The Answer is Love

Love is Always the Answer

Love is Always the Answer

The Answer is Love

I know the questions are difficult to ask.  I know at the time, I wished that I had someone I could have asked, it’s a question you need an answer to.  But how do you ask a person to answer your deepest fear?  How do you ask someone what to do when your mom or dad gets really sick?  What do you do when they die?  How do you live the rest of your life without them?  The thought of it is terrifying, but I can tell you that love is always the answer.

 

My mother was my best friend, biggest cheerleader and one of my favorite people in the world.  When my mother got sick in 2003, all I wanted to know was, what do I do?  And when she died, I wished for answers.  My mother’s illness and death taught me so many things and after living through it, I have the answers I needed.  But people are afraid to ask me for them.

 

There are many tasks that come with illness and death:  notes, binders, hospice, funerals and estates.  But the answer I am sharing is about emotions.  How do you go on when your life is falling apart?  The answer is love, the answer is always love.

 

What do you do when they get sick?

Whether it is your mom, dad or best friend, the answer is love.  Put aside the mixed emotions, forgive, let go of the small resentments and love them with your whole heart.  When your loved one is sick, anger, frustration and resentment can happen too easily.  We cannot necessarily control the emotion, but we can control which feelings we act through.  When you choose how to interact, choose love.  

 

Hold her hand, hug him, read stories together, reminisce.  Recognizing that even though they are your parent, they are scared and in pain.  Don’t let a minute, month or year of illness change the way you feel or act.  Always think and act through love first.  

 

What do you do when they die?

The answer is love.  Talk about them.  Talk about how much you loved them and how they loved you.  Grieve about losing them, but don’t stop loving them, love is eternal.  Hold it in your heart, bask in the glow of the love they had for you.  Cry.  Look at old pictures and smile when you see and expression of love.  Don’t ever let the love go.  

 

In the beginning, there is so much pain mixed in with the memories.  Some days it will physically hurt.  It is almost as if there is a hole in your chest, that no matter how deep you breath, there isn’t enough air to fill it.  But the answer is still love.  Do not let it go.  Do not let the pain harden your heart.  Keep the love you gave and the love you received in the forefront of your mind.

 

How to live without them?

Slowly the pain fades to numbness and the numbness is replaced by everyday life.  Of course, every once in awhile, you will be blind-sided by the pain.  Something wonderful will happen, and you will think, “Let me call …” And it is shocking how fast it all comes back.  But in this moment, do not forget that the answer is love.  It was love that brought them to your mind, take a moment and embrace it.  Then, when you recover, try to share the love they gave you to someone else.  Hold your child, kiss a loved one, hold a hand.  Love heals.  It heals the recipient, but it also heals the one giving love.  Showing love will honor your loss and restore your heart.  The answer is still love.
Illness is hard.  Death is hard.  Living without your loved one is hard.  But you can make a choice everyday, you can choose to let the pain of loss harden your heart, close you off to others and steal your healing; or you can answer it with love.  For me, the answer is love and I can smile everyday because of it.

 

 

For more on love and loss:

I Will – A Mother’s Love is Eternal

Even Though She is Gone

 

The Answer is Always Love

Secrets of addiction

The Secrets we are Keeping are Killing

The Secrets we are Keeping are Killing

As a mother, as a sister, as a friend, the current opioid epidemic is terrifying me.  I want to protect my child, my family and my friends.  I want to keep them safe from the world of addiction.  This disease is taking hold of the lives of people close to me; it is everywhere and the skills we have to deal with addiction are doing nothing to stop it. This is not the kind of addiction we grew up seeing.  Although addiction is addiction, the pace at which opioids take hold is mind-blowing.  The strategies we have used to cope and the secrets we kept, are not a solution.  As the opioid epidemic gets worse, the secrets we are keeping are killing people.

 

This Addiction is Killing People we Know

Everyday, people are dying.  They are our neighbors, our friends, our family.  Opioids move quickly and there are only two ways that it ends: recovery or death.  We throw around terms like junkie, user and addict, but they are just labels, labels meant to demean or stigmatize a person struggling with addiction.  When people use those terms, they are attempting to keep addiction at arm’s length.  They place a stigma on the person battling addiction; classify them as something else, someone different, not at all like themselves.  But that is the problem, this disease does not care who you are, where you are from or whether your family believes that addiction won’t enter their lives.  It is everywhere and it is dangerous.

