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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mr. Jones And Me

     Did you ever meet someone and know you were meant to know them? Even if they are only a part of your life for a short time. I've felt that way. On an ordinary afternoon in September of '98, I was standing in the gym at my job where I worked with children with developmental disabilities. I was feeling frustrated as I reflected on the "boys" I had been wasting my time with. My sister had just gotten married. When was I going to find someone who wouldn't think I was too smart or tell me that I think too much? I said to myself. That's it, I'm done with  self-centered jerks. I looked across the room, and there he was. Sitting on the heater, laughing with one of his students. I had seen him around, but I had always thought he seemed "too nice." Suddenly I saw him differently. A man who clearly loves these kids. A man who can love and give of himself. And I said to myself, that's the kind of guy I should marry. And on June 29, 2003 I did. Somewhere in between, though, I had a revelation. I remember the moment it happened. We had be dating a couple of weeks, but had been friends for months. He kissed me. I opened my eyes and looked into his. I saw myself staring back at me. And I knew. This was THE man I had been waiting for. I already knew him. I had always known him. Our souls had been connected for eternity, and would be connected for the rest of it. I can recall only two other times when this has happened. When I saw my own reflection in the eyes of another, that is. Both times I was looking into the beautiful brown eyes of an infant who I knew was sent from heaven to be mine. My life had been changed forever. My destiny was directly linked to who these children would become. I believe that the four of us are eternally connected to each other.
     Mr. Jones and my mini-mes are not the only ones I feel this soul connection with, although they are certainly the ones with whom I feel it most strongly. My parents and sister, of course, but I don't  remember meeting them. I do, however, remember meeting my brother-in-law on the phone. He called to speak to my sister. Immediate connection. I also remember the moment at the bus stop on the corner of Wilken Lane (I was 3) when I met "Tracie's little sister" as well as a year later on the playground at Loretta Park Elementary School when I finally met "the other Melissa" and the three of us became BFFE's. A bond beyond friendship that I know transcends this lifetime. And most recently, I remember the moment I introduced myself  to "Alysia's mom," and the first conversation I had with "Mia's mom." I remember these moments because they stand out in my mind as days when my life changed. When I felt the Great Plan coming together as these people who were destined to shape my life came into it.
      I am amazed at how intertwined our lives can be with other people's. I can't help but wonder when I meet new people how our lives will become linked. Why were they sent to me? Why was I sent to them? What do they have to offer me in terms of their wisdom or experience?  I already told you that I don't believe in coincidence. It's exciting isn't it? To think that your whole life could change in a moment when you meet someone who was destined to become a part of it forever. It could be a monumental event like the birth of a child. Or it could be something so mundane as seeing your new neighbor walking down the block and realizing that she has a child the same age as yours....instant connection. This, my friends, is the essence of HOPE. Knowing that your life has a plan and accepting that you can't see the details of the future. Realizing that tomorrow could be the day when you look across the room and see the man of your dreams. The woman you bumped into yesterday at the Book Fair could someday become your daughter's mother-in-law. You never never can tell....but you can have faith that there is a plan beyond your understanding....and if you have faith, you can always have hope

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

You Can't Always Get What You Want, But If You Try Sometimes, You Learn to Let It Be

