Lesson Planning Became a Lesson Planned for Me

We live and we continue to learn moment by moment, day by day, and choice by choice. These lessons we learn are not lost, not futile, if we truly learn from them by gaining experience, recognizing who we are, who we are not, and who we can be and grow. At the end of the lesson, especially if it was difficult or unexpected, we must give pause to self-reflection, acceptance, and an understanding of the importance of keeping the lesson within us always as a reminder. It has been a while since I’ve made choices that put me in a situation to learn something about myself, who I thought I was, and where I thought I was going. It’s funny how it all works, how we ready ourselves for the path we knew lay before us only to discover we’d forced ourselves, and sometimes those we love, down a path never meant for us. How did we get there? For me, I was lost and failed to recognize it.

I spent nine weeks learning a valuable lesson about myself and what I thought was best for me and what I thought was my destination. My drive to give up a lucrative career with WSU and follow a long ago dream turned out to be just the latter: a long ago dream. The dream to teach was the dream of a different mermaid, a younger, less experienced, somewhat selfish and naïve mermaid. I am not the same woman who dreamed this dream while pursuing her degrees in English. I have changed in many ways, and yet I failed to adjust the dream to the woman I am at this moment in time. Pursuing the path of a classroom educator was in actuality dreaming the dream of someone else.

Sure, my circumstances were not ideal, from my choice of school to the lack of support and preparation, plus there were additional questions I should have asked and situations I should have better recognized. For seven weeks I continued to push forward, refusing to fail while stumbling on a path not mine, squinting through the glasses of an idealist, and forcing myself to live a dream I knew in my heart no longer belonged to me. As I prayed for guidance and searched my frustrated heart, I faced myself in battle, brandishing weapons of self-doubt and torturing myself for my foolishness. Finally one morning I heard whispered in my ear, “Patience you need to find. Selfishness you need to lose. Look upon your life and see.” Clear as the church bells during weekday Mass with my sixth grade class, this whisper helped me to recognize and accept my lesson of humility.

The lesson was difficult, but needed. In my headstrong pursuit of a career change, I was blinded to many aspects, such as how this change would affect my most significant relationships, specifically my parents and husband, and the life I loved to live. Most importantly, I was blind in recognizing how the dream no longer fit the woman. The dream had become that garment we keep in our closet, the one that hangs there year after year in hopes it will one day adorn our bodies, all the while knowing we are only clinging to a memory. The dated garment will never truly fit us because we have changed and not just physically. It was time to place the garment in a donation bag to be discovered and worn by someone else.

It was then, through the brambles of my decision, I discovered a quiet trail which led me to a path I’d seen and even set a timid foot upon only to deny its journey. A path revealed to me exactly one year ago, but I was not prepared as there was still this lesson to be learned; the path patiently waited for me.

I’m at peace with the lesson because I needed to acknowledge how I’d begun to take people and circumstances for granted and how the gifts I’d been given had grown in ways I’d not even understood. I am not a classroom educator, but I am a one-on-one mentor and advocate for students. I love to write and read and allow words to fill my days, but I am not a teacher of grammar and reading comprehension, at best I use my words to help and encourage others. I am a daughter whose everyday life is filled with the friendship of her parents and not a daughter who is good with only seeing them once a week, if that, due to inflexible work schedules. I need them as much as they need me. I am a wife and best friend to a man who supports my ups and downs, but relies on my infinite ability to look for the good to keep him at balance with hope, just as I rely on his ability to not always look on the bright side to keep me in check with reality. And I love my community and draw strength from its relationships, its ever-changing inner borders, its willingness and struggle to grow in diversity, and I need desperately to be a part of it, completely. I can give much more to my community in return for what it gives to me.

The lessons we learn are vital to our inner and outer survival. I discovered the following quote in my social media feed the same day I heard those whispers in my ear:

A mistake which makes you humble is much better than an achievement that makes you arrogant  – unknown author

 Which then led me to recall this quote by C.S. Lewis: Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

 Inner and outer survival is bound in humility. Once again, lesson learned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Change

It is August and I am no longer an employee of Wichita State University. Eleven years ago, I thought I would remain on that campus until the day of retirement, complete with the obligatory reception and WSU Today announcement. But, the time came for me to change paths and follow a dream. And, what a path it has been. I made it through eight weeks of graduate school, taking three classes for a total of eight credit hours while working full-time through July 14. Not to mention, my final two months at WSU were my busiest as I helped transition the outgoing and incoming residents, coordinated the dental career day for high school students, prepared for my departure, and trained two individuals in some of the aspects of my job. Whew.

