Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Hardest Person to Forgive...

Sorry for taking so long with this post... since my darling little girl has started back at school, it seems my entire world has been immersed in PTA, room mom duties, and homework. Did you know they give homework in Kindergarten??!!! Wow! What a change from our typical easy going (pre-school) evenings!

On my way home from picking my little one up from school today, I found myself thinking a lot about forgiveness. In my life, there have been many people who have tread, or rather stomped, across the most tender of places on my heart. Some of these people were the very same people who were the most influential in helping me to develop into the woman I am today! And yet, due to insecurities and a bit of selfishness, they pretty much cast my mental well being aside in order to press themselves forward on their path in life. Now, after many years of self reflection and a LOT of prayer, I have learned the value and peace that only forgiveness can bring. My relationships with those few individuals has out grown my wildest expectations, simply because God commanded that I forgive - and I was obedient in the calling.

Although God commands that we forgive, there is one person in this life who I continually struggle to forgive. This person drives me to the brink of insanity and back again. This person makes rash decisions based on pride, boredom, selfishness, laziness, and a vast number of other very unsavory, and unscrupulous motives. Who is this person and why on earth do I continually put up with this?? Quite simply, the person who is the hardest for me to forgive, is me. I think it is harder to forgive myself for stupid decisions and wrong actions than any other person who has ever crossed my path in life. I can keep myself up at night with my constant belittling and self flogging - it can be the most exhausting of exercises!

And yet, God commands us to forgive - even ourselves. The command to forgive is not exclusive. Even Jesus chose to forgive those who hit and humiliated Him, how can anything you have done be justified by denying forgiveness to yourself? What are you struggling to forgive yourself for today? Is there some past sin that has wrecked havoc on your walk, or some daily bad choice that you are making that you feel the need to continually reprimand yourself for? STOP! God loves you and forgives you, now it is your turn to do the same!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Let Us Not Mistake Innocence for Ignorance

One of the most important things I have learned from parenthood is never to ask a question that you don't really want a brutally honest answer for. If you crawl out of bed after a restless nights sleep, don't make any promptings regarding the state of you hair, the position of your pajamas, or the smell of your breath. Whether you want it or not, you are going to get an answer that may make your toes curl and fill you with a overwhelming desire to jump back into bed! It isn't that children are mean spirited or set on hurting you, they just don't have that filter in place that suggests they stop prior to battered feelings or wounded egos. They are still innocent. They lack the basic understanding of human nature or prideful attitudes. They say what they mean, and mean what they say. Personally, I think this is one of the things that makes having children so amazing and absolutely terrifying, all at the same time! If your child comes to you and says, "Wow Mama, you look so beautiful!" you know without a doubt that you are looking pretty spiffy that day. Or, every time you hear, "Mama, you are the best mommy in the whole world!" you can sit back, relish the sensational joy of that moment, and feel pretty good about that "Mom of the Year" mug in your cabinet. On the other hand, if you are standing in the check out line at your local grocer and your little one feels compelled to point out that the man bagging your groceries has an abnormally large nose, that honesty can seem like quite a curse. Again, it is not meanness, just innocence.

But this world doesn't like innocence very much, does it? Every year Hollywood puts out hundreds of movies geared towards young children, but very few of these features are actually rated "G" for general audiences. Nearly every movie that is featured on the back of a Happy Meal at McDonald's is actually rated PG or PG-13. Why is this? I have heard many theories, but none as convincing as the fact that we are forcing our kids to grow up way too quickly. One person stated that this was simply and attempt to entertain the parents while they spent time with their children. Maybe. Kids don't really notice those sexual innuendos or underhanded jokes, right? WRONG! Kids are VERY intuitive. They can pick up on the slightest undertones, body movement, and facial expressions. Don't believe me? Try having a child in the back of the car after you experience a near collision with that crazy guy trying to run the red light. You may not say much at the time, but the honk of your horn, the glare on your face, and the white knuckled grip on your steering wheel will leave your little one with little doubt that you are completely beyond livid! Kids are constantly watching you for cues, guidance on how to react to the world around them. They begin to find humor where you find humor. Cry at the same things you cry at. Whine at the same things, anger at the same things, sigh at the same things. Kids are sponges sucking in the world around them at every given turn, don't tell me they don't catch the subtle adult themes included in those movies!

