Dear Teachers (About THESE students, one of whom is my son…)

Dear Teachers,

I am the mother of four beautiful children, all unique and wonderful in their own individual ways. One of my children is an extreme introvert. When I think of him, I often wonder how he might be perceived, might be viewed in connection to his teacher’s perspective. But this blog is not about a teacher’s perspective. It is about a mother’s.

This is my story- a story about being a mother to my son.

When my son first entered school, I lost natural hair color through worry. Stressing about his ride to school (where he was exposed to things like soft porn found in magazines the bigger boys read, exposed to language and stories children in our home would otherwise never have heard), stressing over his day at school (I will never forget the day I picked him up, wet with another boy’s urine: a bully incident which happened during an unsupervised visit to the men’s room), stressing about whether he had someone to talk to on the playground ( I hoped for the best), someone to play with during center time (I had co-ordinated with another mother to protect for this very thing). Stressing about that bus ride back home again (would he lose his hat again to a game of toss?).

Stressing. Because I knew my son. And I knew that school might not be the kindest place for him to grow and flourish.

Add to the outside factors in a school that might influence a child was the fact that my son was an introvert. I don’t know if his initial school experience was typical or not, as he is my only boy and I merely have his one experience to go on.  But, I am starting to wonder, what with all the things that have been shared one with another via social media.  Although the variables might change from child to child, there are certainly some parallels to be found when it comes to the experience of THESE children. Introverts. The ones who just pass through the system largely invisible.

My boy worried himself about school from the get-go.  His first day home from kindergarten, I waited patiently under the old maple tree, picking at the moss growing along the spreading roots.  I watched the bus go by, and then watched as it swung back again, up our side road, dropping my son off at the end of the lane.  And, as eagerly as I chased him down to hear stories about the first of all experiences at school, he equalled my enthusiasm in stridency, storming passed me, eyebrows in a furrow.  Pounding feet against the stone walkway, as he stormed into the house.  It is a memory I will never forget. How I wished we could both sit in the late summer breeze sharing with each other all the wonderful things he’d done, all the magical experiences he’d been part of.  But he had other priorities, other needs. He had some unwinding to do. And school for him wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Grade 1 was even harder.  He clung to my leg for the better part of forty-five minutes that first day.  He was anxious, worried about making friends: scared of being alone and frightened of me leaving.  I held a Little One on my hip and clasped another toddler with my free hand.  Three little bodies stuck to me like crazy glue.  And while I tried to un-peel his little hands, I thought to myself, “There’s got to be a better way.”  It was awkward, and I knew there would be eyebrows raised. My child was the leech and I, his seemingly over-protective parent.  I felt that pressure to let go his hand, even as my mother instinct was telling me, “No!  We’re both not ready for this step.”  And yet, I let his hand slip first, turned and abruptly walked away.  Hoping for the best.

Each year got both easier and harder.  He began to distance himself emotionally from me, no more clinging.  But there were new worries to be had.  There were adaptations to classroom structure to fret over.  Homework routines to make and then stick to.   And the issue of his making and finding friendship to add to the mother lode.  Not to mention the usual childhood rite of on-going bullying to endure, a rite that helped to establish the playground pecking order and the seating arrangement on the bus. Somehow, he found himself on the bottom of that pile-up. Never the ring-leader, often the victim.

Woven into each additional year was the stress of performance anxiety he placed on himself.  He was not a behaviour challenge inside the school setting.  In fact, quite the opposite. His teachers raved about his smarts and his ability to focus. His quiet, calm demeanor.  But, there was something awry that I just couldn’t seem to put my finger on at the time.  It seemed to be the combination of his trying to find his place in this new world of norms, along with trying to please both his peers and the adults around him, along with the very high expectations he placed on himself.  All combined, becoming a triple threat of trouble.   Perhaps the most taxing of all these three was the pressure he placed on himself to stay in tip-top academic shape, as that was often the only area of schooling he was able to truly control, the only thing he felt really positive about in his school experience.

And so, school became difficult.  Tedious.  Even dreaded.

