Thursday, November 29, 2012

Jingle Turkeys & Merry Pumpkins

I'm out of time. Tomorrow is the 30th of November and I haven't even ventured out to the garage to unearth my Christmas decorations. I probably have decorated the tree, correlated your twinkling lights with the soundtrack from 'White Christmas' and hung the stockings by the chimney with care.

Happy for you.

My porch and yard is fully decorated with autumn leaves, scarecrows, pumpkins, and baskets of gourds. It looks so festive! So colorful! And in twelve hours, so out of season. Sigh.

I was thinking...maybe if I put a beard on the scarecrow, stacked up the pumpkins in white fabric, so they resembled snowmen, and just put a layer of tinsel over the leaves, it might look Christmassey. With a little imagination, couldn't a turkey resemble   a short, puffy reindeer? Okay....maybe not.

I like outside decorations. It tells everyone who drives by that I am  probably a former elementary teacher who is used to doing seasonal bulletin boards and can't break the habit. Not true. I can break the habit but prefer not to. And, now that I am back in the classroom for a spell (ha ha get that...for a 'spell'), I am quite busy.

And there's one other small issue. I have Max. You know, my rescue dog that eats most anything. I can't fathom what this canine will do with my festive displays. His menu this week has been the mail and devotional books. I guess he was inspired with that scripture, "Man and dog cannot live on bread alone." ( canine version). This dog would look at tinsel, garland, and ornaments as an 'all you can eat buffet'.

So enjoy your showplace of holiday house and hearth. I will be here contemplating how inviting those tacky window clings will make the place look.

Merry Christmas! Or maybe I'll just go with Jingle Turkeys and Merry Pumpkins. Max will never know the difference.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fishing for a Mate/The Water is daughters have hinted to me that I should try an online singles matching thing. To humor them, I have given it a try. Now, remember that I am pretty content with my life. But if there is a guy out there who can pay for a dinner, tickets for the theater or symphony, I'm all about that. And if he can show up with a screwdriver and fix a couple of door knobs, install a storm window--all the better. Romance? Oh sure. But I am not that woman who needs a man or even wants one full time. However, if he bathes regularly, has teeth, and can speak in complete sentences, I will try him out.

Here's the problem. I decided to try a 'Christian' online match thing but decided I needed to lie to be competitive. before you send me to church, just know it was a little lie. I grew two inches and have started bicycling and gardening at the stroke of the keyboard. I mean, there was no category for 'Sitting and Talking on the Phone' so I just decided to check some things I might do.

My daughter and best friend argued on which photo I should submit. I was thinking along the lines of using somebody else's picture, but they nixed that idea right away. I was informed that I had lied enough. Fine!

Then we got busy. Could we get the reflections off my glasses? Could we photo-shop me to look, um, taller, younger, thinner?  Intelligent yet fun? Studious but goofy? The choices were endless.
Finally, we chose a photo that met this criteria: " don't look too bad in this one." Yeah, that speaks volumes to a girl's confidence.

I liken this whole silly process to fishing. put your line out there and make yourself sound so gooood. I am a writer. I know how to make myself and others look so good on paper/screen. And knowing I can do it makes me dubious of others.
Then, you wait until the bobber wiggles. In techno terms, you get an email that says someone has viewed your profile. Yikes!

Then you pull the line out of the water. It could be lovely catch or a slimy bit of weeds. Or an ugly catfish that has teeth and barbs. I have nothing against catfish, but sometimes it is better to just say, "Oh darn. He got my bait and got away." And this is how I am viewing his whole process. It is fun, but can take a lot of time re-baiting that line, sticking it in the water, and reeling in some interesting 'fish'.  Let's just say some of those folks should have been lying like me. And perhaps using someone else's photo. I sound heartless, don't I?

But really. If you are going to put yourself out there, why not try spellcheck so you don't say, "I way less than I look." Really? And were you absent from third grade when they taught homonyms?
And could you put your shirt back on? Ewww. We are not 25 year olds. And if you are trying to pick out a memorable user name, 'Felon Phil' is not going to do it for me.

I am not sure I am cut out for this singles online match thing. I also am not certain that I would actually want to go out with someone who is as desperate as I and has resorted to cyber-dating. Not that it hasn't worked for a lot of folks. And Lord knows, guys aren't falling out of the sky and landing on my front porch.

But the Lord knows that I am also not five feet tall and my idea of gardening is mowing the grass with loathing. I have always said that if God wanted me with another man, He would have to bring him to me. Well, guess maybe I will try this on-line match thing for another week or so.