Our world is forcing our little ones to grow at an extremely rapid rate. At every turn our kids are exposed to adult language, adult humor, and even hefty adult issues. Isn't it time we begin to take a stance again this? Instead of excusing the foul humor, adult themes, or mild language, let's rise up against it. Let's protect that innocence. Give these kids a little credit! They are NOT mindless drones wandering aimlessly through life! No, they may not have all the answers, but they are figuring things out pretty quickly. Instead of allowing their brief period of innocence to be sacrificed for the sake of progress, lets guard it for a while longer. Shelter them from the cannons of adulthood that are being constantly thrown their way. Adulthood will come faster than we want it to anyway, what's wrong with allowing kids to be kids for as long as they can be? After all, when you look back on your own childhood, don't you wish you could return to a time where there was no rent due, no place of work to rush off to, and no people hounding you with a ton of responsibility? I sure do! Instead of assuming our kids are ignorant to what is happening around them, let's give them the benefit of the doubt that they are smarter than we have assumed and make attempts to guard that innocent heart with all we have. Let's stop mistaking that innocence for ignorance and protect this ever fading, yet truly priceless commodity.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Ups and Downs of a Butterfly - A Metaphor on Life

It is a beautiful day for a walk. My rhythmic footsteps and swinging arms make my heart race beneath my chest, pressing me forward in determination. Although the sun is bright in the sky, an occasional fluffy white cloud graciously shields me from the heat, making it that much easier for me to continue on my journey. As I round a corner, I inhale deeply the scent of freshly mowed grass as a light breeze cools the beads of sweat on my brow. I smile as a brightly colored butterfly dances in front of me, kissing the individual sprigs of a cedar tree. The brightly colored wings make me watch in awe as the creature flutters about without clear direction or apparent purpose. It is free and absolutely beautiful.

For an instant, I want to be that butterfly. I want to feel what it was like to dance in the sun, freely exploring the world about me without a care. How many people would stand in awe of me? How many people would remark on my delicate wings, inspiring colors, my overwhelming grace and agility. Then again, the life of a butterfly is not an easy one. Firstly, there are just as many creatures who would prey upon that unmistakable beauty. Suddenly the brilliant colors are a target, drawing predators in and alerting them to vulnerability. A butterfly's brilliant wings are not only beautiful, but they are extremely delicate. Something as simple as a strong gust of wind could damage that beauty, making the butterfly unable to take flight ever again. And when the storms come, there is no escape for the butterfly. Suddenly there is no alternative but to give in to the will of the world around, unable to fight or break free from its' unrelenting torment.

On the other hand, there is always the moth to consider. Not at all beautiful compared to that of the amazing butterfly, but much more hearty. Its' dull tones and thick wings do not inspire awe or admiration, rather allows her to blend in to her environment. Disappear. No one stands about commenting on how beautiful a moth is, because no one pays her any attention. She is invisible. And unlike the butterfly, she is strong. Her super thick wings may not be perfect, but they are hearty. She can take flight in the midst of the worst wind and continue to climb upwards into the sky. Although life may tatter her delicate edges, she learns when to hide and when to move. Under the hot bright scrutiny of the unforgiving porch light, she may look downright ugly and undesirable, but she never waivers from her path. She seeks out the hottest spot and dances beneath it's brilliance. When the dance gets too hot, she pushes through, holding steadfast to her mission, without compromise or fear of looking dull.

