Friday, May 31, 2013

5025

I sometimes think about the story behind a square foot.

I'll stand in a single piece of Earth and wonder, what happened here?
What didn't happen here?
Who lived their life in this place?
Who felt at home here?
Who only passed by?
What is the story of this place?

We've lived here at 5025 for only eight months. A passing through, you could say, and yet it's felt more significant than that. This was our first apartment. The first place we landed, unloaded, hung up pictures, built shelves, and constructed the beginning of our life together. It is here that we learned a little more about each other. It is here that we hosted friends who brought guitars and food and laughter. We made coffee and spent lazy mornings in our PJs. This place matters.

But this place will bear no resemblance of any of that once we're gone. Today, we'll load up the trailer of all of our things and we'll take our memories with us. And tomorrow morning another person will move in to our home. This space will no longer be ours. She will create her own memories here. She will make it her own. And many more will come after us.


Will they wonder at its previous tenants? Will they want to know who we were and what we created here? Maybe. Maybe not. It makes me want to leave a blank book behind--like a bed and breakfast--where people can write their experiences and share what made this place special. Because without it, all I have are assumptions I draw from continuing to receive all of their mail.

For all the flack that the dreaded "material possessions" receive, there's something to be said about spaces and objects and that hold incredible meaning. That dress. That photograph. That couch. We hold these things dear because they remind us of something greater. Of another time. We know deep down, it doesn't make much difference in the end, but for now, I think they bring us comfort. They make us feel safe. A part of something larger. They tell a story.

And someday we'll come back to Lincoln, Nebraska. Some friends will still be here. Others will have moved on. And we'll drag our kids to this street and say, "This was our first apartment way back in 2012!" And they'll roll their eyes and be mostly disinterested. But this is where we met and fell in love. They won't understand what this square-mile plot in the middle of Nebraska has meant to us. Until years later, when their own lives feel shaky and temporary and they realize--perhaps for the first time--that this is all a beautiful cycle and the best we can do is pay respect to those before us and give hope for those to come.

And keep. moving. onward.








Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rhythm

Lately, I've had more questions than answers.
More pain than relief.
More split-second decisions than thought-out ones.
More boxes to be packed than furniture to sit on.
More forgetfulness than rememberedness.
More lists than tasks completed.
More thirst than fulfillment.

At twenty-five years old, I'm still learning my own rhythms. 
What makes me weary.
What my body does under stress.
Where I default.
How I handle change.

And even as I write these words, I know at time we all struggle with change. I also know that I'm more equipped now than I was five years ago. And still, change is hard. 

Last week, Jeremy and I had Skype interviews with a representative in Korea where we hope to spend next year teaching English. We've been accepted. We have several decisions to work-out still, but we are slowly moving in that direction.

My time at my job is over. I'll miss my new friends.

Our apartment is in boxes as we're moving on Sunday.

We're leaving the place where we met and fell in love and settled into our first apartment.

I'm not exactly sure where along the line I gathered that life would grant me the assurance I crave. When did I start to believe that things would be simpler than they are? Because that hasn't happened yet. And if history rings true, I won't be holding my breath.

The next few months are only going to bring more change and travel and packing and unpacking.
We are going from here to Colorado,
then to Idaho,
then to Mexico for my brother's wedding,
then back to Idaho,
then Colorado,
then, maybe Korea.
All in three months.
I'd best buckle in because the road won't be getting smoother any time soon.

I know my tendency in the face of change is to attempt to control it. To manipulate it to my liking. An ideal form, shaped by my hands, and fiercely protected from outside forces. An environment I want to perfect until it's less difficult to handle.

My other tendency--upon recognizing that change cannot be tamed--is to suck it up and become really harsh with myself: "Oh come on you emotional basket case! Pull yourself together. Why is this so hard for you? Get over it and get it done."

And--as the past has proven--shame  rarely never produces significant and healthy change.

So instead, here's another script:

"Dear Child,

Whew! You've got a lot on your plate right now. I'm so sorry you are weary. It makes sense, doesn't it? You're leaving a community of people you love, putting your life in boxes, and setting out on a great adventure that you're unsure of it's end. You can feel scared, fragile, and out-of-control (because frankly, you are; the control was never yours).

What is the most loving thing you could you do to take care of yourself right now? Talk to someone? Write it out? Drink some water? Put your feet up and rest? Take some ibuprofen? You know better than anyone, so please take the time to provide that care.

