The ghetto…

I’m a 5’2 white girl.  What do I know about the “ghetto” you might be thinking.  It’s cool.  We’re all good.  You can think that way.  By definition, the “ghetto” is a part of the city in which members of a particular race or group live, usually in poor conditions.  Weird fact, the word was first used around 1611.  From Venetian dialect, where the Italians made Jews live on a ghèto island.  Outcasts.  Now, let’s get back to “modern-day.”

Police tape.  Dark shadows in alleys where you do NOT want to go.  Trash littering the ground.  People hanging out on the corners in broad daylight…shaking hands while passing things off.  Run-down buildings and tenements that need to be condemned, but folks call that home.  Crack houses.  Shots fired.  Police on the scene.  Made the news for another murder, but folks around these parts just think it’s another day.

My first job as a teacher was here.  That’s right.  Because I “survived” student-teaching in the east-end, I was offered a job there.  I accepted.  The above was what I passed on my first day student-teaching.  No lie.  Police tape on the ground.  I still went back.

The first year I was a teacher, I was so full of hope and excitement.  I was going to change the world.  I just knew it.  I will never forget that year, or the next, or the one after that.  I was the one who was changed.  Not the world.

I was the new “white” teacher.  I didn’t think it mattered what color I was.  Apparently, I was wrong.  I made some great friends with the other teachers, but I truly was different.  I was white, married to a white man.  Couldn’t get any whiter.  I was a newlywed, with no children of my own.  My principal was a short, stout, black woman who had a smile I was drawn too when I interviewed for the job.  She hugged me on my first open house and could tell I was ready.  I looked like every typical teacher vision you could imagine.  I had on ahem, a dress with teachery things all over it.  I remember that night.  I only met about 6 parents.  I had 15 on roll because it was a Title 1 school.

To tell this correctly, you would have to know that most phone numbers didn’t work.  I still had not met some parents by January.  The guidance counselor became my friend and we talked about home visits.  I became a mentor to a child from another room, and the other “white” teacher and I signed up to take the boys we were mentoring on a school sponsored bowling event.  At night.  You see, I didn’t think that the time of day mattered.  All I knew was we were taking the kids somewhere they probably never went.  We had pizza and sodas. And my little boy had a great time.  We took him home first, it was getting pretty dark.  I walked him up to the door, and knocked and someone let him in.  They waved at me, but didn’t say anything.

I got back into my new white SUV.  It was my dream car, by the way.  It had just come out.  It was an Xterra.  Up until that point, I had always had small cars.  So my friend and I went to take the next child home.  She knew where he lived, but for some reason she said she wasn’t sure anyone was going to be home.  It was a pretty scary drive down a back alley to this place.  She jumped out and went up to the door.  I was looking around…with the child in the back.  Next thing I know some young men come up to my car.  I only had two seconds to ponder what they wanted.  He knocked on my window and flashed me the…peace sign.  I rolled the window down a bit.  He said “Peace, I like your car.”  I’ll never forget it.  I said thanks and my friend jumped back in the vehicle.  No one was home so we had to try a babysitters.

We were driving down small roads, and we went to a group of  tenements that had lights on.  My friend got out and went up to the door of this place.   She knocked and someone yelled and the door flew open.  I couldn’t really make out what was going on, but she came back and got him.  When she got back in the car, she said, um, I have to leave him there because his brother is there, and that’s where his mom will look, but after the cloud of smoke rolled out, I could see a bong on the table before they pulled the door to.  I asked her if she was crazy to leave him there, and she said that’s what she was supposed to do.  There were no numbers that worked, and this was 16 years ago.

I’m not sure what kind of mentors we made, but eventually, the parents stopped thinking of me as that “white” teacher, and started thinking of me as their child’s teacher.  I was requested even.  I have 3 girls on my social media site who sent me FR after they graduated High School.  I kept in touch with one family all this time and check on those girls, and they know they better behave or I’ll have a talk with their momma.

There are so many stories like this that I could tell you.  But that will have to wait.  Do what you can.  It does matter.

