Be Brave. Be Strong. Be Happy. Be Free. Be You. Be About Now.

I had the first of three races in seven days yesterday. That 10k was the most challenging yet of all the races I’ve run lately. As I was traversing through the lush, rolling hills on the vineyards dirt roads (some sections with loose dirt) and trails I couldn’t help but think about how priceless being yourself is. There are times in my life I failed majorly to listen to my inner voice, and allowed the opinions and perspectives of others to guide my thoughts and actions. More than ever I am grateful to have had those experiences. Each one has made me realize the past is not today, it will never be. I am not perfect (I’ve never claimed to be). I have made cowardly, shameful, hurtful, purely selfish choices. I am here, now, and I am not those mistakes. I am not my struggles.

Being yourself is worth it. I love being busy loving those people who love me and allowing that love to invade my heart and mind. I am truly grateful for the tender, patient way I am loved by the people in my life. They have loved me even when I felt I wasn’t very loveable.

I love who I am. I love the balance and peace being honest, truthful and fearless has given me. I love where I come from. I love the way I think. I love the way I trust. I love the way I love. I love the now. I know who I am. *BIG smile*

With love, gratitude, joy and deep respect,

-J

Shoe check - these babies have got to get me through another 10k & Half-Marathon back to back next weekend.

Shoe check – these babies have to get me through another 10k & Half-Marathon back to back next weekend.

 

Fueled by the power, love, joy & kindness of a peaceful heart.

Fueled by the power, love, joy & kindness of a peaceful heart.

 

Run Through the Vineyards - April 26, 2014 (preparing to run not cheer)

Run Through the Vineyards – April 26, 2014 (preparing to run not cheer)

Three Words, Eight Letters

Grief is a solitary journey. No one but you knows how great the hurt is. No one but you can know the gaping hole left in your life when someone you know has died. And no one but you can mourn the silence that was once filled with laughter and song. It is the nature of love and death to touch every person in a totally unique way  -Unknown

Nicole's hand and mine

The last time I ever held & felt the warmth of your hands.

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2018110441_westbrook01m.html

We talk. Marsha, mom, grandma, Camiel, Hannah and I, we all talk. We talk about you. We cry. We laugh. But most of the time it is our own private journey with grief. With grief? Yes…with grief. It, grief is its own being. It comes when you least expect it. It comes completely uninvited. At first, it dragged me everywhere. I had lost all control to it. It was completely unrelenting. With a tight grasp it began to suck away the energy, the will, the love, the trust and the ability to live in each new day. Its pain was sharp and ever-present.

Even after all that, grief, did not kill me. It always left just enough light, enough life and strength to live each day. Grief has always left enough for me to find balance and open my eyes. Then one day, something strange happened. I was okay. I felt strong. I felt clear, alive, open, and at peace. I discovered grief was not trying to kill me, it is resilience. Grief has made me realize how resilient I can be. On this two-year anniversary of your death I am astounded by my resilence. I’ve learned I can live, love, give, trust and be vulnerable again.

There is not a day that goes by that I do not honor you. You are in my thoughts. You are in my smiles. You are in my laughter. You are in the warm touch of my hands. You are in the softness of my lips on a tender cheek. You are in the deep, tight embrace of each hug. You are in every whisper that contains those profoundly tender three words, eight letters…I Love You.

– Always Your Auntie

 

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Full of smiles, love, peace, & joy – April 23, 2014

 

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Going for a run – April 14, 2014 (Three races in seven days)

To My 2nd Grade Students: ‘I Believe In You and I Love You’

To my 2nd grade students,

When I first started teaching I did so because it was exciting and each day was always  different. I enjoyed the challenge of planning new lessons each week. I loved setting up my room at the beginning of each new year. I enjoyed the opportunity to find and read new books. I loved the anticipation of new faces, new names, and new families. I enjoyed the many stories you all would share with me. Little did I know that almost 14 yrs later my mission, my goal, my objective, my deepest desire would be for you all to know that you are loved. You make each hour I share with you the most trying, most unpredictable, most cherished, most comfortable, most honest, and most genuine six hours of my day.

Each day you show up full of energy, full of stories and each day I reflect on how best to show you, tell you that I love you. You need to know that each lesson, teaching math, language arts, science or social studies is really a lesson about life. Honestly, each lesson can help us understand how we are all connected. How we live. How we survive.

I have challenged and pushed you in so many ways and with each challenge you have inspired me with your tenaciousness and goodness. I realize there is so much more to your lives than the time we share at school. I know about your parents not having enough money to buy you shoes. I know about how cold you are at night because the blankets are not enough to keep the cold at bay. I know you are afraid to go to the park near your houses because of the shootings, drugs and harassment that happens there.  Please know your heartaches break my heart. Your worries, your fears, your tears rip me to shreds, leaving me wounded with scars that can tell each of your stories.

