My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.


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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: Be the Change

What change, big or small, would you like your blog to make in the world?

January 2, 2015

Dear Readers,

Check this out, I have been up since 5 o’clock this morning writing my latest blog post and after 8 hours I finally posted it:  You Can Change the World.   Yeah, I know, 8 hours is a long time to take to write one measly post, but I am out of practice.  After I posted, I began to read other blogs that I follow and ‘Change the World’ seemed to be a prevailing theme.  Imagine my surprise when I clicked on the Daily Prompt (see above).

Since I didn’t directly answer the question regarding my blog, I will answer it now.  I would like to see my blog bring a little bit of peace to every corner of the world.

Peace, ~v.
Be the Change

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Memento Mori


photo (2)

July 7, 2014

Dear Readers,

I believe I have finally gotten back into the swing of things that is my routine.  Which I suppose is a good thing, considering that school starts for me in just over one week.  No more three month vacations for this girl.  Getting back into my routine also includes my writing.  It has been one of my more recent life goals to write on an everyday basis.  So, here goes…

Today’s Daily Prompt is entitled “Leftovers – For this week’s writing challenge, shake the dust off something — a clothing item, a post draft, a toy — you haven’t touched in ages, but can’t bring yourself to throw away.”  Because I couldn’t think of anything specific, I asked my sister to give me a letter and I would take it from there.  Today’s prompt is brought to you by the letter ‘M’.

Memento Mori is a Latin term that translate literally to ‘remember (that you have) to die.’  The term generally refers to an object serving as a reminder of the inevitability of death or our own mortality.  Sometimes confused with the term memento (often misspelled momento) which means an object or item that serves to remind one of a person, past event, etc.; keepsake; souvenir.  Well, there we go, a definition we can work with.

I tend to be a little clutter-y, at least as far as my space is concerned.  My bedroom, my desk at school, my bathroom, and a certain teeny-tiny spot in my garage.  I will admit that this clutter amounts to my own personal mementos.  I have gifts from my children, pictures of the past, report cards from my children’s long ago grade schools, medals, cards, and any number of  priceless memorabilia.  I will certainly be embarrassed when I die and my children are left with the task of cleaning out my belongings.  I should really clean things out.  However, the one thing I will never get rid of, the one thing that I simply must keep, is the little kid, heart necklace pictured at the beginning of this post.  Here is the history:

In March of 1997, I was 33 years old and was facing a new life as a single parent of my four living children.  To say that I was a wreck is an understatement.  Without rehashing my very colorful past, I was in a very bad place and I was dragging my children along for the ride.  My children were 12, 10 4, and 3.  I knew I needed help.  Thank God and my family.

I placed a call to my dad, a rarity in those days.  All I said was, “I need help, Dad.”  He knew what was up.  He said he would talk things over with my mom.  A few hours later, and much to my surprise, my dad pulled up in front of my sister’s house, where I had been staying, and announced he was taken custody of  my kids.  I didn’t argue, I didn’t fight, I didn’t fuss.  I knew it was the right thing for them.  But what to tell my kids?

I took all of my children into the back bedroom.  I explained what was wrong with me (the two oldest already knew) and that I needed to get help.  I told them that Nana and Tata would take care of them until I could get my shit together and be a proper mom.  My oldest daughter, Muffin, was wearing the heart necklace (pictured above) around her cute little, chubby neck.  She deliberately took it off, and held it in her hands.  She held it as though she was holding a priceless antique.  She then took her right index finger and motioned for me to bend down to her.  I knelt down to her so that we were eye-to-eye.  She then carefully and gently placed the heart necklace around my neck.  She whispered to me, “Mama, wear this necklace until we are back together, okay?”  I was speechless.

Throughout the next 3 years I wore that necklace faithfully.  Not only did I wear it, I displayed it.  I showered with it, I swam with it, I went to church with it and I went to school with it.

My two sons, 12 and 10, lived with my parents in Arizona and my two daughters at first went to live with my sister and her family in Arizona but eventually stayed with my brother and his wife in California.  I, myself, spent a summer drying out and coming to my senses.  Eventually, however, I moved back in with my parents and my sons.  My dad had instructed me that I was not to get my kids back until I went to school, graduated and became a teacher (something he knew I always wanted to be).  He would give custody back when, and if, he knew I could fully support them all.