Let's just hope 'Felon Phil' disappears from my profile page.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bullying: Pushing Back with Kindness

There's a lot of talk these days about bullying. The bad news? It has been around forever. The good news? We're talking about it. Plenty. Schools are teaching students strategies on how to recognize, report, and prevent being a victim of bullying. It is no longer cool to be a person of intimidation and meanness. And the consequences for such are getting much stiffer.

There are so many aspects of this bullying behavior that my little brain will not solve here. I have seen plenty of intimidation in schools. It isn't pretty and I have dealt with bullying in some 'creative' ways. Career secret? Nope. But I let the little darlings who felt victimized know that on my watch they would be kept safe. And that those individuals who came into the classroom with evil intent would be powerless. I'd like to think I fulfilled that promise.

But last week I was with a group of seventh graders. At the end of the day, once a week, all students come together to strategize ways of addressing the bullying phenomena. An amazing thing happened and I want to share it here. Consider it your 'feel good' story of the day.

As the group of 135 kids and teachers started their forum, the focus was on calling one another negative names---often the foot in the door for bullying. One young man in the back of the room got brave. He raised his hand and spoke, "I don't know why, but some kids have called me retarded." The teacher asked, "How did that make you feel?" The boy thought a moment and answered, "I felt unimportant."

Wow. I expected the typical answer of "I felt mad/bad/sad." But this answer clearly reflected a very wise response.

"Well," replied the teacher, "You are very important and you have value. We want you to know that."

And then the boy started crying.

Oh boy, I thought. Here it comes: the giggling and snickering of his peers. This kid is toast. The room, however was still. Except for the boy's sobs.

And then it happened. Very slowly, a group of boys started to clap. It was an authentic action of honor, for a classmate who was being emotionally naked. Then the applause picked up. It was heart-stopping and heart-warming to witness. It substantiated what I have held as one of my tenets of teaching: kids these days can be so amazing!

Watching the faces of the other adults, I realized that they were as spellbound as I. As I processed this event, which took perhaps four minutes at the most, I began to grasp what really had unfolded.

The young man did not cry when he said he had been called, "retarded." He started to weep when the teacher told him he was indeed, very important. That he mattered and was worthy.

Don't we all need to hear this? I once was asked why the students in my classroom tended to be successful. I had to think on that a moment. This was the best I could come up with: "When people are valued, they are empowered to do great things."

We know that hurt people hurt people. And it is the issue of being hurt, feeling unimportant, and undervalued that lies at the heart of the bullying issue.

I have no empirical wisdom on how to fix this bullying pox on society. But starting a dialogue with youth --one that is rich in authenticity and a climate for honesty--is a must. Especially when hemmed in with kind and sensitive adults.

I will not forget this experience. I am blessed and honored that I was a guest in that school when an ordinary exchange became a 'holy' moment.

When a lost lamb was ushered back to the fold by the kindness of the flock.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Elation in the End Zone

     There is nothing I enjoy more than planting myself down in front of my 60 inch television screen and watching a good NFL game. My family knows not to call me...I will not answer. Grandkids know better than to beg to spend the night when the Colts are playing. I will be wearing my Luck jersey, my horseshoe socks, and will even turn my cell phone to 'silent'. I am serious about my NFL games, to the point that I even study all of the rules, policies, draft choices, standings, and team lore.

      And if you really know me very well, you know that the very first paragraph is a total lie.

      I don't watch television as I don't have one any longer. I am not a fan of sports--unless it is a grandkid playing. I cannot tell you anything about professional football except one penalty call. I learned it existed, oh about five years ago. And if you want to look it up, it is in the NFL Rules and Policies, and is Rule 12, Section 3 under 'Unsportsmanlike Conduct', Article 1: "Prolonged or Excessive Celebration."  Now....this is my kind of call!!

     Let me get this right.  Players are encouraged to score, but prohibited to celebrate it. What's that about? The exact wording is:
      "Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebration or
       demonstration while on the ground. A celebration or
       demonstration shall be deemed excessive or prolonged if
       a player continues to such after a warning from an official.
       This includes two or more players engaged in excessive
       celebration--premeditated or choreographed. Players cannot
       use extraneous objects or the ball as a prop or unnecessary
       physical contact with a game official."

