You cannot convince me to like or watch Avatar either

I realize just how petty this might seem following my last blog post. Honestly though? 

The way Mr. Gosling expresses his feelings about... 



Honestly? I don't even want to see the name of the font in print here on my blog.




Here's the thing of it...

The way Mr. Gosling is about that font (and let's not even get into the other font that deserves the hate it gets) - is almost exactly I feel about SO. MANY. OTHER. THINGS. that have occurred in the past 2-3 that are both very serious as much as the stuff that just aggravate me because they do. 

By the way, I'm sorry if I disappointed you today with this blog post not being something other than *shrug* #this.

What can I say? It's a Wednesday. I didn't sleep well last night.

And for some reason I cannot begin to understand, the IT department (at my dayjob) had to help me figure out why my phone calls were being routed to a phone number that was supposed to be my voicemail box but was actually the number of a random individual that isn't associated with my company at all. 

All of the differences in the world

One of the greatest challenges I (and my daughter) regularly have to negotiate for ourselves is the issue of marginalization. No matter how or why it happens, it's something that we are quite familiar with because it's happened enough to us or it's happened to those we have come to know, connect with, and very much love.

This is because if/when you find yourself marginalized, inevitably, you might find yourself in proximity to others who have experienced the same thing. Being marginalized becomes a common thread that helps draw many seemingly unrelated things together to make a whole of something else.

A friend my daughter made turned up at gymnastics class in the same Target leotard. They were the two smallest in the class and accidentally dressing alike made them feel less small together. 

My daughter (and myself, for that matter), have had to deal with marginalization because of any number of reasons - both readily seen and not quite so apparent. 

Whether it's how tall (we are or aren't), or the lightness or darkness of our skin, or the money/means we do or don't have, or the family members that are or aren't with us, or the languages it seems we should be able to speak but don't - there are plenty of things that have set us apart without us being able to help it at all.

Customized American Girl brand dolls I restyled in order for them to more specifically depict some of my daughter's most treasured friendships. There are not enough dolls that look enough like what we know, so I attended to the issue at hand by taking things a part and putting them back together. 

Every day, as the world (with the lives within it), continues to torque itself into directions and along new paths that I can't even begin to agree with, I do my best to continue to have meaningful conversations with my daughter that will help her to keep being who/what she is despite the push back she might ever come against or be forced to see with her own eyes. 

I know that in the grand scheme of things, no matter what any of us might agree with, it's more likely that we will be forced to deal with what we are left with vs. the things we wish would be or would prefer to have. 

At the National Harbor, my daughter made friends with some kids during a local homeschool meet-up. 

My daughter and I are different than those we have found to be standing next to on common grounds we never thought where we would all be together. The thing that we have found makes it work best is for us to see the differences for all they are and even to celebrate them by saying, "Yes. We are completely different and that's the best part about it." 

The richness of differences that we have been found in others has helped us to see and LEARN things (in the life we do have) so that WE are helped so things are better but never less than what has been where we are. 

I won't say it has been easy or we haven't been fearful of things that have been different as we have timidly endured the repeated process of confronting what is different. 
There have been times that it has been downright painful dealing with the differences.
There have been times when we have been shunned because the differences have ended up dividing us from who/what we thought we shared common ground. 
There have also been times when we have realized that what we had was too much of the same over and over and over again and that isn't good because it's stagnant and ultimately very VERY bad and it even ends up being metaphorically poisonous or even cancerous.  
Nevertheless, I am thankful that learning how to negotiate being marginalized and regularly helping my daughter figure that out has made a world of differences for us.

And that has meant beautiful new beginnings when others would call it anything but. 

This is why I have so many hats and shoes

Yesterday I had the opportunity to get together with my childhood best friend of almost 30 years. She no longer lives in the Washington DC area but she has family that still does. Once a year she come back to this area and we always get together. Over times of get togethers have moved from it being "just us" and staying up late and talking about coming-of-age topics to it including our daughters, her mom and grandmom, and us drinking red wine and talking about being-of-age and what it's like compared to what we thought it would be like. Our lives couldn't be more different even if we tried to make them that way. 

She is a a stay-at-home mom, married (almost 20 years), with two kids in private school, and living in a big house with marble counter tops. She is going to Ireland (soon) and New York City and any place as she might like to go in the remaining time of this year. 

Me, on the other hand, I'm a work out-of-the-home mom. I tried so hard to stay married (and even make it to year seven) but I barely made it even that long because of a textbook domestic violence and abusive situation that I had no idea was so bad until after there were serious interventions. I don't know that I will ever live in a home bigger than I could clean in less than two hours. My travels for this year will be limited to what will be required for my day job OR to meet with my parents who help as much as they can to help me try and be a hardworking, committed to my goals (for being a mom and still having a career) despite all I have been through. 

Give a woman the right pair of shoes and she can conquer the world.

