Monday, December 31, 2007

Five Things-Tagged Again!

Alicia tagged me again--this was a tough one. I think it should simply say "20 Things You Want Your Kids to Know" and be done with it, but here it goes....

Five things you want your kids to know before they grow up
  • That the pain of the past creates strength and confidence for the future.
  • That who they become is far more important than what they amass in earthly terms.
  • That gentlemen put the lid down---yes always.
  • That spiritual strength is not about church and religion, but that the community of believers should provide opportunities to serve.
  • That creating loving relationships is what makes life sweeter and this is sometimes hard work.
Five things you want to tell your children when they are grown up
  • That I would do it all over again (I have to steal this one—it says it all).
  • That the legacy of love and hope that their father left them should be a goal in their own lives.
  • That without the pain—there would be no way to experience real joy.
  • That I am terribly proud of who they have become.
  • That the profession they choose should create in them excitement every day and that this is the definition of success.
Five things you want to tell your children before you die
  • That how ever they choose to deal with my death—it is fine with me.
  • To treasure the small events in life—it is short.
  • That writing is more than a class in school, but can be the window into the soul and much cheaper than counseling.
  • Faith is the foundation on which a home is built.
  • To enjoy the beauty of God’s creation—take time to plant, grow and enjoy.
Five things you want your children to know before they die (I took this as experience)
  • The joy of raising children.
  • The wholeness of finding the love of their life.
  • The enjoyment of travel.
  • The hope that faith in God brings.
  • The importance of learning to forgive—especially themselves.
As far as tagging the next victim in this exercise--I say if you are reading this, consider yourself tagged. After thinking through these answers, I realize that there are many lessons my children are going to have to learn the hard way--- trial by fire.

This I know for sure...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Blessings

Waking up this morning I didn’t anticipate that the day would turn out as it did. I was unaware of the blessings God had in store for me this day. I woke with a million things on my mind. My family was coming to my house for Christmas dinner -- I hadn’t begun wrapping all my presents—my house needed cleaning – laundry needed to be finished-- and I was exhausted before the day began.

Rolling out of bed, I threw on a t-shirt and sweats then took mental note of my daily tasks. I carried down the laundry, checked my email and put on a pot of coffee when all of a sudden; I heard my garage door open and in walked----my cleaning lady. Yep, Daysi walked through my door and said, “Didn’t you expect me?” I assured her that I was very surprised that she came on Christmas Eve—yet was ecstatic that I no longer had to worry about getting my house ready for family tomorrow (blessing number one).

I retreated to my room to finish wrapping my Christmas presents. As I placed the final piece of tape upon each gift, and wrote the familiar “to:____ and from: _______” I felt compelled to offer up a prayer for each recipient. I prayed that this year would bring each individual blessings and an abundance of hope beyond expectation. This was one of the most profound solitary moments I have spent in my entire life (blessing number two).

After Daysi left, my best friend, Ginny arrived unexpectedly for an impromptu visit. We chatted and laughed together. It is always a gift to share part of your day with one who understands and accepts you so completely ---again---this was another unexpected blessing (number three, but who is counting).

Taking a long bath was next on my list, followed by preparing for an evening with Don's family. The last two Christmas’s, to say the least, have been difficult for all of us. Losing Don the first Christmas was difficult enough, not to mention, the loss of his father 10 months later making last Christmas unbearable. I decided that this Christmas would be different. I knew it would take a conscious effort to make this wish a reality.

We arrived at my brother-in-laws in time for our traditional Christmas Eve meal of homemade pizza—oh so delicious. We played games and laughed until we cried, while reflecting upon memories of the past. After exchanging gifts to one another, my MIL placed a final gift into my hands, the tag read: to Kent. She will never know what a blessing this simple act of acceptance and love meant to me. Upon reflection, this evening was the day’s greatest blessing— the love of Don's family— who through the depths of grief to the heights of promise have continued to love -- was indeed a highlight of my holiday. God has been faithful to bless our lives in spite of what life has thrown our direction. Christmas Eve blessings are sweet indeed.

This I know for sure.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


I keep a writer's notebook at school which I write in if I wish to model writing with my students. I came across a notebook I kept 2004-2005. I began to read the entries and was amazed at the providence of some of the writing I did before Don died. Here is an example:
Is a big girl
She ignores uncertainty, despair and self-absorption
She treats them as if they didn’t exist
She has been through great trials
Yet remains friends with contentment
She looks toward the race
Becoming as she journeys

(mentor text: “Confidence” from The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler)

Providence - something I am more aware of than ever before...
This I know for sure...

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Fine Art of Re-Gifting

Ok—I admit it. I have, once or twice in my lifetime, re-gifted. I am not proud of this fact, but I am prepared to come clean. Since my initial re-gifting incidences, I have been socially educated (via Oprah) and understand that it would have been a better choice to donate the items to charity rather than re-gift them. Seems re-gifting falls into the social context of an unacceptable faux pas. This unintentional blunder got me thinking--are there gifts that would be perfectly acceptable, even admirable to re-gift? I imagine that there are. I even believe that you possess some of these gifts; they are simply lying around your life, stagnating, ready to be re-gifted in order to be fully appreciated.

The Gift of Friendship – This is a gift that certainly keeps giving. I have found this to be one of life’s most precious offerings. C.S. Lewis noted that “Friendship is born in that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!” and it is in that moment that a bond begins to form. Re-gifting friendship simply brings more folks into your life enriching your journey, making your path more bearable and providing you with opportunities to nurture another.

The Gift of Grace – This is a word we don’t often use today. I know there are times I expect others to grant grace to me without extending the same consideration to them. I teach middle school children. If ever there were a population that could utilize every bit of grace one might possess, it is this group. However, I find that when I extend grace (re-gifted if you will) it does pay forward. I notice that others in my life tend to become more gracious, even 12 year olds. This season is your chance to re-gift grace. I am speaking of grace in a more intimate context—that within our families, friendships, spiritual communities and homes we grant Godly grace out of love and openness.

The Gift of Silence – Well, heck—I would love to re-gift this—if only I had some given to me. Seriously, sometimes I find myself talking way too much and listening way too little—just ask my 19 year old he will gladly back my story. I used to love silence. It was in the still of those quiet moments that I would feel most centered because I was actually making the effort to listen. I rarely spend time in silence today. Since Don died I can’t even go to sleep without the television blaring in the background and when I am cooking or cleaning—noise is a constant companion. I believe this holiday; I will re-gift this one to myself and set aside some time to simply be quiet.

The Gift of Hope – There are so many folks out there who have lost hope. They may have owned it at one time, but for some reason it has been stolen from their lives. Hopeless people come in all shapes and sizes; in all ethnicities; in all socioeconomic classes; in all emotional states and sometimes are right in front of our eyes, but we fail to even notice. This gift comes wrapped in various packages. Hope sometimes presents itself in simple ways like in a touch, a glance that says we understand or in a warm embrace. Re-gifting hope could possible require much more of you. It may call you to give time, effort, or resources in order to reach out in hope to someone else. Life is hopeful. It is the way we were meant to live-by all means it is mean to be re-gifted.

So go ahead—I give you permission, even encouragement, to re-gift ANY or all of the before mentioned gifts. I believe you will find your holiday season much more gratifying and rewarding if you do.

This I know for sure…

Sunday, December 16, 2007

And the Countdown Begins!

March 15, 2008
1:00 pm

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I AM Dancing!!!

