Thursday, December 31, 2015
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Monday, December 28, 2015
Sunday, December 27, 2015
Saturday, December 26, 2015
Friday, December 25, 2015
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Monday, December 21, 2015
Sunday, December 20, 2015
Saturday, December 19, 2015
Friday, December 18, 2015
Presently and for the last five years, I have been a Reading Recovery Teacher. The brilliance of support and continued learning through this organization is overlooked by the educational field. Reading is a complex orchestration of processes in which a 30 minute lesson requires the skill and knowledge of a trained teacher to effect change. I don't mean to sound superior in any way, however it is the continued extensive training that ultimately supports my students and makes a huge difference in my teaching. After a year long training program, all Reading Recovery Teachers attend monthly classes in which we talk about research and how that impacts our practice. We observe live lessons and critique each other, supportive yet constructive. Visitations are set up on a regular basis where a Teacher Leader (my teacher) observes a lesson noting the language I use, the scaffolding in place to support the learner and the flurry of teaching decisions I make in a one-on one thirty minute lesson. If my students are going to eccelerate, I need to be on my game. This support is invaluable. After all these years teaching; I continue to learn.
My job is important. More than one student has thrown their arms around me and cried in happiness with flowing tears. "I can read!" Perhaps they entered my room with the fear that they would never learn to read. Everyone wants to learn how to read. Everyone deserves to learn how to read. I have an important job and I love it. The effectiveness of Reading Recovery is in part because of this support that is in place for me and all Reading Recovery Teachers. Why aren't all educators afforded these intensive learning opportunities? In turn, it makes such a difference for my students. I love my job; I am supported. I am grateful.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Life is now so full, so busy. Six months ago, I went to work but did little else. The recliner was my support. My connections were contrived through my i-phone and FaceBook, e-mails and messaging. Least of all there was little connection to myself. There were ample distractions of little importance.
One thing I had no idea about was how much work and time I require. Each morning now I wake thinking about my daytime walk with a friend winding through the thick evergreen forest. We pad along the cushion of pine and inhale. Date night is walking arm and arm under the stars along the shore; some nights the ocean is placid like a lake. My husband and I are spinning on Wednesday nights. Date nights. Simple, but meaningful. We are nearing our next chapter in life determined to enjoy it; not bound by the limitations of our physical strength or stamina. I prepare foods, mostly whole foods and search for new possibilities. Keeping a food diary has been a key behavior contributing to my success. My thinking and the way I talk to and treat myself has become gentler, kinder and filled with increasing patience.
Self-care is big business. Books, websites and videos flood the market. Why does this not become easier as we age? Why do so many including myself struggle with this. In nature mothers linger with their babies-teaching. My mother became a woman who while loving food did so in moderation. Through my teenage years much of the processed foods previously eaten were no longer purchased. When I was young Koolaid and Spaghettios were a convenience. Instead the house was stocked with fruit, veggies and lean protein. We began drinking skim milk. My mother and a few neighbors would regularly walk around the block and gab. She was a model mother in so many ways.
As I pack my sneakers and gym clothes to work out later at the Y, I reflect on how much I have learned over these months. It is never too late to take care of yourself. Somedays it is challenging, but I try my best to stay positive. I am not sure it will get easier and take less time. Right now though, I am the priority. Period. And....there is no need for guilt.
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
A few summers ago, I picked up an article about how one woman would regularly backpack into the wild and spend days completely alone. While this has appeal, it also terrifies me. I am not entirely sure why just thinking about it makes me shake like a bowl of jello. I spend so little time alone; being so dependent on the company and whits of others to solve problems and contemplate life. Could I do it? Am I afraid of discovering parts of myself that might rear their ugly heads?
During the last six months, I have discovered and rediscovered myself. I don't give up easily. On the other hand knowing when to quit can be a good thing. There is also a bit of rigidity to my routines particularly when it comes to exercise. I try to seek balance. Self care takes a continuous effort and requires time. It doesn't come to be second nature for me. Somedays, I resent that I have to work so hard each day for me. Fortunately those days are few. I tend to take life moment by moment.
