Want to CRUSH a brain tumor? Refuse. And Move.

My husband is having daily radiation and chemo.  I choked on those words the first couple of weeks.  I sat on pins and needles waiting.  Waiting for him to feel sick.  Waiting on him to be tired.  Waiting on him to…change.  Just waiting.  And then, as with every part of this journey, I found my new (again) footing.  I found it in the stories he brought home from his radiation visits.  I found it in the friendships he was making with everyone at Levine.  I found it in the jokes he was cracking, the love he was giving and the life he was leading.  As I always do, I found all my strength in Eric.  I found my strength in our love for one another, for our children, for our life and most definitely I found strength in our laughter.

Three recent moments have fortified me and allowed me to shift from waiting to living – all occurred during yoga (yeah, no surprise there.  seriously y’all, yoga is the bomb.)  One was a sense of being of surrounded by STRENGTH.  The word filled my head and my heart and gave me incredible peace.  I am strong.  Eric is strong.  Y’all are strong for us.  I came home to tell Eric and as it turns out he experienced a very similar moment (different message) at the same time.  Never doubt the power of the Holy Spirit to give exactly what you need when your heart is open to receiving.

The second moment came when I was checking my phone during yoga.  Don’t judge.  I have a husband with a brain tumor, and I grant myself permission to check my phone any damn time I want – even during yoga! :)  He told me he REFUSED to be tired from the radiation (even if his hair was beginning to fall out).  I focused on that word the rest of class – it became my intention for 90 minutes of movement.  An excellent word and one I find myself reflecting on often.  What can we refuse?  We can refuse negativity.  We can refuse to give up.  We can refuse to back down.  We can refuse to stay silent.  We can refuse to run away.  We can refuse defeat.  It is an empowering word – a word of choice and strength.  We refuse.  And when we refuse the negative, the ugly, that which does not serve us in a positive way….then what?  We MOVE.  We move toward the positive.  We move toward action.  We move toward joy.  We move into peace.

The last moment is actually one I experience every single time I go to my yoga studio.  It is quite amazing really.  Here I am with a group of once strangers who now feel like family.  I have become very close to some, others I know by their first names.  Still others I know their face and we smile.  We have a rhythm.  We have a shared purpose and connection.  It is simply the safest place I have ever felt.  The magic to me is alive within that space.  I laugh every day.  Every day there is something funny, something joyful and pure.  Laughter.  It lightens my soul and brings me happiness.  Once I began to see it, I started to crave it.  Along with all the other wonderful yoga benefits, I have a place that I can laugh every day.

I’m not waiting anymore for the bad stuff to happen.  I have found my STRENGTH to REFUSE and to MOVE toward LAUGHTER.  That is how you crush a brain tumor!

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Back to School Parenting Offenses :: Join the Club!

Back to SchoolAfter two months away from the blog it is hard to know where to start again….I could tell you why I went on a writing sabbatical or the life lessons found on a Little League baseball field.  I met a man named Lou who fired me up so I could relay that mess or even talk about the anxiety of having my husband start radiation and a year of chemo in a week.  All excellent topics – surely they will all end up right here at some point.  I wrote 139 posts in my head this summer, even one about the joy of a 55 degree morning on a farm far away from the hubbub of the city.  Today, back in the stifling humidity, I am thinking about the one thing that has been on my mind this time of year since I was 6 years old – the start of a new school year.

Since Facebook and every other media outlet seems to be obsessed with lists, I proudly give to you my top 4 worst parenting back-to-school mistakes.  My disclaimer here is that not all of these have happened directly to me as a teacher (ok, that’s a lie). But I do promise if you did commit one of these “mis-steps” you are in the majority!  And I do not remember personally who you are nor do I hold it against you.  These are the no-nos, step away, just STOP mistakes we all do.  Yes, me too…..