I had signed legal guardianship over to both my parents and my brother and sister-in-law.  For those of you who do not understand the implications of such a move, it meant that I was responsible to pay child support.  Between the state of California and the state of Arizona, I was assessed a total of $1200 a month.  By the end of the three years, with interest, the total was over $45,000.  That’s right, over $45,000.  Here’s the good news, I paid every single solitary penny off.  I worked my way through college as a retail clerk, and my wages were garnered.  I became a teacher in January of 2001, and my wages were garnered.  Believe you me, the state gets their money.  And as well they should, I should have to pay for my own children.

I graduated from college in December of 2000, it only took me three years and a ton of student loans.  Here’s the great news, I regained custody of all of my children.  Yes, they all came back to live with me and I spent the next 12 years trying to be the best mother I could be.  I think I succeeded, at least that is where all indications point.  And the necklace?  The heart necklace my daughter so lovingly put around my neck?  Well, throughout the three year that I would visit my daughters, Muffin would sit in my lap and fiddle with the necklace with a faraway look in her eyes.  I never knew what she was thinking, I couldn’t bear to ask.  She obviously knew of its significance, as long as I am wearing it, we will be apart.

One day in December of 2000, when my children were all back with me safe and sound, I called Muffin into my bedroom.  Muffin was 8 years old.  I asked her if I could take the necklace off, now.  She nodded “Yes!” with a great big smile on her face.  I took it off, first time in over three and a half years, put it in a jewelry box, and we hugged and we cried.  Our separation journey had officially ended.

During my years of separation, that necklace was an albatross around my neck.  Now, however, it represents the connection I have, and will always have, to my children.  It is my memento mori because during those three years away from my children, I was reminded every day, remember you die.  Peace, ~v.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/leftovers/

 

 


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For Everything There is a Season


October 11, 2013

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.  A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.  Eccl 3:1, 4

Dear Readers,

As summer reluctantly gives way to fall in the Sonoran Desert, I am reminded that I, too am entering the fall of my life.  Just as I look forward every year to this, my favorite season, I have looked forward to embarking on this season in my own life.  I am comfortable with the emotion I associate with fall, melancholy.  I am also comfortable with the adjectives that spring forth when I think of the fall:  forlorn and despondent.  In fact, I can assure you dear Readers, that as I enter the fall of my life, forlorn, despondent and melancholy are places on the map with which I am most familiar.  But, I want to change all that.

Today’s Daily Prompt:  Mid-season Replacement.  For many of us the seasons are changing, bouncing unpredictably between cold and warm. Are you glad to be moving into a new season, or wishing for one more week of the old?

In order to move forward, I must look back.  I began a transformation of sorts when I was living abroad.  It’s a bit easier to shed your old skin and try something new on for size when no one knows who you were.  However, just as we can count on fall turning to winter, so can we count on falling back on our old ways.  That is, unless we look to our past and try to discover what is holding us back.

The Lord supports all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.  Ps 145:14

My past.  I have a definite connection to our Divine God.  I pray and He answers.  My problem is that I oftentimes don’t listen to His answers.  It’s not so much that I ignore, it’s that I simply don’t pay attention.  It’s not until something major happens to me that I realize that God was indeed sending me messages, signals, to direct me to new pathways in my life.

The new pathway has always been one of self change.  I have always been reluctant to be introspective and act upon what I discover about myself.  I’ve mostly chosen pensive and indecisiveness.  But not always, I mean, I do have a solid foundation, so I do have something to work with.  My greatest challenge has been to nourish and give to my soul first.  Only then am I healthy enough to give others in my life what they need.  It is time that my self change is permanent.

Fear not, you shall not be put to shame, you need not blush, for you shall not be disgraced.  The shame of your youth you shall forget.  The Lord calls you back.  Is 54:4,6 

My present.  “What you strive for you already are,” was a message from God.  This time, I listened.  To be whole, to be complete has always been my goal.  What I was striving for, I already was.  I am not the sum of my selves, I am myself, the whole me, the complete me.

I have oftentimes retreated inward to regain my balance, my center, my Lord.  However, in doing so, I have shut off the parts of me I am ashamed of, don’t want to deal with or are otherwise a nuisance to who I am striving to be.  But that is not the answer.  In wanting to be whole, I shut a part of my life away,  However, I have since learned that when I wall in my capacity to love another person, I also wall in the part of my spirit that contains the capacity to love the Lord.

Additionally, when I conceal the parts of me that I am most ashamed, I conceal my humility and I am precluded from God’s mercy and forgiveness.  So I have laid myself bare, so to speak, for all the world to see.  I opened myself up to love, and I received love back.  I revealed my shame, and I have been forgiven.

