Mrs. Naysmith in the 5th grade allowed me to stay after school and help her in the library. I didn't want to go home..."home" wasn't the nicest place for me. She listened to me and kept my secrets...secrets only an 11 year old would find important...things I did not feel safe to utter out loud to anyone else.
Miss Garrells in the 6th grade read my poetry and short stories and encouraged me to express my emotions through words...she helped me to feel confident and find meaning in the difficult things in life.
Mrs. Schardt in the 8th grade pushed me to work hard in basketball. She taught me the meaning of teamwork and that winning wasn't measured by points on a score board.
Miss McKinsey in High School taught me not to be afraid and to speak out. She encouraged me to use my "powers" for good, instead of "evil" (LOL) and the art of leadership. She taught me the importance of being in the moment...to write about that moment...and sent my writings to papers to be published. She showed me the importance of persistence and also humility.
Connie, my first therapist, held my hand through difficult college years and helped me find my own strength when I thought I had lost it. She helped me to make sense out of senseless things and to use a painful childhood as a means to grow.
Kathy, my nursing school instructor, helped me to see the value of personal discipline and the importance even brief interactions can have on another human being...that compassion IS an art that one must practice repeatedly in order to paint the best landscape on the human canvas.
Carmela bore witness to my grief over the loss of my friend and sister. She wiped my tears and taught me that even in loss, there is growth...that even in sorrow, there is sunshine.
Marg taught me to stand up straight and to carry myself with pride. She told me once to "Take the power. You'd be surprised how much people will give you if you only take it." I have never forgotten those words. The words helped me in difficult management tasks when I felt vulnerable or not qualified in my job.
Jade opened my eyes to the beauty around me in the world...to appreciate the earth and everything on it. She taught me to let go and to live out loud...to sing in the car regardless of my voice...to FIND my own voice...and to touch the fire burning deep inside me.
Kristin showed me the way out from under an oppressive rock that weighted my chest down, making it difficult to breath. She taught me patience with myself, the merriment of laughter, the strength in tears. She continues to guide me and to shape me, with the kind hands of a skilled glass artisan...a glass vessel still in the making.
And today, I had the great fortune of spending some time with a prior boss from my current job...someone I consider a mentor in many ways. Someone who encouraged me by supporting my strengths and helping me to become aware of my weaker spots. Someone who I always felt had my MS back in an employment arena that is not always supportive to those of us with developing disabilities. Someone who truly "accommodated" my physical weaknesses while encouraging me not to lose hope or sight of the bigger picture.
I am still a work in progress...but if it weren't for the experiences that brought "fire" to my life, no matter how painful they may have been, I would not have had the catalyst needed to melt me into the medium my mentors have used to shape me...and they continue to shape me so wonderfully...