snuggling with words

Back in the days before the internet I was a letter-writing maniac.

I wrote letters to friends like it was my side job; letters on note paper, on stationary, on napkins, on balloons. I was all about the lengthy, hard-to-read handwritten letter full of details about what I’d been up to, how I felt, all that I hoped for, and on and on. I wrote letters to friends who lived far away and friends who I saw everyday in school. I wrote because I loved connecting and it felt good to share how I felt with my friends and because maintaining friendships required keeping in touch and checking in and I wrote because I loved the feeling of getting a letter in return.

I was one of those kids that ran to the mailbox everyday.

Now I just get bills. And election flyers. And Crate and Barrel catalogs. And more Crate and Barrel catalogs. And bills.

While digging around in the attic at my dad’s house a few weeks back I found a shoebox of old letters. I found a postcard my dad had sent me at camp, a note my mom wrote in her beautiful cursive to me while I was laid up in the hospital in Russia, a card my niece drew when she was just three years old, a letter my brother wrote to me when I was in high school and missing him. I found a letter that I had written to my grandmother when I was in first grade that she had tucked into a book that I kept when she died, a card from my grandpa in his scribbly handwriting, a letter folded into a tiny square from our dear Kerwin who died too young.

Treasures.

In this digital age, those tangible handwritten treasures are few and far between. We tweet, we text, we facebook, we email. We delete.  We quickly read and quickly dash off notes but we keep in touch. We cyber-snuggle. We share. We check in. Though I no longer have a shoebox full of proof, when my phone beeps that I have a text or I see an email from an old friend in my inbox, I feel that same   feeling I would get when I’d peek into our mail basket and see familiar handwriting on an envelope back in the day.

Happiness that someone is thinking of me. Privileged that someone chose me to share their thoughts with. Joy in connecting with another.

Letter, note, card, text, tweet, inbox message…connecting is what it’s all about.

It feels good to reach out and to be reached out to.

Nothing can delete that feeling.

xoxo

 

 

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sawubona: i see you

I waited 23 minutes at the dentist today.

The hygienist offered me a magazine but the pickings were slim so I opted to look out the window instead. The reclining chair left me just right with a perfect view of the slanted slate roof and a big old tree outside. In that 23 minutes I saw four different kinds of birds.

Framed by the antique window, I saw them through a different lens. A little bird with a bright yellow breast hopped along the peak in the roof. A robin with something stuck in it’s feathers fluttered and fluffed and fretted before flying away. A crow popped in with a crooked smile and was gone in an instant, surely up to something. A cardinal landed gently on a limb and stayed just long enough for me to marvel at his red feathers. Just before the dentist came in I remembered that these little magical creatures can fly!

Birds. Holy smokes. They are kind of amazing. And they’re all around us and we see them all of the time but, it’s been years since I remembered how freaking cool they are, how resilient, how resourceful, how high they can fly.

How many other amazing things in my life have just become so much a part of the day-to-day, part of the normal, part of the giant blur of all that is around me that I forget to really see them?

Just as the crow disappeared, I thought of my students at school.

I thought of my seniors, kids that I have seen every day for seven years. Kids that I have lost sleep over, kids that have struggled through things that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, kids that have risen above grief and trauma and loss and poverty and gossip and failures, kids that have it all, kids that have a little and share like they have a lot, kids that stopped being kids long before they should have had to. I thought of all they have gone through to get to this very moment.

And while these seven years with them have all blurred together, on Saturday as they received their diplomas, as they looked me in the eye on their way off the stage, as they tossed their caps in the air, I saw each of them.

I remembered how freaking cool they are, how resilient, how resourceful, how high they can fly.

crazy, stupid, mindfulness

Yesterday I had one of those days.

You know, one of those days where no matter what you do, nothing goes your way? Yup, that was my Tuesday.

I had a pinched nerve in my neck. I woke up an hour late. I rushed to work, arriving late, only to walk into a big, ugly girl-fight as I came off of the elevator. Decided that my pinched-nerve-self needed to break up the fight, which then left me all shaky and freaked out. I got my haircut and couldn’t pay because in all of my rushing, I grabbed the wrong bag and forgot my wallet.

Stupid day.

Nothing horrible. Just stupid.

A stupid day every once in a blue moon is good for me. It brings me back to the moment. It makes me remember that all of my busy, crazy, rushing, overworking, nuttiness is just that: busy and crazy and nutty. No matter how much I try to control things and put everything in its place, I’m still going to have a ridiculous day every now and then. There will always be things that just don’t go the way I want them to go.

And so?

I breathe. Deeply.

I slow down.

