Author: Clolita

Let’s Do The Graduation Walk!

When Dr. Barbara Shirley, Principal of Alta Vista Elementary School (“AVES”), invited me to attend their “Graduation Walk” I did not know exactly what I was in store for but I knew that I would be there to support the students and faculty of this wonderful school in any way that I could.  I was already a volunteer mentor there to three third grade girls.

This was the first “Graduation Walk” during which the school honored and congratulated its graduating fifth graders, celebrated its rising fourth graders, and welcomed special guests who included 9 graduating seniors from area schools (one of whom actually graduated from AVES) who are going on to college, branches of the military or even technical school and several second generation parents (parents who graduated from AVES themselves and now had their children in the school).

After a brief reception, I joined the other guests outside to see the entire school from kindergarten to fourth grade lining the walkways around the school with signs and pom poms cheering and applauding the graduating fifth graders as they walked around the entire school.  It was glorious!

You could see on the faces of everyone there – young and older – the pride and joy at being a part of this celebration!  There were signs of encouragement everywhere.  The children were loving it as were the teachers, parents, advisors and guests.  It all led to the cafeteria/auditorium where there was a panel discussion and the fourth and fifth graders got to ask questions of the panel of senior graduates about middle school and college.

Besides being a phenomenal program, it makes the future a part of the discussion for these children from this very young age.  They can see it.  They can see the hard work that is needed.  They can identify with those who have gone before them – those who have lived and struggled through many of the same things yet rose to meet the challenges and be successful.

This is how we encourage their dreams and help the children keep them alive!  We can each be part of the discussion and the dream!  Let’s do it – whether large or small, we all have a part to play.


In Life at All Times – Go For It!!

G         Be grateful for what has come before because it led you to this day.

O         Be an original because there is only one you.

 

F          Be fearless in trying new things for only then can you learn.

O         Be optimistic because a positive attitude is the best way to start the day.

R         Be radiant exuding love, joy, happiness inside and out – it’s contagious!

 

I           Be imaginative so that you can find new solutions.

T          Be a teacher by sharing your knowledge and experience but most of all by your example.

For each of us to bring about a change in our world and have the most influence on the world around us, we need to be the people we want to see more of in the world.  Can you do that?  Think about it!

Did You Hear? No Jeans Over 37!

A British survey by CollectPlus said that after age 53 we should give up wearing jeans.  The reason they cited was not because we look bad wearing them but because it’s harder to find a pair of jeans that actually fits and I guess the stress is too much for us more mature women.  Really!

To that I say, keep trying!  Don’t give up!  It is not about the label. It is not even about the price.  It’s all about the fit.  Persistence and patience is what is needed.  Once you find that pair that fits, buy two or three pairs to be sure you don’t have to go through that again any time soon.

Do like I do.  The important thing for me is to fit my derriere, thighs and inseam.  So I find a pair that fits those areas and then take it to my favorite alterations shop and for a small price I have the waist taken and then I have a perfect fit.

Fashion is a lot of things to all of us. It is personal.  It is practical.  It is the face that we choose to show the world.  It is a statement of our feelings about ourselves or, in some cases, about others.  And sometimes, it’s just a pair of jeans.  Now bathing suits . . .

Let’s Take on the Journey Together!

 JOY is yours to find in every day – large or small, it’s there.

OWN your past, your future, your failures, your successes for it all goes to making you the you that you are.

UPLIFT  by being a positive force in your own life and in the lives of those around you by listening and encouraging their dreams – inspire hope!

RESPECT yourself and those around you.

NURTURE  by encouraging and caring for others so that they do not give up on their own journey to lead their best lives.

EMBOLDEN  yourself and others by being a person who builds and strengthens the confidence and  courage of those around you.

YES as in “Yes I can” when you find yourself facing of a challenge or when someone tells you that you can’t.  Let that be your mantra!

And Pizza Made My Day!

Alta Vista Elementary School is a wonderful elementary school in Sarasota doing some exciting things to challenge and encourage its students even at their very young age.  It is a Title One school with most of the children facing huge challenges at home.  Its principal, Dr. Barbara Shirley, started a pilot mentoring program for her students.  Yes, even at that young age, mentors are so very important – someone who focuses just on them as individuals, helps guide them and encourages their dreams.

I was invited to be part of this program and assigned three third-grade girls who were selected by the school based on their needs and receptiveness to the idea.  It’s been several weeks now and we are working on trusting each other and finding ways to communicate so that we are both comfortable.

One young lady, whom I will call Ni’yah, was indeed having trust issues from the beginning.  She did not like being asked “so many questions” so I had to find a different approach.  She was always punctual and ready for our meetings but reluctant to share much information about herself.  Her way of communicating was to ask me questions which I welcomed because it soon became clear that she felt that she needed to be in control of how information was divvied out during our meetings.  Somewhere along the way in her short life she had learned that it was not safe to answer questions from strangers.   But I did notice that she was eager to meet me and through the use of her questions to me, my answers to her, and her comments to my responses, I began to get to know her.