Although there are hundreds of people who can find beauty in the butterfly, there is only a select few who can truly appreciate the appearance of a moth. And when that person breaks through the rough exterior, instead of pointing out the flaws in her dull thick wings, he can appreciate her determination, her sense of adventure, and the purpose of her journey. That person earns the right to see the most amazing parts of the moth - the parts that are normally hidden away from the outside world, her true colors. In the cool shade of the rain cloud, there are few things as brilliant as her natural state. Suddenly, the dullness doesn't seem so dull and the tattered appearance doesn't seem very significant. She can handle whatever comes and moves forward, set upon her task. She has the knowledge of what lies in front of her and the understanding that she can handle whatever comes her way. I sigh to myself. That's not such a bad life, is it?

As I round another corner, I can see my own house a short distance a head. I push a sweaty stand of hair back from my round cheeks and smile. Almost there. Soon I will have escaped the hot glare of the sun and will walk through the door into my cool safe haven. My home. There, under the steady blow the air conditioner, I will find someone who wants to know all about my latest adventure. Someone rare, someone special, who cherishes my random thoughts, appreciates my connections, and understands and finds value in my sense of wonder. And although he isn't getting a super model or movie star, he loves my hearty and not so delicate body simply for who I am. He doesn't see chubby cheeks or flabby legs, he sees the beauty in my determination, my sense of adventure, and the ultimate purpose behind my journey. Yep, that's not so bad at all.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Just the Way That I am

As I was enjoying a cup of coffee and visiting with friends this afternoon, the topic of weight loss kept coming up in the conversation. It was clear by the reactions from at least two of the ladies at the table that their weight loss struggles were a constant concern for them. They discussed the hardships they were experiencing with their weight loss, as well as different beliefs they had developed about their new eating patterns. I won't get into the specifics, but it was clear that the subject of weight was (and IS) HUGE for them.

I used to feel this way. I used to look in the mirror every single day and tell myself I was fat, ugly, and unwanted. I used to make myself sick just to squeeze into that perfect size jeans. I even went so far as to starve myself for a year, take laxatives, and sneak diet pills in any form I could get them... all in the hopes of reaching that "perfect" size. And the really sad part about all of this? I believed that I didn't deserve to live because I wasn't thin enough. Of course, I had my fair share of help in reaching those conclusions, but more often than not the world will willingly lend a hand to help a young girl reach that same conclusion.

As I look at my precious daughter, who is thriving physically and mentally, I fear for her ability to handle the pressures of this world. But it isn't just her that I fear for, it is the hearts and minds of all children in this day and age. How can young men grow to understand that women are so much more than a dress size when they watch their mothers starving themselves in order to look good? How can young girls not desire to be rail thin when all of their teenage idols are borderline Bulimic in order to maintain their image? How can young girls not feel encouraged to take on the enormity of calorie counting and diet pill popping when they witness family, friends, and mentors doing the exact same thing?

It truly is a scary reality... but its not a new one. I felt those same pressures too. I followed those same lines of reasoning twenty years ago. So how can we stop it? How can we stress the importance of health over the need for being thin? I believe it is up to women all around the globe. We have to pull together and begin to define what beauty really is...and what it most definitely is not. Now, I don't claim to be perfect at this. I most definitely fall into the trap of wanting to throttle my scale from time to time, but I am learning.

What I am learning is that it's not always about what I look like on the outside. Yes, we tell our children this little line every day, but do we demonstrate it to them? Instead of killing myself to lose weight, I am going to strive to be more self reflective, seek out God's love and approval ONLY, as well as teach my child to love and appreciate TRUE beauty. I am going to try my hardest to take care of this body that I have been BLESSED with and that has been left in my care. Yes, I know there will be days when I fail. I know there are going to be days when I stumble and slam down three brownies after sucking down a huge coke, but that is what make grace so very essential. I can throw back my head and laugh about how yummy those gooey treats were and try better at the next meal. Tomorrow is another day. God does not want me to beat myself up for not being a size four. I can look just as smoking hot to my hubby in a size 18 as I can in a size 4 (actually probably better). But most importantly, everything I do, everything I think about myself and my body, is reflected in my child's eyes. I can't think of a better incentive than that to love myself more.... just the way that I am.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Using the Passion of God's Design

As most everyone in the world knows, Michael Phelps has made world history by entering eight Olympic swimming events, receiving a gold medal placement in each event, and breaking countless world and Olympic records this year in Beijing. It is absolutely amazing to watch this man slice through the waters and leaving other gifted athletes frantically swimming in his wake!

