Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Very Happy Announcement

Michael and I are so happy to announce that I am pregnant! Several days ago, I started thinking I might be pregnant. I was feeling a deep fatigue that I have only felt one other time in my life - when I was pregnant with Sage. I also started craving grapefruit, which was my only pregnancy craving last time.

I waited to say anything to Michael, not wanting to raise his hopes for no reason. But then on Saturday morning, I woke up at 5:00, and I felt so sure that I told Michael right then. We took a test later that day, and it was positive.

I would like to write more, but I am going to nurture myself (and our little one) with a good night's sleep. Blessings to you all.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Looking Fear in the Face

This is a story from my Aunt Coreen, shown here with my dad (Dennie). Coreen is a 4th grade teacher, totally devoted to her students, and a wise, intuitive woman. I love her story because it is about one of those beautiful, serendipitous moments that make teaching such an incredible life path. It is also a message of courage and hope in the face of loss.
A year ago our school adopted a new reading program that took us back to reading groups. I try to mix mine up well, so we get a wide variety of ideas from both girls and boys. I have spent hours reading the books ahead of time, so I know how to direct the discussion. I consider it poor teaching practice to go in cold. By this year, I had read most of the books in the program.

When I started my reading groups this fall, I noticed a big discrepancy between what the boys were interested in and what the girls liked to read. I took a chance and decided to have at least one all boy group and one all girl group. I could always mix them up later. It worked well from the beginning. Even though we were discussing topics like branches of government, the constitution, etc., each group took the information in different directions. We were all happy.

One week my girls: Betsy, Abby, Ally, and Ella finished ahead of the other groups. In a hasty decision, I handed them a new set of books I had gotten. It was called
Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Service. What could go wrong? It was a small book; I could have it read by the next time we met.

These four little girls are the gentlest, kindest, most sensitive students anyone could ever hope to have. They are funny, hardworking, and love to share their ideas and feelings. When we met, Betsy spoke up right away that it made her sad to read that Eleanor Roosevelt's mother had died when she was only eight, and that by the time she was ten, her oldest brother and the father she adored had died too. She was raised by her grandparents. Betsy looked sad, but concluded that her dad told her God has His reasons for things.

What I haven't told you is that Betsy's mother is dying of a terminal illness. It is progressing faster than expected. All the other girls know and let Betsy talk until she was finished. At the end, she concluded that her favorite part of the book was the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt at the end of the book. I agreed that that was one of my favorite quotes too. In fact, I've had the quote up on my refrigerator for years.

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do the thing you think you cannot do." -Eleanor Roosevelt

That night I wondered if I had done the right thing to hand Betsy a book about a girl's mother dying. Had I read the book first, I doubt that I would have taken the chance. The next time we met, Betsy told us how she had shared the quote with her mother and told her I had it on my refrigerator. Her mother thought she'd like it on her fridge too. I asked all the girls if they wanted a copy. They did. I went at recess to make five copies - one for each girl and one to hang in the classroom. We have a new copy machine. I am a mechanical idiot. By mistake, I ended up with 50 copies instead of 5!

The next day, I handed out the copies to my girls. They saw I had a "few" extra. Ella asked for one for her great grandmother who had to go into a rest home. Betsy wanted to give one to her grandmother who was having a hard time with her daughter's illness. One by one, each girl thought of people all over the country that they were sure needed a copy on their refrigerator, including the rest of the class.

What amazed me was that these four nine-year-old girls realized they had survived things that scared them or that were painful, and now they saw a purpose for it - it would help them with tough lessons ahead. Granted, only Betsy has to face the death of her mother, but the stories they shared were big for nine-year-olds. They taught me far more than I taught them that week, not to mention all the people who now have this quote on their refrigerator.

Maybe there is room on your fridge or file cabinet for this quote. Maybe you will meet someone who needs a copy too.

I don't know how, but I keep feeling that in some way Dennie's death was connected to this experience. These little girls reminded me that I must "do the thing I think I cannot do." I pray that, in return, Dennie's death will help me better help Betsy and all my students as they "take the next thing that comes along." May your fears and horrors be few and your courage and strength be great.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Ever since I posted that last entry, the final line has been bothering me. I wrote: "How can I possibly nurture others until I "save the only life I can save," my own?"

The truth is, I don't believe that you have to "save" or heal yourself before you can nurture others. If I believed that, I would not be doing the work that I do with children and families. I don't even really think it is possible to reach some ultimate state of being healed. As my dad always said, "Life is a journey, not a destination." If I waited until I was healed to begin helping others, I would be waiting my whole life, because healing (like learning) never ends!

There are moments in my process that I feel lost or confused, even broken in some way. And those moments have something to offer me, and other people as well. I guess that is part of why I write this blog. I think experiencing and sharing my process authentically is more important that reaching some sort of endpoint.

What I was intending to say when I wrote that line was this: I want to remember to have balance between looking outward and looking inward, and I want to remember that there is no separation between nurturing myself and nurturing others. The more I nurture myself, the more I have to offer.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Only Life You Could Save

Tonight I am feeling so grateful for my day:
Thank you to Casey for sharing your
sweet little boy, Blake, with me.
Thank you to Blake for falling asleep in my arms.
Thank you to my friend, Mark, for taking me
to the Cedar Sangha meditation group.
Thank you to my husband for your tenderness and humor.
Thank you to my little cat for purring
so enthusiastically while snuggling on my lap.
And thank you to Mary Oliver
for poetry that speaks to my heart.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~ Mary Oliver ~

This evening Mark told me that one way to think of meditation is to imagine a king or queen holding court. All the thoughts and feelings that arise are subjects who have come to court to be heard. If you send them away, imagining that the work of meditation is to make your mind be quiet, they will feel slighted and yell even louder. On the other hand, if you listen to them with understanding and empathy, they will soon quiet down and you will find your court very peaceful.

What I noticed while meditating was how foreign stillness felt. I move through my life with a lot of momentum, and that feels good most of the time . . . safe and purposeful, even powerful. But it is not sustainable. That momentum requires me to continually disregard those parts of myself that have come to court to be heard.

How can I possibly nurture others until I "save the only life I can save," my own?