Pushing Past the Fears…

I have recently been pondering the difference between Risk-taking and “risky behavior.” Sometimes when I’m facing something challenging, fear steps in and tries to convince me that participating in that activity would be “risky behavior” (in other words, something “bad”) rather than merely “risk-taking” (or something “good”). In the past few weeks, I have stepped outside my comfort zone and tried some new (scary) things. Most of you know that when it comes to living outside the box or trying new adventures, I’m all in. There are indeed some areas, however, that scare me; some opportunities that fill me with fear rather than exhilaration.

(portrait by the wonderful Jo Blackwell—see more of her work HERE )

In the past month, a number of opportunities for stretching and trying something new came up. I wrote last week about attending a conference for Community Health Evangelism. I had no idea (and still have no idea!) how I would use this. But the cost was manageable and the topic was interesting. I’m glad I gave it a try…

Earlier this year, I downloaded information about training to participate in a (mini)Triathlon. I enjoy being challenged by the posts on the Impossible blog. I decided to follow the writer’s advice, and reach for a physically challenging goal, rather than just doing adventurous, outside-the-box things that I enjoy. I dabbled with training, signed up for a mini-tri at the beginning of September…and chickened out at the last minute….sigh… I hope to do more consistent training and sign up for another mini-tri at a lower elevation sometime next spring. (Looking back, I’m sad that I let fear overwhelm me…)

I wrote on my art blog last week about taking a risk and signing up to submit illustrations for possible inclusion in an upcoming book by a favorite inspirational author. When I read about the opportunity to participate, I was excited. Then I was convinced it wasn’t really for me. After all, I have no experience with painting, or with collage, or with illustrating anything in particular. I’m definitely not a professional artist. Who was I to think that I could do this? and…and…and…

I tried to forget about it. But it kept coming back, over and over. Finally, I decided to sign up. I could at least look at the passages and see if I even had any ideas of what to try. Besides, anyone who sent in a submission would receive a free copy of the book. That, at least, sounded good. Okay…deep breath…

I finally managed to shut up those fear-filled, despairing voices inside my head. I asked for two passages. I read them over. Ideas immediately came; pictures in my mind that could illustrate the words. I was still fearful, but moved forward. I don’t know what will happen with the submissions…but I already know pushing past the fears, taking a RISK, has given me more confidence in playing with art!

Finally, I participated in a recent “Prophetic Art” seminar down in Albuquerque. Again, this felt quite risky. I enjoy artsy things like crafts and scrapbooking. But “real art”? That doesn’t seem to describe what I do. I dabble. I play. I don’t see myself as an “artist.” Plus I struggled with the idea of “prophetic” art, as I explained in an art-blog post this week. Again, all those fears about not being professional, not being an experienced painter, not being good enough, shouted in my head. Again, it felt too RISKY to participate. But, again, confidence came as I pushed through the fears and attended the seminar.

These are little things in the big picture of life. But, perhaps, for me they will turn out to be “big things.” At least pushing past the fears and quieting the voices has given me a new level of confidence! And I guess that’s a good start…

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Identity

It’s another “Five Minute Friday.” On Fridays a group of people who love to throw caution to the wind and just write gather to share what five minutes buys them. Just five minutes. Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

This week’s topic is: Identity. Check out other bloggers who are participating in this challenge HERE.

I was a granny-glasses girl when I was in elementary school. That was the era of granny dresses and granny glasses and I wore both of them. I also wore the occasional shawl and used bandanas as kerchiefs. Maxi and midi length dresses were fine with me. You had to walk and sit in a prissy way if you wore mini dresses, after all! (Besides, there was no way my folks would have let me show that much leg!)

Those granny glasses served me well. I kept the same basic style into young adulthood.

big

big glasses…big family…big life

Then I became the big glasses mom. I had the big (permed) hair, the big loose clothes, and the big pinkish brown frames that covered half my face. Life was big, even while I was trying to fit my big family into a two-kid world. During this time, we moved across the country for grad school, and eventually moved into the country to a mini play-farm. We added kids and critters along the way, gained a 12 passenger van, and kept looking for big adventures.