And although my son has succeeded academically (he is now in Grade 9), there are many ways in which I feel he has fallen through the cracks.  Because he is prone to performance anxiety on a personal level, but also because in a more general way, he is an introvert.  And sometimes introverts and school can make for a complicated combination.

Sure, everyone admires your child because they are GOOD. Agreeable and easy and compliant. But you wonder if that same child of yours is just kind of drifting through the years, classroom to classroom- never really known for who they truly are on the inside. Merely acknowledged for the ease at which they have put their teacher. For that is what seems to matter. The ease to which we are placed. When something or someone is easy, we give that thing or person less attention. Less time and thought. It makes perfect sense, to be honest. Why fret about something that isn’t a problem? Yes, it makes perfect sense. Except when it is your child you are talking about.

When it is your child falling through the cracks.

Truth: it is difficult by times to peer inside an introverted child’s world and really understand what that world is like. Difficult to really see that child for the package they are. And unless one is willing to take the time to see the children who are quiet and easy and compliant as needing of equal time and effort to everyone else in the class, one will never understand there is more to them than just a smiling face and quiet demeanor.

These children are equal in importance to everyone else in the room. Does this mean the same treatment? No. It just means that they too deserve their teacher’s time and attention, however that might play out in a given day.

All kids are deserving. And this child of mine is no exception.

Love,

The Mom

Be the miracle today

This is dedicated to all the “miracle-makers” in my life. Thank-you is not words enough….

I think the truest miracles in life come to us one at a time, moment by moment. Largely private, largely unseen. The ones that are life-changing, that make all the difference, are often the ones most subtle in form. Not announced by loud proclamations over the wires, but whispered through heartfelt words from person to person. Not felt in the thunder, or through all the noise- but experienced in the quiet, in the still.

In the secret.

She was there on the phone, crying. Sobbing, actually. She had just had lost her job, experienced a medical emergency and had a huge debt to pay. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. There was so much more to her story: so much more pain, so much more sadness, so much more tragedy. We who knew her well understood. We felt for her. Our hearts were breaking. But for the longest time, could do little to help her, physically speaking. She was desperate. And for now, this was where she was at. At a crossroads. Standing at a decision point. It was either ‘sink’ or ‘just keep swimming’ for her. She didn’t know how much longer she could do the latter. She was ready to give up completely.

Because she couldn’t see any way out of this mess.
Because she didn’t know if there was room in this world for a miracle for her.
Because she wasn’t sure entirely she still believed in miracles. At least, miracles designed for her.

She was sharing this distress with her friend, this absolute desolation- when something life-altering happened. Another heart was intertwined and involved in this story. Something happened within the heart of her friend. And while that same friend had already been praying, God opened a door and this friend- her kindred spirit of a friend, whom she was talking to RIGHT THEN AND THERE…walked through a doorway, so to speak. Walked into her heart.  And it happened almost by miracle. Truly by miracle. Because, surely, that’s what this was all about. Miracles of the everyday kind. And because this friend had been there too, in the sense that she had been through the fire, through the storm… through it all- there was a comradeship between them. An understanding. A bond. For both believed that if miracles were to happen, they would happen of their own accord, under God’s careful watch.

Heart to heart, hand to hand. Without anyone ever knowing save for God Himself.

And as the two were talking, the answer appeared. As if by vision- for truly there was a Providential hand at work. The answer came to them both immediately. And for the one who gave freely as from an open heart- as well as for the one who received with broken heart, there was no doubt in either mind: a miracle had just occurred.

It was transformational. A God-inspired moment.

And no one but them would ever know the rest of the story

Sometimes the miracle is so small we might dismiss it entirely: a kind word. A smile. A caring touch. A hug. Sometimes the miracle is bigger, more public in reach. It’s amazing. The thing is, a miracle can happen just about anywhere, anyhow. And all that is often needed is a willingness to be used. To be a vessel. For our hearts are made for this very thing, this very purpose. For such a time as NOW. For such a moment as this very one we are living.

Our hearts were designed to be miracle-shapers. Miracle-makers.

