Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

That chance not taken. Those words not spoken. That moment not seized. And why?

What is the worst case scenario?

A bruised ego? An awkward moment? A rejection?

But. . .what if. . .

What if that chance taken led to the prize? Would it be worth it then? What if that romantic interest returned your devotion and affection? What if that boss gave you the needed raise you proposed? What if that warranted apology was welcomed and appreciated?

What if. . .then. . .?

If one knew the outcome. . .Would it change the risk factor? Would it be worth it? Would the return justify the investment?

There is but one simple step. . . answer. . . solution. . .

A person will never know. . . unless. . . the chance is taken. Knowing the risks. But. . . Wanting it badly enough to try.

What’s the worst that can happen?

The knowledge of letting an opportunity pass without stepping out of a suffocatingly safe comfort zone? The not knowing a possible outcome due to a chance not taken.

That is the worst case scenario.

Life is worth the risk. Life is worth the prize. Life is worth taking the chance.

The rewards are waiting.

New Year’s Intentions

Resolutions of a New Year. A New Beginning of sorts. Life’s Clean Slate. The 365 Day Do-Over. January 1st.

A Resoluted Fresh Start.

This was written then. Then when lives were different. Then when resolutions could be made and followed. 2020 has provided a pause to some but the path leads in only one direction-

Forward. . . with Intention.

When contemplating about setting a New Year’s Resolution- I keep thinking of my dad- who sadly- I start this year and the years to come without. During his life, he tried to teach me so many life lessons- not quite sure I got them the first time. So my resolution for this year is to remember his life lessons:

1. Arrive early– your time is no more important than someone else’s.

2. Something that you create, build, or restore holds a greater importance and significance than any shiny new purchase– instant gratification is temporary at best.

3. Never expect from anyone that which you are not willing to do yourself– it’s not fair to either.

4. Surround yourself with friendships with the common desire being only friendship– not what status they have, what they can do for you, etc.- that can change in an instant, but true friendship is life-lasting.

5. Live below your means– “just because you have more checks- doesn’t mean you have more money”.

6. Embrace your health– no matter your age, you never know when it can be taken from you.

7. Make a positive impact on the life of a child– celebrate in their many successes later in life- a ripple effect, if you will.

8. Surround yourself with a diverse group of positive people– backgrounds, life experiences, ethnicities- we have so much to learn from each other.

9. You are more than your circumstances– make the most of what you have.

10. It’s not where you start- but how you finish. . . I hope to finish this year strong.

May 2019 bring clarity, comfort, and lots of joy!

and it did. . .well played.

The Revolving Door

Life’s Carousel.

Dramatic Exit. Quiet Pause. Apologetic Reentry. Over. And Over. And Over Again.

The End is never the end.

So. . . why go there? Why say it? Why continue the revolving door of insanity? Can one really expect a different result? Past behavior predicts future outcomes.

Why should one think this time will be any different?

And yet one does. Over. And Over. And Over Again.

The word “Over” holds little meaning.

It’s never Over. It is a predictable course of action. A course that spins one in a complete circle to nowhere.

Same views. Same people. Same outcome.

A Closed Door

The No Return Policy. The Not Going Back. The All Trails Lead in one direction. . . forward, onward. . .destination undetermined.

When is closing a door the best choice?

The choice when one walks away from a person, a situation, or a location. That moment of knowing the return is no longer.

What precedes a lock out?

Is it courage? Self-preservation? An acknowledgement of needed change?

A locked door with a lost key is the door that remains closed. . . forever more.

So what leads to this point? The very point when one realizes there is no other option. The point when time has struck the hour of moving on. The point of enough is enough.

What does a closed door solve?

Does it prevent future heartbreak? Does it keep one whole? Does it avoid toxic family drama?

Is an abrupt and swift door slam ever too soon?

Is the closing of a door prematurely, just mere avoidance of dealing with a life circumstance? Is it giving up too early? Is it a cowardly move? Could it ever be considered brave?

Is it realistic to think doors can’t be reopened?

Can relationships be revisited and repaired? Can blood be thicker than water? Does absence make the heart grow fonder?

Does a closed door provide the space and time needed?

To forgive. . . To heal. . .To love.

To be determined. . .