Psalms 30:11
“You have turned my mourning into dancing”

As many of you know, this scripture has been my mantra the past 2+ years. It wasn’t that I ever questioned “if” I would “dance” again, but it was a question of “when” I would dance again. Well, seems that time has come. I believe my life is “dancing” at last.

As the holiday season is in full swing, so is my holiday schedule. This weekend was Chandler’s birthday and from the sleepover Friday night to the family party Sunday, I should be exhausted. What I found for the first time in a long time, was that instead of being exhausted I was experiencing----joy. Yes, I have much to be joyful about this season, but I don’t think I have taken the time to claim it. This fact hit me this weekend as we were laden with that last minute cleaning before family arrived for the birthday party. In the past, it is during these highly taxing moments that the stress-monster brandished its ugly head and I turned into some kind of panicked, control freak----not so this weekend. Today, I know why---I was dancing and didn’t even realize it.

I tend to be a bit high-strung—ok—a lot high strung. I am not as bad as I used to be; however stress does escalate the condition. Don was always able to temper that character trait and have a calming effect on my spirit. Without that mitigation the past two years there have been times I have felt a heightened sense of anxiousness and lack of control. It tends to suck the joy right out of the moment.

This weekend, for the first time in over two years, I felt balanced—like my life has finally fallen into a rhythm, which will carry me into the next chapter of my life story. It is an exceptional place to be. I am not only open to the joy of the season, but also to the prospects of what’s around the corner.

Love has found its way into my heart once more and laughter fills the rooms of my home again. Though there have been many changes in my life, my heart is at peace.

It is true ---- I am dancing.

This I know for sure.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Shopped at Target and then at Walmart in one day---what does that make me??? ---

Yep, France

This I know for sure...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Love Trumps All!

A very well meaning family member sends me a plethora of ultra-conservative propagandaish materials on a weekly basis. I don’t mind receiving them and like most things in my life I do what every good Christian does and take to heart the parts I am akin to and discard the rest as “hogwash”. But this week’s mailing got me thinking, what is it that Christians are so afraid of? This week’s portion of propaganda centered around an “ALERT” from a family organization up in arms with the fact that gays were boycotting Walmart. Seem the corporate conglomerate refuses to grant the “same sex” marriage benefits that it gives to “traditional marriage” relationships. Target, on the other hand, did provide such benefits, so the homosexual community was encouraging the patronizing of Target over Walmart. The family organization behind the “ALERT”, as a direct line of defense in battle for traditional-Christian family values, answered back (in rather strong language) with a call to “buycott” Walmart.

Contrary to popular belief, I am a rather rational, even-tempered (for the most part) individual. However, by genetics I do have an ornery aspect to my nature, which I am unable to control under conditions such as this. Taking the personality disclosure into consideration, you have a better understanding as to why an email response was compulsory. It went something like this:

Dear ____,
Interesting email--with a "buycott" of Walmart in place it seems we should be hearing some stimulating sermons on gluttony soon---ought to make overweight Nazarenes and Christians in general a bit on edge---esp. at the holiday season. Guess my point is that many of us “Christians” seem to "pick our sin" to abhor---- and it is usually the ones we aren't personally tempted with or involved in-
Hhmmmmmm….just a thought.

Immediately after clicking the “send” button, I called my mother forewarning her she might be receiving a correspondence concerning her “heathen” daughter. Mom, as always, giggled followed by “Now, what have you done?” Don’t get me wrong; I don’t regret pushing the send button. I believe we must make sure we are calling each other to task as readily as we call the “world” to such.

My observation is that the Christian community tends to jump on the activist bandwagon as soon as “sins”, we personally detest, present themselves as threatening to our sense of propriety. We often sight the preservation of traditional values as the platform for our actions. Is there a place closer to the hand of God for those who boycott, pontificate, and with obnoxious distain browbeat the sinners around us? I simply don’t get it. I haven’t heard of anyone boycotting a business because it provides temptation for the glutton (which, if I am correct, is also a sin), but if a bar or casino opens in our neighborhood we are all over that one.

No wonder some folks don’t want anything to do with Christians—we don’t always act very “Christ-like”. It all goes back to what Christ himself said was the most important commandments.

Mark 12:29-31
“The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

Above all else, we are commanded to love God and love each other. This frees us—it allows God to be God and supports our call to simple love. No boycotts, no strong exclusive theological rhetoric, and definitely no “holier than thou” attitudes are needed to expand the community of believers. To paraphrase Christ’s words---Love trumps all!!

This I know for sure…


My 6th graders are writing poetry during this holiday season. One of my students asked me if I ever write poetry for fun. I had to answer honestly---no—I don’t. I am not sure why. I do write poetry on demand when I need a mentor text to share with my students for modeling purposes, but to simply sit down with the intention to write poetry---not so much. So here it goes…

Too busy to blog---

Too weary to blog---

Too lethargic to blog---

Too uninspired to blog---

Blogged out---

For now.

OK—so there is a reason I don’t write poetry.
This I know for sure…

Saturday, November 24, 2007

And Be Thankful...

Apparently, being thankful is a mandatory endeavor for this time of year. I find thankfulness to be, as other emotions, a choice. A few years ago I remember Oprah challenging viewers to create and maintain a daily gratitude journal. Her premise was that each evening you were to write five things that you are thankful for. She surmised that "If you start focusing on what you have and what you're grateful for, you will then begin to see more." I have never been a big “name it and claim it” person theologically, but sometimes in dealing with life---it rings true.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15 NIV). This scripture was brought to mind during this Thanksgiving season. We are CALLED to peace and to thankfulness. This scripture implies that peace is found within the boundaries of thankfulness. The benefit of thankfulness is peace—real peace—not the kind the world gives. As I looked across the Thanksgiving table at my fiancé, parents, brothers, in-laws, nephews and good friends, I was absolutely thankful.

Having a grateful spirit when life seems less than so, is not easy. Taking steps to create a thankful heart is often demanding. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving a good friend’s daughter was in a car accident on the way home from college. My friend received a vague report of the accident while at school. Fortunately, I was available to be with her as she contacted her husband for the details of the accident. For twenty minutes we waited on news. A portrait of gratitude could not have been painted more unmistakably than on my friend’s face when hearing the news that her daughter was safe. OH, what a thankful heart she must have today—and peace---yeah! It puts life into perspective.

Tonight, my grateful journal would read something like this:
  • For the love of family and friends, I am forever grateful
  • For the hope of another great love, I am thankful.
  • For the gift of infinite laughter, I am grateful.
  • For the shelter of a HOME---not a house, I am thankful.
  • For the spiritual legacy of the faithful gone before me, I am grateful.

This I know for sure…

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No Writing Gene

There is no “writing gene”—no magic formula to become a good (even mediocre) writer EXCEPT that in order to be a good writer—you MUST READ. My freshman in college just came to this realization. What makes me the proud mama I am is that he has decided to do something about his state of affairs and start to read!!!! Yes, in order to be a writer—you MUST read—and then---read. SO-I openly state that C. C. is one amazing young man who will someday find his "voice".

This I know for sure...
UPDATE: C. flew in the door on Thursday with an A+ on his sociology research paper. YEP--it went up on the refrigerator.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take
But by the moments that take our breath away”

My first blog regarding this quote was on October 14, 2006. I proceeded listing those moments in my life, which have truly taken my breath away. Today, I find a new event to add to those that take my breath away and acknowledge it to all:

Events such as when…
…the man I have fallen in love with reaches for my hand, and places a beautiful 1.5 carat pav’e set diamond ring upon it and asks: “will you marry me?”—Yes, that is a moment, which takes my breath away---and did this weekend.

