Forgiveness. Hope.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness

Forgiveness

Learning and loving everything about myself.

What does it mean to love yourself? To truly love who you are? Not just self acceptance, but truly loving the person you are. Meaning loving the way you think, loving the way you respond in stressful situations, loving the thoughts you have daily, loving the actions you take through your day, through out your life. I can now say I honestly, without a doubt, with no fear, love myself. I love who I am! With all the challenges, heartache, death, betrayal, rejection, struggle, pain – I am growing, I have grown. I’ve grown and I’ve learned to cherish life, each minute, each hour, each new day. I wouldn’t change a thing. I take that back…I would give anything to have my Nicole back. That is the truth. Her death and every challenge I’ve faced has made me realize how precious love, respect, trust, commitment, responsibility and knowledge are.

For years I blamed the doctor.

For years I blamed the man I was married to.

I made myself believe that if only, if only I had a doctor who cared. If only he hadn’t insisted. If only he had offered an alternative.  If only I wasn’t ashamed of who I was and where I came from.

I made myself believe that if only I had a marriage that was void of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse.

If only. If only. If only…

When I stopped blaming the doctor and an abusive partner, I started to blame myself. Afterall, I was the only person who could have stopped it all. I was the only person who could have, should have said no. But I didn’t and for years I carried a secret. I carried guilt. I carried shame. I carried pain. I carried a tremendous sense of unworthiness. I carried everything but the one thing I should have and I hated myself for it.

I was pregnant. I found myself in crisis 13 years ago. I was in an abusive, traumatic relationship with the man in my life at the time and I was pregnant for the fifth time. At the time, I was trying to survive. I was trying to hold things together for my 2yr old, my 3yr old, my 7yr old and my 11yr old. How was I pregnant, again? Why? How could we escape now? How can we escape now? All questions I kept asking over and over in my head. I had no family where we lived. I had no friends who I could confide in. I was alone and I had no hope. I made two decisions.

I made it through that time with my four children I thought, in a healthy, strong way. It is only until recently that I’ve realized I’ve never forgiven myself for doing what I did all those years ago. I had failed to truly acknowledge that time in my life. I had buried that time, my actions, and my pain away and never spoke about it. I’ve told one person. One person out of all the people I know. One person knows the entire story beside myself. Even after finally telling someone I still felt unworthy. I still felt that I truly did not deserve goodness, kindness, peace, joy and love.

These last several months I have in a completely genuine, vulnerable way opened up and allowed pain to run its course. I carry no more secrets. I have faced my fears. I have recognized and acknowledged the guilt, shame and hate I’ve had toward myself. I have accepted. I have accepted what I did. With that acceptance hope has begun to flood the void I’ve felt for so long. And there is more…Hope is not alone. There is acceptance. There is desire. There is committment. There is determination. There is motivation. There is action. There is transformation. There is forgiveness. There is chance.

It has taken me more than 13 years to truly learn to love myself. I have and I continue to learn to love myself. I’ve forgiven myself. There is a sense of peace. A sense of balance. There is hope. There is love. Love. Love. Love.

If you are in the midst of a violent marriage, violent relationship and you find yourself pregnant. Know there is hope. Whatever your decision – if you decide to end the pregnancy. If you agree to have yourself sterilized. If you decide to carry your baby full term and keep her/him. If you opt to have your baby adopted. Whatever you decide, KNOW, please KNOW there is always hope and you are valuable, you are good and you deserve love. You are not alone. GAWD, it feels like it. Trust me, I know the feeling but you are not alone. You can ask for help. You do not have to be ashamed.

I am extremely grateful for the following doctors. They have helped me to see endless possibilities. Knowing that the wife of a friend possibly works for one of these doctors was the kindling that reignited my hope and has led to an understanding that whatever the future may hold I am at peace. I have four beautiful, amazingly kind, good-hearted children now ages 15, 16, 20 and 24 and if the future holds a fifth or a sixth I am honored & blessed, and if not, well I am grateful for the chance, for the hope and for forgiveness…balance and peace, always.

Wishing you all a beautiful NEW YEAR filled with new beginnings, endless possibilities, love, joy, peace, forgiveness and hope…

A forever grateful mom,

-J

Hope not for changing the past, but for the future.