Yesterday the topic came up (from my best friend's mom who has known me since I was school-aged) of why I didn't go from teaching K-12 to teaching at the college level. She is working in higher education and I have talked to her a lot of times (through the years) of best practices for teaching pedagogy and how that can be used in visual art and design curriculum. Since I have my Masters in Education and used to work as a teacher and department head of an art and design department in K-12 education, I've done my best to share what I have figured out works in education to help her with her college-age students. 

She asked me, "Are you really going to stay in construction? You really and truly should be teaching at the college-level. Seriously."

Just to clarify things, I do work in construction management but I work in corporate construction management and I work in regional operations and business development in a very corporate environment. When I first transitioned into the industry (after working independently in consulting and prior to that being what I thought was a career classroom teacher), I was working in "the field" and not in a corporate office where I now work. 

This is a bathroom selfie of what I am more likely to wear to work even when working in construction management. And, to really be fair, I don't normally dress up so much like this. I wore this because I forgot to do laundry to wear what I would have rather worn. #keepinitreal

I have and I do wear my safety and construction get-up if/when I go out to the field because (on occasion) I still do that. This includes steel toed boots and a hardhat and a safety vest...

I wear Skechers Steel Toe Boots for women in a size 6.

Does the fact that I don't wear my construction get-up on the daily mean that I don't work in construction management? Uhm no. Actually, I almost always have my hardhat and safety vest and boots with me just in case I have to run out to the field for anything. It typically doesn't happen that I have to do impromptu trips to job site but you never know so it doesn't hurt to be prepared like that.

But, circling back to what my best friend's mom asked me, why don't I do teaching anymore? And if I love art so much (because I really do), don't I miss working everyday in the arts? And doing what I do for my dayjob work, am I shorting myself of what I really really love?

Requisite Father's day artwork I created for my dad in oil pastels on cradled Aquabord.  I have been seriously studying (and within that teaching) visual art since the early 2000s. The key to getting good at something is to never give up on yourself as much is never give up on trying to learn more, refine the skills you will develop, and practice as much as you can.

Uhm. No. I actually really enjoy my dayjob because I consider working in corporate construction management to be still working in the art and design world but on a much grander scale.

I also really enjoy my day job because (unlike the teaching position I used to be in), the work I do is appreciated and respected far more than it ever has been. And in the work I'm doing now? I have more time AND energy to be the mom I always wanted to be while still feeling like I actually have a legitimate career path to invest and apply myself. I also still can enjoy doing artwork (see picture above) and share it with those I love as much as help them experience art appreciation on a personal level just as much as I used to do with the students I worked alongside.

I'm not too caught up in whether or not I will eventually go to teaching higher education or how long I will do construction management work. If there is one thing I have learned through the many things I have gone through, it's that those sort of details aren't nearly as important as the big picture of how/who/what things really are.

Ultimately, I want to be able to feel like I made a difference in the day I lived and the work I did and I want to (always) be able to look in the mirror and say that I did everything I did, with everything I have, and any opportunity I have been offered. And that, blog friends, is why I don't mind wearing whatever hat (or shoes) I might ever have to.

#AllTheFeelsFriday: Oscar Peterson and Itzhak Perlman - Side by Side

I enjoy all types of music but jazz standards and jazz collaborations are some of my all-time favorites. Here is one of my absolute favorite jazz albums that I like to listen to when I am cooking, cleaning, or just plain need a pick-me-up.

If you have never heard jazz you like, perhaps it's because you have never heard jazz like this and maybe this will help you to (finally) appreciate jazz for all it's worth because it really and truly is worth a whole lot. 

Why this teacher left the classroom

When I left the classroom, I walked away from something I never dreamed I would leave behind.

This (see below) was a shot of one of the many classrooms where I taught as a professional educator. I was a classroom teacher for a little more than a decade in both the public and private sectors.  

The end of the part of my career that was teaching, culminated when I was actually department head. My resignation and exit occurred in the middle of the school year and not because I wanted it to be that way. It occurred because of things far beyond my control and I was even told (upon exit) that I was to say "nice things" about my years as an educator there.

I honestly still cannot believe that the end of my teaching career happened like  that ^^^^.




There were a lot of students that I did not get to say goodbye to. All the same, they sought me out in their own ways after I left the school. One particular family crossed paths with me in a local Target parking lot. I heard yelling and then saw a couple of very tall young men running toward me and yelling my name to get my attention.

It had been a few months since I had officially departed from the school. When they got to me they said, "Where did you go? Where have you been? Are you OK?"

I just stood there and held my breath until I finally could say, "...I had to leave because it was best for my family."

Both students looked at me (with their mother who had caught up with them and were there). Then they smiled sadly and said, "We understand. We really miss you. We really miss your class. But we understand. We really miss you." We hugged each other good-bye and they were on their way. I got into my car and sat in the drivers seat I started to cry. And then I continued to cry for the whole drive home.