Psalms 30:5 states: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” My joy has come—our joy has come. It has grown over the past 14 months into something remarkable.

I often post on the YWBB that I believe those who loved well once, will love well again. I believe that the love I was able to nourish and grow all those years is the foundation of my love today. So, I embrace the future with hope that life will only continue to become more tender and fulfilling. I enter this “chapter two” with my eyes wide open. We no longer are carefree youths and life challenges, like blending two families, will be challenging; but, love is an amazing glue that binds the past with the future, memory to dream and family to family. Life will not be without its challenges, but isn’t that what living is all about? I won’t lose the opportunity for happiness due to fear of the unknown.

When I am teaching writing to my students we often concentrate on creating “strong leads”. As my “chapter two” begins, we have a tremendously strong lead. Our story to this point is quite amazing, one I will write down at some later date, but for now---I just want to share my happiness in the moment—the sense of contentment with the present and yes, great joy for the future.

This I know for sure...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Taking the High Road!!

I opened my word processor today with every intention of regaling you with an inspiring anecdote while patting myself on the back for seemingly "taking the high road" in a situation at work. Looking for a quote to support my haughtiness, I came across this one:

"Spiritual growth comes from the sum of all of our life experiences. When we choose to take the high road in situations it is often the result of having taken the low road at an earlier turn along the path."

Dang—arrogance—it is an ugly thing. I outwardly took the high road this time, only because I had staggered down the low road earlier, so never mind. It wasn't that great of an effort on my part after all. It was simply the attempt to resolve what I had screwed up to begin with.

Reflection—think I will get rid of that mirror.

This I know for sure…

Sunday, November 04, 2007

What I Know for Sure----for REAL!!!

How many times have you cried out to God—wanting to simply know WHY? Why did I lose my job? Why is my marriage falling apart? Why is my child ill? Why was my husband taken away from me too soon? Sitting in my pew this morning, I was feeling a bit out of place. It has been a long week—one of dealing with disappointments and having to come to terms with the role my job will now play in my life. I was tired—weary—and a bit—negative. P.T. was summarizing the main points of his sermons the past few weeks based on the book of Ecclesiastes. He reiterated something he said earlier this month, but didn’t have the impact it did as I listened today. He merely said, “Don’t let what you DON’T understand destroy what you already know.” Unfortunately, I didn’t hear anything more---my mind turned this idea over and over.

I contemplated my blog and its title: What I Know for Sure. I discovered how trite this statement could seem without truly scrutinizing what it is that I DO know for sure. What are the absolutes in my life that I am so quick to pass over when life becomes unbearable? Why am I so quick to doubt, when there is so much that I know for sure.

It seems to be the popular thing to "take stock" these days. I have received, what seems like, a plethora of emails from friends urging me to stock of something in my life. The last one was “My Favorite Four”. The first few of these I received were somewhat novel: What are four paying jobs I have had in my life? What are four of my favorite foods? etc… I am even guilty of passing on one or two of these surveys, but now---I simply press, “delete” and deal with the four years of bad luck that is certain to come my way. I find myself in need of “taking stock” in a more constructive manner. Today, I have decided to take stock of what it is “I know”, so that when the winds of insecurity and fear blow into my life; I will not permit these absolutes to be shattered.

What I know for sure….the absolutes:

  1. I have a relationship with a loving heavenly Father who loves and cares for me unconditionally. One who sustains my life and allows me to live courageously.
  2. My parent’s love is unconditional. I am fortunate in this aspect. This fact has nothing to do with what I have done, but everything to do with who they are. Though I am sure I have disappointed them, I know their love remains unbroken.
  3. I love my children unconditionally. There is absolutely NOTHING they could do to lose my love for them.
  4. I am not perfect-and neither is anyone else. The grace I long to cover me—must also be afforded to others.
  5. Contentment is a choice. It doesn’t come to me under obligation or because I am “due” it in any way.
  6. Accepting the present creates the ability to build a positive future—one with hope and promise.
  7. Allowing God to work within my life; to guide my judgment and mind-set develops the inner strength needed to face adversity.
  8. I will experience disappointment, heartache and sorrow. It is inevitable and unfortunately just because I have experienced something devastating, doesn’t mean I have been given immunity to heartache. HOWEVER, there is One who has gone before me, experienced each of these and created within me strength for persevering through them.
  9. There is no substitution for strong, enduring friendships. When life’s trials grow more than I can handle—I simple lean on my incredible friendships—those who have chosen to walk the road with me. I am more than blessed in this area and I NEVER want to take them for granted, but always want to celebrate what each and every one of them mean to me.
  10. NEVER, NEVER, EVER say “NEVER” -it will, beyond a doubt bite you in the butt… So what is the lesson--I will not be bound by these absolutes, but will be guided by them.

Now, they are in print, my absolutes---what are yours? This is much more important than your favorite food----take stock so that when you are confronted with those life situations that don’t make sense; you are still able to hold onto your absolute truths-those things you...


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bliss - the Stolen Blog Subject

I love great writing. I especially admire exceptional writing, which makes me laugh and also aspires me to think. This afternoon, I sat down to read some of my friend’s blogs when I came upon an entry by Annie about a newspaper column she had read. Intrigued, I did what any overly curious person would do and I “Googled” the author of the column: Mark Morford (SFGate). I found the article, read it and then two hours later left my computer (after reading some of his archived works). I snickered. I laughed and yes, I really thought.

This particular column, the subject of Annie’s blog, was entitled: Behold the Bliss Watch List (if you click on the title you, too, can read it).

I interrupt this blog for the familial disclaimers: Evan & Marc—you will love this guy: Dad—just get past the expletives and read the other words: Mom—I know you will like this guy’s writing, but won’t be able to admit it—that’s ok-we understand.

Morford’s assertion is that by creating a diametrically oppositional list to the “US Terrorist Watch List”, we could override the database and perhaps even shut it down (he uses much more colorful words—I can't do him justic). He wants to call this the “Bliss Watch List” (BWL). Here are the qualifications of being placed on such a “list”.

“Our screening process will be rigorous and incontrovertible and true. The BWL will contain only the names of people widely suspected of being savvy, titillating, open-hearted, deeply lovable, sexed-up geniuses of divine intent and hot self-exploration and ravenous intellectual curiosity.

It will contain the names of anyone who is suspected of daring to understand that life is not, in fact, a clenched and harrowing slog, but an actual ongoing, incessant, stunning manifestation of the divine, even when it's dirty and violent and obnoxious and horribly dressed and seems to contain only a bleak never-ending rundown of doom and decay and Dick Cheney. It's just that kind of list.”

So, here I sit, at my computer, vigorously raising my hand—PUT ME ON THE LIST, BABY if I am not "there" yet, I will work my way onto it!!

This I know for sure...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

What I have gotten used to:

Today I was challenged to take a look at my life and examine what I have gotten used to, or comfortable with. This examination has been two-fold for me. For one, I contemplated what I was comfortable with that has changed and left me a bit out of my element. On the other hand I have scrutinized those areas in my life that I have become too comfortable with that have left me, for lack of a better word; lazy.

