Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Month of Thanks- Day 6


I am thankful for retreats. Today, I was able to chaperone our senior girls on their retreat. It was an interesting experience because I was not a participant or a facilitator; more of just a presence there today. I am thankful to see the girls interacting with each other and laughing. I am thankful for the chance to see them in an environment outside of the classroom. I am thankful for silly retreat games and serious discussions. I am thankful that I get to see these young women learn how much potential they have.

I am thankful for the retreats I have been able to attend in my life. I am thankful for the calm and contemplation they bring. I am thankful for the peace in my heart after a retreat and the rekindling of a fire to serve others.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Month of Thanks- Day 5

My students.

Today I am thankful for my students. I am thankful for the hundreds of students I already know and thankful for the thousands I have yet to meet. I am thankful for their ingenuity and open minds. I am thankful that they have made me move out of my comfort zones and expand my own horizons. I am thankful that they make me continue learning for their sake, as well as my own. I am thankful when I see them become successful. I am thankful when I get an email from one of them telling me how awesome college is. I am thankful when I see one of them do a victory dance in the middle of class because they aced a test. I am thankful when I see one of my athletes throw a personal best and I am thankful when I see them congratulate an opponent who won. I am thankful that they love me for who I am and that they allow me to love them. I am thankful because as soon as they enter my classroom they become my child for life. I am thankful when they leave me little messages on my chalkboard or when they tell me I look nice. I am thankful when they see me in the store and say hello instead of hiding in the bread aisle. I am thankful when they don't lose their patience with me, even as I feel I am losing mine. I am thankful they allow me to be silly and to walk around in costumes (see nun picture) and speak in funny accents. I am thankful that I get to teach them. I am thankful they teach me so much more than they can ever know.

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Month of Thanks- Day 4


Today I am thankful for life, and for the fact that I do not take it for granted. Today, a student at the middle school I attended committed suicide. I can't imagine the pain of the family and friends, or the feelings of the other students and teachers there. I am thankful that there are people to help those affected through the pain, and I am thankful that I have this life to live and that I feel a purpose in doing what I am doing now. I am thankful that I am making choices in my life that make me happy and I am thankful that what I am doing may help save the life of another.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Month of Thanks- Day 3


I am thankful for friends who are there when you need them, and even when you just need to know someone is there to have your back. I am thankful for friends who have mom's that cook us a huge, Italian dinner and friends who call you when they know you need a pick-me-up. I am thankful for friends who laugh at stupid things with you and friends who hold you up when you feel like falling down. I am thankful for friends who know what you are going through and thankful for friends who are there to be a listening ear.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Month of Thanks- Day 2


On day two of November, I am thankful for music. I am thankful that I can find a song for every emotion I have felt; from sadness to joy, from emptiness to a heart overflowing. I am thankful for the playlists I have created or the ones that my friends have sent to me. I am thankful for the songs that praise my Savior and for the ones that simply make me feel happy. I am thankful for the opportunities I have had to sing in choirs- starting in elementary school and continuing to church masses.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Month of Thanks- Day 1

One day one of November, I am thankful for my health. November 1st is a day of recognition for juvenile diabetes. I have struggled a lot with this disease, but I still persevere and I am thankful that I live in a country where I can get access to medication and good doctors. I am thankful that we are getting closer to a cure and that I have people who love and support me on every step of the journey.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Who do you say that I am?" and Learning to Forgive

Why is it that forgiveness seems the hardest thing for us to accomplish? I feel like it is so easy to get angry at someone, but it becomes a much harder process to forgive someone, especially when a wrong has been committed against you. This weekend, I attended a wonderful retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I had a lot of time to reflect on this topic. The theme of the weekend was “Who do you say that I am?” which focuses on the question Jesus asked of his followers. While reflecting on that idea, I had a lot of opportunity to think about what Jesus says about forgiveness and why it is so hard for me to forgive certain wrongs.

