Friday, January 28, 2011


The calm of the hot water

Gently brings me back to life.

The gloriously scented shampoo lather

Cleanses my tresses, renews my spirit.

Soap bar in hand, steam gathering,

The day's worries, trials, washed away.

A body cleansed, a mind relieved.

Skin flush with warmth, face glowing.

The daily opportunity to begin again:

A refreshed, restored version of myself.

The reward after the liberating run,

The reprieve at the day's end.

Refreshed?  Tell us how!  Check out Melissa's Six Word Fridays at Making Things Up.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Crossing the finish line...
Turkey Trot, Thanksgiving Day 2010
About six months ago, with a mere suggestion and an urge to do something different, I decided to start training for a half marathon. I have never been athletic in my entire life. I thought I could help out a worthy cause and challenge myself out of the tightly drawn box I had created around myself.

Little did I know what these six months would bring.

And how that decision would truly challenge me in ways yet unknown.

I did not know the strength I held within myself. I did not know that I could train my body to raise at un-Godly hours, in equally un-Godly temperatures (no eye-rolling Mid-Westerners and North Easterners. 40 degrees is COLD in Florida!)

But now, the half marathon is a mere six days away. I am nervous. I am excited.

I am changed.

I set out to do something I thought was impossible six months ago. The thought of raising over $1700 was terrifying. The notion that I could make my legs run for 13.1 miles was inconceivable.

Yet, here we are. Nearing the end of one goal, embarking on the start of other ones.

One half marathon in six days. A 5k in two weeks. Another half marathon four weeks from now. And plans for yet another half marathon before the end of the year.

Yet another piece falls in place in this puzzle that is my life.

Had I not had this all encompassing task, I surely would have handled my dear mother in law's cancer with a bit less humor and a whole lot of anxiety. At least for me, nothing makes me feel better and change my perspective than keeping busy, preferably with something such as this, that makes me oh-so uncomfortable, AND helps others.

So dear readers, I am in the final countdown. I am mentally preparing packing lists, have decorated my team shirt and am constantly encouraged by three little guys who totally rock my world. Those three little guys who make me want to work harder at being the person they think I am.

Slowly but surely, I am getting there.

Hopefully, I will cross that finish line Sunday morning without dissolving into tears, with a time that I can be proud of. And then, I can take the next step, into the next chapter, knowing that I can do just about anything.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Warming my days...

Your little hand within my own.

Your sparkling eyes speak volumes, baby.

Nothing makes me feel more loved

Than the sight of you running;

Arms outstretched, smile radiating, eyes aglow.

The music of your contagious laughter

Hopelessly shames the summer sun's warmth.

You and your brothers; my everything.

You boys, the source of my existence.

I am irrevocably devoted, completely humbled

By the magnitude of this love.

What warms your heart?  Check out Melissa at Making Things Up for more on Six Word Fridays!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Insecurity Blanket

If you met me in my element, it would be hard to notice the wondrously heavy blanket I have been carrying around since childhood. As I have gotten older, I have gotten better at hiding the rather monstrous problem I have with insecurities, but they have gotten much harder to accept as a daily occurrence.

Regardless of the hours spent on the therapist's couch and the small fortune that could have been devoted to fabulous shoes, there are still events that send me into a tailspin of anxiety. I often wonder if people can see through this. I wonder if I have become such a good actress that only my husband and sister can see through the veneer of a smile and hasty chuckle to realize that on the inside, my heart is thumping out of control and I am literally drowning in my own sweat.

For years, I hid behind my strict upbringing. Now that I have children, I hide behind motherhood. But I often wonder what I would be like if I just let that blanket go. And in some ways, I am. In small steps, I have started to try new things, take up new interests. I am putting myself out there. Like a newborn colt, I am testing out my legs.

For the most part, the insecurity panic attacks have subsided. But every once in a while, I wonder. What do people really think of me? Why is it that I can see the best in everyone, but fail to recognize it when I look in the mirror? Why can't I shut up the voice inside my head that tells me I am not good enough, once and for all?

I wonder when the version of me everyone sees will become who I am, inside and out.

When will this Linus finally outgrow that infamous blanket?

Friday, January 14, 2011

At this moment...

Peaceful children slumbering in their beds.

