3.29.15 For Me



I have a magnet on my fridge from a dear friend.  I think the artist is “Leigh,” and though I cannot know whether it was she who first said it, or just copied it in her mixed-media style, the meaning of the words ring true regardless of their origin.  The quote says that, “We all let people into our lives, but you will find that really good friends let you into your own.” 

Some time ago I wrote this poem for a friend, more than a friend I guess … a kindred spirit might be more appropriate.  But I think now it is an amalgam, or blend of how I feel about all of my closest, deepest friendships.  So … this is for you, because how could I ever be me without you?  I love you and treasure you all … and if you think this might be for you, then I guarantee it is! 

Much love, enjoy.


For Me
It is strange, the realization that language can be so restricting… that there are hardly words to describe, or to thank one as one aught. Phrases and definitions are plenty, but cheapen the feelings they mean to impart. So that “friend” doesnʼt seem strong enough a word, and “loved one,” is too clichè (though indeed you are both). And so it seems you go on without title – in essence, a good thing as it would only limit who and what you are, or may in time become.
Let it be said instead, that you are a confidante, a memory-keeper, a positive light on an unknown, unseen, or ignored darkness. You are an echo, a laugh, and an imprint on the good that I hold within me. In word, in deed and in theory – spoken and too left unsaid, you keep me loving the part of myself that you see. And so I thank you. I have tried, (knowingly, not succeeding) but hopefully lightly instilling – a sense of the gift that you are … to me.
It is precious, but not simple, lasting always, wrapped with smiles. Find comfort as freely as you give it dear one – and please,
continue to be you, for me.

3.22.15 There Once Was a Girl Named Riley



  There once was a girl named Riley, and I wish I could tell you this was a happy story, but, in fact, it is not.  Still, sometimes it’s the sad stories that need to be told … whether or not we feel like reading them.  I urge you to read on, however, for Riley, and every child whose story is too much like hers.  

    In utter honesty, this tale might not be mine to tell, but somehow, through grace, I now feel that I can’t untangle myself from the words that are shouting through my conscious to be written.  And so …

   Once upon a “typical” day, there was a class of fourth grade students, and among them, was a nine-year-old girl who was anything but typical (and they were constantly reminding her of it).  Riley was not “normal,” she was unique, she was special, but sometimes, even the world of children doesn’t want to accept exceptional.  They want “normal,” they want “average,” and blessed with the challenge of Autism, Riley could not give them what they wanted.  

    Tormented on a daily basis by the most “creative” of out casters, loneliness was a state-of-being this precious girl came to know intimately.  Often shunned in line, scattered away from at gathering times, and solitary lunch seating were just a few of the many ways Riley began to lose the fragile sense-of-self it took her years and years to build.  Like a glass-blown masterpiece, beautiful and fragile, her gentle smiles fractured into guarded shards.  Communication for a child with any form of Autism is a challenge, but one who has been relentlessly extricated for a year?  It became nearly impossible.  How does a child of nine articulate why and how she was chosen to be an object of scorn?  

  There is an anonymous quote that says, “Silence is the most powerful scream,” and about a month ago, that silence became deafening.  Riley sat alone at lunch, as she had for the past innumerable months, but someone “heard” her.  A teacher.  In desperation after learning the truth, she asked some friends to help guard Riley in our hearts through prayer.  And this is where I come in. 

  I have long agreed with Sydney Smith who shared that, “It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little — do what you can.”  I knew that hearing a part of Riley’s story didn’t necessarily mean I was to become a chapter, but I also couldn’t refuse the opportunity to do something.  The day after hearing Riley’s tragedy, I brought the news to my eighth graders.  I thought they could relate, maybe offer some “how to get through” solutions for me … but even I (in my ever-wishful-thinking, optimistic outlook) couldn’t have anticipated what would happen next.  The thing is, not many people trust teenagers to care about anything more than themselves, but that is particularly the reason they have the ability to do so.  They are not a tapped out market … they are just waiting for someone to need them, the way we all are.  And Riley did.  

   What transpired in the next weeks was an adoption of sorts.  My 65+ students: wrote cards, send video diaries, created poems, made gifts, composed songs, and recorded digital conversations for this very lost little girl.  I told them that I know they might never meet her, that we were schools and districts away, but that they were making a difference just the same.  Even the shyest of my students had much to say and spoke in the cause of #TeamRiley as we “dubbed” ourselves.  I think the greatest way to translate Riley’s reaction, was through a text from her mother I received a week ago. 

“I have tried to write you emails … cards … texts, a million times over the last few weeks, and I just couldn’t.  How could I possibly thank those that have breathed life back into my child who, just weeks ago, was dying … and I didn’t know it.  Your heart for her has blown her away.  Your students’ hearts and words have changed her.  This year we watched as she shrank back into herself after years of begin able to be engaged and silly and joyful.  We though it was just a stage, or part of the Autism as she was trying to cope with being more social … but it wasn’t.