When I went through the RCIA process last spring, my group never went through an official reconciliation. The priest who led it needed surgery, and while we talked about it in class, we never physically went through the process. This weekend, I went to my first confession, which has me talking about the topic of forgiveness. I was really nervous about going to confession, and my friend Danielle ended up sitting with me for over an hour while I waited for my turn to meet with the priest. She and my other friend, Sara, helped explain how the process went and what kind of things to talk about. I knew instantly what I needed to talk about, and that perhaps made me even more nervous.

My biggest struggle is forgiveness. I find it hard to forgive people who have hurt me or the people that I love. I have carried resentment for people, and I knew for someone in particular, I have been harboring a lot of resentment. I had a very difficult relationship with a former roommate. She and I didn’t see eye to eye on practically anything, and it caused a lot of friction and hurt feelings for a lot of people. She said things to me that were designed to be hurtful. She said things that were untrue and her actions did not always live up to the words that she spoke. We argued a lot, and fought like children over stupid things. I think it is important to note that I was not the perfect roommate either, but she left me feeling incredibly bitter against ever living with people again. I carried these feelings into my new community, where I was once again a roommate living with virtual strangers. It was hard for me to move on from what had happened in the past year. It was hard for me to learn to trust my new roommates because I was afraid of a repeat of events.

I struggled with forgiveness because I struggled with trust. I was angry at my old roommate because I felt like she was the reason I couldn't move on. I thought she was the reason I had to lock my door when I left, or when I was hesitant to watch television with my new community. The anger turned into resentment, which made it even harder to forgive past actions.

So on Saturday night, shivering together on a porch, I talked to Fr. Peter about these feelings. I told him how anger and resentment made it hard to forgive my former roommate. I told him I felt that not being able to forgive past wrongs made me feel like I couldn't move forward in my new community, which in turn made me even more against forgiveness.

Having that discussion was one of the best things that could have happened to my weekend. Fr. Peter and I talked about the concept of forgiveness, and that sometimes it takes time. He told me maybe the reason I cannot yet forgive her is because it is not time yet, and that it is okay. He told me to pray for her, and to pray for myself. Anger is a normal human emotion that we all feel at some point. Eventually, I will forgive her, and I will know when the time is right. Already, it has begun to work. I pray for her every night, and I pray for myself. I pray that she is doing well with what she is doing with her life now, and I pray for myself to find peace in my heart. I pray for my own vocation and my students and my new community. I pray that I will eventually be able to completely forgive what has hardened my heart and that I can fully open up with my new roommates.

Fr. Peter told me to pray and reflect on the “Our Father”. He told me that Jesus was a teacher, and this is what he taught his disciples. It put me in a better place as a teacher and as a member of a religious community. I am still learning to let God and others forgive my trespasses as I learn to forgive those who have trespassed against me.

It’s a journey, but what is important to remember is that I am not in this journey alone. I have to trust in God’s timing, not my own. So who is Jesus to me? What would I say if he asked me “Who do you say that I am?”

Jesus is my teacher. He is my community member and my friend. He is my confidant. He is the one patiently standing on the stoop when I shut the door on Him. He is beauty and forgiveness and time. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Happy Dia-versary

8 years ago today, I started the biggest battle of my life.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 14 years old. I missed two months of my sophomore year of high school and lost a lot of my peace of mind. To date, I have tested my blood sugar over 15,000 times, taken more than 8,000 insulin injections, and been hospitalized twice.
My high school guidance counselor told me I was too sick to go to college and suggested I "try" community college if I wanted a challenge. In April of my senior year, I was given a track scholarship to attend Cabrini. In May of 2012, I graduated with honors from college, and started my first teaching job in Arizona. I've traveled the world and I have seen some wonderful things and met fantastic people.
I've been hiking in the Grand Canyon. I've been to the Eiffel Tower. I've played soccer in the streets of Ecuador. I'm in my second year as a teacher, and in my second semester of graduate school. I am not letting this disease stop me. I won't back down from a challenge. I will continue to face diabetes head on and champion for a cure.
In 8 years, I've done more than what people expected of me. I've build a career for myself. I've become successful at what I do. I've helped raise millions of dollars for a cure. And, I am no where near done fighting.
Until we find a cure.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Mr. Feeny I am not

Growing up, one of the shows that I absolutely loved was “Boy Meets World”. I fell in love with the Matthews family and their friends, and especially Mr. Feeny. I looked forward to the pearls of wisdom he had, and found it hard to fathom that Feeny was a television character. What William Daniels brought to that character, and to the millions of people that watched, was the idea that you should never be afraid to try.