A few moments just for me.

My eyes focused on a blank canvas

Words swirling, constructing thoughts, pictures developing.

Dreaming, remembering, always treasuring these boys.

Looking forward with joy, anxious anticipation.

Looking back at beautiful memories made,

At this moment and those gone.

My heart, full; my soul, tranquil.

Want to learn more about Six Word Fridays and join in?  Visit Melissa at Making Things Up.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Relief, and worry

When my boys started school at the same place I teach, I made a vow to keep out of their world as much as I could. I didn't want to be one of the overbearing parents I had had to deal with in my many years in the classroom. I wanted them to have as "normal" an education as they could, in spite of the fact that I am a teacher. Don't misunderstand. I love being able to see them during the school day; their shy smiles or secret signs for "I love you" make the rest of my day go that much faster.

Recently, Matthew's teacher commented on the academic prowess of my two older boys and said, "it must be such a relief to know that your kids are smart." I was kind of taken aback by the comment. I mean, I know my kids are bright (and I am NOT bragging. I have scientific proof to back up that statement). But I don't know that I would exactly say that I am relieved by this fact. There are times I am actually concerned.

I taught for a solid five years before the birth of my oldest son. I would marvel at the intelligence of some of the students I had the pleasure of teaching. I thought, naively, that their parents had it easy. I mean, a smart kid doesn't hassle you to complete tasks, right? Well, that might be true at school, but it might not necessarily transfer to home assignments. I would have challenges of my own in the classroom for children that were way above the curve. How could I keep them challenged throughout the day? How could I meet their needs?

Fast forward to Matthew. Matthew who started Kindergarten reading. Matthew who could read beginner novels at the beginning of first grade. Matthew who would get so frustrated with the children in his class who would misbehave and interrupt his learning. Matthew who was reading four to five grade levels above his current grade level.

Andrew could add and subtract at age three. He was soon following in his brother's footsteps, albeit with less "look at me" fanfare that seems to follow Matthew. Andrew was reading Harry Potter in first grade, people, movies yet unseen. (House rules are that you must read the book BEFORE watching the movie.) Andrew could conduct a detailed conversation about the novel's nuances with no difficulty.

And what to say about Joshua? With two older brothers, he floored his Pre-K 3 teacher this year with his ability to name a hexagon with no problem. The other kids in his class could name three shapes tops. Letter names and sounds, out of order? No problem.

Here is the clincher. Some parents sit with flash cards from the time their kids can sit up. I never did.

Not with the oldest. Not with the middle. Certainly not with the youngest.

Why? Because as a teacher, I knew that would get plenty of that sort of thing when they got to school. Because I wanted to just talk with my kids, with no kind of pressure to actually learn something. I wanted to show them cool stuff, just because it was cool.

Blessed? Absolutely. Worried? You bet.

Why? Because placement for children like this is impossible. Because regardless of what their academic age might be, there is still the emotional component of all this knowledge and having it come WAY to easy. Because they rarely struggle.

And I want them to struggle. I want them to learn what it's like to really have to study to learn something.

At the beginning of third grade, Matt was having trouble with Spanish. Regardless of the fact that I am a native speaker of Spanish and am a fluent reader and writer, I had a hard time keeping the Spanish only rule my parents implemented while I was growing up. I married a man that can speak and write it, but found it to be difficult to switch from one language to another while the kids were really little. The only time the Spanish flows in our house is when Mama is ticked. Not the best way to learn a language.

Now, I never heard a peep from his Spanish teacher. But by the second week of school, he was begging me to pull him out of Spanish. His reason for determining he was "failing" Spanish? His teacher had asked him the same question twice. And he knew, from prior experience, he told me, that when the teacher asks you the same question twice, you are not doing well.

Well, it took a lot to convince him that he was not "failing." That certain things might not be come as easily to him. And that took him aback.

"Why?" he asked.

How to answer? Because most people have to work hard to learn things. Because a strong mind is only as strong as the lessons learned. Because not everything can be easy.

The best things in life are not necessarily the ones that are easy to come by.

So, yes. There is some relief in knowing that my children love learning. That they have been blessed with wonderful teachers who value them as students, who challenge those minds every day, who make learning so much fun for them.

