Tag Archives: Life lessons

The Meaning of An Owl

It was a few years ago, we had just finished a training walk for the Susan G Komen 3 Day, the walk leader passed out stickers of owls (yes, owls). She asked us to keep one of the walkers in mind. The walker she referred to I did not know but I learned she was battling breast cancer (again), and she liked owls.

As I left that training walk I stuck the owl sticker on one of the air vents in my Jeep. Every now and then I would look at it and think of this person I didn’t know, fighting a fight I had been fortunate not to fight (at this point in my life).IMG_2371

The summer went on and I still didn’t meet this mystery person but I continued to look at the owl sticker in my car and think about this person out there in the world fighting breast cancer.

When the 3 Day rolled around we all loaded in the bus and headed toward opening ceremonies. Through all the chatter in the bus I overheard something that made me realize the “owl woman” was on the bus. I asked the woman I suspected and learned I was right. I told her about the owl sticker and that I still had it in my car. We talked, we laughed, we hit it off.

Walking 60 miles in 3 days is a huge challenge. I learned that JoAnne had just finished chemo and would be walking the 60 miles. I was impressed by her determination and courage.

3 day with Joanne

(L to R) Anastasia, me and Stan, JoAnne 

She liked the sock monkey (Stan) I was carrying during the walk.

After the walk we played Words With Friends, we chatted occasionally on Facebook and at Christmas she sent me a new sock monkey…but we didn’t have time to really become friends. What I knew of Joanne I admired. She fought to the end, she had strength and a beautiful inner spirit that I was only able to get a short glimpse at.

I believe everyone comes into our lives for a reason and I believe Joanne came into my life to remind me to fight gracefully, take care of the vessel I have been given and to laugh.

I still have the owl sticker in my car and Stan (my monkey) and Cassidy (the monkey JoAnne gave me) ride along in my jeep everyday.IMG_2366

Though it makes me sad that I did not get an opportunity to know her better, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to know the lady behind the owl.

Street Poet…

We met Ronald Miller during our recent food distribution to the homeless.Robert

He first appeared as any other guy on the street, until we started talking. He told us he enjoys writing and asked if he could share one of his poems. He told us he appreciated that we took time to serve him and this was the only way he could re-pay us.

We agreed to hear his poem. We asked if it would be ok to record him and he said yes and I am so glad he did.

I’ve listened to it over and over. I am moved by his honesty and inner reflection and touched by the joy emanated from his smile.

The Beast That Wanted to Die

I was born a beast, from yet a mother who was also a beast.

Not knowing at first that the ability to transform was within me.

For every creature that roamed in my domain I destroyed. Taking the very breath from a body until it was lifeless.

Yet while I watched the lifeless body before me, this pain within my chest began to transform me.
Sending me into a deep sleep, yet as I awoke i realized that I was never that beast at all.

But a beast had taken over, my every thought, my every dream, my every hope.
But now I can see there was this beast in me, that wanted to die.

A great reminder to look beyond the outer shell and seek the beauty within.

Unfortunately I have not chosen to upgrade my blog here at WordPress so I am unable to upload the video of Robert reciting his poem. If you would like to see the video please visit my Facebook Page “365 Days and Counting”

I am grateful for the lessons I am able to learn from complete strangers…when I am willing to open my eyes, heart and thoughts.

Life Lessons…

As we were loading up the cars, after serving the homeless, I noticed one of my old clients walking toward me. Some of you may remember him (Some People Can’t Be Fixed) from a post I wrote in February. I said hi to him and called him by name. He looked at me….you know that look when you see someone that is not in the place you expect to see them?

Example: You see Marge everyday at the gym. The two of you chat pleasantries about your grandchildren. Then one day you see Marge at the local Starbuck’s, she is not wearing gym clothes and you have absolutely no idea why she is speaking to you and acting as though she knows you. You continue with the conversation because obviously she knows you and you don’t want to be rude. Several sentences in she mentions the gym….oh yeah it’s Marge! Well, that’s the look he gave me.

After we passed each other I turned to see which direction he headed and realized he had stopped and turned back to look at me. Now he looked angry. As you may recall we did not part on the best of terms. My immediate thought was, load up the teenagers and drive away. Fortunately the kids were already in the car waiting for me.

Another incident happened earlier in the day that involved a homeless man threatening another homeless man right in the middle of our set up of volunteers. Though I never felt the kids were in danger I knew several of them were shaken by the incident. When we returned to the church the kid’s parents were there to pick them up…no time to debrief.

Both incidents have been on my mind quite a bit today. Especially running into my former client. I thought about what would have happened if he walked through earlier. He has been known to call me and my co-workers some pretty colorful names. One of the most colorful was when he yelled across our parking lot that I was a “C*ck s*cking lesbian whore. If you feel the first word and the third word don’t fit together than you filled in the blank correctly on the first word. Anyway, I wondered if he would have said anything, spewed hate in my direction or simply accepted the food we were there to share.

I don’t like sharing the scary or gritty parts of serving those living on the streets. I think a lot of people only see the negative when they think about the homeless so I don’t want to add fuel to their fire. But I have also found it is important to share the things weighing on my mind. Sometimes there is a nugget tucked away in my rambling sentences that speaks to someone. Sometimes I find my own nugget within my own ramblings. Sometimes this is how I figure out where the gratitude is.

So this Sunday when I see the kids again I plan to talk about both of these issues (i won’t mention the names I’ve been called…it is a church group!). I’m still not totally sure what my approach will be but I do know there are important lessons tucked between the lines.
I feel strongly that real life lessons are important and I believe seeing that good can still come from bad is truly real life. I am grateful I will have the opportunity to talk through the many lessons the kids and I experienced together.

N = Needs

I work with adults with intellectual developmental disabilities. I teach them how to manage their money, pay bills and follow a budget.
One of the big lessons I teach is the difference between needs and wants. We talk about prioritizing bills. We talk about what it means to really NEED something not just want it.

Its a difficult concept to teach when it seems like everyone has so much stuff. Our culture here in the United States is so focused on things and acquiring more. How can a person be convinced they don’t “need” cable TV? How about “needing” a smart phone? Is it necessary to have the newest gadget or the latest style?

I try to reassure each student that survival is possible without access to 700 television stations and that humans lived for thousands upon thousands of years without the things we take for granted. Many of my students live on a very limited income and that makes it much more difficult to afford many bells and whistles….but that doesn’t stop them from wanting it all.

Each year a group of former students, that have “graduated” from my program, and I teach a breakout session at a conference specifically organized for people with disabilities. The students really enjoy sharing the knowledge they have learned. They also like being able to tell the conference goers that they have learned the difference between needs and wants.

One of my favorite student stories that I share whenever I get a chance is about a young woman I worked with several years ago. She lived independently in an apartment. One month she told me she was going to skip paying her electric bill so she could get cable! Most of my students can put the pieces together pretty quickly and they realize without electricity the young lady couldn’t even watch TV. They laugh…and hopefully they think before making such a decision themselves!!

The A – Z Challenge will run through April. Each day is a different letter and a different photo…I hope you all enjoy!