Within the Shadow of Suicide

An article, link included below and also on my Fynewever Consulting Page, has the full magazine article I wrote in 2015. I repost it now. For the media covering famous people, for the truth in lesser known names, to the honest tell of my own battle.

I reprint it in portion here… because I don’t have new words to write at this time, but I will not stay silent.

Text 741-741.

Call the crisis hotline.

Make one more appointment and stick to it.

Drive over to a friend’s house and ask for a couch to crash on.

Call someone who you trust or you know has been vulnerable and scared before, too.

The overwhelm is huge, but we got to remember we are not alone.

Within the Shadow of Suicide

by Nasreen Fynewever, M.ED

For C’est La Vie Magazine

https://issuu.com/cestlaviethemagazine/docs/cestlavie_issue2_jan2016_final/23

The room fell to a hush. Truth was, it was never too loud to begin with. But today the shuffle of feet and the sliding of book bags felt especially clamoring in the absence of words. Within this there was noise enough that an unsteadied voice whispering, “Dear creatives” was enough to halt movement and volume both. The voice was mine and the room, it held grief, fear, and wonder for all. A blending of eyes wide with expectancy for life and wisdom from their teacher and the grief which simultaneously lowered their gaze to the clenched hands on their laps swirled dramatically in the room.

Their breathing met an edge of fear of the unknown or worry of blame. I recoiled internally with my own fear of speaking of a student suicide. This was not the first time in my teaching tenure that a young life was shortened by the dark grip of hopelessness. I needed enough poise to get through the day and yet enough real to show the raw wound was placed upon my heart as well.

I rarely get nerves to jilt and jolt for the anticipation of speaking. I find energy in speaking words aloud to move messages and missions forward, calling for lives to hold the vibrancy and honesty they can. This moment, however, seared through my typical calm and left the tense chill of fear. We all dreaded the conversation, but this was the opportunity laid before me to state that uncomfortable and painful conversations should not be cowered away from.

I had wanted this very conversation when I was in high school. I had wanted this conversation a month earlier when my own mental health invited worthlessness and death to be bedfellows with my spirit. We needed this conversation to happen a week earlier, a real person willing to voice the plea for life to win.

In this thought, my resolve stumbled about. I slipped out of the present tragedy and let my mind traverse the past the faces of youth who had sat in front of me in class, at speeches I had given, or passed by me in the hallway. Their images held power and conviction. One young lady was blurry in my mind, she was from a school I did not teach at. I had spoken to the student body about being hope chaser. But the setting not intimate enough to see her eyes or carry any of the weight of her journey. The news of her sharp death met me while I reflected in a car outside another school several states away. My energy dropped out and my mind saw the message I was going to deliver as weak and lacking meaning, it would not return life to the girl gone too soon. How was I supposed to walk into another auditorium full of youth and ask them to fight for life?

A student walked in late to the class I was standing in and my mind returned to the room abruptly. Announcing, with a quiet voice, what was known to almost all those seated before me, that a young man had taken his own life over the weekend and the tragic loss for his family had to be felt by us all, whether we knew him or not.

I did know him. I was one of the last adults to speak with him that day. I looked into his eyes, I noticed his wide-smile, I felt our time was too swift and chided myself for letting responsibility push me past the person who stood with words to say. I had been that teenager. I had been that adult. Feeling far too different from those around me. Feeling smothered by the limited ways out of depression. Feeling sorrow for not belonging when I craved a place to stand with pride. I had words to say half my life ago. I had words to say as an adult. And yet I believed that speaking of wanting to die could not meet the air and ears of a real conversation.

This should not be so. I believe we need to hold the ridiculously uncomfortable conversations before people stumble to despair and I believe we need to speak pointedly, even in moments of grief, that suicide is not the answer. We must not let one another believe that we can become so very alone that no one would reach a hand towards us if we spoke. We must learn to listen to the words, uttered and those silent, but screaming out from eyes and actions.

