One time… at EdCamp…

It was a good day yesterday.

I always love being around my colleagues, as after having worked in this district for over 22 years, they’ve become family. As my children move up through the grades, I get to know more and more amazing people.

I was shocked when I was called up to the stage to lead the pledge, and had a total mini panic attack on the way up.

The whole time I was thinking…”Crap… how does it start???”

That’s called chemo brain.

I’ve said the pledge every day for over 22 years, but yesterday? For about thirty seconds as I walked up to the stage, I was working on remembering the first three words.

I got it before I got to the microphone.

We had a beautiful moment as a staff when a former graduate of our district came back to give a keynote speech. Shamel Lewis was one of those kids who gave his teachers a run for their money. (He has since changed his name to Antonio Diaz). He was removed from his home from CPS at two years old and sent to live with foster families. He was beaten as a child. He was hungry. He was diagnosed with ADHD. His father was incarcerated and both parents had substance abuse issues. He stole yo-yos at pulaski because he didn’t have any toys at home. He can count on one hand how many christmases he celebrated. He told us how he was beaten once so bad for taking popcorn when he was hungry.

But here is what he also had.

Two teachers who believed in him, fed him, loved him.

Because of the relationships that formed, he was told about the two paths he could take. One was the path of his family, and the other was the path to freedom.

He was steered toward sports, and he joined football, basketball and wrestling. In eleventh grade he joined track… and went on to become undefeated. He broke records and went to states.

THIS is why sports matters.

He said he loved school, and worked hard.

He went off to Syracuse university, got his degrees and is currently working on his doctorate. He has formed his own organization, which teaches young men how to become good husbands and fathers. He speaks to schools on the importance of forming relationships with students. He spoke about how he became a Christian, and as a young man , he only heard the words, “I love you” maybe three times. Once he became Christian, he heard it all the time.

It was great, and I think the district should bring him back to speak to every child from pulaski street up to the high school.

Stories matter.

He has an amazing one.

The rest of the day was filled with everyone choosing classes that they felt would benefit them. I had gotten to school at 7:15 to set up my class and I am so glad I did.

I brought a whole bunch of yoga mats, flowers, tea light candles, my portable speaker, handouts, essential oils, and had practiced my class over and over the night before.

I kept the lights off and as people walked in, the gym was transformed into a sanctuary. I taught two classes. The first one had about twenty six people or so and went smoothly.

The second one had almost forty people.

Here’s the thing.

Almost one week after being told I could no longer get communion in part because of yoga and energy work…

God sent me over sixty people to teach how to breath, do yoga, meditate and manifest miracles in their lives.

I had more people in that gym with me in one day than my former church has had in their pews in years.

That’s called validation.

I also attended a class with kindergarten teachers around the district. We’ve had our hands full with so many issues this year. No one works harder than kindergarten teachers in the beginning of the year.

Period.

We have so many concerns, and being around others who have the same concerns helped us to feel not so alone and not so crazy.

The day ended and I went home, pretty exhausted.

My back is hurting again. Rob said it’s from all the lifting I did of the crates of yoga mats and blankets. I’m praying that’s what it is.

Today I begin fasting, and won’t eat again until Saturday.

It’s so hard, especially as today is usually the day I begin to feel better and normal. Then BOOM! Chemo tomorrow and the cycle begins again.

I’m anxious about the tumor markers tomorrow, especially after having such back pain and pain in my right thigh bone. I’m praying it’s the neulasta.

Today I’ll teach all day then prepare for tomorrow. I’ll clean up the house a bit as this weekend I’ll be on the couch recovering.

Election Day is over, and I hope the elected officials figure out a way to help our school district, instead of just saying to vote no on the bond. They get to make their budget and only have to have their council vote on it. Hopefully they remember how hard they worked for this election and the votes they got and remember we are working even harder for a more noble cause…

The children.

Children like Shamel, who came from such trauma and poverty that he had to steal his teacher’s lunch in order to eat that day. Because voters supported the school back then, he has become an amazing man who is giving back to the society in a huge way.

Paying it forward.

Today may we all find a way to pay it forward, form relationships that help us make the world better, and breathe.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Beware the Bears

Today is a big day for two reasons.

The first is Election Day.

