Monday, December 28, 2015

Wrapping Up 2015

On New Year's Eve of 2014, I chose a word to describe my vision for my life in 2015. The word was 'Thrive.' I chose it because I had been working hard during the few years prior, to shift my perspective in life from 'surviving' to 'thriving,' and I wanted to constantly remind myself this year:

We are no longer in survival mode -- we are ready to thrive!

At the time I chose this word, I had been a nanny for the adorable little boy of a couple of family friends for just a couple of months, following about a year of working for Youth City, where I was facilitating after-school programming for kids in Salt Lake City between the ages of 7 - 18. I was also teaching French classes to 5th-8th graders at the Salt Lake Arts Academy a couple of afternoons a week, and I felt more at peace on a day-to-day basis than I had in years. I was indeed feeling ready to thrive! During the first few months of 2015, I began considering career options that I hadn't before, such as becoming a full-time nanny/au pair, or co-operating a pre-school/day-care center based around ideals of humanistic, diversity-minded, child-centered, and (loosely) attachment-parenting-styled care.

By the time the summer rolled around, however, I had realized that the things I was loving most about being a nanny were connected to the very things I loved about teaching. I determined that if I didn't do everything I could to apply for teaching positions, and give a fair shot to becoming a full-time teacher, I would look back years down the road, and regret that decision not to try ... I've wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember, and I've loved every minute I've spent in front of a classroom of youth. So when I realized what exactly had been holding me back/making me hesitate (the fear that I would somehow fail at being an effective teacher once I was in a full-time position), I was able to kick that fear to the curb (I had no proof to back up that fear -- every teaching opportunity I'd had in my life so far had been successful and rewarding) and begin applying my heart out!

I am now teaching two days a week at a public charter school in Provo, Utah, which is a bit of an unpleasant commute, but I absolutely love the classes I'm teaching, the kids, parents, and staff I'm working with, as well as the overall vision and mission of the school. It's not full time, but it is turning out to be the perfect stepping stone toward the career goals I've set.

Through the ups and downs of this year, as I've wished I could do more to help those closest to me through their struggles and difficulties, I've continually come back to this word, thrive. When faced with giant, seemingly insurmountable challenges, I've been able to breathe, meditate, and slow down enough to ask - when I make this decision, will it be a decision that will help me continue to thrive? So it's been a great year, overall! When I have a word like that to guide me, it really doesn't matter what challenges life throws my way, because I know I will face all of them with an eye toward what thriving looks like to me. What will help me thrive today? What will help me thrive tomorrow, and next week, and next month, and next year? It's been wonderful to have that perspective.

Also, I've lost (and kept off) 12 lbs. during the past few months, so I'm feeling very literally lighter with every step I take. Thriving, to me, has a lot to do with making healthy and happy choices on a day to day basis, so when I've seen those numbers on my scale steadily rise over the years, I've known that I have to make conscious, deliberate, mindful choices to change my habits and challenge my status-quo, if that status-quo is not a healthy one that will contribute to my life-long wellness!

As 2015 wraps up, I've begun considering what word I'll be choosing for 2016. Some top contenders: health; wellness; joy ... whichever word I choose, though, I know this is going to be an excellent year! I'm not delusionally oblivious to the very real stressors and challenges that life will be throwing my way, but I am demandingly optimistic that my attitude will be helping me to find the positivity in every possible moment. Even when we are in pain -- we are alive! And as long as we are living, we can be choosing in every possible moment to be well, even by making the smallest of changes and actions that promote well-being.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Day For Moms

Mother's Day is one of my favorite holidays, because I am reminded around this time of year just how many amazing moms and women are in my life. My biological Mother's birthday is coming up soon, so she's often on my mind in the month of May, but the Mother's Day holiday reminds me every year of all the many women I love. 

Mama Judy, who married my Dad when I was 14 ... my big sister Lindsay, who has four little ones ages 6 and under now ... my sisters in-law who are raising adorable nieces and nephews I love ... my closest friend Lindsay I've known since we were 12, who is the newest 1st-time mom I know ... and all my coupled and single friends, those who hope to have kids of their own someday, as well as those who know they'll never want to raise little ones of their own. 

Being a mother doesn't make you a woman, any more than being a woman means you must at some point in your life be a mother. But all the women and all the mothers in my life have something about them I love and admire. It isn't one single thing, either, like ' kindness' or 'compassion,' because all the men and fathers in my life are kind, compassionate people as well. It isn't gender-specific, like all the women are loving or selfless, either. Because all my favorite people know when it's important to sacrifice their wants for the greater good, and when it's important to take care of their own needs so that they can then have more to give to others.

