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There’s nothing better than a book that speaks to your soul.

nostalgic_books_and_picture_2_166374THE MORE YOU READ, THE MORE YOU KNOW.
THE MORE YOU KNOW, THE MORE YOU GROW.
THE MORE YOU GROW, THE SMARTER YOUR VOICE,
WHEN SPEAKING YOUR MIND OR MAKINGCHOICE.


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There Be Magic In Those Red Rocks

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Sedona is a mag­i­cal place. Its breath­tak­ing beauty and artis­tic expres­sion are evi­dent at every turn. On Sep­tem­ber 20, I attended the Celtic Har­vest Fes­ti­val as a sto­ry­teller — my first out­ing as a teller that didn’t involve a class­room, school activ­ity or assign­ment. The fes­ti­val was filled with Celtic fun: from bag­pipes to Irish danc­ing, singing, red-haired lasses dressed in green, and of course, sto­ry­telling. It was a mag­i­cal.
One of my favorite pas­times is to observe peo­ple. I find them end­lessly fas­ci­nat­ing and I learn about them; not only by lis­ten­ing to their words, but in watch­ing their expres­sions and body lan­guage. Shar­ing with tal­ented sto­ry­tellers helps me to dis­cover where I belong as a teller, and reaf­firms that I have cho­sen the right avo­ca­tion. I watched peo­ple walk by who stopped for a moment to see what was hap­pen­ing — and then were drawn to a seat as the words of story took them to places unknown. I watched faces light up with delight, or look con­fused with a wrin­kled brow. I saw young chil­dren cling­ing to par­ents as a story fright­ened them; then the grin of relief at a happy end­ing. Magic was hap­pen­ing. It hap­pened because sto­ries trans­port peo­ple to won­drous places that ignite imag­i­na­tion and inspire a sense of com­mu­nity with lis­ten­ers and tellers.
The most delight­ful expe­ri­ence was observ­ing my peers. I saw trans­for­ma­tion take place before my eyes as the the power of the story, the audi­ence and excel­lent telling became won­drous to behold. I saw my friends “taken” by story as never before. They came alive with the words and the visual pic­tures they painted, and the delighted response let them know what they had done was mag­i­cal. I rev­eled in their suc­cess as they were trans­ported to the worlds they cre­ated. Their suc­cess inspired my own telling. I was eager to share as I too, get lost in story — allow­ing it to take me to dif­fer­ent places and times. I sense the lis­ten­ers jour­ney­ing with me, and their energy fuels my own. It leaves me crav­ing more — more sto­ries, more telling, and more com­mu­nion with magic.


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Put the devices away — share your stories. Make up new ones. Communicate.

When words become too remote from the liv­ing voice, we risk los­ing a sense of our voice’s value.” Yashinsky

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Show No Fear — The Substitute Teacher

James Van Praugh once said, “If you want to do good in your life, do good in your life. The energy you cre­ate is the energy that the uni­verse returns to you.”

Energy … a class­room is always burst­ing with energy. The big ques­tion is, “What will that energy do to me, the teacher? Will it inspire, ter­rify, or con­sume me?” The key to energy is to attempt to har­ness it for good, but beware — energy often is as unpre­dictable as the teenagers in the room!

My #1 rule for step­ping into a class­room — espe­cially now that I am a sub­sti­tute: SHOW NO FEAR! Teenagers can smell fear. It cre­ates a nat­ural “high” in the ado­les­cent brain. This “high” trans­lates into POWER. Power can be a good thing — unless it is in the hands of the inmates. It is impor­tant to remem­ber that the adult must main­tain the power in the class­room. One must learn to ignore the sweaty palms, shak­ing knees and swirling stom­ach. 35 pairs of eyes can strike ter­ror into the heart of the bravest of men — but a middle-aged woman wear­ing a pony tail can cause those eyes to look sheep­ishly at the floor, if the power is cor­rectly applied.

My secret? Keep them off bal­ance. Keep them con­fused. Keep them won­der­ing what will come next. “Is she for real?” they often say. That’s a good thing — it means they are more inter­ested in what I am going to do than in try­ing to destroy me in the first five min­utes of class. When in doubt — fake it. “Good morn­ing, Happy Fri­day (or what­ever). It’s your lucky day because I am your sub. I get to tor­ture you today. Oh goody, this will be fun!” Eyes will roll, that’s guar­an­teed, but they’ll also be caught off guard, and they may be a lit­tle scared. Bwa­ha­ha­ha­ha­haha — POWER!

