Thursday, July 20, 2017

It's just Thursday...

Has it been almost a year since my last post....  perhaps, yes, it sure has.

I hear the lawn mower run, as a father-son team take care of our overgrown grass.  We have very capable hands in the house to take care of this sometimes, tedious chore, but when this nice dad and son team offered to mow our lawn for a donation, we couldn't say no.  Our teenagers would not have it any other way... LOL  Wink, Wink! ;-)

What a day... Recuperating from skin procedure, having to clean wounds, change gauze and apply more Neosporin that one can possibly imagine, only draws a loud UGH from me. Pity party over because I have to still work full time, and go to school full time... I don't have time to dwell and stress out about how I miss and need my boy by my side every single minute of my day, and that the seven page paper due on Saturday forces me to dig deep into the psyche of the former, yet, perpetual, student affairs professional in me.  Nope, no time... you know why?  Because of my hands are getting wrinkly.  There are lines everywhere.  I need to put more lotion on them!!!!

I am staring at my hands and all I see are lines.  Actually, they remind me of my mothers hands.  At 42, I have outlived my mother five years after being the age she was when she died.  My nails are short because I type (A LOT!) and at the same time, I see my grandfather Eddie's hands.  Holy shit, I have their hands! Why am I writing about this?  I don't know.  But what I do know, is that today, in the middle of the pain of my scar wounds, my work and school stress, I was able to pause and look at my hands.  That made me think of my mother, and it just now made me think of my Abuelo.

These awesome people, father and daughter, who have huge meaning in my life, seem to be creeping around me more than ever.  I can only say it's because of how much I love and think of them.  They never left, they are with me.  I keep staring at my hands....

A pause for the day to reflect and be grateful for today is 100%  a result of our Grandpa Uhlig, who we went to see at the hospital.  You see, Grandpa, Joseph Uhlig, is 93 years old, a dedicated World War II veteran.  He served in the Navy in the Pacific, and lost his brother in Pearl Harbor, that day.  Yes, that day.  Grandpa is my father-in-law, and the father of his youngest son, Paul, my best friend, love of my life and husband.  Grandpa has been having ups and downs lately, but that 93 yr old Texan heart, while tired, keep going.  He is sharp as a tool and funny as hell.  I always greet him as "Hey handsome" and he smiles, saying "Well, I like that!" Paul held his dad's hands today, and Sarah, our eldest, held his hands as well.  Grandpa likes to have his hands held because he and Dorothy, my mother-in-law, have held hands through thick and thin for more than 60 years of marriage.  They are THAT couple you want to emulate, you are inspired by, you look up to.  Commitment, faith, respect, a hint of mischief I bet, and most unconditionally, LOVE.  Mind you, I just joined this crew a few months ago... and I can see is LOVE!  ;-)

We left the hospital with Grandpa's blood pressure close to "normal" and with the promise of  tomorrow, as we gathered the kiddos to drive home and sort out the details for the next 24-48 hrs.   He said something to me that I will never forget, and it will forever be engraved in my quick, short-lived few moments I have had with him... but that's between my kind, and sweet, father -in-law, and me---well, and anyone else who was at earshot! ;-)

 Schedules must be tweaked, flexibility on high, and chins up with excitement of new days and new adventures awaiting, including college visits, doggie day camps, mommy-daddy time and pizza and movie night.  We left the hospital with hearts full of love, and faith, grateful for what we have, blessed with the memories of those we loved and lost, and inspired by their memories for a better tomorrow of those blessings around us, big, small, wrinkled, as my hands... May that be our prayer for you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Just a little reminder about change! Bring it on...

I realized earlier this week I had not posted in over 4 months.  My self-proclaimed no. 1 fan said "You know what I miss? I miss your blog."  Those words have echoed in my mind for a few days now, so here I am.  Where to begin and how to summarize the many thought running a million miles a minute inside my mind. 

I could write about the many wonderful things that happened to me this summer, or even in the last six months. I could write about how my life has taken an exquisitely lovely turn into the bliss of true love, partnership and the dawn of a new life that will bring much joy, never sugarcoating the challenges that may come, but looking at them in the face, saying "I am not afraid. I've made it this far!"

