formerly Diane's Addled Ramblings... the ramblings are still addled, just like before, and the URL is still the same...
it's just the title at the top of the page that's new

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Let It Be

During the move, Ryan and I realized just how many books we have. A lot. A ridiculous lot. Probably too many (is that even possible? Well, if it is, we do). But we unpacked them all, donated a few, and shelved the rest. I saved a couple to put out on the coffee table in the living room; one is a slender volume, titled, simply, Be.

It was given to me by my cousin, Alyce -- a remarkable young woman, half my age. Alyce lives in Australia and I have never met her in person, but I adore her. We began corresponding years ago, when she was about 15 or 16 and though we don't keep in touch regularly anymore, seeing her name in my email in-box makes me very, very happy. 

Anyway, this little book, compiled by Kobi Yamada, is lovely. Each 2-page spread consists of, on the left side, a 'be statement' (like, be present, be excited, or be amazing) and, on the right side, a quote that describes the statement. I read it often. Sometimes I forget (or find it impossible) to be any of the things in the book. Sometimes I try to hard to be all of them all at once. 


Lately, I'm trying to just be me... to just be... and to just let it be and see what I become

This afternoon, I saw the movie, Wild, based on the book by the same name, by Cheryl Strayed. I haven't read the book yet, but it's on my list (and after the movie, it jumped a few spots to the top). It's the story of a woman who, after the death of her beloved mother, hits rock bottom. Unable to forgive herself her failings, she attempts redemption by walking 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from Mexico to Canada. The decision to do the hike, made in one of her darkest moments, was intended to do, and to honor, something her mother did her whole life. She described it as such,

"I'm going to put myself in the way of beauty." 

When she uttered that line, my heart caught in my throat and the tears came. My story is not the same as Chery Strayed's. My failings are not the same as hers. But I understand the darkness. I understand debilitating sadness. I understand feeling beyond redemption. And I understand the need to put oneself in the way of beauty.

This journey of 1,000 miles allowed her to be... to be in her head... to be in the moment... to be in physical pain that allowed her to see her way out of emotional pain... and to be in the way of beauty. It was a story about fear... and facing fear. It was about wanting to quit but persevering... seeing something really important through. It was about a woman owning her mistakes, her story, her life, and looking inward for redemption. 

The last few lines of dialog in the movie found me hurriedly scribbling them down so as not to forget them:

What if I forgave myself? What if I forgave myself, even though I'd done something I shouldn't have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I'd done, other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time, I wouldn't do anything differently than I'd done? What if what made me do all those things was also what got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was? How wild it was, to let it be.

How wild it was to let it be.

I'm not going to walk the Pacific Crest Trail... not this year, anyway :). But while watching the movie, I realized that I've been working hard to put myself in the way of beauty... I realized that I've been taking steps to face my fears, and to own my mistakes, my story, and my life... I realized that I'm getting closer to the redemption I've been seeking within myself... and I realized that just letting it be is getting easier.

How wild it is. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015


As a mother, I delight in my child's accomplishments. I really and truly do. I mean, I'm supposed to. right? It's what we do. We teach them, guide them, nudge them, etc, etc, and when they achieve, we cheer and beam and bask and maybe even cry a little. 

Right? Right. 

And if our children are healthy and smart, we expect accomplishments. Right? We do. We know that if we provide what they need to grow and thrive, they will do just that -- grow and thrive. 

I've always counted myself so very lucky that my child is healthy and smart and she has done nothing but grow, thrive, and accomplish things her whole life. Even when she has struggled, I never doubted that she would succeed with effort. She met all the 'normal' milestones, often early; she is exceptional at many things; she will go on, I believe, to do great life's work. 

I am, and have always been, grateful. 

I have also wondered how I would have raised her had she not been healthy. I've wondered how I would have parented her had she been born with, or acquired, a disability. I was raised with a brother who is deaf; I've seen members of family parent a child who will never walk or talk or do any of the the things most kids do. So I've wondered what it would be like to watch my daughter struggle, not knowing whether or not she would succeed. 