For my entire career I have had close friendships and experienced strong camaraderie at work. I am helplessly relationship driven and am fortunate to have strong connections with others in my life. With my position change this year, came a change in school buildings. I have not experienced the same comfort-zone that friendship at work afforded me in the past. Instead I find myself in a specialized atmosphere where I can perform professionally with few personal connections. I find that I no longer find those work-connections essential to my happiness on the job. Strong family and friendships outside the workplace anchor my life at this point. After analyzing, I am wondering if this isn’t God preparing me for the next step in my career. So though I was not as comfortable with this change in the beginning, I am growing to accept it and even embrace the freedom it affords.

In contrast, there are definitely areas of my life I have become too comfortable with which need to be addressed. I no longer am driven to exercise. This isn’t really a good thing. There is no reason for this other than I have been too lazy. How long does it take to walk? 30 minutes? I certainly choose to waste this much time completing trivial tasks each day. Yet, it has become “comfortable” to simply bypass the exertion. I have also become “comfortable” with clutter---NOT clutter that anyone can see, but closets, cabinets and such. I can find “stuff" stored in these areas---well---most of the time. This change did not happen over night, but is something I have gotten used to over time. It is surprising that I would become content with something that 2 years ago would have driven me crazy.

Perhaps it is time to embrace the comfort zone changes that have left me a sense of calm and to begin to change those that have compromised my standards. Either way, I suppose that comfort zone changes are like all other changes in life ----they merely take time.

This I know for sure...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Indecision 2008

Please grant me this post--I promise it will be my ONLY politically motivated post of the "season".

Is anyone else having a difficult time deciding who to vote for this next election? I am in a HUGE quandary. Many of my liberal friends call me a closet liberal, although I am a registered Republican. I often find that my ideals as a teacher conflict with my conservative views. If someone were to ask, I would consider myself an independent, but I like to vote in the primaries; so Republican I am. Today, a good friend sent me the following link:

Select the Candidate Quiz

I encourage everyone to complete it before reading on…..

I am not going to reveal who the quiz decided I should vote for. I am just rebellious enough to confess the candidate selected for me doesn’t have a prayer, but… this quiz ignited quite the discussion in my household tonight. First, I took the quiz and revealed my candidate. Then, Kent took the test and revealed his candidate. Finally, Chandler, my 11-year-old came up from playing downstairs and asked if he could take the test. For the next 30 minutes or so, we discussed abortion, taxes, death penalty, gay marriages and immigration. I don’t think I have ever discussed these topics with my son beyond the casual blurb here and there. It was interesting to read the questions with him, discuss what they meant, and then allow him to make the decision for himself. It was enlightening to have such deep discussions with one so young. Though I could easily have swayed his vote, I tried to be as “fair-minded” as possible and give him the information without the editorial—though I will admit on certain issues I expounded far more than necessary.

What makes up our moral compass when it comes to those we elect into office? As I watched my 11-year-old, I could see he answered from the “gut”. He has no experience with taxes or immigration and was simply concerned with the “people”—until we got to absolutes like the death penalty and abortion. On those issues he tended, like many folks, to be inconsistent with his decision. Someday someone will explain to me the “consistency” of being pro-life and pro-death penalty (when does life cease to have potential-but I will save that for another day).

Seems our political climate can be summed up in the following topics: the war, immigration, taxes, stem-cell research, health care, abortion, social security, line-item veto, energy, marriage and the death penalty. This list seems too small to encompass the values of an entire country. I wonder how many people truly understand the “issues”. I suspect many vote instead for the charismatic or the “popular”. I am more challenged than ever to explore where I stand on these questions. I need to ask myself more relevant questions such as what effects Presidential decisions will have on my life as well as upon the lives of the American community. I am energized to deliberately become more informed and to choose a Presidential candidate based on, not only my “gut” (or an on-line survey) but rational examination and discourse.

This I know for sure…

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

I find it interesting that whenever I am facing life situations, God finds a way to speak to me. Oh, I have never audibly heard the voice of God (though I think that would be so cool), but He does speak to me through His Word, other Christians, or any other means, which might get my attention. Frequently he speaks with a soft whisper as to direct or redirect my path, but at other times he practically yells in my ear so that I don’t “crash and burn”. Today was one of the latter days.

In my younger years, I was not afraid of confrontation (if needed), or conflict. In fact, if I felt strongly about something or felt an ideal was being defaced I could swing into action without much consideration for the outcome. As a result, I found myself in many uncomfortable situations causing a fair amount of uneasiness. I fought many “battles” and unearthed more than my share of “hills to die on”. As I have “matured” (I hope no one just choked), one skill I have consciously tried to improve is that of discernment. As a result, I don’t choose to die on every hill and my battles are fewer and further between, but unfortunately these strides have not been enough to create in me the heart of a peacemaker.

Some folks are natural peacemakers. Life is always so calm around them. No matter what conflict arises, they can find a way to create a sense of peace in those involved, even through “battle”. They see beyond the discord and can get to the root of the conflict to find resolution. Their recompense is that conflict doesn’t invade their life as much. How do they do that?

Lately, in various avenues of my life, several of my core ideals have been challenged thus causing a tremendous amount of internal conflict. Some of these challenges have to do with work, some with the church, and some with businesses. I have sat down at my computer and written more than a few emails to address each of these potential “battles”, only to trash them before sending. I have dialed numbers, and even talked out the situations with friends, only to—do nothing. When I did finally decide to stage “battle” and “choose a hill to die on”, there was no resolution, no satisfaction, no solution and definitely no peace. This wasn’t because I didn’t face the problem in a noble manner, but because when things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to I chose continued conflict over peaceful resolution.

Today’s Purpose Driven Devotional was about peacemaking – this is the God screaming in my ear part.
“No matter where you go, you are a peacemaker – showing others how to make peace with God. As a peacemaker, you also begin the process of peace between you and those who stand against you (going as far as you possibly can under God’s leadership). And you help others make peace with each other.”
Peace truly isn’t found in the absence of conflict, but in the reconciliation of it. Peace isn’t accomplished by allowing others to walk all over you or in minimizing important issues which need to be addressed. Peace is found when you truly care about resolution more than conflict and when you place your energy in a loving manner behind finding solutions over remaining in conflict.

So what does this mean to me today?
• Stop complaining – if I am not committed to resolution, then I should keep my mouth shut
• Start seeking ways to thoughtfully analyze the conflict with resolution in mind
• Start seeing the “battle” from the eye of others involved
• Choose battles that are worthy my fight—let others go knowing either someone else will take them on or they aren’t worth the effort.
• Decide if my action or inaction with affect my life one way or another in the next three years, if not, LET IT GO (this one should save much heartache).
• Realize that all the above actions impact my life as well as those of my children, meaning everything is not thrown out simply because it happens to my kids (mamma bear needs to stay in the den sometimes)

This I know for sure...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Earring Incident

I wrote a real blog today, but forgot to forward it to my home email. When I arrived home, I decided to sit down and send an imperative email to a colleague, who I admire, concerning a misunderstanding. Anyway, as I hit the send button I reached up to take off my earrings. I thought they felt odd and a bit out of proportion. As I looked in my hands, I started to giggle; I had worn two different earrings all day. Now, that wouldn’t be a big deal except that apart from their shape they couldn’t be more different. One is TWICE the size of the other. One is laced with sparkley, diamondy stones the other very plain. How cold NO ONE notice all day?????? Not even me…. Guess my accessories aren't as important as the one on the girl in the painting.

