Monday, September 27, 2010

MWKA Monday - Tara Stout

This is the first in a series of interviews with moms who inspire. If you or someone you know would like to participate in this project please contact me.



Single mom Tara Stout lets us peek into her past as a struggling pregnant teen, her journey as a painfully young, but loving mother and tells how she has remained an outstanding role model for her now grown daughter, all while managing to keep the delicate balance required to retain a strong sense of self.

Name:  Tara Stout
Age:     38
City:     Palm Harbor, Florida


How many children do you have and what are their ages and names?
I have one daughter and she will be 21 on October 24th ,2010.
Her name is Jasmin Elektra.


Tell me about her name, and why you picked it.
My friend had a baby when she was in high school, and attended a special school for teen moms. I was a dropout and had plenty of free time so I went for a day with my girlfriend. While we were on break from class feeding her baby, there was a baby named Jasmin in the nursery.  Jasmin was so beautiful sounding to me; I fell in love with the name instantly. I declared then and there that I am naming my daughter Jasmin. I searched the meaning of the word later on, and I knew she would be as beautiful as the flower and as sweet as its perfume.  And she is!
Her middle name pays homage to Prince.  Elektra is named in a song on one of his many awesome albums.  I really wanted this to be her first name but thought it too “out there” and people are going to judge me, as it is being a 16-year-old mom, I didn’t need any help standing out. 
Her first name was unique until Disney’s Aladdin came out when she was three and everybody and their brother named their girls Jasmin. 


Are you married or have you ever been?   
I was married once for about a year.  We were together for seven before that.  Marriage is overrated.  I prefer the two-year plan for relationships.  It’s the feel good portion of relationships.  The good part right before the excitement dies and the boring-ness of familiarity sets in.  I’m addicted to the newness, I guess. 


Do you have a significant other, and if so do you live with them? 
I did have one up until last week when, unfortunately, we reached the two-year mark, so we’re done.  I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner.  Honestly, I am better single.  I like to hunt, catch, and then release.  Of course, I reserve the right to change and settle down at any moment I feel the urge to conform.

Do you work outside the home?
I have always worked outside the home.  I’ve always had second and even third jobs.  I also attend school more often than not. 


What is your position?
I am an English teacher for middle school aged students.


Are you doing what you want to be doing, or is it a steppingstone to something else?
I love teaching. Teaching and learning go hand-in-hand and I love both.   A good teacher must also have a love of learning and be a life-long learner.  I learn a lot from my students.  I love teaching and learning passionately.  I love this age group of students.  I have always been a teacher in some way, shape or form and feel it’s what I am.  Is this a steppingstone for something?  I think everything is a steppingstone.  Life is about change.  It’s the only thing that’s guaranteed and constant.  I LOVE teaching but since the pay stinks, I’m starting another degree in speech pathology.  It is still teaching, just a more lucrative type of teaching.

Did you go to school? When and for what?
I attended school for Court Reporting in 1993.  I graduated and court reported for a year.  I hated it.  It was meaningless work that benefited no one and no thing.  I watched molesters go free and young teens locked up for years for ridiculousness.  I found no value or meaning in that work.  I quit and went to St. Petersburg Junior College for A.A. then USF [University of South Florida] for a B.A. in English Literature and with a minor in education.  I most recently completed a master’s program for Educational Leadership at St. Leo University.  I am enrolling in pre-requisite classes at USF for Speech Pathology in October.


How did you end up in the city you reside in? 
I got knocked up at 16 while living with my father in New Jersey and was too scared to tell him.  My entire remaining family had moved to Florida a couple years prior, so I ran from there and ended up here.


Where else have you lived?
I have lived in Warwick, New York, Saddlebrook, New Jersey, St. Petersburg, Florida and Palm Harbor, Florida.


Where have you traveled? 
I’ve been to Jamaica, Germany and Amsterdam.  I have not traveled nearly enough.


