Friday, April 29, 2011

Reading with Mom

I loved books. I would lie in bed with my mother while she read story after story to my sisters and me. I loved the closeness this created, as we were entertained with adventures that written words painted in our imaginations. In my mind, the only way that I could access this magical world of story, was if someone else did the reading for me. I simply could not connect with the written word by myself.

At Polk School, we had reading groups that were numbered. Group One was the spot for the precocious children – the ones with promise and worthy of expecting futures as successful professionals. Group Two was for the filler kids, the ones who were good enough to do something with their lives, but definitely not the leaders or the ones destined for true success. The children in Group Three had no hope. They were the stupid kids.  They were the children that kids made fun of because of their lesser intelligence.

I didn’t fit in any group. I longed to be one of the chosen in Group One, but I was never one of them. Group Two was where I usually ended up, even though my reading skills lagged behind many in that group. I was put in Group Three once, but that only lasted a couple of days, because I understood the work, despite symptoms of dyslexia. I was frustrated with reading, spelling and anything that tested my ability to comprehend or communicate through written language.

Now, as an adult, I am a good reader and I love to read. My mother’s reading to me showed me what a high price I would pay if I quit trying and stepped into a box labeled Learning Disability.  I will always be grateful for the magnificent world her time and attention unlocked for me.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Smell of School

There is an odor that is distinctly a school smell.  It is a mixture of old books, sweaty kids, industrial strength cleaner, and school lunch.  I actually like this smell. I went to elementary school in the 1960’s, the time of purple ditto copies.  Unlike the fresh warm Xerox copies of today, fresh ditto copies were cold. They had a sent that I can’t describe, but one I will never forget. I loved that smell, but I didn’t love the work it represented.  If a ditto copy ever got wet, the ink would run, leaving a purple trail of evidence of its existence. I cleaned many lingering purple marks with Dutch cleanser and a rag.

When I think of that smell and school, memories of our janitors, Bart and Morris, pop into my head. They were always there when we needed them. They were busy pushing long, gray rag mops down the halls of Polk School; dousing child vomit with sawdust and then sweeping it up as if nothing happened; filling the soap containers in the bathrooms with pink powdered soap, and then cleaning piles of it off the sink; and scraping wads of single folded squares of toilet paper, mixed with water and pink grainy soap off the ceiling in the 5th and 6th graders bathrooms. I would say “Hi, Morris” or “Hi, Bart” when I saw them. Bart would answer back in his strong Dutch accent. Morris would smile revealing his missing tooth. I find it odd that we were allowed to call these two adult men by their first names in a time when all adults were addressed by their last names preceded by a Mr., Mrs., Miss, Uncle, or Aunt.

These wonderful, kind men were given far less credit and money than they deserved.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Waking with Spirit

Spirit wakes me. “Go write.”
I jump to the call, eager and willing.
I look at the clock –
It’s so early. I need my rest.
I will be tired, how will I get through my day?
I reconsider. I wisely go back to sleep.
My alarm wakes me. “Get to work.”
No time to write. I missed my chance.
Spirit, how can I follow you and stay in this world?

My little one – let go – relax.
I will take care of you. We will work together.
I know your needs and I know your heart.
Trust me with them and try something new.
Your needs are important to me.
I will take care of you..
I need a body to dance my dance.
I need a voice to sing my song.
I need a hand to write my words.
Wake up little one and play with me.
Try it out.
Trust me with the lead.
We will take turns, and lead together.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Message from Mess

I assisted in the move of a hoarder. Her house was so crammed full of junk there was only a small a path from room to room. There were beanie babies, little figurines, clothes, purses, shoes, bedding, books, tons of craft stuff: fabric, paint, brushes, wood, and an endless supply of craft magazines, as well as human-interest magazines. She only had one day to get out of the house, so instead of going through, purging and organizing her belongings, we packed it all up and sent it to storage. Holding on to all of this stuff was costing her tons of money, her marriage, and her happiness.

I could so relate to her. I liked many of the things she had. She had magazines I would subscribe to if it weren’t for the hard time I have throwing them away. She had beautiful fabric, cute stuffed animals, and lots of things I liked. I could see my mind wishing all of her crap (well, some of it) would go from her house to mine. I wondered what all of those things represented to her and why it was so hard for her to let them go.

However, I do know what it would represent for me. It would symbolize living a life I want but don’t have. Expressing myself creativity, but being too fearful to even try; taking adventures and going places that I’m missing out on now; owning cute things, somehow believing they will make me cute; Dreaming of making  doll clothes for my grandchildren symbolizing our love and connection.  Clinging on to my kids toys and clothes in some way believing if I have these things, my children will always be close and shield me from experiencing loneliness.

The truth is at the end of the day, all I’d have is a mountain of junk and no room for me. All of the creativity would still be unexpressed. My kids would still be gone. My grandkids still wouldn’t have homemade doll clothes, and wouldn’t be thinking about me every minute of every day. I still wouldn’t have made any of the recipes in the magazines or crossed stitched even one of the patterns in the hundreds of magazines to choose from.
That empty hole in my heart that I tried to fill by buying more and different things would still be there – connecting me to every past hurt and failure.

Letting go and disconnecting from possessions has been one of the most painful, scary and healing things I have ever done. Letting go of past memories, unfulfilled dreams, and the feelings associated with them is a huge step, and in my opinion, one worth taking. When I feel the feelings that come up when I let go of my things and their meanings, and
turn to the Savior for comfort, love, and understanding I heal. I know that he knows exactly what it is like to be me. He loves me and understands me; free of judgment, condemnation, or disappointment. He knows exactly what I experience, making it possible to bring 100% light to my broken heart. This gives me feelings of worth and value that replace all those feelings of despair, loneliness, helplessness and insecurity. It gives me the space to let go of my things and my pain and opens a place for joy, adventure and faith. Even without those things, I can still have dreams, connection and fun!

It surprises me that I found this message in the middle of a messy house. I thank this woman for the opportunity to see a little inside her and a little inside me. I pray for her. I pray that she can find the courage to part with her "things." I pray that she will be filled from the only place that will completely fill the hole that all mortal experience. I pray that she knows that she isn't alone and that in some way we are all alike.