What seems to be bubbling up inside is a feeling of calmness, peace, with a hint of excitement of what may come.  New life, new routines, a move, a big move, a shift. In other words ...change.  Many of us can't quite handle change very well. And "change" itself can be yucky word symbolizing something may be broken and needs fixing, or an end, a loss; something we need to adjust and get used to again. 

But is it a "thing", this change we are so afraid of? No, I think it is in ourselves. We need to change, or figure out how to react when that change comes... I can speak for one that has HAD TO find an appreciation to balancing change with routine.  Yes, it's called balance: a novelty concept! ;-)  I am no expert in it, but I certainly have had to embrace it, and you know what... get used to it.  Change comes to our lives every day, at any age, in any shape or form.  From being a 12 year old whose mom suddenly dies, to having to leave the comfort zone that is home, family, for education and new perspective because you were taught just that: there is a whole world right in front of your eyes, if you just OPEN THEM!  

Change is good. It's not easy, I never said that.  But, amidst routines and staleness of how "things have been" or how "they used to be", the clock keeps ticking.  Time passes, and life is precious...Oh, so precious.  So, change comes.  So what do we do?  How do we handle it?  Do we get angry? Maybe. Sad? Sure.  I made a decision a long time ago to NOT allow the uncomfortable and sometimes awkward feelings that change brings to linger.  My pity parties are short lived--I simply don't have time for them.  Too many blessings and wonderful lives and loves to celebrate.  

CAVEAT:  I am more than aware that "change" comes in different layers of intensity as I have mentioned, so consider the word change loosely, yet loaded, as it can be applied to so many aspects in our lives. And I have learned from one person in particular how to handle major life change with patience, acceptance, grace, and even humor. He is my hero and my example... 

So, the decision is this, and I remind myself of it every day when anything hints change in my life... 

get over it, get used to it... Whatever it is that life places in front of you that prompts change, stand firm. Look at it in the eye and do not be afraid of it.  It's a lesson from a much higher power put forth because by now, you've been able to pass many a tests, jumped through hoops, survived some of the most horrific heartaches faced.  You are stronger than you know... and a little bit of change in your routine can be faced with strength, courage and resilience.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

On leadership...

"We shape our buildings, therefore, we shape us" - Winston Churchill

As part of a doctoral course, I recently had to examine and reflect on this quote from the famous Prime Minister of England, who said these words at a time his country had been ravaged by war and left with uncertainly for a future.  Indeed, a time that could be described as transformative, when transformative was certainly not as much a buzz word as it now...

My interpretation of the quote included, but was not limited to, a vision and understanding of how a physical space can touch, change a community's life.  A place can become alive for a person and impact their outlook on life.  A building can become a home and safe haven for employees. We, as people can physically shape the building by "using it", walking through its doors, riding elevators, chatting with co-workers at the water cooler, or doing our jobs in our stations.  This is of course, after the actual building has been built by hard working laborers who left their sweat and deep breaths with every brick and mortar laid. 

We shape our buildings, therefore we shape us, through the conversations that take place, the life experiences shared, the tears shed, as well as the laughs.

I believe it takes great leadership to make difficult decisions.  I don't know for a fact, but perhaps Winston Churchill had to decide to demolish a crumbling building in order to rebuild a new, stronger one, with a solid infrastructure and secure beams, to ensure its inhabitants, people, friends, and colleagues alike would have a roof over their heads long term.  Then more shaping takes place.  And the shaping is done by us, thanks to the building.  How do we come together to shape it better?  How are all members of a community invited to share views and opinion of what this so-called shaping should be.  Ultimately, how does this experience of exchanges, agreements, disagreements shape us as a community... Can we agree to disagree?  Can we come to a consensus?  Can we trust our leadership?  I hope yes...

