Meeting a Hero

Meeting a hero this winter…

When I was a little girl I was blessed with the best possible momma, sister, and daddy. I thought that they all walked on air from the time I was old enough to understand until today.  What you don’t realize as a child are all the little details we fixate on as adults. These are the things that make or break relationships in today’s world, and yet, why must we concern ourselves with things that are mere trifles in the grand scheme of life and the world.

What I was blessed with the most was a house hold that valued reading.

I was read to from womb until I left the house at age eighteen.

My father told me stories of his childhood at bed time, he read to me from the chapter books I selected as a pre-teen and continually read every book I was reading into high school.

My mother fostered a love for literature from infancy. I loved being read to by both of my parents and my sister. Those were some of the most vivid memories I can still feel when I slip into my mind’s eye today. The feeling of swinging in my mother’s skirt while holding the pages of the book up so she could read to me about Peter Rabbit or Benjamin Bunny.

While covered in chicken pox, facing another round of bronchitis at the age of six my sister waltzed into our folks bedroom and presented from behind her back, “Rescue Rangers,” the story of two brave little mice that save another fellow creature and jewel. I can still see he smile, tumbles of curls spilling over her shoulder while saying in a passing breath, “Here you can pass the time reading this with me, and you’ll soon look like this, once again,” as she passed my framed school photograph from the year before. Ha! Just what you want to be told when you feel like the creature from the blue lagoon.

Why share all of these strings of connectivity and literature?

Tonight I met a heroine of ours, my mom’s, my sister’s and mine. Patricia Palacco. Her book, “Mrs. Katz and Tush,” was a beloved favorite that I chose often at bedtime. I remember reading it to my nephew upon a sleep over occasion. We’ll have to revisit it sometime soon. Hearing her candid words about her youth, her learning disabilities, and her remarkable family, friends, and neighbors brought tears to my eyes this evening.

Happy tears.

Tears that made me smile, and nod, and spring forth a new well of emotions within me. Especially when she described her fourteenth year of life. The year that her deepest, darkest fear came to light, and a teacher reached out a hand to help guide her towards climbing a hurtle she had always felt was so formidable. The fear that she could not read.

She went on to describe Mr. Falker, who was really Mr. Felker in her junior high classroom in California.

I was brought back to my second grade year when my amazing mother said, “I’ve had enough of this not reading and not doing anything about it with your current school, we’re doing something now.” My mother researched, and read, and found a program at a private school that had major results for children with dyslexia.

I was the child in the classroom that had a keen ability to hear, see, and listen.  I memorized text. I repeated it, I evaded being called upon. I stumbled through the sounding out of words. I was being educated in the “whole language” classroom environment, and nothing clicked with phonics and phonemic awareness. I saw shapes, and negative space when told to sound out the word. It was not until the moment when with repeated practice, isolation of words into boxed in shape I could recognize these shapes as letters, then digraphs, and vowel combinations. Finally the sounds and the letters connected.

Patricia spoke of the moment when she finally made sense of the negative spaces that surrounded these “letters,” and the feeling of elation that followed. Realizing that a whole new world had opened up to her.

I can recall the first library chapter book I read that felt, I liken to climbing Everest. I had the best parents in the world. The most patient, supportive, and loving humans. They provided me with the tools for knowledge and they put in the work that needed to be done with me in order for my goals to be achieved. Without that reading program, Mrs. Lau, and my parents, I would not be a teacher today. I am not quite sure where I would be. But I do know that I wrote to my third grade teacher every year of my public school education. Every few years I send her a letter, and I receive a card in reply. When I graduated with my masters degree in teaching, the first person I wrote to after my sister, was Mrs. Lau, my third grade teacher. The woman who taught me how to read, and helped me make sense of the puzzle pieces that I finally knew where to place.

Thank you Patricia Palocco for sharing your stories all these years. I met you once in 1997 at the Lusac Public Library in Anchorage, Alaska. I can still see your face, your bun, and the back drop of the maroon curtains behind you in the basement hall. Life has a funny way of coming full circle. Tonight I showed you my book, signed by you in 1997, and I thanked you for doing what you do. Your stories have been read to every single class of mine every year. Each year before I read aloud her stories, especially in the winter months, I tell my students the following:

“I’m going to share with you one of my heroes. Now, this hero is an author. This author helped me feel like I was not alone. When I was a little girl I could not read, until third grade. Patricia Palocco’s words, her family, and her stories are one of my greatest joys to share in life, and now, I will introduce you to her work.”