I have opened myself up, I have let light into a part of my life that has been secret, shut away.  But, I must remember that I can of mine own self do nothing.  John 5:30 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, […] and He will make straight your path.  Prv 3:5,6

My future.  I must take a leap of faith.  In order to begin this new season of life, I must relinquish control and trust that God holds the plan for my life.  Here is where my deepest fears may surface.  The future is unknowable, but it is mine to behold.  This is also where my truest possibilities lie.  It is the end and it is the beginning.  It is the change I have been seeking.

We are all teachers, and what we teach is what we need to learn, and so we teach it over and over again until we learn it.  Perhaps this time, with God’s direction, it will be my season to learn.  Peace, ~v.


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Once…


Just once, dear Readers.

Just once, dear Readers.

September 14, 2013

Dear Readers,

Once again, my post pertains to the Daily Prompt:  Grab the nearest book. Open it and go to the tenth word. Do a Google Image Search of the word. Write about what the image brings to mind.

The Far Pavillions was the nearest book and the tenth word was “once”.  I did do a Google Image Search of the word, but really, my mind was already spinning in so many different directions, that it hardly seemed fair to stimulate it any further.

Once is such a lovely little word.  Who doesn’t have fond memories of “Once upon a time” and “Happily ever after”?  But, has it ever occurred to you that logically, there can only ever be one fairy tale?  Yes, it’s true, because the line goes, “Once upon a time…”  So, pretty much, the fairy tale racket should have ceased and desisted after the very first “Once upon a time.”  Or at the very least, all of the subsequent fairy tales should have followed sequentially.

Moving at once, from one literary genre to another; well, slightly moving from one literary genre to another, we find The Once and Future King by T. H. White.  From fairy tales to legends, I give you King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Sir Lancelot and the Holy Grail, Might Makes Right.  Okay, White’s book may not have officially coined the phrase.  However, Might Makes Right is a prevailing theme throughout the whole of the four books.  You might even say that it is a theme of biblical proportions, I mean, I wouldn’t, but there is that whole David and Goliath thing.  Sadly, still a truism today.

“Once more unto the breach,” dear Friends, is a line from my favorite William Shakespeare play, Henry V.  The play centers around war and is at once, both violent and inspiring, sort of like, you know, war.  Not that I would ever once think of calling war inspiring.  However, violence seems to bond men as brothers and inspires them to fight, not for one, but for “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”

From The Battle of Agincourt (1415) to The Vietnam War (1965)..  I suppose once man started, he couldn’t stop.  Case in point, 550 years after England’s Henry V and his band of brothers were outnumbered by the French 5 to 1, and won, so comes the book We Were Soldiers, Once…and Young by Lieutenant General (Ret.) Hal Moore and reporter Joseph L. Galloway.  Paralleled underdog stories, only this time it’s 450 U.S. soldiers against 2,000 North Vietnamese.  Huh, war, it sucks.  All at once, my off the cuff remarks don’t seem too funny anymore.  It seems that once I get closer to the present, there is no fourth wall.  Hmm, yeah, war sucks.

It also seems that once I started to realize that I was being flippant about war, I wanted to stop blogging at once.  Let me just wrap it up right here.  But not before I ask you, dear Readers, just once, when it comes to war, “can’t we figure out what we keep doing wrong?  Just once, can’t we find a way to finally make it right?  To make [peace] last for more than just one night?” Just once, dear Readers, please, just once.  Peace, and I really mean it, ~v.

*Thank you, James Ingram.

http://heronthereeverywhere.us/2013/09/14/daily-prompt-bookworms/

Being a Teacher | A mom’s blog

http://myatheistblog.wordpress.com/2013/09/14/daily-prompt-bookworms/

Daily Prompt: Bookworms | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/14/daily-prompt-bookworm/


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I Know I’m Hard to Love


This was our day.

This was our day.

September 10, 2013

Dear Readers,

I know I’m hard to love.

That is my six word story.  Today’s Daily Prompt: Write a six-word story about what you think the future holds for you, and then expand on it in a post.   

I wanted to simply put down my story, my six words, and leave it at that.  However, the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that there is someone in my life who deserves more than those six words, he deserves to know the truth.  And so he will.