What was a typical day for you when you were 20?
I had a three year old when I was 20.  We were so poor.  We literally had next to nothing but we were very happy.  I would wake up at 5:00 am and get us ready in our crawlspace room we lived in. 
It was an attic apartment with a hotplate, microwave, a mini fridge and bed all in one room, and a bathroom for 200 dollars a month.  I would ride my bike with her barely awake in the baby seat on the back, her head bobbling due to the weight of the helmet, and drop her off at the babysitter’s house.  I would then catch two buses at 6:15 to court reporting school where I also worked after classes were over. 
After work, I would bus it to her sitter arriving around three, and we would bike to the park where we would climb trees, swing, and run around acting silly.  Then I’d peddle us home and make dinner.  I was in fantastic shape! 
We didn’t have TV.  Books were our nightly entertainment.  When it was too hot for the park, we would go to the public library, Publix [a Florida-based Supermarket], or the dollar movie.  Thankfully, my school had a preschool learning facility and when she turned four, she was old enough to attend there.  I worked as a work/study student and with the help of student loans and grants, I was finally able to buy a car.  Riding the bus in Florida is awful!  We have a horrible mass transit system.  It basically doesn’t exist at all.  I loved those days! 

Describe a typical day now....[continued]


My life isn’t nearly as exciting as it was when I was 20.  Now I wake up around seven, after hitting the snooze button a million times, which is way too late to make it to work on time.  I get ready, take my dog out and I’m off to my school.  Thankfully, I have planning first period so I have plenty of time to continue waking up before my students arrive.  
I am not nor have I ever been a morning person.  I try to fake it, but it doesn’t work. Teachers have so many meetings in the early morning.   It’s just plain cruel.  Meetings can be any of the following:  Parent/teacher conferences, learning meetings, staffing meetings, and training meetings.  Many times we have two or three a day.  I don’t know when we are supposed to plan, grade, and make parent phone calls when meetings consume our entire planning. 
The kids come in and boost my spirits.  I see so much potential in each and every face.  They are so inspirational. Middle school aged children are old enough to not need their noses wiped, but young enough to still think you may have something to offer them.  They are so funny and so sweet and so surprising. I really enjoy them.  There is so much good in each of them.  I run a very strict classroom but I am very fair and consistent and I respect them so they reciprocate.
I don’t have any discipline problems.  And they are guaranteed to learn something new each day.  I won’t bore you with my detailed class schedule.  I teach each period until I finally perfect my lesson for the day for my 6th period class.  Practice really does make perfect.  After school, I would like to say I go to the gym and I plan to go to the gym, but right now, it rarely happens.  I often meet up with my friends and we either have a drink, or coffee, or sit out on the water.  I may go to Publix to purchase that night’s dinner.  After eating I may walk on the beach, walk my dog, play tennis or hang out with more friends or family.  I basically do what I want.  It’s great.  I don’t have a little one anymore.

What do you like to do with your kid for fun? 
Even though my daughter is older now, we still enjoy doing the same things we did when she was younger together.  We love to go shopping at Publix for her favorite dinner that we’ll prepare together.   No matter how far she travels, I know I can always get her home for dinner.  Jasmin takes classes during the week and works at Border’s on weekends. I try to take her out to lunch once a week.  We kayak when we get a chance.  My favorite time with her may sound terrible, but it’s when she’s mad at her boyfriend.  When she’s mad at him, she calls me and will sleep over my house sometimes two nights in a row!  We get to spend hours talking and laughing in bed before we fall asleep.  I get to make her tea.  She’s a little too old for spooning, though.   Jasmin is one of the few people that can make me laugh so hard I cry.  She laughs, too, but it’s mostly at me.  It’s such a treat to have that relationship with your child after they are adults out on their own.  It was touch-and-go there for a couple of years.  The teenage years were awful.  We both couldn’t stand to be around one another. I’m so thankful those days are over and now we have this beautiful relationship I cherish and feel very fortunate for having.


What do you like to do for yourself? 
At this point in my life, I can do anything I want (wallet permitting) anytime I want to do it.  When Jasmin was younger, however, it was a little trickier to find time for me.  I always made sure, though, I took time out for myself.  
Whether it was spending time out with friends or going on vacation with my husband, I found time to do for me at least once a month.  I think it is VERY important to remain a friend, a mate, and an individual when you have children.  I received a lot of slack from my family for taking time out for myself.  I didn’t care.  I know it was crucial for me to do in order to be the best mom for Jasmin. 
I have watched women completely lose themselves as a wife and mother and have nothing once their children are old enough to take care of themselves.  I make a point to tell all my friends having children to make sure to take time out for themselves and for their husbands.  I compliment them whenever they do and they do so often.
 I don’t know where this thankless, selflessness, indentured servant idea of mothering came from but it needs to die.  Mothering is the most important job in the world and we deserve thanks, praise, appreciation and time to be individuals.  I dislike how some women feel guilty if they do anything other than live, breath and sleep for their families.  It’s a mistake that can lead to bitterness and regret.