I have resolved to move through the following steps to help those, in the shadow of suicide, to keep light present and accessible.

Ask

  • Do you value life?
  • What makes you answer that way?
  • Do you have someone you can turn to or ask for help?
  • Do you feel like you are seen/known
  • Do you know that myself and _____________ are options? We care for you.
  • Is it okay if I connect you with ________________

Listen

  • Listen for the overt asks/cries for help
  • Listen for the story they want to tell, there are hints as their eyes meet mine for a moment or their speech pattern quickens
  • Listen for the non-verbals of body posture, work ethic, day-to-day choices, and air of loneliness

Tell

  • Tell students they matter
  • Tell people they are seen and heard
  • Tell friends they are goodness
  • Tell struggling women that they hold beauty and purpose
  • Tell them of the professionals and resources which connect to their need
  • Tell people I will check back in a few days (and do so) for accountability and to quietly confirm whether their stability
  • Tell others of my the vulnerable corners of my life that are filled with shadows.

Believe

  • That things can better
  • The current situations are not the sole thing that define us, we get to live into the person we are becoming
  • The hope of faith and the promise of how healing can occur

Can I or those whom I encourage to do this perfectly, can we follow this prescriptively? No.

But there is space to let more grace, mental illness awareness, and movement towards the light to be a goal of classroom conversations, late night coffees, carefully penned emails, timely blog comments, quiet letters, dynamic small group meetings, and our daily lives.

Releasing the fear of discomfort for the opportunity to move away from death and into life shared together is worth every ounce of nerves, time, conviction.

Chase hope and light with me–one shadow at a time to reduce suicide one conversation at a time. Reach out your hand for others. Grip some one else’s if you need it. #life

 

 

Asa Nasreen

What it meant to be ME today 

It meant that I laid my head on a friend’s lap in recalling nightmares I had just hours before in my sleep.

It meant walking away from a commitment to find rest for my body and an intentional restart on my day.

It meant staying in a space despite racism and harsh triggers.


It meant saying yes to good opportunities, working hard in meaningful tasks and relationships.

It meant learning to take a compliment and also granting myself an end to internal criticism when I was maybe over confident and wanted to take words back.

It meant accepting that I could not comfort all who grieved or encourage all who felt lonely or frustrated–but the ones I could, I did.  The ones I couldn’t, I whispered a prayer for.

It meant feeling the hurt and hearing the voices of others. It demanded advocacy for change.

It meant wanting marriages, partnerships, and families to carry less strife and trial.

It meant taking the joys and wins of the day and letting them put air into my step and refill for my outpour.

It meant proffering service to local community and demonstrating  gratitude to places that fight for justice and mercy.

It meant not taking to labels nor ignoring them either.  Refusing to crumble in fear, but honestly not rising to potential in every moment either.

It meant celebrating young people, respecting elders, fighting demons, and holding my sons.

It was a day.  Much like many days.

Not so unlike yours.

As you navigated your employer, your past, your obligations, and your irritations…

As you met your family, lived your faith, found your policy, saw your community…

As you exchanged the emails, listened to your therapist, walked with the co-worker, and visited the medical provider…

As you journaled your story, read wisdom from others, found a crowd to stand with or a corner to be alone in…

As you reacted to politics, started an application, thanked the store clerk, or looked in the mirror…

A day–no so unlike yours.

A thousand choices, a hundred chances, 10 seconds to move to action and moments to reflect quietly on being wounded or being a warrior as life swirls around.

The wind blows strong here in Minnesota tonight.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Stand up.

Breathe.

Do the one day in front of you.

#perservere

Not a post as much about me as the title and words’ surface convey.

More or less the truth that life–it’s here.

Let’s live it, foibles and fortitude both–do another day, fellow sojourner, do another day.

They dream, she writes. 


Teenagers sat in stoic rows with willing adherence to classroom norms.  Faces held the weathering of late nights, deep stories, eager learning, and self-becoming.  I sprung from my swiveling chair after punching in attendance across the flickering monitor. 