That following month, the next school year was starting.  I cried for three days straight when I knew school was back in session. I was connected (through social media) with a number of my students and I was heartbroken to see them start school and it being the first year that I wasn't meeting them in class. I felt like I let them down just like how I felt when I was pressured and intimidated to leave the classroom the year before. I knew that none of it was because of anything I could help but all the same - in my teacher's heart - I felt I had failed in the singular way I could -- by just not being there.

It's been almost three full years since my exit of any classroom. I can honestly say I have no desire and no interest to ever go back to the institute of K-12 education as an educator.

I will happily and respectfully support, encourage, and do my best to promote the efforts of other K-12 educators but for myself? It's an understatement to say that being a professional educator was something that (I feel) was metaphorically stripped from my being without me ever having a say or even a plea that it wouldn't happen the way it absolutely did happen.

In the years since I left, I found out a lot of information that has served as vindication for what I experienced when I left teaching. It turned out, I wasn't the only one who was pushed out and those that did go (as I did) were fellow educators I very much respected (and loved) and their respective exits happened in curiously similar ways as mine did. 

I have also had real confirmation from countless students that I did make a difference for them that has carried them into wonderful futures and directions. Students have found me and connected with me because of the wonder that is social media. It's been good to know that all I did with all my heart wasn't as worthless as how I was intimidated (and convinced) it really was when I was pushed out and away from teaching. 

Also, I'm finally to a point where I am in a new industry and a part of a new company.  In this new industry, I am respected and recognized regularly with things as simple as just being thanked on the daily.

The work I do still even affords me opportunities to do things like corporate training/education, mentoring, and professional development - all things that I was doing for so long as professional educator. I have been welcomed and supported in a new and much more forward thinking environment.

Anyway, I wanted to share how being a teacher didn't but then did work out for me to maybe help someone else who might be contemplating leaving the classroom.

With my work and life and career, I have proof that there is plenty of life to have (for a teacher) after the classroom. No matter if it's the institution of education, or individuals within the educational systems or if it's the pay and the thanklessness of the profession of teaching. It's OK and it's possible to walk out of the classroom and not just move on but even still find a way to move up.

I am just barely a child of the 80s and I easily straddle the generational divide of the Gen Xers and the GenY (or the millenials). Next year I turn 40 but the last three years and this year have left me feeling like the world around me has become a truly rogue and grotesque version of itself.

Two mornings ago, my daughter (aka my favorite student) heard me talking about a friend of the family who is headed to Mexico for business travels soon. My daughter looked at me with big eyes and asked me this, "Is she going to help the kids from Mexico? Is she going to help some of those kids?"

Honestly? I couldn't even respond to her - because what can you say to something like that? What is there possibly that could be said to explain to her what is really going on to kids who look just like the many friends that she has made (and loves) at her new school.




One thing that I will always remember of my own childhood was this song. Even more specifically, I will ALWAYS remember sitting and listening to it (on a record player) and gazing at the album art.

And here was the song that I would listen to as I would sit and just look at the album...

Perhaps you have never heard of it or you had forgotten the song all together. It was originally written and performed in the 80s to benefit what was going on in Africa for the social and humanitarian movement to help raise awareness and giving to issues related to hunger in Africa and most specifically Ethiopia. 

The lyrics for the song are here:

"We Are The World"
(performed by USA For Africa)

There comes a time when we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
And it's time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all 
We can't go on pretending day by day
That someone somewhere will soon make a change
We're all a part of God's great big family
And the truth, you know,
Love is all we need 
We are the world,
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So, let's start giving
There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me 
Send them your heart so they'll know that someone cares
And their lives will be stronger and free
As God has shown us by turning stone to bread
And so we all must lend a helping hand 
We are the world,
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So, let's start giving
There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me 
When you're down and out
There seems no hope at all
But if you just believe
There's no way we can fall
Well, well, well
Let's realize that a change can only come
When we stand together as one 
We are the world,
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So, let's start giving
There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me

This song is one of the first things that came to mind as I have tried to think about the kinds of conversations I can/should be having with my daughter about the topic at-hand as much as too many topics that have come before it.

Here's the thing of it, even though my daughter and I were (not too long ago) receiving food stamps, I insist that I am a person of great privilege. And the thing of privilege is this:

One way to interpret the above is with a perspective that sees that privilege and responsibility as being not just connected to one another but also reliant on each other. In order to fully accept, assume, and enjoy one - you automatically take upon the other. So if you have (or are) privileged? You have and are responsible. If you are or have privilege? You are and have responsibility. The relationship between the two are connected such that one can't actually fully exist (and be enjoyed) without the other being there just as much.

Is privilege (or responsibility) easy to assume or accept? No.

Does assuming either of them cost anything? Uhm... Yes.