I Am My Own Worst Enemy

This was my first choice for my six word story.  In fact, I have written these six words a number of times in journals, diaries, letters to friends, letters to myself and countless essays over the years.  Finally, yes finally, I have come to understand why I do what I do.  Finally, yes finally, I realize that I do not have to fight with myself; I can love myself.  And I do, love myself that is.  So, what now?  What comes after learning to love yourself.  For me, something extremely more difficult:  allowing someone else to love me.

I Know I’m Hard to Love

I know I make it difficult to see why you fell in love with me.  Even I forget sometimes, too.  It is not you, it is me.  But of course, you already knew that.  You wonder where the happy, fun-loving woman you fell in love with went.  Well, she is still here.  But she is protecting herself the only way she knows how.

I know I’m hard to love.  I am moody and mean.  I’m a handful and I’m hurtful.  I am impatient and independent.  These are the tools I use to build my wall.  These are the tools I use to build a wall not to keep you out, but to keep me in.  I don’t want to keep you outside, I just don’t want anyone else but you to get in.  But that is impossible for you to know unless I tell you.

I know I’m hard to love.  I pick nothing from the air and turn it into something.  I can take the smallest slight, real or imagined, and turn it into a war.  In my wars, I always draw first blood.  I want to be the one with first-strike capabilities.  I want to hurt you before you hurt me, because then my hurt will be less.

I know I am hard to love.  But I don’t want to be.  I am deeply ashamed of myself every time I hurt you.  I am devastated that I have let you see this side of me.  I am embarrassed that you know how insecure I am.  And I am afraid that I have pushed you too far.

I know I’m hard to love.  But you see me.  You see the me behind the hardness.  You see the joy, the laughter, the love for life.  You see that, and that is what you fell in love with.  You see me.  So you have to see what is in my heart, what is in my soul.  You have to see what I don’t say.

I know I’m hard to love.  What I don’t say is that I have never wanted to be with someone as much as I want to be with you.  What I don’t say is that my love for you knows no beginning and no end.  What I don’t say is that some days when I think of you, I have to catch my breath.  What I don’t say is that I don’t want to lose you, not ever…not ever…not…

I Don’t Want to Lose You

This is where my story ends.  This is where it has to end because I can’t see past these six words.  I don’t want to lose you.  I don’t.  So I will fight my fear and I will swallow my pride and I will let you love me.  I will let you love the me you know me to be.  And I will love you back.

And They Lived Happily Ever After

Now that’s a six word ending I could live with.  Peace, ~v.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/daily-prompt-six/


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I Love You More Than More


I love you more than more, ESS.

I love you more than more, ESS.

September 8, 2013

Dear Readers,

Have you ever noticed the way small children hold onto a kitten or puppy that they love?  They wrap the little guy firmly in their arms.  They hug and squeeze and hold tightly onto the object of their passion.  Unfortunately, an intervention, of sorts is usually required to save the life of the almost loved-to-death animal.  In all of their exuberance, small children tend to (almost) squeeze the life out of the very thing they love so much.  I am practically there, dear Readers, squeezing the life out of very thing I love so much.

Daily Prompt: The Excitement Never Ends Tell us about the last thing you got excited about — butterflies-in-the-stomach, giggling, can’t-wait excited.     

… telling myself I’m gonna be alright
Without you baby is a waste of time

It is a waste of time, dear Readers to try and convince my heart that we will survive without him by our side.  It seems that I have an addictive personality and the more in love I fall, the more in love I fall.

You can’t undo a fall like this
‘Cause love don’t know what distance is
Yeah, I know it’s crazy

I fell in love and I fell hard.  The distance between us has only served to reinforce my love, yeah, I know it’s crazy.  But whether it’s 7 miles or 7,000 miles, love is love and the heart wants what the heart wants.

But I don’t want “good” and I don’t want “good enough”
I want “can’t sleep, can’t breathe without your love”

I don’t and I can’t.  Nothing average about me, so why would I settle?  I wouldn’t.  There’s nothing like that can’t catch my breath kind of love.

Who cares if you’re all I think about,
I’ve searched the world and I know now,
It ain’t right if you ain’t lost your mind

Yes, he is all I think about.  And yes, I have lost my mind.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

…I don’t want easy, I want crazy

I am crazy in love.

I wanna be scared, don’t wanna know why
Wanna feel good, don’t have to be right

This is the kind of love I want, dear Readers.  I don’t want to be right, I want to be in love.

There’s no such thing as wild enough,
And maybe we just think too much
Who needs to play it safe in love?
Let’s be crazy!

The greater the risk, the greater the payout.  Go big or go home.  The brightest stars burn the hottest.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  I could go on dear Readers, but you get the picture.

