The Broken Window

When I got home from vacation a few days ago, I noticed that something was wrong with my car window–the one on the driver’s side.

When I was arriving at the gym, I pushed the switch to roll the window down, and the window started acting cuckoo. It was suddenly off the track and leaning to one side and although I could still move it up and down, it wouldn’t close because it wasn’t lining up correctly on its track.

So naturally, I felt like this was a big deal, you know? I mean, I just returned from Florida, where it was warm, but it’s FREEZING in Indiana, and I thought to myself, “It’s too cold to drive around with a window that won’t close.”

With a feeling of urgency, I started to push the button more and more. “Forget the gym,” I said to myself, “this windowΒ mustΒ be fixed now.” I pushed the button up and down and began to try and physically pull the window off the track in an effort to slot it back in.

Now here’s the thing: I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT CARS. So I had no business thinking that I knew what I was doing. I just knew I didn’t want to drive the dang car with an open window in 40 degree temps.

Not surprisingly, my efforts were to no avail, and I ended up calling a mechanic. Upon examining the window, the first thing the mechanic told me was that it looked as if the window had simply slid off the track, which would have been an easy fix for him, butΒ in my efforts to fix the window myself, I had actually broken the window regulator part in the process,Β and that would now have to be replaced.

The part was ordered, and he then put the window back on the track in its rightful position, but left me with a strict directive:

“Do not push the button up and down. The window will stay in its correct place as long as you do not press it.”

“Ok,” I said, somehow knowing this would be hard for me. πŸ™„ I seem to be someone who is good at doing hard things, but not easy things.

He must have read the stressed look on my face, because he then continued,

“And if you forget and press it, please do not attempt to fix it again. Just let it be until the part comes in.”Β 

Ok,” I said. 😳

On the drive on the way home, I said to Aliana, “Maybe I should put duct tape over the switch, so I don’t forget to not use it.”

Aliana, who is 10, reassured me that this was not necessary.

“Just remember not to touch it,” she said. I did a little internal psyching myself up. I said outloud, “Don’t roll down the window, Emily. You can remember. Don’t do it!”

I then enjoyed a very luxurious 24 hours of driving around in my warm car. I was determined to not touch the window, as I was thoroughly appreciating the warmth, dryness, and privacy of my vehicle. However, that feeling of gratefulness began to wane, (as gratefulness often does, if we don’t hold it close to our hearts) and was replaced with a sense of complacency within a few hours.

And then, as I was entering a parking facility the next night, I realized I needed to grab a ticket. Without thinking, you guessed it…I rolled down the window.

The window immediately went off the track , of course, and one side of the glass was now poking up in the air.

“Ugh,” I said to myself. I was simultaneously surprised I had forgotten while also fully expecting that this would happen.

I spent the next day driving around with the window open in rain all day. Everywhere I went, I was cold, rainy, and wet. I contemplated getting a towel to dry off the car and cold, wet steering wheel. Somehow, part of my ego argued against it.

“It’s all your fault. You forgot what you were supposed to do, and now you must pay the price,” the voice in my head said.

The next morning my mechanic texted me to tell me there was a delay in the arrival of the part. I was going to face an additional 24 hours driving around in the cold.

I began to once again think about how my annoyance with the window situation was all my fault, and it was happening as a result of two mistakes I made in my thinking: I tried to fix something I knew nothing about by myself, instead of being still and waiting. And then, after knowing I needed to practice a simple, new way of thinking, I had once again slipped back to my old ways of thinking, thereby breaking it again.

I knew that pressing the switch would result in a very unfavorable outcome. And yet, I forgot what I knew and did it anyways.

This got me thinking: how many times do we do this? How many times do we have a new, very important goal at hand, and we get complacent about it and then slip back into old habits and mindsets?

And the equally important flip side of that question is this:

How many times do we spend beating ourselves up for our mistake, instead of having compassion for ourselves and just deciding to do better and move forward?

Did I help myself when I decided I deserved to be cold and wet and rainy the next day? I was essentially deciding that I deserved to be miserable. I could have gotten a towel to dry off and put on some gloves and made myself more comfortable.

But instead, I wanted to grumble and punish myself.

Side note: I think I may be the only weirdo on the face of the earth that contemplates life like this when a window breaks.

But if I am that weirdo, I might as well share these musings.

To recap:

  • When something goes wrong, and we are not sure what to do, many times it’s in our best interest to stop DOING and just get still. In the stillness, we have the ability to think rationally, instead of simply reacting and breaking windows and crap.
  • When we are trying to think in a new way–whether it’s embracing a new lifestyle, new way of thinking, or new reality–we should realize that we may have moments where we revert to old patterns of thinking, especially in times of urgency or complacency.
  • When we make an error out of complacency or urgency, or addictive patterns, we must acknowledge the error, while having compassion with ourselves, so that we can move forward. Other people may not have compassion for us, which is why it is so important that we give that gift to ourselves.

We are all worthy of compassion and self forgiveness. And we are all worthy of having new opportunities and new results. So as we go about our day, let’s also remember this additional truth:

It is only in our brokenness, that we can actually see more beauty in the world. So maybe broken windows aren’t that bad after all.

The Softness that is Forgiveness

If anyone again asks me what it means to forgive someone, I will tell him or her this story.

