Unconditional Love

unconditional loveI fall back suddenly into the sand. I grab my mouth, checking to see if my weak tooth is still in my mouth. I taste a little blood, but mostly I am stunned. Stunned my little student’s head could pop up so fast. Stunned that it could hurt so bad. I can feel the tears start to form. I don’t want my students to see me cry, so when my co-worker sees that I am not sitting in the sand for the kid’s amusement, I grab my mouth again and run into the hallway.

Once alone, I let the hot tears fall. I first cry for the pain, and then I cry for the possibility of being toothless. But after those fears subside, I find myself crying because this is hard. Three years ago I would have never thought I would be instructing children with special needs. Now, here I am, spending my days (primarily) with three first and second graders who have Down Syndrome. I cry because I often feel like I fail them. I cry because I want to be better for them.

It takes me awhile to push the tears back down. I have opened up a fountain of feelings and I can’t seem to put the lid back on them. After splashing my red, puffy face with water, I look into the bathroom mirror and I am relieved I’ve worn my glasses today. They partly hide the emotions that have streaked down my cheeks.

Upon entering the classroom, I can see the students watch me to see how I am. Their little faces register great concern. My second grader grabs my hand and says, “Mrs. M, it’s your birthday and we’ve made you a party.” (Now, after two years instructing him, I can understand his speech perfectly and I hear his words so clearly, whereas others still look at me to translate him.)

He instructs me to sit down. The other two come closer and they are bearing gifts. They have wrapped up “presents” in baby blankets and doll diapers, ranging from old flip phones to plastic dishes. Little N presents me with a plastic cake and has assembled a pointer with a plastic hand to act as a candle. The children sing to me in loud voices and I start to cry again. This time the tears are not from the pain. This time they are from the unabashed love they are pouring upon me. When the song ends, they throw their arms around me and dog pile me to express their love even more.

I am blessed. I am loved. These children of God don’t know my insecurities, but they know how to love me…in all my imperfections. In all the ways I fail them. They have thrown me a party to remind me that in their eyes, I’m doing okay.

Transitions

transitionsI didn’t know how difficult the transition from SAHM (stay at home mom) to WOTHM (work outside the home mom) would be. I had nine years of waking up and wondering aloud to the kids “What shall we do today? The world is our oyster!” (As long as we remained within our budget and worked around nap times.)

It was not a cakewalk, staying at home. I hate to cook and planning what four people had to put in their mouths to nourish themselves daily nearly drove me mad. But when posed the question from outsiders of what my days consisted of, I would entertain them with stories of how one little girl could perform every song from Wizard of Oz or how one little boy could collect enough sticks to build his own fort if he chose to.

When my 2nd child entered the first grade, it was time for me to return to outside work. The problem was, the field I had been in for ten years (film) now saw me as an old dog. I no longer could (nor wanted to) work 17-hour location days or keep up with the LA pace. My kids had made me soft (in a good way). My 9-year respite had put me behind the curve and knocked me down the ladder, but neither the curve nor the ladder was relevant to me anymore.

My passion for my own career ambition melted into my desire for what would be best for my kids, thus I chose a job at their school to keep the same hours as them. I still write for a kid’s travel site (when all are in bed), allowing me to still follow my own personal passions.

The transition has not been an easy one. My husband and I are still figuring out what household chores look like now that we both work. Fortunately, we have two more set of hands now to add to the help.

transitions

There was no manual for my return. As a lifetime latch key kid, I hadn’t watched my own mother to see how this is done gracefully. My sister has been able to be a SAHM with all four of her children, so her experience has been different than mine. But I’m trying and I’m failing and I’m trying again to balance both home and work and homework and career, while still showing my kids that the world is our oyster.

This piece was submitted to The Village Magazine.