This journey is akin to being alone in the forest. With the help of a few people who guided me to the path and gave me some tools to proceed, I have weathered the storms of self. Living in the present moment has helped me to accept what is. Learning to listen to my body while listening to my inner voice allows the pause to make choices that will support me. I am the decision maker. I am the only one on this unique path. Strong, healthier, confident and content I might just plan an extended time in the woods by myself this summer. It is curious to think of how each of our journeys is unique and in reality solo. No one can do it for you. There comes a point where you have to trust yourself. And live each moment.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Monday, December 14, 2015
Exclusion is a terrible thing to experience. I have lived it from the time I was a kid and Billy and his brother next door were yelling at me, "You're too fat. You can't come up to the tree house. You'll break it." Or later being told I cannot enter a store because I have two babies in a carriage. And when I tried to enter with the babies in my arms; they barred the door with a hefty bouncer type guy. I was floored. Both hurt. I realize my ache is no comparison to those who are excluded from buses, lunch counters or countries who represent freedom and much more than a new lease on life. My little post is not to magnify my feelings of exclusion, while minimizing others' plight. However, I must raise awareness and recognize those initial pangs of hurt. Perhaps my account will help you to reach out to some family in a similar situation, while developing empathy for all those who face some degree of exclusion by remembering mine.
When my husband and I learned that we were having twins, I wondered how we would all fit in our brand new car. We couldn't. Along with joy, there were plenty of logistics about how to get two infants, a toddler and a five year old from place to place. Going to the lake, by myself with the kids for a few hours caused me to re-play the scene over and over in my head. Rehearsing each step for a gentle and safe transition. One thing we hadn't bargained for with a big family then and now (we have eight kids and now spouses and significant others, so we ARE bigger) is the fact that we were no longer invited to socialize with friends with or without the children. I understand; our numbers can be overwhelming for some. Early on, this was a lonely place; connections are important to any family. We have adjusted. Through 34 years of actively mothering there have been a few exceptions of which I am grateful.
For more than 35 years, Jerry's cousin Barbara Jane and her husband Ken have hosted a family Open House to celebrate the holidays. We have missed only one year through all those births, adoptions and Keene marriages. 36 years ago, Jerry and I met at this gathering. It holds significance to us as a couple, as a family and as an extended family which includes all the aunts and uncles originating from a family of 10 children. The Keenes do it BIG.
As we push through their yellow farmhouse door this Sunday with our contribution of food in our arms, we will pause and give thanks for being part of a big, big family. Maybe, just maybe you might want to consider inviting a big family to your holiday table or to your table after the holidays. Invites for them too might be few and far between.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
I think about thinking.
Sometimes, I drive myself wild with my thoughts; habitual thoughts and patterns that get me stuck. However, I am inching along this journey and pretty much OK. Walking along the shore path yesterday during the early morning hours I could see clearly across the bay toward a range of mountains worn and rough, beaten by the wind and weather. Sometimes feeling discouraged and beaten, I recognize that I am continually growing and reinventing myself as God's creation. Despite this, I still carry what is no longer useful or healthy. Yesterday on my walk I imagined dropping little bread crumbs (pieces of my former-self) along the path as I walked.
Consciously and at times unconsciously I am approaching life and dancing to a new beat. I am working toward gentleness and more kindness toward myself and others. The other night, I had two dreams the first being quite vivid. Both had a message imparting the importance of kindness. In my dream, I hugged a woman that in reality I disagree with quite regularly. My dealings with her through the years have filled me with frustration. Presently, I also know that this woman is struggling and has been burdened with much in her life. Despite our differences, kindness dissolves the importance of these differences.
The world is crumbling. In reinventing ourselves, we can create space for love, peace, hope and real joy. It reminds me of a hymn sung regularly in church when I was young, "Let peace begin with me..." Real change is possible with awareness and intent. If I want change, I am the only one that can do it. Individual drops create a dynamic ocean.
Peace springs from the seeds of kindness. Collectively, we can change the world.
Saturday, December 12, 2015
Something happens when an inanimate object is given a name. This is not the first time I have written about my relationship with "Sue-baru." She was purchased from a friend a little over two years ago. A solid well-cared for car, "Sue" got me home safely every time time I got behind the wheel; whether traversing in torrential rains perfect for hydroplaning, on roads with the potential skidding on patches undetectable black ice or plowing through a foot of snow when all you can see are curtains of white-I got home. Despite her advancing years, she was reliable. I felt safe.