You might wonder what the children think of her work? I’ll leave you with one word: riveted.

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Stop. Just breathe.

Stop.

It’s a four letter word that has power. It holds the opportunity to communicate a clear, yet simple message.

So why is it so hard to say?

It is the one word I use when a student is being inappropriate, a boundary violator, or seeking my advice as to what to say when someone bothers them.

Say, “Stop.”

What is it about all this noise around us today? It seems to be a spinning vortex of information, misinformation, communication and miscommunication. It is nestled into every moment of every day.

Stop.

Are you listening?

Do you listen when someone speaks, or do you wait to respond? Sometimes I do both. It’s a work in progress.

Do you ever find yourself oversharing or emotionally vomiting with words?

Stop. Just say, “STOP self.” And do just that, stop.

No one needs to be the bearer of your misinformation, your quandaries about another, or the oversharing bulldozer of what is unnecessary data.

Hanging in my classroom is the following poster below that has the word THINK written vertically. It was made into an acronym for a few concepts.  I saw the idea online a long time ago, and I made my own poster. Consider the following before you speak, share, or “share” through social media…

T-is it TRUE?

H-is it HELPFUL?

I-is it INSPIRING?

N-is it NECESSARY?

K-is it KIND?

All too often we are not provided or providing the possibility for communication that is quality, confidential, and kind. Listening to my friends, my loved ones, my colleagues, my acquaintances, often times I see my reflective behavior in them. My energy level shifts, my mood can fluctuate, and can be a barometer at times unless I truly concentrate on what the person is saying, before I allow my emotions to come forth.

I have practiced something with my students this year called, “problem solving mediation.” Now, it might sound simplified and silly, but it is the same elemental principles in having a crucial conversation as an adult. It can be challenging, but with continued practice, it can work.

Instead of saying, “YOU this, you that, you are, you did that….stop and think.” What impacted you as an individual? The, “I, me, my, mine of the issue.” Start with an I statement, breathe, and proceed providing adequate time for the other to share and communicate when they are done.

Now, it does not always solve every issue, but I do feel that learning the basic techniques of communicating your personal perception, emotion, concern or question is essential for little and older people alike. Start with the I, use THINK, and then communicate. It is better to attempt to work it out, then ruminate on a negative vibe or feeling that festers with time.

If I have learned anything from my losses this year it is this…

Life is too short. Don’t waste it with, “I’m going to….you should’s, or he that’s…” speak up, enjoy it, work on it, make progress with the simple steps you take every day.

If you need to take some steps backwards for grounding then do so.

Quit apologizing.

Stop agonizing.

Get up, get moving, and start doing.

Do for you, do for Debbie, live and enjoy what you are offered today, and simply be grateful for the opportunities that are presented.

As challenging, as uncomfortable, or as difficult as they may seem.

Face it. Live it. Love it.

Breathe.

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Love, Life, and Laughter

“I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.

“When an introvert meets the right soul magic can coincide.” My words of wisdom ~RAB~

My soul mate sister and I met twenty seven years ago. We were surrounded by glitter, kindergarten hugs, and high fives.

My spaghetti-o eating, longest haired girl, gymnastic jumping friend met the quiet, imaginative, and loud laughing friend in me.  Little did we know that when we were in our 30’s we would still hold hand prints on our hearts for each other.

She has seen me at my best, and at my worst and in between….and vice-a-versa.

You know those human beings that fill your heart with joy, make you feel content, and happy just breathing the same air? That’s her.

Only a few humans know the truth of what has happened to me in the last month and I am ok with that for right now. At some point I may change my mind and speak all my truths, but for now, they remain in the presence of those that I trust and love deeply.

Memories run deep, so do wounds, especially those that only the heart can see and do not meet the eye.

Thank you to all my friends who have supported myself, and my family. I feel so grateful for the relationships that are tried and true through the waves that we ride in this life.

Here is a small glimpse into the moments of beauty that transpired in the last 48 hours. ~All photos are the property of myself Rachel Ann and my friend who is the beautiful photographer, Katie.~

My sentiments on this weekend’s reminders of love, friendship, and one of life’s greatest joys: Laughter.

