Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Happy International Women's Day

Today I scrolled through my Facebook account, noticing all of the different ways that people are paying tribute to women on this day.  Breast cancer, sexual abuse, "you can do anything you set your mind on", "go for it", equality for women worldwide--all ways that individual persons highlighted an aspect of the importance of women in our world.  I watched a hauntingly beautiful a cappella version of Lady Gag's "Till It Happens to You", paying tribute to women throughout the world who have suffered from abuse (see below for the link).  Each pointing to an aspect of the importance of women and our contribution.

I appreciate these grand scale gestures.  I really do.  They inspire me and make me want to do something to make a difference.  And I know that for me to make the most difference, there is a level that this happens best in my knowing and loving myself--just the way I am.  Not grand scale--rather the gesture is a simple one of acknowledgement of self and bringing that self to my daily activities and to the relationships of those I care about and those I interact with as I go through my day.  Recently, I was asked to create an acrostic poem with my name, documenting parts of me that are gifts to me and to others.  Somehow for me, taking a day like International Women's Day to a level where each of us pay tribute to the gifts we bring is an important tribute all in itself.    Below is my "Deborah" poem.  What poem can you create that shows the essence of who you are and what gifts you have to offer?  All of us, with our gifts and our weaknesses, our blessings and our tribulations, our push to be better and our acceptance of who we are, make a mosaic of beauty that celebrates today on International Women's Day.  Celebrate today.  We each make the world a better place.

      D  aring to be me
      E  loquent
      B  eautiful
      O  pen-Hearted
      R  esponsive
      A dorably Funny
      H appy

 Till It Happens To You (A Cappella Cover of Lady Gaga's Song)

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers community for promoting the March Writers' Challenge.  Thanks for giving writers and educators a forum for writing and responding.  Your service to education and educators is valued and appreciated.

Monday, March 7, 2016

On Kindness: A Tribute to a Kind Man

Kindness is important.  In fact, kindness is the most important.  Recently, a friend of mine passed away.  He had suffered with cancer and chronic, severe pain for the past couple of years.  I saw him  the afternoon before he went into that last stage of dying when living becomes an internal act in preparation of the final moment when passing occurs.

During this visit, he was the man I had remembered over the last five years I had known him.  We visited briefly--perhaps an hour, possibly a bit more.  During that time, he engaged me in asking questions about me.  He talked about not fearing death--that he was ready.   He talked about his sorrow about not being able to say goodbye to all of those he knew in a way that would bring the closure he wanted for them.   He talked about Hawaii and people he loved.  He talked a bit about his funeral.  He talked to his doctor who came in to ask him questions, thanking her and the hospital for the wonderful care he had been given during his hospital stay.   He ate a bit and coughed a lot.  His pain was obvious, but unspoken.  He had a demeanor of peace and as I looked at him I thought to myself that he is the kindest person I know.   As I left, he asked to give me a hug.

Through his life, my friend put others first.  He made random and not so random acts of kindness for family, friends and strangers.  His life purpose was that of service to others and through the way he served others he showed kindness.  He could be cantankerous when things were not right because on a base level his motivation was kindness.   When I left the hospital, I thought I would be next seeing him at a rehab facility and he would have many months of life.  The next day I got a message that he had slipped into a coma.  Friends poured in to honor a man who had been kind to them over the years to say final goodbyes.  Two days after my initial visit I visited my friend again.  This time he lay quietly in a space that was self-contained.  His breathing was labored and that look of peace remained.  I sat next to him in the quiet of the evening, hand on his arm, thanking him for showing me a path toward kindness.  As I left, I gave him one final hug.  Two days later my friend passed from this life.

In days when kindness is not of societal value, when we see presidential candidates offering decorum that is far from that of kindness, when the value of "me" is more important than that of "you", when bullying and meanness is esteemed, having models of kindness is more important than ever. As a mother, as a friend, as a sister, as a daughter, as an educator, as a community member, I value kindness.   I recognize kindness and I show appreciation to others when I see it.  Kindness makes our world a better, gentler place.  Kindness is not grandiose.  Yet true kindness makes our world grand.