I have not been happy with the ugliness and mean spirited spiritedness of the town supervisor race. Supporters and candidates have taken jabs every chance they can. Things are said and you don’t know who to believe. I hope whoever wins decides to work with grace, compassion, and class, and realizes that the school district needs help.

The school district needs the bond to pass.

The school district is the heart of the town.

The town council race, on the other hand, was totally different. I watched all five candidates and wished all five could be elected. They handled themselves with class, knowledge, and they all seemed as if they could hang out at a party and be friends. That’s what we need. People willing to work with anyone and everyone to make this town as great as it can be, instead of sneering and snarling at each other.

No matter who you vote for, make sure you vote. It’s a right and privilege, and every year I’m shocked more people don’t vote. We have become an apathetic society. It’s time to get involved and help make the changes we need.

No matter who wins, hold them accountable.

Raise your voice and stay involved.

It’s also a big day in the school district.

We are having a superintendents conference day and the district is trying something new.

EdCamp.

There are multiple sessions addressing everything possible that an educator could be dealing with today. It’s like a menu, and the district is using its own teachers as well as outside experts to facilitate the conversations and learning.

I’m teaching two sessions.

I chose to discuss what I feel is the biggest threat to educators and students today…

Trauma.

It doesn’t matter what program we choose to teach, or which standards we are told to use…

If the children are coming to us with trauma, they won’t learn.

Imagine you are in the forest, and you see a bear. Your body sends a signal to increase cortisol, adrenaline, your pupils dilate, your heart beats faster, your breath increases, and voila! Your body is now in fight or flight mode. You can fight the bear or run away.

Which is great, if you’re in a forest… and there’s a bear.

But what if the bear is in your house every night, disguised as a parent with a substance abuse problem? Or a parent who abuses you? Or the bear is a parent who is in jail and missing?

Or what if the bear is disguised as a bully, and follows you around in school? Or your family went through hell to escape their homeland where there was danger, and you are now in a new place where you don’t understand the language but know that the people around taunt you and Give you side eye?

Or what if you were born here and are a citizen, but because of how you look those same propel assume you don’t belong and taunt you anyway?

Or what if you don’t follow the societal norms and love you who love, or want to be who you feel you were meant to be?

Or what if your poor and can’t afford the cool

Kids clothes?

Having a bear follow you around all day causes immeasurable trauma. And no one is safe from the bear. I mention childhood trauma and people will think of others from poverty level backgrounds or different cultures. But actually, we all have trauma.

My own children are suffering every day with the bear. Our bear is cancer bear. They live with a bear that every day says their mom is going to die and makes her sick and lose her hair.

Trauma changes you. Emotionally… mentally… and physically. It actually gets under your skin and changes your DNA. It affects your immune system. It causes inflammation.

There was a study done and children with trauma are four times more likely to abuse drugs.

Twelve times more likely to attempt suicide.

Who cares about learning geometry when you don’t want to live?

Our country is great with public health crisis awareness… when it wants to be.

Drug campaigns, HIV/AIDS…

They are now waking up to vaping.

But WHY do kids vape?

It’s because they need to feel or escape from something in their lives.

Which is where my class today comes in.

Meditation, mindfulness, manifesting, yoga, breathwork.

Give the kids and adults some tools they can use to move through trauma.

Tame the bear.

I’m nervous, as it’s always harder to teach in front of colleagues. I’m loading up my car with extra yoga mats and blankets, essential oils, my portable speaker, tea light candles and flowers.

The teachers in my district have had several bears following them around.

We all know how much the bond is needed, and we’ve got people running in politics saying to vote no. They should walk through our halls someday. Bears.

We are dealing with an influx of students and are overcrowded. Bears.

We’ve got children who don’t speak the language and we have to educate them with limited resources. Bears.

We’ve got new programs .. not one.. but two.. to learn and navigate while dealing with overcrowding and language issues. Bears.

We’ve got different cultures and races clashing and we are tasked with bringing them together. Bears.

We’ve got townspeople and the usual commenters bashing the jobs we do, when they couldn’t even last a day if they were to walk in our shoes. Bears.

We’ve got our own lives and children and families and issues we have to leave at the door every day. Bears.

So today, I’m going to play some soft music, hand out lavender oil to rub on their hands and breathe in, and teach them how to relax, restore, breathe and reset their fight or flight so they can help others with the bears that follow them around.

I’ve only got a half hour.