OK — I am not sadis­tic or cruel — I love what I do and I have a good time 99% of the time. The point is to be gen­uine — even when trick­ing them into think­ing you are big and bad and a lit­tle bit of a crazed nerd. Once they see that I am “for real” we get along. And we learn. And we have fun. If you are not gen­uine — all of the “big bad­ness” in the world won’t work. Just like the smell of fear, kids can spot a phony a mile away! One must be real in their weird­ness and in the sense of fun. If you can’t believ­ably shout, “Come on down” from the class­room door after the bell — then don’t do it! Seri­ously — you may be trau­ma­tized for­ever if the kids dis­cover that you are a fake — and it’s even worse if you are a fake who is scared to death.

I can do this” should become your mantra — and it will serve you well. Good luck, sub­sti­tute teacher-to-be; have a great day. Oh, and remem­ber — you are doing this because you love kids and you love to learn and to teach. If you don’t, then run … very fast and very far. Don’t look back.


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Release to the universe …

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Try just for one day to release every­thing to the Uni­verse. You might be shocked by how much faster things will mate­ri­al­ize in your life when you get out of the way.

No mat­ter what has hap­pened in your past or what is going on in your life right now, it does not have the power to keep you from hav­ing a great life.

Time to burn those neg­a­tive tapes that keep play­ing over and over … all the “coulda, shoulda, woul­das” … it’s one thing to real­ize the neg­a­tive impact, it is entirely dif­fer­ent to truly let go. Par­a­digm shift … if you give so much of your­self to the uni­verse, you deserve to ask for some­thing in return. It’s about bal­ance. That is not weak­ness, it is growth.

If you don’t like your life, have a meet­ing with your­self, and think about what you have been think­ing about. Instead of blam­ing it on every­thing else, ask your­self if it’s time for you to get rid of your stink­ing think­ing. is it?


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Weird is good!

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Haiku for the day!

The Sto­ry­teller
Shar­ing trea­sures from the past
Rip­ples in the magic realm
Giv­ing voice to life


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Get rid of your stinking thinking!

Time to burn those neg­a­tive tapes that keep play­ing over and over … all the “coulda, shoulda, woul­das” … it’s one thing to real­ize the neg­a­tive impact, it is entirely dif­fer­ent to truly let go. Par­a­digm shift … if you give so much of your­self to the uni­verse, you deserve to ask for some­thing in return. It’s about bal­ance. That is not weak­ness, it is growth.

If you don’t like your life, have a meet­ing with your­self, and think about what you have been think­ing about. Instead of blam­ing it on every­thing else, have a meet­ing with your­self and just ask your­self if it’s time for you to get rid of your stink­ing think­ing.
Joyce Meyer


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It’s all about the story: reflections on the art of storytelling

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Power and Value of Storytelling

Sto­ry­telling … the power that cre­ates syn­ergy; the magic that hap­pens when story, teller and audi­ence ignite with pos­si­bil­i­ties that are end­less; when all are engulfed in imagery, senses, and emo­tions. I have for years, known this power with dance. It is very sim­i­lar, espe­cially in that it is a tem­po­ral art form. Even a great video­g­ra­pher can not cap­ture the magic that hap­pens when one is liv­ing it, breath­ing with the visual and musi­cal images, and feed­ing off the energy, equally shared by the audi­ence and the performer/s. Sto­ry­telling, to me, is aural/oral dancing.

The expe­ri­ence of being in the moment is beyond words. Like many dancers, I have often been uncom­fort­able express­ing myself orally, espe­cially as a per­former. Learn­ing to be a sto­ry­teller, has made me real­ize that I have been paint­ing pic­tures for my stu­dents for years. It has been the key to my suc­cess as a teacher, but I wasn’t even aware of why or how it worked. I have been telling sto­ries with my body through ges­ture and expres­sion, and the words I have care­fully cho­sen. I often worked with begin­ning chore­o­g­ra­phers … teach­ing them the tools of craft­ing. Advanced stu­dents, have enough of a move­ment vocab­u­lary to cre­ate an entire dance based on cir­cles or diag­o­nal lines. Begin­ning stu­dents, who are just learn­ing to express them­selves through move­ment, are often more inspired if they can dance a story. I can’t tell you how many rit­ual sac­ri­fices to the Vol­cano God I have seen over the years, or Quincean­eras staged in a dance stu­dio. But each expe­ri­ence, has been a work of cre­ativ­ity and excite­ment for the stu­dents. Often, they wrote their own sto­ries, but at times I assigned them research projects. Native Amer­i­can Leg­ends was one … it pro­duced amaz­ing, orig­i­nal move­ment as the kids inter­preted the sto­ries. Black His­tory Month was another. These projects were filled with emo­tions and pas­sions. All inspir­ing to watch … all would have been just as inspir­ing to hear.