So what makes Phelps such an amazing swimmer? Quite literally, he was designed that way! His super long wing span, short powerful legs, double jointed ankles, and massive sized hands and feet make him the perfect human torpedo! Not only does Phelps have the body to sustain his amazing performance, he also has the passion and drive to compete in the highly competitive sport of swimming. He works relentlessly to excel in this field as well as shape and hone his body and skills in order to be a successful athlete. Not only does Phelps have the body, drive, and passion, but he is also known to have the heart to become a role model to countless youth around the globe! That's quite a tall order!

So this got me to thinking... how many of us are walking around this world, designed by God for a specific purpose, but not responding to that purpose? I read somewhere that Phelps was teased as a child because of some of the very aspects of his physique that make him the swimmer he is today. Is it possible that we too may be experiencing those criticisms? Could it be that the very things we hate/loath about our bodies are also the very things God has blessed us with in order to help us excel in some way? Is it possible that many of us are walking around never truly finding the thing God intended us to be passionate about? Could it be that the very history that pains us so, may be the very thing that sculpts us into the man or woman that God intends us to become? Although your journey may not be leading to something as acclaimed as becoming an Olympic super star, perhaps it is something that is equally impressive in God's eyes?

So before you scoff at that horrid past or negate some feature that makes you the perfect you, perhaps we should first pray that God helps us to discover the hidden passion He has designed for us.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Are you a Weatherman, a Shopkeeper, or a Friend? - A Repost from an older blog.

I posted this particular blog a few years back, and ran across it while I was rereading old comments. Thought I would repost it for anyone who may not have been following that particular blog of mine. :-)

Are you a Weatherman, a Shopkeeper, or a Friend?

Have you ever noticed that as soon as it begins to rain, a weatherman on your favorite television channel or radio station interrupts your favorite song or show simply to exclaim that it is raining. DUH! Of course we know it's raining! Those cold soft drops of liquid emanating from the clouds above kind of already gave that fact away! But weathermen are so often wrong about the types of weather we will experience, that they just can't fight the urge to share their discovery of the obvious. Maybe this is a prideful response to the overwhelming number of times they got the weather wrong, but that doesn't discount the fact that they are still only providing us with an unneeded and unnecessary observation of the problem. The information they are providing is not helpful to any extent and ultimately does nothing to help work towards a solution to the problem. And yet, these people seem extremely happy to be able to declare a true and unarguable statement of the obvious.

On the other hand, if you are out in said rain and dive into your local store for cover, you will find many people waiting and eager to help you contend with the deluge outside. Often times shopkeepers will move a cart of umbrellas and ponchos up towards the front doors (with a considerable markup I might add) in order to entice patrons to partake of their protective bounty. Although they are offering a temporary solution to your problem, this assistance does include a condition - you have to pay. The shopkeepers may be superficially sympathetic to your dilemma, but ultimately their true motivation to help stems from what they think they can get out of you. You can't expect something for nothing, right?

Then again, you may just find yourself stuck outside in the rainy weather with your favorite pal or buddy at your side. Instead of just mentioning the rain, or charging you for a raincoat, that person may just throw their arm around you, pull you close, and snuggle up beneath his (or her) own umbrella to shelter you from the elements. Isn't that an amazing thought?! Someone who cares about your well-being without any thought to their own comfort...someone who just wants to know that, despite the rainfall, you are safe and snug and happy. What a true friend! These are the people we turn to when things are down. These are the people we turn to when things are up. Quite simply, these are the people we need... the people who matter... the people who make our lives meaningful, fun, and safe. These are the people who we want around in the sun, heat, snow, or down pour. Not only do we need these people in our lives, we want to need them. And in a world where expressing the need for a companion may be considered an act of weakness, the fact that we still openly desire to have our friends nearby in time of crisis speaks volumes about their importance.