But there is worry, regardless. Because in order to succeed, you must learn to fall. You must learn to get back up.

And I know that they will. Hopefully. And not too painfully.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Resolved to making each day count

Determined that 365 days in 2011

have hope, faith, tenacity and joy.

Keep my body strong and fit.

Tend the garden of my soul

with love and devotion, each day.

But most importantly, to live lovingly.

What to know more about Six Word Fridays?  Check out Melissa at Making Things Up.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's a wonderful life...

One of my favorite movies of all time is Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Poor George Bailey thinks that his life is a failure, but fails to realize how many lives he has touched with kindness and love. Regardless of how many times I watch it, I always am overwhelmed at the end of the movie when George Bailey's family receives so much love and support from the very people they committed their lives to helping.

In his darkest hour, George got what he needed, not what he wanted.

The same could be said for us this Christmas.

* * * * * * * * * *

Every year, our little family gets together, to share in the revelry of the season. We eat, we laugh, we exchange presents. And save for a few scheduled absentees, we are all together.

This year was the exception. Kind of. And in spite of all the anxiety and sadness that it would not be like it always is, it was exactly what we needed. And certainly not how we wanted it to be.

Make no mistake. In spite of all of it, it was a gift.

John's mom had surgery a few days before Christmas. After much deliberation, John and I decided to cancel our "normal" plans. It was hard to do, thinking that our "people" would be disappointed.

When our "regulars" for our Christmas Eve get together found out the reason we were cancelling (only the second time in fifteen years, folks), they offered words of love and hope. My sister stepped up to the plate and hosted the dinner for the immediate family.

On the 23rd, I made my traditional dinner, on a much smaller scale. Because I was feeding only one person. My beloved father in law. I didn't care what was going on. I did not want Dad to have hospital food on Christmas Eve. John made the drop off and visited with his mom for a while. He met me at home, after the boys and I attended Christmas Eve Mass, and we headed over to my sister's.

My sister had a lovely meal prepared. We shared a quiet evening with our "extended" family. We came home early.

Christmas morning brought three little boys to our bedside, excited about Santa's visit the night before. We saw our children open their presents with the same happiness they always have. We made plans to head out to see Mom and Dad at the hospital. And bring food to share with Dad. To have Christmas dinner, together. In spite of this year's events. But more importantly, because of this year's events.

The happiest memory I will have of this Christmas was the joy on Mom's face as she viewed a special message from the boys on my cell phone. Of seeing her face as the older boys got to hug her. Of how normal they were, in spite of the abnormality of this year.

Best of all, Mom's stay at the hospital was pretty short once she recovered from surgery. She came home. And we came back to their house to celebrate Christmas and New Year's with them and my brother and sister in law who traveled to share the holiday with us. Dear childhood friends of John, in town from Alabama, made the trek two hours north to see my mother in law on New Year's Eve.

There were several important lessons learned this year. Traditions, as beautiful as they are, are not truly necessary in order to have the "perfect" holiday. What is necessary is to have an open heart. To love deeply and truly. To accept the good that inevitably comes back to you when you are true to your own heart and to those you love.

Mom learned that lesson this year. Emotionally.  Gracefully. Beautifully.
I learned that lesson this year. Wholeheartedly. Gratefully. Blessedly.

As uncomfortable as I am with some kinds of change, I learned that change is good. Even in bad circumstances. Especially in bad circumstances. That even though change scares me, I was open to this total upheaval. Because at the end of the day, you want to be with those you love most in the world. And you want to make them happy.

This Christmas will surely stand out as the year that...

The year that Grandma was sick.

The year that we did things differently.

The year that we learned to let go of those things that hinder us. The year that we learned that Christmas is on the 25th of December, but it can really be celebrated any day, each day, with the same generosity of spirit.

                                                             * * * * * * * * * *

At the end of the movie, George is overcome with gratitude. Gratitude for his family and friends. Gratitude for the way he has lived his life; with honor and integrity. Gratitude for the multitude of blessings he was unable to recognize at one time, but now sees clearly.

This year, my greatest wish was to have my family together.

And I did.

Not in the loud, gargantuan way I have had them in the past.

But in small pieces.

To savor.

To enjoy.

And, most importantly, to recognize this blessing.

And to be grateful for it.