Our hearts were designed to reach out to one another in love. In compassion. In empathy. In heartfelt concern. A miracle can take place just about anywhere…but it is often in the secret that the miracles that mean the most are felt and experienced the most deeply.

Miracles that happen heart to heart are almost indescribable with mere words.
Friendship is one of life’s greatest tangible miracles. Having a friend is miracle in and of itself. Knowing another heart was given to you to hold gently, yet compassionately: this is one of God’s greatest gifts to us as human beings. For when we can join our hearts in love for one another, each for the other: miracles truly do take place. We were all designed for this. To be part of the miracle taking place both in our own lives as well as to be witness to the miracle underway in the lives of those we love and hold the closest. All of us can be a friend. All of us can be a miracle.

And each one of us was given today- this very moment: to be a miracle for someone else.

{sunset picture retrieved from dreamatico.com}

Our lasting hope, our consolation

My dear friend- buried Monday on a beautiful November afternoon. Snow softly falling as if to quell the pain. The hour prior, friends and family crowded into a small country church, four hundred strong to say last goodbyes. To sing and pay tribute to the woman they loved while honoring the God she adored. To bring humble offerings before the One who had held her through it all- knowing that same Dear One stood in God’s very presence even as we mourned. Her beloved family there, lining the rows. Clutching Kleenex in hand, heads bowed in sorrow even as they said final earthly goodbyes to a wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt and kindred spirit. Not a dry eye in the place.

What if your blessings come through rain drops What if Your healing comes through tears What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

This life- it is never time enough for those of us who love. We always crave for more. More time, more moments, more memories, more laughter, more hugs, more touch. More opportunity. And when time is up and eternity claims the ones we hold the closest, we wonder: where is the good in all of this? How can good come from so much sorrow?

When friends betray us When darkness seems to win We know that pain reminds this heart That this is not, This is not our home It’s not our home

And this life- it is so hard. So much to bear. I talk to another precious woman, listening as she shares her story of a broken marriage, a baby lost and the hope of any other future babies gone with a medical complication not of her own doing. I talk to others, even as I think back over this past week’s events and wonder: how can we carry on? A colleague killed crossing the road, another three-car pile-up, a mother left to carry the burden of her sister’s accident, a father and mother-in-law struggling with the ravages of Parkinson’s. A father taken, a mother. Disease and death surround us at every turn. And that is just my story- my precious friends with their own stories of sadness to share. It is all too much. One doesn’t have to look very far to see the misery that this life brings. Our own dear family- both immediate and extended- a testament to this truth. So much suffering. So much pain. And I have to wonder, how is all the misery of this life able to become a blessing?

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace Comfort for family, protection while we sleep We pray for healing, for prosperity We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

We pray for the realization of all that we believe would give us joy: an end to cancer, an end to disease. An end to brokenness of any sort. We pray for restoration in marriage, for lengthy lives lived until the grey hairs crown our heads in glory. We pray for an end to all suffering. We pray for inner peace, familial peace, relational peace, world peace. An end to poverty, famine, war and pestilence. We pray for an end to our misery and trouble. We pray.

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love As if every promise from Your word is not enough

And we wonder: where is God? Where is God in all of this? I come across a beautiful message in my Facebook feed from this same dear friend whom I am mourning the loss, a note written to me six years earlier. Who would have known that this message would come back into my present reality and speak to me- as if they were words given to me in my time of sorrow from God Himself. Words offering comfort and hope.She writes:

Hi Lori, I know things are going to work out for all of you, time is a healer and GOD is all powerful, nothing happens without a reason…the healing can start…. Time will bring everything back to where it should be!! …you are a wonderful person, God is not finished with any of us yet, and he is doing a wonderful work in you, it may be a very DIFFICULT time right now, but look how close you have come to God in all of it!! GOD is using you in many ways, some you are not even aware of, HOW EXCITING!!! Just let go and let GOD, he is carrying you and he will never let you go. I was thinking of that song today, it is my favorite and my prayer when I am down, “Draw me close to you, never let me go” I pray that you feel so close to GOD, I love you guys, and am still praying for you all!! Good night my friend! and GOD BLESS YOU.

