Monday, January 18, 2016

Today I Believe in the Power of Mourning

Today I believe in the power of mourning.
I believe in primal wails of a father giving a last embrace.
I believe in friends visiting in droves for a final goodbye.
Today I believe in the nurses'  tender caring for the dying
    gently combing her hair; tending to her every need.

Today I believe in the power of mourning.
I believe in the raw ache of a mother losing her daughter.
I believe in her unstoppable tears springing from a deep well of anguish.
Today I believe in a holding of the grieving, holding of sadness
     holding of a sobbing body aching for a life that will be no more.

Today I believe in the power of mourning.
I believe in the inspiration that comes from remembering.
I believe in coming together to bear memories of the one who passed.
Today I believe in the bonding of the living that allows
     the releasing of the hand of the one who is loved into the hand of God.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for dedicating space and time for teachers and teachers of literacy to come together to share ideas, practice and life experience.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Sprinting Into Happiness with a Different Kind of Plan

Sometimes it is just in the running.  In the being.  In the "in the moment" living.  In many ways this is how my word/phrase "Sprinting Toward Happiness" lives with me.  The phrase "sprinting into happiness" chose me and it is evolving with my word from last year, "open-heartedness", to a whole new level.  Please see my last two entries when I  talked about the morphing of my 2015 word and my new word/phrase for 2016.

I am a believer in creating an intention and using that intention to make a new reality.  I look at creating a word for the year as a way of creating an intention.  I want to create a space in my life for that word to take root in a grounded, deep way.  I also see different ways to make an intention a reality.  One path is in the allowing.  And the other is in the creating.  One is more reflective.  The other is more active.

I have lived in the active, goal-setting world for most of my life.  That place has served me and helped me accomplish many things in my life.  It is a world where I take control and I make happen.  There have been times in my life that I have systematically made goals in the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual domains and worked actively in fulfilling those goals.  I saw movement.  I took action.   I saw movement.   In many ways I look at this approach as a masculine 'get things done' pathway.

This sprint, though, is opening up a place of receptivity for me.  A place where life happens in the being.  A place where I let go of control and allow the intention to unfold.  It has been a scarier, more vulnerable space.  A more feminine 'allowing' pathway.  One where I can't measure growth and look at specific actions that bring me from step A to step B.  One where a focus on the intention in softer ways opens me to being in that space.  One where I can't check off accomplishments or tasks but can look back and see me changing into the intention that I set.

How does that that play out for me?   The key for me in the allowing is actually in the noticing.   Several things that I do allow that noticing to grow.

  • I created a happiness jar.  Elizabeth Gilbert talks about happiness jars as a way to document times of happiness in her life.  She talks about how she sometimes notices some of her happiest moments in the midst of deep sadness.  I want to notice happiness in all forms, so everyday at the end of my day, I spend a few moments reflecting on times of happiness that occurred for me during the day.  Sometimes I write them down much like I would a gratitude list.  One of those moments are added to my jar for me to view in moments when happiness might seem fleeting.
  • I set an intention for happiness nightly so that I can sleep with the intention and live it the next day.   Sometimes I forget my intention as I live my day and am amazed in my evening reflection how that intention played out even though I might not have thought about it through the day.   This intention will look different on various days.  For instance, this week one day my intention was to find happiness in my writing.  I chose to write a poem the next day when I perused my journal as an action to make my intention realized.  Another day, my intention was to find happiness in relationships. That day I chose to by create an online space for allowing dating to enter my life again.  Today my intention was to allow a space for happiness and there are no particular actions that I am setting out to do except in the noticing.  Not every day has specific actions.  They all end with a time of reflection where I notice how that intention was made real that day.
  • In the morning, before I get out of bed, I put one hand on my heart and the other on my belly and asking myself, "What do I need today in my sprint toward happiness?"  I listen to what my body says.  Does it say I need to get more sleep?  Does it say I need to call my daughter to connect?  Does it say find a way to connect with laughter?  Does it say to notice my hunger today and eat till I am full?  I allow myself to notice what is happening inside and around me to allow for my happiness sprint to form roots along the way.
  • Sometimes it is about stopping in the middle of the day to take a few deep breaths and remember.  My job is very busy and I don't feel like I have enough time, yet, I have taken to shutting my door once or twice a day for about five minutes to just breathe and notice.  Which actually makes me more effective in all that I do throughout the day (an added benefit to noticing:),
An allowing stance can lead to taking an action or creating a goal.  Sometimes it in in the being.  And sometimes it is in the doing.  When doing arises from being that goal arises from an entirely different place.  It no longer is about pushing through.  It is about letting grow.  It is not about holding tight.  It is about letting go.  It is about allowing grace to unfold.  The process becomes gift.  Last year my desire for open-heartedness became a great gift as I allowed it to open in me.  This year I desire to allow the same in my sprint into happiness.