Then life changed again. Kids started leaving home for college. We moved to a suburb in another city. We downsized to a mini-van. And my glasses got smaller again. I spent those years with frames that were metal across the top, and were invisible/clear along the bottom. Seems to me, as I look back, that I was feeling a bit invisible in life as well.

easter

back to modified granny glasses

Then came the life crises; the husband’s cancer, the death of a son. We pulled up what was left of roots that had been ripped out, and took off. We travelled the west in an RV, lived with family while we finished degrees and training programs, and finally moved to a remote area of Navajoland. And I went back to those granny-glasses. I didn’t see it until now…but I wonder if I was trying to find comfort by looking back?

blue

a bit traditional…

pink plaid

a bit wild…

Now? I just got TWO pairs of new glasses. And this time I didn’t follow the current fashion trends. These frames are not invisible, oh no, definitely not! These frames are not granny glasses. They are a bit wild; colorful while still a bit discreet. Seems to me these glasses are a good choice to lead me into my 50th birthday and into the second half of my life. I’m moving toward freedom, and confidence in who I am.

blue portrait

when I want to pretend I’m proper…

pink plaid portrait

when I prefer to show some color

Who knew that all these years my identity could be seen in the glasses I wore?

Story Collector — Part 2

Last post, I explained about being called a “shaman” because of my interest in collecting stories of the people I meet.

one of my story-teller figures

As I have pondered this idea over the past three years, it resonates more and more strongly. Being a “story collector” and a “story teller” effects many aspects of my life.

To me, this fascination with hearing the stories of others is one part of why I enjoy striking up conversations with strangers. They might look plain or ordinary or boring…but they often have wonderful, interesting stories to share. Whether the stories are “good” or are difficult, having these interactions with others affirms my generally positive outlook on humanity.

By swapping stories with people, I am also affirming their worth. In today’s society it is far too uncommon to find others willing to listen. When someone shares their story with me, it is a gift to me. And when I listen, it is a gift to them.

another story-teller figure I have on display

I realize that my enjoyment in collecting stories often spills over into conversation with friends and family. These stories I have heard just seem to come pouring out of me. There is, after all, so much to learn from the life experiences of others. (Hopefully, my loved ones aren’t just “putting up with me” but actually enjoy hearing some of the stories, as well.)

Finally, I have figured out that my love of story collecting contributes to a “disconnect” between my husband and me.  Frankly, I am usually bored by his interest in discussing the latest news. And I have realized that he is generally bored by hearing the stories I have been told. Sigh… I’m not quite sure how to respond or what to do about this…

Here in New Mexico, there are traditional figures from the Pueblo Indian cultures that illustrate my passion quite well. These “story tellers” are fun to look at. They are such a good representation of my love of collecting stories and sharing them with others. I now own two small figures. They are displayed in my bedroom—a way to affirm this interest and this gifting, and a reminder to keep my ears open as I listen for more stories.

Check out http://www.collectorsguide.com/fa/fa014.shtml for more information about Story Teller figures.

The First Story Teller figure by Helen Cordero 1964
Currently in the International Museum of Folk Art, Santa Fe

Story Collector — Part 1

As most of you know, a few years ago my husband and I bought a large RV, packed up our lives, and went on the road for 8 months with our two youngest kids. (If you are interested in more details, you can read blogs from our wanderings at journey2wonder.blogspot.com )

One of my great delights as we travelled the West, was to meet new people and hear their stories. I guess I have always “collected” stories; but when you are wandering from place to place there are so many more people to meet and stories to hear than when you are staying-put in one home in one town.

I can't find the photos I took at Newspaper Rock. This was posted on desertusa.com

One day early in our wanderings, we drove off the main road and followed a small back road to get to Newspaper Rock State Park in southeastern Utah. It was definitely worth the drive…in fact, it is still the absolutely best collection of petroglyphs that we have seen so far!

I, of course, had to take photo after photo after photo of the rock face: big pictures, close-ups, photos of our kids leaning over the railing to get better looks, photos of the shadowy pictures behind the main pictures, and more. And while I was snapping photos, there was another fellow there who was doing the same.

I, of course, struck up a conversation with him. Somehow as we talked (and shot photos) we discovered a mutual love of caves in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, mutual challenges of facing and fighting cancer, and a mutual enjoyment of making up stories to go with the petroglyphs we were studying.