So, the next time you find yourself discussing the different storms of life with your close friends, family, or spouse, ask yourself: are you a weatherman? a shopkeeper? or a true friend? The answer may surprise you, but regardless, it will most certainly make you strive to listen without judgment or discouragement, offer help and guidance without consequence or condition, and instill you with a desire to offer a shoulder to lean on, a tissue to cry into, or just a nice pat on the back.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Attention Please: I Just Want To Announce That I AM LOVED!

Last year, my hubby and I went on our annual Renaissance Festival trip. And no, before you ask, we DID NOT DRESS UP. (That seems to be the very first question I get whenever I tell someone where we went.) It isn't that I have anything against dressing up, I really do enjoy seeing SOME of the costumes at the fair, but it is just not for me. I am realistic about the whole thing: I am now a mommy in my thirties and that belly dancing costume should be outlawed when it comes to people with my body type. Believe me, I actually saw a number of women shaped like myself who tried to pull it off, and trust me when I say - it ain't pretty people!! If your body is jiggling as much as the jewelry you wear, there is a problem.

We enjoyed many of the small shows throughout the day, a few new ones and a few repeat performances from years past. James, as always, made it his mission to taste test every fruit cobbler he came across. Although he had one that didn't pass his high standards, he seemed to be satisfied with the overall quality of the desserts that year. I tried to behave myself, since a few of the costumes became a silent motivation for me to stick to my diet, but did take time to indulge in a few of my favorite annual treats (sausage on a stick and roasted pecans). I made sure to drink a great amount of water since the weather was warmer than we had planned for. There were also more people than we had expected as well, so many that I found myself in the middle of a full blown panic attack as we tried to swim our way across the sea of bodies on our final trek through the festival. (I just don't do well with that many people being around me – I think I may have been scarred for life after having 29 students in my classroom. Any time I feel outnumbered, I am immediately uncomfortable… BUT, I endured.)

Anyway, during one of my many treks to the ladies room, I began to notice a trend in every single stall I visited. Inevitably there were about a dozen different markings about how some obscure guy was madly in love with some girl. And it was always a "Joe loves Lucy" type comment – a guy loving a girl. These graffiti writings weren't limited to any particular restroom location, but were evenly and greatly distributed around the park. Now I'm only guessing, but due to the location of these writings and the fact that the handwriting was generally pretty curly and nice, I am led to believe that guys weren't the ones sneaking into the ladies room to declare their love for their girlfriends. So, my only conclusion is that for some odd reason, women feel compelled to announce that they have someone who really loves them and others (in the middle of relieving themselves) must know of said love. Okay.

Women do seem to have an instinctive need to be loved, but isn't everyone loved by someone? I mean, come on! Even that ugly monster thing in the end of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi had a jailer that loved him! (Sorry if you don't remember that particular movie scene, but if in order to understand me you MUST be either a NERD or GEEK. All others, you might as well give up now.) Even if I didn't have a man in my life, I still have my mommy! She loves me! I even got a post card from my dentist for my birthday signed "Love always, all of us at Wainwright Dentistry". You don't see me running out to a random bathroom stall to declare that my dentist loves me – yet. I guess we are all obsessed with love in some way… People who really feel loved, often worry about keeping that love. People who don't feel loved, become obsessed with finding it. It is a vicious cycle! Every song on the radio is about love in some way or fashion: Love for people, love for family, love for God, love for things, love for self, etc. Is there a song that doesn't deal with love?? If so, I don't know that I have ever heard of it!