        Well, somebody has their referee tighty-whities in a wad. I mean, do you really think bulky football players are going to run out in their tap shoes, grab a white cane, whip out a quickstep of "Puttin on the Ritz," grab the official's hand and say, "Join me?" when they land a pig skin in the end zone? And so what if they do? I is using up precious and expensive television time. But I think this is just what life needs: excessive celebrations and demonstrations.

        Since I am built like a dwarf from Snow White, I am in no position to pull on pads and a helmet and rush into the action. The field does not need another yard ornament. But they do need me. Really!! I am all about excessive. Like, saving stuff. Telling stories. Eating and sleeping. Buying books for the grandkids. So expecting me to waddle into the end zone and whip out some 'WOO HOOS' and audacious cheers and moves could really add some excitement to a rather bland event. How many folks fall asleep on the couch during a game. I rest my point. (No punt intended).

       I am thinking of contacting the NFL to put 'excessive celebration' on the books---not as a penalty but as moment of pure joy and delight. I do joy! My favorite phrase that my little brain thought up is this: "Don't let anyone steal your joy." And I believe that the NFL is doing just that. I can think of no better honor than being called out for 'excessive celebration'. In fact, I welcome it. Life is full of little victories and pausing a moment or two to hold them up to the light just makes us relish them more. And I believe, celebration is good for the soul as it enables us to treasure our blessings. And count them, one by one. With or without a scoreboard.

      Next time you see that player running like crazy, protecting that football like it is a newborn, and breaking that invisible plane that denotes TOUCHDOWN, let's just see if he is brave enough to tackle Rule 12. I am for that guy who dances, prays, struts, smiles, flips, and well, celebrates. He has earned it. And if the black and white shirts don't like it, they can just turn their sorry and serious heads and walk away.

       Life is short. Run into that end zone and celebrate all you want--with no penalties! And I will be in the stands, cheering you on.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Letters from Camp: "Your Son Does What?"

That last kid of mine actually listened to me. When I was floating around the house spouting off that old quote that said:
          "There are two lasting gifts we can give our children.
            One is roots. The other is wings."
he took it to heart. Yeah...his wings have taken him to various adventures that I just shake my head at. One....he tried studying film at the LA Film School. Living in the mix of Hollywood, he was never dazzled by seeing the likes of Patrick Dempsey or Robert DiNero, or other celebrities. His take on it was this, "Mom, they are just going to work." LA never consumed him as this mother feared it would. He came home to Indiana, realizing that film was not his passion, music was. I can tell you now, that I kinda knew that, but he had to figure it out for himself.

I took some heat as I watched his band, "My Hidden Track" perform around Indy. I mean, folks advised me to make him get a degree and THEN do music and such. I was viewed as irresponsible by not imposing a strict regimen of "go to college, get a degree, get a job, get into debt, put your passions aside..."

 Someone asked me if the band was good. My response was this: "I don't know. I'm the mom, so of course I think he's good. But look at the audience: they are loving it! They are buying the merchandise and cd's so yeah, I guess they think they're good." I still smile when I drive by the Emerson or Irving Theater and see kids lined up outside to see their favorite band. I told Nick, "I did not write my first book until I was fifty years old. I will never tell you to quit the 'band thing' until you decide." Music is still his first love. I will never be surprised if the world ends up on my doorstep looking for my son. I told him once, "You can be famous for a month and then it all has to go away!" HA! Fame was hardly in his game plan.

But LA was. Nearly seven years ago, when he was a student at IU, he was recruited by representatives of a camp for kids, called, Canyon Creek Sports Camp. He went out there for a summer job. By the end of the summer it was no mystery that he would return. And return. And return. As family, we looked over his shoulder at this 'job' that would soon become as important to him as music. I hinted that there were camps closer---like in Brown County---but his heart was in Lake Hughes, California, in the Angeles National Forest. Yeah...this adventure had 'wings' written all over it! The Hoosier roots had given my boy flight to the west coast. You can't imagine how much we miss him.

But there's a satisfaction when a mother knows that her offspring are living the life they feel has meaning. When this, my baby of four kids, welcomes hundreds of campers and counselors into the 'Creek' he is complete. Wearing different hats, he is on the administrative staff. He hires counselors from all over the world, organizes schedules, fundraisers for the Harold Robinson Foundation, (an arm of the camp that brings underserved schools to camp), is a kind of PR director, and a team member of an incredible staff at this camp. I got to see this up close when I was invited to do some science sessions recently.

