Sunday, December 31, 2006

Making a Difference

Don’t we all just want to know that our very existence isn’t just for naught? I mean, my brother is an actor/writer/director… He creates because he feels passionately, and he wants to bring meaning to life’s experiences. At least that is what I have always believed about what he does. My sister is a nurse. Her life is about assisting those in moments of great vulnerability. My cousin is a plumber. She works with her husband, and together, they strive to improve the quality of life for customers by helping fix pipes. Lots of times, they manage to ensure that the aroma of human waste isn’t the first thing people experience in the morning. These roles that my family members play are important in society. They make a difference. I can see it.

When I first started teaching, I was filled with all sorts of notions about “making a difference”. Maybe that is what everyone strives for in life… A sense of meaning… A sense of purpose… But, as with everything, I carried this idea of making a difference to a whole different level in my own mind. I wanted every student who passed through my door to develop a sense of self-worth, a love of learning, a respect for life and the miracles that it holds, a feeling of security and independence, and knowledge that they were the masters of their own destiny.

This is my seventh year of teaching. Tonight, I ran into a former student at the mall… A student from my first year… “Joe” transferred to me from another school toward the end of the school year. I only had him in class for about 4 months. However, his file was probably two inches thick. In special education, I suppose the student with the thickest file wins. Joe’s file was rife with reports about his horrible behavior problems. As I read through the file, my head was certainly filled with visions of terror… “Jumping from the tops of file cabinets…” “Cursing…” “Threatening to ‘dismember’ the student teacher”… Those are just the bits that I remember all these years later. But, amidst all of that, I saw that the kid had an I.Q. of 135. And, given my clientele that first year, I figured he would fit right in. The students I had my first year had horrible behavior problems. Many of them hailed from the projects and are now known drug dealers in our fair city. So, Joe didn’t really seem too different from any of the rest of my students, and I was questioning whether or not I was going to continue teaching after that first year anyway. I figured he could ride out the rest of the year with me and maybe I could find out why this bright kid, with unlimited potential was a) in special education, and b) saddled with a file that read like a rap sheet.

The remainder of that year was a wild ride. I was just holding on for dear life, doing the very best I could with a whole gaggle of very difficult students. And, for some reason, Joe never gave me a lick of trouble. He would find reasons to come back to my class in the afternoon. He was supposed to return to his homeroom class for Science and Social Studies, but usually he would meander in and we would talk. Honestly, I was grateful for his company. He was so smart and funny. One time, I even had an opportunity to show him his file and ask, “What are these reports doing in here, Joe? I don’t get it. You don’t act like this in my class.” He would just shrug and say, “I never felt like I needed to do that here. You get me.”

Joe moved before the end of the school year. Maybe that was part of the problem. He moved quite a bit during his elementary years. But, his mom had said that they were staying in Gautier, so I hoped he would get a chance to finish middle and high school with the same group of kids.

Tonight, I saw Joe at the mall. He is running around with the “gothic” kids. He looked basically the same, and I had a chance to speak to him.

“Joe Neely,” I called.

“How do you know me?” he responded. He looked at me, snapping his fingers trying to put a name to my face.

A friend joined him, who was a former student of our school and prompted, “She’s a teacher…”

After much struggling with his memory, I let him off the hook and told him who I was. I don’t honestly believe that he remembered me. He just said, “Teachers and me did not a good team make…”

I asked him how he was doing and he revealed that he has quit school. He is sixteen now. He never made it to high school. He quit in middle school. When I asked what happened he said, “I just wouldn’t do the work.” He says he plans to get his GED and go to college. I encouraged him to do just that.

Obviously, I didn’t really make the type of difference I had intended for Joe Neely. He didn’t even remember me. But, maybe Joe made a difference for me that year. I remember contract renewals came around at the end of my first year and I did not sign mine immediately. My co-teacher, and now friend, Kenna, kept telling me that I couldn’t quit. Still, I thought, “Like hell I can’t quit… This is too hard. It isn’t worth it.” Then, I thought about Joe and kids like him. I thought, maybe I can make a difference for those kids. At least he went to one school where someone “got him”.

I’m sad that I didn’t make a bigger difference for Joe. I want him to get a high school diploma. He is probably still the smartest kid I have taught. But, maybe kids like Joe are just thrown into the mix so I can make a difference for some of the others. I don’t really understand how God works it all out or keeps it all straight.

At the end of each school year, I write my students moving on to the middle school a letter. The letter is personal for each student, but usually I tell them the story of Albert Einstein… Here is a portion of a similar letter to another student: “Being a person of true character means meeting your disability with an attitude of gratitude. Being grateful for the gifts and abilities you have, rather than focusing on the areas you are lacking will help you build your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. Albert Einstein (one of the smartest men who ever lived) had a learning disability. His mother did not listen to the teachers who told her that he did not have the capacity to learn to read. Because Einstein's mother believed in him, he began to believe in himself. If I could give you any gift in life, it would be the ability to believe in yourself. I believe in you. You can be your own worst enemy or your own greatest ally; the choice is yours.”

Interestingly enough, Joe’s presence in my classroom led me to conclude that I have certain gifts and abilities to offer my students. Because my class was the one place he didn’t exhibit behavior problems, I thought that maybe I could offer something to others with significant challenges. I think I have gone on to offer something. I’m not sure it is as grand and wonderful a something as I had hoped it would be in my first years of teaching. But, I know for sure that the choice to continue trying and believing is mine alone.

And, who knows… Joe and I have crossed paths again. Maybe that diploma is on the horizon for him. (Wink.)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Love and Betrayal

Recuperating isn't my strong suit. Yesterday, I got up, tooled around the house and did some laundry. Last night, my abdomen and some other unmentionable areas swelled up, giving me the appearance of a woman six months pregnant. So, today, I have decided to actually rest.

Dave tried to talk sense to me... Really he did. "Honey, you have got to stay in bed."

I stubbornly replied, "Why? I feel fine!"

"Because you have been stabbed three times." Dave has such an eloquent way with words.

I didn't really listen yesterday. Today, I think I will. Thus, I'm sitting here in bed while my family went off to church. I'm really glad they went. It is so wonderful that Christmas Eve is on a Sunday this year. We do a beautiful candle lighting service at church in which people sign up to light a candle as a disciple. I signed up to light a candle. I can't remember which disciple I was supposed to represent, but Danielle is going to stand in for me.

In Unity, each of the disciples represents one of the twelve powers of man. I have always found it so ironic that Judas represents life. Judas... What in the world was wrong with that guy? He betrayed Jesus by identifying him to the soldiers. And, it wasn't just any betrayal. It was a betrayal with a kiss. In reality, that is probably how betrayal happens most often in this life... We usually hurt the ones closest to us. And, not because we want to hurt them... We are just so wrapped up in our own lives that we incidentally hurt the ones we love. Perhaps that is why Judas represents life. Life happens amidst the betrayal. Rebirth happens despite the betrayal.

Dave's sister, Deb, and her children were supposed to join us for Christmas this year. Unfortunately, illness has struck and they won't be able to make it. I'm really sorry they won't be able to come, but grateful they aren't coming if they are ill... We really can't handle any more sickness exposure with the girls. But, at the same time, I hurt for my husband. Dave has very little family left. His parents have both passed on. He has a brother and a sister. His brother is very ill right now. He was really looking forward to seeing his sister and spending time with his niece and nephew. I'm sure we can reschedule the visit for another time, but I just hate to see Dave disappointed.

My marriage to Dave isn't exactly a typical love story. I met Dave two weeks before he was scheduled to leave the U.S. to move to Italy. He was an officer in the Navy. We met and established a friendship. And, truthfully, I fell for him instantly. Plans were made for me to visit him in Italy. Dave claims that I began stalking him. I suppose one could call it that. I wrote, e-mailed, and made him tapes every day. He was pretty much the exact opposite of any man I had dated previously, and that was exactly what I was after. After visiting Italy in June and experiencing a whirlwind romance, I returned in November and we agreed to be married. I wish it was more romantic than an agreement, but it really wasn't... We were just being practical.

I was still legally married to Randy, even though we had been separated for about a year... Because of the girls, insurance was a major consideration. Randy was getting out of the Navy and the girls would no longer be covered. Thus, Dave and I decided to get married right away so the insurance coverage wouldn't lapse. Some people would probably be horrified to hear that I married my husband for the insurance, but truly, that was the reality at the time.

I do know that I earnestly prayed for God's will in my life every day after Randy and I separated. Dave and I certainly had our ups and downs that first year of marriage. We were living apart and he was getting out of the Navy. He was also seeking to become a more spiritual person each day. I watched him grow and struggle from afar... And, I began to know this man who was my husband.

Dave is dedicated and predictable. He adheres to a routine with an autistic-like fervor, at times. He is able to get the girls up each and every morning, making sure treatments and vest are started before he makes his way to the gym. He is thoughtful. He calls if he is going to be late, and does little things he thinks might make me happy. He is funny. Every day is full of laughter because of Dave's sarcastic wit. He is also smart. He is a brilliant math teacher, but he also knows lots of other interesting bits of information... And, what he doesn't know, he delights in making up.

The thing that most people don't know about Dave is that he feels deeply. I know there isn't anything Dave wouldn't do for me and the girls. He is completely dedicated to us. He signed up for this life. I was a single mom with two daughters with cystic fibrosis. Most men would have kept walking without a backward glance. But, he stayed and despite our quirks and idiosyncrasies, he loves us more than anything in the world. He usually doesn't say it. He isn't a "gusher". But, he shows us love each day by being there and walking through this life with us. Family is important to him.