It started when I was 32, in the summer of 2009. My husband, at the time, was from the Dominican Republic. We decided to make a trip there so his family could meet our daughter right when she was turning one year old.

We arrived in the hot month of June. The Dominican Republic is near the Equator, and from the moment we stepped off the airplane, I could feel the heat of the sun percolating on my pores. I had lost all my baby weight, but now was almost too thin due to not eating. My marriage was falling apart at the seams and I was unraveling too. The only thing holding me together was my focus on my child and her wellbeing.

“I’m so glad you finally lost weight,” my mother-in-law said to me in Spanish, with a widely genuine smile when I greeted her at the airport. While I knew that a person’s weight is not as taboo of a subject in the Dominican Republic as it is in the United States, her words etched a streak on my already decrepit spirit.

My mother-in-law never seemed to like me, but I could not ever seem to deduce why. Sometimes I thought it was due to the fact I was a foreigner. Other times I thought maybe I was unknowingly breaking some cultural rules or wasn’t submissive enough, in her mind, to be a good wife.

But ultimately the reasons behind her perceived dislike for me weren’t really worth spending time analyzing. I just had to deal with it.

During this trip, I tried to keep my daughter on a nap schedule. My mother-in-law told me this was ridiculous and that no child needed such a thing. I didn’t want to argue with her because I felt that would be a sign of disrespect, but I continued to put her down for a nap everyday at the same time, even though she would blast merengue music in objection to my decision.

I loved the Dominican Republic for so many reasons: I adored the welcoming nature of its people, the love I felt from my host family when I studied abroad there, the hospitality of strangers in the community, and the kindness and resilient spirit I witnessed in its people.

But I did not love my mother in law. I could not love my mother in law, no matter how hard I tried.

I looked at her and I saw pain. The pain of being an abused wife. The shame of being left by her husband. The guilt and oppression she suffered from so many losses.

And yet, I couldn’t find it in my heart to accept her in her brokenness.

The entire time we were in her home, I was belittled and criticized for being overly focused on my daughter. I was confused by the criticism that seemed to be contradictory at the time: one moment I was being told my schedule was ridiculous, but the next moment, I was called disorganized for not getting my daughter’s bottle ready quickly enough.

It was gaslighting behavior, except for it was my in-laws doing it, instead of my then husband.

As for my then husband, he remained silent most of the time, choosing not to intervene. When he would intervene, it was to side with his family as they were telling me what I was doing wrong in my mothering.

The last night we were there, I felt relief that we were finally going home. As I was rocking my daughter to sleep that night, my mother in law called for me to come talk to her. When I was done putting her to bed, I went to find my mother-in-law in the kitchen.

“I need to tell you something,” she said to me in Spanish, “something I should have told you before.”

I had a moment where my heart softened. She’s going to apologize, I thought. She feels badly for criticizing me.

But before my heart could soften any further, her words quickly transformed into daggers that were aimed at my heart, my self worth, and my ability to love.

“You are an awful mother and wife,” she said.

I gulped down air, feeling like I needed to run away, but instead froze.

“Do you want to know why?” she asked.

I didn’t answer, standing there without moving. Apparently I was now an ice cube, stuck in my tray, unable to transform back to fluidity.

“You have paid more attention to that child than your own marriage. So if my son cheats on you… if he has other women he wants to sleep with–that’s no one’s fault other than your own,” she said.

“You deserve however he treats you,” she stated, and finally stepped aside so I could walk away if I chose to do so.

I suddenly felt my legs melting. I bowed my head and exited the kitchen. I went upstairs and wanted to cry, but couldn’t. I didn’t have tears. I felt as if whatever bubble of dignity was still present in my spirit had been popped by a sharp needle and had oozed away.

Despite this terrible emptiness, I somehow realized a small push of determination to fight for myself was still present within me. I imagined myself putting on armor, lying down in it to rest, knowing that this was temporary. I just needed to remember that the armor was there to protect me.

The next morning we left the Dominican Republic. One year after that, I left my husband.

And then nine years after that, I walked into my ex-husband’s house to pick up my daughter, and I saw her face. When they told me she would be there, I was scared. Scared I would not know what to say. Scared she would take her anger at me out on my daughter. Scared that she would take me back to that day nine years ago in her kitchen when I last saw her.

But when I saw her face, I instead felt the strangest thing. I felt something weird, as she walked over to me and cupped my face in her hands and side kissed my cheeks, as is the custom in the Dominican Republic.

I felt a tenderness. I felt empathy. I felt respect. I felt seen.

I don’t know how that happened. I have no FREAKING idea. But I know that’s what forgiveness is. It’s a softening. A turning towards. It is not reconciliation. It is simply understanding. It is letting go. It is loving from a distance. It’s gratitude from learning the lessons the pain taught you.

Time creates space. Space creates room to see the truth. I know that without the gift of time and space, it’s hard to learn to recognize the truth. And the truth is that you never need closure for anything. Things fall apart and the only thing you need to remember or try to do is put yourself back together. And once you do that, you may see that in your brokenness, you are strong. In your pain and bitterness, you have lessons. And one of those lessons might be that you may one day, after time and space, find yourself looking back on everything, with a very different softness about you.

And that softness is forgiveness.

Let Them BE

About six years ago, I was sitting in my therapist’s office, discussing a new relationship. She made a statement to me that made NO sense to me at the time, and yet something inside of me believed it could be true, simply because of the fact that she was WAY smarter than me.