At one point, this fellow stopped, looked at me, and stated that I was clearly a “shaman” since he had never told most of this stuff to anyone else (other than his wife). WHOA! No, not me, I’m a Christian, I am certainly NOT a shaman…

But then he further explained that the role of a shaman is to collect the stories of his/her people, keep those stories alive in his/her heart, and share them with others as encouragement or challenge. Hmmm…after thinking about it, I realized this IS part of why I so much enjoy hearing the stories of people I meet. And it helps explain why I feel so privileged when others choose to share with me.

I’m still not willing to be named a “shaman” … but I happily accept the name of “listener” or “story collector.” In my world view, this interest is a gift that God has given me, a way to connect to others, and a way to encourage them. And collecting stories is an encouragement to ME!

On Patrol…

Seven years ago at this time of year, I was getting ready to start classes to become a National Ski Patroller in northeast Ohio. The first night was simply a registration session, time to pay for the course and pick up the syllabus, the big thick textbook and the almost-as-thick workbook.

As I drove to that first session, I had a panic attack. I started shaking and had an overwhelming urge to turn around and slink back home. This was a strange reaction for something I was looking forward to! I stopped in a parking lot and called a friend, explaining what was happening and asking her to pray for me.

nsp jacketAs she prayed, things suddenly became clear. I was hearing echoes from middle school—not athletic enough, not good-looking enough, not special enough, to join the “popular crowd.” In my mind, ski patrollers were the golden people, the good looking ones at the ski resort, the hot-shot skiers, the “in-crowd.” After all, EVERYONE wanted to wear one of those nifty jackets with the big cross on the back and be the hero to save people’s lives!

Once I recognized what was causing me to panic, I thanked my friend, hung up the phone, gulped a few times, and finished driving to that sign-up session. Yes, the training stretched my brain at times. Yes, I wasn’t sure I could master everything required to become a ski patroller. Yes, I was nervous about passing the skills test later that fall. But…I stuck with it.

I became one of the “golden-people.” I got to wear that special jacket. Even being overweight, older, and not-so-coordinated couldn’t stop me. I, yes I, was part of the National Ski Patrol.

Over the past seven years, I have enjoyed patrolling in a number of settings. I gained an instructor certification for the emergency care part of the certification process. With the encouragement of patroller friends, I persevered and gain my “senior” certification.

on patrolIt was often said that fellow ski patrollers become “family.” I wasn’t so sure about that. I enjoyed spending time with new friends, with mentors, and with fellow instructors. I delighted in helping students find the “aha moments” as they put together knowledge and skills in the classes. It was fun to see my kids get involved in the Jr. Patrol. But “family”? I already had plenty of that.

Then one of our sons died unexpectedly. Beyond close friends, church friends, and family, we were also joined by ski patrol “family” while we waited and mourned on that long, long day at the hospital. In the days and weeks following our son’s death, my ski patrol “family” surrounded us, bringing food and stories and cards and love. Yes, I realized, they truly were more than friends. They proved themselves to be “family.”

Our family moved to a remote area of New Mexico almost two years ago. We are working with at-risk Navajo young people. I love what we are doing. In addition, I am jumping through the hoops to transfer my EMT-B certification (earned before we moved out here) from Ohio to New Mexico, am taking an on-line instructor certification class, and am considering doing the work to get EMT-Intermediate certification.

I only wish there were ski resorts within a reasonable drive. Too bad the sheer-sided mesas out here don’t hold enough snow for skiing! I’m confident I made the right decision to not renew my ski patrol certifications…

…but I sure miss being one of the “golden-people.” I miss wearing the special jacket with the big white cross on the back. I miss being a hero to save people’s lives. Most of all, I miss my ski patrol “family.”

I was reminded of all I miss about being a ski patroller when I saw THIS VIDEO posted on facebook. It gives an excellent picture of what it is like to be a member of National Ski Patrol. I only wish it showed an older, overweight, not-so-coordinated patroller on the smaller hills of Ohio. Then it would truly be a picture of my experience as one of the elite—of me “on patrol.”