Word of the Year Workshop

Word of the Year Trust

For the last five years I have crossed the threshold into January not with a New Year’s Resolution, but with a word to carry into the coming year. This word may be encouraging, perhaps something I need more of; it may be motivating, or something to become or aspire to. In past years I have had GRACE, JOY, and last year it was FEARLESS. And with that word, I entered back into working outside the house, I began to attempt inversions in yoga once again, and started to take travel writing more seriously by putting myself out there more and actually referring to myself as a writer when asked. FEARLESSLY.

In November I was given the word SHINE. I even went as far as putting Shine on our Christmas card. I was ready to shine, let my light so shine, shine bright for all the world to know. Shine. But as the year turned over, my pretty, bright, happy word no longer sat well with me. I needed more gravitas. I need some weight to my word. This is a MAJOR year. I am turning 40 for one, which doesn’t bother me, but come on, a new decade is a pretty big thing. My husband is retiring from the military, so as I sit typing, I have no idea where we will be in six months. As a military wife, I have always warned my friends “Don’t get to close, I may leave.” But now after being stationed in the same place for TEN years (hallelujah!), I may actually leave. THIS IS BIG.

So I sat down with my dictionary (because I LOVE dictionaries…and thesauruses, as well), and began to look up heavier words. I played with REMEMBER and WAIT. My go to was GRATEFUL because I do believe gratitude can turn a situation. But it wasn’t there yet. I presented TRUST to “my girls” and they earnestly and unanimously agreed. But I wasn’t convinced. Trust seems to take away any control I might have naively convinced myself that I have. It feels very scary of a word. In therapy, you have to “trust the process,” that even though you may not see it working at the moment, let it do its work. I say I “trust” where God will lead us. The song “Oceans” has resonated with so many people of my generation with the lyrics “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.” Oh, but it’s so hard. But it wasn’t until my husband, as he was crafting his resume and I was offering my editing skills, said “You have go to trust me.” Ding, ding. This next step is out of my hands. I have to trust that God, husband, military, schools, life, is all going to work the way it’s supposed to work. So I found my word for 2015.

Word of the Year

Within the week of my word revelation, my girlfriend Alison at Beauty in All Things, invited me to a Word of the Year Workshop where an artist led us through a project using our word, and a life coach filled in all the hidden meanings and details. Lynn, the artist at A Little Blue Sky, with her effervescent smile and creative charm, designed a night with life coach Sue Robson, to take us step by step through the layers of our word and what it might mean in the new year.

We began writing conclusive words about 2014 on a piece of plywood. They could be negative, ending, beginning, factual, it didn’t matter, they would be covered up and they would be done. The next step was to lay textured paper down and cover our board (and written words). Step three had us lay down the paper or momentos we might want to see through our paint. There were song sheet music, dictionary pages, and vintage children’s books among other things, to rip up and collage onto our board. We then took paint and painted over the entire board. Taking a credit card, we scraped and rubbed and found little bits that we wanted to jump out from under the paint. I let the definition to “whirlwind” show its way through as Im sure this will be a whirlwind of a year. Very lightly you can see the title to “Jesus Loves Me This I Know.” Trust takes a child like faith and that children’s song strips it down to the basics of what it’s all about. Lastly a poem with the line “She destines to be creative” makes its way through the paint layer. At the end, we stenciled our word of the year across the board. Boldly. With Confidence.

And that’s how I hope to step into this year. With trust, bold and confident trust.

 

 

 

 

Day #24-31: How to Bow Out Gracefully

31 days of writing

I owe a debt of gratitude to The Nester today when she posted about not feeling obligated here. Between going back to work, basketball season, keeping up with my editing at night, trying to keep my marriage together, etc etc, adding one more thing on the pile (even something that I find as much JOY in as writing), has become a burden. Perhaps if I had known about this challenge earlier than THE DAY IT STARTED, I would have thought out my topic better, and definitely not have chosen a topic that included making something everyday. I’m much better at making memories, or making up stories. I know now for next year what I will do differently because I have really enjoyed the challenge. And of course not everything we do has to be easy. But for now, this is just too hard. Maybe tomorrow inspiration will strike, and I will add another post, but until then, I will bid adieu to the topic of jewelry and go back to the topic of mi vida loca. I love the discipline this 31 days of writing has taught me. I’ve actually written MORE for Trekaroo this month since my creative juices have been stimulated from the blog entries.