As a self- proclaimed contradicting realist, who sees things from a practical perspective, never losing hope in the ideal, I hope negative circumstances and events in life shape us as a community of imperfectly human people to critically think and not lose sight of the greater good.  A city needs to be rebuilt.  A program should be evaluated and assessed to yield better results.  A leader must lead in order to prepare his or her people for what the future will bring.
We may not agree with the methods of the re-shaping, but how that it is taking place place. What we must realize is that it is having a direct impact on us, therefore shaping us...  When we as a people embrace this concept, transformational learning takes place through transformational leadership. 

As I tackle my second quarter in the challenging yet fulfilling journey of doctoral studies in transformational leadership, I am reassured of what I have felt for a long time.  Kendra Cherry sums it up well.

"Transformational leaders not only challenge the status quo; they also encourage creativity among followers. The leader encourages followers to explore new ways of doing things and new opportunities to learn.
Transformational leadership also involves offering support and encouragement to individual followers. In order to foster supportive relationships, transformational leaders keep lines of communication open so that followers feel free to share ideas and so that leaders can offer direct recognition of the unique contributions of each follower.
Transformational leaders have a clear vision that they are able to articulate to followers. These leaders are also able to help followers experience the same passion and motivation to fulfill these goals.
The transformational leader serve as a role model for followers. Because followers trust and respect the leader, they emulate this individual and internalize his or her ideals."

I would add that the transformational leader would never lose the enthusiasm and fulfillment in the process, the journey. Having said that, a leader can't do it all alone. He or she needs a community, collective and supportive, in order to not genuinely strengthen the integrity of the organization, program or company.  

Is it easy? Of course not. We, individual adult learners, live and work every day challenged by the physical, spiritual and even hypothetical buildings we shape.  May we allow the same buildings to shape us in a way we can be proud of, with trust, faith, enthusiasm and hope.

"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm" - Winston Churchill.
 Cherry, K. What Is Transformational Leadership? How Transformational Leadership Inspire

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A letter to my mother... Una carta para mi mamá...

Feb. 21, 2016

I found this draft... written four years ago, in St. Louis, MO.

Now, on the eve of 29 years after your departure, I feel you closer than ever...  GRACIAS, por iluminarme y aclararme las dudas que he tenido, através de tu mamá, nuestra Abuela Irma, tu hermana, Surama... y todos los demás que fueron parte de tu historia, y han sido parte de la mia.. Thank you for always being with me, and through so many people, feelings and hunches, even dreams, speak to me so I know you are never far.  When I wrote the letter below, I had just outlived you, recently turned 37.  Now, older and happier than ever with the woman that I am, I hope and pray you see that you did good... These days you are one with your parents, together after Abuela, so tired of a long life and many years without you, finally went your way in November. I am sure you and your awesome Papi, Abuelo Eddie, are all happy to be together...

Feb 21, 2012 

Dear Mama,

Eventhough we "talk" often, in dreams, in memories, in prayers, you know I like to write so I wrote you this letter on the eve of the day that changed my life 25 years ago. Feb. 22, 1987 is a date I will never forget.  We both know what happened, so I won't dwell on it- Jerry and I were at school, Papa was out of town. We were called in to talk to Padre Vela, where he told us you were gone. I remember it all very clearly and the days that followed.
But this letter is more to say thank you. While you might think I am still angry at you for leaving us, for not sticking around to see us grow, por tirar la toalla, the answer is no. I am not angry at anyone, for I have grown up and I thank you. For your life, as short as it was, was part of what has defined mine.  It has not been easy, especially recent years, but I never doubted your presence and support. I felt your hand on my shoulder as I faced unpleasant news, acts of injustice and challenging obstacles. I felt your hand on my shoulder. I felt your presence and a sense of peace and calmness came over me. I did it. I faced what I had to face with strength, a strength I had no idea I had. Perhaps you gave me the strength you couldn't find yourself to speak up, to say no, enough, that's not right, that is not the life I want to live. Perhaps...

I love to hear stories about you. EVERYONE I have met that knew you, loved you and said you were the life of the party. Sure, there were problems. Nobody is perfect. You were not. I certainly am not, but your imperfection has helped me become a stronger woman, a better mother. No one can take away MY memories of you. I remember the bad, but I also remember the good, and it sure outweighs the bad. You loved us dearly, you were fun. Alcahueta! You'd be lovin' and spoilin' Luis as often as your ability to get off the phone allowed. LOL Yes, like my friend Frankie often says "If your mother were around when they invented cell phones, she'd be on it all day!"

