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Personal Growth

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Don’t f*ck with me. Passing on a legacy. Preparing for pre-preschool and life.

I wrote this on 6/21/12, after I had been offered a new job, which I accepted and started in October. On this day, it became very real that I would have to send Sofie away to school/daycare at some point very soon and overwhelmed by this, I sat and cried and prayed and wrote this. I didn’t publish it because it seemed crazy to write a letter like this for a hypothetical situation. Some might accuse me of being…dramatic!

Today, I publish this piece because our Sofie starts a new toddler program on Monday!!! And, so here goes…

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I am preparing, in my mind, for when I send my daughter (my first born, my mothers name sake, my heart and soul, my little mirror, my perfect angel baby) to school or daycare for the first time. All the things I want to tell her come flooding through me and manifest as tears and a tight throat.

Baby girl, mommy loves you. I am always here for you. I will fight your fights with you, by your side. No matter how big or small. Did another kid take your toy? Did the teacher ask you to be quiet again (this is inevitable, you are my child, this is your legacy to be chatty and “social”…these are your gifts, not deficits or problems to be solved. We will talk more about that later.)? Did you forget your lunch or get teased for what you have for lunch? Whatever it is, I am by your side figuring it out WITH you. I am on your team.

Be brave in all you do. Have fun. Play with ALL the toys and ALL the kids. Be kind. Say thank you and please and excuse me. Take turns and share. You know how you love to give me a bite of everything you are eating. I love that about you! And your teachers might not want you to do that. Its ok. You are still the most generous child I have ever known.

These things I know you will excel at and be your true awesome self. You were born to be awesome. And I know you are going to love school and I know your classmates and teachers will love you and appreciate you too.

Stand up for yourself. This is the hardest lesson for me to prepare you for. Mommy wants to be there to protect you always from skinned knees and hurt feelings and everything else…and yet that wouldn’t be fair to you. You are capable of standing up for yourself and of protecting yourself. You are capable of so many things.

If someone hurts you or scares you or isn’t fair or makes you feel less than in any way, stand up for yourself. Use your words. Be kind and compassionate. Listen. Be direct and forth write. Speak the truth. It will set you free.

The truth will always set you free, baby.

And if you are still not being heard and respected, you tell them what my mommy told me when I was a little girl and felt powerless, you tell them, “*Don’t f*ck with me.” To anyone, at any time. And I will have your back. No questions asked. I have your back. No matter what. I trust you and if your boundaries are crossed and you say these words, I trust that you needed it and I will stand by you and fight your battle WITH you. Mommy is on your team.

(*True story, I will never forget that day or that lesson that my mom told me that I could say those words, even to the priests at my parochial school. I was shocked and forever armed.)

But mostly, I want you to know that you are allowed to feel these words, to know that you deserve to be respected, heard, that you are armed with these words and what they represent. And that you have me, by your side and at your back, equally armed with these words, because my mommy armed me with these words too. We are brave and tough and strong.

Now, make sure you eat breakfast, brush your teeth and hair, have your lunch, listen to directions, play, learn, make friends, and have fun, baby! That is what life is all about.

 

Tomorrow’s Intentions

I wrote this down after Sofie went to bed one night. Feeling tired. Frazzled. Having no memory of what we did that day if anything at all. Trying too hard to do too much, too little, the wrong things or nothing or not enough. Honestly, I can’t remember. It’s been a really long day.

So, I decided to get organized and write out what I wanted my day to look like tomorrow.

slow down – sit on the floor – pull out puzzles and toys – play – read books – slowly, add narrative and ask what she thinks – wait for her to respond – make animal sounds – say the alphabet – then sing it – say words, repeat – invite her to say words – snuggle her before naps and after naps and all the time – color with crayons – bounce a ball – pull toys out of the blue bucket – laugh – tickle – kiss – hug – play music – have a dance party

I’m laughing at myself now looking at this list. Sometimes this is what my to do list looks like as a mommy. Sometimes it’s just this simple. And hard.

It’s the simplest stuff that’s the hardest, actually. I mean who writes a to do list that includes “play” because I felt too frazzled to remember to do it? I do. I suppose.

