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Magic Intervened

December 29, 2013 12 comments
Christmas Candles

©2013 HannahRoseTeich & I’mThinkingHappy.com

“Oh, Come All Ye Faithful,

Joyful and Triumphant!”

Even though the Holiday has come and gone, I’m still basking in that warm and fuzzy, lingering feeling of love and caring, otherwise known as Christmas Spirit.

Like many folks who celebrate, Christmas is deeply rooted in tradition for me. My European parents have always emphasized Christmas Eve as the more celebrated day of the two. Unlike my all-American friends who opened their gifts Christmas morning, Santa always came to our house after dinner on Christmas Eve. When I was a child we would trade off each year with my Dad’s sister, celebrating in Westchester or Upstate New York with my two, older boy cousins who lived in the woods. By the time my children were born, my cousins had already started their own families and carried on the tradition in their own ways. Ours was tweaked slightly so we could continue to celebrate Christmas Eve with my parents at their home and celebrate Christmas Day, the American way, in my home. Santa’s magical flexibility allowed for him to drop off a few gifts at Nana & Opa’s house after dinner before making his way to our house Christmas morning.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years however, it’s that like it or not, change is the only real constant. You can go with the flow, embracing it the best you can or be miserable.

An incident at the beginning of December unfortunately,  made it clear that this Christmas was going to be different, forcing me to rethink how we normally celebrate Christmas Eve. Even though my parents would be celebrating as they usually do with our extended family, being there for us, was not an option. Circumstances beyond our control and careful consideration made it necessary for me to decline the invitation, in effect, displacing us and leaving us with nowhere to be on Christmas Eve.

Each generation tries to do better, provide more guidance and opportunity for their kids but mostly we all just want for our children to be happy.  My kids love their extended family. Talking to them about why we weren’t going to celebrate Christmas Eve with my family this year was really hard.  And even though after everything my kids have been through, it’s been important to me to try to keep certain things the same for them over the past two years, I realize life is filled with hard stuff. All we can really do for our kids is arm them with the truth and let them know we will always be there to love and support them.

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©2013 KarenSzczukaTeich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

“Sing Choirs of Angels Sing in Exultation,

Sing All Ye Citizens of Heaven Above!”

I believe in magic; Christmas Magic.

It’s the gift that appears from seemingly nowhere and has no tangible existence to speak of, like the unlikely turn-of-events in a situation that you couldn’t foresee working out — working out. It can come in the form of an unexpected act of kindness or an expression of gratitude.  It’s when all things align and the view is suddenly clear, making way for something special to occur, like the sighting of a shooting star or the appearance of a rare blue moon.

It’s getting what you need, not necessarily what you’ve been asking for and recognizing it when it shows itself.

I love Christmas because it embodies the spirit of giving (and I don’t mean of things) from one person to another.

An unexpected, greatly appreciated phone call came about a week before Christmas. My Dad’s sister, the aunt we shared Christmas with when I was a child invited me and my children to join her, a friend and one of my cousins on Christmas Eve.

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© 2013 KarenSzczukaTeich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

I haven’t spent a Christmas Eve with my Tante Christine in over 20-years.

She hasn’t spent a Christmas without at least two of her four grandchildren present in over 25-years.

This year Christmas Eve was different. None of her grandchildren could be there.

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© 2013 KarenSzczukaTeich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

My kids and I needed some family for Christmas.

My aunt, needed some kids.

We — needed each other.

Magic Intervened.

May the Magic of the Holiday Season fill your heart with joy and gratitude, as it did mine.

Full Plumage

August 19, 2013 10 comments

Bus2

I’ll leave an envelope in your mailbox with a letter explaining what this is all about, he said.

It’s hard to believe school starts again in just a few weeks! Where did the summer go?

Where did the years go?

During the school year, my kids are super spoiled fortunate to be driven to school every day. Not like the early years when they actually wanted to get up early and take the bus; at least Noah did. Gone too, are the days when I’d follow the bus, every day, ensuring that my son didn’t get abducted along the way OR so I could be there, just in case he needed me in some way along the route OR God forbid, there was an accident and I needed to jump into rescue mode for my little boy on the big bus. Nope, those hovering masterful parenting skills vital to ensuring my son’s safe transport to school, are no longer needed. Indeed, it is no longer required of me — by me — to make a mad dash to my car as soon as the big double-wide doors are pulled shut. Trailing, oh-so-not-discreetly, behind the big yellow boat carrying my its precious cargo is something I just don’t have to do anymore.