That's why I'm sitting here in this bed today. It is part of my own weird love story. Dave and I haven't been able to have a baby thus far... This surgery was intended to repair problems that are causing infertility for us. Probably, a lot of people think I'm nuts. "You have two kids with cystic fibrosis... Why in the world would you want to have another baby?" I can answer that question... Because of Dave Maxwell... Because of all the times he has stayed at the hospital with Sarah and Dan... Because of all the times he has done the "one more thing" so I didn't have to... Because of this love that started off as a simple agreement about insurance and has become the deepest, most important commitment of my life.

I guess that is why Judas represents life... Life endures betrayal. In fact, sometimes betrayal brings us into relationships with people. I honestly believe people are basically good at heart. I know in my own life, I don't seek to hurt the ones I love. Sometimes it just happens because I am caught up in my own needs and wants in the moment. I'm certain that very concept was behind any actions I might perceive as betrayals toward me. But, love... Real love surpasses all that. And, fortunately, in my life I get to experience lots of little moments of real love strung together. The betrayals sometimes lead the way to a greater love. Life marches on.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Roto-rooter Procedure Completed

I had laproscopy surgery yesterday to remove some things that were growing in places where things shouldn't be growing. The doctor got almost everything straightened out, with the exception of one small item. However, after 3 hours into the operation, one of the pieces of equipment broke, people were frustrated and snapping at each other, and Dr. Koulianos decided that it would be best to continue on another day. I'm really grateful for his decision. I don't want to go back and do this again, but I also don't want negative vibes entering my body either...

Dr. K said that he has done a lot of these types of surgeries and I am now in his top 2 patients of things that can be wrong with someone all at the same time. I have always been an overachiever! It is amazing to me that things can grow wildly inside my body out of nothing. At the same time, however, that reaffirms my belief that things can heal wildly out of nothing too. Tumors and cysts and extra growths spring forth from our regular body processes. If this can happen, it makes perfect sense to me that spontaneous healing can occur too. Believing and manifesting are two different things, though. So, I continue to trust the process with all the doctors in our lives.

The girls are doing much better, although Sarah has a slight cold right now. Keep her in your prayers. I am giving them some immune boosters from the health food store. They seem to be helping. We have also increased our prayer time and recommitted to our daily affirmations. Whatever the reason, the girls have improved and I am totally grateful.

I have so many things for which to be grateful... My husband, Dave, has been taking extra good care of me as I recover. My girls have been quiet, and are getting along with each other. (I told them that fighting amongst themselves would stress me out.) My parents are helping take care of the girls while I am out of commission. I have wonderful friends who have been checking on me... Kenna and her mom had a lady come and clean my house yesterday. I am just so overwhelmed with goodness.

In just two days, we will have a wonderful Christmas celebration. This year, I am resting in the spirit of hope and renewal that Christmas brings. I have brand-new, squeaky clean insides... I have the peace that comes with trusting the process. I am healthy, whole and well today. And, for that I am thankful.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

40 Days in the Wilderness

Fear is a terrible thing. I don't usually walk around in the world afraid. Thankfully, almost twenty years ago, I began a path that served to alleviate the gut wrenching fear I lived with daily. I made a choice that I wanted to live a spiritual life. If you had asked me at the time, I probably would have denied that is what I was doing. But, I can assure you, that is how my life has turned out... A spiritual walk with my Creator.

So, why was it so very easy for me to fall into a pit of despair and terror this week? We started off the week with CF Clinic. Sarah had begun running a fever, and that continued when she went in to see the doctor. As a result, her pulmonary function tests, or PFTs, had fallen by about 50%. This, naturally, resulted in a hospitalization for her. Both girls had been hospitalized the Monday before Thanksgiving, but were allowed to go home on I.V. antibiotics. Given that this course of treatment is usually successful, I was very concerned. Serving to further alarm me, Dr. Sindel reported that Sarah was growing not only Pseudomonas and Alcaligenes Xelodan, which is fairly normal for her, but something different called Trichosporum. However, after further research, Danielle is also growing all three, but her pulmonary functions had improved with I.V antibiotics.
Sarah was admitted to the hospital on Monday, and being the CF Mom extrodinnaire that I am, I promptly got out my handy dandy laptop and googled Trichosporum. The information I read scared the willies out of me. Usually, cancer patients or patients with immune deficiencies contract this fungus. Thus, most of the articles were citing morbidity rates. I was absolutely beside myself. I did learn other helpful information about treatment options, but I was still so terrified that something awful was going to happen to my child.

Dr. Sindel ordered treatment with Voriconazole, which is an antifungal medication. After a couple of days, Sarah developed terrible itching and began breaking out in hives. Evidently, this can be a side effect of this medication. So, they changed her to Itraconazole in an oral medication. She is also taking I.V. antibiotics: Maxipime and Azactam.

And, we waited... Randy, Dan and Sarah's Dad, stayed at the hospital with Sarah on her last night. I was so relieved to get a phone call from him yesterday morning, as I blogged this entry, telling me she was being discharged. Danielle is still on I.V. antibiotics, but is currently under no treatment for the Trichosporum. She is scheduled to be seen at CF clinic on Monday, so we will address that issue then.

To further shake my foundation, in the midst of Sarah's hospitalization, I learned that my dear friend, "Mama Jane", had been in a terrible car accident and flipped her car three times. She had to be air lifted to USA Medical Center right near USA Women and Children's Center where Sarah was staying. I felt so fortunate to have been able to go see her in the hospital. She has a broken arm and a broken leg, but proclaimed that God was with her through the entire ordeal. She also said that three flips in a car makes for a really long conversation with God. I can only imagine! Thanks so much to the young men who stopped and pulled her from the car.

Emotionally, I was feeling so overwhelmed with fear and worry. I started feeling better Friday, but I really wasn't myself all week. Tears were apt to spill at any time, and fear gripped me in a way that I haven't known in so many years. And, I prayed. I have been in constant communication with God, but I continued to feel so far away. I just couldn't seem to get back in contact. I felt absolutely lost. I was reminded of the Bible story in which Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days and was tempted by the devil. When he returned, He was stronger and ready to pursue his ministry. I suppose it was a choice for Him. Which life do I choose? Do I choose to live a spiritual life in faith and trust with the Father or die a non-spiritual death? Jesus, of course, chose the spiritual life in faith and trust. And, I suppose if Jesus took forty days to figure it out, why should I expect to be any quicker about it? Still, I wanted to have that peace and serenity. I don't like feeling afraid. And, I feel so responsible for the climate that is set for my girls. I want them to embrace the Truth of God's Healing rather than the seeming realness of all of these appearances.

So, yesterday, I wrote the above paragraphs right before leaving for Mobile. (I edited them a little today so they would make more sense in the current context.) I had to stop for gas prior to the drive. As I pulled into the Fast Track, a gentleman approached me and said, "Excuse me, ma'am. May I give you my testimony? It will only take a minute." I looked at the man, who was a tall, thin black man with gold on his front teeth. The initials "J" and "K" were carved into the gold. To the casual observer, we were from completely different worlds with nothing in common. It would have been so easy to judge, but given my current crisis of faith, I knew that I needed to hear testimony from somebody so I said, "Sure. I would love to hear your story." He introduced himself as John. John began telling me that his blood sugar dropped to 20 in June of this year. During this time, he had an experience in which he was visited by the Holy Ghost. He experienced a tingling sensation and was given a message that he was to share this healing with as many people as he could. He told me to read John 5:1. He also told me to keep on the "right side" of Jesus, as that is where the spear was inserted when he was on the cross. John said a lot of other things, but I really was just so overwhelmed that God had sent this angel to me at the precise time I needed him, that I couldn't absorb everything.

However, I got the message loud and clear. I understood that God is with me. God is Health. The girls continue to astound us all with their overall health and ability to live life in the face of the disease called cystic fibrosis. But, there are times when it is so scary... Keeping words of faith and health in my mind and mouth are precisely what I need to do during those times. Usually, I'm pretty good at keeping focused on God. This time, I allowed the fear to wash over me and drag me to a place where I couldn't feel God's presence at all.

Not feeling the presence, didn't mean that it wasn't there. Sarah's pulmonary functions improved while she was in the hospital. Both girls have a significantly decreased cough. Yesterday, Dan marched in the Gautier Christmas Parade with the rest of her bandie friends, and Sarah was miffed at me because I wouldn't let her march with her dance troupe. They wanted to go to Moss Point's Christmas by the River last night, but I insisted that we stay home because it was so cold. Still, my girls are ready to get back out and embrace life. And, I am proud of them for that... And, funny enough, that was Jesus' message conveyed in John 5:1-9:

The Healing at the Pool
1Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3Here a great number of disabled people used to lie, the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.[b] 5One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?" 7"Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me." 8Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." 9At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

Now, curiously enough, because I sometimes get things backwards, and again, because I was so overwhelmed that God sent me an angel precisely when I needed him, I looked up John 1:5-9:

5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood[a] it.
6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.[b]

And, so, I learned some things about trust and faith. I also learned about that light within each of us... For today, know that the light in my heart bows to the light in your heart.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Stone Soup

Every year I have taught in my own classroom, I do a unit on Stone Soup. For those unfamiliar, Stone Soup is a classic tale about three hungry soldiers coming home from war. As they make the arduous journey home, they come upon a village and ask the peasants for food and a place to sleep. The villagers are quite concerned about having to share with the soldiers and after hiding all their food, explain they have little enough for themselves. The clever soldiers declare they will help everyone by making stone soup. Upon filling a pot with water and stones and starting a fire ablaze, the soldiers say, "Oh, this soup is good, but it would be much better with a bit of salt and pepper..." Many other ingredients are added in the same way. Each time, the villagers bring vegetables and other soup ingredients to make the soup better. In the end, the peasants and the soldiers have a wonderful feast together. The soldiers are treated as honored guests rather than a pesky imposition. Lesson plans always encourage the teacher to explain how the soldiers tricked the villagers into sharing.