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The secrets we are keeping are killing

Our Knowledge of How to Deal with Addiction is Wrong

Many of us were raised with addiction around us:  alcoholism, cigarette smoking, overeating, maybe even marijuana use.  Some of us may even struggle with our own addictions.  And for many of us, our go to coping strategy was to ignore it.  Keep the uncomfortable truths that plagued our families a secret.  If no one talks about it, it isn’t really there.  If dad drank too much, no one really had to know except the people that saw it.  It could be hidden.  And if it did come out in the open, we have all been taught the polite thing to do is to not say anything.  Keep the secrets of the family and as long as we all keep the secret, everything will be okay.

 

However, if this is the strategy used when a loved one is battling opioid addiction, they very well could die before the truth is acknowledged.  Keeping quiet, letting it handle itself and hoping everything will be okay will not work.  Opioid addiction must be faced head on, it needs to be discussed, painful conversations must happen.  It may be uncomfortable, but better uncomfortable than grieving their loss.

 

Abstinence and Recovery Can be Found in Truth

Hiding the magnitude of this addiction only gives it room to grow.  We all must face this addiction head on.  It is our problem, everyone of us.  Claiming we are immune or that our families are immune is a dangerous lie.  Anyone from any background, religion or socio-economic standing is susceptible to addiction.  Only if we talk about it, talk to those in recovery, talk to our family, our friends and our doctors can we be begin to address the issue.  We must know, truly know what the truth of this addiction is, if we are to have any ability to fight it.  To prevent it, we must talk about it.  And to move to recovery we cannot hide what has happened.

 

Keeping Secrets Gives Time for Use and Abuse

By staying quiet, we are allowing the addiction time to take hold.  Pretending like something isn’t happening does not mean it isn’t happening.  By keeping addiction in the shadows, we allow it to fester and grow.  Of course it will be uncomfortable, but if you know someone has had to use opioids for an extended amount of time, you can ask, “Has your use of pills become a problem?”  Is it uncomfortable? YES!  But is that better than letting it go.  If it is a problem, now it is out there and people know.  If it isn’t a problem, it doesn’t mean that it might not become one, and now attention has been brought to it.  Silence helps no one.

 

It is Everywhere.  No One is Immune

“There but for the grace of God, go I.”

No one ever thinks addiction will happen to them.  We use terms like strength and will-power, but they mean nothing when it comes to addiction  No one ever planned to become addicted to opioids, it takes over and spirals out of control.  When you are suffering and a doctor gives you a way to feel relief, it is hard to see the course it can begin to take.  Addiction can take hold before you are aware of it.  Then fear, embarrassment and the stigma of addiction keep people silent.  No one is immune, it truly can happen to anyone and it is.
We must speak up, we can not be silent.  

Conversation is not the solution, but staying silent is actively helping the addiction.  We must discuss what is happening, so we can talk through it.  We must see the people, not just the addiction.  The secrets we are keeping are killing and it is time to stop the secrets and the silence.  

This addiction has walked into my home.  It has sat at my table, and I kept silent.  I thank God everyday that someone spoke up and brought the secret into the light.  Recovery is possible and support can be found, but we must acknowledge what we know and speak the truth.  

We need to open our minds and hearts, then we need to listen and share without judgement.  Let’s be honest and open, of course, it can be uncomfortable and hard, but if it will keep a person alive, I am willing to talk.    Does anyone have anything they want to share?

Success

How Her Success Can Be My Success

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“I prefer to work with men”, “Men are easier to be friends with, less drama’ or even worse, “I would rather have a male boss’.  Women have been avoiding, or even worse, sabotaging each for years.  Although we all have female friends and relatives, there is some type of societal norm that has been created to force us to compare ourselves to each other and create this unspoken sense of competition.  It is time we stop comparing ourselves to one another (read more about that here) and begin to support and promote other women.  We need to realize that her success is not our failure.

 

Far too many times something wonderful happens to a woman we know.  Maybe she gets a promotion, gets engaged, finds out that she is pregnant, or has some other personal or professional success.  We greet the news with the proper and expected enthusiasm; but when we privately think about whatever the wonderful accomplishment was, we compare the news to our own lives.  We compare their accomplishments to our own, we begin to measure our success against theirs.  It often becomes difficult to be happy for another woman when we feel her success may outweigh our own.

Alone in Success

Life is not a game.  We are not here to win or lose, we are all traveling down our own paths.  These paths are different, and often contain many obstacles.  We love and we lose.  Life is hard, but beautiful.  Why stand in someone’s way or withhold the support they so desperately need?  Others may meet with success, but they are on a path different than our own.  If we support one another rather than competing, we can make each other’s paths smoother.  And it is always important to remember the old adage, what goes around comes around.

