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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Hello Taiwan!

    Today I checked my blog statistics and usually I have a lot of views from the United States, Germany, The Netherlands, the Ukraine and a few other places. Lately I have noticed a few new places- Serbia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, etc.  Today, I have apparently had 50 views from Taiwan- my guess is that it is because of the Sky Lantern Festival post. So, hello to all of you people from all over the world. Feel free to drop me a note to say hello and introduce yourself. I love learning about new places and about how people live in general. What's going on in your little area of the world? What did you do today?
     It has been a while since I posted. My laptop cord got severed so I couldn't charge my battery. I bought a new one so I'm back now!  I figured I'd just check in to say hello and put up some pictures of some of my recent mail.


    Here are my outgoing Postcrossing cards today. They are all going to either Russia or Germany. (I get those 2 countries a lot when I'm assigned to send a card!)
The men are the Ted, Bobby and John F. Kennedy (if you didn't know), the author William Hardy and I don't know the blue man- it was a piece of art from 2002.


    The first 3 are from the same person. They are sent from a Postcrosser from Russia. The first shows The Friendship Monument and "The Bridge of Love" in the park named after Salavat Yulayev.
 This one shows a boy playing the kurai, which is an instrument made from a special plant which grows in Bashkertestan. I had never heard of this instrument before, though I had seen pictures.
      Lastly, here is the Opera and Ballet theatre where Rudolf Nuriyev got his start. Cool.
     I really liked this next card too. This is from Susanne, who attended the Postcrossing meet-up in Essen, Germany. As you probably guessed, a meetup is just what it sounds like- a whole bunch of people who are involved in Postcrossing get together to meet in person, write some cards and sometimes do something fun. I went to a Postcrossing meetup of some Massachusetts postcrossers. We went out for coffee and I had a really nice time. I would love to do another one :)


    Just because I'm chatty- it's a beautiful day here in Massachusetts. Many of the leaves are starting to change to their autumn colors. The air is cooler and I am starting to really enjoy being outside. School is in session for both of the kids (and me too since I'm a teacher). Both boys are loving school so far, which I'm extremely grateful for!  I'm incredibly busy and a little stressed but still happy.
     Timmy's birthday is coming up on Friday and mine is on the 13th so there will be too much a lot of cake and ice cream going around.  

    Today we are just getting some things down around the house and resting after a super-long week. We had Boy Scouts last night. The boys made Lego cars and raced them. They had a nice time. It is nice to kind of stick around the house for today. I wish the day was more productive but it's probably good for a bit of a mental break. :)
     Have a blessed day!

Monday, September 16, 2013

More Love Letters update

More Love Letters

     I have mentioned that Timmy had received a lot of letters from www.Moreloveletters.com Here are some of the ones he picked and asked me to photograph for a thank you to the site:

It helps if you could read them I guess. Ugh. Sorry. Well, at least you can see the awesome drawings on the bottom one. Check out almost all of the letters he has received! I am humbled by the generosity of others.
Pretty cool! I wish I could meet all of these people.  If you're one of the writers, thank you sincerely!

Sunday, September 15, 2013


So yesterday I posted about my e-mail from one of my soldiers. I ended with asking people to try to notice other people around them. Today, I just got home and found this article. It articulates exactly what I was trying to say.  The link on the title will take you to the actual blog and the comments are very telling too. Please take a few minutes to read.

Let’s be gentle with each other. Let’s read each other’s signs.

