February 5, 2019

A reflection on a month of my OLW: Lift.

Today I’ve been considering why we call so many of the things that lift us “the little things.” Is it that they are often surprising, small moments of beauty, clarity, or wonder? Does the fleeting nature of seeing a gorgeous sunset, a pair of cardinals, or a soaring red shouldered hawk qualify the experience as little? Certainly for me, the lift from such things is anything but little.

And what about words that lifted me today? Nothing earth shattering. I was walking on the bike path and am used to the “passing on the left” warnings, but then a biker passed and said, “Good evening.” There was a musical quality to his voice. I replied the same. A moment in time. A kind exchange. A lift.

On my walk, walkers and riders passed me frequently since it was unseasonably warm (74 degrees in February in Virginia!) and I heard Korean, French, German, and Spanish. Languages are so lovely to hear, even when you can’t understand.

I’m grateful for all that lifts me. I hope I lifted others as they went through their day. I told a student that his persistence was impressive. When I asked if he knew the word “impressive,” he tried really hard not to show the pride he felt inside. He is a 2nd grader who tries to be “cool.” He’s a capable, natural learner. I look forward to watching him grow.

I thanked a colleague for giving me needed reminders twice today. She saved me some embarrassment and the day was better because of her. I like the quote below, and know the inverse is also true: I am lifted when others rise.

famous-quotes-about-helping-others-quote-addicts-915118

Image from Google Images

 

January 29, 2019

My friend, Sally, challenged me to accept Kwame Alexander’s writing prompt, “Love is…”

So here is a draft of my attempt:

 

Love is complicated.

As my friend sits at her mother’s bedside

waiting

I think of how unique each death is, just as individual as each new life.

Love is how we live between our birth and death.

 

Love is hard; yet

Love is multiplicative.

Two become seven

Then seven become twenty-four.

The heart makes room for more.

 

Love is messy.

when all your clothes have spit-up stains on them.

when your house is an eruption of toys every afternoon by five.

when your heart breaks again

and again.

 

Love is healing.

Making the complicated simple.

Softening the hardened edges.

Love is remembering the mess

and longing for more.

January 22, 2019

Like so many others, I mourn the loss of Mary Oliver, poet. Her poems have lifted me more times than I can count. She changed the way I view the natural world and showed me how to attend to the small things, but to never take them for granted. She said that attention is the beginning of devotion. Her writing has brought me solace, fed my longing, and delivered beauty time after time. I am deeply grateful to her and her daily habit of walking and writing. This outwardly simple habit has rippled out to bless the world. It’s a habit I’m working to develop in my own small way.

Such was the day, not too long ago, when I was walking in my neighborhood and saw a sycamore ball precariously hanging from a thin branch of a shrub I couldn’t name. It caught my eye. I looked up to search for a nearby sycamore, but didn’t see one. I wondered how far the wind had carried this seedglobe and how it happened to drop at just the right speed to be snagged on this twig on this day when I would be passing by. How long would it dangle there, safe from the woodland squirrels, chickadees, finches, and juncos? It was like a holiday ornament on the red-berried branch to decorate the gray day.

img_8348

January 15, 2019

maggie's dress

More than two years ago, I set a goal to sew my granddaughter a dress. I’m not quite sure why this became a burning desire, but it might have to do with some complications around sewing I experienced growing up.

Until I was seven or eight, my mother made most of my clothes. We had Sunday dresses and school dresses. Just enough for a week of school. I always felt pretty in the dresses Mama made. My favorites were a blue organdy dress with ribbon trim and a red-and-white gingham dress with a round, white collar trimmed with red rickrack. I wore it on the first day of first grade.

My sisters began sewing in their teens and soon took over making many of my clothes since I was the youngest. I remember loving a navy corduroy dress with a square “sailor” collar. Another dress was blue with a white collar, red insets in the two box pleats, and red piping. I had a matching hat with a ribbon down my back. I wore this outfit to walk across the stage as the High School Choir performed “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” from the Broadway show, “Gigi.”