“Her eyes are bright again!  Her smile is real again!  Her heart is not hiding inside her – tucked away in her room.” 

   Reading that message to my students … seeing them cry as they realized that THEY SAVED SOMEONE’S LIFE … there could be no greater lesson, no more significant memory in their year than this.  As you can imagine, my motivated world-changers were not ready to be done making a statement.  So, on April 10th, Riley is going to be coming to my middle school for a lunch date with 65 eighth graders who are ready to love her larger than she’s ever been hurt.  They cannot wait to overwhelm her with their support as we watch a culmination of the communication we have had back and forth.  

   The thing of it is … we are blessed in Riley’s story.  We are truly, immeasurably gratified in the fact that she will NOT ever face another day un-fought for.  The truth is exposed and light will not be quenched by darkness anymore.  This is not to say that the road to righteousness is going to be smooth or easy.  My brave friend who started all of this has told me of the tribulations still facing her day in and day out of school, but there is no longer a secret threatening to choke the life out of Riley’s childhood.  But how many live this story?

   Whether the bully, the bullied, or the bystander who turns a blind eye … these grim tales will not be eradicated without voice.  So for every child in your world, whether they are blessed to be “ordinary” or “extraordinary,” find out what their days are really like.  Find out what category they have become subject to, and BE THERE as they evolve into the strong, independent, advocate they were meant to grow up into.

   “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.” Acts 18:9

And please, speak LOUDLY,


3.15.15 Just So You Know, I Know



I can only assume that Suzanne Collins was talking about us women when she said, “We’re fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self distruction.”  Maybe she was talking about men too, but I think we women really rock the “fickle” thing – at least I know I do, and tonight I am writing this blog to publicly acknowledge it (honesty being the best policy and all of that).  

So I watched Jane Eyre tonight.  I know right!?!  Why?  It is single-handedly one of the most depressing stories of all time!  Those Bronte sisters really knew how to weave a sorry tale.  The novel was dreadfully sad when I read it in high school, every rendition of the story I’ve heard since has been the same and yet, there I stood, checking out the newest cinematic version from the library two days ago.  I am going to blame my monstrous cold, both for the lack of clarity and for the troll-like appearance that made me choose a movie where the heroine is notoriously plain.  Maybe my red-rimmed nose and watery eyes couldn’t handle Hollywood’s normal competition alright!?!  

Whatever the reason, my foggy mind or ragged appearance, there was something in the plot that resonated with me this time around.  If you aren’t familiar with the narrative, it is about a desolate and dejected orphan girl who later becomes a governess (nanny) for a rich, brooding man’s daughter. For some reason, Jane falls in love with this dark, mysterious fellow, and right before they get married, she finds out he is already married to a mad woman who lives in the mansion’s upper floor.  I know, I know … it’s terrible.  It ends well, but any ending would be a good ending just so that it’d be the END!  Regardless, the crazy wife thing got me thinking … because it was a hasty arranged marriage, Mr. Rochester didn’t know she was actually as deranged as she was.  It doesn’t really make the story less wretched, but helps  you understand why the guy kept it all a secret at least.  

So … back to me thinking; I might actually owe my husband an apology – or five. I’m not crazy (well, not most of the time … zany maybe, but not crazy).  Still, even though we were together for three years before we got married, there are a few things I bet he didn’t quite bargain for before saying “I do.”  I hold my cold accountable for these very generous apologies to follow … because if I were in my best condition, I doubt I’d be so reflective.  And yet, I do feel just a little bit bad about these characteristics and quirks; if I don’t understand them, there’s no way he has a chance … and just so you know, I know.  

So – Matthew …

1. I’m sorry for asking you to be spontaneously affectionate, and then pushing you away if/when I’m: feeling ugly, rushed, hungry, tired, or over-worked … because I’m pretty much always one of these.  Good luck finding “the right time,” because I have no idea when that is, but yes, I still expect YOU to try to find it.

2. I’m sorry for being addicted to both modern and classic love stories.  There is no way that any regular day would make it into a novel, and yet I somehow spin this fantastic version of reality in my mind that, quite frankly, does not exist in a world between bills and bedtimes.  

3. I’m sorry for the times I ask you if something I’m wearing makes me look fat.  The truth is … if I’m asking, I’ve already decided that it does, and nothing you say will be the right thing.  I know this, but sadly, it won’t keep me from asking.  

4. I’m sorry that you can never ever say the following harmless phrases to me, because no matter how well-intentioned … they WILL cause me to have an emotional-meltdown: “You look tired,” “How could you not remember that?,” “Don’t I have any clean underwear?,” “That outfit isn’t my favorite,” or “Maybe you need to slow down.”  None of these words, when used in conjunction with one another, will produce a good outcome. 

