Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dear Me...

Dear Me in the future,

      As a teacher, I know the day will come when you question why your are still in this profession. Why this profession, where some people will judge your entire year by a test that's taken in a day or 2 instead of by your student's greatness. Why this profession, where even though you have a Bachelor's or even a Master's you might still need a second job to make ends meet. 
      Before you make the decision to walk away, I want you to remember a few things.

      Remember the feeling you had as you wrote your students letters cheering them on to greatness in their futures and celebrating the people they are today. 

      Remember their faces, their smiles, their tears, their hugs as they read them.

      Remember the invites to their games that you received each day.

      Remember the stories, the laughter, their struggles, their sadness, that they chose to share with you. 
      Remember the hard work, the character, the strength, their questions, their teamwork that you were able to witness each day. 

      Remember the pride you felt as you walked through the room and saw their determined faces as they worked on a test. In that moment, you were reminded that while you know the results of the test are important to someone, your students did you proud in that moment. They were striving in that moment. They persevered in that moment. 

      So that day, when an adult tries to "fix" the problems without knowing what the problems are, when rules change just because someone thinks they should, when someone tries to judge you by a test, when you think you want to walk away because you don't think you make a difference...

    ...Just Remember!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Taking a Step

I am hoping that 2016 brings me the strength to heal myself. A healing that I didn't realize that I was withholding and that a battle was still raging inside.

Since the age of 14, I have had invisible scars that have left me shattered and feeling unworthy of respect for myself. I pushed the fear, humiliation, and hurt under the carpet and moved on. It wasn't until 7 years later with the help of my husband that I was able to begin to face it.

Starting at the age of 32, I began dealing with physical scars from multiple surgeries after my thyroid cancer diagnosis and then a few years later 2 separate breast cancer diagnoses. Once again, my husband helped me through and still shuts me down when I start feeling less than beautiful.

I realize how lucky I am. I came through some tough things and I consider myself a survivor...

Today, I plan on beginning my new battle. The battle to allow myself to heal, to acknowledge my pain, to stop blaming myself, to get a handle, to forgive. To forgive forgive myself. 

I think sometimes, we hold onto hate, pain, and failures, because it gives us an easy excuse when we don't meet up to expectations. At least for me, if I hold onto my excuses, then I don't need to face them, I let them cover me like a shield. 

I know that it will not be easy. I have a lot to climb over, it won't be done in one day, I will fall and make excuses.  

For now, I'm just taking a step and praying that I can keep moving in this direction. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Challenge Accepted! Challenge Smashed!

After 22 years, LOL the age of our oldest, my husband and I realized that we fell into the trap of commercialism. No, we knew it, we just turned our back on it and did what most of us do...kept buying. 

What brought this on? Cleaning out 1 of our children's closets and finding a Mario Kart race track, a lego set, as well as a few other must have toys that our children just "had" to have, all unopened. 

The day before, I stumbled across something called the 4 gift challenge again. I had seen it last year, but just scrolled past it because I had already begun my holiday shopping madness. This year, I didn't scroll past, I thought about it. After seeing the stack of toys, I searched for the challenge and then talked to my children about Christmas and how we have handled it so far...Shop, shop, shop, too many gifts, unwanted and untouched gifts, money down the drain. Then we talked about what it should, love, our faith. 

I was a little surprised that my children all agreed. Surprised because they are typical kids, LOVE presents under a tree, and always have lists of stuff. 

They each found a spot to relax and thought, I mean seriously thought about what to put on their lists. I was touched to see that on their want list, was to have their older AF sister home for Christmas. I also realized that they took greater care when thinking up what to get or do for Daddy for his gift. 

For my husband and I, we noticed that we are not stressed in line this holiday season. I haven't had 1 minute of, "Did I get everything? Did I get enough? I spent how much!?" We have had more game nights, movie nights, and more chit chatting.

I was telling a friend about the challenge the other day and was surprised at her response, "I wish I could do that." When I asked her why she couldn't, she said that her "kids would never go for that." Speechless. I never worried whether my kids would go for it, I did wonder if I could stick with it, if I could get it through my head that more doesn't mean better. I did. 

Challenge accepted. Challenge smashed. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Would You Care?

This has nothing  to do with cancer. 
If I told you that there were students in public schools who were crying out for attention from you, their parents...Would you care?
If I told you that students as young as elementary age, were talking about and becoming sexually active...Would you care?
If I told you that students are coming in to a new grade reading well below grade level..Would you care?
If I told you that, while there are people in the school system that are only there for a paycheck, the majority of us are working hard trying to climb mountains within a school year and need your help to make it happen...would you care?
If I told you that there are students who show the toughest demeanor on the outside of straight attitudes, disrespect, fight or flight, but they really only want to be loved and made to feel that they are worthy of someone's respect and love...Would you care?
If I told you that this is not a black issue, not a white issue, this is a problem of every school in every district...Would you care?

I could not figure out why I have been feeling so heavy in my heart, feeling like the weight of a world is on my shoulders, and wondering if I am really successful at what I do, until this morning. 

Think about getting involved. Step into a school and ask to help out. Start a mentoring program in your community. When a child sits in your seat for a haircut, ask them to read to you. When they come in to shop, ask them about their future goals, their present academic performance. When they get in your car to go home, put down the phone and pick up a conversation. When you sit down for dinner, turn the tv off and talk. Instead of being a friend, be a parent and set boundaries, give them expectations and help them reach them. Think about coaching little league. Donate or set up a scholarship to pay even for just 1 child to play sports or join a program that they otherwise wouldn't do. Just please get involved. If we don't check into our child's lives, why would we think they will find importance in themselves. Please help us save our children. I promise you, the rewards of their growth, smiles, success, hugs, and respect, are COMPLETELY WORTH IT. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Reconstruction Rant

In 2009, I made the horrible decision to start reconstruction. After chemo, I had begun to gain weight and being flat on one side made me feel uncomfortable. I talked with my husband and embarked on a 6 year journey that has brought so much emotional and physical pain. 