I am rich.

Anyone who didn’t have enough at some point in their lives (real or perceived) might be able to relate to holding on a little to tight to something (real or not) at some point in your life.

I hold on to clothes and shoes. For ever.

I am going through my clothes and shoes that I store, box, move, restore, re-box and re-move over and over in my life. Now that I have a daughter, I have already started to save everything she ever touched. Or not. Or was given to us. New or not. Every thing.

I realize I could be creating a problem for myself and our little family and our very real lack of storage.

So, here I go, trying to remove before I re-move all this same stuff. Spring is here and a cleaning I will do. I have a “Donation” box ready to go and fill.

The box is a quarter full. I started to take things out of the box to put back in the closet. So, I had to stop to process what its like to let go. Its not about the stuff. Its about feeling like I might not get more stuff when I need it. So I hold on. In case I need it. In case I can’t get what I need when I need it.

So, I journaled for a minute. A mid-cleaning out catharsis and thought I would share. Here goes:

I live a life of abundance. I have plenty. My cup is full. My closet is full. I have everything I need and more. I am beyond blessed. I have so much, in fact, that I give freely. I share. I have enough for me, my family, and extended family. I give and share and the more I give and share the more that comes into my life. And the more that comes into my life the fuller, more swollen with happiness, gratitude and humility I am. I am happy. I am grateful. I am humbly aware of my continual blessings. I am rich beyond comprehension. 

I am rich.

I am rich.

I live a life of abundance.

 

Happy Spring cleaning folks!

 

Rest in Eternal Peace, Ms. Grimes

Judy Grimes Priebe

Today, I found out one of my favorite teachers from high school died of cancer that she had been fighting for at least a year prior. I received an email through Facebook to the XCP/BCP (Xavier College Preparatory, my alma mater and Brophy College Preparatory, our brother school) alumni groups. Shocking, horrible news that brought me to tears the moment I read the words in the email message.

High school is a horribly impressionable, highly volatile time in a young persons life.

Xavier College Preparatory was the best thing that every happened to me educationally and socially. Of course, in my 14-17 year old wisdom, I hadn’t the perspective or maturity or life experience to have known that at the time. But from every step I have taken since, the academic discipline, critical thinking, friends, traditions, and sense of belonging have shaped my every step.

Miss Grimes, as we knew her then, was a HUGE part of that growth and self realization. She stands out more than any other figure.

As I begin to read the Facebook posts from other fellow Gators, she apparently was that special someone to many, many, many other students at Xavier College Preparatory, not to mention her own friends and family. I was shocked as I read others comments…not because I didn’t believe them, but becuase she made me feel like I was the only special person she loved and took under her wing. I guess that was just apart of what made her so deeply meaningful for so many of us.

Why is it that “only the good die young”?And why oh why didn’t I ever make sure to visit her in these 11 years since I graduated to tell her how much she meant and means to me?

Thank you, Miss Grimes, for being that special someone who reached out to me and understood me and inspired me in such a  special way.

Now, I follow her husbands’ blog, In 2 the Eye, as he grieves. He is a powerful writer, truly talented in his ability to bring words to his experience in a vivid and visceral way. I have cried with each post.

I can feel the baby!

The first time I felt the baby move was at work (at around 17 weeks) I was in a meeting and I kept feeling some kind of bubbly sensation in my belly. I was totally distracted by this.  Bubbles then nothing, then more bubbles. Over and over. After several minutes, I realized it was my baby. I could feel my baby. I wanted to laugh and cry. What an amazing sensation…an indescribable connection.

From the doctors mouth.

I needed to hear our news from a licensed professional. After all, all I did was pee on a stick. How accurate, scientific or official can that be?

That Monday, July 5th, I had the day off of work and we had wanted to go explore Brian’s new campus and have breakfast Uptown to get a feel for what our life might be like living near campus. Brian started work that next Friday on the 9th and our idea was to love close to campus when we moved her and got settled.