This particular week, she came through the courtyard with her class and I could see her smiling and waving at me.  I noted that her teacher was  carrying pizza boxes.  The mother of one of her classmates was hosting a lunchtime birthday celebration for her class.  Ni’yah asked if she could stay with them for lunch. My heart dropped a little thinking that she was happy to not be seeing me this day.  But imagine my surprise when she asked “Would you like to come with us?” I was further surprised when she did not ignore me to focus on her friends but had me sit next to her and actively spoke to me as well as to her classmates.  It was a good opportunity for me to see her interacting with her teacher and classmates.  I felt that, in her own way, she was accepting me into her world.  It was also fun to engage with the other members of her class as well who were curious about our relationship.

You never know the impact you have on a child by just being there – being consistent in their lives and listening.  We move ahead at her speed and that is just fine with me.  I am just honored and happy that she seems to be happy that I am there and that I can make a difference in her life.  We all can make a difference in the lives of our children, our friends and our families.  It just takes a little time, a listening ear and being present.

Let’s All Join The Circus (for a day)!

That’s me (upper center) sitting with the kids!

I was looking for a new adventure and why not join the circus! At least visit the Circus Arts Conservatory (the “Conservatory”).  As I child I never liked the circus. animals doing tricks – not my thing! Clowns – we are talking a much longer post and some therapy to get over that experience!

After attending a fundraiser where students from the Conservatory performed on aerial silks, I thought it was awesome and decided to give it a try.  So, I mustered my courage and attended my first session (gasp) sitting among the 8, 9, 10 year-old girls and one brave 19 year-old.

Watching those girls scramble up the silks and stop midway to drop into splits, back bends and just generally act like slippery wet noodles bending, folding, curving and straightening out, I started to rethink my choice of classes but decided to soldier on – I can do this! I am older and stronger albeit not quite as flexible any more.

Yes! I can do this!!!!

My turn came and OMG! What I thought was my superb upper body strength quickly vanished and I was holding on for dear life! Imagine having two or three young girls under the age of 10 encouraging you by shouting “You can do it! One more climb! You can do it!” Boistered by their encouragement, I went hand over hand holding on for dear life for what seemed like forever then I looked down and realized I was only about 5 feet off the mat!

I am doing it!

Nonetheless, I felt victorious! High fives all around! My world looked good and I felt good! We had so much fun despite the differences in ages and abilities. We were all there to try, do our best and have fun!

The point of this foray into the world of circus arts was to step outside my comfort zone and try something new and daring but in a manner that was safe and fun. I have no desire or delusions of ever being an expert at this but I am sure there is a fabulous woman somewhere my age or older who is indeed an expert and to her I say “You go, woman!”

It is good to challenge ourselves mentally and physically whether it is hiking in the hills and mountains of Sedona as a dear friend of mine does, swimming laps in a pool like my sister or walking 10,000 steps a day like my FitBit™ friends and I do.  Sometimes the challenge can be just the opposite – figuring out how to slow down each day, be still and find happiness in that stillness. It is in our challenges that we grow stronger and learn more about ourselves. Have you challenged yourself in some way lately?  Physically? Mentally? Think about it and then go for it. There is no time like the present!

 

So Many Dreams Deferred

Sometimes you look into the eyes of children you see a sense of hopelessness, fear, or just confusion.  It could be about their current situation, their past or not seeing a difference between the two because they have never been taught or allowed to dream.  Dreams awaken us to the possibilities of what life could be and sometimes it is just that possibility of living those dreams that keeps us going – young and old alike!

The notion of losing the ability to pursue your dreams has been eloquently expressed in these lines from a poem by Langston Hughes “What happens to a dream deferred? / Does it dry up / Like a raisin in the sun?” (Hughes 1-3).

Langston Hughes raises the challenges of achieving the dream, particularly but not solely, by those who exist in the poorest parts of our society in yet another poem saying “And then the wall rose, / Rose slowly, slowly, / Between me and my dream”  (Hughes 8-11).

Sometimes as children we don’t know how to dream or what to dream because we are not encouraged to dream.  Sometimes as children and adults we just don’t know how to get there or where there is because everything seems stacked against us like the wall or walls coming up between us and our dream(s).  The wall can be racism, money, education, little or no family support, any number of things and any of these can quickly squash a dream.

It is important to dream.  Important for our children because how else can they get motivated to see themselves with a future that is rich and full and I am not talking about money!  Important for adults and seniors for how else can we continue to have life that is full and satisfying.