So, these bathroom declarations made me wonder – what do the men declare on their stalls? Well, you know I had to ask, so I questioned James about what he saw on the stalls and you know what? Men don't declare their love for people, they just like to declare where they've been. James said the stalls were littered with "So-n-So was here, November –of-some-year" and such. They are in effect marking their territory! Now, this could start me into a whole rant regarding how men are super obsessed with themselves and only find enjoyment in marking their conquests, but generalizing men would mean including my hubby and it just doesn't apply to him. Yep, if he weren't so against vandalism, I am choosing to believe that he would be one of the few men sneaking into the ladies bathroom to declare how much he loves me! LOL! Guess I should go ahead and do that for him when I go to the fair next year!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Happy is a Choice!

People usually label me as an optimist. If someone chipped a nail, I would rejoice and say it was time to treat them to a new manicure. If they had a fight with their boyfriend, I would recommend a great place to go for a romantic make-up dinner. Once my friend's car was stolen, so I promptly reminded her that she didn't really like the paint job on it any way so, now that she had a hefty insurance check in her pocket, she could have a little fun car shopping. Some people have even said my "bubbliness" was so extreme that it could be downright nauseating. And maybe that is so, but if I had a choice between smiling and crying, my eyes just look dreadful when they are all puffy, so crying is just out!

This is not to say that I'm not capable of sympathizing with people who are hurting. If someone needs a shoulder to cry on, I am always ready to step in with the tissue box. A dear friend of mine struggles with serious medical issues that land her in the hospital for weeks at a time throughout the years. Whenever she is overcome by her illness, I always come to her hospital room armed with Chuy's, an ice cold Coke, a deck of cards, and a box of tissues. We end up chatting, crying, praying, stuffing ourselves silly, and then laughing so hard we nearly wet ourselves, followed by a quick shuffle and a round of cards. Okay, so it may not sound very healthy to the casual observer, but this cycle is the only thing that keeps us from sinking into the pit of defeat - whatever works right!! Anyway, the last time we were forced to do the hospital dance, I told her that I thought she was just in need of a holiday and had concocted an excuse to get out of doing laundry. She giggled at my suggestion, took a long sip of her ice cold Coke, and began to shuffle the deck. It isn't that we are ignorant to the gravity of the situation, but smiling and laughing about it makes it that much more endurable.

When I went to college, I saw just how much hurt the average person carried around with them on a daily basis. Other students in my classes seemed so lost, afraid of loneliness, and uncertain about what they wanted out of life. It was not uncommon to pass by a group of students walking slowly to their classes with their shoulders hunched forward with a defeated look upon their face. They were absolutely miserable! I, on the other hand, was the happiest I had ever been! Since my path towards becoming a teacher has always been clear to me, I was ecstatic to be there. Suddenly, people weren't picking on me but were really nice to me... It was okay to be the smart nerdy type in college, because in that place intelligence was rewarded. Professors were drawn to me, my peers always wanted to be in my study group, and I had a steady date with my man every Friday! It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before in my life!

Once I graduated, I found that my happy spirit served me well inside the classroom as well. My students all called me "the cool teacher" because I saw nothing wrong with taking a chocolate break during Math time or doing jumping jacks prior to engaging in a Science experiment. We would make up songs to learn our vocabulary words or do a dance to help aid us in our discussion in History. All the parents liked me too, because their kids suddenly didn't hate school so much. Things were going well and being happy was the easiest it had ever been.

But, as we all know, the storms eventually come... a few years ago, I miscarried my second child. The act of losing my child was enough to push me into one of the most intensely tragic periods of my life. I was devastated. Of course, the initial loss was only one part of it - the corresponding medical issues that accompanied that loss carried on for a couple of months afterward. Although I was very blessed to have a truly supportive husband and family, and a group of very loving friends to carry me through, it was one of the darkest times in my life. I would just move from day to day, trying my best not to fall apart, hoping no one would see me, wanting desperately to disappear inside my grief.

Then one day I realized that I had two very distinct choices on how I would approach my life. I could continue on, wallowing in my misery and begin pushing those special people away from me, holding on to the pain I was feeling OR I could begin again. I could try to snatch back those threads of happiness I had woven around my life, to look for the sunshine through those clouds. I had experienced the depth of that darkness. It was cold, ugly, and a bottomless pit that would hold no joy. I suddenly realized that it was my choice…continue to sink into it, or fight my way out. It really wasn't all that hard to make that choice.