“Good morning, Creatives!” 

The voice of experience enough to know wherever my energy lands, the students rise to it and maintain inquiry if I stay curious of them.  So I charged the day with enthusiasm and sincere belief in each of them.  My smile beamed and my silly red cowboy boots clicked more loudly than expected. I was weary from physical illness, but the students would not know so until the conditions were right to speak of me.  This was their stage: a place to speak their lives and words, to own their stories and to communicate with new focus.  

Creative Writing class, much like classes early in my decade+ long teaching tenure, became a place of expression, safety, and exploration for students.  

 
Great are the dreams of those already tried in life by hurdles, but continually invited to make their future good.  For all the teens I have watched become positive community members, active pursuants of their convictions, and  adults I am proud to know, I add this gal to the list of the thousands of teens who inspire me. Well-done, Molly Fennig! (Click name to link to her book.)  You embody the aspirations of students I have seen in the Mounds View Public School system.

 
For the numerous authors and aspiring writers I have worked with over the last few years, for the many manuscripts I have read and contributed feedback on, this writer (Molly Fenning)  joins Ty Jansma, in being one of my students who have published their own work. I have enjoyed both of their books and hope they keep writing! 

They dream.

They do.

They inspire. 

Like them, dear former students everywhere, from private schools in Michigan, to the collegiate level, to community forums, and now the Mustangs and Knights–keep finding ways to bring your goodness, dreams, and hard work to the world. 

It matters! 

Left out.

Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn wrote the book entitled Half the Sky. This married couple (both reporters) has become a voice for women and girls worldwide.  They reveal often unexplored truths about oppression. The writers question their own field for holding a wide margin between reporting breaking news versus ongoing realities which remain unreported, yet are newsworthy. They set out to be different when they learned many stories left out of mass media.  
Who is left out?  Their book trends to oppressed females in circumstances that will break hearts and turn stomachs.  


However, since reading the book, I ask myself this question nearly everyday.  

Who is left out? 

Left out of our big dreams and success accolades.  

Left out of our quest to be better and creation of opportunities.  

Left out of our communities and our resources. 

Whatever you passion, your bent, your thing–this week work with me to lessen the severity of consequences for those who are left out.  

Give what you can, not directed by other for competition. Give money when both wise and personally prompted. Give hands when asked and able.  Give time, one of your greatest commodities. Give diligence in all endeavors. Give professional knowledge and personal care in daily dose. 

Give love always.  

I can not change a whole field like education, but I can create a radar for the left out and actively work with those around me to reconnect people to hope and tools. Join me, in the fields and places you are; be different, be mitigators.

Even when a social problem is so vast as to be insoluble in its entirety, it’s still worth mitigating.

Nicholas Kristof

 

We need others, students and adults alike. 

I thought I didn’t need anyone.  A child with my own pains and own learning fumbles, I pushed aside family and teachers that proffered to help.  The help seemed like a facade of good intentions and I felt unworthy of the true care any outlier might have had.  Yet the persistent presence of education in my life, a privilege not lost on me ever, but especially now having seen more of the world–it’s presence embedded understanding  within me.
Understanding is a loaded word, much like pain.  Yet education done correctly is all about unshelfing assumptions, erroneous perceptions, and ignorance. Education is a noun, a verb, and an adjective all spun together to create a thing, a place, an action, and a description of growth.  I grew to understand that faring it alone would leave me less knowledgeable and less equippedthan my counterparts who linked arms as little girls to skip across the playground, buddied up to create an explorer research project in the 4th grade, or crowded together in celebration of one who was accepted to her desired college years later.

Hindsight reveals that the times others’ emotional, academic,  life support, and encouragement was present in my life, I became more–more involved in school, more able to aspire to success, more willing to dream. Trauma had short circuited my brain to believe that all of life was fight, flight, or freeze. I have spent decades dismissing learnings and opportunities not out of want, but out of a wiring in my mind that fixated on not taking risks and defending baseline.  