1.  Never ever start an email to a teacher in the beginning of the year with “I promise I am not that parent but…..” .

Oooooooh.  You are that parent.  Despite your cleverly disguised introduction, I get the sense you are about to launch into a well-crafted expose of exactly who your child is, what he needs and all of your hopes and dreams for what he may become.  It is tempting – trust me I know!  Every year I want to just give a little heads up about my two – just a few insights into their learning styles, areas for improvement, their nicknames, favorite color, best place to sit in class (up front – duh!).  Hard as it is, don’t.  Why?  Kids change.  Give your kiddo a fresh start without any baggage.  Let him have a go at this on his own.  One of the best parts of the new school year for teachers is this fresh start…..give them the gift of a clean slate, too.  Oh, and did you know all kids are schizophrenic?  They are different people at school then they are at home.  You don’t know their school persona – or personas as the case may be.  Plus you will earn an ugly red mark by your name in the teacher’s notes….. true dat!

2.    Step away from the locker.

And the binders.  And the pencil pouch.  I have a long standing love affair with school supplies dating way back to the days when my Mam would take me shopping for pens, pencils and crayons.  I remember the excitement – all of this was mine!  It was what I needed for my job and these were my tools.  I cannot even imagine if school supplies included locker wallpaper and rugs – pure joy! And I love it to this day.  But these shiny objects are not mine or yours.  That locker belongs to your kiddo….and yes, I would love to offer my tips on how to organize books and binders in a very neat and efficient way.  I would like to stack the post-its next to the highlighters for easy access and tape that sweet baby picture to the door.  Don’t.  They will figure it out – maybe.  And maybe they won’t.   The papers may spill out through the door every time the door is opened and the pencils will get lost and the cute baby picture will actually be a highly adhesive vineyard vines whale sticker that you will pay $25 at the end of the year in order to have scraped off the locker door…. it is their shit.  They can deal with it.**

**  I do have one exception for parental locker intervention – unknown sources of smell.  When this happens, you can and should go to their locker armed with rubber gloves, a trash bag and some Febreeze.  Find the source (culprits can range from wet gym socks to dead frogs to spoiled yogurts) dispose of the offensive item, shove the shit back in and walk away.  walk.  away.

3.  Save the board room lingo for, well, the board room.

Here is the thing, teachers are highly educated professionals.  We just operate in a different realm with our own set of lingo. Yes, I admit that clapping rhythmically to signal the start of a class may seem absurd to you, but I promise your use of “move the needle” and “drill down” is just as absurd in the environment of school.  I understand you want my “buy-in” to ensure “core competency” so that your child is “trending” in the proper direction.  There are surely “many moving parts” in my classroom, and I recognize I have to be sure my teaching strategies are “scalable” using “best practices”.  I will strive to push your child to “think outside of the box” so he can learn to “leverage” his “assets” for his “vertical” ascent throughout fifth grade.  Got it.

4.  BYOD – NOGO.

It is tough to be “out of pocket” these days.  We are all accustomed to our devices keeping us “synergized” and “in the loop” (wow, the lingo is hard to shake!) but you MUST put your devices away when at school.  Turn off the ringer please.  Put it in your bag or pocket.  Focus.  If you are speaking with a teacher at a meeting or conference, or listening to a back to school presentation, focus.  Teachers have eagle eyes (and ears).  We know the phone is on your lap and you are doing your best to tap tap tap inconspicuously.  I am absolutely sure it important.  But we see you.  It’s our job to SEE.  Eyes up.  Head nod.  Smile.  Fake it till you make it.  I think you will be glad you did.

Off they go again – on their own.  Forging their paths.  Making their mistakes and building confidence through their successes. They might eat pizza and french fries for  lunch 39 days straight, wear dirty PE clothes for 46 days straight, and lose every stinking pencil you buy.  Just don’t forget this is their “window of opportunity” – best to leave well enough alone until you really need to “peel that onion”

Swimming Upstream

It has been a rough start to the summer for me.

It is hard to be a parent. It is harder to be a parent whose profession has been educating middle school kids for 15 years. It is not because I focused on the science curriculum for so long that I feel compelled to do organized experiments with the kids. Actually, it is quite the opposite. It is because I know what kids need, what they deserve and what a summer should be. Unlike my classroom, where the kids were mine for 50 minutes or more a day and I could, in that little microcosm, direct our lives, the reality of summer is tough. I find that my view of summer is drastically different than many of my parent peers. I am swimming upstream. I have a few compadres who struggle to swim with me, but it is not easy. And it has not been fun.