So, here I am….a bit thicker skinned than I once had been, but still the optimistic bubbly girl with nothing but the highest hopes for the future. I know that the storms of life may rain on my parade again, but I also know that I will make it through the storm to see that rainbow up in the sky later on. (Pardon the cliché.) My point is that happiness is not just some attribute that you are either born with or not... it's a choice. Every day, when that foot hits the floor, you have to make the choice to laugh and push through the pain, or to surrender to it and give up. Which choice will you be making?? Now, grab an ice cold coke and start dealing!!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Redefining “Special”

Have you ever noticed that people take criticism much better when it is said about them than they ever do about their children? Don't believe it? Try making an observation about the negative behavior of a woman's husband, and she will probably jump aboard the gripe train with you for a solid hour. Try making a casual comment about her child not saying "please" and watch out! It isn't that parents aren't capable of seeing their child's flaws (believe me, we know every one and then some) but we really don't like having other people see them.

When I was a public school teacher, I was constantly talking with parents about things I noticed in their children while in my classroom. I always tried to balance the good things with the not so good things, but no matter how I phrased it, parents never took the criticism well. Now that I am a mom, hearing that my baby is not on level with other kids in her class, is an absolutely devastating reality. Where is that leveled headed realist who understood the eccentricities of each child? Well, I do believe that part of me completely evaporated the day I gave birth. For the first time, I am the parent. I want more than anything for my baby to succeed and for others to see only her strengths and not notice her weaknesses. I want others to see that she is very special. Isn't that what all parents want?

But here is my question… if every child is special, than how does that make being special special? Why am I such a nut about her excelling in math, reading, and science when there are always people who will be better at those things than she will ever be? Why do I feel the need to put her in every extracurricular activity that she has ever held a half hearted interest in if it will never result in her becoming a musical prodigy, world renowned ballerina, or Pulitzer Prize winner? If there are thousands of people who have already mastered those things, how will forcing her to master them make her special?? Maybe the problem is that we desperately need to change the meaning of the word special. Maybe we need to teach our kids that being special is not just about being smart or talented at something, but rather about being loving, kind, gentle, humble, honest, encouraging, dedicated, passionate, and positive all at the same time.

Think about it – how many people in your life have you known who can do math well?? How many people have you known who can play football well?? How many people have you know who can sing or play an instrument well? Chances are, there are several. We glorify these people on television, radio, and billboards all the time. Now think, how many people have you known who really find enjoyment in helping out a friend? Who can see the hurt in a friends eyes, and go out of their way to make them happy – even it if means acting the fool? Who find just as much joy in your accomplishments and rewards as you do, without jealousy or judgment? Who raise you up when you are weak, hold your hand when you fall, and throw a party when you succeed? How many people have you known who do all that? Chances are, unless you are really blessed, you haven't known many. That is because these types of people only come once in a lifetime. They only grace our lives on the rarest occasions. These type of people are truly unique… a rare find… they are truly special.

Instead of sobbing over a low test score, or mourning the loss of the honor roll placement, or beating kids over the head to learn their alphabet before they reach three, why don't you make a bigger deal about the bigger things? Celebrate their love for their peers, reward their desire to help those around them without having to be asked, jump for joy when they forgive someone who hurt them. If you see your child modeling a loving heart and attitude that truly personifies what it means to be "special" make that the ultimate accomplishment, the thing that they should strive to do. Help them to understand there is no other way they should want to be. That there is nothing more special than loving people more than themselves. That would make this world a truly special place to be now wouldn't it??

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ahhhh... My baby is starting Kindergarten!

Yep, my baby is beginning Kindergarten this year. (Sigh.) She has been talking non-stop about going to her first class next month to be with the other kids and beginning to learn new things. We have been ramping up all summer by tweaking her preschool skills - letters, numbers, colors, shapes, beginning letter sounds, writing, etc. I can't believe what they expect entering Kindergarteners to know these days!! I talked with a teacher friend who read that Texas may have to begin making preschool and Kindergarten mandatory because too many kids are coming into the classroom without vital skills. UGH!