Indebted to educators and youth workers who modeled that I did not have to diminuitively accept the short road, the path of least resistance, the less than my potential goals, I have started to train my brain to fire in the direction of belief. I have learned how to get unstuck. With this comes the realization that we must shoulder to shoulder our efforts to make the world a better place.  Not just utopianly on a large scale, but intimately for our own lives and momentously for our direct communities.

In understanding how people function, how systems work, how messy stories still have positive outcomes, we all grow to hope more is possible.  The dismal state of dysfunctional and injustice can always find a counterpart and these antithesis communities and peoples are ones who have not gone it alone. Counterparts who break cycles of poverty, recover from addictions, end generations of abuse, rise to stand amid the plague of mental illnesses, and those who beautifully proffer life in the face of their own ongoing grief, these are the men and women our students and children must see and have access to.  Business leaders, gym enthusiasts, Navy men and women, die-casters, musicians, hair stylists, gamers, politicians…there is no end to a list a people who learn understanding from others.

Nearly a decade ago, psychologist Carol Dweck and her colleagues put forth convincing research of how people, specifically students, who operate under the premise that growth and effort, flexibility and new learning can develop a mindset fortified enough to dislodge fixed ways of thinking and living.  Her work has become foundational to a number of education reforms, both overtly in professional development and low-lying in those who practice a growth mindset and then contagiously affect others.

Dweck revisited her work in Education Week last year. Her update and clarification brings further insight to the statement of how we need others. Dweck asserts that we can’t just try for better, we must be presented with new ways of trying and receive feedback/support of others to reach optimal growth.

A growth mindset isn’t just about effort. Perhaps the most common misconception is simply equating the growth mindset with effort. Certainly, effort is key for students’ achievement, but it’s not the only thing. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches-not just sheer effort-to learn and improve. 

Dweck, C. (2015, September 22). Carol Dweck revisits the ‘growth mindset’. Education Week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/23/carol-dweck-revisits-the-growth-mindset.html?cmp=eml-contshr-shr

We need others. We need people for when we get stuck, for when we are discouraged, for when our dreams need the network and support of those further down the long road. We are not entitled to the help of others, but we are worthy of it. Growth hinges on new understandings, so let us surround ourselves with those who for a “we understand” instead of seclusion or self. 

Let us teach who Orville was to Wilbur Wright, let us share stories of the Missionaries of Charity who surrounded Mother Teresa, let us uncover who encouraged Cesar Chavez to believe, and let us tell the stories of Peter Norman standing beside Tommie “The Jet” Smith and John Carlos in the fight for human rights. Let us be the ones to tip our heads and hearts to those who are different in our lives. Now is the time humbly remind ourselves we did not get this far on our own and celebrate those who helped us understand, grow, and become.

Our students and children need us, not just as cheerleaders, but they need role-models, activators, door-openers, challengers, and genuine assistance to their next step of learning and growth.

They need others…and truth be clear, so do we.

The softer side of pain

Pain is a stale word without context. It can range from torture to annoyance.  It can be life long or it can be momentary.  Without knowing the person, the story, or the symptom load that testifies to the word, it becomes an over-used, misunderstood, and an assumed word in our lexicon, liken to the word love.

The edges of the thistle and the razor of the sword, the pulse of reverberating ache, and the heart-sink of trauma–pain is a voluminous word without context. It could encompass all of grief and hurt, loss and longing, injustice and instability from here to the far corner of the village we have yet to step foot in.


Why then must my thoughts gather at the bank of this stream? Why does my soul perch upon the low branch that catches the wind and offspray in tandem return? Why, when I say a faith and foundation grant surety of hope and sanity in the unseen, do I fold and bend to places of dull and hollow?  Oft I am unwilling to tell my story or feel the ground beneath my wander.  I exclaim the joy and beg the real, but I close down access when the whisper of pain sneaks in.