25 Random Things

I recently took time to read through posts I had missed on some of the blogs I follow. Earlier in February there was a “linky-party.” Although I am long past the deadline to link my blog post to the rest of the list, the topic looked like fun. Following the lead of other bloggers, here is MY list of 25 Random Things—-things that have happened or that I’ve thought about, things that aren’t big enough or significant enough to write an entire blog about, random things floating through my mind and captured on this list…

  1. I absolutely LOVE the bright blue skies and sunny days here in the high desert of New Mexico.
  2. A few days ago when Jakob and I were in town we both commented on how the dreary gray day was too much like Ohio in the winter. Blergh!
  3. I don’t quite know what to do with myself today—there are a zillion things I could do, and probably should do…but no specific schedule to meet.
  4. After a leisurely morning, Jakob and I were in a hurry to get out the door and get him to the school where he is a volunteer library aide and a chess tutor on Thursdays.
  5. Instead of throwing together some sandwiches for lunch, I stirred up a quick batch of “Noodle Mein-ia” – ramen, frozen veggies & diced chicken all stir-fried together.
  6. I love the name of that dish—brainstormed by Jakob to differentiate it from the other thrown together meal I often make—both of which I just called “glop”!!
  7. Our dog wouldn’t come inside last night—and when I looked out she was laying in the snow under the pinon tree, chewing on an antler she stole from the neighbor’s dog who regularly finds such “treasures.”
  8. I let her bring her “treasure” inside to keep gnawing on it for awhile…
  9. I used to savor a mug (or two or three) of coffee each day…now I’ve switched to hot tea with milk.
  10. Nettie brought me some lovely tea from England last year…but sadly it is long gone. (Yes, there really is a difference…mostly in how much “bite” the cheaper black teas have.)
  11. One of my favorite candy bars is also from England— Cadbury’s “Crunchie”—chocolate covered “honeycomb” that melts in your mouth. My sister sent me a bag of mini bars for Christmas. I still have one little bar hidden away for when I really “need” the last one…(shhhh…don’t tell my kids!)
  12. I’m feeling a bit bereft—there are no books on my “library shelf.” What will I read? What am I looking forward to dipping into next? (We won’t talk about the piles of unread books still by my bed…) (Returned books to town this week but didn’t have time to check out bags and bags more…)
  13. I have a love-hate relationship with my camera. When I choose to lug it around I have no reason to pull it out of the bag; when I leave the clunky thing at home, I desperately wish I had it with me…sigh… (and, no, the camera on my phone will not do at all, at all…)
  14. Anna wrote us a really cool poem for Valentine’s Day—possibly made even more special when we found out it was a school assignment and included all of her random spelling words for the week!!
  15. By the way, if you haven’t heard me ranting on my soapbox yet, I absolutely HATE the total waste of time called “spelling” in school. Either one is inherently good at it or inherently bad at it—the former don’t need to write out the words over and over and over, and the latter don’t need to eventually conclude they are stupid when they can’t seem to remember the words…Who invented this torture mechanism anyway??
  16. (And, yes, I am one of the lucky ones that can spell correctly without thinking about it…)
  17. I have finally convinced some of the kids I tutor that when we do writing practice I’m interested in their WRITING…not their spelling. It is amazing to me how they are coming “out of their shells” and writing some really cool stuff now that they aren’t worried about making spelling mistakes!
  18. We visited friends this past weekend who have a lovey-dovey little “sausage dog.” Yes, I petted the Doxie—but I MUCH prefer the long silky fur of my Aussie! Fauna-therapy is more enjoyable with luxurious tactile stimulation…
  19. My brain has been warped forever by James’ figure skating—when Anna and I watched a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie last night I kept seeing wonderful possible ice-dance sequences and fun costume ideas…
  20. Anna doesn’t remember seeing large scale chorus line dance scenes before…which both baffles me (since we love watching musicals) and made me think of taking her to a dance recital sometime this spring.
  21. The only problem with that idea is that then she would probably beg and beg to take dance lessons (which doesn’t work when we live 60 miles from town!)
  22. I really need to get outside more and get back to regular walking—I’m just too much of a wimp to want to wade through deep snow or risk getting boots stuck in the mud.
  23. Which reminds me of a humorous email exchange my mom and I had about fish, and lakes, and mudholes…too complicated to explain…but worth pointing out that I LOVE laughing with my mom!
  24. …and laughing with my kids…
  25. Hmmm…looking back over this list it is indeed quite RANDOM! (But fun to do…each of you should try it sometime!)