There are years, days even when I question myself and feel as though I am not doing you any good. I feel completely responsible for supplying you the necessary to tools to navigate life. The question ‘Am I making a positive, healthy difference?’ is a constant one.

But I know I am making a difference. I know this because I see your everyday random acts of kindness. I hear the kind, loving words that you use to lift up a friend or classmate. I see how you self-correct or give a heart-felt apology when you’ve hurt someone’s feelings. I see how you work so hard at making others feel a part of the classroom family. I see you sharing. I see you helping each other. I see empathize with others. I see your smile. I hear your laugh.  I see the light of genuine excitement and understanding in your eyes. I see the light of knowledge on your face. I see you giving and I see your love.

If the only thing you were to learn and know is that you are loved, then that is worth every ounce of effort in my body. You need to know you are all WORTH it!

I’ve asked you what love is. You each shared your thoughts with me in such beautiful ways. Know that I believe love is learning about yourself through others. Know that it’s because of your love I know who I am and I continue to learn and grow and experience more love because of you all.

I believe in you and I love you.

Your Teacher,

-J

Smiles and love to you. 12-20-2013

Smiles and love to you. 12-20-2013

My students and I put together theses videos as gifts to their families. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do. Wishing you all endless love, peace and joy.

I don’t want my students to always rely on being fed someone else’s stories. I want them to know they have the power and ability to tell their own stories. So as an extension activity to lessons we had done on land, water, pollution, contamination, kindness, giving, wants and needs  I asked them to dream BIG. To allow their imaginations to soar and show me what they could possibly dream up for the world they live in. We put this video together to share what they came up with and gifted it to their families.

This video features the songs: Imagine by John Lennon, Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson, and Calling All Angels by Train

Our days have been jam packed with discussion after discussion and lessons on wants, needs, responsibility (the ability to respond), gratitude, giving, kindness, land, water, the earth, environment, pollution and contamination. The objective was: for my students to develop an understanding of the world around them. Define “gratitude & love” and practice experiencing and expressing gratitude. Define, model, and practice appreciation for another person and the natural environment. As an extension activity my students answered the following – When I think about ___________ I am happy. What does love look like? What is love? They drew out their responses and we put this video together as a gift to share with family and friends.

This video features the songs: Think Good Thoughts by Colbie Calliet, Where Is the Love? by the Black Eyed Peas

Reignited by running – Passion for life…focusing on what can be, rather than what is not

Diva Half Marathon - Dec. 8th, 2013

Diva Half Marathon – Dec. 8th, 2013

Race Results 12_8_2013

Race Results 12_8_2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I tackled one mile at a time until I reached 13.1. However, half-marathons, marathons, and any other road race doesn’t simply end at the finish line. The goal setting and persistence it takes to run and finish a race is something that remains with me in my everyday life. I’ve have a greater sense of clarity and trust myself because I run.

JoyceBeforetherace1

Before the race

MeandMyBabyGirlBeforetherace

Me and my baby girl before the race

At one point after mile 10 during today’s half marathon I was suddenly overcome with emotion. All that I have gone through and accomplished these last couple of months finally hit me – I am surviving because I am strong, I am kind, I am grateful, I am Diné and I have the blood of my ancestors running through my veins. The same mental characteristics needed to run and not give up are the same characteristics needed in life. I’ve learned life is like running – you get out of it what you put into it. I had filled my life with fear. I had flooded my life with doubt. As a result that is exactly what I was getting back – fear and doubt. Being honest about my fears then facing them down, acknowledging then divorcing my doubts  has reignited my toughness, my creativity, and my generosity. I have reignited faith in myself and the ability to dream on a grander scale.

AtTheFinish_12_08_2013

At the finish and feeling great! 12-08-2013

All smiles after the race 12-08-2013

All smiles after the race 12-08-2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I run, I will myself to be the best I can be. The courage and endurance that it takes to get through a long run has seeped into my life in every way. I am able to motivate myself when I am down. I am able to endure difficult times with resiliency, and kindness. I have learned to take the measure of myself, and no longer allow others to define who I am.

I am Diné…and will always be Diné!

I am a daughter…and will always be a daughter!

I am a grandaughter…and will always be a granddaughter!

I am a niece…and will always be a niece!

I am a mama…and will always be a mama!

I am a sister…and will always be a sister!

I am an auntie…and will always be an auntie!

I am a friend…and will always be a friend!

