Sunday, November 23, 2014

You Are Awesome! Yes, You!

Yes, I'm talking to you.
So, one of my favorite things to do is to enjoy my local Turkey Trot.
You probably have something like this in your's a race (5K or 10K or kid's race options) and streets are closed off, and port-a-potties are lined up and a big finish line banner is hoisted and it becomes very official: people are running, or walking, or pushing strollers.

I have participated in my town's Turkey Trot one time as a stroller-pusher with Caroline strapped in as a toddler.  She seemed fine with it.  Patrick walked alongside me and it was a good feeling of participating as a group working toward being healthy and a citizen of my town.

But I didn't like it nearly as much as my sideline participation in the Turkey Trot.

You see, the Turkey Trot goes right by house.

And every year I get up, purposely late, walk to the corner and scream to the runners: 

I just yell and yell for about 45 minutes.  
Cheering on the runners at the end of the race.  They aren't the elite racers. They aren't the every-day-five-mile-no-matter-what runners.  These are the ones who are trailing behind and bringing up the back.

I pretty much repeat the same phrase over and over and I'm telling you, it's a winner.

The reactions are so honest and so beautiful and some are downright funny.

You have the "super-cool-and-I'm-a-real-runner" reaction...
they don't flinch, they give a head nod and keep running, they keep their pace and stay focused.
They are real runners after all and cannot be distracted by a weirdo yelling You're Awesome.

Let me also reveal for the record that I am most assuredly not a real runner.  
I attempted cross country in 8th grade and had some heart palpitations that sent my mom into her own heart palpitations and the distraction of running became a no no.
Couldn't even entertain the thought...besides...I didn't like it.

I'd much rather be a walker, a bike rider, a dog walking-dancing machine...anything but running.

So it helps that I truly do think these people running -- and that includes everyone -- are awesome for getting out there and doing it.

So back to the runners...
we have the "dang-I-can-barely-take-another-step" runner.  
These people are winded, tuckered out and shame faced when they come upon my cheering.
They mistakenly believe I'm cheering for someone else.
When I call them out and say, "Yes, you!! You are awesome!!" They look up and get that shy smile that is the effort of every cheering section on the planet.

And, for a millisecond they let it sink in...they are awesome.
Sometimes they brush it off but other times it perks them up and you can see the transformation.
You can see their mind calculating: "Wait. I'm not running, I'm breathing hard, I'm struggling, how can I be awesome...but that weirdo over there is yelling it directly to me...and well, I am out here running, and it is a foggy/rainy/cold day...maybe I am awesome."

I love it.

Yes, you are awesome!!

No proving it.
No worthiness needed.
You, right there, hon, you are awesome!!

When I'm doing my cheering, I get in the flow.
I don't care who sees me or how crazy it looks.
I love having the socially acceptable moment to yell "You are awesome!"
 to anyone and everyone on my path.

I highly recommend trying it sometime.

It makes your heart swell.
For a brief moment in time, you can see the awesomeness in all of humanity and it's pretty beautiful.

Of course, there's always the polite runners.
The ones who've been taught manners and thank you notes and reciprocity.
They are the ones that when I yell "You are awesome!" to them they yell right back to me, 
"You're awesome too. Thanks!"

I smile my shy smile because the mother in me wants to high five the mother that shadowed and loved and nurtured those see, that mother is most definitely running right alongside them.
Heloise would agree...manners matter...even in a Turkey Trot.

Maybe it's the time of year...steeped in gratitude, ginkgo trees and fire ash and oaks showing off, humanity has a halo of goodness built in for me.
But whatever it is, I love the Turkey Trot.

And if you didn't get to hear my cheer, here's one for you, 
You're awesome!!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

You Find What You Look For

** This is my second in a series of essays for Jack, our oldest son who will be graduating from college in a few months. These are just rambling thoughts of a mother whose only gift she can think of are words. **

"Look and you will find it, what is unsought will go undetected." -- Sophocles

If I could tell you one thing that would help you on your journey it is this:
you find what you look for. 

For some reason, when I go on my quote walk-about searching for the right thing to place here, I always find it comforting to find that the Greeks had virtually the same idea all those years ago.

We're not that different.  
Those ancient Greek philosophers and you and me are pretty much on the same journey...
they just have cooler ways of saying it.

So, back to finding what you look for...or in the more Tony Robbins-esque way of saying it:
You get what you focus on.

It really is as simple as that.