An Open-Door Policy

A locked door. An eight foot fence. An armed alarm. Measures of safety? Needed protection? Acknowledgement of essential boundaries?

When is an Open-Door Policy warranted?

When I began teaching twenty years ago, I was a very naive twenty-four year old young woman. I was a fresh graduate of a local university. I was the product of a very sheltered lifestyle. For all intense and purposes, my life had followed a predictable plan set into course at the age of twelve. I always knew I wanted to be teacher. I always knew I wanted to make a difference. I always knew that I was safe in my surroundings and with the people whom I chose to spend my time.

I never questioned it. . . not ever.

I grew up in a small quiet Florida suburb. In our neighborhood there were a few unwritten rules. Go outside. Explore. Have fun. But. . . Be home before the street lights come on. The days before cell phones tracked our every move, we had freedom and we made the most of it. We walked miles of sidewalks. We played endless kickball games at a local elementary school. We explored mosquito ridden nature trails. Not an adult in sight. We were free to make decisions about our whereabouts, our company, and our desired destinations. Each loving home visited we would beckon friends to take part in whatever the day would bring.

The Open- Door Policy was evident for all who entered. No need to knock.

And that is just what we did as we gathered the troops. Once every child containing house had been accounted for, the Day of Adventure commenced. Always mindful of the streetlights above. When the streetlights came on, one better be home, or. . . the consequences of a lack of freedom the following day would be administered in a quick and not so loving fashion. The Lack of Freedom Punishment took only once to be sealed in a child’s memory bank. As the friends arrived the following morning to invite one along on the yet to be determined Day of Adventure, a guilty admission would flow through a hushed whisper. The quiet closing of a door was the acknowledgement of a well-deserved consequence, the omission of a day of fun.

It usually took just once. Just one time. Didn’t happen again.

This was the welcoming, comforting, innocent life every child should have the pleasure of experiencing. This was exactly how my first year of teaching (and many years after, for that matter) transpired. The Open-Door Policy for parents, students, teachers, and volunteers. The door was always open. There were no fences. There were no walls. There was no locked office.

There was a community of people working together sans walled fortress.

The principal was always visible. He placed a valued importance of knowing his community. And know them, he did. He stood front and center greeting each as they entered his passion project. This magnet school for the arts was his labor of love. His magnum opus. His great work. And work he did. When he was not taking a vested interest in each family whom entered, he was inquiring about his teachers. He knew their lives, their families, their strengths, and their concerns. He treated each as if they were part of his family. They knew it. They felt it. They loved it.

This was how every teacher should begin a career.

I am often reminded of a line from a favorite book which I share with my students each year. Each year- it never loses its luster. Each year- I discover within it, the genius that is Roald Dahl. I’m not sure, really, who enjoys the book more- my students or myself. But one of the lines found in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, when describing the very factory responsible for creating the larger than life delicious chocolatey confections was this- “No one ever one comes in and no one ever comes out.” This would describe the vacancies for teachers at such a school. There weren’t ever any openings. No one ever left their position. This school was a community of dedicated teachers working long past the hours required. No bad eggs/ no bad nuts– (the movie is always different than the book.)

They were a community of people doing what they love. . . and it was evident.

This school was placed in one of the highest crime areas in Pinellas County. It was conceived as a way to integrate a very segregated population. It was designed to attract a diverse group of learners, teachers, and community members- a melting pot. That was the other missing part, I failed to mention. The Golden Ticket, also from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was nearly impossible to find an opening for a student. If such a child was awarded a spot. . . it was considered their Golden Ticket. They would be the talk of their neighborhood. Envious conversations would ensue. Children didn’t leave this magical place of learning. They knew. Their parents knew. Their neighbors knew.

There was nothing like this place.

They were now part of a factory where each one would discover his/ her talent. Unique qualities, quirks, a value. Each year of learning building on the next. A fifth grade year was the mark of each child finally discovering his/her gift. There was not a one for which this did not occur. Those that shined in academics. Those who preferred creating a masterpiece of art. Those that ended a year in a dance recital or dramatic stage performance receiving more than one well-deserved standing ovation. This was their safe place. This was their moment to shine. This was their magnum opus.

This was just how every child should begin their schooling.

