A Million to One

***Originally posted in lifeinthespectrum.com.

My daughter has been asking me to write a book that she could then illustrate. I have half a dozen book ideas bouncing around my brain, but poems feel more like her style. I’m looking forward to seeing the fun collection my little artist and I can create together. Here’s the first poem that I am comfortable sharing. These are aimed at kids, but there are winks for adults, too. I just started these today, so the artwork is still in progress. ☺️

A MILLION TO ONE

Some people will tell you,

Don’t bother to start.

A million to one chance

That you’ll get the part.

Don’t waste your time writing.

Just put down that pen.

Don’t spend your years wishing

For dreams with no end.

Set free all of your hopes.

Just let each one go.

There’s no point in trying.

Stick with status quo.

But don’t you dare listen.

It’s your path to walk.

Their words have no power.

It’s only just talk.

Real magic can happen

If you join the dance,

‘Cause no matter the odds,

There’s always a chance!

– Jo Price

Never forget that impossible is not the same as improbable. Even the most unlikely of odds still means that it can happen. Aim for greatness and follow your dreams. Always. ❤️

***Originally posted in lifeinthespectrum.com.

Back to School Anxiety (Mine, Not Theirs)

It all begins once more tomorrow. We went through the various outfit options, prepped the lunches and backpacks, and multiple kids got in big trouble before it was over. So all in all, it was a standard school night kind of evening. I already know that I will be terribly sad in the morning when I drop them off, and then I will be even sadder when I come home to the deafening silence of an empty home. Thankfully that pile o’ dishes and crumbs that will greet me upon my return will most definitely be awaiting me will remind me of their close proximity. Part of me is being sacrcastic, but a bigger part of me is genuinely grateful for everything they leave scattered in their collective kid wake.

The good news is that if history is any indicative of future performance (which it is NOT in finance – please see attached disclosures), I may be luxuriating in the quiet after I get past my initial adjustment period. Although my favorite part of the day will always be when we are all together once more, maybe a few minutes of solitude won’t be the worst thing either.

Back to school Monday feels like a pretty crappy week starter at the moment, but I have a stockpile of work spreadsheets and truckloads of laundry that are betting otherwise. I guess we shall see.

Whetheryou are back to school, over school, past school, or just rejoicing in an endless  summer, I send you wishes for a lovely Monday and a beautiful week ahead.

Big hugs to all.  Jo

Christmas Flu By

I can’t remember a Christmas when I haven’t felt a bittersweet sadness at the end of the day. Whenever this time has rolled around, I have always found myself feeling a little blue that the presents have been opened, the family events have come to a close, and the lovely decorations celebrating the reason for it all have worn out their welcome and will soon find themselves on the fast track to attic central.

However this year has officially allowed me to confirm that having 100% of your family of five simultaneously sporting a nasty flu infection for the big celebration weekend will move you right past bittersweet sentiments and straight into exhausted relief. I have also confirmed that this flu virus was the worst family gift. Ever.

Bleh and yuck.

I heard the words ‘Choose Joy’ countless times over my radio throughout this holiday season, and every single time, I wanted to throw a reindeer at the announcer. If I could find joy, wouldn’t I have opted for that right out of the gate??? Clearly it wasn’t that easy. I tried. I just couldn’t find it. And having a houseful of extremely sick humans didn’t exactly check any boxes off of my Christmas weekend wish list either.

But the strangest thing has happened. Right now in these last few minutes of Christmas, despite all of the disappointment of the past few days, I am surprised and truly grateful to feel my natural fondness for Christmas returning home to my heart where it belongs. It is familiar, and as always, is a love that easily surpasses my affection for any other time of the year. I am writing this by the fire in my living room as my family members are asleep in their beds. In this moment, there is a beautiful peacefulness. A stillness. The holiness of this day is palpable, and I can understand with perfect clarity how truly blessed we are.

There are joys to be found even in the heaviest times of our lives. We shouldn’t berate ourselves when we can’t find the light in the darkness, but we should celebrate every moment of it whenever we have clarity.

We have so much to be thankful for, but we become infected by so many things – illness, loneliness, hurt, worry, fear. They drag us down, and we feel so lost. Nevertheless we are stronger than we could ever imagine, and we never walk the path alone.

Christmas transcends the presents, the get togethers, the decorations, and most certainly the flu. It’s not about the day or the month or the season. It is about light, it is about hope, and it is about love. Those are the true gifts, and they are very, very real.

I pray that you feel the light, hope, and love that surround you always, and I pray that you cherish the true beauty of all around you and all within you.

Merry Christmas and blessings to you.  Jo

Cherish

What Do You Choose?