“The highest level we can achieve in our relationships, is when we have the ability to stand alone in the presence of another,” she said.

What in the whatity what? Like what in the actual heck are you TALKING ABOUT? I looked at her like as if she had grown two heads–this was one I wasn’t even going to ask her to explain. It was too…BIZARRE. And what fresh hell is this in re: to dating? You mean I have to stand alone even if I’m dating someone? I’d rather run away from someone than have to show up as I am and be alone in his presence. What is this crappy alternative universe she is speaking of and how can I make sure I NEVER GO THERE?

Those ⬆️ were my thoughts.

And yet..here is where I want to go with this today. Today is right now. 7:51 pm on February 19. I am thinking about this alternative universe my therapist mentioned, where people can stand alone in the presence of another, and I can still honestly say that it feels just plain WEIRD to me that this is even possible.

AND YET

… I now believe in different things: I believe in BEING STILL with the stupid negative feelings that come up. I am still sometimes afraid of pain or rejection or even intimacy, but I know I can tolerate them so I SIT with them and sometimes I EVEN SIT WITH THEM IN THE PRESENCE OF A FREAKING OTHER PERSON. Which is still not fun, but I CAN DO IT, which is the weirdest thing ever.

This is what it’s like: Here I am, living my life, joyfully, or sometimes not so joyfully, doing my thing. “Doing my thing” basically means BEING MYSELF. Showing up as me. And then, in the midst of me doing my thing, someone else tells me or shows me in his or her actions that he or she doesn’t like my thing-whether it’s the way I express myself or my belief system or even the way I look or show up to him or her.

And this hurts when they communicate this to me. Because that’s how I’m wired– I am wired to care about people and thereby I sometimes care a little too much about what they think.

But I can TOLERATE the discomfort of the disagreement. I can still stand as myself, being myself, allowing myself to be who I am.

And furthermore, I am allowing the other party involved to BE WHO THEY ARE.

And here is what I now KNOW to be true:

WE MUST LET PEOPLE BE WHO THEY ARE. LET. THEM. BE. WHO. THEY. ARE.

Let them BE who they are.

And know that you CAN still stand in their presence.

This is how this *could* look in various relationships:

Scenario 1: Pretend I’m married. My husband always forgets to turn off the coffee pot in the mornings and this drives me crazy. I keep telling him to do it and he keeps forgetting or maybe just plain doesn’t want to. Instead of continuing to get angry, I let him be who he is. I start turning off the damn coffee pot because it’s important TO ME.

Scenario 2: Pretend I have two kids who are angels. Then I suddenly give birth to a third who is literally hell on wheels. I say go left, he goes right. He is HARRRD to parent. But I continue to show up as I am in my parenting and exercise my beliefs and values in the way I teach him and treat him. He continues to show up as himself in his strong willed, yet sensitive nature. We butt heads, but we still ALLOW each other to be who they are WHILE still enforcing the boundaries and teachings that as parents we must enforce.

Scenario 3: Pretend I am dating a man who has a lot of qualities I like. And he has some other qualities, that, while are not deal breakers, are TRIGGERS for me. So that basically means that he’s a human being who is just minding his business and being himself, but then I text him something and he doesn’t respond to it, and I am triggered. It is at this moment that I have choices. I can text him in anger, asking for a response. I can text him with a humorous, playful tone, but still with the express intent of getting a response. (Which can actually be controlling since I am texting him as a way to diffuse my triggered emotion, instead of just owning that emotion MYSELF). Or, I can LET HIM BE who he is. And do nothing, unless I am sure I am responding from a place of love, instead of a place of being triggered.

You see, we ALL have our triggers, and we have to OWN them. Another wise person once told me, “What other people think of you has nothing to do with you,” and I thought that she had grown two heads too. But guess what?? She actually only has one head and she’s right. If someone doesn’t like how I show up in this world, that’s about THEM. If I don’t like another person, or if I feel “triggered” by them, that’s ALWAYS about me. It’s never about them. They are just doing their thing.

We have to allow the people in our difficult relationships to be who they are. And that may mean that we sometimes take a break from them, and that’s called self care. It’s also called “being still” until you are confident you are interacting in a spirit of love, instead of fear.

It’s a tricky thing. Because it involves being yourself 100 percent of the time and staying true to you, while simultaneously showing the utmost respect to a person who is 100 percent being who they are in this world.

If we could all do this… even just SOMETIMES. We maybe could teach others in our world what it’s like to respect humanity. What it’s like to be true to who you are, not betray your values, while also allowing someone to be who he or she is, and not taking his or her behavior personally.

This involves knowing ourselves. Knowing what rubs us the wrong way. And then digging deeper with that. What’s under that feeling? What thought or belief is behind your experience? Why do you feel that way?

While all the while, remembering that the highest form of relationship and love you can show to another person and to yourself is to be willing to stand alone and stay true to you, while still standing in their freaking presence. 😳

It’s so hard. Yet so easy. And I’m convinced it’s the best way. But you can disagree with me and still stand next to me and I will still love you.