Of who we strive to become, each of us, to the world around us, may we be willing to give pain a place next to purity. Not to become pompous or pretentious, negative or naysayers, but to etch the sky with images of people who stand when storms swipe.

This is the softer side of pain.  The cushion that let’s us engage in memories or circumstances knowing hardship can thieve joy, but we can gain more again. Knowing more confidently that pain prevails in portion, but the forward gives function to hope and fervor to our diligence.  We won’t win every hour or each day of these battles which wage, but we will soften the struggle by elevating healing, honoring stories and people, and claiming life over defeat.  We were not created for defeat, but rather vibrancy and overcoming.

Stay the course–pain not given the crown nor allowed to be the crutch. Press on, for growth and perseverance pay out dividends fresh.
#courage

Becoming the educator I was meant to be

The story is simple.  Teachers changed my life.  

Classes gave lessons. The schools gave community. The expectations gave me new goals.  And the diplomas along the way allowed for new opportunities.  

But the teachers? The teachers offered a day in and day out commitment to making life better, wider, more inclusive, more respectful, more understanding, and more justice-minded than my own ability ever could.  

Teachers were shepherds, politicians, mentors, experts, counselors, advocates, role-models, and story-tellers all wrapped up in one person at the front of the class.  Truth be told, they were often at the side of the class, behind the class, and walking amongst the class as well.  Regardless of where they stood, talked, listened–they dreamed big dreams for all of us.  

So I became one.  

And I loved it.  Every year. Every school.  Every student.  Every possibility. 

Despite my affinity to education, I have exited the classroom teacher role before now. Once I left my dream job to stay with my children.  Once I left the college podium to follow the man who guides and leads our family as he pursued new work in another state. Both exits gave seasons of my life to live and love alongside new people.  First my children, and then more recently, a sector of the writing industry.  Re-entering the classroom in my children’s district in 2014 proved to be a homecoming of sorts.  I once again stood in a place that, in essence, had changed my life. 

Fall 2016 begins a new chapter of the educator I was meant to be.  I step out of lesson plans and grading, ushered there by circumstances that refined and humbled me.  I feel a loss.  I will lose what daily teacher-student interactions and learnings can do and become.  

However, I step into a role that will allow me to advocate for under-served populations, support the Deans, partner with teachers and families, and connect with students as they wrestle with inequity, diversity, aspirations, opportunities, and achievement.  

This is exciting.  My one wild and precious life (Mary Oliver) gets to rise again (Maya Angelou) and be not only a teacher, but an awakener (Robert Frost). 

As an woman, a mother, a minority, an adoptee, a dreamer, a writer, a speaker, and a social justice hopeful, I may now just be becoming the educator I was meant to be.  If I have learned anything over the last few years, that although certain areas of my life feel cemented into a losing streak, being able to call myself an educator fuels me. I will bring goodness to the world the way I can. 

The story is simple. I want to change lives. #EducationMatters

no. 10 Work 

  
no. 10 

Today I miss Bangladesh.  It might be because the remaining affects of the mosquito-carried disease slow my steps and cross my mind.  It might be because I look out at students who venture to express themselves and wonder of their futures.  Whatever the reason, to the lives we live and the work at hand, I pause to view another snapshot.  

A woman, sweat beading and muscles extending, she shifts the bricks above her head and carries on.  

The work we do, each day, in our respective corners of the world–it matters. We are tied to our work with labor and time. We live our hours with dedication to a cause, a goal, a profit, a purpose, or a calling. Oh, the stories we would each share of we spoke of our toils and triumphs from all our years. May we not just make survival or just make money, may we also find that, today, our contribution to the world matters

#seeOthers #BeExcellent #Work #Life #birthcountrytravel #perspective @thehighcalling #Bangladesh

no. 8 Words 

 no. 8

Some days I just want to go back and listen for hours, placing their stories in my heart…

 

Some days I wish the school bell would not ring and students could stay for hours as we grow and learn together.  