A month into the new school year, I am still settling in and trying to find my place. My seniors and I are valiantly struggling through Beowulf together, and the ideas and discussions they have presented are astounding. My freshmen and I are discovering the short story and talking about different cultures. Although I was apprehensive to make a discipline switch, teaching English so far has been an incredible amount of fun, and I’ve fallen easily into a good repertoire with a lot of students.

Still, I struggle. I am not George Feeny. I don’t have a thousand metaphors for a hundred things. I certainly cannot rock a tweed suit. Sometimes I stay up late at night because I second guess my ability to do something. Then I realize that Mr. Feeny is a character. I am not. I wake up every day and face 130 students. I have had to break up two fights since the school year began and both times I have analyzed them to death wondering what I could have done, when in reality, there was little I could have done to stop either of them.

I thought this would be easy, that I could walk into my second year and everything would go swimmingly well. Everything I thought I knew about classroom management has been turned on its ear by making the decision to work at an inner city school. What would Mr. Feeny do?

Probably something spectacular.


I flap my arms frantically, and call for help out in the hall. I hand a tissue out to wipe away tears and hold back my own until after school. I kick myself because I wanted to walk in with a confidence I have not yet developed. I tell my kids to take a deep breath and count to ten, as I inwardly count to twenty. Then I go to the faculty dining room and laugh with my coworkers and allow myself to breathe for thirty minutes.

I am learning. Sometimes I am miles ahead of my kids. Sometimes only a chapter. Sometimes, I  am learning by a few frantic page flips ahead of them. Lessons learned: teachers need to study the vocabulary lists just as much as the students do. Mr. Feeny probably knew all the vocabulary lists in every orange Sadlier book ever created. He probably knew exactly what to do when a student stomped out of class. I am not Mr. Feeny.

I am Ms. T.

And no, I am not perfect. But I am good at what I do, and I am getting better. Mr. Feeny probably never taught his students Navajo words, which I have. I never saw him stomp around the classroom pretending he was Grendel from Beowulf, which I have done (to the amusement of my kids). So every once in awhile, I am going to lock my keys in my room. I am going to lose a vocab quiz and maybe even my temper. I am going to have to keep counting to twenty and remembering to breathe. My speakers will not work on the day I want to show a video, and my students will continue to laugh at me as I publically battle the smartboard in my room.

And it is okay that I cannot rock the tweed outfits, or say something profound every day. What matters is that one day I will find my Corys and Topengas and Erics and Shawns and I can tell my kids:

“Believe in Yourselves. Dream. Try. Do Good.”

Sunday, August 4, 2013

O Danny Boy

My cousin, Danny, passed away on Thursday, July 25, 2013. He was 18 years old and had just graduated high school from Bucks County Technical High School as a cabinetmaking major. His biggest dream in life was to open his own karate studio, and, as a third-degree black belt, he had just been hired full-time to the studio where he had trained for over 10 years.

Danny drowned in the Neshaminy creek with his best friend Perry, after they had decided to go for a swim. The current proved too strong, and Danny and Perry died, while their friend was able to get out and call for help.I am not good about speaking about sad things, especially when they have to do with my family or myself. I have had such conflicting emotions over the past few weeks, coming to terms with the death of a family member so young and with so much potential. I wrote Danny a letter to say the things I have been having such a hard time verbalizing:

Dear Danny,

What can I say? When I think of you, I think of the last Christmas everyone spent together before Mom Mom got sick. She gave me the first bowl of pudding, and you sat on the stairs in the living room and sulked because you wanted to be first. I remember when you had your hair cut into a mullet, and you thought it was the coolest thing ever. I remember when I was mad at you for cheating at hide and seek that one time in the basement. Mom Mom told us we couldn’t hide in the dryer, and you did it anyway. I remember piling on the couch and watching cartoons, and finding the not-so-secret stash of papers and crayons under Mom Mom and Pop Pop's T.V.