I’m nervous but happy to be of service to these amazing men and women who are helping my own children as they deal with cancer bear.

I hope my class today is a gift they take with them and use every day as they face the bears.

May we all vote today and the best people for our town win. May they work together to make this town the jewel that it can be. May the staff of our district come together and learn and become energized, so they can go back tomorrow and continue to do the amazing work they have been doing.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Homecoming

I had such a wide ranging amazing day yesterday.

And it started off with me thinking I wouldnt be able to get out of bed.

I woke up completely exhausted, as most teachers do the days after Halloween. I forced myself to get up, take my herbs and supplements and meds, took a shower, drew on my eyebrows, and then laid down on the couch. I rested for another hour then off I went.

The North Fork Breast Coalition was hosting a spa day for breast cancer patients at the Blue Sage Day Spa. I resist going to any and all “support group” type activities. It’s hard as I tend to absorb the energy of others, and I’m much better talking one to one with others. But I love Melanie, who organized it, as well as Charlene, who owns the spa and has been a dear friend for years. I was surprised as soon as I walked in by two women whom I’ve met them through facebook and one at last year’s gala, so there were familiar faces which was comforting. We all introduced ourselves, and the majority of women were stage four. Two are newly diagnosed, and I sat and realized that I’m the women for them who I looked for when I was first diagnosed… years out from the shitty prognosis, still living my life.

I hoped that by being there those women saw hope as well.

One woman said she had found my blog one day, and she learned more about stage four form my blog than from any oncologist.

And THAT is why I continue to share.

I had a lovely treatment, and then left a little early. It’s too hard for me to be in “Cancerland”, and needed to be in a normal life setting to rebalance myself.

Madison has just ended her SAT after five hours so I went to check on her, then ran to the homecoming game to check on Morgan.

Let me tell you…

Going to the homecoming game was amazing. I got so many hugs from former parents and students. Everyone was on a great mood. Our team, which was moved up to division one and placed on the bottom of the boards, won the game and will be in the playoffs. The school pride was palpable. How I wish we could bottle that up and have everyone see what I see.

I stayed for the band and cheerleaders and cheered them on at halftime, then went home and slept on the couch.

My dad asked if I had checked Facebook and when I did, I was blown away.

You see, years and years ago, MTV had a show called “The Real World”, a show where they put strangers from all walks of life into a house as a social experiment. There was a young man named Kevin powell, who has gone on to become a a well known and respected author, activist, blogger, public speaker. My friend Mark Naison, who is also a well known professor and author, shared my blog with Kevin about the denial of communion from my church..

Kevin decided to write an article and had it published in the national publication called “The Progressive”.

I wad shocked, and humbled.

He wrote eloquently and hit the nail on the head. So thank you, Kevin.

https://progressive.org/dispatches/american-graffiti-church-cancer-hate-faith-powell-191102/

Rob and I took the opportunity of me being semi-well to go out to dinner for a date.

It was lovely, and felt like the days before cancer took over our lives. Then we crashed the Riverhead Class of 89 reunion.

I didn’t even go to riverhead, but having taught here for years, I feel I’m a blue wave. It’s a great group of people in that class year, and we ran in for some quick hugs.

We came home and as we walked up the stairs to bed, rob started laughing. He said, “Keri… it’s 8:30.”

When you took into account the time change, I was in bed and asleep by nine.

Two words….

Rock… star.

Today is Sunday. Many people will be going to church today.

Not me.

I’ll be going to the rotary pancake breakfast early with Morgan and her friend who slept over. Rob used to be so involved in rotary before cancer then had to step back. I’m so grateful they still let him come to events to volunteer and be around them all. It’s a great group of local business people who do amazing things.

Then I’m off to get Maddie from a sleepover and finally my Quinn who slept outside all weekend with the boys scouts. He is tired and cold and hungry, and I cant wait time get him home and snuggle up with him.

I’ll rest this afternoon, as it’s a big week.

I’ll be teaching at our districts Edcamp on Tuesday, have a pop in observation this week, start fasting Wednesday and chemo Thursday. I’m also playing basketball in a fundraiser against the Harlem wizards Thursday, and hope to go to a book release party for a friend on Friday.

I’ve got a lot of life to live this week.

If you’re going to church today, pray for me.