There is something about a car with a name. My Great Aunt I called Auntie had a '56 Dodge named "Blue Belle." She was oversized and curvy with ticked wool apolstery that was scratchy and resisted my attempts to slide to the middle when my mother, brother, sister and I piled into her roomy back for a test drive. My Uncle Gene took turns close to the curb and fast so the feelers that extended from Blue Belle's body scraped the edge of the road. Auntie screamed, "Oh , mon Dieux! 'Impossible!" (Oh my God! He's impossible!) My four year old self did not know what that meant, but I know enough that it was not good; hiding my face in my mother's embrace. "Blue Belle" took us on picnics with fried chicken and chopped salad. She brought Auntie and Uncle Gene to us safely on a rare snowy Thanksgiving, but was found parked on the side of the road in Scarborough miles from their home in Portland and miles from Biddeford where they had just spent an afternoon. When idle, "Blue Belle" spent her time in a small wooden garage my Uncle rented. She was so shiny I could see my distorted image in her dark blue exterior. I am not sure what happened to the Blue Belle, however she remains the catalyst for Auntie and Uncle Gene stories. Their next vehicle was named, "The Green Hornet." My Aunt hated that car. Not curvy like the Blue Belle; he was angular and boxy. Their relationship was short-lived.
So about "Sue", adventures with her lasted just over a year because she did not pass inspection. The cost of labor to make the necessary repairs forced us into a decision. We needed to part ways. I couldn't. She wasn't junk. After months, I made a call to PBS car donation services. "Sue" has been idle sitting in our driveway, but I hope that a mechanic will donate his time to renew "Sue" to service.
This morning I will clean her out and leave the key in the glove box. A towing company is bringing her onto her next life. I think I will leave a Post-It note with a handwritten scrawl: Her name is "Sue-baru" and she is loved.
Friday, December 11, 2015
Little by little, I am getting "it" all back. All of me.
It wasn't long ago that my days felt like an endless tick of hours that were spent only doing the necessary things like tending to the kids (lots of taxiing), work, eating, cooking and enough cleaning and tidying to get by. The next day meant a repeat of the day before. Then, I didn't realize that perhaps I had lost myself. At the time, it was what it was.
The shift in my thinking and patterns began with walking. This past spring my dear neighbor Nicole and I would walk several times a week after supper. It began in the coolness of early spring with empty sidewalks. By the time she started a new job and I began to walk alone, the sidewalks were clogged with tourists who tended to walk side by side or stop suddenly unaware that there was a stream of people behind trying to navigate a space much too narrow for crowds. Nonetheless, I made it a challenge to maintain my pace and dodge around people without knocking them down or sending myself off-balance. This became a playful ritual; I would find myself laughing out-loud at the sheer joy and craziness of the scene. Taking several long walks each day afforded varying place and energy. Walking in town and on the shore path where the sea pounds the shore or empties itself on schedule was energizing. On the other hand, hiking into Acadia and into the woods was quiet and calming where I seldom met people and I spent much time in my head; figuring things out.
All summer, I struggled to get my footing. There was a deep core of myself that was grieving; deeply sad and unhappy despite the bounties around me. Each work day, I packed two salads, some fruit and water and met my husband for a picnic lunch. We ate on the shore. We breathed in each other's presence. Some days we were silent, but content. Other days we chatted between forkfuls. I trusted that walking, making deep connections with my husband and preparing healthy foods was what I needed to heal whatever needed healing..
My interest in regaining myself and becoming healthier ignited my former need to spend hours in the kitchen preparing food, trying new recipes and critiquing each bite. Food nourished my curiosity about vegan cuisine as a way of supplementing an already healthy diet. This satisfied my need to express myself creatively. Despite the fact that I yearned to read books and sit and write, I couldn't. I remained restless and uneasy. I had to trust that little by little and overtime, I would feel better.
To this day, I don't quite understand my struggle. Maybe it is not for me to figure out and analyze, but to just accept. My days remain full taking care of myself physically and emotionally. It's funny I measure my health not so much on the scale as I do with my ability to be at home in my own skin, inside my own head. I needed to go through struggles (whatever they were) to land where I am presently. For now, today I feel happier. I feel grounded. I am grateful.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
The anticipation has been building for a few months since I made the plane reservation. After being away at college since August, one of my teens is returning home to his family, his home in Maine. Adventurous, he wanted to experience another part of the country and never come home again. Yet after these months away he admits he misses us. He admits he misses Maine.