This is my summertime manifesto for my MS son…..

The kids should be outside. All the time. It is not too hot. They do not need breaks. They need water and snacks and cookies and Kool-Aid and a push out the door. I hope they have a place to roam and explore and get in a little bit of trouble. They should be with friends. Lots of different friends. And they should not have their time scheduled with movies, bowling or too many organized activities. That should be a treat – not an expectation. They should figure out how to be bored and turn it into fun. They should play whiffle ball and neighborhood golf and basketball or any thing else they make up. They should go to the pool with just a ball and stay for 6 hours. One camp, maybe two. They should watch the World Cup. They should argue with their buddies and figure out how to get along without any parent involvement. They should wind down after the sun sets. They should be dead dog tired after their shower at night. They should be reminded – through words, deeds and attitude – that what they do should be fun. We should take away our own expectations – whether it be for the sports they play or the schoolwork they should do – and let them have fun.

Worried about how far their lacrosse team or baseball team or swim team will go? Will they play the full half? What is their batting average? Can they beat their best time and qualify for the all star swim meet? Worry all you want but do not put that on them. They are boys. They are not being scouted this summer because of their athletic prowess. They aren’t. Those are our adult worries and concerns, not young boys. Teach them to be good a teammate. Inspire them to do their best and then take what comes.

I have been in knots lately because I have second guessed what I want for this summer. But I am done with all of the adult nonsense. I know what makes my son happy. I know what he needs. It has way more to do with dirty clothes, a ruined lawn and copious amounts of sugared drinks. He will remember that. He will cherish those memories.

I am having a cold glass of grape Kool-Aid, forgoing the sunscreen (gasp!) and taking the plate in the whiffle ball league. Long live summer.

Can I crack my egg on your head?

It has been longer than I have liked since writing my last post, and I must say I have really missed it.  And yet on the other hand, I felt like I didn’t have much to say.  That is funny in itself if you know me….I ALWAYS have something to say.  Maybe I didn’t think I had anything worth enough to put down into writing….who knows?  I clearly needed some sort of break.  The f-ing brain tumor has been rearing its ugly head more than I care to see in the past month, so I will chalk most of it up to that.  But I have been listening and observing…..here’s my take away.

Do you remember that stupid elementary school game where you came up behind someone and put your closed fist on their head.  Then you would smack the outside of that hand, open your fist and trickle your fingers down over their hair, pretending you had just cracked an egg open on them?  Everyone would giggle and critique and you would try it again.  Was that just a York, PA thing?

My egg has been cracked.  Again.

This past week I had a Board Meeting for Rohr Rockstars, something that hasn’t occurred in a year, and I was telling this story.  As I was looking around at a table of gracious, caring and above all, patient, friends and colleagues, I was trying to explain this rollercoaster of a ride I have had since embarking on the mission to create a nonprofit.  I have spoken many times on the sheer exhaustion and frustration I have been consumed by in this journey.  The legal and financial concerns alone are enough to send me over the edge, and they have.  Many times.  In fact I have said (often) that this is it.  I am done.  I made a small impact, I covered my ass legally and with the IRS.  I am done. And yet I knew in my heart I wasn’t done…just on hiatus.  Just thinking.  Sometimes I “thought” for a month.  This time I “thought” for longer.  Sure, RR was still chugging along but my sticker wasn’t on the back of the car.  My heart wasn’t open to it, not completely.  My egg was boiled (ok, a stretch…  done with the egg analogy)

A month or so ago I was at yoga (as usual) with my Rockstar water bottle.  Someone asked me about it, and I opened my heart.  Instead of a cursory response, I gave a heart-felt response.  And my life changed.  Again.

Suddenly, I had people everywhere approaching me about Rohr Rockstars.  Key strategic relationships were literally being laid at my feet.  Positive energy and excitement was buzzing all around me, and I didn’t do a THING but open my heart to it.  Fundraisers on the books, a new clear vision of best practices and approach and suddenly we had the makings of a Rohr Rockstars [Re-Launch].

This is not the first time this has happened to me.  I can count at least 5 times over the past 3.5 years that I have cracked open my heart, just a bit, and immediately the light, love and support has come flooding in.  I must say this time, the crack is far too wide to ever be sealed shut again.  Rohr Rockstars is ON.