I love the story. We always do activities surrounding the story. We define vocabulary words and explore measurement using cups, teaspoons, etc. And, of course, we talk about the underlying moral of the story. We review the importance of sharing. We talk about how the soup is like our classroom... It is better because each of us bring a unique and important ingredient to our group. We talk about sharing ourselves with each other. We even talk about fear and hoarding, and how these things hinder prosperity. Always during the course of the unit, we make stone soup. It is usually very tasty, but this year it was particularly delicious. I think I enjoyed it more because this year, one of my students taught me a poignant lesson.

We began the lesson by defining some important vocabulary words. One of our words was soldiers. Before we look up the definitions, I ask that the students give me a definition in their own words. A student I will call Elliot raised his hand, sat up straight and tall, and declared, "Soldiers are people who work together..." At this point he stammered a little and lost his confidence. I deal with that a lot when a student has a learning challenge. They aren't confident in their abilities and their knowledge. So, I said, "Yes... Go on..." He began again, "Soldiers are people who work together to kill other people." I'm sure the look on my face was unreadable. For just a moment, it felt as if the world had stopped in the classroom. I quickly regained my composure and said, "Elliot, some people would probably have a problem with your definition, but you are absolutely right. In fact, your words are so important to me, I'm going to write them down to keep for myself. I may write something on my blog to share with everyone."

I'm not political. I always vote, but I really don't like to vote. I have never actually felt as if I was endorsing a candidate I fully believed in. In fact, in local elections, sometimes I don't even know the candidates for whom I'm casting a ballot. It's actually a little embarrassing. Perhaps I should be more informed. Sometimes, I really exert the effort to educate myself, but here, they always throw in a strange one... "Vote for the New Coroner." How on earth am I supposed to know who would make the very best coroner? Some things shouldn't be a vote. A committee of persons educated in such matters should be handling that bit of hiring. Still, when elections come around, I go vote. I cast my ballot. I wear the little sticker all day. I do the deal. When my girls were young, I took them with me. I talked about the importance of living in a democratic country. I sang on high about voting and how we live in a wonderful country in which we are allowed to vote. Other people in the world don't have that right.

Then somehow my right to vote, ties in with the ugly fact that people died so that I could live in a free country. People died so that I might stumble into the booth and vote for a coroner that I don't know and hope I don't need for a long time... People died... "Soldiers are people who work together to kill other people..." People got mad about a king in England taxing them. Money is a powerful motivator. People were outraged that their feelings weren't being considered. They dumped some tea into a harbor and set about fighting for their rights. It was a revolution... Soldiers worked together to kill other people... People died... Southerners later developed the nasty habit of buying and selling other people based on skin color.... These people were required to work on plantations and weren't treated well in some cases. It was a travesty. It was wrong. The south still hasn't fully recovered in many respects. Other people knew it was wrong, but I can tell you for a fact that in the south, we don't like to be told what to do. In the south, we said, "Forget you... We don't have to be a part of your silly country... We'll make our own country." Some people here still think they are in that separate country... It was a civil war. Soldiers worked together to kill other people... People died... America became a land of prosperity... Our economics affect other countries. In America, individuals have a right to pursue happiness. We began to be a beacon of light for those without hope... We had such a gift, this freedom... We had such a wonderful thing... Democracy... It seemed only right we should share our gift with the world. Surely, all people have a right to be free. Other wars were fought on this premise. America must be the champion for the weak, the oppressed, the down-trodden... People worked together to kill other people all over the world... In other countries... Sometimes for causes that were gallantly noble. People died...

As I type this, people are working together to kill other people. People are dying... Why? I don't think anyone really can give a sufficient answer. Some people try to tie this war to "my freedom"... "Soldiers are dying for your freedom," they say... The bad guys crashed planes into our towers. They attacked our country. The "evil-doers" are trying to interfere with "our way of life". North Korea is getting nukes. We can have nukes, but other people shouldn't have them. Other people are crazy. We're in danger. SOLDIERS ARE PEOPLE WHO WORK TOGETHER TO KILL OTHER PEOPLE. People are dying...

A red flyer showed up in my box a couple of weeks ago. The flyer asked people to wear red on Fridays as a sign of support to our troops overseas. I support our troops. I come from a family of military men and women. I know first hand the sacrifices they make. However, I also don't like to be told what to do and when to do it. I didn't like the idea that someone might think if I don't wear red on Fridays, I don't support my troops. However, rather than keeping these ideas to myself, I spouted them off to my dear friend, Billy. He probably shook his head and said to himself, "That crazy Maxwell... She has a screw loose." That's just his way. I later learned by accident that the flyer actually came from Billy. I felt terrible. I don't know his personal family situation. But, I know that people are dying. And, I know that I care very much whether that has affected my friend in any way at all. If it is important to him, it is important to me. I'll wear red on Fridays. But, now it has taken on more meaning for me. "Soldiers are people who work together to kill other people." People are dying... People have died... In the larger scheme of things, I don't understand it.

And, I'm really sad about that today. I'm really sad that I can't see the value in a war that no longer has anything to do with my right to get into a booth and vote for a coroner I don't know. I'm sad that I can't even buy into the fact that this war has anything to do with the towers that fell. There's even a country song out that tried to convince me that is the reason we are at war. I'm sad that as a society, we largely don't value each other's individual beliefs and differences. I'm sad that there aren't any easy answers. But, I know for sure that whatever the question, love is the answer...

You see... that is what Stone Soup is all about... LOVE... The villagers were afraid... They were afraid there wouldn't be enough for themselves. They were afraid that by sharing what they had, they wouldn't have enough... Interestingly, sharing doesn't work that way. When people share, each one walks away better for the experience. Even when one person sets out to take advantage of another, lessons can be learned that better the future of everyone involved. The soldiers tricked the villagers into sharing... The soldiers tricked the villagers into loving. Love is a verb, an action word. Perhaps if we can each add a bit of our true selves to the soup of life, we could really make a delicious soup. Maybe soldiers could evolve from being "people who work together to kill other people" into "people who work together to trick people into loving each other"... I'm sure in some instances, that is exactly what our troops may be doing. I'm wearing red for those soldiers on Fridays... I'm hoping that in my little way, I can trick people into loving each other.

"Many thanks to you," the people said, "for we shall never go hungry now that you have taught us how to make soup from stones!"


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Small Town Living Vibe

Gautier is a very small town. Sometimes I love that. Other times I miss the anonymity offered by a bigger city. I do not, however, miss the traffic offered by a bigger city, so I guess it is a trade-off. It is impossible to run any kind of errand here without seeing people you know. It is further impossible to run an errand without meeting new people that you weren't sure you wanted to get to know in the first place.

Allow me to explain... Last week, I dropped Sarah off at Dance Xtreme for her jazz class. While she was in class, I decided to run to our local grocery store, Jerry Lee's. I generally make a trip to Wal-Mart in Ocean Springs because it is much cheaper, but on this particular evening, I was more concerned about the time factor. I only needed to pick up a few things to get us through the week. As I picked my way through the produce section, several people approached to speak to me... A dad of one of my daughter's friends who coached softball with me one year... A parent of an ex-student... Another parent of a current student... I chatted with each one, while people went around us continuing with their shopping. During the course of one conversation, I mentioned that I needed to hurry, since I had to retrieve Sarah from dance class. Thus, I bid the parent, "Good-bye" and continued down the bread ailse.

As I turned the corner to the salad dressing ailse, a lady quickly approached me, buggy in front with two small children trailing behind.

"Excuse me, M'am? Did I hear you say that you had to go back over to the dance studio tonight?"

I scoured my memory for how this stranger could know my proposed evening schedule before realizing that she must have overheard my conversation in the produce section. "Yes," I replied, "I have to pick up my daughter after I leave here."

"Would you mind paying my daughter's tuition when you go back by there? I need to get these two to bed and I don't think I will make it back by there. I'll give you the money."

"O.K.", I responded as I waited for her to locate her checkbook in her purse. "What is your daughter's name, so I can make sure they know who the tuition is for?" She relayed her daughter's name, and I wrote it on my grocery list.

Much to my surprise, the woman offered me $40 cash from her purse. I took the money, and the lady thanked me. Luckily, I finished my shopping without any further interactions with anyone except the checkout girl.

Of course, I went back to the studio to pick up Sarah and paid the child's tuition. But, I wondered... Do I just have a really honest face? Why was the lady confident that I wouldn't take her money and buy a nice new blouse? Or, more likely, why was she certain that I wouldn't flake out and completely forget?

I dont' know that I have discerned any real answers to the above questions, but I do believe that we emit certain vibrations that attract people to our lives. Now, probably, in that instance, the only vibration I emitted was out of my mouth when the lady overheard, "...have to pick my daughter up from dance", but I'm certain there are laws of attraction at work that are beyond anything in the physical realm.

My family teases me that I emit a "Sped vibe". Much as I would like to debunk that myth, I have to admit it is probably true. Special needs people seem to gravitate toward me in all public places. If I am around and someone has mental retardation or mental illness, we seem to be drawn together. I don't mind really. I'd rather be known for emitting a "Sped vibe" than emitting the "drunken womanizer vibe" that some women seem to radiate.