5. Last but not least, I’m sorry that I will never be logical.  I need you to know I’m not sorry for me … as you know I don’t put a whole lot of stock in logic, but I know you do; so for you, I’m sorry.  I will never find AM radio interesting.  I will never choose a nonfiction text over imagination, and I will never, ever pick “someday” over “today.”  I’m impulsive, I’m spontaneous, and I’m expecting these habits to rub off on you (sooner than later would be ideal for me).  

And so, though I don’t believe I’m a terrible choice, I do apologize to my sweet and wonderful husband who keeps trying, even with my overdose of fickle.  Matthew, gift of God that you are, believe that you are the hero of my story, the knight-in-shining-reality who keeps me dreaming.  I love you for loving me, even when I’m unloveable, and especially when I’m irrational … which we both agree is most of the time. 

I had to say this all once … just so you know, I know. 




3.8.15 Yes … I Can Fix It


Photo on 3-2-15 at 2.10 PM #2

So recently I was asked (by a professional no less) if I had any opinions on how a “normal” mother might improve the health care experience.  It took all of my restraint not to laugh-out-loud at this request for two reasons: A) I have opinions on just about everything whether it pertains to me or not, and B) I convinced someone that I was normal!  Can you believe it!?!  After a self-satisfying smirk and a bit of reflection, I pulled on my problem-solving-panties and contended that – yes … I can fix it!  

Jonathan Mead suggested once, that “Sometimes the easiest way to solve a problem is to stop participating in the problem.”  That, however poignant, is not going to fly here Jon, because we all know that trips to the doctor are completely, totally and unalterably unavoidable (especially if you have kids … which I do).    

As I said before, this little “fix it” journey began with some deep reflection – scratch that – it was pretty shallow actually, because I was at the doctor’s office two days ago.  How can I describe it?  Hmmm.  I would say that going to the doctor is something like getting a full mental workout.  The beginning is a stretch, a test of flexibility as your kids run through the automatic doors, (nearly squelching themselves) and then proceed to, “only step on the red parts of the carpet because those are the boat and the green is the water filled with sharks that will eat you.”  Then we move to the warm-up portion of the workout, where the kind, smiling, but slow-as-a-summertime-slug receptionist tells you, “It’ll just be a quick minute while we update your information … we just got a new computer system.” 

     “Again?” you ask.

     “Again,” they confirm with a sympathetic eye roll.

The cardio portion of this exercise begins when you finally turn (folding your gigantic  8 and 1/2 x 11 receipt because no one has figured out how to print smaller ones) to see your kids climbing chair arm over chair arm in some kind of demented race.  This does not get your heart racing for the potential danger of them falling, mind you, but rather sends you into a full-on panic attack at the realization that billions of potential-virus-causing-germs are absorbing right into their clammy little hands.  Simultaneously, the receptionist asks you if you’ve been to any Ebola affected countries, as the dude next to you sneezes. 

To finish off this little extended metaphor, would have to be the cool down – the final portion of your mental workout.  Here, the nurse takes vitals, writes down your questions and leaves to give you fifteen minutes of alone time with your kids in a small square room that contains a spinning chair and heightened exam table.  Then the doctor comes in to test your stressed memory and asks, “Do you have any questions?”  

The thing is, even after all that, I know that deep down I don’t believe in problems; I believe in solutions.  So realistic or fantastic (quite possibly somewhere in-between) I have come up with a list of seven (because it is my favorite number) practical (alright maybe completely unpractical but it’s my list so …) ways to fix a visit to the doctor. 

1. Provide two reception desk entrances – one for “well-visits” the other for the “not-so-well” visits (aka: those wearing masks when they come through the door!) 

2. Have the option of an online check-in system, that way all you need to do is process your payment (And maybe send a digital receipt too … save on the letterhead!)

3. Streamline and re-decorate with hard-surface-only chairs.  That way, though we know they may not be sanitized immediately before we come, we know they have less potential for retaining all the nasties fabric chairs can hold. 

4. Get rid of swivel chairs.  I know you’ve worked many, many years to become a doctor and you’ve earned it, but how about we get you a nice leather office chair that’s stationary?  That way, our kids won’t have the potential to need stitches before the visit is over! 

5. Physicians, please READ the questions those sweet nurses and technicians write down so we don’t repeat the “Do you have any questions?” question.  I know you’re busy and maybe couldn’t read it that fast, but they worked so hard jot it down – at the very least, reading it could be like a mini-handwriting lesson. 🙂

6. Be personable … act like it is a privilege to see us again (even if you’re pretending) because coming to you is like getting called into the principal’s office; even if it’s a good report, we’re nervous every step of “the wait.” 

7. Finally, and maybe most importantly, make your carpet ONE color … it’ll avoid our super-rational need to escape the sharks. 