How do you make new friends, and how do you keep in touch with old ones?
I have made it a goal this year to be a better friend.  I am so fortunate to have wonderful friends.  My friends are perfect.  They all represent what I aspire to be. I wonder sometimes why they like me.  I am terrible at keeping in contact with old friends even though they continually attempt to contact me.  I have made it my goal to be in their lives more regularly, both old friends and new ones.  The last group of new friends I met at work.  Now that I think about it, I meet most friends at work.   In addition to work, my two younger brothers always have really awesome girlfriends that I remain friends with even when their relationship is over.  I guess if you can get along with my brothers, you can get along with me.  Facebook has been a great way to reconnect with friends I’ve lost touch with.  Prior to Facebook, I was awful at keeping in touch with old friends.  I am so not a phone talker.  I hate it, in fact.  That makes it hard to stay in contact with friends that you don’t see on a regular basis.  Of course, with a true friend, you will always be able to pick up right where you left off regardless of the time between visits and it feels like you never missed a beat. 


What sacrifices have you made for your child?
Sacrifice is too harsh of a word.  Have I gone with out food so she could eat?  Yes.  Have I done without material things so she can have?  Of course, I have.  This is just a natural part of parenting and is in no way a sacrifice.  I think a sacrifice is to give up something of importance.  And since my daughter is of the utmost importance, as long as I wasn’t giving her up, nothing seemed a sacrifice. 


Did you ever consider not having children?
I never wanted children.  I was 16 when I got pregnant.  There was no plan for that.  She did save my life and I am so thankful I have her.  But I never wanted a child in the sense that girls dream of becoming a mother one day.  Maybe I became a mother before that want had a chance to kick in.  In fact, at 38, I only now feel emotionally “ready” to have children.  I still don’t want another one, though.  Yes, there has always been and there still is a huge biological—or as I call it: primordial—drive/need to reproduce, but logically, it’s never been a want or desire for me. Plus, my daughter is so smart, so beautiful and so wonderful, she pretty much has, inadvertently, set a second child up for immediate and life long failure.  And don’t give me that crap that you love the second one the same amount, just differently.  That is a bunch of crap.  My mother rues the day she had me.  I was suppose to be a boy and certainly had no business having colic for the first three years of life. I got lucky with the first.  I don’t want to push my luck with a second. 


What has been the hardest period in your life?
I have had three trying times in my life.
I had an argument with my father on the phone and he died a few weeks later. That sucked and still continues to suck.
The second time was when my daughter was ill for a three month time period.  It felt like all eternity.  She was 16 and several doctors were unable to help.  I felt despair for the first time.  Fortunately, they were just a series of idiot doctors and she was eventually well again but during that trying time, I seriously began to question many things.  There is nothing on this planet that is more horrible as having an ill child.  My heart goes out to any parent dealing with an ill child.  It is simply the worst thing ever. 
The third time was when a friend of mine was diagnosed with tongue cancer.  Later, during surgery, they found it on one of her lymph nodes.  I had a terrible time dealing with this and felt guilty because who the hell am I to have a hard time when it is her that has the cancer?  I just couldn’t justify how a 32 year old mother of two, non-smoker, light drinker who lived her life as a wonderful, honest, caring person could get this and have to suffer through the horrible treatment.  Radiation in your mouth is probably the worst place to receive it on the entire body.  Radiation and chemotherapy simultaneously put a beating on her body.  Basically, the treatment for cancer is to come as close as you can to killing a person with poison, but then not killing them.  All this in hopes of killing the bad stuff even though you had to kill the good stuff, too.  This was last year.  I still can’t wrap my mind around it and perhaps that’s because there’s no justification.  It just is.  The anger I felt was immense.  Her and I have previously had many conversations about our battle with anger issues when we were younger and how we still work on keeping it in check.  I asked her if she was angry. 
She responded, “I can’t even let anger in.  That will become all consuming and will get me no where I need to be right now.”   What strength. 
Little does she know I was angry enough for both of us.  She and I also believe everything happens for a reason.  I basically stopped believing that when this happened.  How could there be a reason?  A wonderful wife, mother, teacher, and friend gets this crap?  Why?  Where is the justice in that?
 In response to this, she explained, “Just because I have cancer, I can’t all of a sudden stop believing that everything happens for a reason.  I can’t just change my beliefs because I have cancer.  I must have lost sight of the important things in life and this will help me refocus on what’s important.”  How could she be so strong?  She is simply amazing.  I’m happy to say they were successful at removing the cancer and she has been clear for eleven months.  She is truly the epitome of strength, beauty and wisdom.


