Archive for December, 2008
So I had the wonderful good fortune of meeting a woman a few months ago– a teacher– who adopted not just one of her students but all of her student’s siblings. I had the even better fortune of being able to celebrate this woman and her family in a viewpoint essay for University City magazine‘s December issue. As we reflect on the end of one year and the beginning of another, I wanted to share the story with you, too.
What is the most generous thing you can do?
Becky Doss wasn’t particularly fulfilled. She had been a teacher’s assistant for several years. It was a job that allowed her to be home with her two sons after school and in the summers. But her home was almost an empty nest, and in the classroom she realized she preferred teaching over assisting. So, she returned to school to earn her certification. It was a decision that would ultimately change her life, the lives of each of her family members – and the lives of nine other children. It would inspire her life’s purpose.
Love Walked In
On an October day that started like any other in Becky’s fourth grade classroom at David Cox Elementary, Eli Turrubiartes, a new student with immigrant parents and eight siblings at home, walked into Becky’s life.
“She just absolutely caught my heart and my eye,” Becky recalled. “She was so very shy, very small, and ill. There were lots of things that she needed.”
That need was something that Becky, who always had a giving nature, could address. She tutored Eli and had her over for dinner. The whole family fell in love with Eli.
“But you can’t just help one,” Becky explained. “You end up getting involved with the whole family.”
Over the next few years, Becky taught two of Eli’s siblings, and she and her family offered Eli’s family as much support as possible. In February 2005, Araceli, the oldest of the siblings, called Becky and Brian Doss one evening to say that all nine children needed to come stay with them. Their parents were unable to care for them all but didn’t want to see the children split up. It was the first night of the rest of all of their lives.
How will you help?
In each of our homes, the fixings from Thanksgiving are a distant memory. We are tired from the merrymaking, from the sluggish economy and the long election season. And, yet, we are also yearning. We are considering how we begin this new year with a sense of purpose. We want to be of use, to have our happiness be decided on our own terms and not by the news or what others’ think. We want to be fulfilled.
Right now, ask yourself: “What is the most generous thing that I can do?” Keep asking yourself that question until you know the answer. Then act from that place.
For the Doss family – Becky, Brian, Andrew and Jeremy – the answer was to open their home to the Turrubiartes children. Becky and Brian became their legal guardians. Andrew and Jeremy became big brothers many times over. All of them gained so much love, happiness and hope. Thanksgiving at the Doss home is a parable that explains the meaning of the holiday.
Becky knows that loving the Turrubiartes children is what her family was meant to do.
“My life in retrospect seemed black and white versus now where it is so rich with color and depth. It just didn’t have a whole lot of anything to it. It was almost just existing,” she said. “With the kids came a purpose. They have added richness.”
But the Doss/Turrubiartes family could not be what it is without community support. Those around them answered that question about generosity by delivering meals, donating book bags and school supplies to the family, helping with home repairs and donating money.
At first, Becky struggled with the outpouring. Shouldn’t she and her family be the ones giving?
“It was very different to be on the other side – accepting,” Becky said. “We were raised to always help other people. But the lawyer who did our legal work told us that a lot of people want to support us. She said, ‘They want to be a part of what you are doing. They can’t do what you are doing, but they can help you do it. This is the only way that they can be part of what you are doing. You need to say yes.’ ”
That advice is true for all of us. It is in giving and receiving that we acquire our great richness. We need to say yes to those who wish to engage with us, but we also need to say yes to our community, to fulfilling our purpose, to giving back. It is how we become better, how our community becomes better, how our world becomes better.
It does not take an Ivy League degree, a big-time contact, a bulging bank account to positively impact a person’s life or a community. Just like the Turrubiartes children needed the Doss family, today, more than ever, the world needs its champions. You are that champion. What is the most generous thing you can do?
Here are my favorite blog posts from July-September 2008.
July 3’s Thanks, Papito.
July 23rd’s You have never been more beautiful.
September 2nd’s To Love Like This…
September 14th’s The Perfect Comeback
September 22nd’s Such a daddy’s girl
September 24th’s The power of a single voice.
Are you turning over a new style leaf with the new year? Are you planning on making more of an effort to look put together when you leave the house? Cleaning out the wardrobe that doesn’t fit you any longer and finding perfect pieces for the person you are today? Consulting a stylist to find your signature look? Getting a great new haircut that you can maintain? Learning how to do make-up that is just right for you? Dressing for the job you want and not the one you have?
I am putting together a series for the CHarlotte Observer to run several times in 2009 about style resolutions and Charlotteans making them, and I’d love to include you. If you have a style resolution for 2009, I’d love to hear from you. Email me your resolution (firstname.lastname@example.org), your reason for it, and a little about yourself by January 5. Thanks so much!