(Picture in my house I look at every morning before I get in the shower. And I sometimes even pray, “Dear God, help me to love others just as they are. Just the way they show up, while still being true to me. πŸ™πŸ½)

Let’s Talk about Sex

At 6:45 am during my morning commute, I am awake, but not like, REALLY awake. You see, I’m a crockpot, not a microwave. I heat up sloooowly, getting warmer by the hour. Therefore, I was not prepared for the bomb of a conversation my child wanted to have with me this very morning at 6:45 am in the car.

“Do you know what the word ‘climax’ means–like, the climax in a story?” she suddenly asked me.

 “Yes,” I said, (insert thoughtful pause) “Are you studying that in school?”

“Yeah, and I was, like, looking it up on Merriam Webster’s Dictionary online for the definition. Well, the first two definitions were normal. Like they were talking about stories…”

I was starting to get anxious at that moment. I’m not even Catholic, but I wanted to say Hail Marys.  I prayed in my mind, “Please, please, do not let my child go there. I’m so not ready to talk about this topic before 7:00 am. Please make her stop!”

But my child did not stop talking. Her eight year old brain was, in fact, churning.

“But the third definition,” she said, “was like, talking about sex.”

“Oh my. Oh my goodness. Oh dear…Did you show your teacher?”

“No! I just wrote down the first definition and got out of there fast.”

“Okay, well… I can see why that would have been shocking. You just, um….” (holy crap, I’m totally struggling for words here), “you just sometimes have to be careful with the internet.”

That response did not appease her. 

“So, like…what IS sex? I mean I know it’s a private word, but what it is it?” she inquired. 

“I am not exactly prepared to have this conversation at 6:45 in the morning on the way to school. Can we talk about it later?” I asked, feeling like I needed time to plan out what I was going to say. 

“Okay,” she said. 

But then, some weird voice intruded in my head. It was the voice that told my fears to shut up. It’s like, my authentic voice–the one that actually doesn’t respond in fear, but approaches situations from a place of love. And I was like, “Seriously, voice? After you just avoided that conversation, now you want me to be courageous? You are SO stupid, voice!”

And that internal voice said this:  “Emily, there is no perfect time to have this conversation. It is a gift that she’s asking YOU, her mom, instead of someone else. GO there. Be grateful for this moment.  Answer the hard questions the best you can.”

Stupid voice. 

“Actually, Aliana, that’s a good question you asked, and we should talk about it now,” I suddenly said. 

“Okay?” she said, now starting to get confused by my change of heart. 

“So sex is something that a woman and man do that creates babies… or I mean, that can create babies,” I stuttered.

“So, I am sex?” she asked.

“NO! I didn’t explain that right… um, sex is like something a man and a woman who love each other can do together to make a baby,” I said, through my not fully awake brain. 

“Okay,” she said. “Oh, did I tell you about the trip my friend went on?”

And just like that, she changed the subject. And I kind of, like, thought about going back to the sex thing, but then I remembered that when we went to the child psychologist, she told me to follow my child’s lead in discussions of this nature, and just answer the questions they ask.

And that was it. Apparently I CAN have awkward and hard conversations at 6:45 am. And if I can, we all can. AND, I know I’m going to have to talk about this again with her, which literally makes me want to crawl out of my skin, but I think what this means is that I SIMPLY HAVEN’T FIGURED OUT YET what it is that I want her to know and understand about sex–what it means and what it doesn’t mean. What intimacy is, and what it isn’t. 

And maybe that’s because I’m still figuring this all out FOR MYSELF. Sex is a topic that people have VERY strong opinions about, and I’m even nervous as I’m sitting here typing this out to you. πŸ˜³πŸ™„πŸ˜³ When I was growing up, I found out through the grapevine that sex was when a penis went in a vagina, and OMG that was just so BIZARRE to wrap my brain around,  and THEN I was told just to “never do it until my wedding,” and wasn’t really told why. 

I am starting to see that I sort of learned things in reverse. Like, I got married and had a child, and THEN I learned about sex. And that’s all I’m going to perhaps say about it now, as the rest of my thoughts on that will be in my future memoir (hehehe), but WOW, you guys. Just wow. I actually got through that conversation!!  Like I tell my students, “We can do hard things.” ❀️ I can. You can. We can. 

The Ditzy Decision

On Monday night,  I made the ditzy decision to dismount from a trampoline onto a plastic, unstable kiddie slide, leading me to fall forward, land on my forearm, and dislocate my elbow.

But I’m not really here to talk about that in detail. That dangly, dislocated elbow was GROSS, like, GRODY GROSS NASTY TO THE MAX and I’m trying to get it out of my mind. (Thank heavens no one took a picture of it.) What I’m choosing to focus on, instead, is how this experience surprisingly ripped me open. I can honestly say that it was the first time in a long time where I felt raw, intense, physical and emotional pain.

And with pain, always comes awareness.

My emotions have been ALL over the place these last few days. I feel depressed by the realization that I’m not able to do Crossfit and yoga until I’m healed up.  Working out is part of my therapy. When I work out, my body releases endorphins that makes me want to be a better human. So I’m afraid of what I might feel in these few weeks without being able to connect with my body in the same way.

However, I want to also take a moment to be thankful to my body for not breaking. The doctors were SHOCKED that my bones didn’t break. The physical therapist I saw today told me that I “must have superhero bones.” And I’m also thankful that because of the strength I’ve developed through Crossfit and yoga, I’m able to maneuver my body in unexpected ways. For example, the paramedics were surprised that I could move my entire body, inch by inch, from one side of the mat to the other. This was by slowly lifting my glutes, legs, and shoulders off the mat. You guys, YOGA TAUGHT ME THAT. I need to take a moment to just be thankful for the hard work my body has done in preparation for healing me in this moment. I feel strong, and that physical strength has prepared me for what is about to come.

