse it quick?
Sometimes, your heart just needs to hear some words.
The universe reaches out and taps you on the shoulder.
My gift came a few days ago with this incredible wisdom from a commencement speech by
Nipun Mehta, creator of Service Space.
Read his amazing words here.
There are so many jewels within the speech and so many big ideas to consider...
but the one that has stuck with me for two days...
over and over in my mind
...is the idea of micro-kindness.
Nipun ends his speech with a story of his great grandfather:
"I want to close with a story about my great grandfather. He was a man of little wealth who still managed to give every single day of his life. Each morning, he had a ritual of going on a walk -- and as he walked, he diligently fed the ant hills along his path with small pinches of wheat flour. Now that is an act of micro generosity so small that it might seem utterly negligible, in the grand scheme of the universe. How does it matter? It matters in that it changed him inside. And my great grandfather's goodness shaped the worldview of my grandparents who in turn influenced that of their children -- my parents. Today those ants and the ant hills are gone, but my great grandpa’s spirit is very much embedded in all my actions and their future ripples. It is precisely these small, often invisible, acts of inner transformation that mold the stuff of our being, and bend the arc of our shared destiny."
This idea of the tiniest of kindnesses offered freely to the most over-looked of creatures as just a way of living in the world drilled directly into my heart.
How do I go through my days?
Am I intentional, like Nipun's great grandfather?
Do I give every single day of my life?
Do I consider the influence of the smallest of movements...the tiniest of choices?
Where are the anthills in my life?
Are they starving?
I wonder about my ancestors and how they lived.
Did they find a way to feed the anthills?
It feels like Nipun's observations are exactly what is needed right now in our world.
We don't need big, grandiose, lavish goodness...although that would be lovely right now.
We need micro kindness.
I know it's micro but it's a B-I-G idea.
Moments that are seconds long but offer a second chance, a soft place to land, a bit of sunshine.
We need the space...the momentary pause, that is void of judgment...and open to possibility.
Those are the seconds that save lives.
Today we have a chance to test out micro-kindness.
What have we got to lose?
Not a thing.
Seems like our world could use a whole bunch of people tipping the scale toward kindness.
I want to stand on that side.
Tonight, I'm grateful for the chance to keep trying.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Want to tell a graduate some words of wisdom? Share this:
We go around and spend our days with people at work or school and never really know what it is they are in love with.
Unless they randomly share a story about a family member or a special treat they've made or talk about some tickets they are buying...providing the tiniest window into what moves them.
If we're lucky, they share their love.
They reveal a love for ballet, or theater or travel, or knitting, or singing, or butterfly collecting...
It really doesn't matter.
Whatever they love,
that is the secret passageway to their joy.
Like a chemical reaction, joy just bubbles up.
Caroline has had a coach for two years that loves soccer.
He thinks about it at all hours of the day, researches the game, seeks out ideas for making practices engaging and learns methods of teaching very specific techniques.
He writes lengthy emails.
Offers up videos to watch.
Let's us know when the next big professional game is on so we can find a way to watch it.
I happen to have a kid who loves soccer so it's a win/win...no pun intended.
But, that's the big question...
which came first?
The chicken or the egg...did Jeremy love soccer enough to catch Caroline on fire...or was Caroline already simmering with a love that caught fire once she met a coach with the right flame.
What matters is that for two years Caroline has been swimming in the pool of soccer love.
And well, she's soaked.
It makes her smile...pumps her up...fills her up.
It takes a very special coach to aim for the decades after his players are done with the sport.
Decades from now, the goal is that the players will still love the sport.
Still perk up when they hear about a game or an exceptional player.
They will still smile at fancy footwork or a tremendous save all those years later.
Caroline's coach did not focus on winning.
He focused on joy.
His joy in the endeavor couldn't help but seep into the kids' idea of the sport.
His zen energy during a game radiated that joy.
Yes, yes, winning sure is fun...
but there is joy in a hard fought game that was razor close...even if you lose.
There is joy in leaving it all on the field, regardless of the score.
There's joy in a beautiful pass, a strategic kick or an incredible save...
even if the game ends with a loss.
What Jeremy knows is what all coaches who see decades down the road know:
winning or losing are just words, what matters is what you feel.