If you’re being given communion, savor every second of the ritual, a ritual that has been done for years and years years.

I’ve been invited to so many churches in the past few days I have lost count.

I’ve been shown the true face of God through all of this, and have had the spirit of Jesus shine through strangers.

May you all be invited to the table, and if not..

Set your own place wherever you may be, and know you are loved.

Take, and eat.

Take, and drink.

The body and blood has been shed for you.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Communion and Releasing Heaven on Earth

Today is an incredibly busy day for my little family.

We are scattered like the autumn leaves through town.

Quinn is at a boy scout campout all weekend. I know he is in the best hands possible, but this mom never sleeps well thinking of her little boy in a tent in the woods in the cold. I cant wait for tomorrow to get him back and run him a nice warm bath.

Madison is taking her first SAT today. She said that this is the one where she has to learn how to beat the system and the test, and she will score higher next time. I was a wreck when I took my SAT, but she is calm, cool and collected.

Morgan will be with her best friend, either hanging out or going to homecoming.

Me?

The north fork breast health coalition is hosting a day at the Blue Sage Day Spa for breast cancer patients. There will be light snacks, juices from The Giving Room, and we each get two treatments. I have avoided support groups in person like the plague, and this is my first time being around other patients without protesting funding or at a gala. My friend Charlene owns the business, so I know I’m in good hands. I’m still in some pain so a day of pampering is nice.

God always comes through with His timing.

I went last night back to Spa Belleza, and it was lovely. I had a gentle massage with oils and hot stones and reiki. I felt the heat coming off of my head, and when we finished, Tina confirmed it. She said that was good, as it was the liver detoxing. All of the energy was leaving through the head.

My crown chakra.

Let it all go.

I went to my niece’s birthday as well, and as soon as I walked in, my sister jill gave me bread and a sip of her red wine. For the first time in a long time, I actually had communion from a real Christian.

I was contacted by yet another media outlet to run the story about the church denying me communion in a letter. I actually almost said yes, because the hypocrisy is astounding. But then I realized that God knows what they all did. That’s enough for me. Some people said they want to write letters and call or protest. I say don’t waste your breath. One of the silver linings that has come out of this is that many former members who left have reappeared in my life this past week. Apparently this is a “thing”, and the church family I used to know scattered due to similar instances. It’s a shame, as the families that used to go to this church were amazing. Eventually the elders and pastor will learn that those who judge others and make the church into a jury room will be left alone in their own pew.

You can’t minister to an empty church.

I said to some yesterday I will pray for them, because to them the Bible is used for punishment and sin and is like a jail.

To me?

The Bible set me free. It tells me stories of miracles, friendships, strong women, children who faced giants. A man who loved me so much he died for me before I was even born.

I also realized something yesterday that filled my heart.

People are talking freely about Jesus and God’s love with me all the time. Look over my wall the last two or three days. Four years ago?

Jesus was only mentioned at Christmas and Easter.

Now?

Every single day.

Every…single…day… I have people praying for me, telling me how much He loves me. Quoting scriptures that fill me with peace.

Stopping me in the halls of my school and discussing faith.

It’s beautiful.

I look in the mirror and cry when I see myself with no eyebrows or hair. I said to someone that every morning I think of that magnet man you used to use as a child with a red pen with black magnet pieces to draw eyebrows and hair on this little board.

But maybe I’m more like a newborn.

Stripped clean of everything as the medicine takes all the cancer away. Stripped of all pretenses and former beliefs, and reminded of what is the basic fundamental.

That no matter what you look like, what you do…

You are loved.

You were born with grace, beauty, and His love surrounding you. Every layer we added on as we go through life should add to the beauty, and if it doesn’t…

We can shed it.

I heard yesterday a beautiful quote.

Rather than finding heaven on earth, we need to release heaven on earth.

Imagine that?

I’m off to take some more pain medicine and take a detox bath. It’s homecoming today. I wish the town would show up for other sports and activities and concerts and have a pep rally for all the smart kids who take advanced classes or got to Boces and learn trades.. We need to cheer on EVERYONE.

I’m also crashing the riverhead high school class of 89 reunion.

I crashed their last one and loved it. It’s a great group of people and will be nice to get

More healing hugs.

Today may we all release a little bit of heaven on earth.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

October is OctOVER and November is for Grace, Gratitude and Giving

Thank God October is OctOVER.