One of the greatest things we can teach our children is how to dream – dream of a world beyond the one in which they live, dream of themselves in any job they can think of, dream of themselves successful and happy, dream of themselves surrounded by friends, family and love.  Teach them that with dreams they can learn, discover and challenge themselves to be the best they can be for that is the only way to make the dream a reality.  Even in retirement, I still dream of all that I can do.  One is never too young or too old to dream – do you?

My Life With Dogs

170 lb Leonburger, German Mountain DogOK, those of you who know me well can close your mouth or get up off the floor where you fell when you saw this photo of me with a 170 lb Leonburger German mountain dog.  For those of you who don’t know me as well, let me explain.  All of my adult life I have had this all consuming, irrational fear of dogs!  Big or small, dogs of friends or strangers – all would send me into hyperventilation, heart palpitations, cold sweats and just generally activate my fight or flight response (usually the latter)!

When I was much younger I was bitten by a dog twice.  It may have been nipped or grazed, but in my mind as I the older I became, the more the offense continued to grow until I no longer know if I was in actual danger of being ripped to shreds or merely nudged along.  Rather than take the risk, I kept my distance.

We are talking serious fear here!  I never ran track and field but I distinctly remember jumping a four-foot fence without touching it to escape a snarling charging terrier (or some similar tiny barking creature) who was just probably coming to say hello.

I don’t know how to use these gloves!

Now many people mistake this fear for a dislike of dogs.  That is not true.  One can like dogs and have a healthy respect for them while keeping one’s distance at the same time.  I know this because I have done it successfully for years.  But this time, I had to pull on my big girl panties and be brave.

Be my friend, too!

He was sitting there at the Farmer’s Market with his brother (yes, there were two of them seemingly blocking out the sun).  Both very docile and almost smiling.  As I warily circled them, he followed me with a smile and seemed to whisper “I know you are afraid but I am a nice guy – come here and see.”  After about 15 minutes of checking each other out and with his two-legged friend encouraging me as well, I approached and he melted in front of me.  Yes, the smile on both our faces is real!  We became friends.

Does it cure my phobia?  Not sure.  He may just be the exception to the rule.  But for one day, I felt that we truly bonded!!  There comes a point in our journey where we have to trust and be willing to challenge long held fears.  Then just maybe, maybe, we can put them aside.

Come and join us! We can play like this all day!

Let’s Talk About “Housewives”

Like most people with down time during the recent holidays, I did some binging and channel surfing.  In the way traffic backs up on the side of the freeway where there is no accident because others are drawn to look, I could not help but stop and look at one of the reality shows about housewives of . . . you name the city.  I will admit it was not the first time but it will be the last time.

I can understand the appeal to some extent – seeing the glamorous lives of others.  Stepping into another world full of money, jewels, beautiful clothes – the houses, the cars, the endless parties, luncheons – what’s not to love!  Not to mention the perfect hair, the perfect teeth, the perfect bodies – how could you not want that?  How could you not want to live in that world for an hour at least once a week?

But look a little deeper.  The so-called friends – friends?  Really?  In that short period of time, I heard women calling other women (their friends) every derogatory, degrading, ugly curse word you can think of – repeatedly.  I heard women gossip and talk about each other changing their tales to match the occasions and get maximum effect from the group de jour.

Who is watching this stuff?  What are we learning?  I am all for mindless entertainment from time to time; however, while certainly mindless this should never be classified as entertainment.  Our young women and young men are watching these shows.  They are learning how to worship the dollar and that their bodies are a work in progress to be surgically molded and sculpted rather than loved just as they are.  They are learning that in order to have any value you must devalue others.

                     

Girls, boys, young women and young men need to see women as strong, smart and bold and learn to be the caring, supportive, leaders of tomorrow.  Reality shows do not depict reality at all.  It has been said that in the very act of watching, the observer affects that which is watched.  On these shows, women are encouraged to misbehave for ratings; however, by doing so they diminish us all.

Let’s remember that we are all examples of womanhood to the women who follow us.  Female – strong, encouraging, supporting, loving friends, mothers, sisters, aunts, and mentors.  Whatever we want to be, let us do it in a way that lifts us all and not get pulled down just to get higher ratings!

 

Happy New Year!

As we take the leap from 2017 into 2018, I hope that each and everyone of you is looking forward to the new year with anticipation.  We get not a “do over” but a “get it done”!  By that I mean, all those things we did not get to last year we can put on a list and decide what stays and what goes.  Once you do that, make a plan to move forward and accomplish those goals.

Let’s not forget that just as we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, we are surrounded by many who need to be lifted in spirit and in love so that they too can move forward in pursuing their dreams.  The smallest gesture of kindness can make a huge difference in the life of a child or anyone who is suffering or facing a difficult time.  Being there, listening, holding a hand, offering a smile – costs nothing but comes back to us in ways that are immeasurable.  Let’s make it a great year!