There's something very non-gender-binary and universal that I love about all the women and mothers in my life ... It's something kind, yet fierce ... Compassionate, yet practical ... Its a sense of realness and genuine love they all have in their hearts and minds. You know who you are! You are tough, firm, and gracious. You are strong, flexible, and brave. You tell those you love what you need, want, and expect ... And you understand that while life isn't always fair, you do always have control over your own perspective and attitude. 

You are my sheroes, and your herstories will be the ones I tell my own nieces and nephews and sons and daughters. This Day For Moms, I honor and celebrate you all! Thank you for being purely YOU, the exact human I can point to and say, 'See her? You could be like her someday!' 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

L'amour plus fort que la haine

This phrase, "L'amour plus fort que la haine" was on the cover of one of the first magazine covers I found when I searched for the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo, wondering what could have caused such ire in the hearts and minds of the terrorists who killed 12 in Paris a few short weeks ago. It  translates, roughly, to:

Love is stronger than hate.

I have a t-shirt from the Human Rights Campaign that displays a similar sentiment:

Mere days before these attacks, I had finished penning an invocation -- a plea, a hope for humanity -- as a response to the many recent killings of black Americans at the hands of white American police officers. Outcries of #BlackLivesMatter, #JeSuisCharlie, and #NAACPBomb do little to assuage my pain and heartache at the situations in which we are finding ourselves as humans in 2015.

This year, I am entering my third decade. And it won't be a silent one . . . not that my years leading up to this moment in my life have been all that introverted and quiet, granted. But my passion is only building. I will not release or diminish the dreams I held as a child that this world could be fair, just, and loving! I refuse to 'grow up,' if 'growing up' means giving up, sitting down, or shutting up.

I urge you to join me in continuing to raise awareness for injustices in our world -- but far more importantly, I beg of you to join me in spreading joy, love, and peace in the smallest-seeming places in which we find ourselves each day.

Make time to pet your dog, cat, or bunny while you feed them today -- to truly feel their presence, and be grateful for their places in your homes. Watch your fish in their tank as they swim, and laugh at their funny habits.

Find an opportunity to put down your smart devices and turn off your screens, to truly connect -- viscerally and passionately -- with your family. Call them, if you don't live with them. Just to simply ask how they are, and say you love them. Look them in the eye, if they live with you -- not just as you briefly kiss them hello or goodbye, but an extra, added little while . . . touch their face. Remember what they feel like. Look them in the eyes.

Make a child laugh . . . and laugh yourself!

Do these things every single day, and believe it or not, they will change the world -- yours, and the worlds of those closest to you. And those changes will ripple out further and further. Together, we can and will change this world, because love is stronger than hate.

Here is the Hope for Humanity I wrote because #BlackLivesMatter. According to the New York Times, "One reason the chant ‘Black Lives Matter’ is so important is that it states the obvious but the obvious has not yet been historically realized."

I am holding a hope in my heart . . .
a hope for this human race, in which we all take part.

My heart is hurting with hope . . . 
that Eric Garner, age 43, was not murdered for naught;
that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., age 39, was not assassinated in vain;
that Darrin Hunt, age 22, was not shot dead for nothing;
that Michael Brown, age 18, was not attacked and killed for no reason.

My mind is mourning each of these merciless murders . . . and many more,
while my heart, heedless to these repeated horrors, adheres to a faint 
but palpable hope that there will not be yet another senseless, cruel death
next week, tomorrow, or this very next hour, minute, or second.

I am raising my reasoning and respect for all Americans - and all human beings -
who refrain from answering pleas of "I Can't Breathe!" with chokeholds!

I am pleading with the peace-keepers to please, please pardon 
the pejorative insults persistent youth are hurling at systems of injustice.

I am begging every brother, sister, father, mother, daughter, son, boy, and girl alive
to treasure life - all life - so fiercely . . . to respect and guard and honor
every human being as they would their very own girl or boy, daughter or son,
father or mother, sister, or brother. 

As we listen to every excruciating cry of these, our fellow humans who are dying, 
May we hold this hope in our hearts, that their harrowing, heartrending cries 
will never fall on apathetic hearts, numbed to injustice, or blighted by dispassion.

May our hearts hold up hope, as a beacon to obliterate apathy, injustice, and dispassion.

May our minds maintain the momentum needed to turn this hope into action.

May our human race collectively humanize the de-humanized.

May our journeys collide, and may all our hopes ignite the fires of compassion, 
to heal all the hopeless hearts.