While in the hospital, though, I literally COULD NOT STOP CRYING. I felt so out of control. I was quite possibly THE most emotionally intense patient they had seen in years. πŸ™„ I spent the first two hours (prior to them popping my elbow back into place,) crying and wailing and moaning about how I was feeling. “I’m scared! What’s going to happen to my arm? Oh my God, I’m so sorry I can’t stop crying! OH. MY. GOD!” were some of the statements I was wailing through tears.

“Ma’am, do you have someone you can call to come and stay with you,” they asked me, as I’m sure they were totally over me.

But my stubborn self kept saying, “I don’t know,” because I didn’t want to call anybody. I didn’t want someone that actually knew me to see me like this. I wanted to do it alone, because I thought that was what a strong person would do, even though I wasn’t feeling strong at all. And none of these hospital people knew me or what my norm is like, so I was totally fine with THEM seeing crazy, wailing Emily.

Then the staff began to ask me why I was afraid. I finally responded, “I DON’T KNOW. But can you guys please stop repeating the same questions, and, like, consult together so I don’t have to keep talking and I can get back to wailing?”

They were SO over me.

My friend, Terra, by the grace of God, texted me at that very moment, “just to say hi” and I responded by calling her and telling her through my blubbery tears that I was in the hospital and that I broke my arm (the xrays hadn’t come back yet to reveal that it was a dislocation, and not a fracture or break).

My friend Terra was there in a flash. And wouldn’t you know… I began to calm down. I’m not saying I was totally calm, but I suddenly had someone next to me to listen to my cries and worries and rants and talk me through it. And you guys, that’s what we need. We all need to not be afraid to call a Terra–a person in your life who loves and cares about you and who shows up.

When they had Terra leave the room, right before they sedated me to pop my elbow back in, I called out to her: “Just tell me again that I’m not gonna die!

“Emily. I promise you that you won’t die,” she said calmly. Thank GOD for that woman.

We ended up laughing when we were stuck there later into the night about some of the characters in the hospital and what an adventure I’d had. This is pic from the part of the night where we laughed:


I am home now. I am calm. I am peaceful. And then the next moment I’m in turmoil. I’m raw. I want to jump out of my skin. My heart feels like it’s been split open.

That’s what pain and injury does. It forces you to stop, and start all over again in a new way. And all those tears I cried in the hospital were like my rebirth, I suppose, my renewal of sorts.
Crying is what makes us human. It’s an emotional release. We are not robots, we are emotional human beings who FEEL things.

And that’s what I’m going to continue to do–heart wide open, feel the feelings. That’s what yoga taught me. ❀️


Hey look! It’s my new and improved splint! πŸ™πŸ½πŸ’ͺ🏽

Why Life on Auto Pilot Just Doesn’t Work

Before I even begin to tell you why life on auto pilot doesn’t work, I have to tell you what I did to my eye today, because it is actually related to my topic. 


I poked myself in the eye HARD with a coffee stopper. What is a coffee stopper, you ask? It’s this green thing that comes with your hot Starbucks drinks. 

 

This happened this morning when I was teaching summer school and was about to administer a test. I was rushing around, making sure my students had everything they needed. I took the green coffee stopper thingy out of my Starbucks cup because I needed to drink coffee as I was rushing around. Because coffee makes me smarter and makes me do great things. You guys have no idea how many amazing things I can do with coffee.

But apparently multitasking isn’t one of them. I ran over to my desk looking for my test manual. You know, cause, that’s how my brain works. Let me grab my test manual–oh wait! There’s my purse on top of it. Oh wait! My fish oil vitamin is in my purse. Omg! I need to take it, because vitamins are important. 

Meanwhile, I’m still holding my coffee and the green stopper thingy in my other hand–the same hand with the fish oil vitamin. I quickly go to put the vitamin in my mouth, and simultaneously poke myself in the eye with the stopper. BECAUSE I HAD FORGOTTEN THE STOPPER WAS IN MY HAND. 

This is why I really needed to finish drinking that coffee. 

Or perhaps it’s deeper than the coffee. Because this is not the first time something like this has happened. 

A colleague of mine across the hallway has joked that I need my own reality show, because it would be entertaining to have cameras following me around, catching my hurried antics, which include driving my child all the way to school, only to realize she didn’t have shoes on when we arrived. This also includes numerous instances of leaving my purse and even kids’ electronics on top of my vehicle and then driving away. It also includes pouring laundry detergent into a person’s wash at the laundromat that I thought was my own, but was another person’s load already on the rinse cycle. 

Mistakes can happen, I know. But they have happened to me a lot because I have failed to SLOOOOOWWWWW DOWWWWN MY MIND in times of stress and rushing. 

When I let my body move on auto pilot, I attempt to multitask, move quickly, start forgetting stuff, then move more quickly and then start making mistakes. 

But here’s the good news. There are lots of smart scientists out there who have researched the brain, and they have found out that our brains are actually incredibly effective when we practice mindfulness and being present and STOP THE CRAZY RUSHING.

