Saturday, June 11, 2011

OH! There You Are, Melanie Gould!

     I don't know any details yet, and I'm not sure how many, if any, we'll ever know, but Melanie WAS found safe and alive today, after having been missing for 11 days.   I have no idea what the "story" is, but I am relieved and grateful that God answered that prayer for so many thousands of people. I hope and pray that all will be well with her.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Where Are You, Melanie Gould?

      There is an old Willie Nelson song, "My Heroes have Always Been Cowboys."  In my mind, the song long ago became "My Heroes have Always Been Mushers," 

and they are among the few real heroes I have. Mushers are REAL people, as down to earth and friendly and helpful and kind hearted a group of people as you will ever meet, most of them.  I like a person who had dog hair on his or her coat and is unapologetic for it. And, when you've followed mushing as long as I have, and read all the bios and stats and everything else you can find on them, and follow all their races, either in person or online, those people become real to you, as well,  You feel like you "know" them, even when you've never actually met them.  It's a community of people I would be proud to be a part of, if that were possible. 

     I read this quote on that same Facebook page today - "Hope never abandons you; you abandon it" (George Weinberg) and it helped. I realized that I MUST keep hope alive. If I were in her shoes, would I want everyone to just give up after a certain number of days had passed? Of course not. I also have felt a little bit faith-shaken. Not in a big way, just a little of the "I know GOD knows where she is - why won't He give US a clue?" kind of way. But, then, I remember that we are suppose to pray unceasingly, and continue to hope, so I will do that. Or try to. Try hard to. It's all I CAN do. If I lived in Alaska, I would put on my hiking boots and join the search. I would post fliers everywhere. I would offer to help feed the dogs, water the flowers, take care of the yard, anything at all I could DO to help bring Melanie home, and to keep hope alive in a physical way.  It's HARD to wait, hundreds and hundreds of miles away, with nothing tangible to do to help. In times of need, or sadness or frustration, I'm a do-er. I bake. I clean. I DO. And it is driving me out of my mind that in this case, there is nothing I CAN do. Nothing that would be of any use from the thousands of miles away I am.
     Another woman went missing outside of Fairbanks just a couple of days after Melanie, and another young girl disappeared from a British Columbia campground about the same time. So why am I not gripped by those Missing Person reports as much as I am by Melanie's? I guess it is because I feel a kinship with Melanie that I don't with the others. I don't "know" the others, or know anything about them at all. I don't feel any connection to them, other than sadness that they, too, are missing. Melanie lives by herself in a small, remote cabin with no running water, no electricity. That's about as off the grid as you can be, and still have friends and a job and a community surrounding you. I envy and identify with that lifestyle.

 In addition, she has dogs, and is, gosh darn it, a musher, two things I again can identify with, and aspire to. I keep thinking of her dogs - do they wonder where she is? Do they miss her? Mine would. They don't eat much when I'm gone, and only return to their normal eating and sleeping habits when I'm here. No one can take care of my dogs the way I do, and the dogs know it. It's hard for me to leave my dogs for long, knowing this, so I feel certain that she would feel the same way.   
     Oh, my heart just aches for her dogs, for her, for her family and friends and community, and even for Alaska. Alaska is a funny place. It's big, but it's tightly knit when it comes to "one of their own,". I know all of Alaska, as well as half of the rest of the world, it seems, is watching and waiting and checking and hoping that THIS will be the day Melanie comes home. My days have become a ritual of ongoing mental prayer: thinking of Melanie, picturing her, picturing God knowing where she is and holding her and keeping her safe and strong and not afraid, not irretrievably hurt or injured, just holding her, and her terrible circumstances, close in my heart. 
     I light a virtual candle every 48 hours for her on line, but starting tonight, I'm going to light a real one at home as well.  I will let it burn for an hour every night until she returns. I know it's not much, but lighting a candle will symbolically let me DO something.  A friend on her facebook page  ( feel like we are ALL friends on that page, though I know no one, but we are all strongly united in our hope and concern for Melanie and that pulls people from all over together, I think) put this one on line, and I think it is just beautiful. She allowed me to repost it here.  

     So, to Melanie, keeping the faith and hope alive, and the candles burning, until you come home...  I pray it will be tomorrow. 
(The other pictures on this page I took from the page started for Melanie as well: 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

(Almost) Wordless.... Monday?

"Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength."
St..Francis de Sales
This is a friend of mine from high school, who has become a really awesome man, husband, father, stepfather, and grandfather, as well as friend.  This is his granddaughter, and when I saw this picture on his facebook page, it instantly made me think of the above quote. I loved it so much I stole it, the picture, that is, though I'm sure he wouldn't mind, and could not wait for Wednesday to put it up here.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"Thankful Thursday"

Simply Positive
To over-think about love & positive life possibilities is uplifting, energizing, & motivating. To over-think about negative situations & problems is depressing, exausting, &  paralyzing. Your brain can only focus on ONE set of thoughts at a time. One set makes you feel worse, one better! Decide today which set you want to focus on. Want to be tired? Or gain energy? 