After a dear friend telling me about a hurtful experience she’d had this week. I began thinking again about a story I have told a few times…. a story that my children will tell to their children, and maybe even beyond that… because it was such a learning experience in our family, maybe even a turning point.
It’s a story that I think about often because we were the main characters in it 3 or 4 years ago, and even though it was something that lasted less than 15 minutes it changed all of us and now I see others differently, especially when it seems that they might be main characters in the same story…or one a lot like it. I used to be too embarrassed to tell this story… but I am not anymore. This is a human story that everyone needs to hear, I truly believe this. I hope you will stay with it, it’s kinda long.
As we move along… I want you to think about some of the big signs with big messages that I bet you wish you could wear around your neck sometimes so that people would be more gentle, or even that you could put around the neck of someone you love — so that you didn’t have to go into a big long story to defend yourself or someone else– so that people would just stop judging and and just be kind.
2 three signs Let’s be gentle with each other. Let’s read each other’s signs.
I need to start this story by giving you a little bit of background. You see, my husband had an accident in 2004 that injured the frontal lobe of his brain. It has taken 6 years to get him back, but in the middle there, between 2004 and now, lots and lots of stuff happened. He was essentially out of it, but not just that, he changed to someone else, we lost him.
His personality changed completely, he could not work, he was angry and depressed and could not cope with human beings.  He did not feel love or affection, really he only felt anger, rage, and he was suicidal most of the time. He did not remember a lot of things. He could not take care of our family or even himself, really (and I want to mention again that through lots of miracles, he is 100% recovered now…we are so thankful….he is even BETTER than he was before his accident).
But during that time he would have these confusing and amazing glitches of time when he would be totally normal. It was bittersweet. They would last for an hour sometimes, and sometimes for days or even weeks then he would sink back down into that horrible place. When he was sick, I protected him fiercely. I didn’t want anyone to see him like that. I had faith that someday he would recover but man oh man it was lonely. I wished every single day that I could just walk around with a sign like this…
1 signs husband Let’s be gentle with each other. Let’s read each other’s signs.
because on the outside I looked like I had EVERYTHING GOING FOR ME I looked like I might just have a perfect life but I was hiding a very painful secret…
Well, a lot of other things happened too. You can imagine what might happen over the years while we have a 7 acre farm, a pretty big international business that we own with lots of employees, a life that  HE managed before his accident, while he just let me do the fun and creative stuff. Now we had lots of medical bills, lots of sorrow and lots of distractions, we also had LOTS of kids — and no one competent managing the business.
Well, after a few years, I couldn’t hold it all together. Our business was suffering for all of the reasons listed above and a few more reasons on top of that and we discovered that we were really SINKING. Well, one day when he was partly lucid…he was THERE…he was coherent — I told him the condition of our life.
He kind of panicked and he went straight to work figuring out what he could do. It was insanely heartbreaking when he would “wake up” after weeks or months and I had to tell him how much things were deteriorating financially, etc. It was very hard. But when he could, he did what he could before his mental illness sucked him back into the prison it kept him in most of the time.
He called a sign place and had a huge sign brought out to our house…the kind that you can put letters on, and it was electric and lit up. He put it by the road in one of our horse fields. Then he drove our Suburban, both of our trucks, my classic Thunderbird that he got me for my birthday a few years earlier, our tractor, all of our tractor implements, the boat that I worked 10 years to get for him (and that caused his brain injury, incidentally), and he lined everything up along the fence and he put a price tag on every single thing. Then, he put the letters on that big huge sign and plugged it in.
You have to understand that we had worked for MANY years for those things. We started a business in our twenties and we sacrificed everything we had for all of those years to make it work. We owned almost all of it outright, but, when I told him that the business was struggling, this is what he did.
Sooooo…there it was. All in a row. All of our stuff –out in our field.
All of the neighbors driving by, our friends, the community, people who knew us most of our lives and people who knew nothing about us…we were just the young family who lived in that beautiful little farm house on Beacon Light road with the perfect lawn….or what USED to be.
You see, in addition, for months, our once beautifully manicured yard started to be filled with weeds that were now several feet high. I just couldn’t keep it up. The lawn was a nightmare. Everything was just falling apart all around me and my heart was broken over my husband, too. It was humiliating and exhausting and horrible, really.
2 please be gentle Let’s be gentle with each other. Let’s read each other’s signs.
Well, the sign was not up in the field for more than a few hours, when my husband’s phone rang. It was someone who saw all the stuff and my husband’s phone number on the big huge sign. We were sitting out in the yard while he was still coherent and he was feeling devastated about the condition of our lawn. I was apologizing that I just couldn’t do all of it. He was so heartbroken at his limitations and that he had left me to try to handle our life alone. We were trying to make a plan.
He answered his phone. I saw that he was just listening. I could hear that the person’s voice was getting louder and louder and louder. My husband just listened. He turned his back to me a little so I wouldn’t hear. But I could hear it. It seemed to go on and on and on.
These were the things I could hear on the other end of the phonecall:
“You are bringing down the value of my property with that ugly sign!”
“What are you doing?”
“That is the most obnoxious sign, do you have a permit to have that out there?”
“Are you starting a used car lot?”
“You have got to get all of that moved and out of here or I am calling the authorities”
I sat there, mortified, embarrassed, humiliated, mad, sad, devastated. I was certain that this would snap my husband back into his dark hellish place.
But, when the man was done ranting, my husband waited a second and then very calmly said something that I will never, ever forget.
“Sir,” he said, “There was a time in this country, in this community…when if you drove past your neighbor’s house and saw every single thing they own was for sale in front of their house…and that their lawn had not been mowed for weeks….that you would stop and say….WHAT IS GOING ON, SOMETHING MUST BE TERRIBLY WRONG, WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP YOU?”
The man was silent, and then my husband went on to tell him a few details about what was going on with our family.
The man waited a moment and then his tone changed. He apologized. I mean, really apologized and then said:
“I am going to call all of my friends and see if any of them need any of this stuff….”
I wish with everything in me that we could have put a sign up on that big stupid lit up billboard in our field that said OUR LIFE IS FALLING APART, but all that we really could put up is a sign with the price of everything that we owned that was worth any money.
WHAT IF we could all wear a sign that said what WE REALLY MEANT? What if we could go straight past the small talk or the masks, and we could actually go straight to the heart of the matter. What if our friends and family wore signs like this?
1 four signs Let’s be gentle with each other. Let’s read each other’s signs.
…we would treat each other differently.
I think we should just try to imagine it. That when a friend is quiet…or not showing up to stuff she usually shows up to, or acting a little “off”, or a family member is wearing pajamas to the grocery store for weeks on end, or not answering the phone, or the lawn is not mowed…
2 signs in a row Let’s be gentle with each other. Let’s read each other’s signs.
whatever it is…
IT IS A SIGN. It is not a sign that can be read in words and letters, but it is a sign that someone needs to be treated gently. That they need help. Most of all, that they need love, understanding, and that they DEFINITELY DO NOT need to be judged.
Every time I think of this story I want to be better. I want to do better, I don’t want any silent signs to go unread before my eyes or my heart. I don’t want to make up my own answers to what must be going on. I don’t want to assume…
2 together Let’s be gentle with each other. Let’s read each other’s signs.
Let’s be gentle with each other. Let’s read each other’s signs.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Soldier Mail- sort of