“Dear Lord, do You think I could fall in love one more time before I die?”  Enter ESS and my prayers were answered.

Excitement, I mean real excitement, curl your toes, stop your breath, leave your heart in your throat excitement is what I’ve got.  And I will not let it slip silently away.  I am in love.  There is no greater excitement.  Peace, ~v.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/08/daily-prompt-excitement/


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The Luxury of Freedom


 

Freedom in my mind.

Freedom in my mind.

September 7, 2013

Dear Readers,

Unless, or until American citizens travel abroad, they will never understand that freedom is a luxury.  Merriam Webster defines luxury as a: something desirable but costly or hard to get b : something adding to pleasure or comfort but not absolutely necessary.  When applying the definition of luxury to the concept of freedomI wholeheartedly agree with the first definition; freedom is both desirable and costly.  And up until about six months ago, I would have agreed that the luxury of freedom does add a certain degree of pleasure and comfort to life.  However, for me, freedom is definitely, absolutely necessary.

Daily Prompt: Luxurious  What’s the one luxury you can’t live without?

I willingly gave up the luxury of freedom when I chose to teach high school overseas.  I knew that living in the Middle East would be challenging to my independence as an American and as a woman.  However, I never knew just how much I would have to give up.

To say that my laugh is loud is an understatement.  Cackle, that is the word most often used to describe my laugh, and that comes from my family.  When I laugh, I laugh with the whole of my being.  My mom tells me that I have only recently begun laughing deeply and with such abandon.  I surmise it is because I have reached a point in my life that allows me to be comfortable in my own skin.  I am lucky.  I understand not everyone reaches such a luxurious position of self love in their lives.

Now, even if I have begun to throw caution to the wind and laugh the laugh I laugh so well, I still must admit that I really do not so much love my laugh.  I accept it, I own it, I use it.  But, I do not love it.  In fact, most people do not love it.  So, it should have been such a good feeling when I found out that the Arabic teachers with whom I was recently working were envious of my laugh.  However, along with the envy, came the price of freedom.

I was nearing the end of the school year, teaching in a small, rural town in the Middle East.  The students had all but finished their studies for the year and the teachers were simply cleaning up loose ends and finishing up the year.  It was the end of a day that had been filled with teacher in-services.  I was sitting with a group of colleagues waiting to go home.  We were talking and joking and I was laughing out loud.  My laugh was not only loud, but disconcerting as well, naturally.  I sometimes forget that my laugh is overbearing.

I was feeling quite at peace with my life right then.  Then, as we were leaving school, one of my favorite teachers, Miss D, pulled me aside and said to me, “Miss Victoria, in this culture we do not laugh loudly in front of men.  We (and here, I suspect she was referring to Arabic women) We are not free to do that.”

I was taken aback.  I began to get teary eyed.  Miss D saw the tears start to roll down my cheeks and she began apologizing for hurting my feelings.  I was unable to speak, but how could she know that the tears were not for me, they were for her.  They were for her and all of the other beautiful Arabic women I had been working with the past 5 months.  We are not free to laugh.  I had not seen that coming.

Embarrassed by the fact that I had broken yet another one of the unspoken traditions of the culture, I apologized, “I am sorry, Miss D.  I will remember that.”

“Miss Victoria, you should not stop laughing,” Miss D told me.  “I used to not laugh.  But since meeting you, I sometimes laugh and it makes me feel good.”  Miss D went on to tell me that she has a lot of pain in her life and that when she has allowed herself to laugh, she has felt better.  She went on to tell me that when I had first arrived, the other teachers didn’t quite know what to make of me, “Who is this Westerner with her laugh?”  But now, they all loved me and they listened for my laugh, it made them smile.

“Oh sure,” I thought, “They are laughing at me.”  But, no.

“Do not stop laughing,” Miss D. said, “we cannot laugh like that, but you can.  So keep laughing, because when you laugh, you are laughing for all of us.”

That was the last time I saw Miss D.  Unfortunately, my tenure in the Middle East was about to come to an abrupt end.

I am back on American soil, dear Readers, appreciating all of the freedoms my country has afforded me.  But, I cannot stop thinking of the women I left behind.  Yes, freedom is a luxury.  Freedom is luxurious.  Freedom is a luxuriant necessity.  And freedom is the one luxury I cannot live without.  Can you imagine not being free to laugh?  I can.  Peace, ~v.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/daily-prompt-luxury/