I call someone who will marvel at how tired I must have been to sleep through my alarm clock blaring for an hour. I call someone who will laugh at the image of me jumping into a fight and pulling some angry girls (and a 40 year old!) off of each other. I call someone who will tell me that it’s okay to take the battery out of my butt and just relax.

And then, once I’ve stopped? I see what has been in front of me all along.

This moment.

Pretty freaking amazing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“What day is it?” asked Pooh.

“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.

“My favorite day,” said Pooh.”

– A. A. Milne

queen of sheba

We live in a shiny world.

There’s a whole lot of bling and bright lights and stages and soap-boxes. There are folks that everybody knows and whose voices are louder and whose connections are deeper and who wind up all superfabulous in the spotlight. There are people who get a lot of love for something wonderful they’ve accomplished or for their brilliant ideas or for their athletic talent. In some cases, this is good stuff; I’m all about sending emotional bling to the Desmond Tutus of the world! (In some cases, this is not so good; I mean, really, why so much attention for the Kardashian sisters?)

It’s easy to admire those that have light shining on them.

Today, however, is all about sending a shout-out to all the people in the world who do amazing things, every single day, and never get the shine.

It’s about spreading a little bit of that light to the custodian at school whose day begins as mine is ending, who cleans up after hundreds of teenagers with a wide grin on his face and remembers everyone’s birthday. To the security guard in my building who works two jobs to pay for his wife’s medical bills and gives me a hard time about basketball. To my student who, even though the spotlight tries to shine on him, finds ways to focus the light on his teammates. To my dear friend who left a comfortable job to take on a crazy challenge at a new school with no resources, who is making significant change in the lives of the kids she is working with and still manages to go home and be a mom to three little hooligans all while going to school at night. To my dad who is simply kind, all of the time, to everyone he meets.

These people don’t do what they do because they want to be acknowledged. They are rocking out and changing the world with their integrity because it’s just who they are. That doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be acknowledged; some recognition might feel good and encourage them to be even kinder, even more industrious, even more real. And how great would the world be if the great ones became even greater?!

Part of what makes them so great is that they don’t realize how great they really are.

Shiny bling is cool! But all of the humble-rockstars in the shadows? Now, they are the truly fabulous and spotlight-worthy.

Today, remember to snuggle the people who do it all for the love.

ms. fat booty

I need a personal drill-sergeant.

I need a relentless voice who will reach through my alarm clock, shake me awake and stay up in my face until I take some serious action.

Two mornings in a row I have set my alarm for 5:30 with the great intention of waking up, working out and feeling like a fabulous hot mama for the rest of the day. Instead, for two mornings in a row, I have hit the snoozer every ten minutes for an hour and spent the rest of the day cursing myself for being a lazy sloth.

Years ago, without a drill-sergeant, I hiked in high altitudes to Machu Picchu for hours and hours, steep mountain passes and treacherous down-hill climbs, all the while marveling at how incredible it was that my body could do this, that my body had brought me to such a beautiful place. Maybe it was altitude-delirium, but I remember being able to see myself, as if I was outside of my own body, hiking along a narrow pass, in total awe that the person doing this was me: complete mind-body-spirit balance-bliss.

The whole mind-body-spirit thing is completely out of whack for me right now.

I take care of my spirit like it’s my job: I surround myself with great people, I rest when I need to, I write, I meditate, I knit, I laugh and carry on and make sure that my soul is well-fed.

I take good care of my mind: I work in an environment that challenges me, I take classes to push myself to learn more, I read a ton and I don’t shy away from a hearty debate.

But for some reason, no matter how much I know it’s good for me on all sorts of levels, I am struggling to take care of my body. I have completely strayed from what I know that I need.

Going to the gym is torture for me. Last year I got into a fitness-DVD routine that I was hooked on for awhile but now if I go near the TV to put the DVD on, I have the uncontrollable urge to put my hand through the screen and choke the smiling, muscly guy who keeps telling me to push myself a little harder. I have fallen into a rut of lazing on the couch and amassing a stockpile of excuses for why I can’t exercise.

What is holding me back from doing what is good for me?

I love how I feel when I go for a long power walk, when I ride my bike with my dad, when I Zumba/laugh-my-self-silly and when I practice yoga. I feel beautiful. Strong. I feel energized and positive and like I can do anything.

When I take care of my body, I remind myself that the imperfect parts of myself serve a wonderful purpose and are really quite fantastic.

So maybe mornings aren’t for me, but it’s time to nurture Ms. Fat Booty.

I may not be climbing a mountain anytime soon, but that balanced-bliss, feeling fabulous about myself thing?

I’m ready.

stress pudding

Yesterday I almost drowned in a sea of paper.