How did you get through it?
I cried a lot when I was alone.  I have a terrible way of dealing with things, according to my friends.  I will completely detach from everyone and everything and crawl into my shell.  I need time alone to think things through and deal with it alone, internally.  My friends want to help, but now they know that’s just my way of dealing with things and they leave me alone until I feel okay to talk about it.  And then I learn from the experiences and move on.  Because of my father’s abrupt departure, I try not to say harsh words to anyone ever, or stay angry at anyone or even get angry at all, for the most part, and always let loved ones know I love them very much on a regular basis with actions as well as words.  My daughter’s brief illness enhanced my feelings of gratitude about having a well child and never to take that for granted.  My friend’s cancer is something I am still working on rationalizing.  I am beginning to rationalize the fact that there just may be no rationalization. 


What has been the most hopeful period?
 I am a hope junkie.  It’s in my DNA, according to Michael J. Fox.  I am always full of hope.  I don’t know why.  I’m sure it gets annoying to friends and family at times.  I always find a silver lining, or an upside to anything and everything.  It’s not something I try to do or force it; It just pops into my brain.  I am full of hope at this very second.  My name should be Hope and not Tara.  There was a time when I was hopeless, though.  That was pretty much my entire youth.  It was a very dark time up until I was 16 and in control and could get out from the situation.   Since I made it through that aspect of my life, everything since then comes up smelling like roses. 


What worries do you have for yourself?
Oh, God.  What don’t I worry about? I worry about this planet and the overpopulation.  I worry that I’m not the best teacher and I need to do more for my students.  I worry I’ll be too old by the time I want to get married and no one will want to marry me.  I worry that I won’t be able to support myself when I am too old to work.  I worry about my dog dying, my daughter getting kidnapped or hurt in any way, shape or form.  I worry about looking old and wrinkly.  I worry about the way the U.S. is getting dumber and dumber by the second and how only stupid people are breeding.  I worry about my students.  I worry about not being the best human I can be.  There’s nothing I don’t worry about.  What a strange word “worry” is.  It’s like sorry but with a w.  If you could get warts from worrying, I would be as warty as that scary tree-man guy from the Discovery Channel.  I’m sorry Mr. Tree-man.  Now I’m worried he may see this and be hurt by that comment.  This is why my daughter sometimes says I’m crazy.  I have always felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.  It’s not a negative thing, though.  It’s more like a driving force in my life to do better and be better.


What regrets?
I do not believe in regret.  If I had to come up with one, I would say I regret not telling my father I was pregnant and not telling him I loved him before he died.  Everything else that happened in my life made me who I am today and I like me. 

Are you spiritual? Religious?
I do not believe in man-made, organized, contrived religion.  It annoys me to no end. I do, however, feel very connected to everything and everyone.  I guess if you had to label it, I would say I am spiritual.  I do believe in purpose over randomness, but who am I to say?  I feel like I have been so fortunate in my lifetime, there must be someone/something out there somewhere I need to thank for all this.  

If so, have you ever questioned your faith?
The only time I thought about giving up on faith or hope or optimism (to me they are all synonyms) was when my daughter was ill.  I was so angry and so helpless, I felt hate creeping in.  I have a crazy story that snapped me out of falling into that dark hole of despair.  I just left my daughter at home and was going out to pick up her medicine.  This was my time to cry and let it all out alone.  As I ran out of tears, began becoming numb and started to lose faith, I scanned to a radio station I don’t have programmed in.  I never scan.  I have all my stations programmed in.  I don’t know why I even turned the radio on the first place when I was wallowing in self-pity.  Anyway, it landed on the right station at the right time.  My father loved Motown music.  A song came on entitled, “Up On the Roof” by the Drifters.  I know it sounds corny, but that song was like my father contacting and comforting me.  Every lyric seemed to be exactly what I needed to hear to catch myself from falling into despair.  Coincidence?  Perhaps.  Wishful thinking?  Perhaps.  But it was enough to keep the faith and carry on until my daughter was well.  And she is and has been ever since!  I’m so very thankful for that.