And all the while, You hear each spoken need Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

What if the heartache of this life was the pathway to understanding? What if the insight we gained, the perspective we were offered- was the open door? What if the purpose of all this pain and sorrow in life was not for it all to end, but for us to endure so as to find the beauty within the pain? What if beauty could truly come through ashes? Joy through mourning? What if every-day, private miracles were just as necessary as public sensations? What if the little moments of victory were our true pursuit? And what if the moments whereby inner strength was gained were as valuable as those moments we derived the sustaining ability necessary to climb physical mountains?

What if life was less about the mountain-top and more about the climb?

And all the while, You hear each desperate plea And long that we’d have faith to believe

I take a walk the day after, last goodbyes already having been spoken; and the brilliant sunset brings me to tears. It is not that I see my precious friend or even Heaven in this earthly vision so much as I see hope. It makes me long for another time, another place. I think of Heaven and Wendy and others who are there. I think of Jesus and I long for home. Long for an end to the aching of this life. A brand new beginning.

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy What if trials of this life The rain, the storms, the hardest nights Are your mercies in disguise

And this is our lasting hope, our consolation: eternity. Forever is such a very long time.

Insignificance: what of the invisible ones?

Recently, a classroom full of children waiting for transition between classes was doing what ‘a classroom full of children’ does naturally during classroom down-time: goofing around and making general mayhem. Thinking fast on her feet, my colleague- the interim teacher- picked up a whiteboard marker and put a word on the board, hoping to grab their attention:

INSIGNIFICANT.

She put down the marker, turned and faced the students and then asked: “Who feels this?”

The classroom immediately became silent so that you could hear a pin drop.

The numerous faces immediately turned serious and all goofing stopped. One by one the students took in the weight of that word. The meaning. And silently, almost every single one of them raised their hands in affirmation.

Almost every one of the kids in that classroom had felt, at one time or another, insignificant.

The disruptive ones.

The quiet ones.

The loud ones.

The disenfranchised ones.

The privileged ones.

The smart ones.

The academically challenged.

The financially stable.

The economically disadvantaged ones.

The impoverished.

Both the ones in name-brand clothing as well as the ones in someone else’s hand-me-downs.

The smart-alecks and the serious.

The class clowns and the introverts.

Every one. Every single one of them.

They all had felt at one point in time in their young lives, insignificant.

The teacher then erased two little letters found in front of the word. She took away ‘in’ and left the letters-

S-I-G-N-I-F-I-C-A-N-T.

She then turned and faced the classroom of children who were at this moment a captive audience.

And she asked them:

Who makes you feel significant?

Who is it that sees your heart? Sees your soul? Who loves you? Who gets you? Who understands? Who sees past your hoodie, your Reeboks, your faded jeans? Your greasy hair? Your amateur attempts at eye-shadow and lip-gloss? Who knows what goes on inside that head of yours? Who knows what you’re all about? Who digs you?

WHO KNOWS YOU ARE NOT INVISIBLE?

And hands went up slowly to share their story. Kids I know. Kids I care about. And I know this because one of those kids was my very own child. Hands went up all over the place. But not all of them.

Not all the hands went up. Not everybody felt significant.

How can this be?

For we believe, do we not: that every student needs to know they are significant.

As teachers, we experience a daily tug-of-war being played out. We are being asked and expected to increasingly go above and beyond the call. This pertaining to every aspect of our job: as it relates to curricular delivery, progress monitoring, assessment, reporting, evaluation, lesson planning and development, testing. The list of academically related expectations could certainly go on. Add to these demands the pull on our heartstrings to act as advocates interceding on behalf of our least advantaged kids. More than ever before, we teachers are acting in parental ways for the children that seemingly need our demonstrative care the most: feeding them, clothing them, looking after hygiene, interceding on their behalf for supports with both inside and outside agencies to the system- holding their hearts and hands gently and empathically when they need a physical sign of nurturing love.

We are being asked a lot.

And we are doing better with the children who desperately need our care, better than ever before. And so we should be. Teaching is a caring profession, first and foremost.