It is about the allowing.  Sometimes it is just in the running.  In the being.  In the "in the moment" living.   Allowing a space to be is where grace unfolds and happiness emerges.  A space of gift.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My 2016 Word for the Year

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.

We are coming to the close of 2015 and welcoming in the beginning of 2016.  I have started the year for many years now by choosing a word to serve as a guide and light my path as I enter into the next year.  Below are words that have chosen me since 2010.

2010 Word—Gratitude
2011 Word—Connectedness
2012 Word—Courage

2013 Word—Celebrate
2014 Word—Playful 
2015 WordMe to Spaciousness to Open-hearted (I spoke about how my word morphed over the course of last year.  To read more about this click here.

My word of the year for this year is really a continuation of the morphing of 2015.  As I close 2015, I am in a place of open-heartedness.  This place comes with both heartbreak and joy.  Both of which have made my heart more tender and have made me realize the gifts around me in a myriad of ways. Yesterday a friend showed me a video of a new baby hearing her mom's voice and sweetly smiling.  With an open heart I could view that video and feel overwhelming joy.  This happens all of the time. An overwhelming of gratitude that comes with an open heart.  As I listen to the gospel choir at church on Christmas Eve.  As I say goodbye to a dear friend.  As I see my son choose health.  As I am surprised with a gift given by my daughter.  Moments in life have become alive as I experience them with openness.

I am bringing that openness to 2016 with my new word.  I have known for about a month that this will be my word going into the next year.  It is actually the next morph of open-heartedness.  My word for 2016 is HAPPINESS.  And I want to make that word a verb in some ways--an action.  I have framed my word in this way...I am running toward happiness.  Actually, I am sprinting toward happiness.   David Whyte in his poem "The TrueLove" names for me what the jaunt toward happiness is.  It is a lovely poem--one (probably the only one) that I wish I actually wrote.  It names my journey as of late in a way that I wish I would have named myself.  I am running toward happiness.   And “finally after all of this struggle and all of these years, I don’t want to the struggle anymore.  I want to live and I want to love and I will walk (run/sprint) across any territory and any darkness however fluid and however dangerous to take the one hand I know belongs in mine.” Please see the entire poem here.

That one hand that belongs in mine presents itself to me in a variety of ways.  It is the hand of the one who loves me.  The hand of my child.  The hand of my God.  My hand as I become more of who I am meant to be and grow in self-love.  The hand of open-heartedness.  The hand of authenticity.  The hand of love.  

This year I run toward happiness--sprint actually.  Running toward the hand that is rightfully mine.  Running towards the hand that belongs in mine.

Happy 2016!  May this new year bring each of us to a place of belonging.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Morphing of My Word for the Year 2015

I started my year in 2015 with a full plate.  The year before was an over-the-top year!  Work was magnified by a commute, a huge need for written curriculum and generous consulting opportunities.  Major family issues added to the mix...all leaving me gasping for air.   I entered the year needing space...needing a focus on me.  From this space my word for the year emerged and with that emergence it has morphed as the year continued.  On January 1 the word I chose was "Me".  I wanted...I needed a focus on me.  I needed to find that place where I existed outside of the confines of all that was being asked of me.

As the year continued my word changed from "Me" to "Spaciousness".  I began to create white space in my life.  Space that was mine.  Like an empty plate that welcomed food but not one overwhelmed with mounds of mindless choices, I chose to focus on the container which was the base.  The plate of me created white space.  I chose the portions and the tastings of my life in a way that allowed for me to emerge.  The stuff of my life was chosen and placed on my container with focus on the white space that existed between each choice.  An intention on spaciousness served me well.

Then this summer my word morphed again.  Living within the confines of spaciousness created desire to live my life more fully.  More vulnerably.  More lively.  My word changed from "Spaciousness" to "Open-hearted".  My heart became open to me and was opening to others in ways that I hadn't realized was closed.  I found love.  I found heart break.  I found an aliveness that comes from risking for love.  For me.  For another.

And now, with an open heart this year is coming to a close.  I started my year with a full plate and am ending it in the very same way.  This year was an over-the-top year once again.  Work, which taps my creativity and my desire to give back, continues to demand my best.  Family illness has taken a toll.  But somehow, I am different.  I have morphed from needing to claim me, to needing to create space for me, to living in the world with an open-heart.  Open to me and open to the circumstances that I encounter with a desire to respond to those circumstances with compassion and clarity.  Open to the possibilities to love and be loved.  Open to finding love in the eyes of a child, the eyes of a friend, the eyes of a stranger, the eyes of self, the eyes of a lover.   A me year.  A spacious year.  An open-hearted year.  A very good year indeed!

