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Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Difference a Decade Makes

At 7:00 am the text came from my oldest daughter about my youngest, on a trip with my parents half way across the country,  puking.  "She's been going about 2 minutes straight. "  Nothing skyrockets a mom's blood pressure like something wrong with a child who's too far out of reach to comfort. 

It was Friday morning of a long week of in-service training.  This is now the 5th conference style  training I've co-chaired the planning and implementation of, and with each one I've learned more and gained new appreciation for what all happens behind the scenes. It's a LOT of work with months of preparation and planning beforehand. I blasted through the door at work, my mind switching back and forth between my baby being sick in another state, and the ever growing checklist of things that still needed to be done for the day's training. 

Handouts were still being copied - leftover print jobs from the way I left them on the copier when I'd finally left the night before.  Paper had to be reloaded, the jump drive retrieved from my office computer, end of the year awards finalized,  etc, etc. A team of us buzzed around checking off last minute tasks, climbing up and down two flights of stairs between our offices and the training room. 

Nothing ever plays out exactly the way you think it will or plan it to.  Without fail,  an award is forgotten, or the new projectors aren't hooked up, or the sound won't play on a presenter's video.  I know the adrenaline rush was evident all over my face, no matter how many times I smiled at someone or stopped to answer a question. 

I stood the majority of the day, even to eat lunch.  But, at one point I sat down and just listened to the presenter, finally taking a minute to just breathe.  I smiled to myself as I heard him speak words that completely tied in to all the other presentations from the week, including mine.  I thought, "I love how that always coincidentally happens!"  Then I thought, hey! Maybe it's not a coincidence. We plan these things, and we make this happen.  I scheduled these trainings and even if it was completely subconscious on my part, I made it all relate.  (Sort of the way I subconsciously make my family's  outfits match. My mom pointed that out to me a few years ago. I had no idea I was doing it.)

Then, it also occurred to me that the presenter I was listening to was one I had the privilege of meeting a decade ago when I toured his center,  Special Care Inc., and hearing later at a conference. Mansur Choudry, with his amazing story of "falling in to" the education field and passion for helping children with special needs had greatly inspired me in my career.  Now I was not only listening to him again, but had been emailing back and forth  for two months making arrangements for him to come speak to our group.  10 years ago, as a preschool teacher,  I sat in a conference room hanging on his every word, imagining the places I wanted to go in the early childhood field.  Now,  there I was, organizing trainings and training teachers.

It amazes me to look back on my journey to where I am.  And it's exciting to look ahead at the work still left to do. I am so incredibly blessed to be doing what I love every day - to be involved in something that ignites my passion.  To have "fallen in to" a career that I love.  A job that makes me want to get up and go to work every day, even days like last Friday that are long and exhausting. I think about how Mansur made such an impact on me and I wonder how many he's impacted through the people he inspires.  That is my aspiration! Another decade from now I hope I can look back again in wonderment about where I am and where I've been, and I hope I can bless people by telling my stories... the same way I've been blessed by the stories of others. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Life and Poetry

I am in the car, driving, following a school bus on my way to chaperone a band trip. While flipping through the radio stations, I find one that is playing random songs from different  genres and decades. My favorite. A song comes on by Four Non Blondes.

" Twenty-five years and my life is still
Trying to get up that great big hill of hope
For a destination
And I realized quickly when I knew I should
That the world was made up of this brotherhood of man
For whatever that means
And so I cry sometimes
When I'm lying in bed
Just to get it all out
What's in my head
And I am feeling a little peculiar"

And, before I know it the tears are rolling out of my eyes even though I'm trying my best to keep them in. When we were kids, this was one of my brother's favorite songs for a time period. He listened to it over and over and over. Everytime I hear it, it reminds me of him, and immediately takes me back to my childhood.

My children's ages and genders almost exactly mirror that of myself and my siblings. Lately, my oldest daughter and my middle son's relationship has started to change from the sibling rivalry they shared for a time. They are starting to become friends. I completely remember when that started happening with my brother and I. One of my favorite years of school was my senior year when he was a freshman and we were finally in a building together. I can't remember the exact moment that he quit being my annoying little brother and started to become one of my best friends, but I know the older I got, the more invaluable the relationship I share with my siblings became.

My brother and his family live across the country, and he has lived that far away for about a decade now. It's hard. It's hard on every holiday, it's hard when our family just casually gets together on a Sunday afternoon. It's hard during the major events of our lives when we would normally be there for each other, but we can't be. Its hard because life is so busy and it's so hard to stay connected when we are so far away.  Every now and then it will hit me. Like today, driving in the car, when that silly song  unexpectedly came on, and the feelings flooded over me.

Yesterday I was reminded of a poem entitled "If." I am sure I read it at some point in my teens or early adulthood and I'm sure it didn't have a lot of meaning to me then.  I've always loved poetry, but as I've gotten older and experienced more of life the poetry often takes on a whole new meaning to me. This in particular really spoke to me about life. Never in my wildest dreams as a child did I think that my life would be what it is now. I never even entertained the thought that my little brother would be someone I only saw once every year or two.

My life is wonderful. My life is abundantly blessed. But,  I can say in the same breath: Life is hard. There are hard moments for everyone; there is no escaping it. And, I know as time goes on life will keep having its hard moments.  As much as I hate to even think about it, we will lose my parents at some point. How difficult will it be to go through that with my brother in a different state? I am very proud of him and his little family. I know that living away its what is best for them, but it is still difficult for such a close knit family like ours to be so spread out.

We all go on, and we make the best of it. We see each other when we can, and we know that we love each other no matter what. No matter how much time goes in between visits. No matter how hard it is to even find time to talk on the phone. It is just one of the difficult parts of life.

Throughout the time that we have here on earth you just have to take the bits of difficult and lump  them in with all the good, mix it all together, and somehow we end up with a beautiful end product. I'm so blessed that the wonderful far outweighs the difficult in my own life. I'm  thankful that during the difficult times I have so many people to rely on. No matter how far away they are. I'm also thankful for beautiful words that capture the way we feel. Whether it's an old poem by Rudyard Kipling or a hit song from a rock band a couple of decades back.  Both of which mirror the way that life is, the mixing of the wonderful things and the tragic things and turning them into something just a little bit beautiful.


(‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies)

If you can keep your head when all about you  
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,  
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;  
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;  
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;  
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;  
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,  
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,  
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,  
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,  
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Source: A Choice of Kipling's Verse (1943)