What’s your personal philosophy; why do you think we are here?
I read the recent Stephen Hawking article about how he now dismisses God out of the equation and attributes every single thing in existence to randomness.  I feel like Forrest Gump on that matter:  “I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both.”  I concur, Forrest.  With my brain, I cannot delve too deeply in philosophy or I will spiral out of control and my head will explode if I don’t commit suicide first.  I have to try not to think about things like that too deeply because it becomes a slippery slope and one that I may not be able to get back up from.  I know my limitations and this is one of them.  I think enough about everything--EVERYTHING--else.  I live my life how my conscience insists I live.  My conscience is clear so I’m okay with whatever the answers turn out to be. 


What is your nationality/ ethnicity and what is your child's? 
I am half German and half Italian.  I bake like a German and cook like an Italian and not an American Italian.  I mean a real Italian from Italy.  I look like and relate to the Italian side more than the other, as do the rest of my siblings.  We have big mouths, big butts and cook and eat lots of food.  My daughter doesn’t know her father and I don’t really either, but I’m assuming he’s Italian, too, because he’s dark and hairy.  She had and still suffers from “Mediterranean Anemia” which is an acute type of anemia suffered by those with ancestors from the Mediterranean.  She looks very Italian and her last name is Italian, from my grandparents, so that name worked out well.

Is this something you identify with strongly?
 
I do feel this strange connection to Italy.  It’s almost as if it calls out to me sometimes.  I didn’t know my grandfather very well.  His name was Anthony Valentino.  He passed away when I was very young.  There is a black and white photo my daughter came across recently while rummaging through my mother’s stuff.  She showed it to me and asked, “How did you get in this picture?  Who are these people with you?” I looked at the picture and was taken aback.  I was staring at myself in a photograph I had no recollection of taking, standing with people I don’t remember meeting.  It was an old photograph of my grandfather, my grandfather’s brothers, sisters, and my grandmother taken shortly after they arrived from Italy via Canada and settled in the Bronx, I believe. It turned out to be my Great Aunt Mimi.  I look almost identical to her.  So much so, that both of us thought it was myself in the photograph.  It is amazing how genetics work.  Needless to say, I’ve stolen the photograph and it remains in my possession.  I love looking at it.  So, yes, I strongly identify with my nationality.  Oh! I have a Dachshund.  Does that count for identifying with the German side?


How has the economy affected you and your family in the last few years? 
As a teacher in Florida, I make a meager salary as it is.  This is a right to work state and we have no union.  I don’t mind making less than everyone else in the business world that have a Master’s Degree, ten years experience and outstanding student performance scores, but they have really screwed us for the last four years.  We have a contract that states we get “step increases” yearly.  These increases are just cost of living increases.  This is not a raise.  Raises are a thing of the past.  Raises are “dead and gone” as Justin Timberlake says. These are minor increases around 400 dollars a year.  The school board placed a freeze on these steps for four years now blaming the economy. I am making the same salary I made four years ago, yet everything else has increased in price. In addition to the pay cut again this year, they are now talking about taking away part of our benefits, which SUCK anyway, again blaming the economy.  Obviously, I’m not looking to get rich as a teacher but I do expect benefits and contractual pay increases.  They treat teachers terribly here. 
I have never lived beyond my means so I don’t have to scale back and coming from single parenting on welfare, I still feel like I’m rolling in the dough.  I am, however, having more and more difficulty affording the basics.  I have also stopped being able to help my daughter with her college tuition and books.  That shames me, to say the least.  I also work a second job but I have always done that for extra money.  Now that second job is to make ends meet.   
I am supposed to go for my first mammogram and have not due to the co-pay.  That’s another way the economy has affected me. I have scaled way back on doctor visits such as check-ups due to our increased co-pay cost.  How can the U.S. have so much money, but have no universal health care?  This infuriates me.  How can the school board not realize that cutting back on benefits only ends up costing more in the long run?   Preventative health care saves money!  Duh!  I’m all over the place with this answer because I have a lot of emotions about the subject.  In addition to pay cuts, they are requiring us to work more and more.  It’s insane.   I know I should be thankful to have a job when I have witnessed so many lose their jobs.
And I am thankful.


What’s an important dream you have which you work towards almost every day? 
Winning Power Ball or Lotto.  In addition to that, I strive to be a better person each day.  I want to be a better mom, friend, mate, teacher, sibling, cook, baker and the list goes on and on.  I think that is really what life is about.  Being the best you can be.  I have dreams of traveling extensively and I will.  I have dreams to join the Peace Corp and I will.  I don’t have dreams, really.  Dreams, to me, are things that you imagine but won’t really ever come true.  It’s more like goals I set, go after, and attain.  If I dream it, it’s possible and only a matter of time before the dream is a reality.  There’s that annoying optimism again. 

What do you imagine for your child in the future?
GRANDCHILDREN!  I was so busy trying to keep my head above water as a young mom during the early years, I feel like it passed me by without living in the moment.  I am depending on living vicariously through my daughter when she has a child. A grandchild is, to me, Heaven on Earth.  I imagine my daughter changing her mind and deciding to have a child because as of now, she’s not wanting one.  Other than that, I no longer imagine anything for my daughter.  She is happy and brilliant and can imagine for herself.  This probably would sound differently 20 years ago.  She is so much more than I had ever imagined her to be.  She has far exceeded my expectations.  Now I want her to be healthy and happy and to have a darn baby!  There’s a regret!  I regret raising a socially conscious child that doesn’t want to have a child before she’s ready, financially and emotionally, and doesn’t want to add to the population problem and the environmental problems we have today.   Who ever even does that?  She’s such a hippie.  On a good day, I can get her to say she’s going to adopt a child.  I didn’t really answer the question but when your child is an adult, you stop imagining their life for them, and they begin to imagine their own.  I am fortunate just to be able to go along for the ride. 


Do you have a mantra (something you tell yourself to help you get through the tough spots)?
I don’t have a mantra.  I just believe that the experience is necessary and meaningful and when one thing ends or closes, other things can begin and doors open. 

How many tattoos do you have and of what?
 
I had two tattoos.  Awful ones.  I had them removed long ago.  That’s all I have to say about that.  (Another quote of Forrest.)

What inanimate object would you hate to live without?
I can really live without any inanimate object.  Material possessions are meaningless in the great scheme of it all.   If you force me to pick one, I would say my knife.  I’ve had if for about ten years.  Wow!  I didn’t realize that until just now.  Over the years, the wood has molded to my hand, or so it seems.  I love reforging the blade on a sharpening stone.  It’s so relaxing to me.  I also love to prepare food with it.  My favorite meal to prepare is any meal that requires tons of prep work.  The smaller the dice the better.  It’s so relaxing to me.  It’s my number one stress reliever and creative outlet. So, I choose my knife. 


Recommend three bands, films or books, and tell me why.
I really only enjoy nonfiction books.  I think science and history are so fascinating, why read pretend stuff when reality is so exciting? 
Walking With the Wind by John Lewis is a book about the Civil Rights Movement and the part he played and continues to play to this day.  It is the most inspiring book I’ve ever read. The sacrifices he and others made during those years are awe-inspiring.  This book reminds me of the many rights and privileges I need to be thankful for and not take for granted.  Rights won by loss of lives.  Rights won by sheer and unbridled human determination to fight for what is truth and right.  The human spirit is truly exemplified in this book and illustrates beautifully its tenacity.






 
I recently read the newest Ben Franklin autobiography.  This book will make you feel like you’ve accomplished jack during your lifetime.  Franklin did so much during his; it inspired me to do more with my life.
The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond is wonderful, too.  Someone I recommended it to disliked it and couldn’t read it because it reads more like a textbook than a book.  If you’re not into textbooks this is not a book for you.  That book confirmed many of my beliefs to be valid and shared.  It’s comforting to know you’re not alone with outlandish thoughts no one else seems to share.  Thinking differently is, at times, lonely. 


What and who inspires you?
EVERYTHING!  I’m serious.  I am inspired by my, more often than not, neglected and abused students that get themselves up and ready for school on their own, and come to school with a smile and follow classroom procedures and try to learn despite the fact that there is no one motivating them to do so at home.  I am inspired how my body has the ability to self-recover from illness or heal a cut.  How does it do that?  The planet and all of its contents including but not limited to:  rivers, lakes, oceans, whales, elephants, sun, moon, night, day, weather, dirt, clouds.  The solar system.  Nature, in and of itself, is endless inspiration.  I am inspired by the thought of what else is out there.  People.  So many people inspire me. I am inspired by my friend that survived cancer and inspired by her husband for taking such good care of her and their children.  Trees inspire me.  They are breathtakingly beautiful.  I am inspired by my daughter who, despite witnessing my many idiosyncrasies, managed not to inherit even one!  I am inspired by the sky.  Technology.  My friend that has forgiven a family member for committing unspeakable acts upon her.  I can go on and on and on and on and on and on.  A better question for me is:  What does not inspire me?  What is the antithesis to inspiration?  I can answer that quickly and easily.  Hate, apathy and ignorance.  Yuck.

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