     I received an e-mail from one of my soldiers today telling me that his deployment in Afghanistan is ending and he'll be headed back to the base he came from. He thanked me for my letters and told me that he was really happy and grateful to receive them. It kind of made my day. He said he was a little surprised that there was a stranger who cared so much about someone who was deployed. Here's how I feel- there are many people in this world that feel totally alone; some are serving on remote bases in the Middle East, some are people who are away from family, some are the people surrounded by all of their friends looking like life is perfect. If I can take a few minutes out of my day to encourage someone- even a stranger- to remind them that someone cares about them, it's worth it for me. (I've recently discovered that I seem better doing this for a stranger than I sometimes do for my friends and family but that should probably be another post.)  I challenge you all to take a few minutes today to notice someone that you might have otherwise overlooked. This may sound corny to some people, but I really think if people just felt like others noticed them the world would really be a different place.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Redditgift and Sky Lantern Festival card


     I had 2 great items in the mail this weekend.  The first is this package:
   This package was sent to me from Timothy, a Redditgifts friend. He was kind enough to sign up for the reddit teacher gift exchange- where a redditgift user buys some items for a teachers classroom without expecting anything in return. Each user is provided with a wishlist so they have an idea of what to buy. The person who was assigned to me sent me 3 sets of xylophone mallets for my general music classes, an 8-pocket folder to help me organize my paperwork and The Hunger Games- just for me :)  I am humbled by the fact that a total stranger would help me and my students. Thanks, Timothy!

    The 2nd item was a Postcrossing card from Karen in Taiwan. It is the Sky Lantern Festival in Pingsi, Taipei, Taiwan. The people make lanterns and send their wishes/prayers away with them.  This picture doesn't look as nice as the postcard. Thanks, Karen!


    I have been doing better with my mail. Every Sunday night, I write letters to my 4 soldiers and an e-mail to my 5th soldier. I have finally finished my letter to Ashley and plan to send it out tomorrow. I have also written numerous postcards. I have not done a great job keeping the log of incoming and outgoing numbers.  


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Back to school pictures

Here are my boys on their 1st day. David is in Kindergarten and Timmy is in 2nd grade. 

     Here's wishing for a great year!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Back to school....

     Last week, I headed back to school for another insanely busy year.  Tomorrow my own kids start school.  I'll post pictures :)  Timmy is headed into 2nd grade after a rough 1st grade year. I'm hoping that this year he will have the confidence to be himself and not be afraid to be an encourager to other students.  I mentioned MoreLoveLetters.com in my last post. He has received about 50 letters and each one of them is incredible. If you were a person who wrote him, THANK YOU! He is really excited to start now and if he ever has a bad day, he's got a ton of letters that he can go through and read.
    David is starting kindergarten. He is so excited! I can't wait to hear about him making friends and to hear his reading get stronger throughout the year. I am so glad that I have Thursday and Friday off this week so I can go and pick him up from school. To some people who get to stay home with their kids, this is an everyday moment that working moms miss. I'm delighted to get the 2nd and 3rd day of his school year to do this.
      What things are you looking forward to as your kids start school?