This I know for sure...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Crazy, Sexy Grief

I watched Oprah today. Didn’t know if I could or would considering the topic, but I did anyway. The first story was about a young woman, Kris Car, with stage-four cancer and her documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer. The second story centered on a young professor with terminal pancreatic cancer.

As I listened to each and their amazing outlook, I couldn’t help but connect it to my own journey (yes, Marc it is all about me). Anyway, Ms Car mentioned that “Cancer is my guru, my teacher”. WOW! how powerful. I can say the same for grief—grief has been my guru, my teacher the past two years. I have learned that any life-state one chooses to remain in, whether grief, seclusion, bitterness, or abuse will eventually terminate ones ability to truly live.

I watched these two incredible people—I cried and I laughed, but what I found myself doing most is evaluating my life. Kris explained that “Life is a terminal condition”, “we are all going to die, but how many of us truly live?” I want to truly live. Not a meaningless existence, but a profound one—not a cautious survival, but a courageous continuation. Superficially, the show inspired me to run out to the nearest Walmart and purchase a juicer then, faster than the speed of light, sign up for yoga at the YMCA, but realistically—I am inspired to take stock. Even considering everything I have learned thus far on my journey, there is so much more yet to learn. I want to be able to embrace my CRAZY, SEXY, GRIEF.

This I know for sure

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Why Did I Get Married?

A friend and I went to this new Tyler Perry movie last night. It is a story centering around four couples and their annual vacation together where they explore the question “Why did I get married?” If you want more details, you can read a synopsis:
Why Did I Get Married?
Anyway, it was a great movie-no language or sex, just pure movie fun—with a tremendous message. It made me realize what an excellent marriage I had. I also recognized that creating a strong marriage was, at times, hard work. Watching these couples struggle through insignificant to major problems reminded me how completely I was loved and was then able to love in return.

I got married when I as 19 years old, by one week. My parents wouldn’t allow me to marry at 18, so I waited a week after my 19th birthday to honor their wishes. What did I know when I was 18? How did I know that this man, seemingly so very different from me, was “the one”? Chances are, I didn’t really know; but, he was---“the one”. When Don and I got married, we registered for china and stoneware. One of the options, apart from traditional place settings, was to purchase a "completer set" which included serving pieces and various other miscellaneous dishes. Don used to get a big grin on his face and say that we must be each other's "completer set". How true that was.

Why did I get married? I don't know the exact answer to that question. I was in love, that's for sure. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this person, but doesn't everyone? One reason I was so sure may have been because I knew how fulfilling marriage could be. My parents had shown that marriage was something to cherish.

Fortunately, I had an exceptional example of successful marriage from my parents. Mom and Dad weren’t afraid to argue in front of us (notice I didn’t say fight), they also weren’t afraid to apologize and make-up in front of us. I remember fondly the many times they were affectionate (and still are) and observed as they worked through very difficult times together. I hope my children remember that from my marriage. I hope they see that marriage is the most rewarding and fulfilling union one can experience and that along with great effort, comes immense joy.

I wouldn’t give up my 24 years of marriage for anything in the whole world. I don’t regret, and never have, getting married so young. Looking back, I am grateful for every year—every heartache---every moment of joy. So what does all of this mean to me today?

I liked being married, and I was good at it (I know my widow friends are getting tired of hearing that). I don’t mind confessing this out loud. I have the hope that I can experience the fulfillment of that sort of union again. At my age, I explore the idea of remarriage with open eyes. I don’t have a romanticized view of marriage, nor a stringent practical one. I am not looking for a prince on a white horse to ride in to sweep me off my feet. I don't need that at this point in my life (ok--so I never really needed that to begin with). What I am looking forward to is sharing life with someone—a companion—a friend and a lover.

This I know for sure.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Organized? Me?

I have decided to organize my life. I have lived in various stages of disorganization for far too long, it is time for action. As Dr. Phil says, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge” so concede I will---

Hello, my name is Marsha, and I am disorganized. On the surface my house looks fine. You could stop by my house and I would let you in the door. It is put together, relatively clean, vacuumed, dusted etc… - - BUT don’t open ANY cabinet or closet doors. I have created a 12-step program to address my weakness (I am, in NO way, poking fun at the 12-step program, which has helped many people overcome addictions. It is simply being used as a vehicle to make my point). Feel free to join me, if need be.

1. I admit I am powerless over hidden clutter - that my life has become somewhat unmanageable.

2. I have come to believe that a power (or cleaning specialist) greater than myself (or at least equal to) could restore me to sanity but isn’t likely to happen quickly enough.

3. I have made a decision to turn my will and my clutter over to the care of organization professionals, as I know them (which I don’t—know any that is).

4. Make a searching and fearless inventory of my organizationally challenged behavior and myself.

5. Admit to God, to myself and to other human beings the exact nature of my clutter.

6. Am entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character (oh and there are a few not listed that I could get rid of also).

7. Humbly asked Him to remove my shortcomings and to send help soon (I feel so much better now). Does God do this kind of work?

8. Make a list of all persons who should be doing their part in the household, and become willing to make them accountable.

9. Make direct expectations to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others (like the wrath of mom wouldn’t be scary enough).

10. Continue to take personal inventory and when I am considering saving something, or stashing something admit it (may not put it where it goes, but I will admit it didn’t belong there).

11. Seek, through thought and constant reading, to improve my conscious contact with organizational gurus as I understood them, praying only for a measure of their knowledge and the power to carry it out.

12. Having had an organizational awakening as the result of these steps, I try to carry this message to the unorganized and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! The first meeting of Disorganized Anonymous will meet at my house this weekend. Please bring cleaning supplies, organizational materials and enough caffeine to keep everyone moving. We can tackle my house first (brilliant idea).

This I know for sure…. (I wonder how many I should plan for?)

Monday, October 08, 2007

My Banner is Clear

I have thought about life and death more in the past two years than probably anyone should. I even find myself imagining what I want engraved on my cemetery marker. I know that might sound morbid, but it really isn’t. It is simply reflective.

After much consideration I now know what I hope to have inscribed: “Her Banner Was Clear”, fashioned after the following inspirational note found in the office of a young African pastor who was martyred for his faith. If this quotation is to be mine at the end of my life—I have a lot of spiritual work to do. I better get busy. There are certain parts of the writing I find especially significant in my life. I have noted them in bold print.

My Banner is Clear
I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have Holy Spirit power, my die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I'm a disciple of Jesus. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I'm finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and labor by power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my Guide is reliable, and my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won't give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, preached up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me-my banner will be clear.

This I KNOW for sure…

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Expectations and Reality

What is our responsibility to others? What happens when our expectations of others NEVER matches the reality of the situation? When do we excuse others insensitive behavior simply because “that’s the way they are wired”? Personally, I am tired of making concession, but of course I will continue to do so—why??? Because in return, I hope they are making concessions for my own inadequacies.
Plain and simple…
Short and (bitter)sweet…

This I know for sure…

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Letter at Two Years

My friend Tanja recently wrote a letter to her husband on her blog-I found such solace in reading it that I decided to steal the idea to commemorate the two year mark since my husband’s passing. Please indulge me this one time:

Today marks two years since I last kissed you, hugged you or told you I loved you. I am terribly grateful that I was able to do that one last time. I am thankful that our relationship allowed for constant affirmation of love. You have been missed so much these past two years, yet your legacy has remain a constant reminder of your life and what it stood for.