But in thinking about care and who fundamentally needs and requires that care, I have been challenged to think beyond the most critical areas of need to what and whom might also be needing our attention. Leading me to ask the question: what of the ones who fall in between? In other words, how are we enabling all children inside our schools and classrooms to feel significant, valued and seen inside our four walls?

What of the ones who are neither demanding nor critically in need of physical and academic supports, thus unable to grab our attention? What of the quiet, easy ones who are seemingly invisible to our teacher radar?

Please understand me. I firmly and unequivocally believe that we must fiercely, lovingly and carefully advocate for our students with the greatest critical needs, truly ‘seeing’ the behaviorally challenging students we’ve been given- the louder, disruptive ones- as deserving of our attention…so as to convey to them the TRUTH of their significance. These students must daily get affirmation of their significance so as to make that difference in their lives. And may we never neglect to do the same for the ones we know who need special adaptive supports in place so that they are given an equal chance.  So that they are seen as potential and possibility- these students too must be affirmed as significant and valued and worthy. But in addressing areas of urgent need, may we not fail to give that same care to the quieter, less vocal and demonstrative ones who just might feel they are invisible to our teacher radar.

Who just might feel they are invisible.  Period.

I will be the first to say that quiet and introverted doesn’t necessarily mean anything is going wrong.  Neither does loud and crazy. But these personality traits are not also meant to exhibit a unchallenged sense that everything is okay. Sometimes quiet can be as much a cry for attention as a scream. Each student needs us.  Every student needs to know they are valued and seen as significant.  Even the quiet ones.

Fundamentally, what this blog is about is care. Care is what matters to me. Knowing that ALL my students believe in their worth as a human being. Knowing that they ALL understand their significance. Knowing that they ALL come to believe in their inherent value as individuals and members of the wider community. This is what matters. I want every one of my students to know that I SEE THEM.

 I want every one of them to know that I see them.

And encouraging me in this endeavor is what I am seeing out there, beyond my classroom. I am seeing that there are conversations taking place in other classrooms, in staff rooms, in private corners of our schools. There are conversations happening on-line and in virtual chat-rooms, in communities of sharing and through social media. Conversations being initiated through the news media, both written and spoken word. There is more dialogue than ever before about teaching as a caring profession and what that means.

It is time to fully face the fact that teachers are more than educators with an academic mandate. We are equally care-givers. Nurturing guides. Empathic listeners. Compassionate educators. And while we have done a very good job of teaching to the academic requirements of our job, along with reaching out to the populations of students in our classrooms that have great behavioral and physical needs, may we never fail to merely give this care which we bring to our profession only to one or two segments of our school population. We must give care and attention to all of our students.  We must see and value ALL our students as worthy of knowing their incredible consequence and place in this world.

Each one is significant. Each one must be seen.

This is our calling.

What I do

I have been feeling it again.  That sensation of exhaustion that washes over you, day in and day out.  Late this afternoon, after a final word with the vice-principal before leaving for the day, I placed my hand over the center of my abdomen and felt a sharp, persistent pain.  Something cutting. Felt like I was being pulled from the inside out.

I left for home, and once supper was on and the house cleanliness status went from ‘disaster zone’ to just ‘normal messy’, I left for a walk.  But again, exhaustion seemed to overcome me: this time, accompanied by shoulders aching from the day’s (and night’s) stress and tension.

I pushed past the pain and tried to extend my steps to make up for the pull I felt. Focus.  Step, step. It’s what I do. I won’t give in.

And truth be told, it’s what we all do: push past the feelings and carry on in spite of them, wondering how we will have the strength to take another step.  But taking that next step anyway.

And as I walked, I let my mind wander to the day’s events.  Wondering what had I even accomplished.  What did I ever do today to make a difference?

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Earlier, I am sitting at my chair filing papers while children play happily around me.  A little voice pipes up: “Mrs. Gard…I have something to tell you.”

I wait for the words, not quite knowing what to expect.

“I love you,” he says.

I am immediately so touched.  He loves me?  But why?

What it is I have ever done to deserve such precious words?

And don’t we sometimes wonder about such things: wonder whether what do we as teachers is enough to merit such beneficial love?