I am ridiculously fortunate that my job allows me to work with people with disabilities. On Mondays, I get to teach a class for four adults who, in their hearts and minds, are children. It is the very best part of my week. We focus on reading and math but, because they are all at different levels, coming up with lessons that will engage all four is a challenge. It's one I love and in working to meet the challenge, I'm learning as much as I'm teaching. 

Because of their disabilities, all of which are intellectual and all of which are significant, my expectations about what they can actually accomplish are low. Now, I don't mean that I don't think they are capable of learning or making improvements. They are. I know they are. And I strive to help them do so. But unlike with my daughter, I don't expect successes. I hope for them. But I don't expect them. I have adjusted my expectations so that I don't push my students to the point of frustration; so that patience (not usually a word I use in reference to myself) is the quality I try hard to keep at the front of my mind and in my actions. Always. Everything is a struggle for them and they do not always succeed. Or when they do, their successes are, by 'normal' standards, small. And that's OK. As long as they are engaged and enjoying our time together, I consider the class is a success. 

This past Monday, the struggle was evident... and the success was sweet.

One of my students is a wonderful man-boy who is always cheerful and talking (even though much of what he says is simply repeating things over and over). He can read but doesn't comprehend much. He also doesn't really have the ability to think in the abstract. For example, in class on Monday, the assignment was to find pictures (in magazines) of words I'd written on flashcards (each student had 9 words, 3 beginning with one letter, 3 with another, and 3 with a third). I suggested that they look for several pictures at once, but this proved difficult for everyone, especially my non-abstract-thinker. I also suggested that if they couldn't find a picture for a word I'd written, they could find another beginning with the same letter (i.e. if someone couldn't find a picture a picture of a truck, a picture of a table would do). My abstract thinker really struggled with this. He would look for a picture of the truck for days, but to switch to the table? Impossible. 

Or so I thought.

One of the pictures he was supposed to find was a monkey. When he couldn't, I gave him a picture of M&Ms, since they start with M. He pasted it to his paper as I'd instructed, but when he referred back to it, he kept calling the M&Ms 'monkeys.' His brain couldn't make the switch from what he was supposed to find to what he did find.

And it was fine. 

I corrected him each time, explaining that the picture was of another M word. Then he started to look for a picture of a barn, but was unable to find one. After about 5 minutes of me making suggestions, like baby, ball, boy, bathtub, etc, he was still stuck on the barn. Again, his brain simply couldn't make the switch. 

And it was fine. 

Someone else needed my help, so I left him to search for the barn. Then, a few minutes later... 

"Diane! Look! Bottle! It's a B-word!"

Indeed, he was holding up a picture of a bottle. A B-word. Another B-word. Not a barn. His brain made the switch. And he was so, so proud.

And it was so much more than fine.

I was so incredibly proud of him and told him so. I cheered. He beamed. He basked. 

And I might have cried. 

Just a little. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

This Is What I'm Talking 'Bout...

The other day, I did a post about giving. You can read it right here, if you'd like. In it, I talked about a lesson I learned (one I thought I knew) about how, when I give a gift (any sort of gift), I have to do it without expectation of any sort of reward. The gift should be -- no, the gift is -- in the giving.

Today, I had lunch with my friend, Loren. Loren is pretty much the best person I know. He rescues animals and people, usually at some ridiculous cost to himself (in money, time, energy, possibility of jail-time, etc). And when you tell him what a nice guy you think he is, he just shrugs it off, head hanging in embarrassment, all aw shucks-like. I love that about him.

I love him.

He has given me more gifts than I can count -- some of the best I've ever received -- and more than I can ever repay. But he doesn't keep score. He can't, otherwise, he'd have stopped giving a long time ago (because he won, that's why). That, or he's expecting a whopper for his next birthday!