To have one, it costs you the other and you can look at it either as an expenditure or (what makes more sense to me) is that INVESTING in one pays dividends by exponential yields of the other.

Ultimately, no matter whom (or what) can be pointed to for blame, the fact of the matter is - when we all look back at this time and what is happening?

We will be more likely to remember what was done next vs. what was done to get us to where we are obviously stuck now and who is really paying the "price" for it all.

I was on Reality TV and it absolutely is not real

I have lived a very bizarre life, blog friends. Even beyond everything I already have shared on this blog (so far), there is plenty more that I haven't shared yet. Some stuff I'm not ready to share, some stuff I have to wait until a certain point to share and some stuff I absolutely do not want to talk about and probably never will. 

And then there is everything else. Even within that stuff? I don't even know where/how to begin to explain it all even though I have already mostly talked about it on my youtube channel.  

I didn't mention it when I filmed the video (see above) but HERE is the information of the reality TV series and actual episode information of that one (and only) time when I was actually on reality TV.




One of the hardest things about having done something like being on reality TV (for me, at least) is the fact that as real life went on beyond the broadcasting of the episode, my life was nothing close to any sort of "happily ever after" as much as it could have been. Even more interestingly is the fact that before everything came to a head for me and my life, I found out that the other couple in the episode split up eventually too. (I couldn't confirm this but I for as much as I was able to find out, I was told by the post production team that it happened.)




One of my very good friends said to me recently, "There was nothing normal about your marriage at all. Nothing. I mean... look at the circumstances of your actual wedding!!" 




Yeah. I don't even know what to say to that ^^^^ except to agree with my friend.  




I don't talk about all of this with my daughter too much and that's because - despite the "rosy picture" of being on TV in the way I was, things were not OK at all with what was really going on in my personal life. And in the years that followed? They only got worse to the point where I finally realize just how amazing it is that my daughter and I finally are where/how we are because of where we have been.  

The fact of the matter is, when it comes to reality TV (or any TV/movie/Hollywood productions for that matter), when the cameras are rolling, there are producers and directors and camera crews who can skew and frame what they are filming and CREATING (and later, producing and editing) to look any way they think will be good TV. But the people in front of the cameras? There might be a whole lot going on that the cameras couldn't possibly be picking up on unless you really REALLY know the person in front of the cameras. 

Way back when I was a high school teacher, some of my students begged me to tell them more about being on reality TV. I kind of made them work for the information in order to figure out the television series and episode number. When they finally figured it out, I obliged them by confirming that they were right and they were so excited to go home and watch the episode so they could come back and keep talking to me about it all. 

After my students were able to watch the show, one of the first things that they said to me of how I was depicted/presented was, "You didn't look happy at all. You didn't seem at all like yourself especially considering you were getting married."




Maybe that's because things weren't OK because other stuff was brewing and just waiting to get worse than I ever could have imagined. 




It's been over a decade since I had my actual "15 minutes" on TV.  I intentionally don't call it 15 minutes of fame because honestly? I'm not famous (because of being on TV) and I was never trying to be famous and for the rest of my life? Fame will always be far from my goal. 

My goals are a lot more simple (and, I hope) realistically attainable and include things like being the best mom I can to my daughter, help others by sharing what I have been through so (maybe) they don't have to go through what I have had to go through, and have a peaceful and purposeful life. Before I was on reality TV, those were my goals and even now (10 years later) I can say that those are still about the same as what I still want to say I did at the end of my years. 

Sticks, stones, and the power of Words

Pseudoscience is one of my favorite genre of topics to debate with myself. 

That's right. This (see both videos below) is the kind of stuff that actually has kept me awake at night.


The previous video was the first one I came across of Dr. Emoto's work. I have watched the previous video over and over again because of how intriguing it is. And that video led me to find this one on youtube...

The basic idea of Masaru Emoto's is this: 

Words matter because they have meaning. The sounds of words (whether spoken or not) give off vibrations. Words (whether tangible or not) have the actual power to create and/or destroy and so, everyone ought to be very careful to use that power very specifically to do exactly as they intend - whether negative or positive.
Something important to note about the previous videos (and many others you might find on the web), is that it's impossible to prove (and verify) the true validity of the results.
  • Does this mean that what is shown in the videos is entirely untrue? (No.) 
  • Does this mean that there are enough unanswered questions that exist because of the videos in order to question the results that they insist are true? (Yes. Indeed.)
The metaphorical message of both videos is something important and should be considered true and that is that words do matter because of the meaning they convey and apply depending upon how/when they are used.

I agree that words have real power to create and destroy and they should be used thoughtfully no matter if they are spoken, written, or even if they exist only in thought.

I also think both videos do a great job at showing and trying to make an abstract understanding a lot more physical/tangible and, thus, more easy to understand and grasp.

But whether you believe them to be pseudoscience or actual science, perhaps there can be agreement of this:

Words are powerful and using that power should always be done with intention and care. 