I have been reading a book about alternative healing recently in which light visualizations and energy vibrations are used to facilitate healing. I'm not sure I understand all of the concepts, but much of it is very interesting. I have been having some health challenges of my own, lately. So, for once, the tables are turned in my house. I am much more comfortable in the role of
"supportive mom" than patient. I am scheduled to have laproscopy surgery in December. In the meantime, I'm open to a healing. If God decides to bring on the burning bush, parting of the seas, touching the hem of the garment, take up your bed and walk type miracle, I'm willing to accept it. But, if the plan is for me to have the procedure and gain a little more empathy for my girls and what they go through during hospitalizations with CF exacerbation, then I am open to that too. I just know that I need to be really conscious that I am emitting the "Trust the Process" energy vibration. When I am trusting, I am in faith. That is where I need to stay focused.

I have often wondered how I ended up back in Gautier... While living in Florida and Virginia and people asked me where I was from, I would reply, "I'm from Mississippi. It is a great place to be from." Implying, of course, that I didn't ever want to live here again. Now, I believe that I am here doing something important. I am connected to people in ways I would have never had an opportunity to be in a bigger city. Sharing our humanness, truly connecting with people... It seems to be readily available in my small town.


The pictures are from my brother's visit with his wife, Kim. He has recently married and we are so happy to welcome her to our family.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Get Out Your Wonder Woman Bracelets

I haven't had an opportunity to blog much in the last month or so... Not that I haven't had a lot of bloggable material, mind you, I just haven't had the time. I started to write an entry entitled "Cleptomania" in late August, but I never finished it, and now it doesn't seem nearly as interesting that I had developed a pattern of accidentally stealing things. No. Everything seems to shrink in the presence of Football Season.

I have been reading Lauren's blog a lot, though. She has been posting some really interesting research articles. The girls are both enrolled in the Tobramycin Inhalation Powder (TIP) trial. We are driving back and forth to Mobile regularly. It is a little hectic in lieu of our schedules right now. Yesterday, for example, I checked the girls out of school at noon. We barreled over to Mobile, ate lunch, and attended the TIP appointment. Then we hopped in the car, rushed back to Gautier to retrieve Dan's band shirt from the house, and delivered her directly to the band hall for the football game in D'Iberville. Sarah and I later motored over to D'Iberville to the game, but had to drive back to the band hall to retrieve Dan at about 11 p.m. (By the way, Dan looks awesome in her band uniform, but she is so tiny the hat really dwarfs her...) After dropping her friend off because her mother works nights, we arrived home at about 11:20 p.m. Dave arrived home right after us, having just completed his own separate evening of Pascagoula Football Frivolity. When Danielle arrived in the driveway she dragged herself out of the car and said, "I'm not kidding... I could sleep for 2 days straight." She is already up this morning, but I know the schedule we are keeping is very hectic.

Given this, I am relying heavily on prayer and meditation to keep myself rejuvenated. We are making a point to attend church weekly even on those mornings when it seems more logical to loll in the bed. Maintaining a spiritual and emotional charge is extremely important in light of all we are being called to do. In our lives, we rely on God. I'm not trying to preach to anyone or convert anyone to my beliefs. I'm simply trying to convey how I move about from day to day. Generally, the people who are reading this are friends or family. Others are people who have determined that we have common interests, or maybe just like my quirky style of writing. Who knows? Just know that I don't propose to know what is best for you. But, I know solidly what is best for me. I know with a certainty that rarely visits my consciousness that I am here on this earth doing spiritual business. Having clarified that, allow me to further acknowledge that my spiritual life is not "a part of my life". It is who I am. It pervades every corner of the entity that is me. If you have a conversation with me, I am likely to utter cuss words and praise God in the same breath. I think just last week I looked at my friend and said, "Well, I guess we will just have to pray for the b--ch." I realize that isn't holy or Godly or anything else. But it is real. This life is a search for connection to spirit and it has come to me in many strange and wonderful forms.

Given this philosophy, two days ago I was dashing out of school to deliver enzymes to Sarah at the middle school. She had run out and needed them for lunch. As I passed Dr. Catchings, our principal, I heard a snatch of the conversation he was having with a very concerned looking gentleman. The man said, "Well, I am very sorry to hear you say that. You realize that I am going to have to go to the school board with my concerns." I just put my head down and walked out of the school with a wonderful sense of gratitude that my life path has not yet directed me into administration. I walked back into the school about 25 minutes later and was greeted in the front hallway by Dr. Catchings, who appeared to be waiting for me. He asked, "Did you hear the conversation I was having on your way out?" I relayed the small portion I had overheard. He proceeded to tell me that the conversation was about me.

Two weeks ago, the entire staff was asked to attend a training during the school day. In order for everyone to attend, since not all of us have a set planning block, special area teachers and assistants were asked to cover classes. I'm not sure how Dr. Catchings actually worked it out. He is a scheduling master, and with regard to scheduling, I bow to his greatness... All I know is that I was asked to teach PE for a group of 2nd graders so that Coach Kouns might attend the training. I was actually excited because I could teach Yoga for a little block during the day. I spoke to Dr. Catchings about it, and he approved my plan to teach Yoga. I came to school that day with my relaxing music, wearing reasonable clothing that allowed bending and stretching. I led the second graders through a short lesson and allowed time at the end for Shivasana. (Shivasana at the end of practice is when you lay on your back and relax your muscles.) Before we began the stretching, I asked all of the children if they minded being touched. Sometimes the yoga leader needs to touch the participants to align the body or correct the postures. But, I like to honor someone's decision not to be touched if it makes them uncomfortable in any way. My friend, Greta and I, taught Summer Scholars Yoga together two summers ago, and developed a practice of touching the children on the head or shoulders or feet as a way of ending and honoring the practice. So, as a matter of course, I touched each of the children on the forehead at the end of practice. Now, honestly, as I touched the children, I did indeed say a silent prayer of blessing for each child, "I behold the Christ in you... Your hope of glory." However, I didn't tell the children I was blessing them, nor did I say anything religous. After Shivasana, the children sit up in a regular cross-legged pose, place their hands in prayer position and we bow to one another and say, "Namaste'". As we say "Namaste" I also say, "The light in my heart, bows to the light in your heart."

Dr. Catchings sat down with me in my classroom and explained that the gentleman was upset because I taught Yoga and blessed his child. He asked what exactly had taken place and I relayed the happenings in the class. I can understand his suspicion. Frank and I have a very amiable relationship, and I often work to enlighten him on some theory or another. I also realize that he often just shakes his head and thinks to himself, "She is really a nut, but probably harmless." After I explained what I did, though, he said, "That's it?" I said, "Yes, I touched each child's head. Truthfully, I was blessing them, but I certainly didn't tell them, 'Hang on to your hats and prepare to be blessed.'" I'm not sure we came to any resolution. I imagine Dr. Catchings will keep me far away from that particular second grader in the hopes that I don't bless him or anyone in his family.

I came home and relayed the story to my family. They have taken to teasing me... "Be careful. Mama will bless you." I have taken to holding my hands in the Guyan mudra that almost everyone associates with Yoga... Thumb and forefinger in a circle and other three finger extended out. I close my eyes and silently shoot them with a blessing. The girls scream and run away. Although, Dave straps on his pretend Wonder Woman bracelets and deflects my prayers. We are having great fun with the whole thing.

Still, the whole incident has made me think... I am teaching because every time I have tried to go and do something else, God shoves me back in with two hands. I never set out to be a teacher. I would much rather be a counselor or famous country music singer, but neither one of those careers ever really took off for me. My brief stint as a belly dancer was also a miserable failure. So, I teach. I teach and I do my thing and employ non-traditional methods and everyone watching says, "Oh my God, I can't believe she just said that..." I don't know how to be any other way. There are times when I think, "Maybe I should tone it down... Maybe I should be more politically correct... Maybe I should temper my comments..." But, it just comes out. My friend, Billy, told me just the other day, "And I thought I had a set (referring to a portion of a gentleman's anatomy)... You really are bold." But, I can't help it. In the classroom, I feel a sense of urgency. I have two students with cerebral palsy... One in a wheelchair and one with other considerable needs. Society will throw them away if I can't help them find a way to be successful. I have another student in a wheelchair with spina bifida. Her parent has advocated to keep her in the regular classroom environment to the maximum extent possible, and I honor her mom's decision. But, I am panicked at how I am going to translate that into a reasonable test score. Above all, I look in my classroom and I see children with wonderful potential, but because they don't fit the mold in one area or another, society seeks to isolate them, move them aside, place them in a corner. My job is to say, "Oh no. Here we are. We are going fit. We are going to carve our way in your world. We are going to figure it out. And, we don't have time to fool around with your fears and your predjudices..." I don't know how I know that is my job, but I know it... I suppose that goes back to my full reliance on God. I don't have a choice about certain things. A passion that I can't explain wells up inside of me and I just know...

Just as I have always known that it is my job to help Danielle and Sarah live with cystic fibrosis. We aren't going to waste our lives dying from that disease every day. We are going to live. Danielle has been Batman, sang the part of Gretel in a school play, danced, tumbled, cheered, played softball, played saxophone, marched in the band, gone to Italy, rescued cats... Sarah has swam, danced, tumbled, made potions, played soccer and softball, won academic awards, gone white water rafting... They are wonderful children. They embrace life and all it has to offer. They also throw their clothes on the floor and have to be told repeatedly to take out the trash or make their beds. I think probably most people living with cystic fibrosis have these same experiences... We do everything everyone else does and manage to insert treatments and handfuls of pills into the equation too.