Bus1

September 2003 ©Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile

Back in the day and during his entire first year on the bus, I’d follow and then veer off at the corner of Dunkin’ Donuts and Route 9 while the bus would head into Princess Circle where a cluster of apartment buildings were. The apartment-pick-up allowed me just enough time to run in for a cup-of-Joe and be back outside standing on the corner, ready to catch a glimpse of my then 5-year old who’d be peering out of the window directly behind the bus driver. The bus driver would make him sit in the seat right behind her every day.

I make all the little ones sit behind me, so I can keep an eye on them, she told me one day.

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September 2003 ©Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile

Thank you, Jan.

An older woman with a big heart, there was no pulling-the-wool over Jan’s eyes. And instead of balking at my stalker-ish behavior, she’d honk the bus horn two or three times and I’d over-hear her through her cracked window telling Noah,

Look, there’s your mom. Wave to her!

He and she, would, as they rounded the corner from Princess Circle to route 9, every time.

It made my day.  Every-day.

And, to-this-day, if Jan sees me around town she honks her big yellow bus horn and waves to me with a big heartwarming smile on her face.

Thank you, Jan.

But, I digress.

My 5-year old is now going on 15 and he can sit where he wants to on the bus. Plus, these days, he has a companion. Well, sort of.  He and his sister take the bus home almost every day together. Although I somehow doubt they actually sit together. And they don’t always get off at the same STOP. But people know they’re siblings, including their current bus driver, who Hannah has had now for the past two years in a row.

It was the end of June, school was over when the man on the other end of my cell identified himself as “Vinny”, my kids’ bus driver. He told me he would leave an envelope in my mailbox explaining what the call was all about.

According to the letter, each year the Federation of Workers representing nine units (including bus drivers) in the school district we live in, take part in a program that allows for 40 out of the well over 65,000 children served, to be recognized for exhibiting outstanding behavior.

WCSD Letter

Accompanied with the letter were 4-tickets to a Renegades game; our local minor league baseball team.

If our name comes up, Vinny said, we choose a student that we’ve come in contact with during the year that has shown exemplary behavior.  We’re only supposed to pick one but I chose both your kids because they’re both great kids and really deserving. They never give me a hard time. They say hi and thank-you, are polite and Hannah helps me out with the little kids all the time.

Like a peacock fanning her feathers in full plumage, I could feel the pride swell inside.

peacock mama

Since my last post boasted the sibling rivalry that exists between my pair, I thought it fitting, to highlight their cooperation; even if they don’t always realize or recognize it; sometimes, other people do. Way to go Hannah and Noah!

Thank you, Vinny!

 

Grace. Equanimity.

July 14, 2013 12 comments

grace

“When we make peace with life events, even when things don’t go the way we want, we exhibit grace. When we manage stressful situations with humor, we exhibit grace. When we are accepting of others, we exhibit grace. Grace is not about physical beauty or having a ballerina’s poise. It is composed of generosity, forgiveness, and equanimity in the face of trying times.” 

~Sarah Brokaw

Putting life’s challenges into perspective.

You can’t let an event in your life define who you are. It’s not what happens to you but what you do; how you respond to what happens to you that becomes part of who you are, defining your character to yourself and others.

Living life on life’s terms is not always easy or easily understood. In times of confusion it’s important to seek calm, and trust instead.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”       

                                                                                      ~ Martin Luther King Jr

What matters in life is the motive behind our approach; how we treat one another and the messages we send through that treatment.

What matters is what we learn; that we learn, in order to affect change.

Grace.  Equanimity.

Photo Credit: Google Images

Categories: Challenges, Life, Love Tags: , ,

My Rose

April 28, 2013 6 comments

Just remember in the Winter

Far beneath the bitter snow

Lies the seed that with the sun’s love

In the Spring becomes the rose.

~ “The Rose”/Lyrics Amanda McBroom

seedThe season has changed and Spring has finally found us. The promise of renewal, rebirth and hopeful thoughts surroroseund us. The sun is shining warm again. Seedlings that were planted falls-ago have taken root over the winter’s long days and new life is emerging. Vibrant bursts of color are popping up daily. The unexpected is happening. Everywhere. Be alert with eyes wide open or be jarred, as I was the other day; halted by beauty; startled in an unanticipated moment, forced to pause and see the sweet rose that shot up before me.