In what seems like eons ago, I was recently married, helping to raise two boys and working full-time when I earned my bachelor’s degree. When I earned my master’s degree I was learning a new full time job on campus, still happily married, but with a teenager at home. I guess I figured eight weeks of classes with it just being me, my husband, a boxador and cat would be a breeze. Either I had repressed a lot of memories from those earlier pursuits or I just was not prepared mentally or physically for multiple late nights, a rendezvous at midnight with a 19-page human development theory paper, and lost weekends with poster board presentations and classroom management studies. I’ve yet to return to a normal sleep pattern.

But, I made it through the eight weeks and have spent the last three days preparing my classroom. Let me type this one more time…my classroom. On Monday, after I unlocked the door and snapped on the lights, I set down my tote bags and box on the dusty desk and just looked around at the empty canvas around me. The aged, eggshell painted brick walls stared back at me, not quite welcoming, more like they were too tired to care. As always, I have to settle in and get organized. I always need to create my space when I begin a new job, only instead of just my space I had an entire room to inhabit. I always begin by cleaning. There’s something therapeutic in wiping away the dust of previous tenants and scrubbing away the residue of the past, plus it helps me get to know every desk drawer, every bookshelf, and every cupboard. All becomes familiar and hopeful under the careful swipe of my sponge or dust rag. The previous tenant did not share my penchant for alphabetized order and concise configuration, so I have spent two full days lining up, counting and taking inventory of books, creating space for curriculum guides and study materials, and straightening and tying up bundles of computer and Ethernet cables. Other than the lives of thirteen spiders I had to end, it’s been a satisfying getting-to-know-you week. Oh, and don’t worry about the spiders. I razed their condominium of stacked papers, old notebooks, even older Christmas gift bags, a few desk-sized American flags, broken keyboards, a deflated volleyball, and about a million photocopied study guides from 1996 that had become their tri-level home in what is now an empty cabinet.

I soon will embark on reorganizing the first shelves and cupboards at the entrance of the door, then focus on classroom set up and adding some life to the walls. Rest assured, my “Steps to a Great Essay,” “Examples of Figurative Language,” “Punctuation Saves Lives,” and “Reading Strategies” posters are en route. And, if I can organize the desks and tables strategically, I may have room for a throw rug and a few bean bag chairs for a reading area. I have plenty of windows and wonderful natural lighting, so I may have to try my hand at a few plants, although I’m leaning more toward artificial since I’ve not inherited so much as a green thumbnail. Oh, and let’s not forget my ode to WSU corner along with my Wichita flag, and sunflower artwork which has already found its place in the sunny corner behind my desk.

Once the space is finished I can set my brain to task creating lesson plans and classroom guidelines or as I like to call them Classroom Habits. Get it? Habits? Catholic School? I must be tired. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. The reason I’ve made it this far is because I’ve remained focused on the task at hand, whether it be a quiz regarding behavioral psychology, my Farewell Tour of WSU, or reawakening an empty classroom. I’ve forced myself to be present in the current moment, the current day, the current mission. If I had for one minute thought ahead to actually handing over my keys, carrying my boxes out to the car and driving away from WSU or standing in front of my students on the very first day of school…well, let’s not go there. Change is rejuvenating, but change is hard. Scary hard. I’ll take it one step, one breath, one shelf, one desk, one motivational poster, one class period, and one day at a time.

 

 

 

The Mix Tape of My 50thYear

My 51st birthday has come and gone. Not sure if anyone remembers my goal for my 50th birthday year, but it proved to be quite the task. What I thought would be an easy and exciting journey of live music became a fun but formidable challenge. 50 live shows in honor of my 50th year. It seemed doable right out of the gate, what with Arlo Guthrie, Black Sabbath, Robert Plant and The Who leading the charge. But soon, and very soon, the choices became harder, the time between shows grew lengthier. By September, my purchase of concert tickets stalled and the voices in my head grew louder, “I told you it wasn’t feasible… I told you it was crazy.” The voices were wrong.

No, I didn’t hit my goal of 50 for 50, but it wasn’t crazy. It was amazing. And my goal was feasible, because what I truly wanted to accomplish was to spend my 50th year basking in the marquee lights, the beat of my heart one with the bass and drum, surrounded by sweating bodies in sync with the sounds and the feel of my body releasing itself the burden of every day stress and boredom. Live music. The healer.