I don’t remember you growing up. I think of the little boy who ran around in his karate outfit and tried to tackle everyone. Almost everyone from your karate studio came to your viewing on Wednesday. I didn’t know that you had reached a third degree black belt or that you taught classes now. My heart broke when I saw dozens of little kids lined up to say goodbye to you, dressed in baggy uniforms as they cried for Mr. Dan. Did you know they granted you the title of “Master”? I’m sorry you won’t have the chance to open your own studio, like you had planned. I know you would have been an excellent instructor.Did you know that over 800 people came to your viewing? You and Perry were so loved, by so many people.

I’m sorry, Danny, because there is nothing anyone can do to take away the pain of your loss. I saw how loved you were in the community. The day of your funeral, some businesses in Bensalem changed their signs to honor your memory. Someone donated a luncheon in your name. Thousands of dollars have been raised in your and Perry’s names. That kind of stuff doesn’t happen for ordinary people.

You have a big job ahead of you now. You have to watch out for your mom and dad, and your three brothers and their kids. They are hurting over you. Watch out for Pop Pop; it breaks his heart to have to bury another grandchild. Watch out for all your cousins, and aunts and uncles; we miss you an incredible amount too. Take care of all your little kids in karate, and pay special attention to all those kids who may think it’s a good idea to go swimming in the Neshaminy. I saw the promise ring you gave to Sarah, and it is beautiful. Watch out for her and when she’s ready, help her find someone else who can love her like you did. Let your friend Nick know that no one blames him for getting out of the creek. He’s a hero, and his call for help helped everyone find you and Perry so we could have peace. Say hello to Mom Mom and uncle Danny, and Jen for the rest of us.

No one should have to die when they are 18 years old, and I am sorry I will miss the chance to see you grow into someone who promised to be a terrific man. I am glad that I was able to be your cousin for the past 18 years, and I am honored to have known you based on all the stories I have heard over the past few weeks. I don’t know when you started going by “Dan”, but you will always be “little Danny” in my memories. Rest easy and fly high until we meet again.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Things I Haven't Said

I have already finished two grad school classes, and by the end of the summer, I will have completed five as I work towards my Masters in Education and my certification as a Reading Specialist. I realized I had not advertised much on this blog about my plans after finishing a year with MVC, and for many reasons, I hesitated posting my news.

I’ve been back on the East Coast for a little over a month and it still feels weird sometimes, like I will wake up and go out to see my trailer in Arizona. It feels weird to be living in a house that is three stories tall. It is weird to have sidewalks and neighbors everywhere when I had grown so accustomed to the natural silence of the Reservation. It feels weird to have this humidity (I am melting) and more rain in two weeks than in the past ten months.

Something that I haven’t said, that I haven’t admitted to publically, is how much I miss Arizona. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, and there are things I would change if I could, but it was overwhelmingly one of the most important years of my life. I struggled, fought, loved and cried throughout the past years and learned about the type of person I wanted to be along with the type of person I knew I would never be.

I met someone who became my roommate, then my friend, then my sister. Allison and I started out virtual strangers who ended up crying as we said our goodbyes at the airport last month. We wore silly hats as we strolled through Wal-Mart speaking in our fake Russian accents and finding each other by playing Marco Polo (still wearing flamingo-pink straw beach hats). We ran away to the 24-hour Denny’s and got milkshakes at 1 in the morning after the last day of school to reminisce on our first year of teaching. We sang to the prisoners of the Window Rock jail each month, and pressed our faces up to the bars as we held hands with the inmates and prayed with them.

I watched with tears of joy streaming down my face, hugging a coworker as we watched our first class of seniors recess out of the auditorium after turning their tassels. I packed my bags and prepared to leave, fragmented by continual visits to friends who became my family during my year.