In the mean time, change isn't going anywhere. It's the only constant in life. You're learning tools to make these transitions easier and I am proud of you. So proud. Please know that. In the midst of these changes you'll use muscles you forgot you had. You'll adapt and adjust like a pro without even thinking about it. A year from now, you'll be even better equipped for the next round of changes. You're going to make it. Because you already are.

Sincerely,
Truth"








Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Last Day of School

Today was the last day of school. We partied. We played. We ate popsicles.
Then I put my kids on the bus for the last time and they went home.

Eight months ago, when I accepted this job as a special ed para, I was sure that I would not be crying today. I was sure that I would not be longing to keep in touch. I was sure that I would not be wondering how their futures would pan out. I was sure that I would walk out the door unattached, unaffected, and ready to go.

And in many ways, I am ready to go. But not before I cried. Just a little. Just because.

Because these kids have grown on me.
They've educated me.
They've challenged me.
And they've loved me.

I spent most of the last eight months hanging out with two kindergartener boys, Trenton and Devon. I pretty much loved them the second I saw them--so as you can see, I didn't really stand a chance.
I learned their patterns.
I learned what made them cry.
I learned what made them laugh.
I learned to-not-walk-by-that-room-with-that-person-unless-holding-Trenton's-hand-otherwise-he'll-sprint-away-at-surprising-lightning-speeds-for-a-five-year-old.
I learned that Devon-only-likes-cars-or-play-dough-when-he's-unhappy, but-not-Goldfish-crackers-or-blocks.
I learned given-two-extra-seconds-Trenton-will-find-the-Cheezit-stash-and-he-will-open-the-childproof-lock.
I learned the Devon-responds-much-better-to-directions-after-he's-finished-doing-whatever-he's-doing-because-otherwise-he'll-flip-out-and-throw-a-fit (this only took four months for me to recognize).
I learned that bubbles cheer up any day.
And love can be felt without words.

Because we haven't had a lot of words at our disposal. Autism robs my boys of this. But what it takes away in words it gives in creativity. We've learned to connect in other ways and I'm grateful. I hope that my communication has been as clear. Because at the end of the day, I care less about whether or not they washed their hands or followed directions. The only thing that matters to me is this:  
Did they know they were loved? 

I think they did.
And I know this because Trenton never fought our "morning hug" ritual.
And I even got a smile out of him sometimes. 
Because Devon would give me a sly and playful look when he was about to disobey.
And Trenton would ask "spin" and we'd dizzy ourselves in flight.
Because Devon would come to me with "ouchie"s.
And Trenton would bury his head in my chest when he cried.
Because Devon would say "wook!" and point at a creation he knew I would admire.
And Trenton would slip his hand in mine as we walked down the hallway together.
And there are few things better than that. 

I didn't get to say "goodbye" to Trenton and I know it's probably a selfish wish of mine. He hasn't been at school the past few days and it broke my heart that he wasn't there today either.

But if he was, I would've told him the same thing I told Devon today as I buckled him into his seat on the bus: "Devon, I'm going to miss you. You matter. I hope you know how much I care about you. Bye."

And as he dazed out the window mesmerized by the flittering leaves in the trees, mostly oblivious to my presence at all, I like to think he was feeling the same thing too.










Saturday, May 18, 2013

What We'd know from Space

This morning, I was reading Time magazine and learned a little about the on-going conflict in Syria. Just this week war lords continued a horrific on-line battle posting disgusting YouTube videos of them mutilating their victims. This--and stories like this--are happening everywhere, every day.
Stories that make me want to crawl under the covers and stop reading the newspaper. 
Stories that cause my blood to boil and my heart to shatter. 

And I don't know what to do with a world like this.

And then I watched this 20-minute video about astronauts' spiritual experiences upon seeing Earth from space. How powerful it is. How you can't come back unaffected. How it changes them forever. 



"We have to start acting as one species with one destiny. We are not going to survive if we don't."

"We're seeing very clearly that if the Earth becomes sick, then we become sick. If the Earth dies, then we're going to die. People sense that something's wrong, but their still struggling to go back and find out what the real roots of the problem are. And I think what we need to come to the realization that it's not just fixing an economic or a political system, but it's a basic world view, a basic understanding of who we are that's at stake."


How would we be changed with a glimpse from such a vantage point as space?

Maybe it wouldn't solve every conflict, bring peace to every religious war, or gather politicians to agreement, but I think such a perspective would make us all a little more compassionate.

The word compassion is derived from the Latin words pati and cum meaning "to suffer with." 

The American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron says:
"In cultivating compassion we draw from the wholeness of our experience--our suffering, our empathy, as well as our cruelty and terror. It has to be this way. Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity."