#AlltheFeelsFriday: Baby Pandas for everybody

I used to share feel good video clips to my students and this has always been one of my favorites...

If there is one thing that I wish I could have learned a lot earlier in life, it's that I could have been doing a job right now that includes things like helping (and watching) REAL pandas play on their own playgrounds and repeatedly tumble down the slide.

Don't get me wrong. I am ever grateful for my dayjob and I do think I'm doing work that is very much worthwhile. But seriously? People get PAID to do stuff like hang out with pandas on their own playground equipment.

Major life changes that actually happened after Konmari

... or I could say, the Konmari method actually really works. (seriously)

Note: The Konmari method is similar enough to Swedish death cleaning if you would prefer to call it that.

It's been more than three years since I first started the Konmari method. Technically I should have been done with the whole process by now but I'm learning that it doesn't always work that way and that's completely OK because the Konmari method can/will still work for as long as you keep doing it to completion.

Contractor bags (heavier than trash bags) are a must-have for serious Konmari session. 

The basic idea of Konmari is that the physical "stuff" that might naturally amass in your life will actively (and progressively) wreak legitimate havoc in/of your life. By freeing yourself of the actual tangible stuff, you end up being freed the intangible problems that might have been plaguing your relationships and inner workings.  You might also be freed of what is holding you back from things in your life that you always wanted but (perhaps) didn't think were possible.

It hasn't been easy but it has been worth it

Extreme purging and TRULY cleansing is never ever easy. It's part of the reason why the Konmari method is a gradual and guided process. If/when you are holding onto things (or even things are holding onto you), it can feel darn near impossible to make the much needed separation. And it can certainly hurt to let things go or be let go and (finally) be free of what burdens you.

Collecting firewood in the chilly seasons was one of my favorite ways to clear things permanently.

I will say that as you endure the process, it does get easier to let yourself let go of things.  And as there is less and less "stuff" there to distract and obstruct your view, you are truly able to see things for what they really are and (perhaps) how you always should have seen them.

The whole process hasn't be easy though. Not by any stretch. It would be a ridiculous understatement to say (at times) it's been an emotional minefield and (in turn) actually physically exhausting to endure it all.  Maybe this is because what I am having to purge isn't "the usual" sort of stuff people might be purging. It's actually "wreckage" that has been revealed as a result of surviving real domestic violence and abuse.

 One very major life change that came in the midst of the Konmari method was me learning that I (with my daughter) are/were actual victims of textbook domestic violence and abuse. The topic of domestic abuse and violence is a real hot button issue right now (and thank goodness for that). Not surprisingly, doing the Konmari method actually ended up revealing the absolute truth about what I had been told was "normal" of the life I had been (trying) to live.

I know the reason why the Konmari method has taken so long is because it's not just been about me getting rid of "excess" that might have accumulated in my life. At the risk of being pinterest-y and
"cheesy," I needed a hero and I had no choice but to become one for myself and my daughter.
Starting the Konmari method was truly been the catalyst of unearthing myself from being metaphorically buried by years of legitimate abuse.

Konmari's life-changing ripple effects 

I'm not finished with Konmari... or rather... Konmari isn't done with me/my life yet.  Still, my life is so much different than how it once was in almost every way.

I was able to find and make a home in an entirely different state (literally). I am actively working in a professional corporate environment (again) and in an industry that is completely different than where I used to be... 

The day I got my hardhat and it was official. I'm an obvious "noob" I did not assemble it right and you shouldn't see the padded strapping that is normally up inside the hard hat. Oh well. 

Something worth noting is that making the "career jump" I made (and the way I made it) took more than two years from start to finish. It was certainly not easy or fun and it required real networking by way of actual professional relationships vs. social media networking and connecting. To go about doing what I did required me to learn, cultivate, and actually develop new skills that would make me actually compatible to step move from one industry to another.

I'll always be a teacher and a visual artist no matter what my day job has be doing.

Konmari is keeping things going

Since I haven't officially finished the Konmari method, I'm trying to be diligent and fully committed to keep going with it. This means continuing to purge things. This week I actually donated boxes of books to my local library I really don't need since I'm no longer teaching. But the way it works is that you let go of things in order to make room what you might really want in your life...

One of those things is being able to focus and really dedicate myself to actually going to law school.
I honestly don't know where I will wind up when I am completely done with doing Konmari. I'm not too troubled by not knowing though since it's hard to argue that it hasn't already done great deal of good for me so far. Because of what I have learned (and seen and fully experienced) what Konmari can help bring me into, I'm very open to where/what/how things go. 

If only every wedding would have have a haka

Make sure your speakers are turned on for this (but be mindful of the volume...)

If I were still a classroom teacher, I would have played this for every. single. one of my classes. And every time I see it, it NEVER. GETS. OLD. It is one of the most awe inspiring things I have ever seen because of the miracle that is the shared economy via the internet. 

