Voicing the Gift

*all names in this piece have been changed

Voicing The Gift

My first teaching position was a bit unusual. Because a full time teacher was not needed at either school in the district, I worked half-day at the high school and half-day at the elementary school. That was the nice thing about my special education degree; it encompassed grades kindergarten through twelfth. Oh wait … except I didn’t actually have my special education degree (yet). That is how scarce the supply of special education teachers was at the time. But with an elementary education degree in hand and a commitment to obtain my master’s degree in special education, I was able to accept the position.

So there I was, a teacher of big kids with learning and behavioral problems and a teacher of little kids with learning and behavioral problems. I wasn’t quite sure what to do at either end of the spectrum. But despite my lack of training, I had worked with kids long enough to know I was good at one thing: listening. I knew from experience that if an adult acted the slightest bit interested, kids (no matter what age) generally liked to talk.

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From a Kid Who Isn’t Known

the doll show by handsfreemama.com

Before I started my Hands Free journey, I put off living. I banked on vacations and holidays to make up for the lack of time spent connecting with the people I love. The other 349 days of the year I was too busy, too distracted, and too productive to slow down, enjoy life, and simply be with the people I love.

That’s sad, isn’t it? It’s painful to write honest sentences like that, but I know I am not alone. I’m learning that this notion of being “too busy” to spend time with the people we love is not so rare. Unfortunately when we place our moments of togetherness in far off future occasions, the opportunities of today are lost in that delay of truly living.

I’m incredibly thankful that is not the way it is for me anymore.

Now I don’t wait for holidays to slow down, laugh, and play.

Now I don’t bank on family vacations to create my children’s fondest memory recollections.

I’ve discovered that the most meaningful experiences in life happen when I take pause in the ordinary, mundane moments of a busy day.

I am thankful I know that now. In fact, when I find myself in such a moment of peace and connection, gratitude spills out in the form of warm, happy tears.

Just like it did the other night.

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On the Other Side of Fear


“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” – Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” – Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo

I’ve never been one to hide my directional ineptness, but actually there’s more to the story. Whenever I have to navigate unfamiliar areas, intense fear grips me. Although I never go anywhere without my navigation system, a printed Google map, and directions from someone who knows where I am going, I may as well have nothing. My palms sweat as I grip the steering wheel, wondering how many wrong turns I will make and how late I will be.

But when I arrive safely – especially when there is minimal backtracking – I feel triumphant. Reaching a destination provides a small boost to my directionally fragile self-esteem.

Although this fear tempts me to forgo excursions to new places, like speaking engagements out of my ten-mile radius, I do it anyway. I say YES and remind myself that although I might get lost temporarily, I always find my way home.

My children are aware of my problem. They know to get very quiet at the first sign Mom is lost—usually when I start talking to the GPS. There’s a very good chance my children don’t know the gas station sells gasoline. I use it mainly for directional purposes.

Surprisingly, my kids still get in the car with me each day. When I type a new address into the GPS, the look of concern on their faces is brief. Usually one of them shrugs and reminds the other,  “We can always stop at the gas station if we get lost.”

Well, the other night it happened—we got lost. But this time I had no navigation system, no map, and no written directions.

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