How did this happen right before my eyes without me seeing it?

Parenting is busy, worrisome work. It’s constant, at times, all-consuming. It’s a life-long learning adventure. Like most things I become immersed in, the deeper I’m in it, often times, the harder it is for me to step out and back and linger in the minutes of  the milestones and accomplishments of our ever-changing, day-to-day lives. Hours become days. Days extend into weeks which turn into months that become years. Even though I’ve been there all the while, the details are clouded and what seems like, in the blink of an eye, the bud becames a blossom and I’ve been caught completely off guard.

That sweet seedling that was just laughing-it-up in the park yesterday...

Hannah @ Playpland Park

…has grown into a flower, more beautiful than I could ever have imagined…

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… and is laughing-it-up on her way into the Spring Dance today, in concert with these other lovelies who are flourishing in their own beautiful gardens.

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Castles In The Sky

January 27, 2013 18 comments

Castle1

Take your sword and your shield
There’s a battle on the field
You’re a knight and you’re right
So with dragons now you’ll fight…

Fairytales live in me
Fables coming from my memory
Fantasy is not a crime
Find your castle in the sky 

~ Dj Satomi

Wasn't it just yesterday that they were building castles in the sand?

Nothing contents a mother’s heart like the distant sound of chatter or laughter coming from the place where her children are playing. And nothing jump-starts a mother’s heart like the sudden shriek of discord coming from the place where her children are playing.

Sibling relationships are complicated. Mysterious. Maybe that’s because most siblings are polar opposites.

So, while it’s true that the work of children is play, it may also be said that the work of siblings is rivalry.

In a loving way of course.

Because aside from our parents, they are our first introduction to love.

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They’re also our first introduction to conflict.

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They are our first playmates.

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And our first best friend.

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Yep. Since the age of dawn or shortly there-after, let’s say since the days of Cain and Abel anyway, sibling rivalry has been a mainstay in family dynamics. It certainly was in mine and it is for my kids. I’m always suspect when people tell me they never rivaled in some way with their siblings growing up. Really? I can’t imagine what that’s like.

It’s not a bad thing; sibling rivalry. It’s a natural thing. Siblings are practice people. They help us understand who we are and let us know how we’re perceived by others. They help us find our limits and our boundaries. And when they’re not rivaling with us, they teach us about friendship.

Siblings get the first glimpse of our future through the dreams we share with them. They are lifetime confidants, the only ones who really understand the inner workings of their unique family dynamic. It’s the bond that keeps them together and tears them apart. The relationship between siblings is fickle. It can be fractured by the slightest of provocations just as easily as it can be mended by a few soft-spoken, intentional words.

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If you let them, they will build it.

They might even build it together.   ~ Kavst

Little do they know, while it definitely gets easier as they grow up, it also gets harder.

It’s complex.

Siblings. They are the keeper of each others’ secrets. The holder of one another’s dreams and may they always, always help each other build their castles in the sky.

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Photo Credits #1-8: ©2013 KarenSzczukaTeich & Takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

A Stranger’s Grief

December 16, 2012 10 comments

heaven

One of the things that had a profound effect on me upon giving birth and becoming a mother, was the almost instantaneous and overwhelming feeling of love I felt within my heart, for not only my child but for all children. Within the first few weeks of my son’s life, I will always remember how it struck me that what seemed like all-of-a-sudden, children were my concern, all children. It’s a gift I think we receive innately when we become parents, so I don’t think I am unique in feeling this deep sense of caring for the well-being of children in general.

Incomprehensible.

The tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday is simply incomprehensible.

Heartbroken.

Like so many other people, parents; moms, I am heartbroken. The magnitude of this loss fills me with pure, raw sadness. My heart is overflowing with deep sorrow and intense grief for the families and their suffering.

Guilty.

I am guilty of avoiding the internet and television in an attempt to circumvent reports and updates on this massacre. I desperately want to hide from the truth. I am too weak to find the strength required to stop, watch and listen to the details of what happened. I end up crying each time I try. I am afraid to hear the names; the children’s names. They have released the names of the victims and even though I am a complete stranger to all of them, I can not bear to hear their names.