At first I did not get it. How can one make a career out of camp? But this camp is not just for kids; but also for businesses and spiritual retreats, private celebrations, and their underlying goal of 'team building' should be a requirement for all politicians and world leaders. As the country embraces an initiative that promotes health and fitness, there's no better way than to introduce youth to physical activity than rope courses, archery, fishing, zip lines, swimming, team sports, go carts, hiking, and on and on it goes. A nightly campfire is the stage for wacky and hilarious songs and skits, which takes extensive energy from the counselors. Entertainment that is non-violent and lacks rude and mean messages Now, that is rare. Oh yeah. No electronics as the area gets lousy reception. After a while you don't even miss it--no newspapers, no TV; just folks staying in the moment.

What I did in the classroom for 32 years, he and the staff of Canyon Creek Sports Camp are doing with outdoor education. Amazing! A kid's playground developing core lessons in cooperation, encouragement, and revealing a kid's hidden potential. Is it fun? Oh yeah! Do I get it now? Oh yeah!

This is my last letter from camp.

I have shared my various mis-adventures and such. But I just felt I needed to state some thoughts on this whole notion of camp. And how I am amazed and blessed that my boy is, to find such fulfillment in his life's work in a very non-traditional career. He is blessed to be surrounded by the most competent and loving folks whom he calls 'staff'. From the kitchen crew to the grounds' crew, to 'Jill the Camp Mom' and all of the 'naturalists' who reveal the hidden secrets of the universe; this camp brings such a balance to the 'dog eat dog' world of that old 9 to 5 work week. I would like to think that the 'roots' of Indiana shaped him into what he is today. Camp is not easy work; but it means so much to each kid and adult who leave there. I should know. I won't be the same. Funny thing....when the kid teaches the parent.

Roots and wings. Ever thankful that when this kid left the nest his wings took him to such an awesome adventure. Now when folks say, "Your son does what??" I just smile and say, "Camp." You get it now, don't you?

Thanks for reading my letters from camp. Your kind readership keeps my mind rooted in these blogs. But more, has given my heart wings.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Letters From Camp to the Cat and Dogs at Home: Why Animals Should Never Zip-Line (Nor Humans)

Dear Harper, Max, and Boo,

While mommy is gone to camp, I expect you all to behave. eating the mail. Harper...mind your caretaker, Michael and don't think you are too good to sleep in your crate. Boo, I know you are a cat, and convincing you of that will never happen in this lifetime. So go on acting like royalty while I am gone. But please don't refer to your canine brothers as "lower life forms." You all are my children with fur and I love each of you. When my own kids would ask me, "Mom...which one do you love the most?" And I would honestly answer, "Each of you--on a different day." Same goes with the three of you. that I have that out of the way, how are you three doing? I have not gotten a phone call from Indy to LA, so you all must be behaving! Let me tell you what Nick had me doing today!!

There is this thing at his camp called a 'ZipLine'. It is another way humans have fun. It stretches in the air from one location to the next. You climb up to a platform, strap to it, let go, and 'zip' on this line--in the air-- then come to a landing. Let me put it to you in ways you can understand.

Boo...first of all I had to climb a pine tree to about 45 feet in the air. You would have loved it! Me...not so much. My short non flexible legs, and no tail for balance, made the climb rugged. Sap in between my fingers was most annoying. I was not off to a good start. Up on the platform, I was hooked and tethered. Harper and Max, imagine your mommy with a harness between her legs, and a leash attached to that. don't imagine it. It was as ugly as it felt. And there we stood as Campmom Jill and naturalist helper guy, Jerry, was getting all set. We chatted. I had already put my safety helmet on backwards so I wasn't sure this was the experience for me.

Nick was going on this ZipLine after me, so he blocked my way of climbing down the tree. "Climbing down the tree?" you might ask? Oh yes. As I stood there peering over a 40-50 foot road/canyon, I decided that I was uninterested in this ZipThing. Kind of like when I take you guys to the vet; the car ride is nice but what is waiting next is dreadful. Anyway, there I stood. Finally, Jerry gave the signal. I was ready to zip. Like a postal code. Like a pair of pants. Or so they thought.

I backed out. I backed up. I told them, "Yeah, I am  not going to do this." Nick started the reasons I would regret not doing this. I knew he had his cell phone out and was going to record his mother's rebuttal. I would have liked him to have called my life insurance company to see if my policy was still in force in case of recreational accidents, but he was still going on about how "You will love this! The grandkids will be so proud of you. will have to climb down this tree and it is harder than climbing up."