I am a student…and will always be a student!

I am a teacher…and will always be a teacher!

I am a runner…and will always be a runner!

Wishing you all love with all of my being,

-J

Love and light 12-8-2013

Love and light 12-8-2013

Writing without fear. Writing with love…

My 2nd Grade Students 2013-2014

My 2nd Grade Students 2013-2014

“Everyday Acts of Kindness” has been a constant topic of discussion in my second grade classroom since the start of the year. My class cubs are an extraordinarily amazing group of human beings. I’m in awe of the amount of cultural capital/forms of knowledge they bring to each discussion at such young ages. I could listen to them all day. Building on  “Everyday Acts of Kindness” we began a discussion about – Needs and Wants.

To introduce the concept we read the book, A Chair for My Mother. This is a heartwarming story about a family & the values of saving and working together towards a common goal after all their belongings are burned in a fire. To build on the theme of community & giving the author illustrates how friends and neighbors bring furniture to the new apartment. However, noticeably missing is a television, x-box, etc. As a class we discuss how the girl, who along with her waitress mother, save coins in a big jar in hopes that they can someday buy a big, new, comfortable chair for their new apartment — the kind of chair her mother deserves after being on her feet all day in the Blue Tile Diner. Into the jar also goes the money Grandma saves when she gets a bargain at the market.

It’s a good story that builds on our discussions of “Everyday Acts of Kindness” and “Giving”. After our discussion, I drew two large circle maps (Thinking Maps – used to brainstorm all of our thoughts about the concept of “Needs” and “Wants”). In the center of the circle map we wrote the topic we wanted to brainstorm. Some questions we wanted to answer were – What can we not live without? What are things we need to live? What does your heart need? What does your body need? If you can have anything in the world what would you want? We are still building on our thoughts and will add to the circle maps tomorrow. Tonight as part of their homework they need to ask their family – What are the families needs? They also have to come up with some ideas about what their community may need and what our earth needs? The families needs, communities needs, earth’s needs will be written into the circle map using a different white board marker color in order to aid in our ability to classify the needs. Throughout the week we will add more to our maps as we prepare to organize our thoughts and write a paper on “Needs” and “Wants” and what we each have the power to do in making our world a kinder place.

My 2nd graders spent some time brainstorming a few of their "Needs" & "Wants"

My 2nd graders spent some time brainstorming a few of their “Needs” & “Wants”

Adding to the Circle Map (brainstorming) 12-3-2013

Adding to the Circle Map (brainstorming) 12-3-2013

Recording what he believes he & others may need.

Recording what he believes he & others may need.

There have been moments in my life that have been extremely challenging and I have struggled. I’m not perfect, however with each challenge (I now view these challenges as pathways) I have discovered the power gratitude can have in my life – it all began with realizing I can not control circumstances, events or anyone BUT myself. With each pathway I’ve clung to cultivating an attitude of gratitude and have expected myself to extend that further into my everyday actions and thoughts. So now that my student’s actions are springing from a desire to be kind and show kindness to themselves and others I want them to realize that they are not too young and no act of kindness is too small to help their families, communities, and planet. As we discussed other ways we can/could show kindness one of my students had a wonderful idea to share their stories with others “so it can help them if they are having a sad day.” Another said “maybe I can write a funny story to cheer them up,” another said “I can write a letter and tell them why they are important.” I said, “YES, YES, YES!!!”  They made me cry. I was deeply moved to witness their hearts in action.  So we decided as a class to write letters to whomever needs cheering up, to whomever just needs to hear a funny story, or to whomever needs someone to tell them they are important.

This is where we need your HELP. My students need people to write letters to. They are ready to write letters to anyone who request one. I hope, no, I pray that I can get responses to this blog requesting a letter from one of my second grade students. So I need at least 21 request (I have 21 – 2nd graders). They are excited and looking forward to putting their hearts into each letter and are hopeful it will make someone smile. My class cubs mean the world to me. I want them to always be filled with questions. I want them to always question. I want them to be able to put things into perspective. I want them to be able think critically and not settle for the status quo. So, pplleeaassee…help me be of service to them.

If you would like to request a letter from one of my students please tell us a little about yourself and share with us your story and need. We would like to mail you a response. If you are not comfortable with sharing you address I understand, I can share my email address if you prefer.

Help my second grade students realize that their HEARTS, their WORDS, their TIME and ACTS OF KINDNESS can bring peace and love to their life and to the receiver’s life as well.