The thing I haven’t said, what I haven’t told myself is that it is okay to miss where I’ve been and what I’ve done. Arizona, the Navajo Nation, my students and co-workers and community and friends- they will all be with me forever. It’s okay to miss the places and faces of my time there because it was so important to me.  I promised my juniors I would go back next year and watch them graduate, and it is a promise I intend to keep. I love those kids too much to ever walk away from them, and I already can’t wait to go back and see how much they’ve grown.

It is said that students never forget a good teacher, that they will remember how a teacher made them feel over everything else. I think the same should be said for students. I will never forget my students, how they made me feel because they made me feel alive, like I was doing the right thing. We had our struggles and our successes, but I loved each child dearly, and I hope that even if they forget what I taught them down the line, they will never forget that I tried to make them all understand that they were incredibly important.

That said, I also love my new community and my new city. I love getting to know the people that I will be going to school and living with and meeting my new coworkers. I am excited about teaching in a new school and meeting my new students. I have already designed my classroom in my head and I am near to bursting with ideas for my kids and lessons for this year. I am ready to embark on this new journey and although I am still sad about leaving Arizona sometimes, I know that my memories will sustain until I return. My friends will be my friends although miles separate us, and my students will always be “my kids” no matter where they go in life.

Cheers to the next adventure! 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mother Cabrini

Happy Birthday, Mother Cabrini!

Frances (Francesca) Cabrini established 67 institutions in her 67 years, and her legacy continues through many of those continuous operations, new institutions established in her name, and the work of her order, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She is the Patroness of Immigrants, and my Confirmation namesake.

When she was younger, she was told she was too frail to be a sister and was turned away from some religious organizations. Undeterred, she founded her own. Afraid of the water, she nevertheless traveled the ocean many times to accomplish her work and never backed down, not even from the religious men who scoffed her. Wanting to go to China, she accepted a mission to come to the United States and eventually became the first American citizen (naturalized) to become a Saint.

Mother Cabrini cultivated educators and healthcare workers to fulfill her missions. She taught her Sisters to be compassionate and instilled a legacy of “Education of the Heart” (sound familiar?) in them, teaching them to be loving and kind to their pupils.

I am honored to have been educated with the philosophy of “Education of the Heart” at Cabrini College. I am honored that I had the chance to spend a summer with the Cabrini Mission Corps, and learn more about Mother Cabrini’s incredible legacy. I am honored to take her legacy into my own classroom and implement compassionate teaching and love into my classes.

Mother Cabrini took the missionary world by storm by holding her head high and staying true to what she valued. She accomplished much in 67 short years and her passion lives strong in the MSC Sisters, Cabrini Students and Missioners, Cabrini Lay Missionaries and Companions and all those who have felt touched by her presence. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013


The walk home from school will be forever ingrained in my heart and soul. 

There were countless walks to and from school this past year. An easy shortcut took you through a common meadow, where you had dodge the cowpies and inquisitive calves.Eventually, you would reach the road leading to and from school.

And every time, it was majestic.

Friday, May 31, 2013


As the year grinds to a close, and finals commence, I am reminded of how much these kids have impacted me this year. Yesterday was another great example of their caring and compassion, towards myself and others.

The students in Spanish class had to prepare a meal and simulate a restaurant, where all the conversation was in, of course, Spanish. All the teachers who had a prep period during the presentation were invited to attend the mock restaurant in a classroom that looked surprisingly plausible as a dining room (minus the whiteboards!). Since I had class that period, my students brought me a plate of the food they had made. They had chosen to do a Filipino dish, and were explaining to me what they had created. What made this special, other than the free food (hey, people! Volunteer here!) was what one of the students said.

She told me that they were planning to make a shrimp dish but remembered that I couldn't eat seafood. I vaguely remembered telling them that I was allergic to seafood months ago when we were having a tangent conversation about food after class one day. They remembered. Not only did they remember, but they catered their menu to me, someone who couldn't even come to their presentation.