     The above is a quote I took from one of the facebook pages I see every day. Lately, I've found a ton of great quotes. I love a good quote - they always make me think a lot, and I like thinking. They also express fairly succinctly what I feel. I've never in my life been accused of being succinct though, so I like how someone else can summarize for me a great volume of thoughts and feelings into a tidy little package.  This one is meaningful to me because as this school year comes to a close (unlike "normal" people, I have always measured my year from September to June, not January to December) I realize that I have been inordinately happy this year, happier than I can really recall ever being in the past. It has little to do with my teaching load this year. It's not a lot different than last year, with the exception of having passed along to 7th grade last year's miserable, impossible 6th grade class. I don't miss them, but they didn't ruin my year. My classroom has also gone from housing 4 of us (teachers) to only two, as two of my coworkers moved across the hall at the end of last year.  That was a move that caused a bit of hurt, and apprehension last year about this time. But it also appears to have been a turning point for me, although I don't think I realized it at the time. It was when I ordered my books on Positive Thinking: The AWE-Manac, The Happiness Project and several others. Funny thing is, I never really sat down and read them, cover to cover. I glanced through them, picked out some things here and there, but mostly what really changed is my ATTITUDE. I went from letting outside circumstances control how I felt, to realizing that what I disliked most in negative people was just that - their negativity in how they reacted to circumstances. It's when I realized that I can't change a lot of things, but I CAN change how I think and feel and talk about them. 
     The other thing that I began to do more and more often is to think about all the things I am grateful for, all the blessings and happiness that is already IN my life. Instead of focusing on the fact that I don't have goats, I focus on how glad I am to finally have chickens!  SOMEDAY I'll have goats. :)   Instead of passing by all the kids' artwork on display at school while on my way to the copier, thinking gloomy grumpy thoughts, I stop and pay attention to the silly little paper mache birds clustered on the top of the display table, and they make me smile. The fact that we have an awesome art teacher at school makes me smile. The fact that we have some very talented Senior High artists and I wish I could have half their talent makes me feel very good for them. How lucky they are to BE so talented. Instead of being bummed that I keep finding all these great crafty projects that I do not feel good enough to do (like an AWESOME chicken quilt - gosh I wish I knew how to do applique and quilt more than just simple patterns) , I am grateful that finding neat craft ideas to think about, and challenge myself with "someday" bring me so much pleasure. Sometimes, when I am sick of correcting papers and doing lesson plans, etc, I web browse looking for things just like that - and I find cool ideas. I print them off, put them in a file folder, and they are there for some other day when I have more time, more ambition, more money, less work, etc. Just LOOKING at creative ideas makes me feel lighter, happier, better.  
     Being grateful, being AWARE of being grateful, makes me happier.  Looking around and thinking about all of the things that bring me joy makes me more consciously happy, and that, in turn, works its way into my psyche, I think. I FEEL happy. I FEEL happy, because I consciously CHOOSE to look for and think about and be grateful for those things that MAKE me happy.  And the bad things? Yeah, there are those, still. They haven't disappeared, by any means. Just look back at my past few months. There were lots of bad things, and there are, still, things that annoy and irritate me daily. But I TRY to choose to say, "so what?" and let them go. I try, hard, to just let the unimportant things roll off me. Someone didn't notify me about a meeting I was supposed to attend, and so I didn't show up on time? Oh well.  Teachers didn't tell me about a change in our daily schedule that directly affects me, but I can wing it and it's not a big deal? Yep, treat it as such, rather than getting all worked up about it. There are just so many times when I could worry, but choose not to. What good does it do? I could choose to get in a total tizzy over things that would legitimately be ok to BE in a tizzy over, but why bother? It's not that I don't care, it's not that I don't ever say or feel negative things. I do. Probably a lot more than I THINK I do, especially at home. I still need to work on home.  But I'm a lot better than I used to be. And I think, for real, it comes from having focused on the positive, having focused on all that there is in my life to be grateful for, to be excited about, to look forward to. It feels so good to be happy so much of the time. Like pinch-myself happy inside. Gosh that feels good. Who would NOT want to be happy? Who would CHOOSE to be miserable? Actually, LOTS of people. Some people even seem to thrive on it, on being unhappy, on seeing the dark side, on making things worse, on fretting, stewing, and feeling justified. I don't get it. That really USED to be me, but I'm grateful to be able to say, it's just not anymore. Maybe it's that little blue pill I take every day? But hey, I've been taking that for YEARS, and it is only this past year when I have consciously focused my energy on being positive, on being grateful, that I have felt THIS happy, this peaceful, this calm and content, and well, well, just HAPPY.  Maybe it's being 48, and having had some significant losses of people that has made me realize with a clarity I've never had before how short and precious and wonderful and fleeting life is? I don't know, but for now, I'll attribute it to, and continue to look for, being appreciate of all the small things that make me happy, things like a Triple Venti Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce Latte with soy, no whip - or my annoying but lovable Border Collie Bramble, or adorable pictures of my niece's dog Buddy, or the fact that THIS year I have new raised beds for my garden (when last year I didn't even get a garden planted... ) and finding a chicken quilt on line that SOMEDAY I will make for myself. 
   My niece usually posts a THANKFUL THURSDAY post on her blog ( ) and her younger sister, who is an English teacher of high school kids makes her 9th grade students write a Thankful Thursday list in her classroom as well, I think. I am going to have MY kids, my 5th and 6th graders, do that next year too. What a cool idea that is. So, this week for Thankful Thursday, I am simply thankful to be happy, and thankful to have become so focused this year on gratitude. From now now, on TT, I will just list whatever it is that has made me happy that week. I challenge you to look around, and realize what things make YOU happy and be conscious to be GRATEFUL for them.  It might just change your life!                 
Even better, I bought this happy little journal to keep track , my Gratitude Journal, and jot down  when something makes me happy. 

And can I just say, the first entry SHOULD be, "This JOURNAL makes me insanely happy. I am a notebook/journal  "collector" (as well as my coffee mug and tshirt collections...) and I am happy to have found this one and to have the perfect use for it!