 

When we participate in this woman versus woman competition, we sabotage each other.  This sabotage may be obvious, like refusing to help, or more private, like hoping for failure.  We may believe that our thoughts have no real impact on the outcome, but this mentality is destructive.  The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way.  We may have a small network of support, but what if we expanded that circle? What if we knew the support we needed could come from any of the women we know?  This encouragement could be all we need to succeed.  

 

Imagine if we supported one another, celebrated our successes and truly wished the best for all the women in our lives.  Imagine if we checked our jealousy at the door, stopped comparing ourselves to the women around us and became a cheerleader for other women.  We all need this, but to have a cheerleader, we must become a one.  What does this mean?  We must honestly support other women.  Take an interest in someone else without any other agenda.  Encourage them, support them and celebrate them.  This support will turn into relationships we could count on and trust.  We can build each other up and take pride in our accomplishments.  When we do this we will all win.

How Her Success Can Be My Success

How Her Success Can Be My Success

 

We MUST realize that her success IS our success.  We are powerful, but we allow ourselves to be divided, we compete and withhold support.  As women, we must change our mindset, look to other women as support, not as competition.  If we band together and grow in strength, we will be unstoppable.

What do I want to be?

What do you want to be when you grow up?  I still ask myself this question on a pretty regular basis.  Considering that I am forty, I find it kind of amusing. Amusing because a teacher of sixteen years and  mother to a two year old should pretty much have it figured out by now and because I assume many people look at me and decide that I am a grown up.  But the truth is I don’t.  I don’t completely know what I want to be, I don’t always see myself as a grown up and that is perfectly okay with me.  

 

Whenever the lottery hits a new all time high, my husband and I play.  After we buy the tickets, we sit around discussing all the things we would do with the money.  Buy a new house, go on vacation and I inevitably tell him that I would go back to school.  He laughs at me and I defend myself saying that I would become a physician’s assistant or chemical engineer.  I love to learn and I like helping people.  He then reminds me that I pretty much do those kind of things already; I teach and I help children.  We laugh, but I start thinking again about what I would do if I could do anything.

 

Please don’t get me wrong, I love my job.  I tell my students all the time that I have the best job ever; I get paid to talk and read.  How awesome is that?  I have no intentions of leaving the classroom, it is my calling.  But I still like to dream.  Dream that if I could do anything in the world what would it be. I have dreamt of writing a young adult fiction novel for years.  I think every English teacher secretly has a book idea.  I have it outlined and drawn some sketches for an important setting, but I haven’t gotten much further.  However, rather than writing this book, I started blogging.  I had no idea how much I was going to love this.  The writing is manageable and enjoyable; it is a dream that didn’t even exist when I was a kid.

 

I think that dreaming, setting goals, working hard and knowing that you can always improve yourself is one of the things that can help to keep you young.  Or at least let you think that you are still young.  I  believe that part of the reason that I don’t really feel like a grown up is because I am not done yet.  I am not done becoming the person that I will be.  I still have more growing up to do.  I want to learn more, do more and be more.  I want to try new things, which will also mean that I will fail sometimes, but I am okay with that too.  I want to keep growing up and keep dreaming.  I want to live my life always having a new goal to achieve or skill to master.  

 

I am a mother, I am a teacher and I am a dreamer, but I am so much more.  I will continue to learn, grow, laugh, cry and smile.  I will keep dreaming of what I will be and accept the changes that it will bring.  I will continue to ask myself, what do you want to be when you grow up?

 

Why this name?

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I always dreamed that I would be a mother.  I know that it isn’t everyone’s dream, but it was always mine.  The reason for this is obvious for anyone who ever met my mother.  I have mentioned her in previous posts and I am sure that I will mention her in many more to come.  She was and will always be my definition of what a mother is.  I am sure many of you can relate, but for those who cannot, please let me explain.  She created a place for me to grow up with unconditional love.  That is as simple and true as it sounds.  With my mother, there were no conditions.  She loved wholly and  completely.  I never doubted, never questioned and never felt that I had to changed or be something for her.  I was loved.  That is what a mother is to me.

As a child, I didn’t know that this was special.  I thought that if you had a child, you loved that child.  Part of me still wants to believe that today, but I realized that too many people grew up with conditions to the love they are given.  Unconditional love can create a strong foundation to build a life on; it grows deep roots. Even when life knocks you down, that foundation will hold you securely in place.  A mother is love.  I want to love unconditionally; I want provide security.  I want to be a mother.
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Teachers come in many forms, from big brothers, to roommates, colleagues to children.  We learn when people take the time to teach.  We learn when someone decides that not only the knowledge is important, but the learner is too.  I have had amazing teachers in my life, some in classrooms and some in living rooms.  The teachers in my life decided I was important enough to spend time and energy on, they decided that I deserved to learn.