Oh boy. He had me there. I cannot tell you Max, Harper, and Boo, how hard that climb was. So...I looked out over the Zipline, tugged on my 'leash' and muttered something I say when one of you poop in the house. Nick smiled, Jill uttered scripture and told me to just step off the edge of the platform, and to swing out so I won't hit my head.

Are you serious? Nick had that big smile and cell phone aimed. I hate that smile. It always works. Just as I was about to reiterate how much I was NOT going to do this, Jill said the one phrase that would seal the deal: "This is one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." And children with fur, this is when I went from being an old lady pet owner to a bird. First, I prayed. Okay...let's just say as I dangled in the air, I said, "OH GOD!" But it was in a prayerful-type voice, so I am certain that He heard me.

Then it happened! I was zipping! I LOVED IT!! It was like flying and swinging and being so free that I could not even be afraid. My smile was so big that I thought my face would freeze. Kind of like when you guys pant so long it looks like your tongue will fall off. Okay...maybe not the same! But let me tell you, it was a great ride! You know the feeling when your head is out the window and the wind is blowing in your face and your fur is all in one direction?

Well, that was my big adventure, guys. Boo, I know you are disappointed in me, being fearful of climbing a tree. You do it with such skill. Proving once again, I am the inferior species. Harper and Max, whenever you go pulling me down the street when I am attempting to take you for walks, I will just look at it as 'ZipLining'   without the line in the sky. I can pretend can't I?

Mommy will soon be home. Be good until I get there. After all,
I can always string a line from the garage to the house and let you in for the big ride! Boo can take the photos. Until then, purr softly, bark loudly, and know that letters from camp are not to be appetizers from the mailbox. Are you listening, Max? See you soon!

Love, Mom

Letters from Camp: "I Held the Moon in My Hands!"

     When the phone call came that I was invited to teach an aerospace lesson at my son's camp, I was pumped! What could be better than seeing my boy, being in the mountains, and teaching kids? I have traveled more this summer than anytime in my life, and I admit, I was ready to stay home. I did not want my dog and cat to see the luggage come out again. But it is hard to hide one's feelings from my children with fur. I heard their whispers: "She's leaving us again. And we don't even get airport gifts." Sigh.

       But things fell into place. Since the students/campers would be out studying constellations, it was decided that I would present lunar science. Cool! I have been in love with the moon most of my life! But time was of the essence. I knew what I needed to pull this off. Hello, NASA! Soon a dear gal named Bridget, from NASA's Johnson Space Center was my new BFF, as she located my security info and got the Lunar Soil Sample, Disk #71 shipped to camp. It had been a while since I had gotten the famed 'moon rocks' and trying to get anything done with the government in a hurry is real work. But it all fell into place. Kind of like the stars being in alignment.

      Until the night before my presentation. I couldn't sleep. It had been several years since I had taught aerospace/lunar science. What if I forgot my facts? What if the kids were bored? I mean, after all, they were thrilled to be out of school, learning in a camp setting. Would I come across as some old lady discussing an Apollo mission that even their parents barely remembered? And what about moon rocks? These kids came from an 'underserved' school district in LA. With smog and light pollution, they barely  saw stars---even if they were allowed out at night in their precarious neighborhoods. This teacher was anxious. Why did I agree to this? I could be home, sleeping in my own bed, with no thought of the moon. But then, I am not a fan of missed opportunity. And this was big!

       The kids were busy at camp with archery, fishing, ropes courses, soccer, etc. And then, as part of their daily rotation, they came into my room, an area off the big lodge. The theme was set: "I Held the Moon in My Hands" was how I attempted to create a sense of wonder about this natural satellite of Earth. I started my babbling and promised if they listened well, I would answer the number one question kids ask astronauts: "How do you go to the bathroom in space?" I had them. Perhaps you have wondered the same thing: do we go to the bathroom in space?

       And soon the room became electric with student-instructor exchange. Their hands went up, my anxiety went down. The 'lunar facts neurons' began to fire with an enthusiasm I have when in the presence of young minds. They asked. I answered. The little guys marveled and soon, I had never left the classroom. They held the Lunar Disk and studied it and never ever uttered, "Boring!" Parents took photos with their cell phones, and said, "Can I have a turn?" Parents who needed translation from English to Spanish,  were eager to hear the counselor tell them facts I had shared about "Yo Tengo los Luna en Mi Manos."

