The Magic of Memories


We walked to school as children. Alone. Granted, we were usually in groups with other kids. Buddy system, safety in numbers, and all those other lovely cliches. There were crossing guards to stop traffic on the main busy road we had to cross on our way to the local elementary school. Then we went down a slight hill, under a bridge, and across a parking lot to the school and into class.

I remember the way the bridge vibrated as cars zoomed across it while we walked under it. How the cars zipping by filled the open cavern with an echo of their engines as they revved in anticipation of the slight hill on the other side. The musty scent of the dank and dark slopes of cement and the flapping wings of the pigeons living there as they flew back and forth in the midst of our chaotic humanity.

There’s one particular walk I remember, it wasn’t to school, it was home from school. I was walking with a friend of mine, Tasha, when all of the sudden, my nose started to run. Tasha and I were talking, looking down and kicking the random rocks collected along the dingy sidewalk. She looked at me, and as I looked at her, I could tell something was wrong.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. She pointed at her nose then at me. I wiped, and it was bright red. Just on the other side of the bridge, as the hill sloped up, there was a mobile home community. Tasha ran up to one of the mobile homes and banged on the door. An older woman answered and listened to Tasha’s pleas for a napkin, a tissue, anything for my poor nose.

The woman disappeared inside and brought a handful of tissues out, instructing me to hold them to my nose and tip my head back. (I always hated that when I was a kid – tipping my head back – I am so glad we don’t have to do that anymore). We stood there for a bit until my nose stopped gushing. I think it was early spring – I remember purple irises in her little patch of dirt in front of her mobile home. (Of course, this may be a crossed memory – I have a thing for purple irises).

Once my nosebleed subsided to less than gushing, we went on our way and continued to our respective houses. Tasha turned left, I turned right.

It’s funny what memories stick with us from our childhood when we sit and think about it, isn’t it? Sometimes they’re just flashes – a scent, a colour, a taste, a texture – other times, they are very vivid and we fully remember ever exquisite detail. As we grow older, we remember more but we also tend to remember less because we are more focused on surviving life instead of living it and seeing it through the eyes of a child.

I have written about this recently but it is such an important component to who I am that I write about it often.

Looking back over my life, I have been happiest when I just let myself be in the moment instead of focusing on getting everything right or capturing it at just the proper angle to post on Instagram or Twitter. Sure, there are some things I do share but there are others that happen far too fleetingly or that I know I could never accurately portray so I take a snapshot for my soul and hold it there instead.

Last week, for instance, as I was driving, a robin paced my car through a subdivision. I slowed down, it slowed down, flying right at the height of my head on the side of the road. He diverted right before I arrived at my designation. Fleeting things like that inspire awe in me. As I sat there, at my destination, a bald eagle soared overhead as well.

Here’s the thing with allowing yourself to enjoy the little things life has to offer. Are you ready? It’s a secret, a really sneaky one. *looks around dramatically then whispers loudly:

You don’t have to make special plans to enjoy it.

All you have to do is make the decision to find the joy in whatever it is that you’re doing at the moment. Notice the feel of the pen in your hands. Admire the way it writes on the paper. Look up at the sky. Find the birds soaring there and follow them until you can’t any more. Trace the clouds with your eyes and turn them into shapes. (I saw a cloud which looked like an AT-AT the other day!) This is why I still read books made of dead trees. Why I drink tea. There’s ritual and romance in both activities. Something phenomenal about holding a book in your hands, the weight of the knowledge sinking into your hands, which makes me swoon. I own a copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass which is more than 100 years old. It’s not a rare copy, but it is an old copy, first printing. Some of the pages weren’t cut properly which means those who owned it previously never read the words within. For me, that’s absolutely mesmerizing. The same with tea – it is an ancient tradition steeped in cultures across the world. It’s not just tea….it’s a living, breathing thing beating with the hearts of those who enjoyed it well before me.

Get excited about things you love. For instance – F1 starts this week and I cannot WAIT. I may even stay up to watch it even though it’s in Australia and this means my sleep will be all sorts of screwed up. But.. but.. F1!!!