As we drove to campus, we decided on breakfast at the Oak Street Cafe and dreamily talked about the possibility of our new life as parents. Elated and unsure, I was not ready to fully go there. After walking around campus on our way back to Old Metairie, we stopped at Walgreens thinking it would be, well, prudent to get more pregnancy tests.

I took two more tests, both positive. Time to call the doctor.

On Tuesday afternoon, I called the OB/GYN deptartment at Ochsner and asked to make the soonest appointment, that I thought I might be pregnant. And in my normally chatty, overly sharing ways, I launched into our life story about how we had just moved from Denver and didn’t have our own doctors yet and weren’t planning to get pregnant…the lady who answered the phone interupted me mid-babble and asked if I had taken an at home test. Yes, I had. Was it positive. Yes, it was. Actually I took three. Were they all positive. Yes, they were. Well, congratulations! Silence.

Well, can I still come in to see the doctor? I am sure you all have more sophisticated, official tests that I need to take. No, our tests are the same as those at home tests, essentially and they rarely give you a false positive. Very rarely three. Oh, okay, thank you.

We set up an appointment some three or four weeks later on July 19th. At that appointment, I get checked in under the premise that I think i am pregnant (I have strong stubborn genes) and wait, then get weighed in, pee in a cup, and wait for the doctor. Regular exam, any questions so far? Um, no. The appointment is coming to a close. And I start to think, maybe I am not pregnant. So, I launch in…

I’m sorry, Dr., so am I pregnant? I mean, do you need to take a blood test or something? Oh, yes, you’re pregnant, congratulations!

Oh, um, how do you know?

Sometimes the truth sets in slowly.

What’s in a blog…

I have been thinking about (and not using) my blog for the past year…literally a year.

Last Fall I decided I wanted to start a blog to capture and share all the things in my world in a fun and personal way. I wrote fervently about all the things I wanted to write about and captures pages and pages of notes, an outline. Then I hesitated. I started to think about if this should be a semi-public journal or if I should strive to be a resource to others like myself out there with a wide array of interests (like food and cooking, gardening, personal finance, Golden Retrievers, reading, the library, and on and on). And I stopped, because I couldn’t answer that question.

So, I did what I always do. I read. About how to blog and why and the ingredients to successful blogging? Here’s an article that I found helpful:

Manage Your Life, wrote, How to start a successful blog, and offered 7 tips:

  1. Pick a platform. Done. Thank you, Brian and WordPress.
  2. Pick a theme. This is where I am struggling, I think. I want to reserve the right to write…about whatever interests me. I think this is where I am defining myself, well my blog as not hitting a niche. This might relegate my work to be only read by my family, which I think I am ok with.
  3. Pick a name. Done, but again it reinforces that my niche is me, not a theme, like personal finance or sewing or gardening, but all of these, at my whim.
  4. Pick a logo. Hmm. Not sure about this. Other than my name in my own font and color, perhaps.
  5. Site design. I know a little HTML, but not much. And my husband is a wizard at all this, if I decide to change things here and there.
  6. Track your readership. Great idea and I just added this feature.
  7. Market yourself. I think I won’t until I get into it a bit more and grow into my own blog style.

Overall, this was very helpful to share and think through and I answered my own dilemma. My blog is more for me than for a business. If it turns in that direction (as a business or recourse), then great, but for now, I will share my blog when it makes sense to me, but that’s not my goal.

Another thought: did you know that “blog”-the word-is a contraction of the words “web” and “log” and according to masternewmedia.org, “a blog is a log of your thoughts, ideas, useful links, photos, videos, or the latest news.

There you have it. And here is my blog, Mia’s Playground.

Project Ecuador: Critical Reflections Portfolio

I took this photo on the plane departing from the US.

I had never been to South America and at the time of this photo, I thought that was the most pressing novelty I would encounter. I was consumed with thoughts of excitement about this new continent and this new country, what foods I would taste and architecture I would marvel at. I smiled as I remembered my favorite places in Europe and how I felt the first time I laid eyes on them.