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for dedicating space and time for teachers and teachers of literacy to come together to share ideas, practice and life experience.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Everyday Leadership

I work at a school where all participants are viewed as leaders.  Each of us, in different ways, contribute to making the school a vibrant place every day.  Each of us, students and staff alike, in our daily way, offer our gifts and leadership to the school.  Our individual contribution makes a difference and together we do great things.

One of the great leaders in our school is Mr. Kevin, the head of our school's building and grounds.  He is in charge of the campus facilities.  He oversees the upkeep of our building.  The work he does in this regard has helped our school be a beautiful place to work and learn.  What he does for the school though, is so much more.  I see Mr. Kevin at so many school events.  He is probably here earlier than all of us and often is one of the last to leave.  He is here on Saturdays.  He notices the small things as well as the big things.  He jokes with staff and students.  He goes into classrooms and works with students as they need support.  I have heard that during his time here, he has also gone in to substitute when the school was desperate for substitute teachers.  He does what is needed--for any of us.  Where there is a need, Mr. Kevin is there to fill it or find a way.  He is a person who makes a difference in what he does in a quiet and daily way.  He has made an impact on others in ways that he is probably not even aware.

We are all leaders.  Each of us have the opportunity to make a difference in our daily interactions.  On my way to school, I stop for coffee at a local drive-through and recognize the leadership offered by the woman who greets me with a smile, ask how I am doing and takes special care to make sure my order is correct.  Leadership greets me as I work with fellow administrators and teachers, each of us planning in a daily way to offer strong instruction, loving interactions and an environment that allows each member of our community to learn and to grow.  Leadership continues in my interactions with my family in the evening as kindnesses are offered and support is given, sometimes when weariness would be the preferred response.  Every day, all day long we are offered choices that allow us to lead in ways that make a difference.  And sometimes that difference has a huge impact on another.  Sometimes we may never know the impact we made.  And on rare occasions we are offered a glimpse of that impact.

Early in my career my life was changed by what was then called the Bay Area Writing Project.  As a young teacher, I travelled from Ohio to Berkeley one summer to learn about writing and how I teach writing.  The next school year I had the most fun I have ever had in exposing my students to writing and creating a room where a joy in writing was had by all.  Several years ago, I was visiting my home town and was in a local diner.  A young man saw me, came up to me and gave me a huge hug.  He was a former student and as we talked he told me that he was currently in college. And he wanted me to know what a difference I made for him.  He told me that I taught him how to write as a fifth grader in a way that impacted him in middle school and high school.  He told me my writing class set him up for the success he was then experiencing in college.   I think about that experience of finding out that I made a difference.  I felt gratitude in knowing that I made a difference for him that first year after my Berkeley experience.  Those who taught me made a difference.  My student will make a difference.  And the ripple continues.

We never know the impact we have on others.  And sometimes we get to know.  Below is a link to a short Ted Talk (six minutes) that talks about everyday leadership and making a difference.   What can you do to make a difference in the lives you meet today?

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for dedicating space and time for teachers and teachers of literacy to come together to share ideas, practice and life experience.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Advent Practice

At the end of last month Facebook popped up with a page that asked "What does your advent calendar look like."  I am not one for posting these little Facebook searches, but I do like to see what comes up (and now and again, I like what comes up so much that I post it on my page).  I did the search out of curiosity and up popped 24 days populated by people who I love, with the first day being me and the 24th day a picture of gaily wrapped gifts.  The calendar does mostly represent those who add meaning to my everyday life.

In my morning reflections I found myself thinking about this calendar.   Each person on this calendar has affected my life in different ways--often significantly.  And as I move through life on a day-to-day basis, I don't acknowledge this in ways that I would like.  Then came my brainstorm--why not write letters of gratitude each day of advent to the people on my card (as well as a few others who are not represented on this calendar)?  This practice will keep me focused on gratitude in a season that often focuses on excess, and will allow me to express it.  AND it can replace the Christmas cards that I often hurriedly put together.

So, each day, starting with yesterday, when I was the recipient, I am writing 1-2 letters to friends, family and significant others, to show them ways that I am grateful for them being in my life.  What a better way to enter into this holiday season?

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for dedicating space and time for teachers and teachers of literacy to come together to share ideas, practice and life experience.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

When Freedom Is Not a Choice

I have been taken with images of men and women fleeing from places where freedom is not a choice.   The choice to stay is actually probably a choice to die.  Images of children floating to shore as families flee to a new place where freedom and life might be given.  Images of agony in the face of freedom lost.  The poem below has haunted me.  We all seek freedom.  We all need compassion.

No One Leaves Home
by Abby Zimet

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough
go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here