Empty Pockets

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Motivational Monday…

So I published this quote this morning and got to thinking about it:

Broader ShouldersWell, the truth is, I would not be sad if things lightened up.  If things did get easier every once in a while.  It is difficult for me to think about the past because I wish I had realized how good things were.  That being said, I don’t dwell there.  I move forward.  Sure, I’ve spent a few months being sad and angry about things that were out of my control.  It is a necessary part of healing.  Everyone, and I do mean everyone, is entitled to that.  I realized today that while everyone is entitled to that process, not everyone understands it.  Another friend of mine is going through that process right now, and I wish her broad shoulders.

Redemption…

I read this post today and felt someone needed to hear it.  I am not going to beat a dead horse; however, I am going to say that unfortunately, a few people in my life have not understood where I was coming from or what I was going through the past 4 years.  I was quiet with my other diseases as I thought it was expected.  When my friend suggested I start this blog, well, I did so under an avatar because I wanted to be honest about what was happening.  I personally believe “normal” is just a setting on a dryer too, and too often people hide what is going on inside their heads for fear of repercussion.  That isn’t who I am, and never will be.

So today, a friend shared this:

I am grateful for my supportive friends and family who have gone out of their way to make special meals and take me to special restaurants.
I feel so blessed to be where I am today, compared to the beginning of my journey…when I slept under two blankets in my Los Angeles apartment, when I had constant brainfog and needed to sleep for 11 hours to feel rested, when I was anxious all of the time, when I was losing my hair, when I had carpal tunnel in both hands, when I was addicted to caffeine and sugar… when I felt that I couldn’t do anything.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was ending, it became a butterfly”

This is a very personal quote from my Hashimoto’s journey. I thought my life was over as a result of this diagnosis, but I now realize that Hashimoto’s has made me a better person, the person I am today.
Mark Hyman, MD once said: “I didn’t choose this type of lifestyle, my body chose for me”, and this really resonates with me.

The person who wrote this is Dr. Izabella Wentz.  I don’t know her at all.  In fact, I just found her site today.  What I like about what she said, is that it’s honest.  The doctor who told me about mine acted like it was no big deal.  Period.  No one, and I mean no one, put anything together for me.  They left me alone to hurt, and sometimes, I would cry in their office as I asked them what more we could do.  I got blank looks and was told perhaps I needed antidepressants.

So after copious amounts of research, I have finally put together a timeline of what actually went “wrong” in my body.  I know what happened.  I also know how to “fix” it.  The crazy thing is, this lady put it together around the same time too and I think she has a better understanding of What’s Really Going on in Hashimoto’s?

The bottom line is, because of my Iron Overload, and the push to make me anemic, it tipped the scale in the wrong direction.  Trying to “fix” (I use that word loosely as there is no cure) my PCT/HH by numerous phlebotomies led my body into a state of attack I was in no way prepared for.  Ever.  Because all of my conditions have the same symptoms, with the exception of the latest, the food intolerance, I didn’t know what was going on.  I have a path and I strongly encourage anyone out there suffering with Hashimoto’s not to wait too long to start healing yourself.

redemption

Secondary Worlds, 50 years later…

In college, I did so much research on J.R.R. Tolkien you would have thought I was a fanatic.  Perhaps I was.  I have always been, and always will, be devoted to the realm of “faerie”.  When I read the books of Lewis and Tolkien, I was transported to another world.   In 1938, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien spoke at the University of St. Andrews about his favorite subject, fantasy. “The Secondary Worlds” (as he called them), must possess “internal consistency” as well as “strangeness and wonder” arising from their “freedom from domination of observed fact.”  He adds to his statement that a Secondary World must be “credible, commanding secondary belief.”

C.S. Lewis died on this day, 50 years ago.  When he was younger, he made up an imaginary land with his older brother, and the two even created an intricate history for that land.  Lewis developed first-hand knowledge of war, as WWI broke out and he took a break from his studies at college in Oxford to enlist in the British Army.  He was wounded in battle and discharged in 1919 and later returned to his studies.  His knowledge of battles was discussed years later when he met J.R.R. Tolkien and “The Inklings” was formed.  It would not be until 1950 before his first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series was released.  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe became one of his most popular books.  Children entered the land through the wardrobe and thus escaped the reality of war in their own land.  In a land where children could do nothing to help, and into a fantasy world where they ultimately became rulers.