     I don't believe in coincidence. Not at all. I really believe that everything that happens to us is part of a greater plan that we cannot understand or even conceive. I know. I'm a science teacher. I'm supposed to subscribe to the notion of randomness in the universe and have no faith in a higher power. Well, I'm not your typical science teacher. It's actually my scientific appreciation that leads me to this conclusion. The universe is so vast. The world is so complex, and the relationships between living things are so intricate and perfectly balanced and organized that there has to be an order to it all. We are so small as a species and our minds are so limited, how could we be so presumptuous  to think we could figure it all out. I accept that there are things that I can never and will never understand.
     I believe that everything really DOES happen for a reason. I know.  It's such a cliche. And when things are really sucking in your life, there is no comfort in that phrase. If anything, it just makes you feel angry. Why do I have to suffer this? Why did God let this happen? What have I done to earn such bad karma? Was it Tennyson who said, "Ours is not to wonder why, ours is but to do and die"? (Well I know Colonel Mustard said it, and then I think Mrs. Peacock yells, "DIE!" But I digress...) I subscribe to the belief that humans are spiritual beings trapped in a physical existence. We are here to experience human life with all its joys and tragedies. We are here with a plan and a lesson to learn. (Check out last week's post You Don't Have to Eat a Bacon Flavored Cricket.... ) Eventually we all die and return to our true spiritual existence bringing that knowledge with us. This is all fine and well, but it doesn't help me feel any less pain. Exactly, because you are SUPPOSED to feel that pain. It won't last forever. You will survive it, and if you don't it's because your time here is over. If you do survive, though, there is a lesson to be learned. There is always a lesson when we look back. Hind-sight is always 20/20.

     I can think of so many examples, but perhaps I will share one of my own. When my oldest daughter was two, I decided I wanted another child. I was going to get pregnant. I checked my ovulation; I counted the days; I even did a fertility ritual in the expectation that I would get pregnant. And I did. Immediately. And 10 weeks later, my baby died. I was devastated, but I was going to get passed it. I grieved and I prayed, and with the help of my family, I accepted the loss. And the I started over. As soon as the doctor said it was safe,  I checked my ovulation; I counted the days, and again, I got pregnant. 6 weeks later, I found out that my baby had died.  And I asked, Why?  I thought I was done. I learned my lesson that I need to be patient. Why are You doing this to me again? I remember coming to consciousness after my D and C hearing Paul singing, "I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, Let it be." I had to accept that there was something I wasn't seeing. That there was a larger plan. And I gave up.  I felt compelled in the height of my grief to pray the Rosary. And I prayed and prayed and prayed. But not for a baby. I prayed for the strength to get through my grief and to accept my path.  At some point in my confusion and pain I realized that I had to give in.  I knew in my heart that there was a soul who was destined to be my child. She was a specific soul who was coming into this world when her time was here. It was not my choice. When it was her time to come, the right egg and sperm would fuse and she would begin her life. And in June of 2008, she did, and my life was forever changed.

     This was my journey. On it I felt great joy and great anguish. I grew closer to my husband. I developed a depth of faith like I had never known. And through all of the medical testing I underwent, I found out that I have two medical issues that needed attention.  At some point, I gave in to the greater plan. I let go. And I found peace knowing that I would get through whatever was sent my way. This was the lesson I was supposed to learn. One that I could never have learned if I had never experienced great loss.  On your journey, you too will experience great joys and great anguish. And it is no coincidence that you were brought here at this moment to read my words. Nor is it one that I was brought here to type them. We cannot possibly know the lessons we are supposed to learn. If  we did, we wouldn't need to learn them. You can't always get what you want. But according to Kieth and Mick, "if you try sometimes, you get what you need."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Are You Hungry? Too Many of Us Are. Come On Over...

     I live on Long Island, in New York state. Maybe you've heard of it. It's shaped like a fish and sticks out of the corner where NY and NJ meet. Two of our counties are considered among the richest in the nation. You've heard of it, haven't you? The Hamptons...Wine Country....mansions on the North Shore. Yeah, that's us, and no, I don't live in any of those areas. In fact, as rich as Long Islanders are supposed to be, I recently learned that over 300,000 families are considered "food insecure." (That's the PC way to say hungry.) Meaning that they have to make a choice each week to buy food or pay the mortgage/rent or go to the doctor without health insurance, or fill up the gas tank in their car so they can earn that next pay check. Yet, if you look around, even in the poorest of areas, everyone is still wearing designer sneakers that match their designer bag (which is probably an illegal knock off anyway, but still). Everyone is trying to maintain this image that THEY are not one of those 300,000. But as a teacher in a middle class school district, I can tell you it's all for show. Long Islanders are hungry. Americans are hungry. Humans are hungry. All over the world, people are hungry. What are we feeding ourselves? This is the problem.