It wasn’t until this past year that I realized how much live music was missing from my life. If anything, this goal I set encouraged me to go to shows I might have talked myself out of the previous year. Don’t get me wrong, I did excuse myself from some shows since I’d made a promise to myself not to go to a show simply to be going. There had to be an attraction, a desire, not just a “yeah, sure, I’d like to see that show…maybe…whatever.” No, it had to be a OMG decision complete with too many exclamation points and at the very least, a YES!! proclamation before scheduling in my calendar. I kept to my promise of seeing old school, new school, up and coming, and scratching bands off my music bucket list, as well as big arenas, intimate theaters, and a few outdoor pop-up stages and bar patios. My list also included many local bands from the ICT music scene, a handful we’d seen numerous times and a few first-timers. It was a whirlwind of diversity. So damn fun.

Each show was memorable in a unique way and many were shared with people I love. There was even a forfeited show (Amos Lee at the Stiefel Theater) when I chose to stay home to watch my Cubs win the World Series. I figured I’d get another opportunity to see Amos, but not live another 100 years to see the Cubs capture an MLB championship. But, I’ll never forget those first shows. Honestly, Black Sabbath, Robert Plant, and The Who should’ve been worth triple points, shouldn’t they? I mean, really. Black freaking Sabbath. The King, Robert Plant. Bloody Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey. Now that I think about it, The Who should’ve been worth quadruple points since my brother and his wife joined us for the show in KC. A lifetime of memories in one year, set against the backdrop of stage lights and blue haze.

So, I might be 20 or so short on my goal, but overall, the soundtrack to my 50th year was like a really diverse and incredible mix tape your best friend would make just before a road trip to see one of your all-time favorite bands. Or the mix CD with the title only the two of you could appreciate and the songs that made you smile, laugh, and say, “No way…yes” with each opening chord. I couldn’t have asked for a better gift.

*Arlo Guthrie*Black Sabbath*Robert Plant*The Who*Aoogah*Dave Matthews Band*Cherokee Maidens*The Mischief Makers*Andy Frasco & the U.N*Wild Adriatic*Moreland and Arbuckle*Fishbone*80-proof Engine*Fun Girls*Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy*Bad Mother Hubbard*Mountain Sprout*Los Lonely Boys*Klondike 5 String Band*Calamity Cubes*Split Lip Rayfield*Lalanea Chastain & Alex Nordine*Haunted Windchimes*The Cult*Tom Page Trio* False Flag*Rosco Del Rio*Elvis Costello*Black Violin*Anthony Gomes*

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Remove the Blinders, Take Your Eyes From the Path

January has come and gone. And with it, a lot of reflection mixed with determination and hope and always with a side of turmoil. The beginning of a new year always instills a sense of hope as we review our past year, even our past life, to understand and plan for our future. We are determined to face change or make change, as well to renew old promises or kick those aside for newer, more attainable ones. But, all of this comes with those nagging fears of change.

I spent the holiday break resolving to rediscover my purpose and to be even more open to possibilities. Now, I’ve always been someone who is open to possibilities, as it is something I encourage in others, especially young people. Remove any blinders as you walk your path. Blinders can be the goals and expectations others created for you, which you may somewhat agree but don’t necessarily see yourself obtaining, yet you continue down the expected path. Or, blinders can be the degree you worked so hard to earn, which you now forcibly follow down a narrow path, unaware of differing roads you could and should take. Blinders can be pre-conceived notions about who you are, the religion in which you were raised, or the stereotypes you’ve grown accustom.

It took me until I was thirty years old to realize I was wearing my own checkered set of blinkers. There is nothing more freeing than removing those blinders and seeing all around and along the path and especially the ability to recognize there are other paths available in which to travel, even if just for a moment. Without those blinders, I discovered it was not too late to earn my degrees. Sans blinders, I discovered a different career path other than the one I thought my degrees would govern. And with my peripheral vision extended, I was able to walk beside or join others on their paths and be open to the mosaic of humanity.

Our lives are short. And to move through this gift we’ve been entrusted while wearing blinders seems wrong, not to mention bleak and somewhat cowardly. Yes, there are many who find comfort in their blinders. The job of blinders is to help focus on the simple path ahead and not to be spooked or distracted by what is passing alongside the path. Blinders maintain control, better able to ignore what is beside us or behind us. Stay the course, no matter what.