 

Wonderful people have taken the time to be a teacher to me, they have given me new ways to think.  Teachers have helped to awaken my spirit.  A great teacher has the ability to reach into the mind, heart and soul of another and turn on a light.  Teachers open doors, free minds and create hope.  I want to be a teacher.
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Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”  When we live in the knowledge we have, we stay where we are.  Only through our dreams can we move further, can we create the beautiful future that awaits.  Dreams are hope.  Dreams are a desire for a better future.  A dreamer realizes that it can be better, we can be better and holds on to that dream.  

Every step forward has come because of a dream.  But hope can get weighed down with the stress of the world and people put their dreams aside.  Without our dreams, we sink into the monotony of life and lose the beauty of the future.  Our lives today were the fanciful dreams of others.  I want to be a dreamer.

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Mother Teacher Dreamer, a simple definition for jobs I have, but really it helps me remember who I want to be and what I want to do.  I want to love deeply and unconditionally.  I want to provide stability and understanding.  I want others to know their importance and to help them find truth, knowledge and passion.  I want to hold on tightly to the hope of a better, kinder world and beautiful future.  I want to be a Mother, Teacher and a Dreamer.

DARING Moment

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There is no solution in education.  I am fully aware of that, with millions of students with millions of backgrounds how could anyone actually believe that they have the answer to education.  If you honestly think you have figured it all out, it is probably time to retire.  That being said, this is just a strategy, a strategy to help students become invested in their own education, lives and future.  

 

For many children, the idea of having dreams is considered unrealistic.  Children, especially children from disadvantaged homes, believe that they have very little control over what will happen to them or how their lives will turn out.  These children often believe,  the phrase ‘what will be will be’; they see very little connection between their actions and the impact it makes on their own future.   

 

 It is an unfortunate reality that many students will move through the education system and on to life just taking what they are given, without any real understanding that they are in control of their own lives and can create their own future.  When prompted, my students are more likely to believe the phrase, “If it was meant to be, it will be” than “I can make my dreams come true”.  It is heartbreaking when you think about it, these children believe that fate has more control over their lives than they do.  Which was a major factor in the development of the following strategy.

 

The strategy is called DARING Moments, the idea being that Dreams Are Real and I Need Goals to achieve them.  If we can help our students understand that their dreams truly are achievable, we can help them make steps toward becoming the person they want to be.  When children recognize that to have any success in life, steps must be followed, goals must be set and work has to be done, they can start making the decisions necessary to create change in their own lives.

 

The first DARING Moment will take more time and planning than the rest, but it will set the stage for what will come. During this first meeting, you inspire your students to realize that they are in control of their own lives and they have the ability to change the future ahead of them.  This is how it began in my room:

 

    Hey guys, I want to start something new.  I want us all to take a moment to think about our dreams, our goals and our futures.  I was watching a show on ESPN and they were interviewing Shaquille O’Neal.  He was explaining that he has been making and achieving goals since he was six years old.  He actually said that he had an alphabet of goals; meaning that for every letter of the alphabet, he had a goal that he had set for himself.  

    You know, when you think about it, the only way that a person can ever achieve their dreams is to set goals,  then actually take steps to achieve those goals.  Today, I want us to stop and think about our dreams and begin setting goals to achieve those dreams.   

From this point on, we will stop at the beginning of every month and have a DARING moment.  DARING means, “Dreams Are Real, I Need Goals”.  We will spend time acknowledging our dreams, setting goals, analyzing our goals and the steps we are taking to achieve them.  

 

    After the introduction of the DARING Moment, the students and I analyzed a dream that I have.  We walked through the goals I will need to achieve to reach my dream and they brainstormed the next steps I need to take.  I promised my students that on the first day of the next month, we would revisit my dreams, goals and next steps and analyze if I have made any progress.  

 

I then asked my students to complete a Google form identifying their dreams, the goals they need to set and the steps they will take to achieve their dreams and goals.  I reviewed the students’ information and was delighted, heartbroken and filled with a stronger desire to continue with this strategy.  The first day of every month we pause and have a DARING Moment.  We think deeply about our dreams and goals.  I truly believe that by bringing focus, energy and life to my students dreams, they will achieve them.  

 

*I plan to continue to update this strategy with materials and supplemental information.