    One of the most inspirational women in the history of the world is Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa fed the hungry. And, I don't mean that she donated a can of lima beans to a local food drive once a year before Thanksgiving. (Although, she would never have looked down upon that, she did say "If you can't feed a hundred people, feed just one.") Mother Teresa physically fed people. She turned no one down from any race, creed or religion. And she made real change in this world. Interestingly enough, she spoke a lot about the hungry, but not just the food insecure. She said:
 "The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love.
The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There's a hunger for love..." (A Simple Path: Mother Teresa)

     This is the type of hunger we can all do something about. Look around you. Pay attention to the people in your family, those with whom you work, or see on a daily basis in some other capacity. Do they hunger? Are they empty? Is there anything you can do? Sometimes people just need someone to listen. Sometimes a child just needs to know there is one adult around him he can trust. Maybe your elderly neighbor just wants someone to share a cup of tea. Love is like a virus, it spreads. When people receive love, they are less afraid to give love. When people see an example of goodness, they are inspired to be an example of goodness.

     Maybe you are the hungry one. Maybe you are looking for an ounce of goodness in what seems to be a heartless world. May you have lost all faith in humankind. I remember when I first read Mother Teresa's book, No Greater Love. I was struck by a passage where she described the generosity of the truly destitute. She spoke of a mother to whom she gave a bag of rice. That mother did not just use the rice to feed her own children. She fed her neighbors too. She gave away something that was so precious to her family. True generosity hurts because it involves sacrifice. Don't misunderstand. I am not telling you to give away your livelihood. But sometimes a small sacrifice to you, going a little bit out of your way for someone else, can mean so much to someone who hungers.

     The world is a place with A LOT of problems, and so often we feel helpless to affect change. I'm just one person. But think about it, if one person reaches out to two people. And each of those two people reach out to two people. And those 4 people reach out to 2 people. And then those 8 people reach out to two people. Before long a thousand people are reaching out to two thousand people. And two thousand people are reaching out to four thousand people. Do the get the picture. You CAN make a difference. You CAN affect change in small ways every day. And when you give love, you will feel it growing inside of you. You will begin to satiate your own hunger. One last quote from the soon to be Saint:

 "May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us."

Love and happiness to you always....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

You Don't Have To Eat A Bacon Flavored Cricket, But If You Never Do, You'll Never Know How Awful It Tastes

Have you ever eaten a cricket? 
What about chocolate covered bacon?
Have you ever eaten a meal made entirely out of corn products?
Have you ever had an animal you've cared for die in your arms?
Have you ever smelled sulfur gas as you looked into the crater of a volcano?
Jumped off of a waterfall?
Climbed to the top of a Mayan temple?
Grown a person  inside of you then pushed her out without any pain killers?
Fed a baby from your own body?
Climbed to the crown of the Statue of Liberty?
Rode the legendary Cyclone at Coney Island?
Walked across the Brooklyn Bridge?
Hugged Mickey Mouse? 
Rode a horse through a hail storm at the top of a Rocky Mountain?
Ridden a camel?
Touched the wall inside of a gold mine?
Eaten a crepe on the quais outside Notre Dame de Paris?
Breathed in the mist of a Central American cloud forest?

     I have. I have done all of these things. Some are extraordinary. Some not so much. Some of these experiences were amazing. Some I don't ever need to have again (eating a cricket being top of that list). Still I cherish these moments. Every one of them was an amazing experience. And that's all life really is, isn't it? A string of amazing experiences loosely connected by routine day to day dramas.