So, it has been a week since I declared my Make an Effort resolution, and I have to say that while it has required some stealth organizing and then holding to the calendar, it has worked. The true test came when my parents came up for lunch the other day. In the olden days (read 3 days before), I would have looked at my calendar, seen that it was the ONLY thing on my calendar that day and gone to lunch with them in my yoga pants and sweatshirt. Not this time. As soon as I got done with my workout, I showered and got ready– putting on dark jeans and a v neck floral sweater, doing something with my hair, and putting on a little make-up. Now, as soon as we got home from lunch and they left, I changed back into my workout wear but I didn’t need to go back out of the house that day so it was fine. The next day, BF and I ran some errands and went to a movie. I pulled out a brown corduroy A-line jacket for the occassion and funky clogs that I just love and have worn less than 5 times though I’ve had them for a long time. BF asked if the coat, an Old Navy find from a few years ago, was new. Guess someone else is only used to seeing me in workout clothes, too. On Tuesday, I got all dolled with make-up and another sweater that rarely makes it onto my body but couldn’t stand to do my hair. A wide headband gave me far more polish than I could have pulled off formally doing my hair. I imagine that getting ready is like riding a bike. I haven’t yet tried different shoes with my outfits– I am relying on my Danksos to be multi-purpose. I have on my signature silver necklace with a plate that reads Fearlessness and staple silver hoops when I have a jewelry box full of fun stuff, but I am getting there. Just the other day, in the mail, came a purchase I made after one of my editors recommended it (not because she was evaluating my appearance, I promise): The One Hundered- A Guide to The Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own by Nina Garcia (she’s on Project Runway. It will surprise no one here that I have not seen an episode of Project Runway so I will have to take the book cover’s word for it). Something tells me that I might score about an 42 out of The One Hundred. I’ll let you know. But maybe the One Hundred will be the perfect thing for helping me efficiently get my “make an effort” act together. More soon!
29 years ago tonight, my parents went to a holiday party and left me with my older sister and brother. I was six. She was 12. He was 14. When the car was safely gone from the driveway, my sister darted to my parents’ bedroom.
“What are you doing?” I asked, right behind her.
“Looking for our Christmas presents,” she replied as she hit the mother lode in my dad’s closet, behind a thin curtain of sweatshirts used to conceal the stash.
“That’s wrong. I am going to tell,” I told her.
And annoyed by me, she called my bluff.
“Don’t you want to know what you got from Santa Claus?”
Pardon? Those presents up in Dad’s closet were from mom and dad. I was no dummy. I knew our Christmas morning presents came from two sources: our parents and Santa Claus.
“Those are our presents from Mom and Dad,” I insisted.
“Oh yeah?” My sister eyed me, totally put out. And then she turned to a gift wrapped in white paper at her eye level. She pressed the paper firmly against the box it was covering.
“If you get Strawberry Shortcake from Santa Claus on Christmas morning,” she said, “then you know that mom and dad are Santa and Santa doesn’t exist.”
“Fine,” I answered, but a hint of doubt filled my mind. If I was honest, the whole Santa thing didn’t make much sense to a curious kid who pondered everything. Just the sheer volume of houses Santa had to cover in 24 hours was enough to cast doubts before even getting into the notion of flying reindeers and chimneys that functioned as slides. But I held out hope that my parents didn’t lie to me.
On Christmas morning, I walked into the kitchen to see the cookies I had placed out for Santa back in the cookie dish. Note to parents who are impersonating Santa: eat the evidence. Further suspicion filled my mind, but I tried to push it out as we went to open the presents. I eyed the white package under the tree that appeared to be the same one my sister had discovered two nights before. Finally, my dad grabbed it from under the tree, read the label, and looked up at me expectantly, “To Rosie From Santa.” I nodded and reached out my hand, wordless. Tears stung my eyes, my nostrils flared. I opened that present, the one thing I had wanted for Christmas, with dread. It was like the Pandora’s box of my childhood. There was no going back.
That was the first in a series of Christmases where I cried. I am not a crier, but I am sensitive and small things packed with meaning– good or bad– tear me up and they inevitably did for a string of Christmases after I found out about Santa. The truth is I may have still been grieving what I learned the morning I was given that delicious smelling Strawberry Shortcake doll. Looking back now, I can’t help but also think about the Christmas blunders that still make me laugh. After my three crying Christmases comes the Christmas where I spilled the beans, possibly a passive aggressive reaction to my sister’s unveiling of Santa years before. She was opening a present from family friends that had been under our tree since the weekend after Thanksgiving. I knew what it was and she had asked me every day since it went under the tree to tell her. “No way,” I told her over and over, and mimed zipping my lips. But on Christmas morning, when that package was handed to her, something came over me. Just as she ripped the paper, the dike burst on my lips. “It’s a blowdryer!” I screamed with relief. She opened the box to see that, indeed, it was a ConAir.
When I was in college, I looked for a way to round out my meager gifts for my brother and sister. The solution? A mixed tape. I hobbled our musical interests onto 110 minutes of Memorex tape and always gave it a clever name that recalled our childhood. My favorite mixed tape from those years is still “It’s A Blowdryer” circa 1996.
If all goes well in the coming months, this will be our last Christmas without a child. I look back at the stories from the holidays of my childhood with such affection. The blue Huffy bike that gave me infinite freedom. The year that things were especially tight at our house so I awoke at midnight to fill the living room with handmade crafts to make up for whatever might not be under the tree. Truth be told, it has never been about what is under the tree (the Strawberry Shortcake incident was really about being lied to by the whole world and feeling duped), has it? It’s about what’s around the tree, who is around the tree. This year, BF and I have foregone gifts. Our gift will come soon enough.
As the holiday season sparkles in her splendor, as it calls to us to give thanks and love and peace, as it asks us to be our best, as it shares with us love and grace, I sit in wonder with a grateful heart. Happy holidays to each one of you. Whatever you celebrate, whether or not you celebrate, I wish for you a glorious end to this year that reminds you of your blessings and a beginning of the new year that teases you with its possibilities.
So, one of my students from my body image class has a blog and did a cool post that I just had to do, too (because there is nothing I like better than a good questionaire).
Here is her set up for it on her blog:
In the 19th century, French writer Marcel Proust stumbled upon a questionnaire called, “An Album to Record Thoughts, Feelings, ect.” Proust answered the questionaire numerous times over his life. This list of questions came to be known as the Proust Questionaire. It has been used to uncover one’s true characteristics and emotions ever since. As I am on the path to discovering my WORD, I thought that filling out this questionaire might help me uncover it. I encourage everyone to do this questionaire, just so you have a little more insight into you.
So I am taking her advice and completing the Prouse Questionaire. Hope you will, too!
1. Your most marked characteristics?
I am passionate and energetic. I have a huge affinity for justice in all its forms. I am a doer, teacher, and thinker. And I am overearnest and too often overengaged.
2. The quality you most like in a man?
Authenticity, vulnerability, self-awareness, sense of reverence and a healthy dose of irreverence
3. The quality you most like in a woman?
sense of humor, authenticity, strength, self-awareness, sense of reverence and a healthy dose of irreverence
4. What do you most value in your friends?
My closest friends are unabashedly who they are. They have a penchant for justice, are thoughtful, and are low maintenance.
5. What is your principle defect?
I really want people to be who they are– and am exhausted– noticeably so– by charades.
6. What is your favorite occupation?
7. What is your dream of happiness?
Living passionately and truly every day while making the choices I want and need to make– not having to do things simply because of expectation or out of someone else’s sense of my obligation.
8. What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
Giving one’s self away until you no longer know where you end and someone else begins.
9. What would you like to be?
an author, over and over again, an activist, and an inspired parent
10. In what country would you like to live?
Italy– specifically Tuscany.
11. What is your favorite color?
12. What is your favorite flower?
For years, gerber daisies and tulips, but I am loving the potted orchid I have going in our living room right now.
13. What is your favorite bird?
What a random question. Except I have answers because I have been to the Trinidadian rain forest and there are some sweet birds there. Here are the blue-crowned Mot Mot, the blue-gray Tanager, and the Magnificent Frigatebird.
14. Who are your favorite prose writers?
Too many to even count but here are some that came quickly to mind: Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, Jeannette Winterson.
15. Who are your favorite poets?
Mary Oliver, Kim Addonizio, Lucille Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks.
16. Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Ishmael in Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
17. Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
Harriet from Harriet the Spy
18. Who are your favorite composers?
Bono, Michael Stipe, the women of Sweet Honey in the Rock, Bob Marley, Eminem, Melissa Etheridge, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers
19. Who are your favorite painters?
Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera
20. Who are your heroes in real life?
my parents, my students, teachers, nurses
21. What is it you most dislike?
injustice, selfishness, poverty, bullying
22. What natural gift would you like to possess?
a decent singing voice
23. How would you like to die?
quietly after many, many years
24. What is your present state of mind?
content, quiet, reflective
25. To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
my sweet tooth
26. What is your motto?
We too often love things and use people when we should love people and use things.
27. Your name or Pseudo?
I am legally Rosemary, commonly Rosie, but also called Rosita, Grillita, Ro, Rose, Ro-ro, Rosemople, and Team
Here is a round up of my favorite blogs posts from spring, early summer 2008.
April 1st’s This is what a feminist looks like.
April 2oth’s What’s a girl to do without a boyfriend? Everything.
May 12th’s Returning the Blessing
May 30th’s Our Daughter’s Voices
June 23rd’s I believe every life is worth stopping for…
June 24th’s A collage, courtesy of Flick’r