I actually was a wedding photographer for a part of my career and for a good part of that, I exclusively photographed Jewish Orthodox weddings in the DC/Baltimore Metro area. (Nothing against Western traditions (meaning: US weddings), but non-Western weddings are way more incredible to behold than Western ones.

A little more context for understanding the Haka

Full disclosure: I honestly don't know very much about the tradition of the haka and I only discovered it because of the aforementioned viral video (that is better explained HERE).  As soon as I saw it though, I very quickly came to the realization of how meaningful, sacred, and ancient it still is today. As I have revisited it again and again, I have come to revere it even more because of the cultural relevance that I feel like it ought to have especially in our current times. 

It makes me think about the settlers of the United States of America and how easily their assumptions of the "savage" nature probably came to them when they were met with the folks who were already here in the US. Hearing battle cries (similar enough to what is showcased in the video) must have scared them out of their wits. This is probably why the colonial settlers likely thought of them in the narrow and corrosively demeaning ways they did. 

A Haka is not simply battle cry

From a world culture perspective, life milestones and events (births, deaths, weddings, anniversaries, etc.) are considered to be sacred and, thus, they are naturally and densely woven with true  personal investment of time, energy and most definitely deep emotion of the moment at-hand.

Can you imagine the emotion that one would be  overtaken by on the day of betrothing yourself to the one you love? And that marriage vow that you are making to the other soul you feel you were meant to find, that promise you make in front of your family and declare your life to be promised to be expanded exponentially — surely, you can see a “battle cry” (a haka) more than appropriate to punctuate that occasion. 

Or even when you get to see the life of a child come into it's body when it breathes air for the first time with it's chest swollen of the air that it is now sharing with you. And realizing that you helped bring the child into it's own life - that's haka worthy, isn't it?

I mean... seriously.

Here is the same video (that started this blog post) but this one is subtitled to translate what is being said in Maori.

These  sorts of things would surely warrant a "battle cry" of some sort if that were you, right? We should all consider that that’s exactly the point of a Haka.

Learning to fly despite a broken wing

Trigger warning: Content you are about to read addresses the recent losses of public figures in the past week. This blog post will talk about my own personal experience with the likes of mental illness and especially as it has to do with treatment for sensitive topics such as self-harm or loss of life.

In recent years, there has been more attention paid to the importance of providing healthcare, support, and wellness management for those with mental illness. These topics have a very special place in my own heart because (long ago) one of my first career jobs ever was working at an acute care facility for crisis intervention and stabilization of a leading psychiatric healthcare institute.

(I even did a video about it HERE on my youtube channel if you are curious about what exactly it was like to work at a mental hospital.)

I'm speaking on this topic right now because of the great losses that have so recently happened lately with the loss of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain last week.

(Before I even go any further, if you or anyone you know/love is struggling, please PLEASE reach out for help because help IS available to you for as long as you need it and can muster up what you can to just reach out: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 800-273-8255)

It's ok to speak up, even if you can only whisper

Mental illness and emotional imbalance is a real problem that far too many try and manage but ultimately suffer from. This is because it feels like you have no other choice but to do just that. But here's the thing of it:

There. is. HELP

Also? It's completely ok to want help, ask for help, and get help because every single one of us could always use a little helping hand whether we have it in us to ask for it or not. It's also normal to want help but not know how to get it, ask for it, or realize that it's there for you...

There is research that even indicates that suffering from mental illness (of all kinds) actually manifests itself in legitimate physical pain. This isn't to say that all those that suffer from mental illness will have the same symptoms. This more to say that unseen illness can literally be physically debilitating to you/someone you know and love suffering from mental illness.

Because I have had a long career in human services work (I was as a classroom teacher for over a decade and prior to that I worked as a mental health professional), I  readily know the "tools" and resources available (both free and at-cost) for mental healthcare management. Something I used to do professionally was to help triage patients for services and rehabilitation, organize and run therapeutic groups (in a real clinical setting), do formal mentoring and daily 1:1 counseling. I would even develop and implement behavioral management plans with the help of a team of medical professionals.

Being mentally healthy starts with knowing you are worth it.

It's hard to know you are worth it when other thing seem to negate that truth though. If you are suffering from mental illness, your head is telling you differently all the time. Eventually your heart starts listening so much to your head that it's darn near impossible to believe anything different.

The things I once taught and helped others to practice for their own mental health care and wellness management has made a difference even in my life.  It's enabled me to get to where I currently am. This is because I have actively used what I used to help others learn to do to make positive life changes happen in my own life. I also have used/use the working knowledge and experience for the positive benefits of my most favorite student and only daughter.

Something we actively do in our life for mental health self-case is our own "art therapy."  We do it as needed and we don't have a "cap" or formalized schedule about how/when we do it. We keep it flexible so that it remains therapeutic. Our favorite things to do are paint and draw collaboratively and because my classroom teaching career was in visual art education, we are committed to learning, doing, and creating things classically...