Some days I believe in what I have to offer my family, work, and this life.

But there are also days for which I distance from the hearing others.  There are days which I let the routines and the ever changing hours give comfort. There are certainly days I wobble a bit in confidence and purpose. 

Yet, through it all, this I know:

Words are powerful. I have used some of mine for good and some of mine have fallen short. 

We have millions of words to say and hear in our lifetime. We craft them with care in hopes people hear us true. We also leave them recklessly, at times, for others to interpret or misuse, far removed from our initial intentions. We listen and read with freedom to stretch, share, and set the next step. We take in sentences from orators and poets so that we know we are not alone. 

Words. 

Listen well to others; hold their stories close as you love, do business, play hard, create plans, celebrate accomplishments, come and go near and far from their lives.  

Words join actions to shape our days. Savor the ones that are kind and captivating, take not for granted the ones that teach old truths and new dreams, let good words and stories find place to be valued in your day.  

#birthcountrytravels #adoptee #teacher #stories

A picture at a time RECAP   no. 1- no. 7 #Bangladesh

A story at a time.

A picture at a time.

This is what I committed to.  

Slowly pictures came out.  Slowly stories were told.

Not many. Not often.

Here is a recap because in order for the story to move forward, sometimes looking back helps the heart.

Journey with me…

(Update January 2017: I have been notified that pictures no longer upload and will work to resolve this.)

————-

July 31, 2015:

Dear Bangladesh,
Today I board a plane. I will see your drenched rice fields. I will hear your beautiful people. I will walk your city and your villages. I will take in what I can; please hold my heart gently. ‪#‎birthland‬ ‪#‎adoption‬ ‪#‎1stTimeBack‬‪#‎Bangladesh‬
Sincerely,
The little one wearing red who grew up to be a strong, hopeful woman.

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.

 

————-

August 12, 2015:

If a heart can split open, stretch, grow, and steady all at the same time, Bangladesh, you have done this to mine. I am Stateside again and though words are few, know the trip was riveted with beautiful hospitality of a country and people, riddled with sights and sounds that echo in my mind, and held a journey of the soul that reaches deep and true. How I want to share and yet silence and quiet beckons me still–for the process, be patient; for the hours I will spend at the keyboard, stay in prayer; and for this story and what it sets free, with me, be expectant and hopeful. ‪#‎life‬ ‪#‎adoption‬‪#‎birthcountry‬ ‪#‎Bangladesh‬ ‪#‎teacher‬ ‪#‎writer‬ ‪#‎amwriting‬

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.
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August 29, 2015:

Asa, it is the Bangla word for hope. It was tattooed once on my body, allowing my skin to be marked by that which has been etched upon my heart since birth.

Now, after struggle and recent birth-country travel, I ink it again, only this time on my wrist. Claiming the story of overcoming what abandonment, life hurt, and depression did to my heart through the years, I added words from a great poet–“still I rise”– to where Asa was first scripted.

The words are starting to find air, the writing will commence, I get to return to the classroom with renewed purpose, and my beautiful family and dear friends cheer all the while. Life and adoption have gifted me much; scars remain for where the tale has imperfections, but the story of faith and forward will remain my freedom and song. ‪#‎lifealways‬ ‪#‎adoption‬ ‪#‎teacher‬‪#‎writer‬ ‪#‎hopechaser‬ ‪#‎rise‬

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.
Nasreen Fynewever's photo.
Nasreen Fynewever's photo.
September 8, 2015:

Day 1 Teacher’s Credo: Tell our students that we believe in them. Thankful for the ones who stood in front of my kiddos, grateful for the privilege to stand in front of 450 of yours. ‪#‎backtoschool‬ ‪#‎teachersCare‬ ‪#‎kidsMatter‬‪#‎FyneweverboysRock‬

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.
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October 17, 2015:

@nasreenalive no. 1 A picture at a time. A story at a time. That’s what I announced in September I would share. I have not done so. Someone teach me how to pour out, to pen beautifully, to push forward the journey of such depth. How do I tell the story of a piece of me which has no words? See the widow. See the orphan. See the poor. See the leper. Learn of the rich in spirit. Learn of the pure in heart. Learn of #adoption, love, and restoration. Yet first the tears, first the marriage and the sons who get my heart, first the friends to care for and the time in students’ papers of their own memoirs, first I live, then I reflect. And it that, 40 days pass from when I attempt to start #writing. Tonight–one picture, one story. A child and her grandmother outside the leprosy clinic in the jungle village of Jalchatra, #Bangladesh. Reflection… Compassion without action feels cheap. Seeing to believe feels shallow. But a wider view of the world and a touch point with a life I do not have; it leaves me changed. How beautiful the feet of those who live with the #hope of tomorrow.#birthcountrytravel

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.

October 18, 2015:

@nasreenalive no. 2 Winding through crowded #Dhaka side alleys, we reached her home she shared with a dozen other people. She stared intently at me. She was so certain I was her #daughterwhom she lost years ago. She believed I had finally come home. My spirit fell out from within me and the hollow ache of#belonging could not feel the present nor the past. She had a dream. She held me tight. We ate her food. We bid her goodnight. So now to this evening, as I venture to the second ever adoption party I have been to, I will celebrate–a little boy who gets to belong. A family made more whole by his little life and I will celebrate, as many did for the Siebers, as many did for my adoptive parents, as we do for others. We want family to win, we want it to be beautiful. For all those who have lost much, for those torn apart by the messy, the grief, and by death–oh weary souls, look to life how you can. Stare it down and still stand strong for all the hurdles along the way. #birthcountrytravel #adoption#hopechaser #life #beauty

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.

October 20, 2015:

@nasreenalive no. 3 Hands clasped, faces beaming, two friends reunited in deep love and shared service. One was from the Missionaries of Charity, the other, our guide for the week, a Sister of the Holy Cross. Lives #devoted to caring for the poor, the uneducated, the ones in need of medical care, and the #survivors who wanted a touch of love. I am indebted to women like these, the hands that hold. These are the faces and the smiles of the many unknown “Mother Teresas” of the world. Do you get it? I just learned it. Mother Teresa is beautiful, to be certain, but we know her story because someone told it and we connected to it. We want #love to win in the world. These nuns, ones I have gotten to know, they do the same thing–endlessly, with no fanfare or acclaim. Their joy is true, their lifetime of humility is resplendent.#birthcountrytravel #Bangladesh#friendship

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.

October 26, 2015:

@nasreenalive no. 4 Floor after floor, thousands of workers sewing flannel shirts, jeans, and sweaters that they would never wear, but I would. I wanted to hide and cower, to personally boycott buying #clothing made in #Bangladesh. As we drove past the place where the clothing factory collapsed and made headline news in 2013, I recalled how the working conditions and the state of a country had met disbelief of international onlookers. Then as we walked the narrow rows between workers, my mind raced as I saw the brands that end up in Target and Meijer stores. Over the course of the trip I saw varying levels of day-to-day conditions and I grew in awareness of steep economic #poverty. I still wear clothing bearing my birth-land’s name because people work long hours to keep their survival a notch higher than living without a job. They have faces and stories. Their work matters to me. Will I grieve the #injustices of lot and placement in life, of fortune and horror, of opportunity and jobs to be had? Absolutely. Often. I am still trying to make sense of it all: what I feel, what action steps I can/will take, and how, with these experiences, I choose to encourage others to live. Stitch by stitch, both the cloth in Bangladesh and the fabric of my heart become made into something of grand design. Thanks for joining the process… #birthcountrytravel#1stworld #3rdworld #jobs

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.
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October 30, 2015:

@nasreenalive no. 5 He held my hand. They said he was looking for a mother. His hair was wet. They had just washed it when he arrived at the center from the#orphanage down the road. He quickly turned to interest in my husband’s camera. But his eyes followed my #soulinto the reaches only orphans,#adoptees, foster kids, abused, and#youth left alone to grow up too fast know. It’s a place loving parents yearn to go, it’s a place school counselors and trusted adults want to gentle into. And they get to. But also it remains a place with both deep ache and mountains of hope unique unto each story. The ache plays out in our eyes, but the hope carries us forward. To all the #lonely or the sad, reach your hand to someone, let them hold it a while… To all the #joyfuland full hearts, contagious out your care to a #world hungry for #belonging. We get to be the face of pure love.#hopechaser #adoption#birthcountrytravel #Bangladesh

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.

 

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November 15, 2015:

@nasreenalive no. 6 Can I write of street children any more than I can write of the faces and stories of the youth that sit in front of me each day? Both escape me when I try, but they capture my heart with gripping care. Today I spoke to promise and potential. They showed up hour after hour. They knocked at the door, they walked across the yard, they streamed across my phone. They are embodied in the lives of students and they flutter by in the goofy smiles of my sons. They replay in my mind as I think of#Bangladesh and #adoption, #orphansand those who have found #belonging. I can not make goodness win all the moments in all the corners of this #world. I can not lift #depression and sadness, pain and illness away from bodies and minds that ache. I can not will over survival to those who #today will die. I can not encourage in a way that changes everything to #beauty. But to the moments my eyes can see, my heart can feel, my actions can uncover the promise and potential in and with others, I will. Might you, too?
#birthcountrytravel #hopechaser#liveauthentic #beautifulpeople#poverty #perspective #care

  
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December 7, 2015:

@nasreenalive no. 7 I did not let myself be pictured walking, thinking, or taking in the jungle of #Bangladesh. A visceral reaction to that portion of the land surged recall and recoil within me. I didn’t want anyone to show where I could have grown up, to imagine what my life would have been like had no priest found my discarded life and entrusted me to the nuns who cared for me until I was adopted–they who never stopped loving. I thought the jungle was mine. But it wasn’t really… My traveling companions met deep emotions there, too. Millions have their lives tied to space and place. We all belong, in a sense, to the land, to the Creator who is bigger than our trauma and triumphs. Weeks have passed since my last #birthcountrytravel photo. A readied blog site is waiting for me to transfer Facebook stories over to posts. I can not post often, but when I can, I will. All the while, I wonder much as the pictures still flicker like a movie in front of my eyes. The memories are never distant from me, though they slip further from the minds of those around me. I consider what it is to teach at two high schools, with different student populations, and walk through hallways that I believe I have a purpose for being in. We must live the life in front of us–we must. How then do we get trapped in the lives gone by? Why does my chest heave when I see this picture? How do I arrive to meet teenagers, with all their hearts hold? I am proud of an observation the lead principal of one my high schools made of me. He sat across the table and said I seemed really healthy and well. This is in contrast to the true concern he had last year when the valleys of life kept my spirit fractured. I am well, this year. How is that so, amid an experience of a lifetime, a trip that reveals a lifetime of tragedy and blessing? Her picture. She walks and stands in her reality; the jungle that could have been my home. 

This article. Read it. Learn of others. Understand you are not alone. (http://m.huffpost.com/au/entry/8685040)

Live the life in front of you with all the gusto you can. And for the moments you can’t, give grace to yourself. 

#adoption #ptsd #ptsdawareness#mentalhealth #stories

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.
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December 27, 2015: 

I asked to see a country, how little did I know I would see trauma and triumph clash every moment since then. Tell me of this babe in the manager and the world he came to give peace to… Are we this? Heal with me this next year. ‪#‎teachHope‬ ‪#‎liveLife‬

'I asked to see a country, how little did I know I would see trauma and triumph clash every moment since then. Tell me of this babe in the manager and the world he came to give peace to... Are we this? Heal with me this next year. #teachHope #liveLife'