I was at my desk plodding through mounds of work when, all of a sudden, I couldn’t breathe. Literally. I was struck breathless by stress.

You have to know that I’ve been floating along this year on a calm sea of cold-chilling, chocolate-pudding happiness. Even in the moments that I knew the water beneath me was deep, I was blissfully swimming along, making progress while ignoring the circling sharks.

And then, yesterday, I got caught in some weird undertow and was suddenly swallowing gallons of water, spitting and spurting, my eyeballs bulging, arms flailing all in the name of stress.

Everyone knows that flailing when you are drowning just makes things worse. But when you’re drowning, you bug out; all rational thought goes out the window.

Yesterday, I was flailing. I sat at my desk, rummaging aimlessly through piles of paper, talking to myself, gasping for air. Until I finally admitted to myself that I was overwhelmed.

As soon as I confessed to myself that I was, indeed, stressed, a life-raft arrived.

My friends.

Friends who just listened. Friends who gave me long hugs. Friends who reminded me that I dont have to do everything myself. Friends who told me to go home and take a nap.

I count on my friends all of the time to help me put things into perspective. They help me remember how to swim around sharks and to stop every now and then for a breather.

I am no good to anyone when I’m drowning. So that pile of papers? A great reminder that I need to nurture myself. I need to do right by my self. I need to listen to my body when it tells me it’s tired, listen to my soul. I need to care for my self with the same gusto with which I care for others.

Yesterday was a bummer.

Today?

Today I took the time to thank each of the friends that helped me through yesterday. Spending that moment with each of them made my today even better. Today I put music on in my office and rocked out while I made my way through the piles. I asked for help with what felt like too much and let go of everything having to be just so. I laughed. A lot.

I talked about what was contributing to my stress and the processing with friends helped me move through the muck back into a space of calm.

Today, thanks to my friends, I was swimming in the chocolate pudding with long, even strokes.

Mmmmmmmm chocolate pudding.

l*ve, h@pe and other four letter words

I swear like a sailor.

Despite my mother’s attempts to instill in me a fabulous vocabulary with which to express myself in times of strife, I have been known to curse like a truck-driver who’s stuck in traffic with an empty tank of gas.

It feels good! It’s verbal release! And in those moments when I struggle to be brave enough to articulate how I really feel, swearing does the job. I’m pretty good at censoring myself, I do work with kids all day, so I’ve gotten pretty good at leaving out the ugliness. I do not insert bleeps, I just find more appropriate words to express myself. But there’s just something about the throwing down a curse that provides emphasis like no other word; it’s an exclamation point!

The first time I ever got caught swearing I was 8 years old. I had good reason, I was being dragged by the rope-tow up a mountain. One ski was left ten feet behind me, the other was twisting my leg into some inhumane position. I’d taken my mittens off at the bottom as I was sweating from being nervous; I now had the beginnings of rope burn on my palms and still had half the hill left to be dragged up.

I didn’t say it loudly. Just above my breath. But WOW. It felt good. It felt daring. It also was louder than I thought because my mother, who was standing in front of me, heard it pop out. She whipped around and grabbed me by my rope-burned hand, pulled me off of the rope tow and proceeded to lecture me about my language right there on the bunny hill. Embarrassing yes, but enough to scare the swears right out of me, no.

So when a dear friend sent an update a while back about the status of her husband’s cancer, I responded to her email with the classic F-bomb. That was just how I felt. I didn’t really give it much thought.

It didn’t do anything, my swear-word. It didn’t help. No relief; not for me, not for my friend, not for her amazing husband. It just sat there like an undetonated grenade.

My friend gracefully responded that they had surely uttered their fair-share of F-bombs but, given their circumstances, had decided that there were much better four-letter words for them to focus on.

I don’t recall much of what my mom said on the bunny hill that day, just that as she turned to ski away, she looked me dead in the eye and proclaimed, “So Negative!” and left me sitting there, unable to move, in the snow.

So while saying certain words does give release, relief, or even invoke a response, it doesn’t change anything. Negativity doesn’t provide a solution. As Martin Luther King, Jr. so beautifully said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

The light I intended to shine that day for my friend was lost in dark words. What I meant to say was, “I love you. I wish I had something magical to help you through this challenge. I am in awe of you and your strength, your optimism, your ability to still be there for others when you are going through so much.” I meant to say, “Thank you. Thank you for reminding me about what is important.”

So today, I’m moving forward with the intention to choose my four-letter words with more wisdom. Today, to my friends, I say LOVE, HOPE, PRAY, WISH, SING, KISS, REST and STAR-WARS (okay, it’s hyphenated, so what!?).

Words have power.

Choose wisely.

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