In your own way you have answered many questions I have had for 25 years. Thank you for that. I don't expect people to understand. This is my relationship with you. How different would it be if you were alive, I wonder? I hope, I have dreamed it pretty good. Like I dreamed last September of having girl talk in the kitchen, I was 36 (your age 25 years ago) and YOU were 36. I told you what someone had said to me and you said "tell them to f-off!" yeah! That's my mom, don't mess with her. You were there for me, like when you were there when Luis Enrique was born... I can count with one hand the people that know of Nurse Angie. Nurse Angie was the nurse that was with me during labor when Luis was born. I was in pain, medicated and couldn't take it anymore. Angie was awesome, held my hand, supported me, stayed until Luis came into this world... then she was gone. After an hour or so I asked where she went because I wanted to say thank her. The nurse on duty looked at me and said "there's no Angie working here." And just like that, there was no Angie, ever. Really? Who knows. I was NOT that out of it from the epidural... :) Anyway, thank you for sending Angie to help me out. I honestly couldn't have done it without her... or you.

You were beautiful, young and until the last year, full of life.  Your skin darkened, your hair thinned out even more than it had over the years.  You weighed less than 100 lbs. and mentally, well, you were in and out. When your tiny body gave in, you gave up. I know now you couldn't take the pressures of the demons that troubled you, the self inflicted pain and the pain others caused in you. I understand. I see you everyday in the mirror. No, I am not you, but I am part of you and you are part of me. Thank you for Abuela Irma, who I talked to a couple of weeks ago. She misses you so. I am sure Abuelo is so happy to be with you. He loved you more! I miss him dearly and think of him everyday.

I could mention others but that's not the point of this letter. This is for you, about you and me, from me. I have not enjoyed being a mother-less daughter, a mother-less mother, but I have enjoyed saying I was, I am your daughter and of memories created when I was little. How you loved Christmas, hosting Abuela y Abuelo every other weekend it felt like. That was the good, outweighing the bad. I am sorry I couldn't help you. What I can do for you is continue to love you, respect you as my mother and defend you with all that love and strength since you are not here to defend yourself, or your memory.  You were and are beautiful, smart, talented and I miss you more now than 25 years ago. You will always be my mother and no one can take that away. For that, I am grateful.

Know that your portrait hangs in Luis' room. He sees you every day and knows you are also a guardian angel watching over him. Cuidamelo siempre, como me has cuidado a mi.
Gracias Mama...
Jessica, Gatita... Tata.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

One word: Thank you!

How to sum up a year? How is it possible to describe an array of experiences, emotions, reactions, rejections, all valid, all appreciated, even in the midst of the fog they might have emerged from. Since the 41st year of my life began exactly two months ago, I will spare you the redundancy that would be the lessons learned during the previous and the awesomeness that has manifested from that moment on...  All mostly still in effect, so for a recollection of the last year accounts of the mis-adventures of Jessica, see post "525,600 minutes." You won't be disappointed.

The latter part of 2015 was a bit rough, I won't sugar-coated. I, we, lost loved ones. And you know what, it was painful. In fact, it sucked! These were people of faith who lived their lives in love, for family, dedicated to careers, as wives, mothers, grandmothers, mentors, friends, teachers, priests, giants and scholars, all with the biggest hearts one can only imagine.  For those of us who were touched, nurtured, taught, challenged and loved by all of them, we are blessed. We are better people then we were a month ago, six months, a year ago. So, thank you.

Thank you... for the laughter.

Thank you... for the tears you wiped away.

Thank you.... for the questions I had trouble answering but made me think.

Thank you... for listening when that is all that was needed at the time. No response, no critique, just to listen.

Thank you... for challenging my decisions, for YOU KNEW they weren't really what my heart wanted.

Thank you... for helping me be patient.