Standing Wooden A-frame Easel

Reeves Acrylic Paint Starter Set - 24 colors

Chungking Paintbrush Set for acrylic and oil painting - Starter set

There's a reason why Painting comes so naturally

The most intuitive studio art form for most anybody is painting. It's not surprising that in the last decade or so, there has been a rise in popularity for paint you own canvas types of businesses! As a former professional art educator, it's so heartwarming seeing people want to step into an art studio even if/when they never have felt compelled to do it before.

I think the reason why creating - whether in a sketchbook or standing at an easel or using tools to build or even cook - is so appealing is because it gives you a tangible and immediate way to prove (to yourself) it gives a sense of accomplishment.

Monarch butterfly in acrylic on canvas panel by my favorite student! She painted this from picture reference and I highly encourage practicing the art of painting from pictures. 

In a world that is becoming more and more intangible because of digitization, it makes sense that we (as humans) crave things that provide and require as much physicality as possible. More and more often our basic five senses - eating, drinking, seeing, smelling, FEELING - are not given the real opportunity to just be/do as they are because we are surrounded by screen after screen after screen. We are deprived of the very things that makes us feel most alive and awake - the activation of our basic senses.

It makes sense (no pun intended) that we need that physical input of real texture, smells (and even tastes) to help us feel truly alive. Perhaps because we have become gradually deprived of opportunities to actually feel things - that's why too many of us are "dying" inside of ourselves. Maybe this is what is heavily contributing to the actual loss of lives we are seeing happening around us and at alarmingly increasing rates. We have such an extreme need to feel something (anything) that people are going to actual extremes without fully realizing the true dangers of it all.

Getting help is a step-by-step process (like creating art!)

Now, all of this is not to say that if you "just" go and paint or "make some art" that mental illness management is just that simple. This is certainly NOT to say that you will be be cured of the unseen illnesses that regularly plague you (or others) towards worsening suffering. No way. It's not that easy at all.

All of this IS to say this: There are ways (included is art therapy) for you to have real HELP and relief. These things are available to you no matter how/what condition you feel like you are in. There is help even though the invisible illness can/will strip you of everything. Don't think that there isn't hope because THERE. IS. HELP. and with the help, you will be able to also regain hope.

Perhaps you (or someone you know/love) is at a different point of needing help for their mental health management. Maybe it's unclear what is wrong and a formal diagnosis would help you to find out the real options for help that you can have.  There is help for that just as much HERE. It's true that "knowing is half the battle" and when you can figure out a little more about why you are feeling as you do? That's halfway to being able to understand how to not let that feeling completely overtake you.

The fact of the matter is - no matter what - how you might feel or what you might think, getting started truly can be the hardest thing to do and this especially applies to mental illness. It is hard to "make the call" in order to actually finally schedule appointments that lead to other things. It's overwhelming, for sure.

All the same, you don't need to feel like you are alone in the process EVER.

If you let yourself be in it with someone else? You might find that you can do it and there is hope and it's just a matter of  truly opening yourself up to the truth that is you are never alone even if your head tries to convince you differently.

10 years of day after day with a single Rainbow (girl)

Today is one that I celebrate my favorite student because she has officially entered into the double-digits and is 10 years old. 

Before the Michael's challenge, we did this the year before on a homeschool field trip for some crafting supplies.

A Rainbow every day is what everybody should have

I previously have discussed that I refer to my daughter as "my favorite student" but I also call her my Rainbow Girl. My reasons for this are both practical and metaphorical:
  1. I do not like to use my daughter's real name online (anywhere). Her online nickname Rainbow Girl (or RG) lets me still talk about her/share about her while also respecting online safety for her sake.
  2. Since as early as when I was pregnant with her, we have had some very serious challenges to contend with and move on from in our life.  RG's earliest memories (from when her father was more active and immediately involved in her life) included a lot of "storms" that I tried my best to shield her from. 
  3. Still, I couldn't always hide the mess that it left me in and she has dried my tears more often than what I feel like is ever OK for any child. (I'm not proud of this at all.) At the same time, I acknowledge that it all has helped her to become who/what she is and I am so proud of her. 

Her Rainbow spirit gives life

Something that is especially unique about RG is that she is the only flesh and blood relative I know. This is because I'm an international adoptee and I have no information or way to find out (for sure) about my biological family. 

This was a mom and me portrait session from when she was about one year old.

I was brought over to the US when I was only an infant and I have no recollection or possibility of leads to find out anything about my actual roots. That means that when I gave birth to RG, it opened up a single branch of a family tree made up of just her from me. And especially in the most recent years with her father not even close to an immediate and active member of her life? It's a big deal for us to just have each other to be family together. 

Mother-daughter handstands against a wall in the place we currently call home.

