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…