Thank you... for reminding us to simply observe and discern; to slow down and have faith. The truth always comes out.

Thank you... for my friends, my colleagues and intellectual equals who fill my mind and heart with the joy of learning, and quench my thirst for knowledge, while nurturing the heart with love.

Thank you... for the children in our lives and the smiles they bring to our souls, for they are "us" and we rejoice in seeing them grow into their own selves, as better versions of ourselves! ;-)

Thank you ... for new days and new year's eves we can celebrate in love and life, in prayer and in sincere gratefulness so we never, ever, take for granted a day in our lives. Each day is a gift and to share that gift with our loved ones is a blessing.

It's only January 7, 2016, and already so many wonderful things are happening.  They can be as simple as a "good morning" or a "thank you" or a "God bless you" or an "I love you"-- all wonderful and all real. No resolutions here, perhaps only to be reminded to enjoy each day and see the good in what it brings, regardless of its challenges. Oh yeah, and homework, now that doctoral studies are HERE. Yes, that too is real! ;-) Take this year and make it yours. DO IT! Have faith and patience and let that be star that guides your way...

Monday, November 23, 2015


For the first twelve years of my life I knew and loved one Abuela. I had another Abuela; one that became a constant present in my formative years, especially when I was a college student, celebrating my accomplishments, being a special partner-in-shopping-crime during the holiday visits, and never, ever letting me go back to school without a new bottle of shampoo. That was Abuela Gloria, the life of the party, gone too soon, who I loved dearly.

However, this entry, is about the other Abuela. The first. The only one and only, Abuela Irma. I stress that she was the first one because for reasons only too complicated for me to understand at the time, she and my grandfather Eddie, my mom's parents, were the set of grandparents we were in constant contact with. And, I mean, constant. Every weekend, if not every-other weekend, holiday and summer vacation, my brother and I were shipped to Mayaguez, to stay with them. That was our second home growing up. The only other home we felt safe, loved, taken care off and were we knew we'd hit the jackpot with every visit to "THE MALL!" My brother and I agreed, so many years ago, that they were the only grandparents of our childhood. They represented a different life, a happy life and many of the happiest of moments around my mother's memory.

Thursday, November 12, red-eye to San Juan to see Abuela. My cousin called. After the fall that broke her hip and dislocated her 95 year old arm, they had to call 911 and take her to the hospital. Blood count low, lots of pain and not eating well. What more to do... I had to go. I went. For the next four days I sat by her side, only to leave her for a few hours of sleep and re-grouping.

The time for re-group came by means of sitting with my aunt, my mother's younger sister, and talk about life. Stories told many times before brought laughter and tears. Stories never before shared stormed through with rage, frustration and the temptation to resurrect and perpetuate pain felt so many years ago when my mother's untimely death changed all of our lives forever.

Abuela, we (including my cousins), all agreed was the strongest, most stubborn, pain in the ass from la playa de Humacao. She married one of the smartest, most handsomest from the near by, Naguabo, Eddie Ortiz and had three daughters. My grandfather, my favorite person in the whole world, was a college professor, scientist, who could have been the most renowned in his field, instead, settled for teaching and family. Their middle daughter, Geraldina, my mother, was like the Pipe Piper. Our house, Hamelin. Everyone gathered there for birthdays, weekend visits, joyous occasions, post-illness care.

From the other two sisters, five more grandchildren joined the party and on rare occasions, Abuelo Eddie would pack up his Toyota Corolla, with all of us in tow for what seemed the most exciting adventure of our lives. We'd go to the movies, shop, they both, in their own ways, taught us lessons still today, very much part of our core.