Blinders work well for and are essential to the successful outcome of a racehorse. Those leather patches are fitted on troublesome horses for their own safety as well as the safety of their jockey. But, there is no jockey determining our course. We are determining our course. The blinders we find ourselves wearing are those created, patched, and attached to us by society, our families, our environments, and ourselves.

Secretariat, considered the greatest race horse of all time, wore blinkers, but the majority of his life was  contained, either by fences or centered on an oval race track. If we consign ourselves to one path, where is it we are truly going? A quote I keep in my personal “Quotes of Thought” list is by Marcus Buckingham, the man who founded the Strengths Revolution in the workplace, and while the quote is referencing a career or work path, I feel it is relevant to life:

“The best way to find out if you’re on the right path? Stop looking at the path.”

If our focus is only on the path in front of us, we may discover we’ve been on the wrong path all along. While some may argue straying from the path leads to temptation, corruption, or getting lost along the way, I believe if one has faith, that faith will remain steadfast no matter the path. Unless you’ve chosen a path void of kindness, compassion, and love, and if that’s the case, your faith was never guiding you to begin with. Faith will always be tested, but it will never completely abandon you.

So, have faith and remove the blinders. Free yourself from running forward, eyes focused only on the path in front of you. Be brave. Be willing to take paths strewn with rocks and debris, especially the dirt roads, as those can be the most challenging, but the most fun and enlightening. Be curious of other roads, look around, enjoy the different views, and join others on their paths. Life is vast and should never be limited to one, narrow, blinders-on, path.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why we love Hallmark Christmas Movies (at least, why I do)

I confess. I love watching the marathon of Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channels (Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries). Yes, the plots are predictable, the sentimentality definitely over the top and one must get used to the idea of seeing the same actors play somewhat same characters in multiple movies but,  I’m a sucker. For a majority of the movies, there isn’t a lot of character development or a need to analyze outcomes, just very recognizable story lines and a whole lot of cliché in the tugging-on-heartstrings-tear-jerking department.

So, why am I addicted? Why do I set the television channels to Cox 2085 and 2086 beginning Thanksgiving weekend and never look back until January 1? For someone who enjoys the complexity of William Faulkner, the richness of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the strong storytelling of Barbara Kingsolver, why is it I find myself completely immersed in The Heart of TV?

We need these Hallmark movies. For many, Christmas is stressful, time-consuming, a financial nightmare, and a little melancholy. While I love Christmas and look forward to the season throughout the year, there are days I find myself caught up in the pressures of the holiday. Did I forget anyone on my list? What do we buy your mother? Will I have time to mail out Christmas cards? Damn, I overspent my Christmas budget, again. Ugh, another weekend of Christmas parties when all I want to do is stay home. I forgot to buy stamps! Look at the lines!!

And, while the Christmas movie classics bring us warm moments of nostalgia and childlike laughter, they can also bestow immeasurable sadness with reminders of a childhood long gone or the absence of a loved one. Sure, Hallmark Christmas movies can be cavity-inducing but they can also be somewhat comforting. For two hours, we are provided perfect Christmas moments filled with forgiveness, generosity, love and most importantly, hope. In a Hallmark Christmas world, love does not go on unrequited; overbearing parents reveal their inner fears; children are reunited with families or united with best friends of the four-legged variety; loves lost always return home; longtime wrongs are always righted; love prevails; and all against the backdrop of hope and snow. Lots of snow.

Sure, they’re cheesy and brimming with Christmas miracles, as well as perfectly decorated small towns and the inevitable St. Nick or angel in disguise, but I find it easy to forgive all of the above. These days, Christmas angels and miracles seem fewer and fewer, and as for St. Nick, well, if we find it hard to believe in one another or ourselves, how can we possibly give St. Nick a break. And while I’ve yet to see a storyline involving a minority or gay couple, I remain hopeful (there’s that word, again) each year and know Hallmark will soon right this wrong, as all love should prevail in Hallmark world.

So, give me Hallmark Christmas movies and plenty of them. When the season is at a close and the final kiss is given under the mistletoe between two former flames or once bitter rivals, I’ll be content to hang my Santa hat on hope, no matter how trite or predictable. Christmas without any sign of hope is simply another holiday. And for me, Christmas will never be just another holiday. Christmas will always be a season of hope and love, wherever you can find it, even if just for a moment in a made-for-television Christmas movie.