     Some people spend their entire life wondering what the meaning of it all is. Why are we here? What is our purpose. I believe that we come into this life with the sole purpose of experiencing humanity. Then we die and leave it all behind. Whatever your belief in an afterlife is, one thing is certain. We all live for a while as humans, and then die. We are only here for a short time. So why not make the most of it? I have a list that I wrote in 1996. I was 19. It's my "Things to do before I die list" Some things are checked off. Some were crossed off. Some need to be added. I have so much I still need to do. I want to live this life to its fullest. I want to experience everything I possibly can before I die. I want to sky dive. I want to set foot on every continent and in every ocean. I want to taste everything. I want to give till I'm empty. Love till it hurts. I want to dance, and sing and laugh. And then dance and sing and laugh some more.  Sometimes I feel like I have this fire inside of me. And some days it smolders while I change diapers, and wash dishes and make lunches for school. Other days it burns so hot that I just want to jump out of my skin and fly. Those are the days when you pass my classroom and I'm loudly singing and making a fool of myself in front of 25 11 year olds. Those are days when I eat chocolate cake slowly, and slide down my neighbor's zip-line, and let my husband dare me to eat a bacon flavored cricket.

I hope you have those days. Lots of them. I hope you are tasting and singing and dancing and laughing. I hope you are loving, and playing and capturing as many moments as you can. GO! Go do something extraordinary. If not extraordinary, at least fun! And now I will take my own advice and do the same...ciao!

Monday, November 1, 2010

All You Need Is Love!

     I don't like to talk too much about religion publicly. It's so easy to offend people of different faiths, and you know the last thing I ever want to do is offend people. I do, however, think that there are some universal truths that people of all faiths can agree on. Like love, for example. I think we can all agree that love is a good thing. One of the most powerful things in the universe. I call it a thing because I have no doubt of its existence. Scientifically speaking, what is love? To exist, something must be matter or energy. We can define love as a combination of thoughts and feelings directed towards another individual. Our thoughts can be measured as firing neurons in our brains and quantified by machines as electrical impulses, or moving energy. Thereby, I think it's safe to define love as energy.  There is so much that we still don't understand of the human body and mind, but we DO know that our bodies give off and receive energy. If love is an energy, then it is possible for our bodies to radiate love. (One could carry this further spiritually to define this love energy  as God's light, The Holy Spirit, Qi, Chi, Kundalini, Buddah, White Light, Goddess energy, etc....whatever you the confines of one's faith allow. But to keep it universal, I will from this point on refer to it as "Love Energy.")  

     Anyway, I think that it's plausible to say that we as humans emit Love Energy. Clearly, some people "light-up a room" and mysteriously capture the attention of everyone in it because they seem to radiate love. Some people just energize us by being close to us or by the slightest physical contact. Those people are truly special, and we are fortunate if we have them in our lives, but I think we all have the ability to send out Love Energy to others. All we really have to do is think about it. The thought itself is the energy. I believe that when I think about someone and wish them well, that love is sent out into the universe. We can certainly focus this energy by focusing our thoughts in meditation or prayer. This can be VERY powerful, but all too often we find our busy lives cause us to make excuses not to meditate or pray. Maybe this is you. I know that it's all too often me. But we don't always have to engage in some sort of ritual to see the power of Love Energy. If every loving thought sends out Love Energy, all we have to do to make a difference in the world is to think loving thoughts about other people. Every loving thought adds a drop in the proverbial bucket that is the universe.

     With that in mind, words become even more powerful. When we say something loving out loud, we send out the thought energy and then create sound energy. When we write out thoughts down, they become something tangible that exist in space and time in addition to invisible Love Energy. What I'm saying is that thoughts have power. Words have power. Our thoughts and words travel away from us into the world. Think of the difference YOU can make by simply engaging in a few positive loving thoughts and words every day. Ghandi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." I don't know about you, but the changes I want to see in the world can be made possible if there was just a little more love. Okay, a lot more love.

So I am sending Love Energy out to you through cyberspace.
May everyone who reads this experience the  love with which it was intended!     
Be well. Be Happy. Give Love!