Do you feel that essential connection with your teammates?
Do you feel that what you are bringing to your team matters?
Do you feel important? Wanted? Needed?
Do you feel excited?
Kids sports today are often drudgery...
practices that go too long or meet too often.
Parents on the sidelines yelling useless tips...caring way way too much about the win.
All sorts of people are taking it way too seriously.
Tonight I'm grateful that Caroline has stood in Coach Jeremy's sunshine for two seasons.
Two seasons of JOY.
Joy in learning.
Joy in striving.
Joy in just playing the game.
There is no way to thank someone for sharing their joy...
except for maybe letting them see the joy that has been passed on.
Is it the joy of a well placed kick?
The joy of friendship?
Or the joy of climbing trees with friends?
Too many joyful moments to count.
Thank you, Jeremy, for your kindness, your gentle strength, your willingness to have fun and most importantly for your joy.
It's been contagious.
Coach Stacy...you're amazingly wonderful too...a true partner in sharing the joy.
Your support and dedication and sense of fun made this past season extra wonderful.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Tonight's newspaper had someone grabbing the headlines...
and up in the smaller spot, appropriately above the fray, someone smiling and showing us the way.
Take a look for yourself:
Chancellor Katehi meet Jim Sochor.
Jim Sochor was the beloved football (and golf) coach for UC Davis for 30 years.
He was humble and soft spoken.
He was a gifted listener and genuine in every way.
People responded to his work ethic.
His ability to out-perform against more talented and more funded football programs.
Mostly, they knew they were in the presence of integrity.
He was honest.
True to his word.
Chancellor Katehi, are you listening?
There is a reason that Coach Sochor could walk around town
and talk to anybody at any time with that shy smile.
He was approachable and appreciative.
We could feel his authenticity.
He was the definition of beloved and admired.
In this time of uncertainty and shady-doings by our Chancellor,
Jim Sochor's legacy is a reminder of what an Aggie really is.
UC Davis isn't lost.
We know what is valued.
We're not flashy...
We're the Jim Sochor version:
head down, working hard,
letting the effort and the work speak for itself,
finding a way to be the best when the odds are against us.
This quote is what it means to be an Aggie:
"We knew that everybody we played would be bigger, stronger, faster and
more talented than we were.
We had to find a way.
And that way was that no one would be closer as a team than we would be.
Our central values became trust, unity, togetherness."
-- Jim Sochor in a 2007 interview
Trust - Unity - Togetherness
This, right here, is the way we find our way back.
Our path to healing.
I went to school at UC Davis when Trust, Unity and Togetherness were real
and available right on campus...
students, they still are -- available right this minute.
We can lift the pepper-sprayed pages of our recent history and dive deeper to to our shared history with this man who leaves such a remarkable legacy.
He leaves a legacy of love.
Those who knew Jim Sochor well - and even those of us who only knew him from short, quick limited conversations - knew what mattered most to him:
But, funny enough, he pretty much considered all of Davis to be his family...
and we all happily signed up to stand in his sunshine.
We each get to choose how we spend our days.
Our micro-choices add up.
Do we choose kindness?
I choose Jim Sochor's Aggie Pride.everytime.
Instead of Googling pepper spray,
Google Jim Sochor.
Google Larry Vanderhoef while you're at it.
Those two don't need any internet scrubbing.
Just a chance to internet shine.
This coming Saturday will be a day that we all stop and remember a terrific human.
He's deeply missed...his absence so painfully noticeable.
But, he crossed our path for a reason.
He showed us how.
Strive for unity, trust and togetherness.
Seek the good.
Work hard...and make the magic happen.
We can too.
"Fame is a vapor.
Popularity an accident.
Riches take wings.
Only one thing endures
and that is character."
-- Horace Greeley
Sunday, April 3, 2016
He arrived into our school following on the heels of a woman
who had taught music at our school for decades.
She was beloved and gifted.
She taught the students hymns and songs that were inspirational.
She taught the students to play the bells at Christmas.
She loved music and she was a professional.
Teaching music with a pride and a respect that was mirrored with her singers.
He came bearing a guitar, strumming the kindergarteners toward the music room like a Pied Piper.
I liked him immediately.
She was traditional.
He liked Coldplay.
He played so many instruments I lost count.