      The moon belongs to all of us. You can gaze up at it in any language. It is the same moon that Abraham Lincoln looked at, the same moon the Greeks gazed upon--and named the dark patches seas; the same one that Apollo astronauts left their footprints on--and the same one Columbus navigated by. The moon looks down on the rich or poor. Colts player, Andrew Luck gets no luckier moon. Beyonce and Frank Sinatra have seen--and sung--about this one moon. President Obama has shared this same moon with President George Washington. The person you will marry, as I tell the kids, will gaze at this same moon. But perhaps, one day, our great grandchildren will wake up on the moon---just as we wake up on a new continent. It is a possibility; youth are ready to go. And especially this group of kids. They had witnessed the space shuttle, Endeavour, come through the street, right by their school, as it was being taken to the museum. I could have talked about the space shuttle for another hour---that is how much they wanted to learn about space exploration.

      But enough of that. This teacher is just so very thankful that the God that created this Earth and our Moon, smiled on me as I dragged out every tool in my box to make this lesson work. And ever thankful that my son had confidence in his mother to revisit her role as an educator.

     I hope with all my heart, that when the kids from 109th Street Elementary in LA, see that full moon, they will look at their hands and smile. They did indeed hold the moon in their hands-- and this teacher under their spell.

      (Thank you Canyon Creek Sports Camp and the Harold Robinson Foundation for an awesome experience at 'the Creek'--unforgettable for us all.)


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Letters from Camp: The Wall

     Picture this: a wooden wall, perhaps 15 feet high. It is smooth; no notches or handholds. Gathered at the base of the wall are folks, waiting.

     The object is to scale the wall, supported by pairs of hands lifted high. Peeking over the top are two counselors and the last two individuals who made the climb. It is a chain of human support. It is an amusing feat, I suppose. I smile and think of how I will write about this. I have no plans of participating. And then the whispers reach my ears: "You get a turn, Miss Debbie." Umm, no thanks. I like my hips unfractured, thank you very much. My son looks over the crowd and shouts to a woman who is scared to death, "My mom is doing this next! You can do it! Show her how it is done." Great. Now he's called me out and he knows I will not say no. I watch this lady's face go from grim to grinning. How hard can it be?

     Then, it is my turn. I face the audience...state my name and one or two goals for my immediate future. The folks cheer and I pivot and face the wall. This looked like child's play when I was standing on the perimeter, watching. Now, all eyes are on me. Usually the one up for a good adventure, I am fearful of failing. Of falling. Of looking dumb and disappointing all of those watching.

    I face the wall and there's nothing to grasp. I am at the mercy of those hoisting me up. This wooden wall looks so much taller now, and those peering over the top seem small and weak. What if my short status eludes their grasp? If I fall upon those children and adults below me, injury is certain. I should exit now! Camp is not for wimps. I am claiming wimpy-ness. But the yammering inside my head is drowned out by the noise of positive chants.

    My fingers touch the smooth wood and I am reminded of a quote that says: "A smooth mountain is impossible to climb. Rough obstacles are necessary for a successful ascent." This is my smooth mountain. My anxiety deepens.

    One foot is hoisted up. My sweaty hands try to read the wood grain in an odd style of Braille. My fingertip comprehension fails me. No intellect will do this job. Trust. Complete dependence on these kind folks who have owned this wall will have to do.

     I am moving! Rapid accession, wild cheering, hands grab mine! My feet dangle as does my comfort level. The wall is rough unforgiving and I'm cussing myself for the extra weight that affects---not just me, but every hand who is supporting my body.
Gravity does its best to make us fail. Yes, 'us'. There is no 'me' and 'them'---it is 'we'. 'We' will scale the wall. 'We' will not let one another drop. 'We' will be successful! 'We've' got this!

    I'm at the lip of the wall's top. My legs clamor to fasten over that top ridge. I cannot do any of this myself. My hands, clasped in a death grip with those folks trained to turn my "try into triumph." And 'umph' it is! My body is briefly in a horizontal lump and I realize that I'm being pulled, pushed, and permitted to do one thing: succeed.

     We've done it! I am at the top of my smooth mountain, peering down at those who lifted me up. My fearless graspers' hands are patting me on the back...but not for long. One person exits the platform and I am being called to turn around, look down, and help another climber make her trip to the top of the wall.

      I will not fail her. Strike that. We will not fail her. There is no 'I' in success and Lord knows, I could never have made it to the top without the support of others.

      And it took facing a wall to remind me of just how small I am until others lift me up. May I never forget this lesson.