Today, I'm not feeling entirely optimistic about our world's recognition of "our shared humanity." But I want it so badly.

I want religious folk to recognize that often we have more commonalities than differences.
I want bigots to stop bigoting and haters to stop hating.
I want everyone to have equal rights.
I want everyone to feel safe walking the streets at night.
I want cowardly on-line interactions to cease.
I want extremists of all kinds to lose their megaphones and their media attention.
I want Hollywood to exhaust it's appeal.
I want hurts to be mended.
I want scarred people to get help instead of getting even.
I want healing.

I believe that compassion is the way to all of that. 
Probably not eradication, but at least progress.

In The Gifts of Imperfection Brene Brown writes: 
"The heart of compassion is really acceptance. The better we are at accepting ourselves and others, the more compassionate we become."

So while I wish I could save innocent people in Syria from war and end violence everywhere, today I'm settling for acceptance. 

Which means looking kindly at my reflection in the mirror.
Which means not berating myself for an incomplete to-do list.
Which means suspending judgement when I think I know all about something.
Which means using a kinder tone even when I talk about things or people I really don't like.
Which means using less black-and-white language like "always," "never", and "those people."
Which means compassion.

















Thursday, May 16, 2013

Eighty-Six Degrees

The sun has been shining more lately.
Eighty-six degree weather.
Growing plant life.
People outdoors.
Fresh air.

It's been good for us here in kindergarten. These kids are like birds in a cage all winter long. Just waiting for the ice to melt. Just waiting to be set free. Well, at least for 15 minutes at recess.

Yesterday was another of those moments with my boys that I knew I would remember for the rest of my life. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just special because it was happening and I was aware enough to notice it. 

We were out at recess. Trenton was kicking off his sandals repeatedly with a sly grin on his face. He'd run up one slide and come careening down another. I snuck up behind him at the top and he giggled as we slid down together. Another kindergarten teacher said, "You are the perfect person for him."

The whistle blew so I took him by the hand and surprisingly he didn't fight me either. He was just content walking and holding my hand. All two-and-a-half feet of this little guy walking beside me. I scanned the area for Devon who is happily oblivious to the whistle. There he was--his blond head--sitting alone on the other side of the playground cross-legged with his chin in his hands, and staring at the dandelions. We walked toward him. Devon caught sight of a bird hopping through the grass and he chased it gleefully with a run that looks more like flailing than anything else as he uses one hand to hold up his too-big pants. He glanced at us when I called his name. With a smile and said, "Wook," took my hand, and led me to the dandelions that had so raptured his attention.

"Yes," I said, "flowers!"

"Fwoweys," he mimicked.

I took Devon's hand in my right and Trenton's in my left and we walked in the sunshine and the grass and the moment. Safe. Content. Calm. Good.

+ + + + + + + + + +

Today has been different. The sun is surely shining. But today it's more intense. Uncomfortable. Almost irritating. Trenton has a persistent cough that is not letting up as he shares his germs all over me. I cringe and seek cover anticipating my won cough in the morning. Devon's upset at nearly every direction I give him. He runs away when I ask him to do something. His hands like velcro, drawn and stuck to nearly every item we pass. I feel short-tempered and frustrated. I'm less inspired and reflective and more stuck and bothered.

But awareness isn't only valuable when all is well.
In fact, it may be most important when all is not well.

Because this awareness has granted me the opportunity to say:
-This afternoon can be different because I can change my attitude
-My boys bring their best with them to school everyday. This is their best.
-With six school days left, I'm going to smile and be grateful even if I don't feel it. 

A few years from now when I'm wondering what ever happened to these kids, I'll be glad that I did.


Monday, May 13, 2013

One Year Anniversary

Today is May 13, 2013. Exactly one year since our wedding day.

Happy anniversary to us! 
We made it!

Since that day a year ago we've been in 8 different states and lived in three of them. We've gotten joint bank accounts and settled into a familiar rhythm. Between us we've held six jobs. We've made new friends and said goodbye to others. We've celebrated when we came out under budget and eaten pasta (in every possible form) when we came out over.  We've commemorated each passing month and looked around each time as if we can't possibly be doing this right. But we are. We're doing it right because we're doing it. 

As I sit here on our one year anniversary, I feel comfortable. Safe. Familiar. Happy. Reflective.  This year has taught me that marriage can be both the most thrilling and the most painful part of life. At the same time. And yet, I feel good. And I know I haven't always felt this way.