Consolation.

I have no consolation for anyone. I feel foolish looking for something positive in this. I see no positive side, no possible reason for this happening. No matter how deep I reach, I can not find anything soothing to say. I have no consoling words that might help anyone and I don’t believe that in hindsight we will glean any kind of lesson or understanding from this event. There is no amount of  human kindness that could come from this, that I could possibly use to make sense of this senselessness.

Each and every parent who sent their child off to school at the end of last week had every expectation that they would meet again at the end of the day.

This is not how I want to be reminded that every day we have with our children is a gift or that life is short — although like every other parent I imagine, I took a moment this weekend to hug my children a little harder and a little longer than usual.

When I drop my children off at school this coming Monday, it will be with a heavy heart and a slight sense of trepidation but at least they will return to school. I will think of them often throughout the day as I will undoubtedly be thinking of those children who will not be returning to school:

Charlotte 6, Daniel 7, Olivia 6, Josephine 7, Ana 6, Dylan 6, Madeleine 6, Catherine 6, Chase 7, Jesse 6, James 6, Grace 7, Emilie 6, Jack 6, Noah 6, Caroline 6, Jessica 6, Avielle 6, Benjamin 6, Allison 6.

And the educators who served them:

Rachel 29, Dawn 47, Anne Marie 52, Lauren 30, Mary 56, Victoria 27.

Photo Credit #1 ~ Google Images

Newtown Victims/NYMAG.COM

Going On…

September 2, 2012 7 comments

This week’s re-post Diamond in the Rough is from November, 2011. I chose this one not only because it’s a favorite among readers but also because the beautiful journals that I mention below are very close to becoming a book. A Kickstarter Campaign has been started to help defray some initial start up costs. If you have a few minutes please visit

Going On: A Book About Life.

Diamond in the Rough

Gratitude.

This week I can’t help but be thankful for the people in my life, my children and our health.

It’s a tradition in the school I work at, to celebrate each year’s accomplishments at a Stepping Stones ceremony in June. Throughout the year some of the faculty collect beautiful stones from a wide variety of places for each student to pick from.

A few years ago, one of our senior graduates turned the tradition around. He’d gone mining earlier in the year and instead of just taking a stone for himself, he gave each member of the faculty and staff a Herkimer diamond. It was a touching gesture.

Mine, was stolen from a drawer in my bedroom a year-and-a-half ago.

He passed away a little over a year ago.

This particular graduate was an extraordinary human being. I knew he could write, memorize and recite complicated monologues. But it wasn’t until his memorial service that I discovered the breadth of his artistic abilities. It was there that I was given a glimpse into just how talented he was. I didn’t know he had such an incredible eye for photography or that he whittled the pieces of an entire chess set out of wood or fashioned a beautiful wooden flute for his mom. He also made grand bags out of leather and bark and created with glass. He made beautiful marbles and knives. He was quite the unique individual and his art reflected that. In this technological age of all things electronic, he was a breath of fresh air.

He was a diamond in the rough.

Recently, his mom who is also an artist, had an art exhibit entitled 100 Hearts in his honor. I have three.

I spent a few days with her this summer at our place in the woods Upstate. I read her beautifully drawn journals, the ones that try to put into perspective what her daily life is like now without her son, how her grief is endless and how grateful she is for the time she had with him. As a mother I am in awe of her strength sometimes and heartbroken by her loss, always.

Just before the Thanksgiving break, I was in her classroom and she handed me a small bundle of tissue. Beneath the folds of the carefully wrapped paper lay not one but two of the Herkimer diamonds her son mined that year.

One is clear and small. The other is larger and contains rare impurities. Both are beautiful in their own special way. Heart stop.

Needless to say thoughts of this young man and his spirit have lingered with me all week-long.

Gratitude. Be happy for what you have — right now.

This week in particular, I’m thankful for the people in my life, my children and our health.

Hug your diamonds in the rough today.

Going On: A Book About Life

Photo Credit #1 Hearts By Goldy Safirstein/Going On- A Book About Life

Photo Credit #2 Gratitude

Photo Credit #3 Stones

Photo Credit #4 ©Karen Szczuka Teich & Takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

Photo Credit #5  Children

Photo Credit #6 Book Cover by Goldy Safirstein/Going On- A Book About Life

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