“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.” 
― Audrey Hepburn

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.” 
― William ShakespeareThe Merchant of Venice

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.

 

TIHS kind of day (use a mirror)

For lack of a more interesting beginning: I’m exhausted. 

     Over the last 3.5 months I have been rehearsing for a Christmas musical a friend wrote, working full time, working out 6 days a week, stressing about family, worrying about health, planning, driving, organizing, talking, singing, practicing, and walking that balance beam we call life.

Sometimes I just want to throw all the pieces up into the air and scream while I watch them all fall back down and turn into glittery confetti…if only.  The current positives that are milling around in my mind proceed as follows:

  1. I am three days away from winter break from teaching. You know all those crazy memes of teachers running for the doors screaming? That’s me right now. I’m done. I’ve had it with attitudes, misspellings, sighing, requests x 27 and then some, repeating myself, filing paper work, making copies, making phone calls, writing emails, responding to emails, giving band aids, mending wounds both physical and emotional, mediating, locking and unlocking doors, searching for items, listening to demands, entering grades, having paint all over my hands, being sneezed on, being coughed on and glared at when I ask them to cover their mouth, wiping down tables, reminding for courtesy and the amount of general lack of gratitude. My bucket is not filled at work right now people I need recoup time.
  2. I wrapped the Christmas show and made new friends. I was grateful for another musical experience that pushed me as an individual, but I have to admit it was hard. It was challenging for me to force myself to drive across town the last week for rehearsals. It was not that I did not want to be there or follow through, it’s just that I am emotionally drained.
  3. My body tells me when it has had enough, and I generally listen. Like tonight when I stepped out of the car for dance class and my foot cramped and hurt immensely, I stopped and thought, “I think that’s a sign that you need to go home Rachel.” So I listened, and I did.
  4. Small glimmers of hope with my sister’s recent PET scan were also dashed and then thrown against more frustrating new growths in an already ravaged body, which made me want to yell into the wind: FUCK YOU CANCER. I should have been a scientist.
  5. I watched part of my birthday present from my sweet guy tonight, “Cinderella,” helped me lose myself in the fairy tale.
  6. I have a fluffy quilt, a couple pillows, and a bed to sleep in after writing.
  7. I had yummy home made pasta, and chocolate to wash it all down with.
  8. I realized after this last birthday that I could feel an emotional shift of ,”not caring,” about what people think of me slowly slipping away. See the meme below for my current feelings.
  9. I have a wonderful set of friends, family, and humans that I love and who love me. ❤ Case in point, my bff, Resa.Resa's bday party 2015
  10. I saw an amazing meme that sums me up.  That is my life update for this evening.  I’m going to dream land and will wake up and do it all again tomorrow. Enjoy the meme and one of my favorite Hollywood legends, The Norma Jean, aka, Marilyn Monroe. ❤ (PS I don’t know who created or posted the original meme below, I don’t own it, nor do I intend to pass it off as something I created. Rather, I appreciate it and am sharing it. Thank you.)Marilyn quote meme

I’m feeling 32…

birthday 32

My mother said that the night before I was born she had a conversation with me in the womb. She told me it was time for me to come into the world. She had stayed in bed for nearly 8 months in order to bring me forth into the world and that it was finally time. 

I generally follow directions, but I definitely march to my own drum beat still to this day thanks to my mom.

I followed the plan she laid out before me, but I arrived with a bang before my father even had time to arrive that early morning. My mother had her best friend Ann with her.   I like to think that she lives on within me, inside my heart, with my middle name and hers being the same. 

Friendships run deep in my life. Clearly from the first moment I breathed life, friends were surrounding me. 

I am a loyal human. I may kick, and I may scream my way through situations, but I will remain by your side. Much like my childhood likeness. I was the type of friend who would steadfastly watch their best friend branch out with other people and friends, but stay rock steady when they returned. I sought no comfort in constantly seeking other’s approval. I knew who I was even as a little one, and I loved my friend even from afar. I never looked at friendships as an, “end all be all per say,” but rather I cherished those whom I felt made a lasting hand print on my heart. 

The last 32 years have brought forth many recollections when I stop and consider the life that I have lead thus far. 

A few things hold true: life will always ebb and flow. It will continue to test you. No matter how prepared you might be, you can never prepare for the change that will set forth when you least expect it. 