Just don't ask me to do it all without God. I couldn't even attempt it. Don't ask me not to silently bless people. I will refrain from touching that particular child on the forehead, but next time, just let me know in advance... I don't make a habit of physically touching people who do not wish to be touched. However, I do have a goal of emotionally and spiritually "touching" people who may or may not want to be "touched". I don't know how to be any other way. So, if you see me on the street, either get out your Wonder Woman bracelets or just steer clear. God is indeed involved.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Garage Sale and the Great Cat Caper

Saturday was a very busy day for us... We had a garage sale in an attempt to clear out much of the "stuff" that had accumulated in our shed. It was a great success! We made a couple hundred dollars twenty-five cents at a time. And, as a bonus, we met many unusual, colorful people, all of whom seemed to take great delight in frequenting garage sales.

As for myself, I'm not really a garage sale gal. I have been to some, but usually, I look around and see a bunch of junk. Then I think to myself, " I have my own junk. Why on earth would I want anyone else's?" Mom, however, is a garage sale type. Not that she really frequents garage sales, but she has the potential. She can look at junk and see treasure. I don't have that ability most of the time.

Still, the people who arrived at my garage sale at 6:30 a.m., (scheduled to begin at 8:00 a.m.), were characters in their own right. One lady with a very ample behind, bought almost all of the girls pants. I couldn't help but wonder if the girls slim-fit pants were going to fit anyone in her family if genetics truly plays a part in body type. Another lady came and bought all of the girls shoes. She said, "At 25 cents a pair, I will find someone who can wear them." I guess I kind of admire that because I definitely would not go scouting Gautier for someone to wear the shoes... It has nothing to do with the fact that it makes me reminisce about Prince Charming and glass slippers. I simply don't need another responsibility. Finding someone to wear shoes definitely falls into the "one more thing" category. Other people came, some buying things while others just looked and left. Since Dave and I are people watchers, we just really enjoyed them all.

One of the people who came to check things out was our neighbor, Ms. Emily. Ms. Emily is also a special education teacher, but for the Moss Point School District. She is really a wonderful lady. She walks her three-legged dog each day, and is just a really good neighbor to everyone on the street. Her home was also damaged in the storm and she is working steadily to rebuild. As everyone does, we were comparing notes and Dave took her in the house to show her our progress while asking about hers. Dave came back out of the house with Ms. Emily and after the customer flow had died down he said, "We need to talk. I feel terrible. I mentioned all of the cats that we have living around here and she said, 'I used to have cats... A mama and four kittens, but someone stole them while I was on vacation.'" (For more information, you need to read my blog entitled "Yoga and the Cat Rescue Mission".) When I asked Dave what he said, he explained that he didn't say anything. "What was I supposed to say," he stammered, "my wife and my mother-in-law stole your cats?" A while later Mom came over and we relayed the story to her. Of course, we agreed that we needed to confess and tell Ms. Emily what happened.

The confession happened tonight. I saw Ms. Emily walking her dog. I went down, knocked on her trailer and let the whole story tumble out of my mouth. Mom and J.R. joined me part way through the confession. Ms. Emily was so sweet about it all. She was just grateful that the kittens had homes and that Misty, the mama cat, had been fixed. So, all ended well. Thank goodness. I didn't relish the idea of getting a reputation for cat napping.

Carpet was installed in Danielle's room yesterday and her furniture was delivered. We also received a visit from the electrician, and were delighted to hear that our dishwasher had arrived at Sears. Everything seemed to happen at once, but it was all in Divine Order. There was no earthly way all of that activity could have been orchestrated in just a few hours. Still, now we are so close to being completely in our kitchen once and for all. If the Roto Rooter man shows up tomorrow, I will have running water in my kitchen. It is such an exciting prospect.

The picture above is the cohort my husband was a member of for a year and a half. As you can see, he was the only man. I appreciate these lovely ladies for taking such good care of him.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Three Times Equals God Talking

I have a rule that was established early in my life... When I was 17, I had a wonderful mentor, Diane, who told me, "If you hear it once, listen... If you hear it twice, listen harder... And, if you hear it three times, it is God talking. You better do whatever you heard." This has become a hard and fast rule for my life. There are times when I can follow God's guidance without having to hear it three times. I celebrate the times when I "intuitively know". However, I am certain there are things I have heard more than three times, but I wasn't listening. I imagine God tapping Her foot and shaking Her head during those times.

Yesterday, at church, I had the opportunity to meet the wonderful Reverend Leo Booth, known to many as Father Leo. Father Leo was raised Catholic, became an Episcopal Priest and later became a Unity minister. He also works closely with persons suffering from alcoholism and a host of other addictions. I was able to spend a little time conversing with Father Leo. What a blessing! I shared with him that I had been taking the Unity Today course online, with the ultimate goal of becoming a Licensed Unity Teacher. He listened intently and said, "Now, why wouldn't you want to be a minister?" Father Leo is originally from England. Perhaps his accent is the thing that makes his words sound so much more important. Later, when I was bidding him good-bye before Reverend Christy (our minister) took him to the airport, he again said, "I think you want to be a minister."

The thing that Father Leo, or anyone else for that matter, didn't know is that this summer while teaching Yoga, I really had a sense that I am supposed to do something else... Something to enhance the spiritual development of people here on the Gulf Coast. It would be wonderful to have some type of wellness center to support people of all faiths. The thing I know for sure is that teaching in a public school is indeed rewarding, but there are moments I have clearly seen that the solution we are seeking in education is a spiritual one... American education is attempting to fix all of society's ailments, and failing miserably in its attempt. Schools are responsible for academic achievement of all students. We have implemented character development programs, parent outreach programs, and most recently, the state is pushing for fitness and wellness programs because our students are too fat. Schools are trying to fix all of society's problems. But, what if society's problem is that of spiritual ailment?

The thing I know is that while the statistics don't show our schools as successful, I received a letter from a former student. Michael was in my resource class during his 4th and 5th grade school years. He is now living in Maryland and is performing well in all regular education classes. At Danielle's registration at Gautier High School, I was approached by a young man in an ROTC uniform that inquired, "Aren't you Ms. Maxwell? You were my favorite teacher." One at a time, I have been able to make a difference. That's because Spirit touches people's lives. God makes the difference. I try to bring a level of love, acceptance and honor to each of my students. If I'm successful, then God has worked through me. However, I am limited with what I can say and do in public school. What would it be like if I were able to work with learning disabilities by teaching students meditation to work through mental blocks? I do teach some meditation strategies, but again, I walk a line with regard to the mention of God. Then, understand that I am in the deep south. Most people here still regard God as the man in the big chair up in the sky with the long, flowing white beard. Any idea that threatens that idea is sometimes not met kindly.

So far, though, I have been presented with wonderful opportunities to "minister" to children, even in the absence of being a formally trained minister. My position as an inclusion teacher, my Summer Scholars Yoga class, my position as a Unity Sunday School teacher, and my role as Mom to two lovely daughters with significant health challenges have all afforded me opportunities to teach children ways of becoming aware of the Christ presence within. Further, every experience allows me a choice to draw closer to God, becoming more willing to listen and follow the guidance I'm given. Whether or not I always hear or follow is another matter altogether.

The main thing that is different about me today versus a few years ago is that I am willing. I want God's will in my life today. I'm no longer afraid of anything God has in store for me. I know that I will be given the strength and wherewithall to do whatever I am called to do. So, I hear it once... I listen. I hear it twice... I listen harder... I hear it three times, and it is God talking. Only once in a while do I respond, "God? You can't be serious! O.K. O.K. I'll do it."


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bring It On Home

I've just awakened from the most wonderful dream. Or, perhaps, I've had an awakening because of a wonderful dream... In my dream, I was lying in bed sleeping and God was singing to me. He/She was singing the words in the chorus of Little Big Town's, "Bring It On Home". I awoke feeling so loved and comforted. Here are the lyrics:

You've got someone here
Wants to make it all right
Someone to love you more
Than I have right here
You've gotta bring it on and I'll hold you tight
A hand to lead you on through the night right here
I know your heart can get
All tangled up inside
But don't you keep it to yourself

When your long day is over
And you can barely drag your feet
When the weight of the world
Is on your shoulders
I know what you need
Bring it on home to me

You know I know you
Like the back of my hand
You know I'm gonna do
All that I can right here
Gonna lie with you
Till you fall asleep
When the morning comes
I'm still gonna be right here
Yes, I am
So take your worries and
Just drop them at the door
Baby, leave it all behind

When your long day is over
And you can barely drag your feet
When the weight of the world
Is on your shoulders
I know what you need
Bring it on home to me

Baby, let me be your safe harbor
Don't let the water come
And carry you away

When your long day is over
And you can barely drag your feet
When the weight of the world
Is on your shoulders
I know what you need
Bring it on home to me

Oh, bring it on home
Oh, bring it on home to me
Home to me
Oh, bring it on, bring it on home
to me

You've got someone here wants
To make it all right
Someone who loves you more
Than life right here

I plan to purchase this CD as soon as I can. It has to be significant when God sings to a person. Or maybe God is always singing, and I had to be asleep to hear it.

Yesterday, I was talking to my friend, Amy, about privacy versus secrecy. I have heard a saying in my traveling circles, "You are only as sick as your secrets." My mom always says that we need to get secrets out in the open so God's light can shine on them and reveal the Truth. Obviously, I don't have many secrets. I broadcast my life on a blog. But, I do have things that are private... Things I only share with close friends. Other things I share, people probably wish I only shared them with close friends! I'm usually just right out there.

The secrets I harbor are the ones in my thoughts most of the time... These are the things I usually feel guilty for thinking. Sometimes my thoughts can start feelings that run off in all directions. Most of the time, it stops there, but sometimes it flows out of my mouth to others. I do believe all of the Biblical references with regard to the power of the tongue. Jesus said something to the effect of: It is not what you put into your mouth that defiles you (referencing eating certain foods considered unclean), but what comes out of it in the form of words.