Interestingly enough, Tolkien wrote his world to be familiar as well.  On one occasion, Frodo is speaking with Gandalf and the sound of Sam’s shears are heard clipping away at nearby bushes. Tolkien writes as if he did not invent Middle-earth or all of its beings; he is just telling the story as it was imperfectly remembered in the past. Tolkien uses these ideas to make Middle-earth seem real and not so distant. He states that information has been “found” on the history of hobbits, which he compiled into a family tree.

On this day, I reflect on my love of the two worlds, and remember the pure joy of entering The Eagle and Child pub where The Inklings might have sat.  I remember my walk around The Kilns, where Lewis lived.  The church with the Narnia stained glass, and the cemetery.  And the pond…I will never forget the magical feeling of looking out into the trees and searching for that portal leading to a “secondary world”.

faerie

 

Motivational Monday…

There are times in your life when you must paste on the smile.  You nod your head politely and have no idea what the conversation is even about.  I have been through many of those moments.  This last year has been an extraordinary journey for me.  I have learned many valuable lessons.  The biggest one of all, the one that can make or break you, is the realization that it’s okay to be “not okay” during your life.  You do not have to have it all figured out.

It is okay to say I am going to take a break from this.  It is not failure until you quit.  It is okay to let people be disappointed in you.  That is their expectation of you, not yours.  Your success is not tied to anyone.  Period.  I have disappointed many people in my life, I’m sure.  Because they saw a vision of how my life should be.  I sold my first house to the amazement of others and bought an older home surrounded by wonderful trees, near water, and a nature trail.  People I knew thought we had lost our minds buying this old house.  I downsized.  OMG.  Less?  How dare I live with less.  As I look out my window now, all the leaves are brilliant and beautiful.  I call my old friend and we go for walks on the trail near my house.  I no longer live next to an AIRPORT.  You would have thought I moved half-way across the universe.  Seriously.

I have been writing almost everyday.  I am a writer.  I know it amazes some and confuses others.  It’s my J.O.B. now and I am currently not getting paid for it.  It doesn’t mean I will never make any money ever again.  No, it doesn’t.  But it means I am doing something for me.  Not for anyone else.  And I like it.  I can volunteer at my children’s schools now, and pop in when needed.  I can work the school store, and actually go to the store.  The benefits are amazing.  They are hugs, kisses, and meeting tiny people at the bus.  I no longer have the latest clothes…it’s okay.  Yoga pants are all the clothes I need anyway.  They are awesome.

So during this time, I have not had it all figured out.  But I have come to the conclusion that if we are HONEST with ourselves, and our friends, the ones who matter will still be here after I get finished with this process.  If they are gone, they were not willing to be part of my life.  That is not mean, negative or spiteful.  It is the truth.  It took me long enough to figure this out.

So the next time you are having problems, like one of my closest friends says, “It’s okay to not be okay.”  Life will go on, just remember to pick yourself back up and keep going.

Being Human

Comfortable in your skin…

I am surrounded by good friends.  Some of my friends, we don’t see eye to eye on everything.  I know that might come as a surprise to you.  I’m sure you agree with everything your spouse says, your family says, and your friends.  Alas, I don’t.  I have taken some big risks in my lifetime to take up for people who could not necessarily take up for themselves.  I would not change a thing.

The values you learned as a child are part of who you are today.  I have learned from my research into social emotional behavior, that by the time you are a teenager, you have either developed these skills or you have not.  Here is what one website says:  Social-emotional development provides the foundation for how we feel about ourselves and how we experience others. This foundation begins the day we are born and continues to develop throughout our lifespan. The greatest influence on a child’s social-emotional development is the quality of the relationships that he develops with his primary caregivers.  Positive and nurturing early experiences and relationships have a significant impact on a child’s social-emotional development. They also influence how the young child’s brain develops.

Many people who are now adults, did not grow up this way.  They grew up in broken homes and were often verbally abused.  They are not comfortable in their own skin because they do not have the coping mechanisms needed to process the challenges that life brings.  Often they feel threatened by others and have a hard time thinking that anyone is going to help them just to be nice.  These were the types of parents I worked with for many years.