Soon after my friend's funeral I went through a drive through for coffee and spontaneously asked to pay for the person behind me.  I was at school and noticed a child in distress and took the extra moment that was needed to make that child comfortable.  I listened to my son when that is all I wanted to do was speak.  I recognized the simple moments when kindness could make a difference and I acted in kindness.  That is what my friend would have done.  Thank you, Dennis, for being a beacon of kindness.  Kindness is important.  Kindness is, in fact, the most important.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore.  ~Naomi Shihab Nye from her poem "Kindness"

Below are two songs on kindness.

Humble and Kind, by Tim McGraw

Nothing More, by Alternative Routes (Dedicated to Charlotte Bacon, a child who lost her life in the Newtown tragedy, in an effort to raise awareness for the organization Newtown Kindness.)

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers community for promoting the March Writers' Challenge.  Thanks for giving writers and educators a forum for writing and responding.  Your service to education is valued and appreciated.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Yoga On and Off the Mat

Yoga today brought words that have resonated throughout the day.  "Pay attention to the ordinary and enjoy the feeling that comes from the noticing of the ordinary.  Where in the ordinary can you feel joy?" asked the instructor.  In different poses she prompted us to notice the ordinary.  She asked if muscles were being used that we might not notice and in the noticing was pleasurable.  I found myself noticing my toes and my calfs and my shoulders during part of the practice.  Sometimes in the stretch.  Sometimes in the stillness.  Sometimes in the holding of a pose.  Noticing a part of my body allowed me in my practice to feel the pleasure of the stretch, the stillness and the holding.  Can this be brought from the mat to life?

This afternoon I took walk around the pond.  The weather was quite cold and the sun was shining and the brisk walk felt fresh against my skin.  I took the principles practiced on the mat earlier that morning to the walk, allowing myself to notice the ordinary and have that ordinary penetrate into something not noticed to pleasurable.  The blue of the sky.  The cold air against skin.  The movement of my legs as my feet moved along the pavement.   The song of birds chattering in a distant tree.  All ordinary, but with eyes that see and ears that hear and skin that feels, the imagination opens to see beyond, and the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

Twice today in intentional ways, the ordinary becomes pleasurable.  What usually would pass unnoticed becomes known and takes on a different meaning.  Yoga and life merges.

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers community for your promotion of the March Writers' Challenge.  Thanks for giving writers and educators a forum for writing and responding.  Your service to education is valued and appreciated.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Oblivious Driver--Well Maybe...

Two posts ago I wrote about a friend of mine saying that I was an oblivious, carefree and sweet driver, rebutting her claim.   Today is an addendum to that conversation.

On Friday evening we spontaneously met for a movie.  She ran late so she slid in her seat to watch the movie just as the previews were finishing.  After the movie, as we walked out of the theater doors, my friend casually asked me, "Did you park down by Trader Joe's?"

"Yes, I did.  Did you have to park that far away too?  How did you see my car/"

"Well it is hard not to miss," she replied.  "It is parked kind of crooked.  It must be that oblivion thing."

We walked to the car, laughing all the way.  And when we got near the vehicle she said, "Hmmmm.  I wonder which is your car?"

I looked at the lot and there sat my Subaru sideways and outside of the lines, taking up two, possibly three spaces.  We burst into uncontrollable laughter.  "No oblivion on my part, my friend.  I was in a hurry to get our tickets.  You were the one going to be late for the movie so I had to rush to get us both there on time.  And besides, look at how far away I parked.  There were no cars way over here anyway.  So I just parked fast. "

No oblivion on my part.  Maybe carefree--certainly careless.  And this Friday night laughter.  Well, definitely sweet."
Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers community for your promotion of this March Writers' Challenge.  Thanks for giving writers and educators a forum for writing and responding.  Your service to educators in this way is valuable and appreciated!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is my mom's birthday.  A year ago we were just glad to have her still with us after a horrendous fall.  A year later mom has become a vital member of a senior community and has grown to love a life at a different kind of pace with many supports to make her safe and happy.

