What I Said at the Prayer Service Today

In the beginning of the first Toy Story Buzz LightYear was excited about all of his power. He had the power of lasers, and flight, and the power of a star command ship that he talked to through his monitors. He had lots of gadgets and stuff and a mission. The problem was, it wasn’t real. It was all fake. But when he dropped his mask and breathed the real air, he grew to realize that it was only in cooperation with his friends that he had real powers and a true mission, and he was more powerful and capable…

What Resilience Looks Like

Some of my favorite lines of poetry come from DH Lawrence’s “Self Pity:” I never saw a wild thing  sorry for itself.  A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself. My students have stories that I sometimes never hear. We are busy people in the classroom. We don’t have a lot of time to sit around and talk about our feelings and cry. Sometimes, though, I get a chance to know the true resilience of the rising generation. Their stories evoke the tenacious bird of the poem, its gnarly little feet curled around…

Change the Story

We tell ourselves limiting stories that contain no truth. What follows is a pictorial example of exactly what I am talking about. Inner story at the time: “I’m fat. I mean, really, really fat. I have to stop eating for a year or no one will ever love me. The reason why I am alone and a loser is because I am fat and ugly.” Dang, this was Halloween 1988 (hence the glorious fake tattoo). I was eighteen years old, and so careful about my diet and exercise. I was a swimmer and a dancer. I was a sophomore at UC Santa…

Remember Savasana

Today is a Sunday with no plans. Nowhere to be. At some point I’ll need to venture to the grocery store for lunch fixin’s for the week. That will take maybe thirty minutes. I did a little laundry. Made eggs for my daughter and her friend. Straightened up a bit. Putzed. Now I’ll write a few letters. Read. Think about things. Wander into the backyard and marvel at the plants and trees. My sweetheart is a good gardener. Two of my favorite TV characters when I was little were Farmer Green Jeans from Captain Kangaroo and the Professor from Gilligan’s Island….

Just Say I Know

The best answer to a compliment is sometimes, “I know.” Compliments and praise cause a shift in power between two people. “I know” takes it back. My daughter often gets remarks about her eyes from adults she doesn’t know. These compliments force her to have to interact with people she would not naturally even notice. The polite thing is to say “thank you”, which she does. The adult just saw a pretty child, wanted to interact, and did in a way that he or she thought would make my daughter happy. It doesn’t make her happy. It interrupts her. It…

Just Say You’re Welcome

If I go through calisthenics to avoid a straight Thank You, you should see what I’ll do when someone tries to thank me for something. Pish. No, it was no trouble. Please don’t thank me. It was my honor. It was nothing. Okay, so the other day my friend Valerie tried to thank me for taking over some driving duties for the writing workshop. I am a grown woman, but this was my response: “Pish,” I said. “Pish, pish.” Pish isn’t even a word for grown-ups. I know this but I said it anyway. Valerie got a look in her eye that…

Stop Saying Sorry

I have a rule in my classroom that you can’t say you’re sorry unless you hit someone with a hammer on purpose or by mistake. Either scenario would warrant an apology. Otherwise, keep your “I’m sorry” to yourself. My high school students will preface a question with “I’m sorry, but–” as if: 1. It isn’t my paid job to help them, and 2. They are somehow hurting me by showing interest in what we’re doing. My students say sorry for passing me in the hallway.  Sorry for having to use the restroom.  Sorry for laughing too hard. So I made…

Respect the Messenger

I hate my body. I hate my flaws. I look fat in this. I hate that I’m sick. I’m exhausted. I wish I had energy. I don’t talk this way about myself anymore, but I used to. I hear these exact remarks and others like them all the time from people who are doing great work in all areas of their lives. I’ve learned to appreciate my body’s integrity as I get older. I immediately feel the effects of my choices now. I can hate my body for a weight gain if I want to, I suppose. But it was…