You wouldn’t recognize the boys at this point. Our oldest son is in college and thriving. He has a lovely girlfriend and I find that he loves her as he saw you love me. There is adoration and pride whenever he speaks of her and they seem to be the very best of friends. He reflects so much of your spirit. He has taken the responsibility of “head of the house” yet still allowed himself the luxury of being a young man. He has bought a new car—which I find to be quite ugly, but is his pride and joy. We tease him that his new car is a toaster on wheels and that parking it in the garage is a problem because when the “Pop Tarts” pop from the top, they will hit the roof of the garage. You would not have liked the vehicle either, but would have understood his feelings toward the car because you felt the same way about that ’79 Camero (which, by the way, was MUCH cooler). He plays your Martin guitar often even though he doesn’t play with ‘the band’ anymore. He loves that guitar and takes special care of it. You would be proud.

Our youngest has had trouble adjusting to middle school. We have been racking our brains trying to figure it all out. I especially wish you were here to deal with the issues at school, so that I could continue my professional relationship there. You had the ability to make the rigid more open-minded and boy are we dealing with "rigid" right now. I would like to blame his non-conformity to the time of year or his aversion to adjusting to new situations, but I know what you would say. You would say, “Marsha, he is YOU---duh---this middle school stuff is not “fun” enough for him. Just relax, he will come around and hopefully school won’t ruin him” and of course, you would be right. He has become very sensitive to the spiritual aspects of his life. You would be proud of how he responds in church when he is moved. We sang together in church last month and it was a moment of great pride. He has an amazing voice and I think will discover this to be a talent to cultivate. In band, he is playing the drums, following in his brother’s footsteps. He still views life as “glass half-full” and remains true to his word no matter what.

Chelsie misses you. She did from the beginning. Even the vet told us that she was in mourning. We attempted to make her feel better by getting her a doggy companion who, in turn, bit Riley and….well---ended up in a new home. I don’t think Chelsie minded too much. She enjoys being “top dog”.

We moved to a new home not long after you left us. We live in the community we talked about moving to for years. My only real regret is that you didn’t get to live here. You would have loved the walking paths and the sporting opportunities so close to the house. We are enjoying riding our bicycles and walking to the baseball field. The house is a two-story structure which wouldn’t have thrilled you, but you would have liked the neighbors, as they are friends we have known for years. The ping-pong table is set up downstairs, but doesn’t get used as often as it should. We do think of you each time we play.

We are thankful of our memories, and strive to live for today and have hope for a future. The love legacy you left has allowed us to continue to grow through our grief. We miss you, but cherish the many wonderful memories that have allowed us to speak of you often in a loving manner. Your life has allowed us to continue ours. I get emails from Erica every once in a while. They always make me smile as she reminisces snapshots of memories from IP. Your mother is still a major part of our lives. We don’t get to see her as much as we would like, but that is because of our busy schedules. I know she misses you and your dad, but has become quite independent. She has even met some widow friends of her own. You would be proud of her, just as we are. She is a great source of comfort to the boys and to me.

Though there have been some disappointments in the male-role-model department and some promises that haven’t been fully fulfilled, I believe the boys have found their way. I have had to be enough at times and our oldest has assumed some responsibility. This is not a bad thing. It has made us all more self-sufficient.

We still laugh a lot, play games, root for the Cardinals and the Illini, watch old movies and allow music to continue to define our lives. We think and speak of you daily—always in the most fond and loving manner. We have hope for a future that will be filled with continued love and peace. More than anything, we acknowledge that God has been faithful. He has heard our cries for solace and answered—not always as we expected, but always fully and completely. So on this, our sadiversary, we honor you and the special place you reside in our hearts.

With Eternal Love,

Monday, September 24, 2007


The Don Cuttill Memorial Golf Tournament was held this weekend. I don’t know what I expected it to be or how I expected to feel or what the emotions leading up to it meant, but it was a beautiful and memorable day. Don’s mother, brother, sister-in-law, and niece were able to attend. David, Don’s younger brother, played on a team with my oldest son and my youngest son, father, brother and nephew also were among the participants (over 40 in all). When I watched the teams drive down the cart path after the first tee, I found it difficult to contain my tears. Later, upon reflection, I was able to grasp and fully understand what I was feeling.

These tears were different. They weren’t for loss, but for the way a legacy can continue long after the temporal. True legacy embraces the past as well as invites the future. Players in this tournament integrated family (those who knew and loved Don the most), friends (golfing buddies and church connections) and then those who never even knew Don, but whom his life and death have touched in some way over the past two years. I found that we were NOT commemorating a memory, but honoring how heritage affects the present. Don was not a memory on Saturday. He ordained the day. He was alive in each one of us. Perhaps in different forms, but he couldn’t have been more “amongst us” if he had been there in the flesh.

For the amount of unrest I have had the past week amid some difficult transitions, this weekend provided the respite my soul longed for. I was energized seeing all the folks at the golf outing and then at the pig roast. I was thrilled that we doubled the amount raised to help those less fortunate in our community. I was humbled by the love. Those who missed the event missed the blessing that this special day brought to so many--and that is too bad. However, I have no doubt that those fortunate enough to have experienced life with Don Cuttill Jr. have been blessed beyond measure. That will never change.

This I know for sure…

Monday, September 17, 2007


Transitions are words I try to get my middle school writers to use correctly and appropriately within their writing. I hate the standard transition most 11-year-olds have been taught to use: first, next, and in conclusion. They don’t seem to give the transition the honor it deserves. In spite of their previous training, we are working on using more complex transitions to better justify our writing. This got me thinking about life and our life transitions. These pivotal points in life often take days, months or even years. When we go through life transitions they are far more memorable than a few words can justify.

My youngest son started middle school this year. It has NOT been an easy transition for him (or for me). He has always encompassed the term “free spirit”, but not in an obnoxious way—in a silly kind of whimsical-way. He is a “glass half full” kid and even with his difficulties at school and the obvious frustration of his mother, he still manages a smile and a big wave when I encounter him in the hallway at school. When talking about C, my husband and I used to always say, “I sure hope school doesn’t ruin him.” Here I am an educator and worried that some teacher will crush his spirit. I don’t think it is possible. He won’t allow it. He will be happy no matter what. WOW---I hope that is genetic.

The transitions in my life recently have been multifaceted. They seem to be personal, professional and spiritual in nature. Teaching at the same school, in the same grade as my child has been a huge transition. It is difficult to separate the “mommy” hat from the “educator” one especially with a child who seems to be struggling a bit. I have found myself biting my tongue, not only where my son is concern, but where my colleagues are concerned as well. Transitioning into the role of single parent has been a bit rockier. This is one I have made “kicking and screaming”. I don’t like it—and there is nothing more I can say. I imagine this transition will be one I am continuously making

My oldest son is transitioning into adulthood. Having graduated from high school and starting college, he has so many life lessons ahead of him. He wears the hat of “head of household” a bit reluctantly and I often lean more heavily on him than perhaps I should. Yet, he rises to the occasion. He takes care of household tasks without my prompting—not the ones he is assigned to of course, but other ones, like calling the internet company to come change and replace the wiring to our house or organizing his dad’s tools in the garage (at 3:00 in the morning). Nevertheless, I am watching him transform in front of my eyes into an adult any parent would be proud of.

As a family, transitioning since Don died has been most difficult. We have all had to find new roles and paths to travel. I hope this transition will become a bridge to what lies ahead for each of us instead of an excuse to stagnate where we reside. The only thing constant is change. Transitioning is inevitable if you have the desire to continue to grow and live.