In 7th grade, it was my turn to learn to sew. It was a DISASTER. I couldn’t sew a straight seam, nor could I visualize how pattern pieces fit together. I had no ability to solve problems of fit; my sleeves always puckered; and having very little chest at the time, darts were a joke. I felt ashamed that I couldn’t sew. It seemed like a rite of passage that I was failing at. So I turned away from even trying (lacking growth mindset for sewing) and focused on piano. We discovered many years later that there were REASONS I couldn’t sew, not the least of which involved my teachers making assumptions about what I already knew. That’s another story.

50 years later, I wanted to try again. Maybe at this time of life the stakes are lower. So I took my time. I sewed until that anxious feeling bubbled up. Then I stopped. A few days later, I gave it another go. I thought about the little steps that I COULD do until I was brave enough to try the part I wasn’t sure I could do. I have worked on this one little dress for a month and it has made me happy on so many levels.

All that is left is to sew the buttons on. Maggie will have a new dress for spring and I’m a happy grandma who pushed back at an old feeling of failure and was mostly successful. There’s just one little part that I did backwards, but unless you’re my sister, you wouldn’t know.

 

January 1, 2019

In March, 2014, I began the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge for the first time. Over the last few years, I have marveled at the impact this writing community has had on my life. I am so grateful to those who have helped me grow through the writing they have shared and through reading and responding to my writing. HAPPY NEW YEAR to each of you!

It was through this community that I began the practice of choosing One Little Word (OLW) for each year beginning in 2015. That year my word was remember. These are some of the things I wanted to work on remembering that year:

Remember to write.
Remember to practice and practice some more.
Remember to forgive.
Remember to laugh and give hugs.
Remember my parents, brother, and sisters.
Remember to exercise.
Remember to eat healthy food and drink water.
Remember my children.
Remember my grandchildren.
Remember to read every day. (That’s the easiest one.)
Remember to pay the bills, answer email, take out the trash, get rid of clutter, and all the other things that fill the to-do list that keep me from remembering the things I really want to remember.
Remember to look for beauty.
Remember the kindness of friends.
Remember to be a kind friend.
Remember to listen.
Remember childhood.
Remember those in need, which is pretty much all of us.

In 2016, my OLW was nourishI was struggling that year to balance work and family. It seemed that I was feeling depleted. Nourish was a concept that helped me achieve more balance. I’m still working on that. I started to try to read and write more poetry that year and found so many beautiful poems to feed my soul.

The next year, I chose walk. I loved thinking about all the ways walk is meaningful. Here are a few desires I had in January, 2017 with my OLW:

I want to walk physically for a healthier body and clearer mind on familiar and unfamiliar paths. I want to walk peacefully with my family and friends. I want to walk softly, with awareness of the feelings of others.  I want to walk resolutely toward new learning and growth in my walk as teacher and learner. I want to walk gratefully for all that is good.

Then, for 2018, listen was my word. Perhaps this word, more than the others, had the greatest impact to bring about change in my relationships, my work, and my heart. I tried very hard this past year to listen hard before I jumped into conversations, or tried to fix problems, or reacted to situations. I practiced listening for what was said and what was not said. I still need to practice this.

Considering a OLW for 2019, this year I want to continue remembering, nourishing, walking, and listening. To these, I will add lift. There may be some who see this as a word of privilege, a word that positions one to have power in order to lift. I understand that, but I see lift as a word of hope. I want to be the kind of person who lifts another’s burden, lifts a child’s feelings of worth, or lifts my voice against injustice. I will lift my eyes to try to see more clearly.

In 2018, I had a few months of pretty intense illness. I was so grateful for those who gave me a lift. Some lifted me physically; others lifted me emotionally. Some lifted my belongings so I didn’t have to. Some lifted my workload until I had more strength. Some lifted a hand to comfort me. These are the lifts we offer each other as human beings.

May 2019 be a year where we seek to lift one another. I will try to do my part.

November 27, 2018

I’m beginning again as everyone who writes must.
My desire to write is like a hardy pansy that survives through winter.
The cold presses in
As leaves and blossoms hunker down and hold on.

My will to write falters,
but tonight
I wrestle and push back against
the trembling quiet.