With the onset of F1, there’s another milestone in the year just around the bend.

Spring is soon. According to the calendar, it will be here in eleven days. I’ve lived long enough to know that just because the calendar says it’s spring doesn’t mean the weather will listen. This much I do know right now:

  • There’s visible grass
  • The sky has been blue more than it’s been grey the past week
  • There’s visible grass
  • I didn’t need a jacket yesterday or today.
  • We can almost see our entire deck
  • Trees are sprouting buds holding the promise of new leaves and SPRING.

I cannot wait for the world to explode in colour and warmth. To open the windows and turn off the heat.. oh, wait.. we did that yesterday afternoon until the sun went away. I cannot wait to have the windows open for an entire day even if it does make me sneeze and cry.

Life. It is a cycle, one which whirs forward with or without us. Our cycle of life is what we manage to make of it. Does that mean I want to go back to being a little girl who bravely walked to school, taking the time to notice the flapping wings of pigeons under the bridge?

No.

What it means is I don’t ever want to lose that little girl’s ability to turn the most benign thing into the most magical thing ever.

Today’s magic was noticing the landscape reappear as the snow pack is slowly melting.

What was your magic today?

What Would Your Trophy Say?


“It’s psychotic. They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity.”

~Mr. Incredible, The Incredibles~

Ah, good old mediocrity. The goal for which everyone aimed, right?

Not really.

In the sixth grade, I completed in the school’s spelling bee. If memory serves correctly (I’m getting old and yes, there is truth to the old adage that brains stop working as well once you hit a certain age), I won the class competition which is what placed me in the school’s bee.

I won the school’s spelling bee.

Don’t ask me what word I spelled to win because I don’t remember.

I remember, however, thinking winning was kick-ass, especially because I was one of the younger kids in the school. I beat the older, (and I thought smarter), kids that day.

I did not make it past the county spelling bee, however, despite studying my ass off. The other kids there were simply better at spelling than I. (I know, completely shocking, right?)

I have the trophy stashed somewhere, probably in a box long gone, to be honest. Who knows. It is a symbol of victory, of not settling for anything but the best.

I also played soccer as a kid. Our team did not win a lot of games, we definitely did not win regionals or go to any sort of championship. At least, I don’t remember us doing so. Know what we all got at the end of the season? A tropy. For mediocrity.

That trophy, while pretty, is completely worthless. Sure, it has my name on it and is a symbol of a lot of physical exertion over a few months, but meh. There is no victory attached to it therefore it means nothing.

We do not need to reward people for mere participation. For just showing up. Awards are meant for people who go above and beyond expectations, who fight like hell to do their very best and dedicate their lives to be the very best they can be at what they do.

Trophies don’t go to people who half-ass it. At least, they shouldn’t.

I think anyone living with a mental illness who battles through their days just to survive, however, should have a damn trophy. Because that? IS HARD WORK. Getting out of bed, doing what needs to be done, making plans, living – that is damn near impossible for someone with a mental illness. Doable, but damn near impossible without an extreme exertion of energy, both physical and mental.

It is a well-practiced tango between mind and body – convincing the brain to properly control the body to do what it needs to in order to accomplish the most base tasks like eating, showering, cleaning, etc. Same days? It’s more like the hokey pokey – you put the left arm in, you take the left foot out, you do the hokey pokey and you shake it all about. If you’re lucky, you fall asleep and start all over again, praying that your mind & body are back in sync the next day.

If you created a trophy for yourself or someone you loved who struggled with a mental illness to inspire/empower them, what would it say?

Tell me down below!

I’m gonna have to give some thought to what mine would say. Stay tuned for that update!

Whatever Wednesday: Prayers for a bully


"Praying Girl" photo taken By t.na~★ @flickr.com, text added by Lauren Hale

Over the past few weeks, our oldest daughter, who is quite normally a happily yet distracted little girl, suddenly changed.

Distant, prone to outbursts, inexplicably rude, snapping at all of us, quick to tears, frustrated, very hard on herself.

Flags went up.

So I started to reach out to her. I asked if there was anything bothering her. I told her to let me know. Mommy would listen. So would Daddy if she preferred talking with him.