Every­body loves a good story. Now, how­ever, I appre­ci­ate the value that goes way beyond the enter­tain­ment ele­ment. I can “see”, “feel”, and hear the his­tory of a peo­ple, a fam­ily expe­ri­ence or a moment in time. Whether the mes­sage be rooted in ancient his­to­ries, or an event that took place last year, last week … a story, well told, is invalu­able to help­ing the lis­ten­ers con­nect to the human­ity that we all share.

Lis­ten­ing to my class­mates share their sto­ries, has given me a con­nec­tion to each of them, that I would have missed if we were in a math class. It is unfor­tu­nate, that we don’t inter­act more, in all edu­ca­tional set­tings. I think we learn and absorb so much more mate­r­ial when we find con­nec­tions … how the sub­ject is rel­e­vant to real life, how the peo­ple learn­ing can use a skill, ben­e­fit from the knowl­edge, etc. I cer­tainly know, that when work­ing with teens, a teacher who can make a sub­ject rel­e­vant to life and the future, is a teacher who has found the key to suc­cess. Again … I am aware now that I use sto­ry­telling all the time. If I have to talk about his­tory, I try to learn enough of a real life hap­pen­ing, to make it real to the stu­dents. I often ask them to “imag­ine if, then what” and it brings about lively dis­cus­sion. There is noth­ing more telling, as far as stu­dent engage­ment goes, when a room full of teenagers erupts into a hand wav­ing,” pick me” scene. Sto­ries do this … magic.

Folktale/Myth/Legend/Parable/Fable

Folk­tales and fairy­tales are the most rec­og­nized sto­ries and are found in all cul­tures. One of my favorite lines in Chap­ter 3 of the text is, “Your mind will rec­og­nize it as will your heart.” Folk­tales serve as the foun­da­tion of sto­ry­telling tra­di­tion. The sto­ries reveal truths about human con­di­tions: humor, fear, romance, excite­ment, dan­ger, a les­son learned. They often involve talk­ing ani­mals, talk­ing trees … a delight for the imag­i­na­tion, speak­ing to the child in all of us. I was thrilled to dis­cover that dif­fer­ent cul­tures had sim­i­lar sto­ries, such as the “Beauty and the Beast” theme. How fun it is to read the var­ied adap­ta­tions and to real­ize that the lessons are the same.

Myths are sto­ries that reveal the reli­gious and cul­tural val­ues of a peo­ple. They often tell about “the begin­nings” … the gods and god­desses, how the world was made, the first peo­ple, ani­mals and events. They fol­low a time­line, from cre­ation through destruc­tion. Mythic sto­ries are based on what at some time may have been per­ceived truth, or a metaphor for beliefs. Research into mythol­ogy may reveal humor­ous char­ac­ters as well as heroic; gods who inter­fere in the lives of humans and crea­tures of great wis­dom. Myths are often sacred, so the teller has a respon­si­bil­ity to honor the tra­di­tion, the cul­ture and the peo­ple who are going to be revealed in the telling. The sto­ries are a won­der­ful vehi­cle to expe­ri­ence all of human emo­tion and to under­stand­ing the human­ity of all.

Leg­ends are sto­ries about peo­ple who exist or may have existed long ago. These sto­ries also pro­vide insight to the peo­ple or cul­ture that is revealed through the leg­end. Char­ac­ters become “big­ger than life” in many cases, as the sto­ries are shared from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion. The leg­end may revolve around impor­tant reli­gious fig­ures, great lead­ers and cul­tural fig­ures. They are evolv­ing even today, as the pop­u­lar cul­ture expands and new heroes are rec­og­nized. Hero sto­ries are pow­er­ful in that they reveal a pat­tern that is rec­og­niz­able to all … a jour­ney, a life chang­ing series of events and a les­son learned and shared.

Para­bles are short sto­ries with a moral or spir­i­tual mes­sage. Fables are short folk­tales. All of the story styles are rec­og­niz­able … often, dur­ing a telling, I found myself think­ing, “I know this story!” It may sound a bit dif­fer­ent, but the point is the same. I think this is the thrill of hear­ing such sto­ries … they speak to us. We may add our own twist to the telling or the lis­ten­ing, tak­ing in the mes­sage and enjoy­ing the famil­iar­ity. It is a sat­is­fy­ing, life affirm­ing experience.

Fact-Based and Per­sonal Stories

Fact-based and per­sonal sto­ries are based on real life events and peo­ple. They reveal events that really hap­pened, how the char­ac­ters responded to the sit­u­a­tions and what the out­comes were. These are sto­ries that must be care­fully cho­sen and shaped. Unlike a myth or leg­end, which has a very rec­og­niz­able pat­tern or sequence of events, a fact-based story is com­pletely crafted by the teller. There is a great respon­si­bil­ity to use the truth to tell a story that teaches, moti­vates, inspires … or to move the audi­ence in some way — emo­tion­ally, intel­lec­tu­ally or spir­i­tu­ally. These sto­ries may require per­mis­sions to tell, espe­cially if you are going to reveal facts about some­one who is liv­ing today, be it a fam­ily mem­ber or other char­ac­ter, cour­tesy dic­tates that one has per­mis­sion to tell. It is the eth­i­cal way to go. This type of story may require a lot of research in order to tell the story as it truly hap­pened, and to honor the peo­ple about whom you are speak­ing. A fact based story can enter­tain as well.

I men­tioned above that fact based sto­ries, like all sto­ries pro­vide incred­i­ble oppor­tu­ni­ties to teach rel­e­vance in edu­ca­tional set­tings. When stu­dents con­nect to the human con­di­tion … in his­tory classes, or lit­er­a­ture classes, for exam­ple, the stu­dent will relate to and retain the infor­ma­tion. Learn­ing dry facts about the holo­caust or the bat­tle at Get­tys­burg, can be bor­ing. Adding a real life char­ac­ter … be it hero or vil­lain, can bring knowl­edge to life, and has the power to change the learn­ing envi­ron­ment to one that truly inspires and pro­vides intel­lec­tual and emo­tional growth.

I chose my fact based story from a prompt, “mem­o­rable firsts.” It was a light humor story about a child­hood event. I wrote about it a year ago in a cre­ative writ­ing class, but for telling, I did a rewrite for sequence, then I added sen­sory descrip­tions. It was a sim­ple lit­tle story, but I think it had mem­o­rable moments that most adults could find relat­able. The telling was much more enjoy­able than writ­ing! I had many ideas for a per­sonal story… I have a few sto­ries brew­ing in my mind, but some are not yet ready to be revealed, espe­cially emo­tion­ally, so I chose this event as one I could craft into an enjoy­able lit­tle story with a les­son learned. As I gain more expe­ri­ence, I want to branch out to tell sto­ries of a more seri­ous nature, and I look for­ward to that challenge.

Selec­tion of Tellable Tales

I actu­ally enjoy research, so this was a great oppor­tu­nity and chal­lenge … find­ing sto­ries that may inspire me to craft and tell. I actu­ally printed out addi­tional sto­ries that I didn’t review. I started with the Sto­ry­telling Site at SMCC, then clicked on links all over the place. When I found some­thing inspir­ing, I just “googled” Aztec myths, Native Amer­i­can Leg­ends, for exam­ple, and was sur­prised at the wealth of infor­ma­tion. I wish the inter­net had been around when I was in school … it sure beats the card cat­a­log! Sto­ry­telling sites men­tioned in the text were help­ful too. I even pur­chased Ashliman’s book, Folk and Fairy Tales. I also had fun sift­ing through my own col­lec­tion of books. I have thou­sands of books on so many sub­jects, and I col­lected many, many books for my chil­dren. I have myths, folk­tales and leg­ends in many forms of children’s books, and I used one of my daughter’s favorites for my first story. I found my myth of Echo and Nar­cis­sus while research­ing a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter. I now look dif­fer­ently at sto­ries that I read or shows that I watch. “How would this work if told aloud?” Hmmmmmmmmmm.

The Prepa­ra­tion and Telling of Stories

This was the craft­ing sequence that has, so far, really worked for me. I would read a story sev­eral times first. Then I would write it out in my own words. Then the sto­ry­board with all its col­ors and lit­tle stick fig­ure prompts … this was the great­est tool. I used the meth­ods of the 5 P’s (I used the 6th, the pic­ture part to visu­al­ize my set­ting and the entire story expe­ri­ence) and my favorite, The Inverted World, to form the sequence. I have a pho­to­graphic mem­ory, so the sto­ry­board was my best method for learn­ing the story thor­oughly. I avoided read­ing the “script” more than right after I wrote it, because I didn’t want the story to sound mem­o­rized. I then told the story, over and over again. I allowed nat­ural ges­tures to “just hap­pen” because move­ment is my first medium. I repeated the tellings until the ges­tures and vocal pac­ing became more com­fort­able. I worked in front of a mir­ror, though I found myself not really look­ing at my image, it was more like the per­son in the mir­ror was the audi­ence. I told the sto­ries to my 16 year old daugh­ter, and she often gave me great advice. It was weird to tell to my hus­band. The first few sto­ries didn’t get much of a response, but the per­sonal story was dif­fer­ent. Per­haps it was because he knows me pretty well, but I knew I had him when he started grin­ning and react­ing. Each time I told the story, it was a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent. That really makes it fun, and surprising!