There have been some extremely rough headlines looping the news over the past few weeks.  I’m certainly not implying that the standard news is a bucket of rainbows and unicorns, but certain stories are under heavy discussion on social media at the moment. I’ve been upset by what I’ve been seeing as well, but I’m not going to detail any specifics of that here.  As a bonus, I’ll delete any comments that appear to be sporting the magical scent of Eau de Pandora’s Box.

However what I will say is this – there is boundless good in the country and in the world.

One month ago, countless residents in my city found themselves several feet under water.  The rain continued to inundate southeastern Texas and the days to come would reveal tremendous losses for so many.

Before the rains ceased, people of all backgrounds were already wading through treacherous waters to help their neighbors. Others were en route to join the rescue efforts.  When the skies cleared, the rest of the community raced to assist anyone in need.

Taking care of our fellow Texans was all that mattered.  There was no distinction of class or color or faith or politics.  People housed family members, friends, and strangers.  The number of volunteers and physical donations were so extensive that shelters had to turn them away repeatedly.  The neighboring states came out in force as well, and support poured in from every corner of the globe.

The hurricane created areas of devastation that brought many of us to our knees from grief.  However the response of love in return was stunningly beautiful.  I sincerely believe that this incredible experience of broad human benevolence was the divine gift of the storm.  A gift such as that is rare and precious and should never ever be forgotten.

The darkest hours often serve as the times when the brightest light can be found.  We stand by each other when the most difficult moments of our lives confront our communities.  The differences vanish, and we see the Truth that we are souls united together in this human experience.

We are going to have our differences – huge differences.  There will be times when we will fiercely disagree with other people’s actions or words.  We will expect all to understand why we are right, and we will try to convince the opposing parties to concur absolutely with our “correct” views.  But as we grow angrier and louder, the lines of division get deeper and more pronounced.

Speaking personally, if you want to try to open my heart to anything at all, approaching me with ferocity and rage is the fastest way to shatter any chance of that happening.  Again I’m not saying that I don’t have strong emotions regarding what is happening.  I just know that I have walked a different path than every other person out there.  We each see the world through our own filters that are based on our personal experiences.

Of course I believe that I’m right (because I am!).  But then again, maybe I’m just right for what I personally know at this moment.  My responses to situations years ago seemed correct at the time, but they would not necessarily be the same as the responses I would have today.  Taking it a step further, I am genuinely saddened at some of the choices I made in the past, and if I was in the same situations today, I wouldn’t repeat those mistakes.  But I didn’t see it that way then.

We don’t have to agree, and if we did, I would be letting you know what’s correct (because as my husband can confirm, I have all the answers).  It shouldn’t take a mass tragedy to reveal the best parts of ourselves and of those around us.

So for this moment right now, I want to soften my own heart.  I’m going to turn my attention to the immeasurable good that I have experienced since the hurricane while I also remember the innumerable times I felt it before the storm.  I need to turn off the noise of the media and tune out the focus on a degradation of our communities.  There are endless numbers of beautiful true stories to be found.  If we choose to fixate on anything else, that’s on us.

Recognize that you will make different choices because your perspective is not the same as anyone else’s.  This is part of the grand design.  If you don’t like a choice someone else makes, make a different one.  If you are hurt by a person’s actions, don’t replicate the behavior.  If you really want to be heard by another, try truly listening to them first.  Your anger will never soften another person’s heart nor will it heal your own hurts.  But your sincere love and compassion just might.

Love and light always – Joanna

A Better Response

1

My arms may be hairy, but the good news is that I’ll never need a coat during winter.

Do you ever dream of being young again to return to that wonderful age when you were on the cusp of puberty and surrounded by children who rejoiced in each other’s differences? Yeah. Me neither. But as is the way of being a small human, my three children are current residents of Kidville and will remain so for the next several years.

Our youngest child stays busy during the weekdays at the daycare (and our firm belief is that she rules that place each day in her standard tyrannical style with pig tails a-bobbin’ as she bosses around her classmates).  Our oldest is in middle school and is happy (today) (middle school can only be evaluated in daily increments at most). And then there’s our middle child. She is currently working on her last year of elementary school and has started to become self-conscious about her body. One might expect that she would also have achieved some cognizance regarding the need to wear her shirt the right way or possibly brushing more than a one inch section of her hair, but those details have yet to make the awareness cut.  

Nevertheless she has become fixated on the hair on her arms. She doesn’t look a human wolf and the circus has yet to call. She just has a little arm hair. As fate would have it, some random boy in her school approached her at the end of today’s school day and teased her about it. Being a tweenager goofball, he could have said anything at all, but of course that was the one he had to pick. He walked off before she could come up with a response, and she came home heart-broken.