Abuelo loved Classical music. He played the mandolin, la mandolina, ever so sweetly, the sound of the strings and the melody that stemmed from them, embedded in my mind. I now realize that I have not heard a mandolina being played until I went to a movie, Captain Corelli's Mandolin. All I could do was close my eyes and not see the captain, the scenery, but be transported to the living room in the house in Mayaguez, where Abuelo Eddie stood and played, while smiling, winking in approval of my awe at him. He was my hero. The bust of Beethoven proudly displayed on the very top shelf of his bookshelf, where not only the Classics were featured, but volumes and volumes of the PDR (Physicians Desk Reference), American Journal of Physics and publications from the American Institute of Physics. His Ph.D in Physics diploma from Texas A & M University, on the wall. On occasion we'd pause to catch a baseball game... He a Cubs fan, I a Met, 'nuff said! ;-)

Abuela, in the kitchen, cooking, always cooking. Arroz con carne molida; arroz con salsita; lasagna, and the best, and personal favorite: piñon!!!--for those of you who are not familiar with what piñon is, think lasagna with sweet platanos instead of pasta, and seasoned ground beef, coated with egg and cheese. Heaven, I mean, heaven!

There are two great aspects of Jessica's life I owe to Abuela: my love for coffee and my opinion of bicycles: painful and unnecessary. ;-) I don't know how old I was, honestly, but I do have vivid memories of drinking coffee (really, sweet milk and a hint of coffee, don't panic!) in the bottle! So, I was young. As I got older, she knew that she had to brew some fresh coffee before I would have to ask. To this day, I make and drink coffee in the afternoon because of her. The bike thing, well, it's no big deal, really. For one I was never really interested in riding bicycles and that was perpetuated when Abuela taught me how to roller-skate! I had a pair of white, red laced, red-wheels, high tops that were awesome. She would hold my hands and pull from one direction, then push me forward the other direction until I could do it on my own. We started indoors. The hallway leading from the bedrooms to the living rooms was long and had a plastic (yes, plastic!!! LOL) rug so made it "safe" for me to master the skating with little damage to my knees or butt. After a few hours confident in my roller-skating skills, we ventured outside. To the sidewalks!!!!!! The sidewalk by their house was flat, not gravelly, and made it for a very smooth, and FAST, ride. I LOVED IT!  A couple of bruised marks here and there well worth it. Gracias, Abuela. You taught me how to soar! And bikes, overrated. ;-)

Now here we are, you are still here, but in a lot of pain. Your body shutting down, your spirit saying "enough." Your strength, admirable. You buried a daughter, faced life after that and remained loyal to the memory instilled in us. When your Eddie left you, you were never the same. Ten years since then and the color of your hair turned silver gray, your walk, slowed down and your tears flowed more often then before. Yet, during every visit, you still found a way to tell us a joke, make noises like sheep --sorry, folks, cousins will get it!!-- take my hands and tell me how much they looked like mama's, while studying the birthmarks on my face, like hers, the keloid scars on my arm and chest. When I walked in wearing sunglasses and my hair back, your face lit up because I look like mama now. It made you happy, while it made you sad. You never let me leave the house empty-handed, including the $20 for gas, slipped ever so carefully and quietly so no one would notice. You have been a pillar of strength and even though I have not been there with you every day, all these years, I hope you I thought of you every day.

I wait for news now, as Thanksgiving looms near. I thank God for my brother, who traveled from California, and went to see you. I am in debt for my mother's sister and family, who have been taking care of you all these years, as they took care of Abuelo. My cousins who, with me last week, shared laughs and tears while with you in the hospital. Te quiero viejita. Nunca lo dijiste, pero lo escribiste muchas veces. Tus cartas (con los $20!) o tarjetas de cumpleaños me llegaban a la Universidad, al campamento, al trabajo- siempre. Te queremos mucho, Abu y Aba.... asi firmabas. Haz estado en mi corazón y lo seguiras estando... Siempre.

Monday, November 9, 2015

525,600 minutes....

"525,600 minutes, 525, 000 moments so dear, 525,600 minutes, how do you measure, measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee...."  Those of you who know the song can sing along, and we can keep singing for as long as we like because this song can capture so many emotions, perhaps all the emotions one can possibly experience in a year. Love, life, death, loss, joy.

A year ago I wrote about all the lessons I had learned in life, as I approached my looming, gloom and doomed alleged expiration date of 40. Alas, I made it. I survived. I lived another year and guess what? I lived to tell about it... or I will talk about it. But where to start. Hmmm, that is the question.