Looking back on this photo, I find it deeply symbolic…

I left from Denver on Tuesday, December 2, 2009 and flew through Houston, Texas direct to Quito-the capitol of Ecuador. In Houston, I met up with most of my classmates, the program coordinator and the professor for the program, where we all flew to Quito together.

Project Ecuador is one of many International Service Learning programs that the University of Denver offers. For the past few years, my office, the Center for Multicultural Excellence (CME), has been working to incorporate international identity as more central to our model. Through this work, we have been partnering with the International House staff for trainings and programming efforts. Part of our conversations at CME have been about our staff getting more International Exposure as a way of expanding our self-awareness to then bring back to our program design, administration and training. In this effort, I participated in Project Ecuador as a professional (and personal) development venture.

And venture it was…

This (inevitably long) post will be focus on specific guided reflections as prescribed by the course syllabus. In these posts I hope to serve a number of goals: 1. to provide a critical reflection portfolio, 2. share an interactive format for my advocacy project, and 3. to utilize a medium that speaks to my ever evolving quest for self reflection and self expression.

Academic Study and Personal Interactions
How academic study and personal interactions led to an increase in knowledge about education in Ecuador and the United States…

After being in Ecuador for three weeks-both in the capitol, Quito and the rural areas of Borja and El Chaco-I am convinced that would have been no reading material that could have prepared me for the experiences I would have first hand. I new very little of the Ecuadorian educational systems prior to arriving in Quito. In fact, when I first became interested in the program, I had to Google map Ecuador to find it on the globe. I new it was in south of North America and I was pretty sure it was close to Central America.

I knew-or assumed-that it has an unstable economy and more poverty than wealth. But I also new that Al Roker has stood on the Equator line during one of the Today show Ends of the Earth specials against a picturesque backdrop of a multitude of colors and dimensions.

I too stood on the Equator line at the middle of the earth.

Project Ecuador is couched in a class titled, Education in American Democracies. The course description reads to present service opportunities in various schools in Ecuador and Denver as a way to compare, contrast and evaluate between the US and Ecuador. Upon arrival in the rural area, Borja and nearby El Chaco we made our way to Escuela Especiale, literally translated, Special School. We accomplished one of those three goals-we worked in the private high school, helping to teach English.

Academic Content
How academic content did and did not integrate with services experiences…

I have to admit that when I arrived to our service location in rural Borja and El Chaco, I was sure that I was not intended to be on this trip. That I was not the fit and in the wrong program. I am not a trained teacher for elementary or high school aged students. I am not a trained teacher of special needs students and have had very minimal interaction with students with severe mental and physical differences. I am not trained English teacher and I do not speak Spanish fluently, nor conversationally. It takes me a painfully long time to think of what I want to say…figure out how to simply it in vocabulary and form, then find Spanish work equivalents, rehearse it in my head a few times, then gain the muster and hopefully speed to string it together into a sentence. And, God forbid, someone ask me a question in return!

So, when we arrived at Escuela Espeicale, I was beyond taken aback. Before our arrival, I was painfully aware that I was out of my element and comfort zone being asked to work with children with special needs, in a different language, no less. But, to be honest, that was the very, very least of my worries…

Luckily, I was very sick the first (and what turned out to be my only) day of service at this school, which prevented me from literally smelling the unsanitary conditions. I have never worked in a school like this, never worked with children with special needs and never been in a school that lacked resources as severely as this one. I was not introduced to any academic content that would have prepared me for this kind of an encounter. I worry about how this experience was framed as “service” and what the vision or intention was or is for this encounter.

Perspectives
Multiple perspectives on educational practices and purposes…

The Denver based school volunteer oppotunity that was intented to take place prior to our trip to Ecuador did not come to fruition, due to more rigid restrictions.

Unfortunately, we discovered that Escuela Especiale was an unsanitary, unsafe environment without a formal (or informal) curriculum and we had to withdrawal our participation after the second day of service. We were told that the Director of the school and most of the teachers and students were away at the Speical Olympics events that week which might have affected the climate and structure of the school while we were intended to engage in service with them. Due to this change, we were only involved with one other school.