I have been thinking about mom and how my perspective has changed as I have been a mom, first of young children and now of young adults.  Walking through my own motherhood journey, my view of my mom's own struggles and joys has broadened and a deeper understanding of who she is as I have recognized layers of the wonderful woman I have grown to love has emerged.

Below is a poem about my first memory.  I was three and my mom was teaching me to pray.  This sweet scenario is interspersed with the closing in of her life as mirrored by my own wish to be just like her.

Blessed is the Fruit of Your Womb
                                                                   by Deborah Bussewitz

Wooden floor meets bent knees
as they offer up ritual night prayers,

traces of White Shoulders linger on her neck
delicately defying the staleness of the small space.

Repeat after me she whispers, “Hail Mary, full of grace…”
The small girl of three mimics the sing-song prayer,

a nursery rhyme tracked in memory one line at a time as
two brothers breathe slowly in sleeping cribs that crowd the room.

With the song, comes a glance between lashes--a familiar silhouette--
long fingers laced in prayer, delicate lips,  newly expanding middle.

“I want to be just like you,” the young girl muses,

and the room contracts a little tighter.

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers community for your promotion of this March Writers' Challenge.  Thank you for giving writers and education a forum for writing and responding to other writers.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Oblivious Driving--I Think Not!

Recently a friend of mine described my driving as oblivious, carefree and sweet--all in the same breath.  I must admit, when someone is in my car and we are having a conversation, driving becomes automatic.  Oblivious--not so much.  At least I don't think so.  Carefree and sweet--well possibly.

Today's driving conditions didn't allow for anything but careful attention.  Winter driving can be very unpredictable in upstate New York.  And today's commute changed throughout the drive.   I have chosen to work in a school that is about 75 minutes from my home.  I am a good long-distance driver, contrary to my friend's oblivious comments.  The commute gives me time to listen to music or news and have think time.  (I have been known to put on make-up and do other things that didn't happen at home because of a late alarm.  That's not oblivious, is it?)  Today's hour and 15 minute commute took an extra hour.  And for much of the commute, there was no space for anything but rapt attention.   (Plus taking a few pictures along the way...careful turned to carefree?) The drive started out with a light snow, which turned into a heavy snow, which turned into a white out, which turned into hail, which turned into ice, which by the time I arrived in my school parking lot, turned into sunshine.

Sometimes, if I am observant and reflective about the events in my life, the shift in my attitude about the very same event can change as dramatically as the weather conditions of my morning commute.   A  typical school day can mirror these conditions.  Take today, for instance.  I walk into school, stressed from the long commute.  My attitude is one of light snow.  I am focused but I notice my stress.  I open my computer and see that I have a pressing deadline and a full schedule.  The snow turns heavy.  A teacher comes into my office needing something immediately.  My school day, only forty-five minutes into it, becomes a full-blown blizzard.  Hmmmm.  Do I go on into oblivion?  Or do I stop and refocus?

I shut my door, I take five deep breaths and stop.  This action, by itself, stops the blizzard.  Hail and ice dissipate as I separate the urgent from the important and think about how best to tackle a given problem.  Choosing an urgent task over an important one, because of a deadline, allows me to focus.  Completing the task allows success.  My day turns sky blue.  An assembly with children singing, reading and dancing creates spring like conditions, as I roll down the windows of my day and breathe in the fresh air.

In life, like when driving, the conditions change and we have a choice to be ready to respond to the conditions with which we are presented.   We can choose oblivion and the conditions only build up.  A little bit of reflection creates a focus for which the important is tended to and the urgent can be addressed without stress.  All of which allows for carefree joy when engaging in the conversations of our life.  How sweet is that?