Way more colorful than any other Rainbow 

If there is one thing I can say about my RG, it's that things are never ever boring with her...

RG has just always been the type that brings light and color wherever she comes and goes. It's truly just the way she is.

And even after all that she has been through since she was born... it really and truly amazes me and I am thankful every day that she can be like this. It almost doesn't seem possible for her to be just how she is in spite of everything that she has had to witness.

Even in the times that have been the most challenging for us, I look at RG and it helps me to have the necessary "what if..." that I need in order to reclaim what we have (both) been stripped of and it's allows me to conquer things I never thought I could face down. RG's energy and spirit truly are like a force of nature of goodness and love and joy and hope that is the sharpest contrast to the dark of even the most destructive storms of life...


When I grow up, I want to be just like RG

One of my most favorite things about RG is the way she always surprises me with her perspectives, cleverness, and loving heart. Every teacher she has had can tell an account of when they witnessed her reach out or stand up for someone when nobody else would. And while it has happened sometimes that her sweetly unassuming spirit has been easily taken advantage of, thankfully, it hasn't stolen the pure love that she has in and of herself. 
From a homeschool field trip (almost a year ago) when we went to the National Gallery of Art

It's amazing to me that RG is 10 years old this year.  For all she has gone through, worked for, and pushed herself to achieve, I feel like she has lived far beyond the easy 10 years that she is.

(I've had over a decade of classrooms full of students and they say teachers should never play favorites. But... RG, you will always ALWAYS be my most favorite student EVER.)

Here's to 10s of many more years to come for RG to just keep on sharing and shining with the vibrance of the Rainbow spirit that she can't help but beam forth from herself. 

Together is a beautiful place to be

 I previously shared about one thing I've done as a #girlmom. Another thing I do with my favorite student is wear matching clothing...

Such a sucker for this fast fashion from a flash shopping site. Sadly, these fell apart after not even a month.

What difference does it make

Honestly? It's hard to say. Or, maybe, I don't know (yet) if it does make a difference. I will say we have done the matching clothing/outfits for quite a while though.

It all started when I realized that it was an option because I could save money and buy summer dresses (for myself) from the girls plus section of Target. It was a double bonus that the dresses also came in a size for my favorite student. Occasionally there have been complementary/matching ensembles from other places. (Gymboree did this a time or two in the past. See below...)

Christmas when she was four or five. She was able to wear this for multiple occasions so that was nice.

And then I found out that I would have better luck with Target for dressing alike.  Target has become a great (and practical and budget-friendly) way to get matching dresses and it's such a nice tradition to have with my favorite student to go there every summer. I would even save money by just waiting (actually, I still do this) for the summer dresses to go on sale and then I would go and try on the girls plus sized ones and that would help inform the decision of which one to get for us collectively. It actually became something I started really looking forward to every summer.

This matching set was one of my all-time favorites. It was Hawaiian print. I actually still have mine.

How long can this go on

I really don't know. We are going to enjoy it for as long as it can happen though. It's truly a serendipitous thing that has turned out to be very positive for us. See... my favorite student is my only child. And it will likely stay that way.

Even after I had her, I kind of knew that she would be an only child. This is despite the fact that I come from a family of having two older brothers and two younger sisters. I even really love coming from a family with so many brothers and sisters. Still, it's just not happening (and it's not going to) happen like that for my favorite student. (And there are some very legitimate reasons why this is so for a whole other blog post.)

Still, dressing with her has helped her feel a natural sense of belonging and connection that (maybe) could come from sibling connection? I mean... it's not the same thing at all. I can attest to that for sure. At the same time, in the grand scheme of things, I know there will come a time when we (as mother and daughter - because I am not her "bestie" because I am her mother), when we might not be able to have the simple common ground of matching clothing.

This is from Cat and Jack for Target. We really like these a lot and this is from Fall-Winter 2017.

Who knows what good this will do

I have been thinking of what life will be like when my favorite student is in her tweener years and beyond. Honestly? I have been mentally and emotionally preparing myself for these years since she was a toddler (as a "three-nager") and I hope that in those moments when she screams at me that she "hates" me (because I know it will happen), we both will be able to look back at our years of dressing alike with some much needed fondness.

I hope that the memories we have of our togetherness (in dress) will give us the quiet contemplation and willingness to be more lovingly forgiving toward each other. I hope that in the times when my favorite student experiences life coming at her in ways that she never would have wanted to dream it would, she remembers that she has never been alone and she can (and she will actually) be fortified with true intrinsic strength of more than just herself.

This years set of dresses are from Cat and Jack for Target. 

Perhaps I'm way too wishful with my thinking and I'm thinking of things that aren't quite as weighty in meaning as they ultimately will end up being.  *shrug* I really don't know. But... it's worth a shot to do this, isn't it?

I mean... it could end up making a difference in ways that were desperately needed. Maybe.