The school we spent most of our time at was the private high school in Borja. This school reminded me of my own parochial school upbringing-morning prayers as a whole community, single filed lines, uniforms, nuns in habit. It was all too familiar for me personally, having been a product of a mirror education, only in Phoenix, Arizona.

As far as perspectives of educational practices, I fear that the design of the program had us interact with presumably the best of the best (parochial school) and arguably the least resources and valued (Escuela Especiale) each in a specific rural area of Ecuador. I feel confident in saying that we did not experience much of a full or well rounded perspective. We did, however, experience contrast. Contrast from an educated, prepared, trained staff at the private school to an uneducated, un-credentialed staff at Escuela Especiale. But because of the lack of preparedness and the severity of the condition, only spend two days in this location.

Intercultural Understanding
How did your intercultural understanding and communication skills have been enhanced through Project Ecuador…

As I mentioned before, my Spanish language skills are not strong. Ironically, I studied Spanish from Kindergarten through my Senior year of high school. I have a grasp on the basics (some might argue with me here :) and was surprised with how much vocabulary came back to me as we navigated through the country. I was equally as surprised at how regardless of how much time I would spend rehearsing what and how I wanted to say something, when it was time to speak how it felt like all the words fell out of my head at the very moment I needed them.

Given some of our experiences, that I have mentioned, I think it would have been very easy to attribute our frusterations, shock, and even disgust to the Ecuadorian people, customs or values. I think this is one of the most alarming and very real possibilities of not being adequately prepared for such an “Intercultrual Encounter”. As a guest, not a missionary, philanthopist, or any other number of well-intented misnomers that I and we, as Americans bring with us a our cultural norm, the greatest miseducation is prescribing another culture’s “problems” or even their strengths or attributes through my own unexamined lens.

So, when it comes to intercultural understanding and language, the possibility for misunderstanding is real and palpable…and inevitable. I think the only remedy is preparation, perspective, knowledge, skills and endless reflection and facilitated dialogue. The understading I gained or the misunderstanding I have the opportunity to unravel will be an endless journey…a journey that I welcome. And if I am lucky I will be able to continue having more “intercultural encounters”.

Next Steps
What next steps do you see for yourself…

Share, learn, grow…repeat.

First, I want to share all the photos I took during the three weeks I was in Ecuador. Be warned: There are a LOT of photos and short videos. To look through them, please visit my MobileMe Galleries: the first set and the second set.

I would like to see more International Learning opportunities specificaly designed for graduate students across all disciplines. While this course was specific and primarily focused on 1. English as a second language and 2. Special Education, I would advocate for courses that can engage and highlight multiple discplines and interest levels.

Discovering My Strengths

Recently, I discovered my strengths and found out novel truths about myself that I have always known and never owned. What started as a professional development tool at work has turned into a clarifying journey of self discovery and personal empowerment.

Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, in Now, Discover Your Strengths, have offered this brilliant approach of “focusing on enhancing people’s strengths rather than eliminating their weaknesses”. They propose building a strengths-based organization by capitalizing on the fact that such traits are already present among those within it”. In other words, we are naturally brilliant, capable, talented and an integral part of our communities, whether that be in our work place, our classes, our neighborhood or our family.

This book is not just a source of life-changing and affirming information, it is coupled with a Web-based interactive questionnaire developed by the Gallup Organization that instantly produces your top-five inborn talents. Drum roll, please…

My strengths, in order, are:

1. Learner-love of the process of learning
2. Maximizer-sees the best of self, things, people and situations
3. Communicator-umm, ‘nuf said
4. Input-collector of information
5. Futuristic-spends a lot of time planning and visualizing what could or will be

I was amazed, a little surprised, and incredibly intrigued. How I have made sense of this information has come in many waves, many forms and through many, many, many conversations (reference #3). One of those most tangible, is this blog. A way for me to catalog (and archive) my learning, self reflection and growth in a semi public format…to share my dreams and my goals and all the information I gather across a huge spectrum of interests I have. Mostly, this is a creative expression and place to share photos and some of my favorite things…a place to play.

Welcome to Mia’s Playground! My living journal…