To my ten year-old self: let me tell ya, you won't find Mr. Right. He may not play guitar, cook you dinner, and he probably won't resemble a celebrity. But I promise, it's going to be all right.

To my fourteen year-old self: just because you don't care for the dating culture of your peers doesn't make you a lesbian. Don't worry. You're very, very fond of men.

To my seventeen year-old self: you have to be dating if you ever want to fit in...with the wrong kind of people! You're not a freak. You're actually quite reasonable. You've got a good head on your shoulders and I believe in you. Don't worry about it. You're a good person who will one day attract the right person. Some day.

To my nineteen year-old self: the pressure's on again in college. No, taking a year to live in Cambodia will not ruin your chances of finding a good guy. In fact, it will actually bring a pretty great guy into your life. Crazy, I know. Just go.

To my twenty-one year-old self: yes, you've known since the beginning. He's the one. It's okay to let yourself sink in. To be seen. To be scared. To say that out loud. And to move forward.

To my twenty-five year-old self (who is celebrating this very day): You're great. You're doing this. And I am proud of you. Keep that guy. Give him a hug. He's pretty much the best thing that has ever happened to you. Expect growth and anticipate hardship. Be intentional about finding reasons to laugh. Or make up reasons. Because this one "wild and precious life" has been enriched by your best friend, roommate, and husband. You two are going to be great because you talk, you feel, you compromise, you laugh, and you experience all of this together.

To fifty more.





Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Green Bouncy Ball

I work at an elementary school as a para. I'm like a teacher's assistant. But really, I spend the majority of my day with two non-vebal, autistic, kindergarteners: Trenton and Devon.

Because my friends are a bit behind their kindergarten classmates, we spend a lot of our day waiting. Waiting for the rest of the class to get ready for P.E.
Waiting for the bathroom to be available.
Waiting for them to finish eating lunch.
Waiting for Devon to catch up.
Waiting for them to put toys away.
Waiting.

We move at a different pace.
We follow our own schedule.
We have a lot of quality down-time.

And it was in this down-time recently that I looked around the kindergarten classroom and recognized just how much this job has changed me.

As several co-workers have noted, my reflexes have adapted enormously because my friend, Trenton is a runner. I'm practically a super hero now. A year ago, I would've joked: "I don't do kids." I now have a kid-friendly vocabulary and a whole slew of 6 year-old conflict resolution tools in my back pocket. Whereas before I would have preferred the company of adults, coffee, and good conversation, I'm much more likely to be found on a playground or amongst children. I've learned that instead of dishing out reprimands, it's best to ask questions. Kids know that what they just did was totally wrong. I'm well-versed in the fine arts of shoe-tying, nose-wiping, diaper-changing, and lunchroom monitoring. I'm more patient. More sensitive. More compassionate. More kid-friendly, in general.

This job has changed me, but so have these kids.

I can't help but wonder where these little kids will end up. Will Trenton ever have a friend? Will Devon learn to generate individual thoughts and not only repeat everything I say? Will Ava grow up to be a mean girl? Some kids I need not wonder about. Joshua will go to Harvard and study physics. Mary will graduate valedictorian. Jenny will always be the beauty that people love to hate. Nelly will grow disinterested in her brilliant red hair and dye it some awful other color. Eli will dance his way into the hearts of some "So You Think You Can Dance?" judges and be an instant winner. I hope that Erica finds herself a simple farm and brings people joy. I hope that Uriah never recovers from his speech impediment, because it absolutely melts my heart.

How I wish so much good for these young souls. Especially Trenton.

Last week, I took him for his break while the other students did math. We walked to another room where he gets to pick between a mini-tramp or a big bouncy ball. This day it was the bouncy ball. He hit the ball. Pushed it against the wall. He smiled. He led me by the hand to be nearer to him. He sat me down to sit atop of the bouncy ball and climbed on my lap.

"Bow" he said, looking me straight in the eyes.
"Bounce?" I asked.
"Bow," he confirmed.

He threw his arms around my neck and held on tight. He giggled and I giggled. What began as a slightly giddy moment turned viral and Trenton let out shrieks of joy as we bounced up and down on that green bouncy ball. Rarely do I manage to match what Trenton needs with precisely the right response and it breaks my heart. But in that moment, as we bounced together on that green bouncy ball, I knew I got it. I knew he was getting precisely what he needed. His laughter soaked into my bones. And his breath warmed my skin. It was one of those euphoric moments that even as it's happening you know it's holy. That you'll remember it for the rest of your life. 

Much like this experience.
Thirteen days left.

Wishing them the best.