I am often told, as I run into former students, this favorited elementary school does not prepare one for real life. The one with the walls, the fences, the alarms. . . the danger. And why should it? This is the safe magical place of learning, of talent, of children being just that. . . children. This is the place for which they are given the freedom to discover, to create, to explore their surroundings, their interests, and their talents.

Innocence in a child should be. . . guarded. It is the Golden Ticket worth its value.

Living the Now

When one loses track of minutes. . .

The sacred place where time is not the focus.

A glowing morning sunrise.

The sound of rolling waves along an endless shore.

A freshly brewed warming cup of coffee to greet the day.

The quiet lull of an afternoon rain shower.

The smell of freshly cut grass.

A lazy Sunday in a cozy bed.

An extended silent embrace, no words needed.

Being in the moment. . .

Makes the moment. . .

Just what it is. . .

Perfect.

Wishing for When . . .

The lies we tell ourselves. . .

I’ll be happy . . .

When. . . my degree is finished. . .

When. . . I lose the freshman fifteen that lasted far longer than freshman year. . .

When. . . I land my first job. . .

When. . . my student loans are paid off. . .

When. . . I meet my soulmate. . .

When. . . I buy my first home. . .

When. . . I get married. . .

When. . . credit card debt is no longer. . .

When. . . I create a family. . .

When. . . I lose the pregnancy weight. . .

When. . . I get a full night’s sleep. . .

When. . . the children grow up. . .

When. . . the house is paid off. . .

The Never-ending Whens. . .

The Remembering When. . .

Remember when. . .

We used to rise out of bed with positive anticipation of what the day would bring?

Remember when. . .

We used to trust proven science rather than wishful thinking?

Remember when. . .

We used to smile at strangers and we could visibly see them smile in return?

Remember when. . .

Going to the store was a pleasant chore- without temperature checks, masks, and hand sanitizer?

Remember when. . .

Teachers and students loved school and couldn’t wait to return?

Remember when. . .

Sporting events were filled to capacity with rowdy loyal spectators?

Remember when. . .

Concerts and Festivals were a weekend reliable?

Remember when. . .

Having dinner with more then ten guests was not a guilty wish-filled pleasure?

Remember when. . .

We were a community of helpers ignoring racial divides?

Remember when. . .

We could greet others with love. . . be it a hug, handshake, warm embrace or kiss on the cheek?

Remember when. . .

We looked to politicians for hope, guidance, and facts instead of attacks, dismissals, and falsities?

Remember when. . .

We could make weekend plans every weekend?

Remember those days. . .

I miss them.

An Announcement Confirmed

There is one coveted place at any high school game. The place with an admirable view of the entire field. The coveted bird’s eye view of the action. The sacred place where, through numerous stadium speakers, rowdy fans will be delivered a moment to moment play of game in deafeningly volume. The Announcer’s Booth.

As each announcement is delivered, it will be honored in one of two ways. One being loud cheers of affirmation- the introduction of a favorite player, an outstanding performance, or an unexpected win. The other being the resounding boos– the debut of an opposing team, a poor call from a referee, or a startling loss.

The announcement made to our family was neither. It was both expected and surprisingly confirmed. The slow absorption of news that had the simultaneous displeasure of being suspected and then affirmed. The receiving of such news garners neither a loud denial, like that from an opposing team, or the confirming cheer of a home team now with the news they had waited for.

When an answer so long in the asking has finally been reached, what is the appropriate response? This was written at just such a time.

The Official News

So we have it- the official diagnosis. . .Lewy body Dementia. . .or as Charlie Brown’s teacher once said, “wha what wa, want wa wha waa.”  

When we first heard the news. . .the news that we had been waiting for, for easily over a year. . .the diagnosis that his primary care doctor said wasn’t possible. . .the diagnosis that now IS,  I thought it would be different.  I thought we would be relieved.  I thought I would feel perhaps hopeful. Now I know and all I have to offer is, “Eh. . .well this sucks.” I am without emotion.

We knew. . .

We all knew. . .

We knew when this started over three years ago,

When the words would go missing,

When the sentences stopped short,

When the seclusion began. . .

We knew. . .

Something wasn’t right,

Something wasn’t matching,

Something wasn’t the same. . .

Never will be- it appears.