Those trying years never prepared me for the ache that I would feel in his absence. Tomorrow my boy is coming home. That is all I can think about. I may just not sleep tonight anticipating his return home. His stay here will be for over a month-not long enough for me.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
When my kids were young chasing chickens and playing ball in the field, expressing myself creatively was a thin thread that I was able to grasp only now and again. Journals holding vignettes and conversations I was sure that I would never forget, journals venting the ups and downs of building a marriage, a family and a home are in drawers, on shelves and in closets, seldom were completed. Those years were both rewarding and trying. I think that in the attempt to balance everyone's needs including my own took the most energy. Some days I felt incomplete, yearning to create and express myself. I would read about mothers/writers who rose at three or four in the morning to write high up in attics or at the kitchen table. But, that is not me. It is a bit too extreme for someone who is sleep sensitive to try. (Just ask my husband, I require 7-8 hours of sleep or I am beyond grouchy.) Recently I have committed to rise a bit early (maybe I will need to set an alarm) each morning and write. It has been three mornings so far and the pesky itchiness to create has been relieved. My blog is ever so grateful, I just know it. The trick is to sustain. Persist. It's funny, I talk grit and and the importance of persistence with my students all the time. These are key elements to success as a writer. Inner wisdom; sometimes I just don't listen, but I'm learning.
Monday, December 7, 2015
It is three in the morning. I'm roused from sleep thinking about dentists, the cost and inefficiency of dental insurance and the state of my mouth. You see, I have an appointment with a specialist for a root canal in mid-January. There are many opportunities for sleepless nights between now and then. Yes I have some regrets. I distinctly remember my mother would sweetly remind me as an eight year old to brush my teeth. Early rebellion. Delayed misery. I don't think dental floss was invented yet.
Growing up I loved going to the dentist. Dr. Petrin who had a gaggle of children in his own house was adept at making each appointment fun liberally blowing air here and there to incite laughter in his young patient. My father would sometimes come along and visit with Mr. Petrin, the dentist dad. It was a place where I felt safe despite the smells and sounds and I could get Chiclets gum after the exam.
Come adulthood. I am terrified. Hence the three a.m. wake up call. Now, local dentists tend to farm patients out to specialists. They don't know my mouth. They don't know my history beyond what's on paper. They don't that it took weeks to stir up enough courage to call the dentist on a Friday and the office was closed. My second attempt, weeks later in a moment of strength was made on the eve of a holiday-closed again. The appointment should have happened months ago. They don't know of my sleepless nights. My TMJ... They don't know. This root canal guy could only talk root canal. He did not talk other options, cost or anything. Ugh. Each office is a sequence of terror.
Just before bed (bad idea), I read an article about the connection between breast cancer and root canals. While I don't believe everything I read, it makes me think and I ain't smiling. Clearly, I am in a fix.
OK young ones. Listen to your mother. Brush your teeth. You will save yourself some sleep...and likely your teeth.
Sunday, December 6, 2015
Outside a foggy haze has draped itself allowing a pink smudge of light. It is that light that I count on however dim as I sipped my latte foaming with almond milk and establish a new morning routine as I write. The house is quiet. I swear I can hear the flames flicker from the wood stove. I have stirred the dog into wanting to begin his day. I let him out and soon he barks to come in. Anticipating his routine, I expect that Rex will jump onto my lap, then I will have to juggle the computer and an oversized dog onto my lap at the same time. It doesn't happen. Instead he goes back to bed where he can rest his head on the pillow pretending to be human.
For the past five months, I have inched my way toward health. A champion at losing and gaining weight again and again. Edging toward 60, I am determined to make these changes take hold. Daily long walks in the thick of the forest or along the ever-changing sea sustain me on this journey. This morning my goal was to wake early between darkness and dawn and write. One more habit to make me whole.
It turns out, I can learn from Rex who has a predictable routine, but not always. He has a gentle predictability that can run off course now and again like on this easy Sunday morning. That is O.K. Tomorrow morning a week day with a certainty, Rex will be on my lap while I steady a computer atop the both of us and write. Thinking about this makes me happy.
I have learned a lot from Rex.
Saturday, December 5, 2015
Do we really have to listen to a major news broadcast and then PBS too?
There is much suffering. I know. Do I have to be reminded everyday? I pray. I reflect. I realize that some of my life is not congruent to my spiritual philosophy, but it is a process right? Discipline. Goals. Goals? My goals in the last 5 months have been to learn to be gentle with myself, eat right and walk. Take long walks along the sea. Take walks brushing against evergreens and breathe in the earth. Breathe and surround myself in all that is positive and good in this life. Otherwise....I will crumble under the weight of sorrow. What good would I be then? Surely a recipe for resiliency in tough times.