He flowed into Classical music.
Mostly, he believed every single kid could become a musician.
And so he set out to do just that.
His first motley group of 3rd graders attempted the recorder.
They practiced and adjusted and considered learning notes.
Meanwhile, he jammed with the kids who wished for a garage band in the upper grades.
He guided beginning band kids.
He created a choir.
He listened to kids who had dreams.
And he dreamed.
Only two years into this job, he wished out loud:
Our students are going to sing at Disneyland.
Did he see different kids than we did?
Was he best friends with someone at the Magic Kingdom?
Pretty sure that you have to be on the A Team to get to do that.
But he prepared his students, sent in an audition tape and got accepted.
Now, when that is happening at your school, you're happy for those kids.
But you're not really sure your kid can be one of those.
Our family...we have nice people and we are definitely good fans...but music?
Not our strong suit.
Not counting the shower or the car, of course.
[I rock that.]
So, my kid tells me after playing the recorder that she wants to do band...
and I support her...
rent the clarinet and smile.
Because I think I know the way this story goes.
Only I don't.
Once a week, she grabs her clarinet case and heads to school early and in a few weeks,
she's reading music!
She's singing in the shower...and around the house.
She starts looking up songs online.
This becomes normal.
And we just go with it...because, you know, you never know.
And the Disneyland gig is coming around again...
and well, maybe your kid can sing in it.
So she trots off to choir and brings back candy to sell, and songs to sing and finally a permission slip.
It seems that we will be going to Disneyland.
Something I could never picture before now enters my line of sight.
We make our way to California Adventures.
We find the Monsters, Inc. ride...
we see a stage...
and yes, there they stand.
This is real.
This 4th grader of mine is up there.
Singing and harmonizing and holding notes.
I've heard her group sing...but this is different.
"I felt the music like a physical thing; it didn't just sit in my ears, it flowed through me, around me, made my senses vibrate." -- JojoMoyes from Me Before You
It was a waterfall...
droplets of sound landed on my body...
tears sprang to my eyes.
The words they sang kept circling around me like an embrace:
Let every heart be filled with music...
it's a never ending gift that circles back again.
Take my hand and sing with me.
Music builds a bridge -- it can tear down a wall.
This is why we sing.
Take my hand and sing with me.
Share the joy, find a friend.
Live your life out loud.
Let your voice be heard...if you dare.
The music teacher, Mr. S to the kids...paused and explained about dreams and America and how we live in a place where anybody can dream...
and then he handed the stage over to an 8th grader.
She wrote a song.
And Mr. S. -- with all that he has going on -- stopped what he was doing and listened to that song.
Valued those words.
Honored that dream.
Supported that student in the biggest way that he could...
his choir sang back up for her.
Singing behind her and through her wisps of hope and future,
these back up students shared the dream too.
What kind of teacher takes his shining moment and turns the spotlight onto his student?
Someone who is the business of teaching hope...
not just music.
Someone who can see what hasn't been...
who can visualize great accomplishments for any child.
Who believes in his students.
Mr. S. had all sorts of students sing solos.
So many had a chance to shine.
But this moment...that's was the one where I just sunk into the words and the transformation that was happening right before my eyes...
"What would happen, if we tried?
Could we spread our wings...and learn to fly?
And together we could see that the world is ours...
we could shine like stars...
we can dream.
We can dream.
We can dream.
We can dream."
We can dream.
In this world that is busy telling you to be sensible,
and to hurry things up,
and squish all those feelings underground,
we have Mr. S....
actively building bridges to opportunity
He offers the chance to dream
and then builds the staircase...
one step at a time...
bit by bit.
This is no joke.
No Easy Street.
Skill +Practice +Determination +Personal Investment = Dreams Coming True
But Mr. S. will be there.
Every step of the way.
Telling you what he sees...
and seeing what's never been.
Mr. S., there are no words.
Only great big sobs of joy...
tears of appreciation...
sighs of seeing something so beautiful that came to be because of your hard work.
In a little music room, day in and day out,
during recess and before school,
you make it happen.
You're in the business of teaching
but you're also in the business of building.
Tonight, I'm grateful for the grace of a musician turned music teacher turned dream maker.
This sky full of stars...
what a heavenly view!