Chapel Hill Tubal Reversal Center – Dr. Charles W. Monteith & Dr. Gary S. Berger  – North Carolina

Center 4 Tubal Reversal – Dr. Eliran Mor – Southern California

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

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

don’t give up…

Things I know to be true:

It is natural to feel hurt or anger for a short time – it’s normal – there is nothing wrong with you.

You can love.

You can trust.

You can allow yourself to be vulnerable in love.

You can bond.

You can invest yourself in someone or something.

Pain is real. It is okay to allow yourself the gift of feeling it, completely. You don’t have to mask it or rush through it.

Acknowledge all of your feelings – hurt, grief, pain, anger, mistrust, doubts, GUILT, betrayal, insecurity, RELIEF – allowing all these emotions some space and time will help you.

You can endure the pain. You HAVE to endure the pain. It hurts like heck. It is raw. Nothing, I mean nothing or no one will make it hurt any less. Endure it. With time it begins to hurt less. And yes, there will be days when the sting roars back and is almost unbearable. Acknowledge it, again, recognize the antecedent and tread carefully next time, you will be stronger next time (and yes, there will be a next time).

You will heal.

You have friends who love you.

You have family who love you.

You can talk to someone.

You can talk about the pain, the hurt.

Someone will want to listen to you.

Someone will care about you.

Someone will love you more than anything.

Someone will want a lifetime with you.

You are not alone.

ALL that you feel is real.

You have to live. Do something. Get out. Be with friends. Be with family.

Give yourself the gift of time. Time to heal. Time to be good for yourself.

Your challenges do not define you.

Your pain does NOT define you.

Write. Write. Write. – See the truth in your words. See the tears that stain your journal. Get the words out of your head, somehow, get them out.

You can take responsibility for your actions.

You can forgive yourself.

You can learn from your pain.

You can be thankful.

You will grow stronger.

You will be kinder.

You will be more mindful.

You will learn.

You will hope.

You will dream.

You may ask how do you know this to be true? I know this to be true because this is my journey. I am real. I am genuine. I am being honest with myself. I write what I feel. I write what I live. Living with struggles or challenges is different for different people. There is no right way to get through pain (physical or emotional). Each of us will have different reactions. What is important is that you know; YOU ARE NOT ALONE, YOU ARE LOVED, YOU ARE GOODNESS and this world NEEDS YOU.

Wishing you endless peace, joy & love with all that I am.

-J

It’s time to begin…

“It’s time to begin, isn’t it?
I get a little bit bigger but then I’ll admit
I’m just the same as I was
Now don’t you understand
That I’m never changing who I am”

The last couple of days have been filled with an overwhelmingly peaceful sense of forgiveness that I never could have imagined, especially at this current moment in my life. I know now…I know today more than ever that being unforgiving and untrusting is not ever going to be who I am. I love and when I love, I love deeply, it’s just who I am. Rejection, departures, death it all hurts, they are all heartbreaking and cause a tremendous, almost unbearable amount of emotional pain. But they will not keep me from being kind, grateful, forgiving, trusting, and loving – from being who I am. The pain that comes from loving so deeply is helping to make me softer, kinder, more compassionate, more trusting and has led me to honor and value life even more.

In the midst of heartbreak. In the midst of constant journal writing and what seems like a constant state of introspection I can see myself again. The last couple of days I’ve said yes to things and people I normally would have said no to. The fear of being alone, of not being balanced, of not being myself is being flooded by joy & gratitude. I’m kinder to myself. I am loving myself as I should have been all along. My life is moving forward. Life is no longer what happens around me it is happening with me, with my full attention and respect. I am grateful for the goodness in each new day.

It’s time to begin, isn’t it?

– J

Thoughts About Changes and New Beginnings

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My sister on October 12, 2005

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Alan (Marshal) Westbrook from Shiprock, New Mexico KIA 10-01-2005

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In memory of my niece, Nicole Westbrook

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Me and the little man of my life, Chad Westbrook (my nephew)

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My little man, C. Westbrook

Marshall Westbrook, a 43-year-old sergeant in the New Mexico National Guard, was killed when a roadside bomb exploded under his Humvee in Iraq on October 1, 2005.