I’m up, and in quite a lot of pain in my back…especially my sacrum which the last scan showed was full of cancer.

So I appreciate all prayers as I try to find a comfortable position and try to not imagine it as cancer spreading more in the bones.

I may have overdone it yesterday.

We all dressed as Max from Where the Wild Things Are, and did a wild rumpus through the halls of the school and in the main office.

A parent sent me a video of it and it was just too cute.

It was almost like their very first play.

Bravo!

We did stations in the class and the kids had a memorable party. My friend Peggie dropped off pumpkins her mom Muriel decorated and every child in my class took one home.

School ended and went to the high school for safe Halloween event and it was amazing to see the whole community come out. I especially love seeing parents all dressed up as well. We never grow up if we keep our inner child in our heart.

Morgan was sad as she didn’t go with friends due to her ankle, so we grabbed my nephew and he and Quinn went from house to house as rob followed in the truck and I walked and supervised. I thought it was a good idea as it got me some exercise, but at 2:00 a.m. I am regretting it dearly.

Although there WAS a moment where Quinn grabbed my hand as we walked alone and he said it was his best Halloween ever.

Be still my heart.

That’s what I’m replaying in my head at 2:30 in the morning as I try not to cry from pain.

Being the youngest child isn’t easy, as the novelty of all of the special holidays and events wears off. I want to keep everything going as long as I can with him.

We came home, went through candy, and crashed.

My chest hurt and back hurt, which meant a night of tears and fears. I just took some Tylenol and hope it will help.

Rob thinks it could be the neulasta shot as well which caused bone pain as it forces immature cells to grow faster.

Whatever it is, it hurts.

I received so much support yesterday and I thank you for each and every message. I was contacted by news outlets, but made a decision.

October was a month full of action and awareness. In one month I raised money for Metavivor, protested against Susan g Komen, raised money for my oncologist, was interviewed for several articles and wrote an editorial on the pinkwashing of stage four, started college visits with Maddie, tried to educate the public about our school bond, worked full time teaching kindergarten, and received the hardest chemo they’ve got.

I’m tired.

Had i received the letter a week ago, I probably would have gone with a media blitz.

But I’ve decided I’m tired.

Today is November 1st, and if October was about action and awareness, then November is about grace, gratitude and giving.

That doesn’t mean I’m ever going to step foot back in that building or meet with the men who decided to be judges of my heart and soul.

Blessed be.

In fact, I received many more Messages from people who used to go to the same church who left because they received similar letters.

I’ve decided I’m going to pray for all the people that are left in the church that the elders and pastor actually realize the truth. That they stop preaching about fear and living in sin and condemnation and open their eyes to what faith and Jesus is really about.

My niece sent me a message late last night.

She said “church is not a museum for good people. It is a hospital for the sick and broken.”

I love that.

I’ve been invited to so many churches, and had leaders of the churches reach out. Not to condemn or punish or withhold…

but to give comfort and peace and love.

THAT is what leaders and followers of faith do.

They don’t just talk the talk.

They walk the walk.

I’ll walk with those who walk with Jesus.

Those who withhold communion are walking with the devil.

No thank you.

Although I appreciate all of the offers to go protest the church or call, it’s not needed. There are some who I love that still go there, and they have to figure this all out. I hope no one goes up for communion in that building this Sunday. I hope the elders and pastor read the Bible and stories of how Jesus tended to the sick, the women, the ones in pain. I hope they look back on all of the good families who made that church what it was as and who ended up being kicked out and ostracized or left.

Soon there will be no one left.

That’s not the Christian way.

Jesus welcomes everyone, and I bet he would offer me communion.

This month, I want peace.

I want healing.

I want a pain free body.

I want good scans.

I want an easier chemo, because yesterday was rough. I was sweating and nauseas all day.

I want to feel like Keri, from three years ago.

Today, if you can walk without pain, talk without feeling sick, breathe without issue…Give thanks.

If you can think about three months down the road and not wonder if you’ll still be here, give thanks.

If your newsfeed is full of day after Halloween memes and Christmas jokes instead of death notices for others who this disease has taken far too soon, give thanks.

Find all the things to be thankful for and be grateful.

Spread your grace.

Don’t take anything for granted…

Be grateful for everything.

And please, pray for me.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri