Friday, June 26, 2020

Words and Phrases that say, "Notice me...Live me..."

Sometimes words float into my head and then proceed to float right back out. Other times, they sit and roost, begging to be entertained for a long visit, bringing with them a "notice me... live me..." kind of attitude. The following paragraphs each begin with a phrase that has been perched on my brain for some time, resurrected intermittently by events we've all been living. I would like to share the phrases, along with questions I ask myself, so that you too, might invite them in for a little conversation, contemplation and mindful interpretation. I'd love to know if any of them say to you, "Notice me...Live me..."

Living in fear does not protect you. Worry does not protect you. Living in worry and fear is not really living at all. When worry and fear start to guide my days, I know it is time to step back and assess. What exactly is the basis for the worry? What is bringing fear to the forefront of my mind? Without fail, whatever the catalyst for either, the debilitating effect is unproductive and unhealthy. Our world offers much to fuel the flames of worry and fear, but when I go in the direction of entertaining either, I forget that my purpose on this planet is to live, to the fullest of my potential. I cannot do that when I am afraid to be around people, or when by avoiding others, I refuse to notice the service I am called to perform. Our calling, vocation and purpose do not change because life has become more difficult to manage. When I allow worry and fear to guide my life, I am not fully living my "me". What are you called to do? How can you do that with fervor, even in the face of circumstances that fuel worry and fear?

I can be happy and at peace while still being safe and cautious. At various moments over the past few months, our world arrived at a point where being happy and at peace was difficult to muster. While approaching shopping one day, mask in place, I smiled at a young man who was wiping down carts and thanked him for working to keep us all safe. I could not see his mouth, but the smile that came through in his eyes was enough to stop me in my tracks. I proceeded to ask him to smile at everyone in that way as they entered the store so that they can feel the happiness and peace that his smile brought to me even in the midst of this newly stressful situation of 'regular' shopping. That exchange brought to the forefront of my mind the first line of this paragraph. Go ahead and reread it. I am often accused of not taking things seriously enough because I am at peace with the turmoil. My ability to find happiness and peace is not a bad thing. It is a gift and a trait I work diligently to hone, even in adverse situations. Imagine a world where more of us could live as the young man with the beautifully smiling eyes so adeptly did, and pass peace along to others.

Happiness is not ignorance; it is the complete acceptance of our lack of control and willingness to continue forward anyway. That's right! Happiness has nothing to do with being clueless. Quite the opposite! I know the famous saying goes, "Ignorance is bliss." And while those who are ignorant might enjoy a certain level of bliss in not knowing what is amiss in their surroundings, this is not true happiness. The bliss this quote speaks of is merely a band-aid that can be ripped off to expose a source of misery at any second. Imagine you are in your home, totally oblivious to the vandals outside just waiting for the moment to break in. You are feeling bliss...but it will not be long lasting. True happiness exists only by knowing exactly what we are up against, accepting our position and role, and moving forward with full knowledge of possible consequences. 

I challenge you to let these words take root in your mind for some mindful moments. Maybe a phrase per day for a few days. I was deliberately vague in most of my presentations of these phrases in hopes that you might find circumstances in your own life where the words can come to life, whispering or screaming, whatever your preference, "Notice me...Live me..."

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Sharing My Conundrum (Gotta love that word!)

My most recent post was made on Memorial Day...perhaps that was the last time I felt that my mind could wrap itself around a topic without wincing and feeling irreconcilably inadequate. While I have voiced to many people why I have taken a leave from posting, I feel it would be most responsible of me to let you, the folks who tend to enjoy my musings, know where I've been and why. Let's see if I can put words to the reasons in such a way that help me to more easily make my way back to the keyboard that I've so tremendously missed! But, like a child cautiously dipping his toe to test the waters, I fear the consequences of any path I take in this tenuous environment.

The brokenness of our society and world is heartbreaking. That is not news to anyone choosing to live and breathe. Even my children, young as they are in the scheme of things, can understand that living in community on this planet can be challenging on a good day and downright petrifying on another type of day. We have much work to do...this is not novel information. And although many might not like to hear it, much of the work needs to be done on each of our individual hearts in order to foster the wisdom and courage to go out into the world and create the change that is necessary for humanity to be human again. 

And therein lies my absence. While I feel completely unable to voice anything worthwhile or new in this culture of commentary-oversaturation, I also feel that to write about frivolities in the form of, for example, metaphors between my dog and life, is to diminish the enormity of our world's present state of turmoil. I mean, does it really matter that I write about how I cried at the end of our school year when people are feeling hatred and loathing for and from others on a daily basis? I really don't know.

And so, where does this leave me and my writing? I am not sure. I am here, so that is a step. I cannot allow a full month to go by before sharing new writing, so that is telling. I've a long list of frivolity that is waiting for words and is sure to bring smiles. I've a longer list of deep-rooted messages that I've been told need to be shared. And I've fear of penning either route. 

With all of that out on the table, I will move past my fear and insecurity to come back to the keyboard. I welcome any and all points of view to be voiced back to me...even if mostly through personal emails and messages. Anyone who knows me well, knows that it is never my intention to be anything but kind. A good friend, without realizing it, gave me the boost I needed when he said, "I'd never call you a jerk." Ha! It's the little things...but with my reputation for kindness preceding me, I will move forward. Thank you to those who have reached out to see where I have been. (My favorite message: "Long time no read.") Thank you for living this life with me. Thank you for reading and thank you for being. Not sure what the next words will be, but whatever path is chosen, it's a comfort to know we will be hashing it out together.  See you in a few days!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Yes, I Believe We Do Need Another Memorial Day Reminder

My son is a unique individual with an uncanny penchant for music. Since he just recently completed his first year as an undergraduate music major, my first experiences with him as a child of music have been flooding my mind. One of his earliest musical traits, exhibited when he was about 2 or 3 years old, is that he would listen to Vivaldi as he paced around the room. My son was well into his third year of life before he began to speak discernable words, so his innate musical talents superseded the milestone of spoken communication. He would request his Vivaldi with a finger point, then begin his anticipation for the tracks to play. As soon as the music began he would pace around the room, hands dropped motionless at his sides, face to the floor. Little emotion was involved with the first two tracks, but when track #3 came on, he would continue his pensive pace with tears streaming down his cheeks, only to be replaced by joy-filled pacing when Track #4 came up. I would watch in awe and quite frankly a stupor of ignorance because I did not "see" or feel the music the way Max did. It pained my mom-heart to see him feeling such deep sadness, but on the occasion I attempted to skip Track #3 to avoid his despair, he protested vehemently and demanded, without words, that I play the tracks in order. What was he thinking? I didn't know because he couldn't tell me. But the thought was there, as well as the feeling attached to it. And he was just fine with the sad that came as part of the package deal of his favorite Vivaldi CD.

I find Memorial Day to be one of those holidays that is, much like Max's Vivaldi excursions, in deep contrast with itself. Folks will utter the ubiquitous phrase, "Happy Memorial Day", and I shudder a little inside. It is with joy that we take the day off to feel the anticipation of the summer months that lurk just around the calendar bend. But with this happiness, we must not forget the reason and accept that Memorial Day, like the Vivaldi CD, is a package deal. We must remember that this day is held in high honor to recall and remember all the lives lost at the cost of our freedom. We cannot celebrate the joy of freedom without also experiencing the sadness of lost lives, broken families and children/spouses/parents who never come back home. I am going to let Bernadette finish this post with her winning speech given last year at our township Memorial Day commemoration. Keep the soldiers and families in your heart today, and don't be, in fact, demand as my little man did so many years ago, to feel the sadness of this day and allow your emotions to run down your cheeks in memorialization of life lost at the expense of so much that we have to celebrate.

Here is Bernadette's full speech: *Bernadette on Memorial Day 2019

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Worry is Like ...

….can you fill in the blank? I am sure there are many possibilities, but I am going to stick to the traditional quote by Erma Bombeck..remember her? and if you know the answer from the National Lampoon movie Van Wilder, well you and I have very different movie taste, but I guess that's another way to get folks involved here. haha! Wherever you know the answer from, or if you don't know this quote at all, traditionally the beginning of the wisdom goes:

Worry is like a rocking chair...

Now, the real question is, do you know why?

The answer will be at the end of this post...but first, the reason I am bringing this up today...

In taking my dog out I sometimes become frustrated that she is so incredibly discerning about the location in which to make her deposit. (work with me here...I promise the connection will be evident in short measure) My frustration is exponentially increased if the rain is falling because not only does the circumstance of the rain make it more time consuming for her to find the right spot, but she psyches me out! She will look as though we have hit the jackpot only to, by some means indiscernible to me, decide to move elsewhere. Her discernment is maddening at best, and so I find that I must hum a little ditty in my head in order to not lose my mind.

But here is the kicker...after so much time and preparation put into finding the correct the location for the deed, I don't believe she another thought to that particular decision. She puts a tremendous amount of time into the decision, then never looks back; never second guesses her choice, never worries about it again. I don't believe that later in the day as she attempts to commence a nap she laments, "What the hell was I thinking??? two more feet to the left, that's where I should have gone!" Nope. She is hyper-focused at the moment...and only at the moment...and that focus is commendable, but her ability to move on from that decision without worry or regret is downright admirable.

Over the past weeks, how often have we been reminded that it is our 'duty' (haha! couldn't resist...I miss my middle school boys!) to make this new way of life livable. We have needed to adjust to new ways of doing just about everything in our daily lives. This type of pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you adjustment has brought with it tremendous uncertainty, stress and worry. I find that every decision I make relies on the consideration of several factors before I can come to a conclusion that I then continue to question as I move forward.

What is the right way to help my children through this, given the circumstances?
What is the right way to teach about the Middle Ages, given the circumstances?
How can I keep my sanity, given the circumstances?
What is the best way to read a novel with my class, given the circumstances?
When is the best time to go food shopping, given the circumstances?
How can I best care for my mother who lives alone, given the circumstances?

You know what I mean, because you are making similar difficult choices and living with similar considerable worry, given the circumstances. But here is the connection to my dog's discernment and lack of worry and ours. The amount of time and worry we put into each decision will not and should not continue to bring us to a point of worry and regret as we move ahead. If you know dogs, you know that their discernment out in the wild as to where to go could be a life or death decision....and yet, they are able to let go of the decision that was made after it is done and move on. When I admire the carefree life of my dog, I think that I should and will adopt more of her ability to trust her instincts enough to move on without worry.

The circumstances don't appear to be changing back to what we once knew anytime soon. Our need to make decisions based on zero past experience and move ahead to the next new way of doing things tomorrow is only going to increase. And so, we must get off that rocking chair because here's the end of the quote:

Worry is like a rocking chair... will give you something to do, but it won't get you anywhere.

Friday, May 1, 2020

When Ship Captains Are Asked to Pilot a Plane...Happy Principal Appreciation Day!

Anyone who knows me knows that I have not used this social isolation time to sit still and be idle. It's simply not who I am. As such, I have had the joy of serving and communicating with many people and have received bits of encouragement with every encounter, whether from a six-foot distance or online. This one little nugget mailed to me in the form of a "Thank You" card seems perfect to share on this very special Principal Appreciation Day:

Find a way to be the uplifting force that someone needs today.

After the Sandy Hook tragedy in 2012, I wrote a letter to our principals thanking them for being the servant leaders that my mom-heart could count on to ensure the safety of my children as they entered the school building. There was no doubt in my mind as to the dedication each of my children's principals had for creating a safe school environment. Today, my heart echoes this very sentiment, but with a new crisis in mind. In reflecting on the role of principals in today's circumstances, and with the idea of being the force that lifts others, one thought keeps coming to mind.

Consider this: In normal times, the school is a large cruise ship coasting through each school year with our principals at the helm. Perhaps due to all my PIRATE training and connections, I imagine the happy sailors teaching their crews under the direction of adept principal captains. But on March 13th, our principals were stripped of their ship-captain badges and instead ushered onto a plane. They were given little guidance in the use of the controls and the intricacies of the cabin, even as they were suddenly expected to assume the role of pilot.

I have the privilege of watching principals from many vantage points: as faculty, parent, taxpayer and friend. I have leaned on them for direction, support, a listening ear and guidance. In this time when so few have answers, our principals have been able to ease the minds of their staff and students. This did not just happen. This is the result of past relationship building that is ongoing for principals. When in the program for Educational Administration at TCNJ, my advisor and I were in conversation over the fact that I was still uncertain as to my desire to leave the classroom to seek an administrative position. I was concerned that the administrative role would diminish my ability to deeply affect students. This very wise woman, knowing that it was in my nature to question, posed this question to me: "How many more students and families will you be able to serve if you assume a leadership position in education?" Indeed!

As I watch principals, I am in awe of their great potential to reach so many and their impeccable ability to ease the minds of students, staff and families. Thank you to all who are out there serving others in the role of principal. Your efforts are applauded, admired and appreciated more than you could ever know!

Thank you for learning to fly...for becoming a order to be the uplifting force for so many!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Five Kids, a Baby and a Puppy Walked into a.....

life... my life over the many years of it... and now I find myself typing on my laptop upside down.


Anyone who knows me well, knows that my mind works in metaphors. I have spent about a week attempting to find the metaphor for the life we are presently experiencing, and I just can't seem to find one that works well to bring the present situation into focus. But this morning as I sat down to write, I was struck with the  beauty of my reality so much that the need for a metaphor just flew out the window. I realized, there is no metaphor because there is nothing, N-O-T-H-I-N-G, to compare to what is in my heart and mind these days. Instead of a metaphor, I need to just take a look at the journey and all the blessings that have been here teaching me how to live this moment right now.  And so, I invite you to come on this path with me today. See where your life fits in with mine, and maybe we can find a joke or a metaphor or a punchline for living life that will take hold and sustain us.

First, the Five Kids:

When I sat down at my laptop to write this morning, it became clear that my daughter was playing a trick on me...much like her older sister did as they left for their dad's on's that one.

But this trick is a little different and perfect for today's thoughts. You see, my computer screen is totally flipped upside down.

OK, so first, typing upside down isn't so hard. It was challenging to initially set myself up since the tabs are all at the bottom and my arrow doesn't follow my typical hand motions, but all-in-all, typing is the same. Also, after so many years in the classroom and as a mom, I am adept at reading upside down, so that is not bothering me at all. But the corrections, the backspace vs. delete, and the arrows to get from one spot to another are all very challenging.


Well, I can only think that perhaps the parts of typing that have been most engrained, you know, the habits and the natural parts of the process, are clearly something I can do regardless of the changed circumstances. The same holds true for life today. I can easily do my normal 'me': find people who need my help and reach out to them, make dinners or help with schoolwork, because that's what I do every day regardless. I can even go for my run, read and write. But there are other things that are extremely challenging. Talking with folks on-line instead of in person, presenting my information to my communication impaired students through limited means and going through the stores with my smile covered by a facemask, are all causing me pause and stress. Those are the backspace and delete buttons, the ones that seem impossible for my brain to accept in this new upside down world. And that's OK. I don't need to accept and perfect these parts of this new world's imperfection. I just need to learn to best cope and accept that I will stumble. When up is down and down is up; when left is right and right is left; we are sure to stumble...but we should not be afraid to keep at it and keep figuring out how to work within the life we have.

Next, a Baby

If you don't know the story of Matthew, I will attach it here. Matthew's Story. Matthew was a foster baby that joined our family for almost two years, then went to live with his adoptive family in Washington State, where he passed away about a year and a half later. Our present circumstances have brought memories of life with this beautiful boy to my mind quite often for various reasons. But the one I wish to mention here is when someone once suggested that I had wasted time with this broken boy when could I have spent my time fostering a healthy child who would someday make a difference. Some saw Matthew for his imminent early death. I saw him for all he had to offer in his beautiful life. They saw the despair. I saw the hope. The recollection of that moment, and the grace with which I was able to answer that comment, comes to me whenever I am put into circumstances that to others seem impossible. The difference today is that my circumstances and those of most around me are the same. We are all in the same boat. However, I believe our abilities to accept and appreciate our circumstances are different. Some of us are only able to see the storm for its ensuing destruction. Some only saw Matthew as a broken boy with nothing more to offer. I look at our present situation, as I looked at Matthew, and I see the potential. I see the peace and the quiet. I see the future changed by the present. And, as such, I see the hope.

Finally, a Puppy
And that brings us to the puppy...not the one you met here back in July, but the one you are about to meet now. Yes, in the midst of all this, the Maccaronis have invited another puppy to join the mix. Why? For all the reasons I just described. Because my laptop is upside down and I need to adjust. Because Matthew was a sign of hope, not despair. And because in the midst of life right now, in a house full of teens experiencing grief and loss, we needed a little chaos. Not just the chaos of a day or a week, but the chaos of life and hope.

And so, maybe no metaphor today 😁 (haha!) and the jokes are all on me, but here is my version of a punchline. Five Kids, a baby and a puppy walked into my life...and with them came so much more than anyone could ever ask to have. And, so, I was filled with hope.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Optimism Brings Us Out of Darkness...another short one.

Lately as I converse with people online, through text or on the phone, as soon as I say something to the effect of "When we are back..." or "This can't last forever." I am met with, "Well, don't plan on that happening any time soon." or "Looks like we are going to be like this for a long time." And I go silent, stifling my positive self-talk. I wonder if perhaps these comments come from a  place that doesn't want to be met with, "I told you so." when we are stuck inside for another month, or two, or more. Or perhaps folks are afraid to have hope shattered.

Whatever the reason, there is a choice being made in our minds. I maintain, as I always have, that there is absolutely no danger in being positive. Instead, the danger is in losing hope, living in drear and not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Does positive thinking and subsequent optimism mean that I don't see how incredibly terrible and tumultuous things are right now? Not at all! Optimism means that I look at my travel mug, the one that only a month ago sat on my desk untouched from 7:45 to my 12:24 lunchtime, and think...."soon, my friend, my lips shall be on you...drinking in your cold remains." haha!

Optimism finds the path to a smile...anyway, 

the uphill climb... not so bad when considering the reward, and 

the journey... worth every bit of the pain.  

Optimism brings us out of the darkness...even when the darkness threatens its presence for an undisclosed amount of time.

Look, I am incredibly sad with the state of the world right now...on many levels...the largest of which are the health crisis and subsequent death toll. But I am also realistically positive and incredibly excited by so much of what I see...the most of which is how closely we are all connected. I mean, if a virus can connect us, why can't viral optimism? Or infectious kindness?  Or contageious happines and laughter? It can happen! At least I choose to believe it can. Want to know the statistics, the tragedy and the turmoil, check the news. Want some hope, check in with me. Am I a fool? Absolutely!!! Of that you can be sure...and life is optimistically beautiful from this fool's perspective.