The text­book pro­vided great infor­ma­tion regard­ing pac­ing, voice, use of image, etc., but for the most part I relied on my instincts. My dance expe­ri­ence was invalu­able. Danc­ing is all about breath­ing and pac­ing … and I found this worked in the use of voice and body energy when telling. It was nat­ural. It also helped me with nerves. Speak­ing in this for­mat is scary, but as I moved and the story took hold, the nerves dis­ap­peared. I also really con­nected to the audi­ence. I found their facial expres­sions and reac­tions inspi­ra­tional … they were so much a part of every story I told. So … this is syn­ergy. I like to call it magic.

I learned from the tellings … I learned to chal­lenge myself to give the story to my audi­ence. This is so dif­fer­ent than “per­form­ing” and it is a very sat­is­fy­ing expe­ri­ence. I am always acutely aware of the peo­ple in the room, their expres­sions, their bod­ily energy. it becomes part of what I am doing … such a rush to feel that give and take … and so very dif­fer­ent than my past expe­ri­ence of being on stage. I have always felt the energy from an audi­ence, but in sto­ry­telling, the big dif­fer­ence is that I can see their faces. Wow! I also enjoyed the feed­back, the pos­i­tive response. At first, being that I am so crit­i­cal of myself, I thought I would want more cri­tique, but the pos­i­tive com­ments are encour­ag­ing and inspir­ing. A final note … I love lis­ten­ing to all of the sto­ries. I find myself being caught up in them, but I also note the faces in the audi­ence and the emo­tions that are revealed in the their expres­sions. It is amazing.

Appli­ca­tions and Use of Storytelling

I think I have already cov­ered my desire to develop my sto­ry­telling skills for the edu­ca­tional set­ting. It is such a pow­er­ful medium for teach­ing. I also see sto­ry­telling as a nat­ural part of the heal­ing process. In my coun­selor train­ing practicum, I worked with a lit­tle girl who was severely trau­ma­tized (PTSD) after a ter­ri­ble car acci­dent. She would barely speak and when she wrote, the let­ters were so tiny you could hardly see them. She had turned her­self inward. I was already a par­ent with three chil­dren and the only teacher in the pro­gram, so she was my client. She didn’t feel com­fort­able talk­ing, so I brought in a huge box of art sup­plies and asked her if she liked to tell sto­ries. I will tell you about the magic that happened.

This lit­tle child and I spent hour after hour on the floor, cut­ting, past­ing, col­or­ing and cre­at­ing. The lit­tle girl who was so dam­aged, cre­ated a cast of char­ac­ters and super-heroes who could fight any bat­tle and con­quer any chal­lenge. I fol­lowed her direc­tions. She would let me cut and shape char­ac­ters … she dic­tated the specifics. It was the most remark­able expe­ri­ence. A the end of 12 weeks of ses­sions, this child had a mobile of all her char­ac­ters that she took home to hang in her room. Through those char­ac­ters, she spoke of fear, anger and hurt. She was able to lash out at the peo­ple (the car) that caused her pain, and she found her voice. She walked out a whole per­son, laugh­ing, talk­ing and being a child again. Her exit inter­view form revealed hand­writ­ing that was bold and round. All of this hap­pened through story. I was dumb­founded by the suc­cess and every­one, includ­ing the PHD can­di­dates and the pro­fes­sor, couldn’t believe what had hap­pened. The lit­tle 2-way mir­ror room was always crowded dur­ing my ses­sions. Please don’t think this is brag­ging on my part. It was not my incred­i­ble skill … it was the magic of cre­ative expres­sion. The “experts” kept ask­ing me how did I do it, what books did I read? I didn’t do any of that … I let it unfold and trusted the process. The story dic­tated the results. It was that per­fect blend of story, cre­ativ­ity, love and com­pas­sion. I just facil­i­tated. I see this expe­ri­ence in a whole new light now. It is still just as mag­i­cal, but I see its power and the appli­ca­tion of story to the heal­ing process. I hope to find a way to work in this capac­ity again … teaching/counseling/expressive ther­apy. Story. Perfection.


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Change …

Change


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Energy …

Every­thing is energy. Think about that. You are a part of this energy and one with all no mat­ter how dif­fer­ent you think you are.
James Van Praagh

energy


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Thank you

Life's jouney


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Unravelling … a real hero’s journey.