She continued to insist nothing was wrong.

Her outbursts continued. She became even more introverted. Dragged her feet as she got ready for school in the morning.

Then we got an email from her teacher.

Our daughter was doing the same thing at school. Frustrated easily, crying, pouting, only doing work when prodded to do so.

SOMETHING was going on at school.

Finally, after a particularly difficult afternoon, I had to discipline her for intentionally throwing something across the living room. As we talked afterward, she broke down.

Tears streaming down her face, she finally shared with me what had her so frustrated and down.

As I suspected, my daughter was being bullied. Not by one but by two boys on her bus on the way home from school.

She shared with me that they were teasing her about something which happened last year. Calling her names like “baby” and telling anyone who would listen on the bus about her mishaps from the previous year.

I gathered her in my arms and rubbed her back as she wept and poured out her frustrations. My oldest daughter turns seven this year.

We had a long talk about the best way to handle bullies.

It’s helped that for a couple of years already, we have encouraged the girls to develop a strong sense of self. We’ve both worked hard to instill in them that the only opinion of self that matters is their own. That they are amazing girls and can be anything if they put their mind to it. We have already worked to share with them that God will love them no matter what. That WE will love them no matter what.

We strive to impress upon them the right way to go about dealing with negative people in their lives.

I quietly shared with my daughter a story of epic embarrassing proportions from my own elementary school. She looked at me with understanding eyes and said, “I bet that was very embarrassing.” It was epically embarrassing.

Then we talked about what she could do the next time these boys teased her.

I suggested that she just look at them and say, “I forgive you and I know God does too.” Or she could simply turn away and ignore their words as she prayed for God to change their hearts. I suggested that maybe this was happening because God wanted to use her to create a change in the lives of these boys.

We also discussed what to do if it kept on happening. How she needed to approach the bus driver and let her know what these boys were doing. She shared with me that she had and so far, nothing the bus driver had done had been successful in keeping the boys from teasing her. I promised her I would make some phone calls on Monday.

We lay there in her bed, snuggled together as we talked about all of this. Then we got up and went about the rest of the afternoon.

As I put her to bed and we said our prayers, I reminded both girls to pray for at least one other person beside themselves.

My oldest daughter prayed this:

“Dear Jesus, Please change the heart of the boy being mean to me. I know you can.”

And I?

Totally melted.

My daughter is already leaps and bounds ahead of where I was when I was her age.

I think she’s gonna be just fine.

On Monday, I called the Director of Transportation to talk with him about the incidents on the bus with my daughter. He went to the school, to her bus, talked with the boys before they even got on, and informed them that if they didn’t stop their negative behavior, they would be riding with their parents because public school transportation would no longer be an option. My daughter had a great bus ride home and felt safe for the first time in weeks.

Nobody deserves to be bullied. Nobody.

Sure, some may argue that bullying builds character. I was bullied in elementary school. All it did for me was deflate my self-esteem. Later in life, it has become a mark I use to measure my progress against. It shouldn’t be that way. Bottom line, it is my responsibility to raise children who won’t bully. It’s our responsibility to protect our children from harm, whether it be psychological or physical. Yes, there are learning experiences that must be had but I do not feel that bullying is one of those experiences.

I am grateful to live in a school district which clearly takes bullying seriously and will not hesitate to protect it’s students from the negative effects of such behavior. My children should not have to be the victim of someone else’s poor parenting. When I send my children to school, I am entrusting their safety and well-being to them. I fully expect them to fulfill that obligation on a daily basis. You should too.

Rest assured that if any of my children were caught bullying, there would be serious consequences. Bullying is not a skill any child should be taught. Children learn by watching, by imitating, etc. It is OUR responsibility to raise them in such a way that they don’t learn how to bully. It is also important we teach them how to positively deal with a bully even if it involves going to an adult and requesting help.

I have no doubt that my daughter has grown from this experience. I am glad it is over (for now) and know we will have many more issues down the road.

She’s already got a very powerful tool on her side though – her faith in God.

For that, I am grateful, amazed, and reassured.

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