I found this truth to be true in all aspects of my life but profoundly true -- powerfully, weirdly, prophetically true -- in the classroom.
The days that I made up my mind that I had the best class ever -- the most inquisitive, hard-working, clever group on the planet -- lo and behold, I did.  I found them cooperating, and answering tough questions and focusing in amazing ways.
The days that I decided my group was tough -- that they were low and difficult and energy-sucking...miraculously, they were.

It wasn't them.
It was me.
Almost every time.

I remember the day I discovered it.
I had had the most amazing morning.
My group was working hard, sticking with the tough problems and asking great questions.

Then we went to lunch.
And I had to deal with a car insurance company that didn't want to help in any meaningful way.  My insurance was going to cover nothing and I was going to have to figure out how to buy two new tires and I didn't have my paycheck coming for another week.

I came back from lunch and my group was inattentive, goofing around and making me crazy.
They could do nothing.
The more I looked, the more I found students who were causing trouble and flat out not paying attention.
It was a hard afternoon to say the least and I let them go and exhaled at my desk after school obsessing on my tires and my class and their terrible ways and like some sort of Oprah moment it all came crashing down on me.

My class hadn't changed.
MY focus is what had changed.
MY interest.
MY engagement.
MY level of connection...

and they felt it.
Like a giant mirror, they reflected it back to me perfectly.

As soon as I realized this, like some sort of mystical force, I could see it happening.
I had the awareness...which meant I had the ability to change it midstream if I wanted to.

As I've gotten older, this has become my life's mantra.

It's so obvious it can be painful at times.
Watching a parent create a self-fulfilling prophecy for their child.
Watching a teacher create the negative, non-supportive classroom that they most want to avoid.
Watching myself continue in a down-ward spiral even as I know it is happening.

Last night was a perfect example.
There we were with you at a delicious authentic, cozy Italian restaurant.
Our tastebuds were delighted in every way.
The candle light was flickering in just the right way to make the moment feel dream-like and joyful.
We were laughing and relaxed.
We leave the restaurant and Patrick gags.  He gets ready to throw up.
He throws up outside (but not terribly) and the magic is erased like a bibbity, boppity, boo swish of a wand.

It really wasn't that bad.
He really didn't make that big of a mess.
He just really needed fresh air...and a little extra room in his tummy.
He regained himself and we made it back home...but the moment was lost for me.

I decided to get angrier and angrier.
I kept reliving that one split second over and over...forgetting the million previous magical moments.

I lost the night...because I chose to focus on puke...
instead of my precious time with you...
instead of the conversation,
the laughter, 
the comfort of family,
the kindness of our driver,
the ability to take deep, cleansing breaths of fresh air.

All lost.

So, my sweet son, I beg you to see the power of your focus.
Your attention.
Your efforts.

Today, I choose to focus on the beauty, the grace and the time I get in your neck of the woods.

Like some sort of metaphor, the vomit is cleaned up and the day is sparkling and crystal clear.
What will I find?
What treasures will unfold?

I can't wait to see them...with clearer eyes.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

We Long To Belong


Sitting in my seminar this week with my student teachers we talked about how to manage kids in the classroom.  
We discussed the three guest speakers we had had the week before --
excellent teachers from all walks of life.

All three of them kept repeating the same message.
Even though they were from different cities and from different schools with different populations of students.

They said it many different ways but it all came down to this:

The student must feel unconditional acceptance from you.

The students need to feel loved and connected...
...and then, said so simply by one of my student teachers, this gem revealed itself:
we long to belong.

I've been rolling that around in my head for a few days...
smoothing it over like a favorite blanket...
petting it...
visiting those simple rhyming words...
and letting them sink way down deep.

No duh.

We know this at such a basic level that we overlook it.
As parents.
As friends.
As family members.
As community members.
As a couple.
And yes, as teachers.

I've been working on a little dream of my own recently and it has everything to do with belonging.
Everything about feeling worthy and celebrated and accepted.

We long to belong.

Every child should feel worthy.
Every child should feel cherished and treasured and wanted...
especially at school....
most especially if we say we're Catholic and work to have our children attend Catholic school.

Parents of children with disabilities are a special group.
They've been separated and isolated through almost their entire parenting journey.
That feeling of isolation can be crushing.
Not to mention lonely.
These families have most definitely felt like outsiders standing at the gate.
They knock on the door...but they just aren't sure it will open.

It's time we threw the door wide open.

We long to belong.

Yep, folks, right here.right now. we are working on full inclusion in Catholic schools.
We are supporting families, educators, administrators and priests or other religious with our 
vision and hope.

 Turns out belonging has a name --  

There's no entrance fee.
No golden ticket required.
You belong just by being you.
You are welcomed and wanted.

Come on in.