 

Knowing and Acting

I’ve come to the realization that being an adult means knowing when something isn’t right for you and acting upon that knowledge by making a decision to change or stop whatever the something might be; even if it means feeling as if you failed, even for a moment, or having to explain multiple times the reason behind your decision. When I was younger, still learning about who I was, where I wanted to be, I often “powered through” situations simply because I was afraid to feel like or appear as a failure. Often, I continued to stumble the path because I thought having to explain my decision might take more effort or be worse than the situation itself. I became good at convincing myself that if I just went with it, things might possibly get better and if it didn’t, well, it surely couldn’t be that bad. Looking back, there were more than a handful of times I wish I’d been strong enough to act because some of the outcomes were bad, a few I carried with me, my own albatross, for many years.

Now, I know it’s okay to realize when something isn’t right and to not power through, especially knowing to continue will not be good for me. When something isn’t working or doubt begins to seep in, there is no way to strong-arm it into being what you hoped or imagined.

I left my writer’s retreat earlier than planned and yet, I’m not disappointed in myself. In just a few days, I learned a lot about who I am as a person and where I am as a writer. I’m thankful to the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow to allow me this experience and what has turned out to be a most valuable lesson. When I know in my heart and head a situation isn’t working, I do have the strength to stop and act without hesitation and feel good about my choice.

When I first prepared for my retreat, I worried if I still had it within me to write. I worried I would not be able to put words on a page, to bring life to the characters running around or still hiding in my head, to again become excited and passionate about a project. In my first 24-48 hours locked away in my suite, I found I can still write and am still excited about the process, I’d just forgotten. Somehow, I’d let life and everyday excuses get in the way, so much so that I tricked myself into believing I no longer carried the passion. It is still here and evident in the 3000 new words I created, plus the rewriting of the synopsis for my novel. Those first few days caused a spark among the embers, and more. As I read what I have written, I see a difference in my writing, a confidence, a maturity. Maybe I’m in a better place to understand what it is that I want to write. And it seems all I needed was a few days alone with my research, laptop, and playlist of Lila Downs to remind me.

Some may see this as a failure, some may say I’ve wasted an opportunity, but I disagree. I needed this venture to remind myself of where I am and what I need to create. Yes, I need time to myself, uninterrupted, and to be better disciplined in the craft, but I also need to open myself up to what it is that makes my heart beat faster and allow myself to weep upon the page. These few days reworking my synopsis, reviewing my research, and adding new fresh pages has done wonders for my writer’s soul. And I know it will not end now that I have returned home, secured a spot at our rarely used dining table and continued to add 1,000-1,500 words a day since I returned. This may have been the shortest writer’s residency in the history of Dairy Hollow, but I’m okay with that. I’m home. And, I’m writing.

 

Day #1: Better Late Than Never

I have arrived. Of course, I was an hour and a half later than I expected, as I missed a turn and drove almost an hour out of my way, but for those who know of my inability to comprehend directions, this should come as no surprise. None.

I barely had time to put away my belongings and arrange my writing desk before I walked over to the main house for the kick-off to Fleur Delicious event. Dairy Hollow hosted a fundraiser complete with French wine, local wine, local cheeses, and French pastries. While enjoyable, I felt a little overwhelmed as everyone knew one another and were engaged in conversations and boisterous laughter. But, everyone was incredibly friendly and I was introduced to guests as one of the “writer’s in residence” which gave me pause. It’s been a very long time since I’ve been introduced as a writer. A very long time.

I left the event early in order to snap photos of the colony and head over to #505, which houses four of the other writer’s suites. Only one other writer was present at dinner, which consisted of a lovely vegetable quiche, fresh salad, and baked potato. A writer of non-fiction, her company was perfect for a quiet dinner. She is also a veteran of the colony so was able to give me a few tips.

Now, I am settled in my suite, which is much more than I expected (photos, tomorrow) and I am waiting for the newness of it all to fade and the reality of undisturbed writing to take hold. I’m nervous about it. What if my characters didn’t make the trip? What if I can’t write. I decided to ease into the evening with this post and to look over one of my older journals. Interestingly, the first thing I read was a post dated April 17, 2009. It was when I took my mother to Kansas City to see Sandra Cisneros, the author of The House on Mango Street. Cisneros is one of my favorite authors and an inspiration. That evening, especially when mom and I met her and had our photo taken with her, was very special.