Throughout this fine year that has been my 40th on this earth I have expressed many pleasantries, quite positively positive when it came to my birthday. As the big day approached I recall the nervousness and anxiety of how to celebrate it, such a milestone. Chuckle. New adventures and opportunities. Good people around you and wine, what else does one need, right? ;)

Life happens and it brings with it a little bit of everything! Instances and events brought on by life came in the unexpected, yet calculated form of arguments and misunderstandings, trips planned, flights scheduled, flights cancelled, birthday parties and weddings, illnesses and hospitals stays, more arguments, and the ever-present fear of what if... What if I told the truth about how I really feel? What if I say no and create more tension? What if I fight harder for what I want and what I love? What if I would have done things differently? More calculated, yet unexpected circumstances included a difficult transition for a boy into middle school and all the anxiety, stress and fear of disappointment, morphing suddenly, and almost seamlessly, into a more sharp and responsible young man. A-ha! There is light at the end of that tunnel, at least!

Relationships severed; compartmentalized after the harsh reality check that no matter what was done,  said, or intended, it fell on deaf ears. Messages were sent, loud and clear in the silence of the void and the hollow echo of the darkness. A soul, a heart, torn to little pieces laid almost life-less on the ground.

Yet, there was a light. In the darkest of nights and saddest of moments, a bright, tiny spot inviting to the eye wanting to be looked at, to be touched. A voice calling out and saying "that's it, get up, let's go!" That, and the unsolicited winks from heaven that manifested themselves as friendly text messages, phone calls and even better, Skype calls, from friends who just want to say hello. Just that. No agenda, no reason, just to check in on you and see how you are. THAT boosts any soul and along with a soft, gentle shove needed to then look in the mirror, we say to ourselves as we face our fears and may look our worse, I am here, I am alive, I am blessed. There's work to do and people depend on me! There are so many aspects of life to be grateful for and so we should be. And so, I am...

This past year brought an incredible opportunity for perspective and the fear of turning 40 only rectified, throughout the year, what was slightly lost: direction. I had forgotten a few things about myself and of myself. I was steam-rolled and whiplashed into remembering where my passions lay, what my plans were, and with an open heart and mind, I had no choice to release it all into the Universe.

It is incredible how life works and when you stop fighting the fight that is not having faith is the plan that the Divine, God, Allah, Buddha, whoever you worship, has for you. I had to get out of the way, of my own way and give more into my faith. And with that, I close what has been an incredible year of many blessings, many indeed, and I thank those who were part of it. Students thanked me for my work with them, parents advocated and supported my ministry with their children, colleagues extended a professional and mentoring hand, which I am and always be grateful for. Friends, oh my friends, I have no words to express how much I love you- and you know who you are!- for you have been with me when you did not have to, when you were not asked to, and for no reason other than to be a friend. You pealed me off the ground when I was stuck with Crazy Glue and lifted me up like a crane that builds skyscrapers. I am better because of you and for you I will do the same. That is a promise.

As the 41st year begins, new-old friendships rekindle, new-old plans revamp, new-old goals are set. New-old sass makes a comeback with a sparkle in the eye and a red lipstick to match! New trips are planned! Remember I always have that extra suitcase packed, just in case. ;-)

Essentially, the moral of the story is, a year can begin one way and end a totally different one, never knowing what curve balls life will throw at us. What can we do about it?? Get out of the way and let it happen. Trust in God, the Divine and let go. If it doesn't feel right, if it doesn't flow, as much as it hurts we must let it go and let us go - let go of the remorse, of the guilt, of the pain. Forgive ourselves as much as we feel we need to forgive others, for the forgiveness in ourselves come from not being honest with our deep feelings, which are our own and no one else's.

"525,600 minutes... how do you measure a year?  In truths that she learned, Or in times that he cried;
In bridges he burned, Or the way that she died!" It's time now to see that the story never ends, life goes on and WHAT DO WE DO WITH IT? We mourn and grieve our losses, yes. We celebrate our joys, double yes.

Thank you is a word that comes to mind right now. I am grateful, and grateful I will always be for this last year. But even more grateful for what is yet to come.