And this. This is what makes it worth it. This is what allows me to know that what I did meant something. And, it made me smile. There is nothing better than this!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Strengths and Weaknesses

“This post is my May entry in the DSMA Blog Carnival.  If you’d like to participate too, you can get all of the information at"

Question: What do you consider to be your Diabetes Strengths?  What do you think are your Diabetes Weaknesses?

Coming off of the Diabetes Blog Week, I have decided I am going to get deeper into blogging about diabetes and stop hiding in the shadows of my disease. This is my first DSMA (Diabetes Social Media Advocacy) Blog Carnival, but hopefully not the last!

I think my greatest diabetes strength is determination. It could be argued that determination is not a result of diabetes, but I think I have come out of this disease stronger and wiser than I would if I was just your average 22 year old struggling professional. When I have a bad blood sugar, I am determined to make it better. When I am told that something will be harder to accomplish because I have diabetes, you can bet I am going to work harder. I don't let the threat of diabetes stop from at least trying, and that's huge. My determination to beat this disease is what keeps me going. I could sit on a couch and wait to die, but there are mountains to climb, trees to hug, lessons to still be learned....

Ironically, my greatest weakness is acceptance. I am pretty vocal about my disease, my coworkers, and eventually my students found out about my diabetes, but I still have a hard time accepting that I have a chronic illness. Sometimes when I try something, I fail, and that gets to me. Sometimes the most random thing will make me angry about diabetes. I have a hard time accepting that if I get a cold, I also get high blood sugars and ketones. I have a hard time accepting that when it's a friends birthday, I will end up taking a bite out of someone's piece because I can't eat a whole one myself. I have a hard time accepting that no matter how good I feel and what I can accomplish, I am still weighed down by a tiny machine that beeps at me and essentially keeps me alive.

I think it is an interesting balance when you really think about it. For as much as I speak out about diabetes, there is still a large part of me that wishes I could hide it. I think something to work on, considering these choices as my weaknesses and strengths is to focus more on the people who do accept me the way I am, and look at home much I can do despite this illness. Learn to accept myself with the gifts I have been given and know that my determination outweighs my lack of acceptance.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Diabetes Week Recap

I know that I didn't finish diabetes week, and there are a few reasons for that, so I am writing now to finish up that obligation I made and to also explain why I seemingly dropped out of the blogging process.

Prompt 5 asked us if we could swap illnesses, what would we chose. So the idea was behind it was if you could pick any chronic illness to replace diabetes, what would you chose and why. The main reason I didn't answer this post was because I found it kind of offensive. Why? Well, there are multiple reasons.

I have spent years since my diagnosis trying to educate myself and others on juvenile diabetes, and diabetes in general. I have worked hard to be successful despite my illness, and I think on the whole I have done a pretty good job. This questions makes me feel like diabetes can be taken lightly and just swapped out for something else. What also made me dislike this question was the thought that other diseases are easy to handle. If you are asking me to pick a different disease, you are essentially asking me to pick one that I think would be easier to handle. I don't think that exists, and I also think that such a question is discourteous to people who suffer from another illness. From my perspective, if someone with a disease said they would rather have juvenile diabetes, I would be upset, because it SUCKS! The constant finger prints, blood work, having to deal with highs and lows and injections? I wouldn't wish this on anyone, and I wouldn't wish to have a different disease either.

I have met people with cystic fibrosis, Crohn's Disease, cancer, and other types of serious illness. Everyone handles their medical issues in their own ways, and I have met many incredibly strong and courageous individuals. To say I would rather have one of their diseases would mean that I was discrediting the severity of their illness and also my own.

Prompt 6 asked us to create a piece of art that symbolized our diabetes. I thought really hard about this one in advance, and couldn't think of anything. Looking back after a week and still thinking about this topic made me think about a picture that was unfortunately lost when I changed phones last year.