With love and deep respect,

-Joyce Ann

Joyce 12/2013

Joyce 12/2013

Giving, loving and living…

…sigh. What would you do if you knew how much time you did not have left on this earth? Would you tell your family? Would your heart overflow with gratitude? Would you be kinder? Would you say “I love you” more? Would you forgive yourself? Would you apologize to those you hurt or wronged? Would still allow fear to paralyze you (emotionally and physically). Would you just give up on life and waste the bit of time you do have left? Would you deliberately wound and hurt (get back at physically, emotionally, and spiritually) those who hurt you knowing you would be gone in time and not have to deal with the rotten, bitter, vile, hateful energy you left in the universe?

A few weeks ago while in New Mexico a dear friend shared with me his heartbreakingly sad news. His father was diagnosed with brain cancer. The doctors shared with the family that he had at best 9-12 months left to live. I was home in New Mexico at the time having had already spent a couple of weeks there to restore balance, take part in ceremony and savour the love and warmth of my family and place. My dear friend took time away from his father’s bedside on Veteran’s day to spend the day with me. I accompanied him on a short road trip as he was to give a Veteran’s day speech in a small community. I look back on that day and I am truly grateful for his time, his willingness to listen, to comfort, to understand and words of wisdom. I appreciate his honesty and perspective and it helped me tremendously. Unfortunately, for him his father slipped away with death the next day. He did not have the 9-12 months the doctors had predicted. There was no more time. Days later I asked him if he was there, with his dad when he slipped away. He shared that he was with him moments before. He said he knew his dad was leaving and he knew what he had to do, so he stepped out of the room. He knew his dad well enough to know that he wanted the time to die alone. I cried.

My mother is the best and the strongest person I know. She is a fighter. She is a survivor. She is my mama. My mother has always been bluntly honest with me when it comes to knowing about the world. She didn’t filter her discussions about love and sex. She told me how different they both are and how easily you can confuse the two. She told me exactly what to expect. She was honest about what I would feel. She was almost completely right about the emotions that came along with it. She was also very honest and open with me about the violence she lived with. She told me about the time she thought she was going to die by his hands. She told me when she decided to leave and never return to that abusive relationship. There are other things she didn’t have to tell me. Through her actions and words I saw first hand how she cared for my grandfather, her father. How he was her everything. I saw first hand her generous heart and kindness when she would take in family who had no place else to go. I saw first hand as I tagged along with her and we would walk to people’s houses and she would sit with them and just listen, listen to them share their stories of their current struggles, pain and grief. Sometimes she would cook them a meal while we were there. She would fry up some potatoes with spam or ground beef and make fresh tortillas. She would tell me to go see if there animals needed water or food. She didn’t have to tell me but I knew I was to be quiet. I knew these visits were not about her or me. I knew that she was GIVING what she had and that was her time.

You’re probably thinking right about now –what is this blog post about? I share the aforementioned because they are both two completely different moments in my life but both have something in common. Time.

I know how much time I don’t have. Because I know, I want every person in my life who has ever had an impact (small or big) to know that I value them and I am truly grateful for them. I want the people in my life to KNOW that they are important, that they matter to me, I care about them and will forever be grateful for them and their time. Through out my life there have been people who have gone out of their way to show me how much they care by gifting me with their time. Some have offered advice, words of encouragement, understanding, patience and simple kindness. Others such as my mama have shared intimate, personal, heartbreaking never told before stories of life to show me that life is good and that people are good. I can still hear her words, “Awéé, you are so good to people. You are good to your sister. You help people and are so trusting. That is how I know you.” Words that have touched me deeply and words that I am so thankful for. My heart melts and I transform into the little chiizi Navajo girl every time my mom calls me, awéé (baby).

Family, friends, co-workers, people I have only had the pleasure of spending a short time with, YOU all have to know you did something for me (in your own unique ways), you touched me and showed me how to be kind. I don’t want to ever be too late and regret not telling you. I am kinder because of YOU. I am full of gratitude because of YOU. I am full of love because of YOU. I tell those I love, “I love you,” everyday because of YOU. There is no fear because I know who I am. I would not and will never, never, never deliberately set out to hurt anyone. If I have I am so sorry. I will and would do all I could to make it right. I truly am grateful for amazingly good-hearted cubs. I am grateful for an amazingly resilient, strong Navajo family. I am truly grateful for my place, the land that heals me. I am grateful for the smiles, words, & warm touches. I will live my life giving, protecting and loving. Giving and protecting the land that has always healed me. Giving, protecting and loving my family, my community, nation (Navajo Nation) and friends. Giving and loving myself.  I have an amazingly beautiful life filled with amazingly beautiful people and places. Thank YOU! Thank YOU! Thank YOU!

I love with all that I am,

-J