Even more than that, though, my thoughts can make me crazy... Those secret desires, secret resentments, secret shameful ponderings... Most of the time, I just share them with the people I trust in my life. But, I need to make sure I'm going God daily with these secrets. Afterall, He/She knows anyway... "When your long day is over, and you can barely drag your feet; the weight of the world is on your shoulders. I know what you need. Bring it on home to me." O.K. Thanks, God.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Shopping in the Dark

Wednesday, I went school shopping with the girls after Sarah's follow-up visit with Dr. Sindel. We visited numerous stores and got lots of clothing that can pass for uniform. Our school district requires a dress code. Khaki and navy pants, along with polo shirts in red, blue and white primarily describe what the girls must wear to school each day. Personally, I don't believe in uniforms. I could care less what the kids wear. I just don't want to look at anyone's thong or butt crack while attempting to instruct my class. Still, it is a requirement of our district, and I teach my girls to follow the rules, even if they are stupid. Well, actually, that isn't entirely true. I teach my girls to know what the rules are so that they might know how far to push the envelope. I mean if "rules" are blatantly wrong, like discrimination or animal cruelty, we stand firmly against those societal rules. But, if something is simply an annoyance, we try to work within the system. I have also taught my girls, (and sometimes this has come back to haunt me), that good kids can push the uniform code more than badly behaved kids. This might be unfair, but it goes to basic teacher-nature... The girls are well-mannered and do what they are asked to do. Given that, they are generally allowed to wear clothing that fits the basic color and style without too much hassle. Thus, our shopping experience usually involves going to various stores that do not sell the approved uniform brands.

We visited Parisians first. The girls informed me that Kristine, their step-mom, takes them there all the time. So, I weaved in and out of very lovely clothes for about a minute and a half before spotting a pair of jeans that cost $140. The next blouse I spied was $90. I cautiously crept over to a beautiful sundress and looked with one eye squinted to see a pricetag of $260. At this point, I think I began to hyperventilate. I was praying to click my heels together three times and be magically transported to a T.J. Max. Alas, when I opened my eyes, Parisians still surrounded me. I instructed the girls to keep their heads down and run stealthily through the store as not to be tempted by anything before we made our way out into the mall. Thankfully, as we exited, there was a Payless to the left. We went in and browsed. We didn't purchase anything, but it calmed me down a bit, so I was able to continue on the shopping venture.

Next, we went to J.C. Penney's, which always has a good selection of khaki pants. We were able to buy several pairs for both girls. I still felt entirely confident at this point. J.C. Penney is within my realm of experience. I'm comfortable. I shop there for myself. Nice, fashionable clothes, at nice affordable prices... Maybe they should contact me to do a commercial.

We left the safety and comfort of J.C. Penney to venture into the rest of the mall. I visited The Children's Place with Sarah, which left me feeling nostalgic for a time when I could dress my girls in cute little clothes, as long as they didn't itch. We went to Aeropostle, which has hip, cool clothes that are not exactly my style, but the girls love them. Then, we made our way further down the mall toward Abercrombie and Fitch. I have been in there before. It is a weird shopping experience, but nothing compared to Hollister. We arrived at Hollister before Abercrombie. Kacey, Dan's friend was with us and she said, "Oh look, it's Hollister!" Dan replied, "Where?" I could understand Dan's question since the storefront had no name identifying it, with the exception of a partially covered name behind a large palm-type tree and two ratty-looking chairs in the store entry way.

"What's Hollister?" I inquired as I walked up the steps into the store. Immediately, upon entering, I had to stop and stand still for a moment. Mind you, I wasn't struck by the majesty of the clothing displays. My eyes had to adjust to the dark. I thought for a moment I had accidentally entered a nightclub, but the lack of cigarette smoke tipped me to the fact that this was something different all together. The only illumination shining came from spot-lights strategically placed around the shop. The spot-lights focused on ratty, torn clothes. The shirts are three-sizes smaller than the size on the tag. The shorts for girls are beyond short. They could best be described as cotton bikini underwear. As I gained my bearings, I realized I was in a surf shop. I'm a Florida girl! I am familiar with surf shops! Numerous visits to Ron Jon's are memories from my youth. I fondly remember this little skirt I owned that was probably obscene for its time. It was a peach Jimmy Z wrap skirt that hooked by means of velcro at the waist. We had vans... We bought blocks of Sex Wax to chew in lieu of bubble gum. I know about surfing. I dated surfers. My brother was a skater. So, this was the modern-day surf shop. I should be in my element. But, gosh it was dark. I looked hopefully around and noticed that the girls were all thin and blond and beautiful. Dan and Sarah fit perfectly. I looked down at myself. I was wearing a sheer gypsy-style paisley shirt and crop pants. When I purchased the shirt at Sears, I thought it was really groovy. It expressed my bohemian tendencies. As I looked down at my shirt in Hollister, though, I was reminded of someone's grandmother. Slowly, a horrible realization was beginning to dawn on me. I'm not that young bikini-clad girl that strolled Cocoa and Daytona and occasionally rode in small waves on my boyfriend's surfboard. As the moment of clarity further descended upon me, the young, hot twenty-something boy sauntered over to me. I perked up momentarily until he asked, "Ma'm, can I help you find something?" I looked down at my grandma-clad body and humbly mumbled, "No, Dear... I'm just looking."

On a brighter note, Sarah's visit went well. Her lung functions have improved after two weeks of I.V. antibiotic. Her line was removed yesterday. We had a rougher time with this I.V. therapy because her mid-line went bad last week and we had to visit the E.R. to have a regular periferial line run. Still, she was able to finish her therapy. Dr. Sindel said she isn't as healthy as the PFT indicated in April, but that is somewhat of a blessing. She didn't qualify for the TIP study that Dan is currently enrolled in because her lung functions were too high. Now, Dr. Cowan is going to try to requalify her for the new drug study. We are excited and grateful for the possibility. Sarah is also more willing to participate in the study since she has seen what a great thing it has been for her sister.

Speaking of sisters... I would like to ask everyone to hold visions of perfect health and wellness for my dear sister, Micki. I don't want to say anymore at this time, but if you are reading this and you pray, please just take a moment to hold my sister in love and light.

I am taking an online class called "Unity for Today". It has been wonderfully enlightening. I would eventually like to go on to become a Licensed Unity Teacher. That means a lot more spiritual development on my end. I believe that God can use me... Even if I am just a grandma-shirt clad lady cruising surf shops in the dark.

~Namaste'~ Christy

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Need for Cloning

I was thinking yesterday that when I grow up, I want there to be two of me. So often, I just need to be more than one place at a time. I have so much to do. I have so many people I need to interact with in some way. The people in my life need me at all times! I am just so important.

Wednesday, I took the girls to CF clinic. I wasn't prepared for Dr. Sindel's verdict of I.V. meds for Sarah. We have all had a little cold and there had been a strange virus running around Summer Scholars. Still, I didn't think she was really that sick. However, after doing a pulmonary function test (PFT), and finding that her lung functions had fallen off significantly, he wanted to hospitalize her. Well, upon reflection, and after Sarah burst into tears, we decided to run her mid-line as an out patient procedure and do I.V. meds at home. This was an excellent plan. The only problem was that I was teaching Yoga, and the final day of the class was Friday, the same morning Sarah's mid-line was to be run. Parents were scheduled to come and participate in Yoga with their children.

I really needed to be with Sarah. I always stay with the girls when procedures are done. You see, I provide a spiritual, calming influence to soothe and nurture them through the trauma of the procedure. It's what I do. It's my role as CF Mom Extrodinaire.

But, I also really needed to be at the last day of my Yoga class. I knew that Kenna could handle it. She really did a wonderful job helping me teach the class. The point was that I needed to be there for the last day to provide some closure, not just for the students, but for me as well. The first week of Yoga, we focus on getting in touch with our own Divine nature. It is very much an individual process. The second week, we explore our connectivity to one another... The fact that as each of us has a spark of the Divine, we are truly One in Spirit. We had entered the journey together and I didn't want to end abruptly by just not being there on the last day.

I was in quite a quandry. I had no clear direction with what to do. But then, there was Dave. He is in grad school this summer, but he didn't have class that morning and was able to take Sarah to have her line placed. I wasn't sure he would be able to do it, since he is her step-dad. Generally, I sign all the medical paperwork. But, as it turned out, that really didn't matter. Sarah is fortunate enough to have four parents and I'm sure any one of us could seek medical care if we needed to do so. Still, don't miss the point. Remember, I needed to be there. Sarah needed me! She needed my calming influence... My "visualize yourself on the beach... relax and know that you are One with the One" treatment. Dave, while I love his discipline and sometimes autistic craving of routine, is not lovey, touchy, feely about things. He is more apt to say, "O.K. enough of this crap. Let's suck it up and get on with it."

Reluctantly, I decided Dave should take Sarah and I should attend my last day of class. I was a little preoccupied in class until I heard from them. Dave called to tell me everything went fine and they got the line on the first try. I was able to finish my class and clean up afterward. It was very anti-climactic. I spoke to Sarah and she said she did fine... Didn't even cry.

Kenna called last night to see how Sarah was doing. She said, "Hmm... Maybe you learned a lesson that maybe they can handle it without you." Ha! Don't be ridiculous. Of course they can't handle it without me. But maybe, just maybe, I'm not as important as I believe myself to be. Maybe if we are truly One in Spirit, there doesn't need to be more than one of me. Surely God can work through Dave and other people who don't do things the way I do. Perhaps that is what it means when God is described as Omnipotent and Omnipresent. God works through all people together, using each person's unique gifts and abilities for good.

Danielle is doing very well on the new TIP therapy. Her PFTs are higher than they have ever been. We are very excited about this new delivery method. I hope approval goes quickly through the FDA.