Writer Donna Labermeier says it best, 

“The truth is that our bodies and minds working at a breakneck pace is experienced on a frequency that is very low and slow. This means that we align ourselves with other things that are of a low vibration, like anger, fear, worry, and frustration. When we’re rushing around and not being mindful of our thoughts and actions, we are creating more of what we’re trying to avoid. This is when mistakes happen, decisions are poor, and nothing seems to go right.”

So when I’m rushing, I make poor decisions, like poking myself in the eye. 

Rushing is bad for the brain and the body. Mindfulness and slowing down thoughts  is good. (I’m telling myself this just as much as I’m telling you. I need to learn this lesson before I end up with more injuries caused by inanimate objects.) 

And since I haven’t done my recipe share in awhile, I’ll do that. I found this awesome recipe on the website NatashasKitchen.com. I have made it TWICE in one week. So good. 

Cucumber Tomato Avocado Salad

Ingredients: 

  • 1 lb Roma tomatoes
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1/2 medium red onion, sliced
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil
  • Juice of 1 medium lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 bunch) cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp sea salt or 3/4 tsp table salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

Instructions:

Place chopped tomatoes, sliced cucumber, sliced red onion, diced avocado, and chopped cilantro into a large salad bowl.

Drizzle with 2 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp lemon juice. Toss gently to combine. Just before serving, toss with 1 tsp sea salt and β…› tsp black pepper.

My picture: 


I put goat cheese on mine just because. 

ONE. DUMB. CLASS.

This is the story of the day I began to believe I was not a writer.

I was 21 years old, and almost halfway through my junior year in college. I went to a small, private college with less than a thousand students. On this particular day, I walked across the student union, my footsteps echoing behind me. 

The thing I liked best about the union were the echoes of my feet shuffling and the reverberating voices of friends you could hear as you walked through. I have a memory of a day my mom and I walked through the union during winter break when no one was around, and we sang the hymn, “Trust and Obey,” acapella. She sang soprano and I sang alto. Our echoing song gave me chills. 

But, I digress. On this particular day that I formed my belief that I wasn’t a writer, there were no songs and no happy voices that I remember. All I remember was walking over to my mailbox in the union, turning the key, and anxiously pulling out the paper I had written for British Literature, Second Survey. 

This paper had a big, fat, ugly, red C written on it at the top. 

My heart began to race. This was my third C on a paper in this English class, AND I WAS AN ENGLISH MAJOR FOR GOD’S SAKE! I was an honor roll student–NOT a C student, and I couldn’t bear the thought of committing myself to a field where I was not excelling. I felt a mix of anxiety and anger, as I clutched the paper close to me. 

I decided to do what I always did in college when I was freaking out:  I RAN. 

I didn’t even know where the heck I was running to. I just carelessly sprinted across campus, becoming more winded by the second, as I breathed in the blustery air of Northern Indiana. 

As I reached the other end of campus, I looked up and saw Shoup House. 

Shoup House was not my campus house. But it was a house where a few of my friends lived. One of those friends was an English major. 

“Becca!” I shouted. “I’m going to see Becca,” as if my subconscious knew where I was headed all along.

I ran in, sped up the wooden stairway, where I was greeted at the top by Becca and two of my friends. They quickly noticed I was not there for just a friendly chat. I was there because I was having a moment

“Damn that son of a bitch!! 😑” I yelled, throwing my paper on the floor. 

The girls quickly realized the “son of a bitch” I was referring to was Professor Tom David. Professor David was young, cool, and some girls even thought he was hot. (Gag.) His muscles and boyish good looks appeared fake to me, just like his neatly coifed hair.  During my sophomore and junior years of college, Tom was unfortunately teaching a larger number of classes than normal for the English department, since two other professors were on sabbatical, as I remember. 

Every English class with Professor David was PAINFUL. My upper level English classes typically had anywhere from 15-20 students in them. Tom displayed an obvious favoritism for the outspoken hipster students in the class from day 1. He would start anecdotes with, “Last night I was at the Electric Brew, having coffee with Caitlin and Brad, and we got into this really interesting conversation about the use of imagery in William Carlos Williams’ poetry…” And I would be forced to listen to him name drop the names of the “cool kids” throughout a story that had NOTHING to do with William Carlos Williams.

I simply could not compete with the Caitlins and the Brads. They were badass,  cool, confident, highly-favored hipsters. They loved Tom, despite his preppy cardigans and argyle sweaters, and he loved them.

The non-hipsters in the class, me and my friend, Michelle, sat off to the side in class, furiously taking notes. Todd never called on us, and may have even forgotten we were there, until one of us had the courage to timidly raise our hand, with our voice shaking, heart palpitating, and finally saying, “Um, I think that T.S. Eliot’s use of the objective correlative in British literature is actually used by a lot of screenwriters nowadays,” and mid-sentence we would suddenly realize that Tom David DIDN’T EVEN GIVE A SHIT, and wasn’t listening to what we were saying. And so we would suddenly forget the very important, courageous thing we were trying to say, and end up stuttering as we looked around the room at people who refused to make eye contact. 

And then, eventually, we stopped speaking in his classes. Like totally. We became selective mutes, since we grew  tired of his disdain for us. 

We were also tired of feeling knocked down. Tired of feeling not enough. I was doing everything I could to write a good English paper, but I continued to receive Cs that were covered with negative, red slashes all over my paper. 