As my mother tells it, when I was a kid, Kindergarten is where you learned all that stuff! Kindergarten isn't even mandatory in the state of Texas at this point - but that will have to change due to current trends in education. In truth, I really have never pushed Kayla too far when it comes to early learning. I guess I just didn't want to chance making her into one of those awkward kids that knows how to read and write by four but can't hold a conversation or relate to other kids to save her life. Since I was a pretty nerdy kid, I guess I didn't feel compelled to pass on that particular torch just yet. (Just wait - there's plenty of time to break out the pocket protectors and taped glasses during high school!! )

For those of you who may not know this, I had planned on homeschooling Kayla for as long as I was capable - at least until the Math got too hard for me! LOL! Since I still have a current Texas teaching certificate and have actually taught in a classroom before, I thought that I would be up to the challenge...oh, but was I ever wrong on that one! Firstly, I knew she was ready at four to begin learning... she is pretty smart and has a great memory. So, I began with my favorite Phonics reading program as well as a beginning Math program. Again, I wasn't pushing, just starting slow and easy. I had planned to incorporate additional subjects over time as we progressed and I had it all mapped out into a handy little lesson plan book.... in comes the DA DA DA DUMMMMM...

Our first day at the table, we cracked open our books and set to work. About fifteten minutes later, we were both frustrated with each other and nearly in tears. I can't tell you exactly what or where we went wrong, but I can honestly say I was disappointed. She and I clashed like I have never clashed with any one prior. By the end of the day we had kissed and made up and I vowed that I would do what I could to make the next day successful. Well, as you may have already guessed, I never did make it successful. Each day found us both miserable and frustrated. We would both walk away from the homeschool table completely defeated and dreading having to begin again the next day. A friend suggested that maybe Kayla just wasn't ready for school yet, so we backed off for a few weeks and tried again. And though we had a few successful days together every now and again, every day I woke up and dreaded that trip to the table. It got to the point where Kayla didn't even want me to read her a story because she hated school so much. That is when I made the decision that homeschooling was NOT my forte'. I suck at it!

Since the last day our homeschool ended with both of us crying in frustration, I never asked Kayla to go to the table for school again. After a few weeks, I began to read to her again and she actually enjoyed it. After a few more weeks, she and I began doing crafts and games together - it took her a long while to let her guard down with me. She was certain I was going to slip up back into the dreaded homeschool curriculum and acted very nervous about it. So I sold all my curriculum so she could rest at ease.

My hubby and I prayed about our desire for homeschooling, and I finally admitted out loud that I hated it. It occurred to me that I didn't just hate homeschooling, I hated teaching! Me, a retired classroom teacher HATED teaching! When I thought about it even more, I came to realize that I had also hated teaching in the classroom! I did it because I thought I should love it since I had gone to school for it - but I never really liked what I was doing! I loved certain aspects of teaching such as lesson planning, classroom set up and design, creating new learning connections, planning - but my fun ended when the kids walked into the classroom. I really loved the kids, but I really disliked the teaching. It was hard for me to come to that conclusion and it is still difficult for me to accept that the one thing I was the most passionate about was something I didn't really get much enjoyment from.

After James and I thought, prayed, and talked about our homeschool situation, we both came to the conclusion that school would be best for Kayla. Of course, our journey in discovering which school is an even longer tale that I won't bore you with now.... BUT, what is truly important is that we have our paths set and know what is coming. Kayla will be starting school at a brand new small community school much like the one I taught at. I plan on calling up her teacher next week to see if I can help out with classroom set up and design - after all, that was my favorite part of teaching and I was pretty good at it. Kayla is super excited about learning again (as long as it isn't with me) and is counting down the days until her first school day. And for the first time in a very long time, I am counting down the days until school starts too!