Perhaps all things are working together in ways that I don't understand. And, maybe I am understanding that I am important, but not so important that there needs to be two of me. Sometimes I think it might be O.K. for God's other children to step in and work together.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Yoga and the Cat Rescue Mission

I am currently engaged in my second year of teaching Summer Scholars Yoga. I absolutely love it. This year my friend Kenna is helping me. It has been wonderful. Kenna isn't a Yoga practitioner, but she has risen to the occasion beautifully. And, who knows? After this, maybe we will take a class together. That is the thing I love about Yoga. Everyone can do it and be successful at whatever level each individual is able to participate. The other thing I love is that I am absolutely mindful of God's presence and how I might be an instrument in helping others to get in touch with that. Of course, we are in public school, so we don't speak "directly" about God. But, each child is encouraged to find their own Spirit within to guide and direct them during Yoga practice. We do meditation activities involving focus and learning to turn the mind off and truly listen to guidance.

For quite a while in my life, I wanted to be a counselor. I even have a degree that says, "Counseling", but after a certain point, I no longer felt a need to pursue that avenue. Well, for one thing, every time I would try to stop teaching, God would shove me with two hands back into the classroom. So, for now, I have conceded that I am supposed to be a teacher. And, I definitely use the counseling degree daily in the capacity in which I work with students... Still, at some point I learned that "counseling", in the traditional sense, is not what ultimately helped me to become happy in my life. Seeking a personal relationship with the God of my understanding is the way I have come to know peace and contentment in my life. If you have read this blog, you know that I am certainly not peaceful and content all the time, but I know the way to get there.

My last blog radiated frustration about the girls not doing their vest and nebulizer in a timely manner. I wanted to take a moment to share the solution. Immediately after I wrote that, I read that I need to meet frustration and negatively with love. Thus, I have been going up with them each time they need to start their vest and helping them to get started. I help them put the vest on, put the meds in their nebulizer, start the vest, and turn on the nebulizer machine. Now, here is the key... I do it with an attitude of love. We have a moment of conversation. We have turned it into a little moment of togetherness. Will this help them to be independent and be able to go off to college and do their treatments on their own? I don't know the answer to that... The thing that I know is that I have peace in my home. I'm not screaming up the stairs. I'm not frustrated and threatening. We are all happier. I suppose I will just trust God with the independence at college problem. We have some time...

Dan has started the Tobramycin Inhalation Powder (TIP) therapy trials. So far, it has been great. It is a much quicker way to administer the drug. After only two days, she is completely cough-free. When she came back from Italy, her pulmonary functions were down, but after a week of vest therapy, she improved dramatically. Now, she will be on this trial drug for 28 days. So far, I have seen an even more marked improvement than when she uses the nebulized form of TOBI. It is wonderful!

Oh, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Mama Cat and her four kittens. About two weeks ago, Mom and I were riding down our street at night when I saw the tiniest little kitten on the side of the road. I asked Mom to stop and after getting out and inspecting the bushes, found a Mama Cat with four kittens. They were hungry, abandoned and flea infested. Mom, J.R. and I tramped down the road to give them some food and water. One thing led to another and the kittens and their Mama are now living in J.R.'s workshop. Yesterday, Danielle's friend, Kasey, came and adopted the one with no tail, the Manx. So, as of today, we have two kittens still looking for a home. Dave and I have agreed that Sarah can have one for her birthday. Mom and J.R. are going to keep Mama Cat. The summer cat rescue mission has been a great experience for the girls. If you would like to give a kitten a home, please let me know.

I wish you great love and happiness in your life today. ~Namaste'~ Christy

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Peace, The Vest and Nebulizers

It's easy to be really spiritual when I don't have to be around other people. The girls have returned home after ten days of being on vacation. When they were gone, while reading "There is a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem", I had conjured up all these ideas about how positive my parenting practices would be... How our home would be one of peace, love, and sunshine... How each day in our home would be a harmonious expression of God's love in action. I'm sure that it IS all those things, but it doesn't look like I envisioned. Don't get me wrong, we are glad to be back together. I missed them both terribly, but I am so glad that they got to go and have great fun on their respective trips. In their absence, I thought about how we could have more peace in our home. What most people don't know about our day to day family life is that every day is a repitition of medical treatments and medications. The girls get up in the morning and do therapy vest , breathing treatments, and take handfuls of pills. As a mom, I don't know any other way. Both my children were diagnosed with cystic fibrosis before birth, so this has been the way we have done things. For the girls, it is old. They resist. I insist. There is conflict.

I don't understand why they dawdle. Each girl will come up with every excuse in the world to postpone getting in the vest and doing the treatment. "It's Sarah's turn first... It's Dan's turn first..." (Part of this is the insurance company's responsibilty since they are currently denying paying for a second vest. They are treating the girls as if they are one entity and that is wholly unfair. It will change this year and be approved. More to come on that later.) Then, I hear, "Can I eat first?" During the school year, we have a rigorous routine, but in the summer, things are more lax. I let them sleep in from time to time. I'm not a complete treatment Nazi. But, make no mistake. There must always be a repitition of dialogue. "Have you started yet?" "I'm getting it!" Ten minutes later... "I don't hear it!" "I'm getting it!" "What number are you on?" The vest goes off after 10 minutes... The idea is that the vest user is supposed to take off the vest after 10 minutes, go cough and spit, and get back in the vest to do two other ten minute sessions. Needless to say, we don't do this. Once I get the little cherubs in the vest, they certainly aren't coming out of the thing. If they need to cough and spit during the process, I make a trash can available for their spitting pleasure. Otherwise, they can just do it after the 3rd session is complete.

The thing I try to remind myself of is that I don't have cystic fibrosis. I don't know how it feels to have to do the same series of treatments every day. I try to be compassionate. Still, it is frustrating for me. Even during times when they are having trouble breathing, they resist doing treatments, which will utimately make them feel better. I don't get the resistance. When I am especially frustrated, I think, "These children will have to live with me for the rest of their natural born lives or they won't ever get their treatments."

A behaviorist would say: Stop arguing with them. Allow them the natural consequence of their own behavior, or lack thereof, in this case. The natural consequence, however, in this case, is far too punitive in my mind. I want health and life abundant for my girls. Unfortunately, my wants are not theirs. They are children, and they are not able to see how their immediate action or inaction affects the big picture of their lives. I guess it doesn't necessarily have to do with the fact that they are children. Many adults opt for instant gratification over what is ultimately best for them.

So, what to do? What to do? I'm tired of the struggle. But, we are stuck, as a family. I asked for Dan to pray for the willingness to be willing. She is usually willing to go along on the spirtual journey with me to see where it will lead. Sarah generally gets dragged along on the spiritual journey, but she is usually willing toward the end.

Yesterday, we went to Pulmonary Associates to see Dr. Tony Cowan. He is a researcher. The girls were asked to participate in a study for a new method of administering TOBI. Initially, Sarah was resistant to participating because the study requires blood levels to be taken. However, after talking to her and explaining that if other patients before her hadn't agreed to studies like this, we wouldn't have the medications that we have now that help them live healthy lives, she agreed. Interestingly, though, after all the discussion necessary and the tears that preceded the discussion, Sarah did not qualify for the the study because her pulmonary function tests were too good. Dan qualified for the study. But, in looking at the data, Dr. Sindel saw that her functions have fallen during her trip to Italy. She was very healthy before she left, but being without the vest never works well for Dan. She did Acapella, but it is never as effective as the vest. She also coughed up a little blood yesterday, but it seemed to be a one time thing. Dr. Sindel left and instructed me to bring her in Monday, the 12th if she isn't better, and Monday, the 19th if she is better. This weekend will be a healing weekend to allow consistent therapy to restore her health. If she isn't better, she may need I.V. antibiotics, which would disqualify her from the TOBI study for a while.

At any rate, here I sit with all of this and spiritual questions... I have been reading about energy vibrations, prayer and meditation. I have been submersed in daily meditation practice. Becoming one with the One, if you will. All of this in absence of the girls. And, here I sit, still trying to figure it out. The truth is, it can't be figured out. It is up to God. All of it is up to God and that should be good enough for me. What is my role? How can I bring peace to my own family? It is easy to give fried chicken to strangers. It is difficult to bring peace to my own family members who don't necessarily do what I think they should, when I think they should. My family doesn't always cooperate with me with my talk of speaking it to the Universe and visualizing healing light flowing to every cell in the body, and my strangeness and my yoga practices. They want to do it their own way. And, surely, that is O.K. too.

~Namaste'~ Christy

Sunday, June 04, 2006

An Instrument of Peace Bearing Fried Chicken

I'm reading Wayne Dyer's book, There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem". I am thoroughly enjoying it. Summer is such a great time for me to recharge my spiritual battery. This book is wonderful in that it gives practical suggestions for how to put in practice the ideas outlined in the St. Francis Prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant thtat I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

~Saint Francis of Assisi

The coolest thing is that Dan is in Italy right now. They went to Assisi on their first full day. She was able to go to Saint Francis' chapel. She called me from there and assured me that she is bringing me something magical because Mimi says everything from there is magical. Mom and J.R. are there and having a wonderful time too.