Uh oh.

Anyway, at lunch, he told me a story that I had to relay. He won't tell it himself because he doesn't want it to appear as thought he's looking for the 'attaboy' pat on the back. He never is. I told him that I wrestle with that, too, but here is what I know for sure: When I read or hear about someone doing something nice for someone, it makes me want to do something nice, too. So I figure that when I tell about something nice I've done, it might make another person want to do something nice for someone else. We're all connected like that.

Back to the story...

First, you should know that Loren's lunch stories often extend into dinner... and the weekend. He's... wordy. (And the fact that I interrupt with snarky comments every other word doesn't help). But he got it out today before our enchiladas were even finished (it was a Christmas miracle!).

Anyhoo... just before Christmas, he was in that big store I won't go to, picking up some last minute things. The lines at the registers were long and he was tired and cranky, ready to just be done. Then he saw a tiny old lady in a tiny old wheelchair, eyeing the candy in the impulse section (also known as the 'Here comes Diane, we'll get her now' section). Because he's helpful and because he's never met a stranger, he asked if he could reach something for her. She lamented that she couldn't find the Mounds candy bar she was looking for. Indeed there were no Mounds in the display, not even next to the Almond Joys (at this point in the story, I broke into the 'Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't' refrain... I told you, I'm obnoxious. I don't know why we're still friends). Loren looked in the display in another aisle for her, but still no Mounds. She explained to him that every Christmas, she gets herself one... because for 50 years, her husband always put one in her stocking.

For 50 years, her husband always put one in her stocking.

Well, that did it.

Loren said his good-byes, left her to check out, and sprinted (as fast as a short man laden with gifts can sprint) to the back of the store and the big candy aisle. He located the Mounds bars, packaged in sleeves, and picked up about $10 worth -- enough Mounds bars to see that sweet old lady to the end of days. Then he sprinted back to the front of the store, plowing a blonde lady down in the process, and got back in line. A long line. A long, slow line. But, as luck would have it, the heroine of our story was sat at the front of the store, waiting for a ride. Finally through the line, Loren made it to her and said,

"A fat man in a red suit said I should give these to you," and handed over the Mounds bars.

I don't know for sure how that little old lady felt, but I can imagine. I'm sure you can, too.

And Loren? He got all choked up when he told me it was the very best part of his holiday. The very best part.


The gift...

It's in the giving.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Good Stuff

The other day, a friend posted a photo of a 'gratitude jar' on Facebook... she said she was going to make keeping the jar a practice in her life for 2015. The idea is to write down something you're grateful for or something good that happened, each day, and drop it in the jar. And at the end of the year, you'll have 365 good things to reflect upon.

I like it!

I have, for years, kept gratitude journals. I'm not always good with keeping up with them but when I do, I find myself happier and able to maintain a more positive mindset than when I don't. It makes sense, of course. It has been my experience that when I focus on what I have, what I love, and what I'm grateful for, I'm not as inclined to be miserable about what I don't have.

I like this whole jar idea because it can be for Ryan and me (and what teenager do you know who wouldn't benefit from taking time every day to think about what she's thankful for?)... it'll be out in the open and not a journal tucked away on a shelf, easily forgotten... and it'll give me something to do with this enormous glass cylinder vase I unearthed during the move (heaven only knows what I bought it for in the first place).

I'm going to call it 'The Good Stuff Jar' (because that sounds better than 'The Good Stuff Glass Cylinder-I-Probably-Bought-On-Sale-With-Some-Project-In-Mind-But-Never-Followed-Through-With') and I'm going to put it in the dining room, I think, as that's the one room we have to pass through to get to almost every other room in the house. I might even use some chalkboard paint to gussy it up and label it. I might not, as it involves paint and a brush and I've had enough of that, thank you very much. We'll see.

So, what would you write down for your 'Good Stuff Jar' for January 1, 2015? Hmmmm?