The first reconstruction was very unnatural looking and was actually painful. A new type of gummy implant was used that suctioned itself to my chest wall and made hugs or any other type of pressure to my chest uncomfortable. I dealt with it because it was better than looking so lopsided. I didn't think to ask if I could opt for a mastectomy of the left side and ask for the gummy to be removed.

In 2014, that decision was made for me. I was diagnosed with breast cancer again, this time in the left breast. Since this was my third time with cancer, my team and I decided to do a mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy. My new plastic surgeon explained that he could remove the painful implant and replace it with a newer and more comfortable implant. I was so excited and felt that for the first time since 2007, I would feel normal. Look like a "normal" female. 

I wish I had a crystal ball. The last year has been filled with tears. When the bandages came off, I was left with a breast full of scar tissue, but looked so much better than the original reconstruction. I couldn't complain and was satisfied with it. My newly reconstructed side from my recent mastectomy...I can't tell you how shattered I feel whenever I look at it. I hate crying when I think about it. I hate not wanting to look in the mirror without a shirt. I hate that other Dr.s I go to ask me when will it be corrected and I have to explain again that I am tapped out of surgeries. I hate that I am now in debt over a muscled peck because it is not a breast. I hate that I am crying right now. 

I feel so petty when I think about it. I have lost so many pink sisters, as well as warrior brothers and children. However, my body does matter. I did and still am paying for this financially and emotionally and it's bothering me to the point that I am venting here today about it. 

This summer, I made the decision to not spend one more dime on reconstruction and put my experience in the deal with it category. Yesterday, one of my pink sisters changed my outlook on it. She reminded me of her own problem with hers and helped me come up with my plan to overcome mine. My family and I are now in the designing stages of a tattoo that will cover the muscled peck so that when I look at it, I will see beauty instead of sadness. For the first time, I'm excited about what could soon as I find a tattoo artist in the area that I can trust to help me. The search is on.

At the end of the day I just want to say, we go through so much, lose so much, gain so much, and to say that we should be happy to be alive isn't what I want to hear. I put me into someone's hands and I just wanted to look normal, not voluptuous, didn't ask for lipo, facelift, or anything. I just wanted a piece of me back. I won't put myself through removing the implants and staying flat, although that's my choice. I have a new plan thanks to my sister Denise. She probably doesn't realize that through our conversation yesterday, she helped give a little piece of me back. 

Moving on and hopefully up from here. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dear Big Pharma

I stood in the hallway this morning crying, as I watched my children sleep. I felt so thankful for their health, but so afraid because I have seen how quickly that can change. It was just confirmed that Aaliyah, a little warrior sister, is losing her battle with cancer and losing it way too fast. She's the same age as my youngest children. She's a child. She's a child!

1 month ago, she was doing her chemo like a champ and her outlook was good. Today, she and her family are trying to take in every possible moment and get in all of the love they can. 
It's not fair! She needs time dammit!

We can create weapons that will kill hundreds of thousands with one strike. We can create diseases to kill people. We can create chemicals that can wipe out entire blocks. We can send troops to kill for oil, money, power. 

We can't produce the cure that will save a child, a woman, a man. We can't make sure that everyone has access to health care that could potentially save a life. We can't help a man who walked away from the pharmacy because he could not afford the $1200 medicine that could prolong his wife's life for a while longer. We can turn away someone who has no insurance. How can these lives not matter? Why are there so many people hurting right now? 

I realize that there is no money in a cure. I realize that the premise behind big pharma is to grow the almighty dollar. But why in such a painful way? Why can't there be money in a cure? Why can't we put a stop to this disease? Why can't we save her? Why the children? Why anyone?

I'm glad that I don't understand how you function. I'm glad that I am not the type of person it takes to run your type of company. Instead, I will continue to research, to fundraise, to speak out, and to fight to help bring awareness and support.

Another battle is slowly being lost, while another dollar is being counted. Who is really winning?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Why Can't We?

Have you ever looked at the news and wondered, "What in the heck kind of world did I just bring my children into?"
Turning on the news and seeing the acts of terror, violence in local neighborhoods, and fighting within our government daily...Wow, just wow.
My husband and I have had conversations and dreamed of living on an island cut off from the problems of our society. Then we think, where is "safe?" Where could you go where you didn't hear it, see it, or feel the ugliness of it? We couldn't come up with that place.

Then we start to see the strength of a country, of a people, rising from the turmoil arm in arm. Making a statement. Taking a stance.
Why can't we be like this all of the time?
Why can't we respect each other for who we are?
Not for the color of skin, or for the religion I am in, or for the language I speak, or for the education I seek.
Is it that hard to do?

My students watched "Our Friend, Martin" and then I had them write down the dreams that they have for the world around them. So often, I see the bad choices that young people make, see them trying to impress their peers instead of leading, or sitting on the couch instead of going out and having fun. Friday, my 4th graders let me know that there is still so much hope within our children. Their dreams touched my heart, listening to them stand before their class and speak, gave me a unique view of their leadership skills.
I watched them go out and have a great time on the playground with each other, sit at the lunch table side by side laughing at the same jokes, talking about the same things, and talking each other through math problems to make sure they each understand.
There really is beauty in our world. We really might have a chance at change.