I felt like my identity as a writer was being stripped away. 

I had been working as the student manager/director of the writing center at my college. I was responsible for tutoring several students to write papers. I was helping them succeed. Yet, I couldn’t seem to catch a break myself. I felt like a fraud

And this feeling was enough to cause me  to withdraw from my English classes at college and drop my English major, even though I was one class away from completing it. ONE. DUMB. CLASS. With dumb Tom David. And I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. 

Not only that, I stopped writing completely. I didn’t write anything substantial for sixteen years. And for sixteen years I felt a certain degree of emptiness–an emptiness that haunts you when you aren’t fully doing what you were meant to do. 

You guys, 

that.

is.

scary. 

It’s scary because I let one person–one teacher–have that kind of effect on my life. And it shows how we, as teachers, play a major role in how our students view themselves.

Tom David (as far as I could assess in my 21 year old brain) thought I couldn’t do it–I couldn’t write a paper worthy of his intellectual time or a decent grade. He showed me through his body language that my comments in class were not worthy of even being acknowledged. 

And I believed him. Even though he was ONE PERSON. 

He was my teacher. And now that I’m a teacher myself, I try to remind myself of this experience as much as possible, because it keeps me focused on the task at hand: teaching my students to BELIEVE they can GROW academically in their abilities.

If I don’t believe that, how will they?

I have the opportunity to show my students that the most important part of learning is growth. I modify instruction and student work, while looking at students’ data over time. Each child is unique and has a specific set of challenges and abilities. As they grow and improve through hard work and practice, they gain self confidence. 
Oh my god, I think I need to say that again. 

As they grow and improve through hard work and practice, they gain self confidence. 

That, right there, ⬆️ was a difficult lesson for me to learn. I dropped my English major when it got difficult, because I didn’t know that I could improve anymore. 

Anyone will quit something he thinks he sucks at, if he doesn’t believe he can improve. Anyone–adult or child.

Now, I don’t blame Tom David for my decision to quit my English classes. I was the quitter. I was the one who gave up. I was so intimidated by him that I didn’t ask for help, nor did I get a tutor, because I was too proud. That was my choice, and I learned from it. 

And what I learned is actually invaluable–I learned that I have INCREDIBLE power as an educator to help my students develop beliefs about themselves–beliefs that can set them on a positive trajectory for life. And the first belief I want to instill is that it is through hard work–not just being smart, that one accomplishes the work that he or she was born to do. ❀️

Me (in the red) and a bunch of other non-English major college peeps, doing our non-English major thing.

Visions

I don’t remember my dreams that often. But when I do, I can usually extract something valuable from them. 

Last week, I had one of those valuable dreams. I dreamt that a friend, (I will give her the pseudonym, Rachel), was visiting me. I was making dinner for Rachel and a few other friends, who were in my house. While I was cooking in the kitchen, I heard Rachel in the living room, laughing. Like, BELLY laughing. Hard, deeply, and wildly. 

This would not have been totally weird  except for the fact that in real life Rachel is walking through the fire of some real physical and emotional pain. She’s walking through the valley, and she’s in much need of some rest. My dear friend, Rachel, is weary.

But here we were in this crazy dream of mine, and she was LAUGHING HYSTERICALLY. And then, she shocked me even more by beginning to DANCE. AND THERE WASN’T EVEN ANY MUSIC, but she was leaping across the room, laughing, and engaging in this liturtigical-like dance.

Seeing this caused joy to wash over me. I looked at my chicken that was boiling for dinner in the kitchen. It had started to bubble over, so I turned down the heat. My friend’s laughter was contagious, as I began thinking of all the magic of the moment, right there in my kitchen. Rachel, who is in pain, is now filled also with joy.  I couldn’t help but be moved by her ability to put her circumstances aside and rejoice in life for just a moment.

Then someone else came into the kitchen in my dream and commented that he was so glad I was finally cooking these chicken drumsticks, since they had been in the freezer and other people thought they were from New Delhi, India from the 16th century, and it was ABOUT TIME someone finally decided to cook those drumsticks so they wouldn’t go to waste (random neurons firing, I’m sure). 

And suddenly, I was on the floor, laughing my ass off in this dream. 

Rachel entered the kitchen. I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t speak. So she offered me her hand and pulled me up off the ground. She, who walked in the darkness, lifted me up in strength to walk with her in the light.

I woke up in that moment and called my friend and left her a four minute voicemail telling her my dream. I had to tell her all of it, before I forgot. 

And because I wanted her to know that I had this VISION of her, in a lively, carefree state. That vision, I felt, was there for a reason. And I had to tell her. 

I cannot tell you how important it is to hold a candle in the darkness for those around us. I have such strong, specific memories of the times in my life when people have held that candle for me. 

About ten years ago, I went through a period of time when many people had stopped believing in me. I depleted my small support system by making poor decision after poor decision, and continuing to suffer. I was a giant ball of self destruction. I swirled through darkness, collecting it like dust. 

But there were a few people remaining who, for whatever reason, never gave up on me. They listened to me even when I’m sure they were sick of listening. They told me I could do hard things, and some even told me they envisioned me doing hard things. 

My mom, for one, told me she had a vision of me crawling out of a pit of darkness, into the light, and blooming. While she recounted this to me, I looked at her in despair, afraid I would continue to disappoint her with my lack of growth. 