The Missing Playbook

When I was little girl, my father was a teacher in the Hillsborough County School System and after way too many years battling the daily traffic to Tampa over the Howard Franklin Bridge, in a far less than reliable car, he decided to transfer and teach in Pinellas County- still with the same less than reliable car- I might add.  

He was a physical education teacher for more years than he wasn’t-in addition to working various side jobs (like any teacher in Florida knows) . . .teaching tennis, summer swim lessons, cleaning carpets with a friend’s business, and various construction projects.  He worked more hours than he didn’t- nights, weekends, and of course the regular nine to five.  

When he began teaching at St. Petersburg High School- he welcomed an after-school job coaching soccer with open arms.  After his inaugural season, he did the math and the income averaged to about 50 cents an hour. Regardless of such, his passion, heart, and soul filled each second he was on the field with the boys, whom he lovingly referred to as extended family.  Their families became part of ours and my father followed their lives and careers far after they left those hallowed grounds.  

I remember it well. . .when he arrived that first season. As a little girl, I was often carted along to the soccer fields where I would watch many a practice. I spent far too many frigid game nights sitting on those hard stadium metal bleachers freezing my backside off in awe of the camaraderie created on the field.  

I fondly remember him prepping for the season. He set out the tattered jerseys from many years of use, on the floor of our living room, attempting to find each its numbered match.  The once crisp white and emerald green long-sleeved shirts were now a dingy yellow and stretched out in more places than I could count.

When tryouts came- every player made the team. Because. . .well, there wasn’t anyone left to cut. The soccer team, at that time, wasn’t the team to be on. The theme of previous seasons had been repeated without thought. There was one good player. The object of the game was to pass it to him. Let him run up the field to score. . .and score he would. This was the mantra.

Sadly, this did not follow my father’s vision of teamwork and he was met with some opposition. But as the years went by,  the teams became better. The players worked together as a cohesive unit. In future seasons, there were actually players cut, more tried out than were needed. And the minions no longer passed it to the chosen one– his philosophy rang true.  

Now, one would think, that for a 50 cent an hour job– it would not monopolize one’s life as it did.  But each night before the “big game” and they were all “BIG” games. . .the pacing would begin.  The restless nights, the lack of sleep, and the Playbook.  Who was starting the game? That was a privilege, I am told, still not sure why.  Who would come in the second half?  This usually involved those that had reported late to practice. Those that were late, never were given the privilege to start. A life skill, I am told. Punctuality is still something for which I struggle. Which position would each player would take? And strategizing against the opponent ensued. . .Who were their strongest players?  What was their record?  Who would be best to match their skillset? More questions than I could ever dream of answering. He would go over these again and again and again. . .obsessively. 

The day of the “big game” and they were all “BIG games“, he would write out his Plan, his Playbook. Explain it with precision. Delegate it to the team helper, James. James, I often referred to as The Shadow. He was never more than four feet behind my father. Pacing as he paced.  No matter what learning difficulties challenged James in school, he was dedicated member of this extended family. He knew every player of every opposing team. He knew every stat; every shot on goal, every assist, every win/loss and could recall them with ease. And he did.

One would think the Playbook would end when the game did. . .however, it did not. As all good teachers know, there is a process. The good old “Plan, Do, Study, Act”.  (First, create the Plan. Next is the Do, carry out said Plan. Followed by Study, What ways did said Plan work or not? Finally Act, What would be done differently next time?).

He would go home and review each game, play, and player meticulously. What worked? What didn’t? What would he do for the next “big game“, and remember they were all “BIG” games.  So it was another restless night. No sleep. Pacing and thinking. . .thinking and pacing.  

My mother said that she could do cancer. . .there was a Playbook for that.  She could comfort my father. Go to chemotherapy with him. Pack him snacks. Visit with him. Lovingly prepare the food and nourishment that he would need to survive those vicious chemicals streaming through his veins for hours at a time. Those chemicals now claiming his strength, mobility, and hair. Those chemicals guilty of turning his once bronzed skin into the same dingy yellow of those once well-worn uniforms. She knew how to do all of those things.  

But with Lewy Body Dementia, there is no Playbook. There is no How To. There is no Expect This. There is “Everyone is different”. There is “Each person moves at a different rate”.

There is “Will he know me tomorrow?”