So special, I’d written in my journal something she’d said at the reading, “We (the Latino community) need to write our stories, tell the stories of our communities. These stories need to be told by the people who love their communities. Because if we don’t, someone from the outside will try, someone from the outside who thinks they’re looking in.”

I believe the muse has arrived, too. Just in time.

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At Long Last, a Writing Adventure Awaits

A few years ago, a colleague suggested I look into a writing residency. While my intentions are good, it is difficult to follow through on writing each day, especially with long work hours, family, and that pesky social calendar. A residency or retreat offers a writer space and lots of time to get lost in their work. A friend actually finished the rough draft of her first novel, which she published a year later.

So, during the winter break I decided to do a little research.  In 2013, my husband and I spent an extended weekend in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. We stayed in The Treehouses and fell in love with this open and creative community. While sightseeing, we discovered The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow tucked among the trees. I made a mental note and it was the first one on my list of residencies to research. I applied and on January 25, I received notification I was accepted on a subsidized residency.

Originally awarded for a week in August, I was contacted by the director when a slot opened in July, which works best for my day job schedule. I leave for Eureka Springs on July 5th. One week until my writing adventure begins. I’m acting like a kid counting down to camp, making lists of what I will pack, what I will need to stock the kitchen in my suite, creating a Writing Residency Playlist, making more lists, and counting down “how many sleeps” until I head to Arkansas.

I hope to blog about my residency, as well as my time in Eureka Springs. My goal is to complete a rough draft of my novel. I’ll be armed with a synopsis, the first three chapters and a whole lot of research and journal notes, plus a very special packet given to me by my Aunt Graciela. This packet contains a history of my paternal grandparents, including notes from my grandfather’s diary, the inspiration for my future novel.

Just me, my laptop, that packet of treasure, and  a private suite tucked into the splendid hills of Eureka Springs. I love a journey. Looks like this next one begins at The Writers Colony of Dairy Hollow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving…in March

Every day since the first of the year, I open Pandora and listen to George Winston radio. And almost every time, the first song to play is Thanksgiving from his album, December. I usually only listen to George from November to January, his piano playing reminiscent of frost on fallen leaves, the hush of snow, sleigh bells, and evenings spent by the glow of a Christmas tree.

But, not this year. It is early March and still I find myself spending time with George while sitting at my desk at work, in my car on the drive home, or like now, reading or writing in the dimness of the day. Tomorrow is March 9 and spring is just a few weeks away, and yet, here I sit listening to Night, Part One: Snow. At this very moment, I am longing for snows that will not come and staring toward the spot near the large window where the Christmas tree stood sentry just a few months ago.

This past holiday season seemed vague and disjointed, at best. The moments of childlike anticipation and joyful weariness were few, the majority of time spent carrying the weight of a sorrowful heart. It was like reading a story with an unrealistic plot set against the backdrop of the holidays and told by an author unsure of his or her own voice. Some of the characters were familiar, even some of the settings, and there were a handful of chapters so beautiful it was hard to imagine them tucked between such chaos. But, I couldn’t stay focused and found myself rereading passages, as if I was afraid I’d missed something between the lines and pages, all the while wishing I could just get to the end.

Maybe that is why I find myself spending time with George. For someone who loves the holidays and looks forward to the shortening of the days, the headiness and pace from Halloween to New Years, and the wearing of Christmas like a coat of metallic colors, possibly I feel cheated. Christmas always weighs upon me like a down comforter, providing warmth and a sense of security. Instead, I feel as if I spent October through January barely covered by a short cotton sheet and no matter how tight I curled myself up, hugging my knees to my chest, my feet and head were always exposed, the cold air seeping through the thin threads.