My uncle Roy, who is like my second dad, listened to me everyday on the phone. He told me that he envisioned me laughing, and strong. He told me he saw me building a life with my daughter. 

I was afraid of these visions, which were, in fact, glimpses of my potential. These visions were a light, streaming through the cracks, guiding me in the direction of the way I needed to go. 

More recently, I had a friend text me in the middle of the night, sharing about a vision she had of me that came to her during prayer. She had forgotten about it, but felt prompted again, to remember and share it with me. 

“Emily, I envision you with a crown–a beautiful crown. I see you personifying the verse in the Bible from Isaiah of beauty for ashes. All of the pain you’ve had–that has formed you into this beautiful person. You are going to receive so much beauty into your life,” she said. 

And just like that, I had a vision for myself–a new one, a beautiful one that someone had seen for me before I ever could. 

Visions. Changing lives since the beginning of time. 

And now for a random photo of me and my love. We envision that you think we are weirdos. 

The Time I Picked Up a Waiter

Last October, my friends and I decided to go out for dinner at a delicious restaurant called Late Harvest Kitchen. 

The waiter caught my eye as he came over to our table. Like, in a good way that made me blush. 😳

We started chatting. 

“I feel like I know you,” he said. 

“I feel like I know you, too,” I said, trying to figure out if we were just feeding each other flirty lines, or if we did, in fact, actually know each other. 

We began to ask each other questions to determine if we had indeed met before. One of the questions I asked him was for his full name. Cause, you know, I’m super nosey like that. 

“John David O’Connell,” (name has been changed of course) he said. 

We talked a bit further, and then he walked away from the table. When he was gone, I asked my friend, Terra, “What did he say his name was again?”

“John David O’Connell,” she said. 

“Good job,” I said, thankful that my friends have minds like steel traps.  

I got out my phone to look him up on Facebook to see if we, indeed, do, know each other through mutual friends, you know?  As I’m pulling up his profile and I see that we don’t, John David suddenly appeared, hovering over my shoulder. 

“Aahh!!” I yelled, throwing my phone across the table at my friends. 

“Don’t worry,” John David said. “I didn’t see anything,” he said. “Anything, that is, except for you looking at my Facebook page.”

“Oh my God! I’m so embarrassed! 😱😰” I said, covering my face with my hands. I now was apologizing to my friends for hitting them with my phone, while simulataneously over-explaining my reasoning to John David for why I was looking him up on Facebook. 

Thankfully, my friends know me and understood that my phone throwing was a knee jerk reaction. Surprisingly though, John David seemed flattered that I was looking him up on FB. 

“You know, ” he said. “You should send me a friend request instead of just looking.”

And so I did. And we continued to talk. However, we discovered we were, in fact, not a match, and pleasantly parted ways. 

But there was a reason for that interaction. That interaction was a reminder to me that there is no one else in this world like me. Just like there is no one just like you. And we have to just keep on being ourselves and having compassion for ourselves, even when we do ridiculous things. John David, in fact, seemed to find my ridiculousness endearing for some reason. Maybe because he somehow knew I was being the unadulterated version of myself. 

However, the story doesn’t end there. Yesterday, I saw my dear friend from college, Patty, at brunch. We were talking about embarrassing moments or something like that, and I brought up this story. As I was retelling it, I got SO into it that I, without thinking, began to actually act out the story. When I got to the part about me throwing my cell phone across the table, I–you guessed it–threw my cell phone across the table. Only this time, instead of hitting my friend with it, it hit the lady at the table next to me, and was traveling at such a high velocity that it bounced off her and hit her husband across the table.

“I…am so…sorry,” I said to them. “I was, um, retelling a story and I guess I was acting it out as well.”

“Yeah,” the husband said, straight faced, “I know. I feel like I was just there.”

Luckily his wife found it to be funny. 

I am Emily. I am a quirky, moderately  loud, storytelling, nosey nerd. And that is my power. 

Snapchat, Ridiculousness, and Bizarre Song Lyrics

Do you know what Snapchat is?

It’s an app that’s probably designed for a younger crowd than me, but I use it because I like to take ridiculous pictures.

For example:

This is my “normal” face:    

   

This is an altered snapchat face:

  

You can perhaps see why I would enjoy wasting time sending ridiculous pictures of myself to friends? 

So anyways, my friend Laura sent me a Snapchat the other day that made my day: 

 

 
This made me do two things: 

1) Laugh a lot, because it’s hilarious. 

2) Realize how RIDICULOUS some song lyrics are. 

Like seriously. Remember this song? 

 

NSYNC…do you think God would think one person was more important than another when he created them? For a boy band from the 90s, you sure are controversial. 

And there’s this oldie but goodie: 

I do not want to be THE MEANING in anyone’s life.  Because if I’m the meaning, you will be very bored when I’m out shopping for sandals at TJ Maxx.

And I do not want to be loved like a black widow, baby. πŸ•· 

 

You don’t need to go showing your potential love interests that you’re crazy. That crap should only appear after year two of dating.
  

And then there’s this Bieber song. 

 

 We seriously don’t even want to go there.  

But Pharrell, on the other hand, promises to be there for me: 

 

 
So, now it’s your turn. 

What songs with ridiculous lyrics do you find yourself singing? 

Because I’m fairly certain I’ve only scratched the surface of this topic.