I taught my nephew, Lucas, how to give me an insulin shot. One day we were sitting on the couch watching TV when I needed to take a shot of insulin (I was off the pump for a few days). He wanted to see what I was doing, and was in this very helpful stage. I showed him how to fill up the syringe and how I inserted it, and then I let him push the plunger. I was able to explain to him what I was doing and how it wasn't a game but something to keep me healthy. He was fascinated and wanted to learn more, and that weekend, I let him help give me shots. My sister caught a picture of it one time, and it was really sweet, this tiny child with such a look of concentration on his face helping give me my medicine. It has stuck with me since then, because he showed such maturity for a four year old and took it seriously every time. That would be my piece of art: That picture showing wisdom beyond his four years.

Finally, Prompt 7 asked us to share three new blogs we had read. Well, I found a lot of good blogs, all that I would encourage you to read if you are interested, and you can find the entire list at Bittersweet Diabetes.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Love Conquers All

Love Conquers All.

When I opened my laptop, I saw those faded words popup at me. I had written them on the space in front of the keyboard during my senior year of college, when I was going through a rough time. I’ve seen them since then when I’ve popped out my computer, but tonight they really resonate with me. 
Maybe because it’s another rough time.

I cried on Saturday, when I saw my first class graduate. I am so incredibly proud of them and what they’ve done in the time that I have spent with them. Every single student was accepted into at least one college, and they all have plans about what they are going to do after high school. Nothing makes me happier than knowing that they are planning for their futures. 

Sr. Jeanne asked us to think about three questions as we prepared to do a session of FaceTime with her this weekend. Most of the questions I had thought about, but was unsure of how to answer when we had her on the phone. Some of the questions I wasn’t even sure I wanted to answer while I was sitting there with the rest of my community. But, they are all good questions and all deserve to be answered.

What have you learned during this year that you would like to continue to incorporate into your life?

I have learned that what I do matters. The education world is much harder to navigate than I originally thought. Bu, I can do it. I am smart enough and I am strong enough. There are a lot of people out there that bash educators, and I have not been immune to those insults. People online can be incredibly harsh, but I have also realized that my self-worth is not tied up in what other people think. I learned so many things about myself this year, and one of the most important things I have learned other than my profession, is that I am important. I matter. 

There have been some times this year where I haven’t felt that. There have been some people that have tried to make feel like I am not important, but I am. And, I will always take that with me no matter where I go or what I do.

 What gifts has this experience and the reservation given to you?

I saw my 25 seniors graduate this weekend. I taught them, and now they are precious young adults who are going to go out and start the rest of their lives. There are many beautiful memories from this year, but having one of my kids hug the breath out of me and whisper “thank you” has forever and completely altered my view on gifts. I will always remember them as my first kids, even when they are gone and grown up.

Another gift is patience. Things do not work out in a linear fashion out here. If you are inflexible, you will have a difficult time. I have learned that sometimes you need to disregard the plans and go with the flow. Sometimes, when that happens, things work out so much better than you ever could have imagined.

 What gifts do you believe you have given to the Navajo people?

I gave everything I could to the people I lived with this year. I don’t know if I would say I gave them any gifts, but I tried my hardest to be in the moment with them. I tried to learn about their culture, and respect their traditions, and I believe I did my best. I treated them with respect, and didn’t walk around with an air of superiority because I am white and educated. I made friends, who became like family to me. My gift is simply that I tried to make the most of my time out here and didn’t take for granted the experiences I had this past year.

Today marks a year since I graduated from college, and some days it still doesn’t feel like it’s real. The reality is that I am sitting in one of the few spots that has internet on the Reservation to work on one of my graduate classes. I know that I keep speaking in amazement about how far I have come in a year, but it still honestly surprises me sometimes. 

When I look down at those words, “Love Conquers All”, I think about how far I’ve come and how much farther I still have to go. Although it is breaking my heart to leave the Reservation, I also know that I am ready to take the next step. I am ready to pack up and move to the East Coast again, because I know that part of me will always be on the Navajo Nation.

When I see those words, I think of the inherent good most people possess even if their actions do not show it. I see those words and remind myself to love myself because I am worth it and I will always be worth it.