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The ball of yarn was tightly woven and new. The threads were sparkly, with hints of glit­ter in the soft blue hues of inno­cence. It was wrapped in criss-cross pat­terns of youth­ful exu­ber­ance, in the joy of becom­ing … of all that life held dear. Fam­ily, friend­ship, ath­leti­cism, con­fi­dence and the know­ing that love, the uni­fy­ing fil­a­ment, was woven into every aspect of existence.

The yarn, how­ever, had begun to fray. At first not to be seen in a sim­ple glance, but when one looked closely, the torn fibers were vis­i­ble. As time passed, the destruc­tion con­tin­ued. Tiny fibers shred­ded and when it could no longer resist, the yarn began to unwind. A sin­gle thread fol­lowed their foot­steps, sub­tle and devi­ous, and gained momen­tum as if rolling down­hill. The ball had become ugly, dark and filled with rage and despair. Its name was addiction.

My beau­ti­ful Emma, my mid­dle child was the joy of my life. I love all of my chil­dren, but this one had a spe­cial place in my heart. I brought her home when she was only 20 hours old. 5 pounds, 18 inches, she was doll-like and per­fect. Despite her size, she was strong and deter­mined to make her place in the world from the very begin­ning. Her birth mother chose me … a gift that brought great honor, over­whelm­ing respon­si­bil­ity, and a love that blos­somed instantly. This child was truly my own. We laughed, loved and found that we were so alike in joy for move­ment, for sport, for com­pe­ti­tion and per­for­mance. I intro­duced her to dance and to ice skat­ing, which became her pas­sion. For years we braved the 4am prac­tices. We trav­eled to com­pe­ti­tions where I watched my daugh­ter become a beau­ti­ful, tal­ented skater; myself, the cheer­ing, proud mom watch­ing from the bleach­ers and writ­ing end­less checks that sup­ported her com­mit­ment. Her lit­tle sis­ter, Amy, fol­lowed in her foot­steps; skat­ing, per­form­ing and proud to be rec­og­nized. Emma was loved by all, espe­cially as she began to teach new skaters — shar­ing her gifts with chil­dren. Idol­ized by many, she was the role model that other par­ents rec­og­nized … I drank in the achieve­ments of my child, feel­ing blessed that she was part of my life and that she was such a pos­i­tive influ­ence in Amy’s. What a future she would have!

Until the yarn rolled beyond her reach … and mine. Addic­tion is an ugly thing. It devours lives, tor­tures fam­i­lies, and when fed, it kills. Cocaine, an exper­i­ment that went ter­ri­bly wrong, brought addic­tion into our lives. It began to eat away at my daughter’s world. It left cracks in the rela­tion­ship we had and it’s splin­ters tore into her younger sis­ter, Emma’s great­est fan. The pain was ago­niz­ing … and the ball of yarn con­tin­ued to unwind. What could I do to stop it? Every time I tried to pick it up, to fran­ti­cally rewind the strands, it burned my hands and escaped. I refused to believe that she could be slip­ping from my grasp. Worse yet, I believed her lies in my des­per­a­tion to hold her close. My world unrav­elled one day at a time as Emma began to fade away … she was sel­dom home, and with­drawn and angry when we were together. I was los­ing her, and she was leav­ing our fam­ily in the rub­ble of bro­ken dreams.

My ter­ror finally gave way to action. I had to face addic­tion, before the yarn unrav­elled com­pletely. I could no longer watch or pre­tend that it would go away. What bat­tles raged within! I could fix any­thing … I could coun­sel peo­ple into tak­ing respon­si­bil­ity, con­vince a fail­ing stu­dent that they could achieve, com­fort a cry­ing stranger; sur­vive mul­ti­ple surg­eries and phys­i­cal ther­apy with a smile on my face … why couldn’t I “fix” my own child? My con­trol freak ten­den­cies were in over­drive, until I real­ized what my prob­lem was in this mess of unrav­el­ling ugli­ness that threat­ened to tan­gle all of our lives. It was not about me!

That real­iza­tion came at great cost. Anger, denial, guilt … these three pow­er­ful emo­tions needed to be put away, but they fought back with a vengeance. Emma was con­fronted on more than one occa­sion; we yelled, cried, came to phys­i­cal restraint, and even talked to police offi­cers. Her strong will and deter­mi­na­tion, com­bined with over­whelm­ing regret, was both a strength and a fac­tor that kept her from seek­ing help. She wanted to “do it alone,” to prove that she could walk away from the chaos — and she did so by walk­ing out of my house.