So, I listen to George in hopes of recapturing a bit of what went amiss. And now that the initial guilt has somewhat worn off and I’m less embarrassed by my obsession with Holly and the Ivy at this time of year, I find myself filled with bliss when I hear those first refrains of Some Children See Him. I don’t know if I will still be listening to December come the 100-degree days of July, but for now, George and I will continue our post-holiday venture. Like one of Dickens’ ghosts, George will bring to mind many a holiday past and I will swear there is a faint scent of pine in the air, all the while my Christmas heart will heal with the budding of the daffodils. Come October, I hope George will be waiting, like the old friend that he is, to drop in during the holidays. And like a dear friend, he won’t mention our time spent well into pints of Guinness and colored eggs and how it took me until the rains of May to read the final chapter and finally close the book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you wish upon a…

Mid-January and I’m still answering the usual question. Did you make any resolutions? I wonder at times why we hang such hope on a new year. Why we burden ourselves with resolutions and determinations that will only bring guilt or a sense of failure to our freshly swept doorstep. I confess I used to make resolutions, only to break them before the cold snows of February. It seems an unneeded stress to weigh ourselves with such expectation, especially when the majority of these resolutions do not come to fruition. Life brings enough unexpected and sometimes unwanted gifts to our door without our adding to the pressures of our daily lives.

This year, I’ve decided to try something different. I made a wish list. Now, many would argue resolutions have become just that, simple wishes. The definition of a resolution is to make a firm decision, and yet each year we fall off the resolution wagon so easily since it seems no clear path or guideline is created to maintain and reach the resolution. Possibly this failure is due to making the wrong resolutions. To me, resolutions seem to be more determined by our society or the expectations of others. This year, I will exercise more (because I’m supposed to be fit). I will eat greens and cut out sugar (because I’m supposed to eat healthy foods). I will add to my savings (because I need to be financially secure). Yes, all of these are beneficial to us, but is it what we truly want?

What if resolutions were more like wishes? True wishes. I know, I know. What is the good in wishing for something? Again, no specifics, no timeframe, or clear set goals in making a wish. Plus, wishing will not make it come true, right? Or does it?

The definition of a wish is to “feel or express a strong desire or hope for something not easily attainable.” Some define wishes as lazy because the person making the wish believes it will come true by some magical force, not by hard work. I believe there is magic in wishing, but the magic is the power the wish gives to you, the wisher. Sure, some wish for the obscure or the unattainable, but the majority of wishes come from the inner yearnings of the soul and the magic is the lifting of any self-imposed limitations. I’ve always believed dreams are achievable when you refuse to limit your possibilities.

Once upon a time, I wished to work on campus at Wichita State University. It was never an annual resolution, nor did it have a calculated plan attached. Much like the Merlin Electronic Game I wished for as a child, I opened the Sears and Roebuck Christmas Catalog of Life and circled “work for WSU,” maybe even drew a disproportionate pointy star next to it. Regularly, I opened the dog-eared catalog and re-circled the item. While as a child I made sure I completed chores to perfection and worked even harder at school to make my Merlin wish come true, as an adult I opened myself to opportunity and pushed aside limitations and self-doubt.

When my mentor suggested taking a part-time position on campus, I applied. I didn’t want to work part-time, but I knew this position might be my only chance to get in the door. I worked diligently at my 25-hour per week position while finishing my degree and learned as much as possible about the inner workings of the university and its history. As the university breathed its life into me and my passion expanded, becoming more evident, other opportunities revealed themselves and I went through those doors, even when I was a just a bit unsure. The magic was the freeing myself from limitations and pushing aside that self-doubt and creating openness and willingness for the wish. I will celebrate ten years this August.

Sometimes, it isn’t the plan, the calculations, or the check list that brings a dream or a goal to reality, but the desire itself and the understanding of how life works. We need to take those opportunities when they arise and with little or no hesitation remove any over-rationalization and self-doubt. When we engage, we better ourselves and better our path. And, it helps if we look out for one another. We need to be better at helping others recognize their potential, as well as ensure we bring to light opportunities to those whom might benefit. As we become more hopeful, more selfless, and make ourselves and others available to opportunity, it is then wishes come true.

So, no more resolutions of weight loss or joining a gym because you feel you should or simply because it’s the resolution you make each year. Instead, wish for the opportunity to spend more time with your best friend and since she loves Zumba and Pilates, open yourself to joining her for a few classes. Even if you don’t completely fall in love with Pilates, the company is worth the sweat. Instead of buying a bunch of high-priced, organic groceries from your chain grocer and stressing over learning new meals, participate in a Community Garden or Community Supported Agriculture and introduce local produce into your diet. You may discover having your hands deep in the earth was what you were truly missing and meet some like-minded people who will offer their favorite butternut squash soup recipe or how to perfect steamed asparagus. Plus, you’re supporting your local community and local farmers. Bonus.

This year, skip the redundant resolutions and make a wish. Just remember, there are no stars to wish upon, no birthday candles, and no wishing wells. The talisman is you.