Love conquers all because it doesn’t divide, it multiples, and spreads in a never ending wave.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Diabetes Blog Week: Day Four

We don’t always realize it, but each one of us had come a long way since diabetes first came into our life. It doesn’t matter if it’s been 5 weeks, 5 years or 50 years, you’ve done something outstanding diabetes-wise. So today let’s share the greatest accomplishment you’ve made in terms of dealing with your (or your loved one’s) diabetes. No accomplishment is too big or too small – think about self-acceptance, something you’ve mastered (pump / exercise / diet / etc.), making a tough care decision (finding a new endo or support group / choosing to use or not use a technology / etc.)

It will be eight years in October. Sometimes it seems like time has flown by, and other times I can’t honestly remember life before diabetes. I have accomplished a lot in the past eight years, but I know that there are so many other things that are still out there. I’ve raised a lot of money for the JDRF, and I know that I can do my part to raise even more. I graduated high school. I graduated college. I moved across the country by myself. I got into grad school. I went to three foreign countries by myself (four if you count Canada). I got an insulin pump. I stood up to bullies who teased me about my illness. I learned not to cry at an IV or blood tests. 

Some are larger feats than others, but all special in their own way. 

I still have goals that want to accomplish. I want to graduate with my Master’s. I want to work in educational administration. I want to teach overseas. I want to get married one day and maybe have a family. I want to see my nephews grow up. I want to one day see an end to diabetes. 

I want to live a life that I can look back on and say, “diabetes didn’t stop me”. I already am.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Diabetes Blog Week- Day Three

Today we’re going to share our most memorable diabetes day. You can take this anywhere.... your or your loved one's diagnosis, a bad low, a bad high, a big success, any day that you’d like to share.

This is a hard one because there a number of days that are memorable. The day I was diagnosed; the day I found out that I had gone into DKA in college…but the one that is currently standing out in my mind has to do with when I was student teaching. 

I was working at a small, private school for students who had various types of learning needs. These students ranged from autism spectrum disorders to emotional support needs to general learning support needs. I also had a student who was type 1 diabetic. 

I think those of us who use insulin pumps have some sort of internal sensor that lets you know when a fellow diabetic walks into the room. Through the haze of learning student names on the first day, that was the first thing I noticed about this girl. A pink animas pump clipped to her waistband. 

She was in one of my afternoon classes, and very outspoken about her diabetes. The first unit I taught them about was the Roman Empire, and we were discussing life back then. Suddenly, she blurted out. “I don’t like this conversation!” I looked at her and asked why, and she responded that she hated history because she realized if she lived in any other time period but today, she would have died years ago. 

It’s a thought that I have had myself, but it somehow sounded different coming out of someone else’s mouth. It was an interesting concept that other people had put that thought into consideration. I spent seven months at that school, and towards the end of my time there, this girl was starting the college search. 

Something that I will always remember is when she came up to me after class and wanted to talk about going to college with diabetes. She had a lot of questions, she said, and didn’t know who to ask about them until she met me. We talked after class every day until she thought she had all her questions answered: about living in dorms, dealing with roommates, talking to the disability resource center. I encouraged her to talk to her endocrinology team about things I couldn’t answer. I remembered she asked me about drinking, and I told her that was a medical question I wasn’t qualified to answer (also, I was not going to give alcohol advice to a 17 year old high school junior!)

It’s been over a year since I taught at that school. I graduated college and moved to the southwest to work for a year. I am about to finish my first year of being a real teacher with my own classroom. I have diabetic ups and downs since then, but I will always remember this particular girl. She was my first diabetic student, and probably won’t be my last. However, through her, I was able to let down my guard about being diabetic myself. I hid my insulin pump in my clothes because I didn’t want people to see it and give me that sympathetic, sad smile I was used to when people found out I had an illness. 

It’s funny but this girl only found out I was diabetic because she tried to pull an excuse about not doing something because of diabetes, and I told her I didn’t believe it, and whipped out my own pump.I kept in touch with a few of my students after I left that school; she wasn’t one of them, but it’s okay. I didn’t enter the teaching profession to make friends with my students.

 She’s a senior now and last I heard she was accepted into a few good colleges. I only wish the best for her, and hope that she remembers our conversations after classes, and can take some of that with her to college.