The thing is this – I’m a mama bear when it comes to my kids (and potentially my arms as well), so my instant response was to tell her to be put on a tough face and stand up to the other child. I don’t mean that I told her to get busy whacking him in his crown with those Rapunzel-esque limbs. I told her that what he said was ridiculous, and she should just come back with a sassy response in return or maybe just feign a reaction of utter boredom should he attempt such lame insults again. I even tried to get her to practice with me, but she wasn’t having any of that. As feisty as she can be, she doesn’t have that warrior spitfire coursing through her veins (see “her mom” or “her tyrannical 3-year-old sister” for reference). She is basically a human fairy, and someone stomped on her fuzzy little wings. Seeing her little heart aching hurt me more than she could ever imagine.

You think that you are grown up and that you are so happy to be free of all the emotional complexities (a.k.a. garbage / crapola) that goes with being a child in school. As an adult, you do get attacked at times, but ultimately, you can choose to put space between you and any of those bullies of the world. You may not like the consequences, but you can walk. That’s one of the best parts about being an adult. But then you have a kid. And that kid goes to school. And someone you can’t control says something cruel and hurtful to your kid.

And because your child is effectively your heart walking around outside of your body, you hurt as much as if it was said directly to you.

So my response to her came from a defensive place. It wasn’t all “I am rubber. You are glue…” We did have an extensive conversation about his insecurity. I explained the real possibility that the boy might have actually thought that she was pretty and just didn’t know what to say. We also talked about how completely inaccurate his comments were and that she couldn’t let another person’s hollow and mean words tear down her self-image. (We did not discuss the reality that those kinds of comments will always hurt and that we spend our lives fighting with self image deficiencies. That felt a little heavy for the fuzzy arms talk.) Clearly my words impacted her deeply because her eyes glazed over and she said blandly, “Where are the Frosted Flakes?”

Sigh.

The truth is that she is a beautiful girl with gorgeous dark eyes and olive skin (the stinker!). She is not a furball, but she does have fuzzy arms. Her fuzz happens to be from dark hair while mine are fuzzy with light hair. It bugs her, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary at all. The other truth is that the picture above is of my arm, but that’s not my arm hair.  That’s my dog’s tail. We are both blondish, so it worked for me. Unfortunately it seriously weirded out the poor dog.

The real problem is that my daughter is going to be a serious headache for her father and me when her teenage bod kicks in. I have visions of her leaving for school one junior high morning and then exiting the building later that same day in slow motion with the wind blowing and an Aerosmith song playing in the background. It worries the crap out of me how pretty she might be. Thankfully for now, there is only standard motion, and Minecraft is her theme song. I’ll take that as long as I can.

So I called another mama / confidant whom I completely trust. She’s a precious friend and an adultier adult. (Another dear friend once told me that sometimes we need to seek adultier adults to help with various situations, and she was right on target.) Her suggestion was for me to sit with my daughter and focus on sending prayers for the other’s child’s insecurities to heal. I know. It’s almost exactly the same as what I said, right? Her suggestion to “Send light and love to the child who is clearly hurting” was  almost word for word the same as “Come up with a better come back, and maybe roll your eyes and yawn.” So close, yes???

Well at least God sent me an actual grown up to help me navigate the parenting waters I like to refer to as “Me and My Issues.” I’m not even really angry with the other child. His words were a reflection of his insecurity and lack of kid filters. My daughter will turn into a mega-babe (much to my dismay), and his words will be small potatoes relative to other hurts she will face.

I want to find better ways to help my children to avoid empowering the unimportant stuff. I hope to teach them how to acknowledge the untruths for what they are and to learn to dismiss the malicious words of others. I want for us all to respond from a place of love rather than a place of hurt. I pray that my mama bear within is reading this post, but I also know that she’s a beast and that I will fail dismally more times than I can imagine. But for now, I’m going to try. So I’m going to locate my inner grown up, and we will send love and light to that other child.

However if that kid messes with her again tomorrow…

(I’m just kidding!)

(I hope.)

😉  Joanna

It Does Matter

We are being pummeled by terrible news.  It’s heavy duty stuff.  Hurricanes and more hurricanes, earthquakes, massive fires, terrorism, and on and on and on.  I understand when I hear someone say that they feel helpless to do anything because there’s just too much to do.  It’s exhausting, and it’s overwhelming.

But do something good for someone else anyway.

There’s an amazing person who lives in my neighborhood.  Actually there are many of them, but this one is epic, and I seriously doubt that she even knows it.  She’s not trying to impress anyone.  She’s just doing her thing, and that happens to helping everyone she possibly can.  Before the last raindrop from the hurricane fell, she was in full gear organizing a local shelter for any flood victims in need.  The shelter has been closed for days, but she never stopped.  She just shifted to alternate relief efforts.  It’s just what she does.