So live and learn and enjoy and know when the curtain is about to close.

And with that, I bow out gracefully.

Day #4 & #5: Weekend Wandering

I’m cheating a little. Since it’s the weekend, and as I have mentioned repeatedly that I have gone back to work on “the outside,” my weekends are a combination of family time, cleaning the house, the Y Basketball league, and any sort of organizing I need to get my next week in check. With that said, I am combining days 4 & 5. I am also not writing on a specific craft, but more on the process of imagination. The following photos show four projects I have been working on for awhile. Sometimes I buy “possibilities” and let them sit until I know what to do with them.

jewelry 31 days of writing

The first photo is one of those weights you would wear around your ankles while working out. I think it will make a great cuff, but I haven’t worked with leather much and can’t get it quite right. The 2nd is some material I found at Michaels for $1.99. I mean I could just wrap it around my wrist, tie it off, and call it a day, but i think it wants something grander. The third is some beads that will make a great yoga bracelet if I could figure out what material to string it on. And lastly, I have some fabric and vintage ribbon screaming for a life as a cuff.

But none of them are perfect in my mind. Sometimes you have to sit and let it evolve into what it is supposed to become. They need to speak to me more and so I am letting them take the weekend to marinate into a complete idea. I guess that’s patience, isn’t it? We want the beauty now, but sometimes we need to sit in the ugly before it becomes a treasure. So this weekend I’m waiting. You can’t rush inspiration, nor creativity.

I guess that’s why art is called a process.

The Secret Garden: A Life Blossoming

Secret Garden

One of my favorite books is The Secret Garden. Not necessarily a light, uplifting children’s novel (it does begin with the death of the protagonist’s parents), but it’s an engaging story about finding beauty in your (sometimes dreary) surroundings, making the most of change, and being thrown into a new environment and finding a better self. The young heroine becomes a better person (less selfish, more understanding, less whiny, and more bold) by her change in circumstances that she could never have predicted.

I’ve been given a chance to become a better person. The day before school started for my children, I was called into the school office for a job interview. I walked out two hours later having accepted the position of the first grade aide: a job I wasn’t exactly qualified for, but one that would allow me the same hours as my kids and even give me the chance to work in my son’s classroom. Through circumstances I can only call Divine, I was given a job that I had been looking for (knowing it was time to “get back in there”), delivered in a package that I could have never expected.

And oh, how it has changed me. The school year has only been four weeks, but look what happened to the Secret Garden in one season: it blossomed. I have always had high respect for teachers, I just never wanted to be one. I sent my children to school, expected them to be well-behaved, have fun, and come home having learned something. I didn’t think much of what happened in the in-between times. Now that I have first hand knowledge of what is happening, my respect-o-meter for teachers is off the chart. One friend said that a teacher makes up to 20,000 decisions a day. That may be an over exaggerated number, but I’m sure it’s close. There is not a moment in the time that I am there that a child is not asking her for something: attention, discipline, love, more love. And the two teachers I work under always give it. It’s amazing! I am in awe that they aren’t huddled in a corner rocking themselves because they are needed too much. It’s not how they see it. They believe they are CALLED to be there, it’s not their profession. They approach each day ready to form these kids, impart knowledge, direct their paths, and love on them.

And how does that make me a better person? I get to witness it, first-hand. I get to see what authentic compassion and unconditional love looks like. And then I have the chance to turn around and try it myself. Instead of telling a child the answer, I am learning to bring it out in them. Instead of being quick to anger, I am learning self-control and loving restraint. Instead of choosing favorites, I am realizing that every child wants to love and be loved. I am a “rough around the edges” kind of gal, and I am learning to soften a bit, to bend down and listen, and that a pat on the head might mean a better day.

This “back-to-work” thing has put a cramp in my traveling, but for now I will learn what I can, and I will bloom where I am planted.