This I Know For Sure…

Sunday, September 09, 2007

When Life Becomes Surreal???

Sometimes I look at my life like it really isn’t my own—like I am looking at a painting created by someone else. Who finds the love of their life at 18 and then loses him to death and has a chance again via technology to experience love again? Please allow me explain…

I met and fell in love with my husband when I was 17. We had 24 years as husband and wife and I treasure each and every one of them. Then, my worst nightmare became a reality when he passed away in 2005. We had talked many times about the life we wanted for the other if death were to visit. Thank goodness we had those discussions. They went something like this; “I want you to move on, to be happy and make solid decisions for your future and that of the children---more than anything—love and live again.” We would follow such discussions with “isn’t this talk silly—it isn’t going to happen to us”, but it did. I watched the past two years as if my life were some Lifetime movie.

I am looking at my two year “sadiversary” since Don’s death. A golf tournament, created in his memory, is next weekend. It is a great honor and I look forward to the memories. YET, here I am—so very fortunate to be given a second chance at love in this life, but afraid somehow?

I met a wonderful widower who seems to be a perfect “fit” for me as a 46 year old woman. We have many of the same interests and “loves”—he sings, which has always been something I love, he travels, which has been my dream, he is outgoing; which is what I need in a companion at my age, he is an amazing Christian man and my family adores him, but most of all he seems to love me. Though I still look at my life as if it were some movie—widow finds widower who understands and loves completely—I am afraid to claim it??? Hmmmmmm….why is that????

I find myself once more viewing my life as if it were not my own and I wonder “what is my problem”??? Sometimes I feel as if my life is some kind of crazy reality show---but it isn’t---It is my life—it is the sum of choices that I have made to move forward and it is who I am today. SO—I am consciously moving forward. I am exploring what “chapter two” has for me. I honor the memory of my love with Don and am thankful to what the past has enabled me to bring to a new relationship.

Surreal may be where I began, but “real” is where I have landed. I choose to move forward—to find a new beginning for myself and for my children—I choose to LIVE. I choose K—I hope he chooses me…..there---it is now documented…

This I know for----yes, SURE…

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Pop Culture Defines Our Lives!!

I just finished watching the Saturday Night Live in the 80’s special on ABC. WOW—my life can be defined through a television program!! I graduated high school in 1980 and was married in 1981. I graduated college in 1984 and began teaching the same year. My first child was born in 1989. The milestones of my life can be easily measured by Saturday Night Life episodes in the 1980’s.

Saturday Night Live was one of Don’s favorite television programs. I found myself watching this special tonight laughing and crying at the same time. From Buckwheat to Hans and Frans to the Church Lady to the Blues Brothers, I can actually gage my life by SNL. Pop culture has a whole new meaning for me---I know what I was watching on television the night my children were born (Cardinal’s game for one and Illini game for the other—wonder who was watching??). I also know what I was watching the night my husband died (Jennifer Gardner in Alias).

I also connect popular songs with various events of my life. I know when I met Don the Doobie Brothers and Billy Joel defined our love. When my oldest son was born I can gage the time by Chicago (“Look Away”) and Janet Jackson (“Miss You Much”). When my youngest was born a whole new era had begun: Northern Exposure and Power Rangers muddied our television viewing and Phil Collins and Garth Brooks was in my cassette recorder.

I have always considered myself learned, educated and somewhat refined (for the mid-west anyway), but when it comes to what defines moments in my life---I find that pop culture more than any other “more sophisticated” means mark significant “life experiences”.

I am glad that I have these wonderful memories—these constant reminders of life gone by lived to its fullest….more to come…

This I know for sure…

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Ready, Fire, Aim or Voice in Life!

I had a graduate professor who, when speaking of ineffective school districts, spoke of a “ready, fire, aim” mindset instead of a “ready, aim, fire” approach. I realize that I have been living my life in the “ready, fire, aim” mode for almost two years. I have given little thought to the future (which one could find amazingly ironic), I tend to put things off (some call this procrastination). I approach life with little to no forethought (ok that might not be too different than before). The result of such actions is that my life is in a bit of disarray. Nothing in my life is in an organized state and what’s more---I don’t know if I could identify how, or even want it to change. Dr. Phil says “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge”, but what if you don’t want to change it? Do you have to simply because it is the grown-up thing to do?

I spoke to my students this week about the important of “voice” in their writing: about how, what they write should contain enthusiasm and/or passion easily understood by the reader. I have been thinking about the aspect of “voice” in a different context—that of what is our life "voice". I wonder if we have different “voice” at different times along our journey. Right now my voice is one of disorganized contentment. I am not talking about my physical surroundings as they are somewhat tidy (minus a closet or two). I am referring to an inner clutter that has been a result of a personal “ready, fire, aim” mindset. I am not sure others “read” this voice when they view my life from the outside, but perhaps that is ok.

Do I think this will be my voice forever? Not likely. I imagine I will tire of this untidy state eventually and personally “clean house”. Do I long for a more structured life? Perhaps - but change starts with crafting a desire to compose a different life “voice”. For now, the “ready, fire, aim” mindset has gotten me through the past two years. I foresee “ready, aim, fire” to be just around the corner---

This I know for sure…

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Love and the Pain of Leaving

You might think the pain after a tremendous loss would be too great to risk the chance of experiencing it again. I have often thought about this, but never been able to put into words exactly how I feel. Once again, Henri Nouwen has, in a most eloquent manner, found the words which have eluded me. If Nouwen is a bit too philosophical for you, perhaps Garth Brooks would be more your “cup of tea”. Either way, the message is the same.

Garth Brooks (The Dance lyrics):
And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance.
I could have missed the pain
But I'd of had to miss the dance

Henri Nouwen (Daily Meditation):

Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies ... the pain of the leaving can tear us apart.

Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.

I especially like the last paragraph of Nouwen's meditation. I have personally experienced the immense joy loving completely can afford us, but as a result, I endured intense suffering (through grief). The risk of loving was worth taking. What's more, the experience has provided hope for the future. I can see myself taking the chance again because though the pain was great----"the dance" was better.

This I know for sure.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Who Really Knows...

Who really knows what someone else is dealing with? Seems most of us are professional actors in our own life stage play. People we come in contact with on a daily basis may have hidden addictions, excessive loneliness, insurmountable pain or depression and we, are oblivious.

I find two years after the death of my husband, I am an expert at pulling off the illusion that everything is simply perfect; however, in the stillness of my existence—that is not the case. I still struggle with the widow issues of guilt, regret and that feeling that life just isn’t fair. I am wondering if and when this will change OR is this simply the reality of who I have become.

Don’t get me wrong—I appreciate all that my life is now. I would say I am even happy. I have the love of my children, a lovely home, a job I am passionate about and the hope of a future with a man I am growing to love and respect, but I can’t help wonder if I am damaged in some way. My biggest concern is that I may never be able to live the life I know that Don would want for me.

I still miss him to the core of my soul—everyday and am not sure that will ever end. I have a feeling I will simply learn to continue to live my life with that underlying feeling of loss. Perhaps this is where the “faithfulness” of God enters our lives in a real way. Perhaps we are meant to live fulfilling lives, even with loss and heartache. Perhaps the point is that we aren't to live life alone, but with the solace a true relationship with God provides.

I find myself looking into the eyes of others to see what is really there…thinking I have some great insight---but I do not. I, like everyone else, am too distracted by my own “issues” and my own “concerns” to see those of others clearly. Good thing God is not like me. Good thing His promise is that he will “NEVER leave us nor forsake us.” We don’t have to live alone no matter what our circumstance.