They have pushed their troubled childhood way down inside their souls, and it eats at them.  They are angry and sometimes have turned to the same skills they learned growing up, which is verbal abuse.  They look for hidden messages because that’s how they learned.  One mother I worked with several years ago had a very difficult time getting out of this cycle.  She had little money left in her pocket one night after a conference at school, so I gave her bus money.  I looked her in the eye and said, pay me back when you can.  I did that because I knew she would not want to “owe” me anything.  It wasn’t for me that I said that.  I knew she was mad she needed help.

Her little boy, “M”, was in my class.  He came to school the next day and said something I did not allow in my class.  I allowed a lot of things to pass by my ears as I understood the background of the neighborhood, but this one I did not.  He used the “N” word.  The first time I heard him, I let it go, because he was halfway across the room and perhaps I misheard.  The second time he said it, I caught him loud and clear right next to me, so he couldn’t deny it.  I would not have cared if he had uttered an expletive, but that, I would not allow.  All the children in my class were the same color, but it didn’t matter to me.  All of the children did not need to use that word.  I wrote a little note to M’s mom kindly explaining that word was not to be used in my class.  It was derogatory, and I was building the children up, not tearing them down.

The next day, sure enough, in marches this mad momma.  She has M by the collar of his shirt and he is looking down at his little feet.  She makes him look at me and says tell her what you said.  He won’t make eye contact.  He mumbles a word.  I ask him what and crouch down to hear him as I always make eye contact.  He looks at me and in that moment, I knew he hated what he was about to say because it was a lie.  He opens his mouth and said “Snicker.  I said Snicker.”  Oh, hmm, okay then.  I looked the mom directly in the eye.  I let her know it is good he didn’t say the other word, because I want all children to think highly of themselves.  She marches into the office and next thing I know, M is having his last day in my class.

He still came to see me.  The whole rest of the year.  At Christmas, he brought me this tattered bear from his own home.  His mother came in later.  She said quite simply, he loves you and misses you.  I’m sorry for what happened.  I hugged her.  The truth is, I always knew she was sorry.  I knew she was hurt by things out of her control, but I was an easy target at that moment.  I would forgive.  Forgiveness comes easy when you can see the pain in the other person.  Working in that school, surrounded by pain, I learned to be thankful for everything I had.  It also became one of the reasons I didn’t really like Christmas presents.  But that story is for another day.

Uniqueness

Spirituality and “healing”…

Proverbs 27:17

New International Version (NIV)

17 As iron sharpens iron,
    so one person sharpens another.

When you have plans to help another human being, it is important to remember that they are, in fact, human.  If something tells you in your gut that maybe now isn’t the best time to talk to that person, listen to that feeling.  That might actually be God whispering it’s just not time.  Do you ever wonder why things come to you at just the right time?  Why a friend messages you just as you were thinking you needed to talk to someone?  That’s the way it was with me and a relative of mine.  It was until recently.  When we read the Bible, and pray for our friends and loved ones, are we doing so out of a sincere desire to help them or we doing so because we simply say “I’ll pray for you.”

What is really driving you?  Is it honest devotion to God or is it something else?  If we are thinking with the person in mind, we will be driven to call them.  Not continuously send them messages that have no real voice or love attached.  Why would you continue to message a person and not truly, honestly reach out to someone in a way where it matters?  What if you drove right by the person’s house a thousand times and it was well-known you were close, but all you did was message them and say “I’m thinking of you.”  Do not let your words be empty.  Show how you are, in fact, sharpening another.  In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 it even says Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

Words mean nothing if behind them lie empty actions.  I have a friend who has been with me at my best and at my worst.  She is there for me when the pain is so great I have cried.  She is there for me when I want to give up.  She messages me and says “I will drive to a medical research center with you.  There is someone who can help you, I know it.”  It is important that your words match your actions. So my spirituality is still good because I know that no matter what, God has put things in my path for a reason.  The reason will be clear to me one day.  Matthew 17:20  He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

 

spirituality