If you want to see other lists of 25 Random Things, you can read the original post (from a blogger I regularly enjoy) HERE. The original “linky-party” idea including links to a zillion more lists is HERE.

Teacher’s Pet…projects!

If you have known me for long, you have already figured out that I love to teach. When I learn something, pretty soon it comes spewing out again, being passed on for the interest or help of others. Like any teacher, my favorite projects are those that lead to an “aha” moment for students.

In the past few weeks, I have had great fun with a variety of teaching opportunities—in school and out:

marvelous messy artistI did an art history/project with the local school’s 1st grade class some time before Thanksgiving. This week, I got to do another project with them. We made marvelous, messy, colorful art in the style of Monet. (Read more about it HERE.) I was pleased that the students remembered the name and nickname of our previous artist—Henri Matisse, the “wild beast” (so named because he loved to use wild colors and shapes—kind of like ME!) I was pleased that the students worked hard to draw realistic mesa shapes…and then played with the chalk pastels, experimenting with how to mix and smear them. I was pleased that they want me to come back again and do more art with them. And best of all, I was pleased that a few of them who are usually serious and tentative, had big SMILES on their faces by the time we finished.

I pushed and prodded students in my two after-school tutoring groups to participate in NaNoWriMo this year (an on-line program challenging people to write a novel in a month—with a published book given for free to each student who reaches their writing goal during the month). I was sad to discover that reachable word-count goals were so low because writing is quite a challenge for most of these students. On the other hand, almost 10 of them persevered, adding sentence to sentence, slowly progressing, gradually reaching their goals. Even though it is hard work, they haven’t given up and are willingly doing rewrites and editing. Each of them wants to have a printed book in their hands, one written entirely by them! One of my students has discovered a strong talent for description and for coming up with a cliff-hanging plot. Another was reluctant to participate, but is now the most excited to finish up and order her book. All of them have gained confidence by attempting the previously unimaginable. YAY for NaNoWriMo!

I have gotten to know another student in the past few weeks. Although an upper grade student, he still struggles with math and reading. He tends to hunch over, trying to avoid being called on in class or being spoken to in the hallways. He was one of the students who had not yet chosen a science fair topic when I was subbing for his class. At first, he said little. Eventually, he muttered that he had an idea… When I took him seriously, he got more animated. We had a good discussion about what it would take to turn his idea into a full-fledged project. And he has carried through. I helped him do the experiment this week. And he willingly sat with me for over an hour to painstakingly write out his conclusions for the report. He still hides behind his long hair if asked about other things—but he happily talks about what he did and what he learned when the topic is this project. Wow! What a privilege to help a struggling student find something of interest in the academic world. Now, if only he does well in the science fair judging this week…

Anna sewingAnd the fun of teaching and seeing the “aha” moment in students has not been limited to the local school setting. Anna has started learning to sew. Before we left on our trip back east, she made a wall-hanging to hold her many Junior Ranger badges. Randy just laughed to hear me—“Wait! STOP! Go slower! Pay attention!” He says it sounded like I was teaching her to drive. Now THAT’s a scary thought! She enjoyed it enough that we gave her a homemade doll-quilt kit for Christmas. So far, she has pieced the many squares into strips. By the end of that step she was actually doing everything completely on her own, with me sitting beside her (supposedly) reading a book. My, you should have seen the proud smile on her face! One of these days we will get back to the project and she will finish the job.

Jakob is not left out of the joy of learning new things. For a number of school years, I have tried to interest him in reading non-fiction books. Nope…he dallied, delayed, whined, and wiggled out of it. Oh, he would read the specific things I assigned and demanded that he finish, but, by golly, he was determined to not enjoy it. And then…and then…he overheard me telling Randy all about the fascinating things I had learned from a book about human brain development related to type of culture (agricultural versus hunter/gathering). And somehow it captured Jakob’s interest. He “stole” the book from me before I could finish it, and read it from cover to cover. Suddenly he is enjoying many of the laymen’s science books I bring home. YAY! Another “aha” moment which opens the world wider for a “student” of mine…

Hmmm…I wonder what I will learn next. And I wonder which teaching opportunity will bloom into more “aha” moments for students. I can’t WAIT to find out!

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