And in thinking about children and what they desire, I am reminded again and again: it isn’t what we do- it’s who we are.

That’s the difference.

And although we might be the very best at planning and orchestrating amazing lessons.  The very best at making our classrooms a place for discovery and exploration.  The epitome of professionalism.   Or not quite this ideal.

It’s really not our ‘stuff’ that makes the difference.

It’s who we are to them that matters.

***************************************************************

So what did I do today?

I smiled at the door- even when inside I was still reeling from last night’s news.

I crouched down low so that they could see my face.

I talked gently and repeated myself when necessary.

I greeted that child who was lonely, helped another who just needed my love.

I zipped zippers and put on gloves.

Talked and chatted.

But still I wonder.  What did I do today?

So what did I do today?

Well, I hid tears as quickly as they fell so that little eyes wouldn’t see and wonder.

I made assessments feel like games and stories come alive.

Walked a little one to the bathroom in the middle of a lesson so that she wouldn’t feel scared to go alone in the hall.

I located lunches that were lost, stowed toys that were distracting and sorted dozens of wiki sticks back into their spots.

And at the end of it all I still asked myself:

What did I do today?

*******************************************************************

Teachers, we need to give ourselves permission to be human.  To make mistakes.  To feel pain.  To be a real live person with ISSUES and STRUGGLES and HEARTACHES and SORROW.  We don’t completely check our lives at the door when we come to school.  Yes, we must be professional, but we also have to be real.

So here’s what I also did today at school.

I got through a day that was difficult and I survived.

And in spite of my failings and in spite of all the circumstances of life that pull me from every direction, my students still love me.

They love me.  They care for me.  And I for them.

And because of this, I could do all this today.  I can do what I do,…both today, tomorrow and every day after that.

Because of them, I can do what I do.

Dear Teacher

Pinterest quotes

Dear Teacher:

You called after me today, chasing me in circles after I had taken J.’s shoe and threw it in the mud puddle.  I wouldn’t come to you.  I ran away.  You followed me around and around the playground while I stomped my feet on silent ground.  As if by stomping there might be a noise to match my feelings.

I was frustrated.  Angry.  Tired and lonely.  And I didn’t want to hear someone tell me for the bazillionth time all that I had done wrong.  How I had been a bully.

The truth is: I know.  I know I am a bully.  I know what I did was wrong.  I know all that stuff.  I just wish the world knew the rest of the story.  The stuff I keep locked away inside my head.

Stuff about me- that are secrets.

That I feel alone most of the time.

That I have a hard time making friends.

That I am lonely and scared when it comes to free time. ‘Cause I sometimes don’t know what to do.  Where to go and who to turn to.

That sometimes I do things I don’t want to do.  And I don’t understand why.

That I wish people liked me more.

And I wish I could just run and play, like all the rest of them.

But I can’t.  Because I’m different.

You finally caught up to me.  You smiled and crouched down at my level.  You voice was soothing and calm. You didn’t even look angry.  But I was still afraid even though I tried to trust your words of hope anyway.

I told you then- when you reached for me by the swings- told you that I hated myself.  Told you that I know I am mean, know I am a bully.  And I couldn’t stop telling you ALL THE WORDS about myself.  Because those words are inside my head yelling at me, demanding to come out.

When you tell yourself something for long enough, you start to believe it. Start to think it is the really, trully-est truth.

The truth that I am stupid.

That I am mean.

That I am not good.  Not kind.  Not a nice person.

That truth.

And after I told it, you looked at me with your serious eyes and said, “No you are not.”  You are not all those things.

You are great- you are smart and wonderfully good.  You are more than what you think you are.

And you showed me with your eyes that you believed this other truth more than the one I was telling you.  Believed that I was more than what I thought of myself. I was BETTER.

And even though I wanted to stay by that swing forever and never let it go, you convinced me to turn around and face my fears.  To walk in that door and listen to the voice of truth telling me I was MORE.

And we walked into the school together.

And I carried on even when I thought I couldn’t.

And Teacher, even though the world isn’t perfect and sometimes I only see the truths that are angry and twisted, I will never forget the truth you made me believe in that moment.