I real­ized then, that I was also try­ing to “do it alone.” My hus­band was buried in his anger and despair … my youngest daugh­ter was suf­fer­ing even more. She had to watch her sis­ter go through hell, and her par­ents were impo­tent to stop it. I did the hard­est thing I have ever done. I asked for help. This may seem like a sim­ple task … but when one is steeped in the (ques­tion­able) value of tak­ing com­plete respon­si­bil­ity, keep­ing per­sonal issues pri­vate, of see­ing my tears as weak­ness, all while being the one to coun­sel oth­ers with uncon­di­tional love, I real­ized that I was human and that I could not do this by myself. I needed help, com­fort, encour­age­ment and the love and sup­port of oth­ers. It was a huge rev­e­la­tion. “Oh my gosh … I am not super­woman, I can not be per­fect, and I must get out of my own way!” By sav­ing myself, my child would be saved as well.

I reached out, but not to fam­ily. I started dia­logues on Face­book. I kept Emma’s name out of it, but I poured out my heart and despair, asked for advice, and allowed myself to become vul­ner­a­ble. I am still amazed at the cas­cade of kind­ness. The gen­eros­ity of strangers; of friends that I would not rec­og­nize on the streets, began to trans­form our lives. Hun­dreds began friend­ship prayer chains, and stood up in churches and asked peo­ple to pray for my daugh­ter and our fam­ily. Many offered advice, and told their own sto­ries, the suc­cess­ful as well as the tragic. I was no longer alone. I was bathed in heal­ing light and I too, began to pray. I have never been reli­gious, in the sense of an orga­nized form, but I believed in the higher power of life, and a force that is beyond our sim­ple under­stand­ing. I prayed, we all prayed … and I knew that I had the strength to find help for my child.

The search for help was fraught with frus­tra­tion … of insur­ance denials, of lack of funds, and all the awful bureau­cratic messes that go with med­ical issues. I no longer pleaded, cried or begged my beloved daugh­ter to lis­ten to me. I knew, in my heart, that we would find a way. Emma returned home, fright­ened and beaten, her tiny ball of yarn clasped in her heart … she wanted help and she knew she could not do it alone any­more. Together we sought treat­ment, and she enrolled in a day­time rehab cen­ter. For weeks, she worked with other addicts; coun­sel­ing, sup­port­ing and encour­ag­ing each other to live life with­out sub­stance abuse. She treated it like another com­pe­ti­tion at first, “win­ning rehab.” I strug­gled with the desire to advise, to sug­gest, to tell her how to do it, but I focused on sup­port and good old fash­ioned “tough love.” I would not allow drugs in my house, and I would no longer sac­ri­fice my youngest child to its terrors.

Emma did well … she became strong phys­i­cally and cut off ties with all of her for­mer friends. It was not easy for her. At 19, she was still so young and despite the addic­tion, she had not expe­ri­enced much of life. She landed a job as a sales rep in a com­pany that gives for­mer addicts a chance at a new begin­ning. Things appeared to be on the right track. She had one relapse, one week­end of pure hor­ror, which I rec­og­nized as some­thing that is not unusual, though it re-opened wounds and feel­ings of inad­e­quacy in myself. This time, how­ever, I put it away. My power to accept, and to rec­og­nize what I had no con­trol over, had become a source of true enlight­en­ment … and gave me a sense of strength and pur­pose. The seren­ity prayer had become my mantra; its sim­plic­ity and absolute truth never failed.

Emma has never looked back since that awful week­end. She is now 22, hugely suc­cess­ful at her job, and is in love. I am very proud of her. She leads a recov­ery group and is rec­og­nized for her lead­er­ship skills. She con­tin­ues to work with a spon­sor with whom she has a trust­ing rela­tion­ship and is a true con­fi­dante. In the past few years, I have had one more giant hur­dle to over­come, that is still a work in progress. Though I think I have suc­ceeded in fight­ing most of the demons, my final chal­lenge was for­give­ness. I had to real­ize that my dreams for Emma’s life, were mine and not hers. She had to find her own way, with­out my con­trol. I had to for­give her for caus­ing chaos in our lives, and I had to for­give myself. I didn’t cre­ate her prob­lems … they were hers to own. I did not “miss” some­thing and most of all, I did not fail as a par­ent. Bad things hap­pen to good peo­ple … a few years ago I would have laughed at that cliche. But it is true. Things hap­pen that are beyond our con­trol and it is up to us, to choose a path that is heal­ing and forgiving.