And it’s as easy as that.  Problem solved!  But until the medical world figures out how genius my “fix-it” plan is, be well (mentally and physically … without going mental in the process). 



3.1.15 Even “People-People”



So, I am what you would call a “people-person.”  Actually, that is a complete lie.  Everyone in my family is a “people-person,” but I am a people-person on steroids.  If there was something akin to an “extreme” people-person, it would be me, without a doubt.  I don’t ever just like people, I LOVE people … most people, actually.  And sometimes, paradoxically, I think that might just be the thing that annoys others most about me!  Even those who love me best give a gentle eye-roll at times when I do things like: make friends with the cashier, start a conversation about college choices with the bag-boy, tell a story to a stranger that I feel would relate to them, or, my personal favorite, realize I am kindred spirits, yet again, with the person who sits beside me on a plane.  I can’t help it.  I was meant, molded and made – for people! 

That being clearly established.  I need to divulge a deep secret you may not know … even “people-people” like me, need a break from, well … PEOPLE sometimes!  Every once in awhile, me, little-miss-sunshine, the smiley, happy, bright-side-to-everything-girl needs a human holiday before I breakdown and those people I love realize that I do, in fact, have a breaking point!  There is a post circulating from the brand “someecards.com” that succinctly and perfectly describes my feelings.  It says, “I used to be a people person … until people ruined it!”  Completely!  It might be even more accurate to say that it isn’t people themselves, that cause the need for my short “stay-awaycations,” but rather, the dumb things they do and say!  

John C. Maxwell once said, “People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”  This is the exact reason I need some “alone time” once in awhile.  Because when I reach that “Are you kidding me right now?” point, I don’t want to chance going all “Hulk” on someone (even if they momentarily deserve it).  Best to step away and mentally shape shift into the green giant.  Still, I think it is important to be honest with ourselves and realize that even “people-people” need to back away in certain situations.  Just in case you aren’t sure when circumstances warrant a bit of “alone time,” here are a few scenarios I’ve gone through to guide you. 

Scenario One:  You’ve had a rough day with students, when one comes up to you, indignant and hoping you’ll settle the debate that “China and Japan are the same country … right!?!” (I kid you not, that really happened.)

Scenario Two:  You wear your glasses to work one day, and about the tenth person in a row asks you, in a dumbfounded voice, “You wear glasses?”  (You may have the urge to say, “Actually no, I just thought they’d decorate my face like those teenagers who wear lens-less frames.” But don’t.  They will just think you’re being snarky … which you are, I should know … ’cause I’ve said it.)

Scenario Three:  You take your sick child to the walk-in clinic, describe to the medical professional everything that your child has gone through for the past week, only to have them ask you, “So … what do you think is wrong?” (Oh, they were serious.)

Scenario Four:  Your significant other asks you what you are up to this weekend, after you told them (in detail) what you were up to that weekend two hours before when they “swore” they were listening to you.

Scenario Five:  You email a list of important questions to someone, and they answer the first, not having bothered to read the remainder of the message. (Grrr.)

Scenario Six:  You meet a parent during parent-teacher conferences who asks you about her child’s Science and Social Studies grades (when you teach Literature) and then listen as they proceed to tell you that when they went to school “Science and Social Studies was basically the same thing.” (Yup … nothing you say there is gonna be good.  Just smile and nod people, smile and nod.)

Scenario Seven:  Your child asks you what “being-on-time” means.  (Appropriate answer? “Nothing to us dear, and it never will.”)

Scenario Eight:  You get “talked-to” for something you “forgot” to do, and then run into someone who says, “Oh!  I forgot to tell you, but so-and-so needed you to do such-and-such.” (A little late there my friend!)

Scenario Nine: Going to the fridge for your easy and delicious left-overs, just to realize someone ATE them!  (Yeah, that happened today.  I’m still not over it.) 

Scenario Ten:  Anyone EVER who says, “You look tired.”  (Just don’t.)

The good news is, after every episode, a few deep breaths and a self-induced time out, I’m good to go!  Us “people-people” usually are; we recover quickly from the follies of others because: A) we love don’t like people, and B) we know that we are as guilty of making these blunders as anyone (except for the China/Japan/Science/Social Studies thing … those were  pretty much unforgivably outrageous). 

The philosopher Epictetus said, “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.”  That is a lovely statement and beautiful notion, but you and I both know that we don’t always get to choose who we are with.  Still, we can pretend we do, make the best of it, and them.  Even if you aren’t some crazy people-person like me, you can still respect who you’re with enough to make them feel “worth your time.”  And when some insane scenario happens … when you just can’t believe someone said or did something so incredibly stupid, (because people will) smile politely, and walk away quickly, because even “people-people” need a breather sometimes. 

Literarily yours,