Is it God’s Grace?  Karma?  The energy of the universe?  Fate?  Coincidence?

I don’t know WHAT it is or WHY it happens, but it does.  When we crack open our hearts to love and service and kindness and caring, the world responses.  When we close our hearts, the world closes, too.  I have seen it, and I have lived it.

I am challenging each of you – especially those of you who can see how blessed and LUCKY you are – to crack it wide open.  Find your way of serving.  Open up to it.  Step back and see what happens.  Spend ONE week, one lousy week, doing NOTHING but caring and loving and dreaming and filling your world, your heart and your mind with love.  You will lose NOTHING, and I am willing to bet you will be in awe of what you gain.

Crack that egg, baby!!!!

 

 

Defy Gravity :: Find Joy

What a great phrase…. Defy Gravity.

This month a trio of amazing women (and dedicated yogis) decided to put together a May-long challenge called #defygravityyogi (check out the hashtag on Instagram). A yoga pose of the day, a challenge to post yourself on Instagram in the pose, and a promise of prizes…. but there is so much more in this. Steps toward joy, hidden, in a yoga challenge.

At first glance, and maybe the only glance for many, this is about the physical pose. As with a lot of things in life, the surface stuff is easy; digging to find truer meant is the tricky part. Embracing the good, the bad and the ugly is the practice part. Accepting all three equally is the joy.

Day 6 and the transformations are kicking in….. The first day the poses came to Instagram mostly as is on the “cheat sheet”. Warrior III. Check that one off. Fairly simple and straightforward, holding a coffee cup for some playfulness.

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Wow. This was a powerful moment. When I saw the the picture my mind switched into perfection mode (i.e. criticism). Does my butt always stick out like that? My back is arched too much. Wow my thighs look….thick.

My home base at Y2 is a spot smack dab in front of the mirrors, the one with the superman duct tape. (That’s a long story… Just go with it). I am used to seeing myself in poses while doing yoga. I am not, however, used to seeing poses frozen in time….. and now I had to post it publicly and tag some pretty amazing people. Shit. Would they notice all the tiny flaws? Or find ones I wasn’t even aware I had?

Some friends included captions under their pictures – strings of words that hinted at what they thought was wrong with the picture and reasons why. “Sorry about that bent leg!” “Just a beginner!” “Not great with this one!”

Day 2 and 3 continued mostly on the same path…. Frog sit-ups and warrior II. A bit more playfulness. Still trepidation, especially because frog sit- ups are a bit…awkward.

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The shift was starting and my eyes and heart were being opened up (once again) beyond the physical. I wasn’t alone in this…obviously. It took giggling with Liz (above) and Wanda (behind the lens) for something to crack open within me. There is more here.

It was Day 4 – Humble Warrior Day- when the light starting seeping through the cracks. No one was criticizing me for my form. No one commented on bent legs or arched back or big butt. It was quite the opposite, actually. Friends in class were sharing in the fun of the challenge, celebrating our practices, cheering on each other, appreciating the wonders of our bodies and what we can do…. We were loving each other and I think (hope) loving ourselves a bit more, too. I noticed an absence of excuses below pictures. Really? Four days is all it took? That is magical.

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Day 4 had a totally wrong pose (awesome!), a humble warrior, and a pose variation that I am really proud I can do. My pictures transformed from opportunities to put myself down to beautiful expressions of joy. I saw flaws, sure, but I wasn’t embarrassed by them. I know my shoulders are tight (my right one from the darling dog above who dislocated my shoulder) and that’s ok. I know I have a bootie but man it looks good in the arm balance. I started to see strength, not weakness. I found joy, not anxiety. The light is now shining brightly.

Finding life’s joy is a process. It is a journey. Don’t be fooled by the easy way to happiness…there are no 5 simple steps. Joy is hard. Joy is scary. Joy comes from a place within ourselves that is confident in where we are right now and fearless about the path that takes us to tomorrow.

Can we all find joy? Sure.
Is it an easy journey? No way.
Are there pieces to the joy puzzle that are common among us all? Absolutely.

The first step – Screw Perfection :: Choose Practice