Right now, I am on the explanation of the very first line, "Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace." Yesterday, I stayed home all day to wait for the auditor from the MS Grant Program and a furniture delivery. The auditor arrived early in the morning and took care of all of that business quickly and efficiently. We qualify for a large grant and I am feeling so blessed at the inflow of prosperity. The furniture delivery guys were a different story. They called at 1:30 and told me that they would arrive around 3:00. In actuality, they didn't arrive until after 5:00. It wasn't a big deal, as I really didn't have anywhere special to go anyway. Dave and I got to spend the afternoon together and I always enjoy times when we just get to be together. Still, as the day wore on, we were curious as to whether our end tables and meditation table were to be delivered at all. I went ahead with dinner. Dave made bruschetta and I fried chicken wings. The house was really smelling delicious when the furniture delivery men arrived. One of the guys commented on how good it smelled in the house. So, as I was standing over the stove, I thought I should give them some chicken. When the guy came back to have Dave sign the paperwork I asked if he would like a piece. He indicated he would like one, so I asked how many men were with him and served a piece for each delivery man. He seemed very grateful.

It occurred to me afterward that these are the principles outlined in the book I'm reading... The delivery men had probably been working their tails off all day. They arrived at my house after 5:00 when they were supposed to arrive at 3:00. Probably they aren't being greeted with loving kindness when they arrive two hours late. So, I was able to send them a little peace through fried chicken. Afterall, in my mind, goodwill and fried chicken wings are synonymous.

Sarah called last night too. She is white water rafting with her dad. Go to ~ Go to photos and click June 3, 2:00 trip (view all) to see her. It is great that she has Randy and Kristine, because nothing even remotely appeals to me about careening boldly down rapids. Sarah loved it, though. She said her dad fell out of the boat. Thankfully, they must have had a guy with a big hook to fish him out.

I'm teaching Summer Explorers for three days next week. Then, starting June 19th, I get to teach Summer Scholars: Yoga. I am so excited. I absolutely loved it last year. This year will be an adventure because my partner teacher is my dear friend, Kenna. Kenna is not a yoga practitioner and one might be generous in saying that she can be a little high strung. Still, I am grateful that she wanted to help because it really isn't a class that needs to be taught by just one person. We will do lots of hands-on activities in addition to practicing traditional yoga asanas (poses). I'm excited because Kenna will bring her wonderful energy and enthusiasm, and hopefully I will bring peace, centeredness and promote a connection to each individual's connection to the Divine. Wouldn't it be interesting if our roles reversed?

Dave has started working for Pascagoula now. He is doing weight room duty every day while he gears up for summer school. He will graduate in August with his Master's in administration. Who knows what exciting opportunities that will bring? For this coming year, he is looking forward to teaching some sort of math and coaching the Pascagoula Panthers. Mind you, Dan will be performing in the Gautier Gators marching band at the same time Dave coaches the Panthers to victory, so our family won't see each other on Fridays except for the first game when the Gators play the Panthers. Quite a delimma in the football world. But, since I was reared in a completely non-competitive fashion, it doesn't bother me in the slightest.

I just returned from Norman, Oklahoma, where I visited my wonderful friend, Michelle. Michelle and I taught preschool together at the YMCA years ago in Virginia Beach. Now, she runs the Early Childhood Development program at OU. (Go Sooners) I was able to visit with Michelle and her family for about three days. It was great seeing her again. I got to go to work with her each day, which I enjoyed tremendously. She has a preschool program each day, with college students present learning how to teach. Her program is fully inclusive and children with disabilities are entirely integrated into the program. It was so exciting for me to be able to play and work with the children. She has three students affected with varying degrees of autistic spectrum disorder. I so enjoyed interacting with the kids and giving the student teachers little tips and tricks of methodologies that might be helpful.

I also got to know Michelle's children, Chantal and Rainy. Chantal is a lot like Sarah. She is fiercely independent and fiery. For Chantal, life is a play and she is the star. Everything is very dramatic. But, being around her gives a feeling of being able to star in the show as a cameo. That was fun. Rainy is thoughtful and inquisitive. He so impressed me when we were talking in the car and he said, "Fun Friday, that is an example of alliteration." I wanted to drag him back to school with me and show him to my fourth graders. Michelle didn't acquire her children in the typical way. There are still court sessions to be attended and legal documents to be signed. Still, the children are hers and Sterling's, nonetheless. Just like my favorite story, "Horton Hatches the Egg", Michelle and Sterling have been faithful and reared the children. They have given of themselves and it is evident in the spirit the children present to the world. It was nice to see "nurture" winning in the longstanding argument of "nature vs. nurture".

We are headed to church this morning. I'm looking forward to more opportunities to be an instrument of peace. I probably won't be bearing chicken today, but maybe something else. Maybe just a smile, a kind word or thought, or whatever happens to present itself at the time.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Ode to Mom But Not As Poetic As Intended

Most people who know me would be shocked to know that I am sitting here at a loss for words. I decided to sit down and type a wonderful "Ode to My Mom" or something that would serve as a fitting tribute. The thing is that I find myself not even knowing where to start.

Yesterday, my whole family, (the divorced side too), gathered to see Sarah perform at her dance recital. She was wonderful. Sarah really has a natural rhythm and energy about her that is infectious. Of course, Mom was there too. At dance recitals, for those who are uninformed about such matters, you don't just watch your child, you watch a whole show of all the children performing in their area of dance. Costumes, music, make-up... It is a whirl of activity! The children were all wonderful. The director had even put together a "Daddy-dance" in which dad's came out and performed with their little ones. It was the cutest thing ever. But, perhaps the thing that entertained me more was Mom's hysterical laughter while watching the little pre-school and kindergarten children perform. She was in stitches. Just because you put a fancy little costume on a child, do their hair, and make them look more precious than anyone could imagine, does not mean children are going to do what they are choreographed to do. Mom takes such delight in that... She loves to watch the children "dancing to their own beat".

I think one of the things I have grown to admire most about Mom in recent years, is her new-found ability to let us dance to our own beat. Sometimes, I'm sure that she isn't as delighted as she was when she was watching the pre-schoolers, but she honors our path and allows us to do whatever we need to do. She rejoices in our successes and prays for us throughout our struggles. Don't get me wrong. Mom isn't meek and mild. She has definite opinions about things. But, usually, she just gives her opinion and lets us make our own decisions.

Growing up, Mom was perfect. She was Supermom with a capital "S". My brother and I were always involved in different things. I took dance as a child, and before the storm I'm sure we had the pictures to prove it. I can remember a little picture of myself in a red polka-dotted costume. My hair was pulled up in curls on top of my head and I was posing for the world. There were also photos to memorialize all of our activities. My brother and I played baseball and softball, soccer, and tried basketball. Mom was in the PTA; she was on the board of the sports league; she owned the preschool we attended; she worked as a Title I assistant at our elementary school... In short, we were the center of her world.

Because of my mom, I have a fabulous sense of who and what I am. Even before our family had embraced a spiritual life, I always knew I was Divinely created. Mom cherished us so much that she related that unspoken message in everything we did.

Sometimes we were so cherished, it was aggravating. She had to know where we were at all times. We weren't allowed to do things other kids did. We were forced to talk to her about stuff. If something was going on with one of us, she wouldn't leave us alone to go stew about it privately, we had to get it out in the open. Even now, she still says, "Let's get it out in the open and let God's light shine on it."

Mom is traveling to Texas this month to watch her eldest grandchild (my neice)graduate from high school. Then, she and J.R. will be returning to take Danielle on a trip to Italy. I am so very excited for her. She loves doing things for and with her grandchildren. She has always had a dream of going to Italy and I am so glad that the opportunity materialized for her. God is truly wonderful.

Interestingly, Mom now has a different type of teaching position. She is the teacher at the Youth Court. When kids get in to trouble for a variety of infractions, they get to go see my mom. The other day, I was in Subway ordering a sandwich. Mom came up to meet me because she was taking Danielle to eat and needed enzymes. (We generally all carry an abundant supply of enzymes... I don't know where her supply was that day.) Anyway, the teenager behind the counter saw my mom and noticed that I was talking to her. He asked, "Do you KNOW her?"

I replied, "Sure. She is my mom."

His eyes got really wide and he said, "I met her at Youth Court after I got into trouble. She talked to me."

I just nodded and winked at him. "Yeah, imagine growing up with her as your mom." He looked awed, fearful and envious all at the same time.

I called Mom over and she had a pleasant conversation with him. He said he was staying out of trouble.

I'll bet he is... Having to have the type of conversation that he did with my mom is not an experience he is likely to forget soon. Both girls have said if they get into trouble and have to go to Youth Court, they would prefer to be transported directly to prison.

What is so terrible about Mom's conversations? Well, it is her ability to see the spark of the Divine within each person. Then she is able to let the "offender" know, in no uncertain terms, that he/she is not living up to Divine potential. The shame, guilt and remorse is a killer. I was a little wild as a teenager, so I have some experience with these types of conversations. [Insert mischeivious wink here.]

The talks, the involvement, the interaction with my mom have made me into the person I am today. I hold no illusions of granduer. I know I don't measure up to Mom. I won't ever wash my children's shoelaces weekly or whip out a Halloween costume on the sewing machine. I just can't rise to that level. But, her love and nurturing have helped me to become a Mom who can make sure her children get treatments and get ready for softball games at the same time. I can flush I.V.'s in the car on the way to the mall. I can stay up giving treatments when Sarah is having an allergy attack and finally dope her up with Dimetapp when we just can't take it anymore and all need to sleep.

When Dan was in fourth grade, she had a problem with a little boy in class. Since I work at her school, I pulled her out in the hallway, gave her a hug, wiped her tears and said, "Honey, I think you are old enough to learn a very important life lesson now..." Dan looked at me expectantly and I told her, "Some people are just
a--holes." She laughed and I laughed and it helped her get through the day. It has become a joke in our family and I was able to share the same bit of spiritual wisdom with Sarah last week when some of the girls in her class were mean to her.

This has become rambling and long... It isn't the flowery "Ode to My Mom" that she deserves. Still, I just thank her for making that commandment about honoring your mother incredibly easy for me.