I now see my role as one of guid­ance and encour­ager. Allow­ing a child to grow up and find their own way, is a dif­fi­cult sep­a­ra­tion. Addic­tion robbed us of the chance to see this unfold nat­u­rally. She was forced to con­tend for self reliance and auton­omy in a way that was far beyond a “nor­mal” grow­ing up. She had to fight for her very life and a future that still held the pos­si­bil­ity for health and hap­pi­ness. I had to come to the real­iza­tion that I wouldn’t see a first day of col­lege, a per­for­mance of Dis­ney On Ice that fea­tured my child in the cast … all those ear­lier dreams were gone. I had to look for new dreams, those that held pos­si­bil­ity for Emma, and those that were mine. I had to let go — and find an avenue of health and hap­pi­ness for myself. This would lead to heal­ing my entire fam­ily as well.

Relin­quish­ing con­trol is my most dif­fi­cult chal­lenge. I have always had to con­trol my life, to nur­ture myself, to take respon­si­bil­ity for every­thing. I was very guarded about let­ting my vul­ner­a­bil­ity show. I under­stand that the roles we play in child­hood, and the “tapes” we lis­ten to in our minds, have incred­i­ble power to influ­ence our adult lives. Some of the influ­ences are self destruc­tive and get in the way of real per­sonal growth. Suf­fer­ing with Emma as she bat­tled addic­tion, was a life-altering expe­ri­ence. While tear­ing at my heart, as even today I am plagued with night­mares every so often, it has given me per­mis­sion to be human. I seek rela­tion­ships with a new found admi­ra­tion for friend­ship. I allow myself to be exposed, to speak not only what is on my mind, but in my heart. It is both hum­bling and empowering.

Emma and I still have our argu­ments, and we occa­sion­ally find the guilt and hurt creep­ing into our con­ver­sa­tions, on both sides. We both feel regret for what could have been, but that is fad­ing. We are more likely to laugh about the future (yay, grand­chil­dren some day!) as we make plans and enjoy each oth­ers com­pany. I find peace in watch­ing Emma and her younger sis­ter spend time together. We are heal­ing … we are becom­ing a fam­ily again, with a new mem­ber in Emma’s boyfriend, one day at a time.
I have expe­ri­enced what no par­ent ever wants to expe­ri­ence. I acknowl­edge the learn­ing that goes along with such pain, and has the poten­tial to pro­vide a pos­i­tive impact. Emma does it by lead­ing a weekly group and I focus on new rela­tion­ships with peo­ple I would never have met if I had not been open to dis­cuss that which I would never have revealed in the past. I take classes that enrich my life and increase my skills and com­pe­tence. I believe my coun­sel­ing abil­i­ties are much more authen­tic now that I have stopped try­ing to be every­thing to every­one, par­tic­u­larly myself. I sense an increased ease with stu­dents and a new found appre­ci­a­tion for what peo­ple strug­gle with in life. It has been eas­ier to make friends too, now that I don’t guard myself so care­fully. I have lived through hurt, so it no longer ter­ri­fies me.

The yarn works in mys­te­ri­ous fash­ion … to unwind just enough to catch my atten­tion, yet it remains intact. It is not as shiny as it once was, the glit­ter has faded and it is really more gray than blue today. There are quite a few frayed edges, but the ball is whole again, each strand wound in criss-crossed pat­terns that have seen suf­fer­ing and pain. Most impor­tantly, it is wrapped with resilience, and it knows love, com­pas­sion, matu­rity and hope. Together, we have grown through the years … it is my life.


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Gratitude …

Hap­pi­ness can­not be trav­eled to, owned, earned, worn or con­sumed. Hap­pi­ness is the spir­i­tual expe­ri­ence of liv­ing every minute with love, grace, and grat­i­tude.
Denis Waitley

kitty:ladybug


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Let your light shine …

This week, it seems so many are pass­ing from this earthly world. Rest in peace my sweet friend Jill, I hope your pain is gone. Know that I will miss you and I wish I had had the oppor­tu­nity to see you more often, but I have such won­der­ful mem­o­ries! Floyd, who became Dad after a time and helped to shape my life — my wish for you is music, which you gave to oth­ers … may it now be given to you. So many leave us, but leave their impres­sion upon our hearts. Thank you for what you gave, and what­ever the after­life holds, I hope it is enlight­en­ing and joy­ful. Truly … rest well.

Light shine!

Life is jour­ney, for­ever spi­ral­ing, recy­cling … may your jour­ney be filled with promise.


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Be a friend …

friend

A friend should be one in whose under­stand­ing and virtue we can equally con­fide, and whose opin­ion we can value at once for its just­ness and its sin­cer­ity.
Robert Hall


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