We needed a break from the recent routine of incessant worry, so we took our kids to the beach yesterday.  While we were there, this beautiful story kept circling my mind.  It’s not a new tale, but I have always loved the message.  It makes me think of my amazing neighbor.  This is for you TG!

A child went to the beach with his family and saw countless starfish washed upon the beach.  As he played in the waves, he noticed a man walking along.  He would take a few steps and then toss a couple of starfish into the water.  A few more steps. A few more starfish. Over and over again. The child approached the man and said, “Why are you doing that?  You can’t save them all.  It doesn’t matter.”

The man smiled, reached down to pick up a starfish, and tossed it gently into the ocean.  He looked at the child and responded, “It mattered to that one.”

Don’t give in to apathy. Remember the power of hope.  If you can help someone, make the choice to do that.  Please note that I am not talking about enabling bad behavior or choices, but that’s a post for another day.

You know when you are acting with kindness, and the little stuff isn’t hard to do.  Your kindness matters to the one who receives it.  Good will in action may not save the world in a moment, but it does change it for the better right then and there.

Thank you to all of you who have changed my world for the better.  You inspire me to be braver, to be kinder, and to keep changing what I can for the better, too.

Love and light always – Joanna

Overcome

What I Would Have Missed

1a

Over the past couple of months, I have not written about my strong belief in angels.  I don’t ask or need for you to believe what I say in this entry, but I can’t share my experience without doing so here.  Not that I would want to anyway.  I owe them my life.

Twenty years ago, I almost died.  There was no accident.  I wasn’t suffering from a terminal illness.  I just didn’t want to fight against my tormented mind and my broken heart anymore.  It wasn’t worth it, and I wasn’t worth it.  I was lost, and I attempted to take my life.

1d

1b

When the roller coaster of emotions was climbing upward, I could recognize that everything would be alright.  I could see possibilities all around me.  But whenever the imminent crash would happen, my ability to perceive the relevance of my existence wouldn’t merely fade – it would disappear.  The darkness would swallow me whole.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had struggled for years with the unpredictability of manic depression.  I read the books.  I met with the doctors.  I took the pills.  But I couldn’t make it stop.  It was as if I had no control over my life or my sanity.  I could see it. but I couldn’t stop it.  I wanted to turn off the noise.  Turn off the pain.  Turn everything off.

1f

I couldn’t hurt myself or anyone else anymore.  I couldn’t stay any longer.  I couldn’t hold on.  I took the pills.  Handfuls of them.  I was blind with confusion and hurt.  I was going under and I wanted to let go.

I stood in the little bathroom with the empty pill bottle in my hand, and I heard a clear voice that was not my own.  “This is it.  You have to do something NOW.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A switch flipped inside me in an instant.  Immediately my head became clear and my mind snapped to attention.  I knew what I had heard, and I understood exactly what it was saying to me.

I had to get those pills out of my body right away.  I tried to throw them up but I couldn’t.  I calmly approached my mother and told her that I needed ipecac syrup or some other medicine that would force me to vomit.  She was terrified but managed to track some down.  I can still envision the countless pills floating in the water.  Even though I had expelled the pills within minutes after taking them, I still slept for two straight days.

1kThat experience changed me on every level.  It didn’t make the ups and downs go away.  It didn’t stop my anxiety problems, my OCD tendencies, or my mercurial emotions.  I didn’t become the easiest person to be friends with nor did I become a dream family member at all times (or even most times, but I really do try).  However my eyes were opened.  I realized that I was supposed to be here, I was not alone at any point, and my life had value.  I didn’t have the slightest idea about the blessings I would receive nor did I understand those I would give.  I didn’t understand my true value, and I suppose, to a very great extent, I still don’t.  But I knew then that my worth was beyond measure.

I matter.  We all do.

There are moments in our lives that can change everything.  Our destinies can be shaped over time or they can be flipped in an instant.  When you have depression, the finality of that choice can be lost when you are in the darkness.   It will pass.1g

There is more light around you and in you than you could ever imagine.  There is beauty and wonder and love and hope and magic.  And there are angels.

Your life is precious, and you are never alone.

Do not give in to the illusion of endless darkness.  There is no darkness without the light.  The sun is always there even when you can’t see it.  Just give it a little more time.1e

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hold on a bit more.  Let the possibilities of your life become beautiful realities.  Never give up on hope.

You can’t fathom what you would never want to miss.

1l

In love and light always – Joanna

***There are countless photos I wanted to include of others who make my heart smile, but I didn’t need to ask permission from this crew.  🙂

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