I’ve found within the last year that spontaneity, pushing my limits, and testing my boundaries and also the human’s within my life makes my vision become clearer with this life.

We are given a gift to wake up and face each day for all that it will bring into our lives. 

I have watched those closest to me fight a battle of cancer.

I have seen love and loss.

I have experienced the unimaginable. 

I have discussed.

I have cried.

I have written. 

I have sang.

I have acted.

I have performed and put on a mask to make the smoke and mirrors reflect what they should from the stage. 

I have gotten up each day. Taken many deep breaths and washed away my sorrows through sweat and tears combined.

I have found solace in the arts.

Ultimately I have danced away carefree in those melodies and sparkling lights. 

I have worked towards relinquishing my desire to control. 

I continue to struggle with many things. 

I have found love, and shown kindness whenever possible. 

Life will always be challenging, and yet, I am anticipating what lies ahead.

The small, simple moments bring me boundless joy.

Cheers to you my blogging friends. Here, where readers and writers unite. 

I applaud all of you for sharing your quandaries and quests. May we all bring forth a flood of words to wash away our tears, and the anguish that our world is pulsing with. 

Peace, love, and sparkles is my wish on this, my 32nd birthday.

 

From one concerned citizen to another…

When you take any position in the world of education it is because you are passionate. You are passionate about life, about the future generations to come, and you aspire to provide them with the tools and knowledge that will help them create a spark for seeking out the world around them.

A friend of mine has been attacked. She is one of those humans who you are lucky to meet in your lifetime. She has inspired hundreds of students at Lewis and Clark College and beyond. I am deeply saddened that she will not be able to work directly with high school students in Portland because of two words: prejudice and fear.

The year is now 2015. Why then I wonder do we still accept the fact that organizations, schools, and public officials openly oppose the very essence of someone else’s ability to love. Who is to say what someone should or should not do with their life?  Why is it that it is acceptable for public or private organizations to oppose and secretly pay off people to not share the hateful doctrine from which they build their work upon?  It is not acceptable. Nor is it morally founded no matter how it is spun. Have we learned nothing from previous generations who toiled, fought, and sought justice to speak freely, educate, and empower human beings? This situation is a problem, it is not ethical, it is appalling.

Please do not tell me that St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Oregon is not opposing her life choices, because they are. They would rather pay off this woman with money and benefits than have her be honest, open, and outstanding in her job position at their school.  This is another tried and true event based in the fundamentals of fear.

Fear as defined by Webster’s dictionary states: : to be afraid of (something or someone); to expect or worry about (something bad or unpleasant); to be afraid and worried.

My friend is none of these things. There is nothing bad or unpleasant about someone merely asking a clarifying question regarding a statement that was presented to her in an email. Why is it that people are so afraid of another person’s happiness?

Did not Pope Francis say, “This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.”   Why is it considered moral or good to let a hired faculty member go and then, when they refuse to sign paperwork agreeing to such, go so far as to pay off someone for their silence about a topic which embeds and is their life?  Is it really good when someone is dismissed without the consideration of their moral character, their work history, and job qualifications?

Pope Francis also stated that, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”  Lauren went to the interview, was offered the job, provided valid and glowing references, recommended to apply for a higher administration position, stated that she was wondering IF it would be alright to bring her girlfriend to social gatherings for faculty members at the school, was she then asked to leave quietly without even beginning her work?  One word again my friends: fear, not religion, not morality of the doctrine founded in Catholicism, it is fear.

I believe in the power of change, in the power of love, and the power of free speech. My friend is standing up for what is right and this practice will never ‘get old.’ She is taking a stand and living her life honestly and openly.  She is a beautiful example of what too many men and women have had to hide for decades.  We should not be judged or discriminated against based upon how we love or whom we love in this life.  Her human character is outstanding, her belief in the hopes to inspire a future generation of students to stand up for what they believe in and in equal rights is well founded. I hope that her stance will help let the young LGBTQ generation and organization flourish.  You have my full support Lauren Brown.

If you would also like to show your support for this woman, please share, and stand up for what you believe in. Thank you Lauren for being a brave and wonderful human!

Links below in connection:

http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-25286-vow-of-silence.html

http://www.kgw.com/story/news/2015/08/26/catholic-school-rejects-hire-due–same-sex-marriage-view/32381067/

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