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers community, for your promotion of this March Writers' Challenge.  Thank you for giving writers and educators a forum for writing and responding to other writers.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Flood of Gratitude

Sometimes when it rains it pours.  And sometimes that pouring causes floods.  (Along with the melting snow.) That has been the reality of my life this past week.

Saturday morning I was greeted by several inches of water in my home.  A finished basement, and two apartments worth of stuff waiting for my adult children to claim were ruined.  Countless pieces of children's art and school memorabilia ruined.  Christmas ornaments and seasonal decorations ruined.

My first reaction was one of sadness, horror and overwhelm.  The loss of things I held dear brought me to tears.  The thought of all that needed to be done in a very short time caused anxiety.  Yet, only three days later, that sadness has been replaced by gratitude.  The overwhelm replaced by a newfound power to "get it done".  The stuff of my basement is either drying out or being discarded.  This event is putting into motion a necessary purge of the stuff waiting to be claimed or there and not used for many years.  And water removal and restoration so quickly fell into place.  Friends and family pitched in and offered support.  Plumbers and restoration crews went beyond the call of duty to make the space water and mold free.   Movers moved the stuff to higher and dryer ground.

The water is gone.  The fans are still on.  A pile in the basement has become a huge pile in the garage.  And the sorting will begin.  I am not happy about the flood.  But in the midst of this inconvenience choices were made to look for good.  Choices were made to support.  Choices were made to respond with positivity.

I am grateful for a soon to be dry basement.  I am grateful for the support given in the past three days.  I am grateful for the pile in my garage that will become smaller with a "stuff" purge.  I am grateful that the movers made that pile from floor to ceiling so that I could still park in my garage.  Maybe tonight, even if it is only momentary, as I get ready to go to work in the morning, knowing tomorrow will bring snow and cold, and knowing that my parking space is still there--that is something for which I am most grateful.

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers Community, for your promotion of the March Writers' Challenge.  Thank you for giving us a forum for writing and responding to other writers.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Waking Up

I awake in the early morning hours and lie in bed just those few extra moments.  My mind teeters between dream and reality as I listen to the raindrops and wind outside my window and and begin to wonder if I should ponder beginning a new day.  I stretch my body, arching my back in a yoga cat's pose while lying on my side, feeling muscles relaxed from the night's slumber--released from the clenching that happens with the running of the day.  Just a few more minutes, I think to myself.  I lie prone in bed, relaxed and in some ways the most me, free from the complexities of the days activities that make up the list of who I am.  My morning face, with sleepy eyes is not yet hindered by the mask of make-up that prepares me to meet my day.  Just a few more minutes, I think to myself.

My writerly life is much like those early morning moments when I choose to languish in bed for just those few extra moments.  It is during those moments that the clarity of words happen--even when I think I am in a dream state and I think nothing is there for the offering.  With the stretch of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be) I create the space for words to flow.  For my ideas to take root.  For imagination to develop.  I yoga into a position where the relaxed muscle of my mind allows words to emerge.  I come to the writing space without the masks and words create a reality.  Just a few minutes...just a few...and the writing emerges.  

During many mornings, my morning routine is much different than one of languishing.  The alarm rings and my eyes open with a startle--mind already thinking of what needs to be done.  I jump in the shower, throw on cloths and make-up and rush out the door, grabbing a lunch made the night before and a coat out of the closet as I sprint to the car to begin the rush of the day.  Grabbing coffee in the nearest DD's drive-through, my day begins. 

And so it is with my writing.  Often the day fills and my words aren't written.  Often my day fills and words aren't thought.  Often my words dissipate with the rush of the drive-through coffee.

This March, for my third year,  I am choosing to languish in my words.  I am choosing the early, slow wake-up, so that I can capture those moments that slip by with the running.   The wake up that develops a writerly life.  I am choosing to create a space for my words.  Slow.  Languishing.  Even on those days I am rushing to get my DD coffee.
Thank you to the blog, Two Writing Teachers, for your promotion of the March Writers' Challenge.  Thank you for giving us a forum for writing and responding to other writers.

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.