Because you took the time.

Because you cared.

Thank you, Teacher, for believing in me even when I couldn’t.

Sincerely,

That Student on the Playground

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/lori-gard/caring-teachers_b_6104014.html

Something to be proud of

I admire the plump, white sugar cookies from afar and silently think back to the night before when I had made some cookies myself, along with my two daughters. Hoping against hope that this batch might be the ones, I could barely scrape them off the cookie tray after they came from the oven. They were literally a big, hot mess. I am stubborn enough that I scraped the entire dish into a mixing bowl, determined to reinvent them the next night as an ice cream sundae topping. I am nothing if not resourceful. Of course, they are still sitting there somewhere on the shelf- waiting for the next stop.  The garbage can.

But back to those sugar cookies. I couldn’t help but feel a little envious as I admired those delicious looking, perfectly formed culinary taste sensations.  If only I could make something akin to those.

It wasn’t until later on when we were heading out the door for home when I admitted to her- that I could never do what she does. I just can’t make cookies. In the 18 years I’ve been married and had my own home, I don’t know if there ever was a time that my cookies turned out. Funny how something so trifling could make you feel so small.

And that’s all I was thinking about right then. How I wished I could make cookies well- wished I could bake well- as I was just so sick and tired of the flat mess I am use to turning out each and every time I decide to cook.

And in that split second at the door, while I was thinking how much I wished I was better at baking, wished I was more like her. She turned and said something to me that made me think, stopped my envious thought process right in its tracks. She said this: We all have our “something” that we do- and you are doing that something each and every day.  That’s what she said.

We all have our something.  And even though she never added the following words to our conversation, I’d like to tack them on for good measure.  Because the sentiment was certainly there.

Be proud of your something.  Be thankful for it.

And I have since started to think about the ‘somethings’ we admire in other people that we wish we ourselves had. Started to think about how that thinking and wishing and, let’s just say it: that envy- gets our hearts off track. Takes our focus off what we know we are doing well and messes with our minds. Because we all have our something that we do that makes us special. All have our something that makes us unique.  That makes us special, and amazing and perfectly US.

But how often do we look at someone else’s’ something and WANT IT.

Think their something must be better than those God-given qualities we’ve been given.

And the truth is- that something we want- that something someone else has… IS special and wonderful and brilliant and unique- for the very fact that there is an amazing human being doing whatever it is we are admiring as worthwhile and beautiful and interesting and smart.

My friend IS amazing at baking.  I am totally in awe when I taste her food.  I think her gift is just amazing.

But that’s what she thinks about me too.  That’s exactly what all our truest friends think when they think about us.  That the qualities we have that are admirable and worthy are AMAZING. They even might go so far as thinking: “that woman- she’s amazing. She can do____- something I know nothing about.  Wow, to only be her…” But be sure: if you are looking at someone else admiringly, you can be sure that there are moments where someone is looking right back at you doing the very same things. Seeing in you what it is YOU do best and admiring you for it.

Because all have our ‘something’. Let’s be proud of it- and by golly, let’s own it.

I was thinking, after I had this wonderful encounter, how very much we need to be real with one another and level with each other. Maybe it is time we told each other:

“You know what? I am struggling because I look at you and you do ____ so well. I just feel I don’t measure up.”  Because I think the door would then be open for real, honest discussion about why we want what we don’t have and why we have such a hard time appreciating what we do have.

I have wanted a few things lately- qualities that I admire in other women which I should have celebrated as being wonderful and unique to them, rather than envying and wanting something I cannot have.  We are all different for a reason, so why not celebrate what others DO have.  It is so much nicer than feeling jealous.

Okay. So, I am a woman who can’t make cookies, who has a home that looks like a cyclone flew through it, along with a host of other flaws that would fill a book; but I still believe I have ‘something’. Something to be proud of.  Something worth celebrating. So I am proud to share with all of you that my something is: that I am able to authentically express my heart through writing.

It’s my something.  My little gift.

And I even though I don’t have it all, I have something.

And that is ‘something’ to celebrate.