This I know for sure.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Familiar Journey!

I hate dieting.
I am not fond of exercise.
There I typed it out loud.

Four and a half years ago I had gastric bypass surgery. After a 140-pound loss I am starting to put on some weight again---I HATE IT. All my life I have struggled with my weight and for four and a half wonderful years I haven’t had to think about it much and the weight has simply come off. Now, I know---perspective. I am still 120 pounds less than I was. BUT I don’t want it to get out of control again, so I am back to having to actually DO something. A friend of mine just embarked on a new exercise and diet plan with much vigor. She has inspired me to do the same (thanks so much Trish). I only blog about this to have a place of accountability AND a public place to whine. LOL!

I would love to say this decision has to do with becoming healthy, but honestly it has more to do with fitting into the ridiculous amount of clothing I already own. Actually that isn’t totally true. I know I feel better, sleep better and am all around more content when I am in shape.

Here is the plan. I refuse to diet, as I have spent the better part of my life doing so. I refuse to deprive myself, which only leads to me eating more. I am going to watch portions and exert the greatest part of my energies to exercising. I have a walking partner that really could keep me going at an amazingly fast pace, I just need to get back in the habit (be ready Suzanne). Also, it appears from research I have read that some form of weight training is important for women of my age (geezzzzz!!!). I guess I am going to have to get the son of my walking partner (yeah Robo) to come up with a routine for me. He is a major athlete and will probably give me a “kick butt” workout.

OK—here is my starting weight … did you really think I would type that?? No, you won’t get daily or even weekly updates. If you want to know how I am doing, you will have to contact me yourself. Gee, as I read over this entry it sounds a bit – cranky. Wonder why that is?

Well I am off on a familiar journey…

This I know for sure.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Back to School Reflection

A new school year will begin in a week. I get excited this time of year as I anticipate all the possibilities a new school year brings. Teaching is an amazingly fulfilling career. Each school year is like beginning a new job. You have all new students in your classroom to reach, new content to teach and new opportunities to utilize. I am as excited as the kids the night before school begins. I can’t sleep in anticipation.

Therefore, it is not difficult to understand my disdain with the fact that public education unfairly tends to become the convenient punching bag for political gain. I believe the goal of education exceeds providing a "free, appropriate public education". It is the role of educators to provide avenues for students to learn; preparing them to become productive, contented members of society. Finding new ways to reach children through different methods should be paramount to educators today and with effective teachers (and there are so MANY of them) this becomes second nature.

What ties the hands of these successful teachers? New federal mandates and excessive testing have created a climate where attaining high test scores overrides teaching the child. I acknowledge the necessity for accountability. I just don’t believe the path we have chosen to do so is beneficial. There are better ways to create accountability without high stakes testing and without politicians (instead of educators) creating education reform.

Education is not only the responsibility of the school. Bonds between the school, home and community are necessary for success. Therefore the school should embrace and promote programs which connect the stakeholders in the community to the school. This becomes the win-win situation all schools so greatly desire. Finding a successful formula melding these different groups has been elusive, yet I applaud the attempts by several local school districts to integrate the community into the schools. This speaks volumes to the vision of the school leadership.

The mission of education is to create independent learners; children who naturally want to learn and continue learning after they leave the walls of the schoolhouse. This desire to learn should be fostered in the school setting and not squelched. Providing a safe and open environment where learning can take place seems to be the first step. This may seem a simplistic philosophy, but it should be the goal in which all educators, parents and community members are striving to fulfill.

As the new school year begins and I consider my own expectations, I challenge each of you, whether parent, grandparent, community member, or concerned citizen to do the same. Think of your role in the education of the young people in your life and determine to make a difference.

This I know for sure....

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Happy Anniversary to ---- well, ME!

Today is my wedding anniversary, or would have been my wedding anniversary--26 years—a lifetime for some. I am not sure why, but today seemed to have been a bit more difficult than I expected it to be. I married Don when I was 19 years old by one week, because my mother told me I couldn’t get married at 18. I was warned that I would regret my decision—that I would lament my young adult years if I were “tied down” by marriage. That never happened. I wouldn’t have done ONE thing differently---I have NO regrets. In fact, I am so very grateful that I had those 24 years with Don.

I look at the faded photographs of that special day so long ago. The subjects look so very young—with a lifetime of hope ahead of them. Little did they know their time together would be cut short. How fortunate they decided to live life to the fullest.

You see, I liked being married. I liked being someone’s wife. I liked sharing life with the man I admired most and you know what? I was good at it. Perhaps it is this perspective that affords me the possibility of loving again—of having a satisfying marriage similar, yet unique, from the life I once had. This is the true legacy of fulfilled love.

Who knows what life has ahead for me? Who knows what is around the bend? To everything there is a season, a time to mourn and a time to dance. I don’t think I was ever aware of how close those two are to each other. Though I can’t imagine a time when the mourning will cease…I do hope for the time the dancing can begin.

Happy Anniversary to ME----

This I know for sure…

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tagged Part II

I was tagged once again by my brother, Evan; this time for a list of top-ten most influential books in my life. It took me several days to compile a list and, like Evan, I am certain it will change over time. I am an avid reader and because of participation in an excellent book club have read many great books in my day, but trying to come up with a list of the MOST influential---well, was a difficult task. But here it goes:

Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmermann – this book, along with my first master’s degree, changed the way I taught forever. This book can be accounted for my love affair with the teaching of writing.

Turn My Mourning into Dancing by Henri Nouwen – there are amazing healing qualities in the prose of Henri Nouwen. I could read this book over and over again and still find aspects I had not considered. Isn’t that the mark of remarkable writing?

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller – the honesty of Miller and his struggle to come to terms with his faith resonated with me.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – this is the most current book on the list. It was selected for my book club and I was less than excited to read yet another book about Afghanistan HOWEVER this one is beautifully written and once I started I couldn’t put it down.

The Blessing by by Gary Smalley and John Trent – I first read this right after my first child was born (he is now 18) and it not only was the best parenting book I ever read, it also gave me pause to be thankful for “the blessing” which was given to me by my parents.

The Grace Awakening by Charles R. Swindoll – I never questioned my faith until I was in my 20’s. This book was the first I read that helped define what it was that I believed.

Let Me Grieve, But Not Forever by Verdell Davis - On June 28, 1987, four Dallas-based Christian leaders were killed in an airplane crash as they were returning from a Focus on the Family retreat in Montana: Verdell’s husband, Creath, was one of those men. This is a story of her journey from great loss to healing-such an inspiration for me.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – This work is extremely raw with the emotion of losing her husband The part that resonated with me was when she states "Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends." Didion explores the year following the death with the openness I wish all understood. I believe it is now a play.

What Great Teachers Do Differently: Fourteen Things That Matter Most
by Todd Whitaker – Whitaker’s book simply reinforced what I feel that I do in my classroom. His writing is motivational and supportive.

Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like by Jay Williams – This is my most favorite children’s book of all time. I share it every year with my students and they fall in love with it also. It is a magnificent story of acceptance, courage, insight, and inner peace. Plus the extraordinary illustrations by Mercer Mayer are breathtaking!

As far as tagging others---if you read this blog consider yourself tagged, but be sure to email me or leave a comment so that I know you have responded. More than anything, I know the written word has great power to transform our lives.

This I know for sure…