His 41-year-old brother, Kenneth, died in 2009 of injuries he suffered in a firefight in Afghanistan.

On April 22, 2012 a bullet had struck Nicole’s left cheek and shattered her spine. Her heart stopped, depriving her brain of oxygen. Nicole Westbrook’s heartbeat was restored, but she never regained consciousness. On Wednesday morning  April 25, 2012, we watched her die.

My sister Joleen Westbrook has lost her husband Alan, attended his brother Kenneth’s funeral, and braided her daughter Nicole’s hair for the last time as  she lay on her hospital bed declared brain dead.

My sister has been through all this and today I received an amazingly heartfelt message from her titled: I know you’re wondering what will happen in…The next chapter of your life.

She told me to just do my best and to stay strong enough to move ahead, because there are some wonderful rewards waiting for me. She said it won’t make sense right away, but over the course of time answers will come and decisions will be proved to have been the right ones. She said don’t give up on hope. Don’t give up on love.   She said “continue to put things in perspective like you always do.” “You are strong, sister” she said *crying*.

Hands down, watching my sister scream with grief and lose herself has been the most difficult thing that has come with the loss of Alan and Nicole. Alan and Nicole’s death continues to be one of the first things she reminds herself of when she wakes up, and it continues to be one of the last things she thinks about before she falls asleep; it  continues to consume her. But somehow she is able to reach out to me in a way only a sister can and offer me what is left of her heart and love me, dearly.

My sister is one of the strongest people I know and she gives me the strength to keep moving forward, to not settle and accept that I deserve goodness, honesty and true love. She is not perfect and is struggling yet she opens her eyes to each new day and today she touched me.

Thank you sister for loving me…

– J.

Listening and Yearning for My Homeland

A dear friend sent this to me today. Little do they know just how much I needed it.

A dear friend sent this picture of Tse’ Bit’ ai’ (Shiprock) to me today. A picture snapped to capture the beauty of my home right after the rain. Little did they know just how much I needed it.

Farming, herding, walking, running through the valleys and mountains of the Navajo Nation, one can smell, hear, feel, and see the life and endless possibility of Dinétah. The wind, the life breath of the land that lies between the four sacred mountains maintains the connection between the Navajo people, no matter where we reside and our ancestral home.

Dinétah has always been a source of strength and pride during my struggle with violence in the form of rape, physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, reproductive control, murder, and the trauma of history. As a Diné woman I am surround by countless Diné women who have their own stories of colonial cruelties and internalized abuse. Each of these women’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual survival in spite of severe trauma is testament to the courage, power and inner strength of us all. It is from the struggles of my ancestors that I learn the importance of going back to the beginning in order to go forward in a healthy way. There will always be a time when you HAVE to “GO BACK.”  The acknowledgement of past trauma and heartache is integral to my personal and collective recovery. It allows me the opportunity to lay the foundation for a healthy future by learning from my personal traumas of the past and from the history of trauma suffered by my ancestors. It is my responsibility as a Diné woman to understand the historic and systemic nature of my wounds. I have to learn how to think for myself and not rely on others to think for me. I have to hold tight to who I am. Who I am is – Diné, Navajo ceremony, land, what I write, the words I speak, the kindness I carry in my heart, the love I give, the way in which I care for my children, the way in which I honor my community, the way in which I honor my family, and the everyday acts that allow me to be able to maintain hózhó.

I allowed my hardships to disconnect me from my true self. I allowed my hardships to disconnect me from my ancestors. I have to “go back” to go forward. I have to “go back” to RECLAIM my traditions. I have to “go back” to RESTORE  & REBUILD my RELATIONSHIPS. I have to “go back” to REBUILD who I am. I have to “go back” to have the strength to RESIST. I have to “go back” to RESURGE to LIVE and ACT! There is no other way to heal but to un-become what I am as a result of denial, avoidance, repression, and the impact of colonialism. My RECOVERY is painful and will continue to be for some time BUT it is healing, it is my RESTORATION.

With love and deep respect,

– J