Sunday, August 27, 2017

Grace and Gratitude



While enjoying one of the many education-related Twitter chats I step into during the week (this one was #WeLeadEd), I was struck by some comments made about grace. The discussion had moved to highlight the importance for everyone to work within a system that honors the fact that we all make mistakes. Several people mentioned needing grace to achieve this.

Grace is a big concept. The Art of Grace website does a phenomenal job describing it and its place in all the world’s cultures. While many are familiar with Christian interpretations, such as those voiced by Fr. Richard Rohr, the concept is found around the globe. In a nutshell, grace means feeling balanced from the inside and with the outside world. You are comfortable with who you are and where you are. With that mindset, you can freely accept failures as temporary.

Grace is universal but it’s also a state that, in my experience, comes and goes. One thing that I feel triggers a state of grace is gratitude.

When we struggle, we can gain some composure by listing things that we’re grateful for: food, shelter, family and friends. We can then dig deeper and describe more specific things we are thankful for: moments, words, places and times. With the comfort we obtain by all this, we can extend that warmth and share it with others. The simple act of writing and sending a sincere thank you note can be a moment of grace, which could end up being the window the other person needed to see a way to experience grace themselves.

If we feel safe, we are able to deal with trials. We feel more able to handle stress. We treat our bodies better by not attempting to drown problems with unhealthy practices. We see obstacles as bumps in the road instead of insurmountable barriers.

Grace and gratitude. Important concepts for us all to remember. Together.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Walk. A Talk.


I had to go for a nature walk last night. It was a compulsion: as if something was insisting. Nudging me, repeatedly.

I listened.

The late summer sun was sinking toward the horizon as I climbed the hill. The trail alternated between the dry crunch of grit and gravel and the spongy slap of clover and plantain leaves against my soles. I slowly became aware of other sensations: the mercurial winds teasing my hair, the dancing tallgrass rustling to its beat, the random chirp of crow and cricket.

I relaxed.

I descended the hill, bouncing down the uneven terrain. With a flash of white tail, a rabbit bolted from the trailside brush. I had disturbed its evening meal.

I dropped further, entering the fen. In the darkening gloom, I plunged into another world of wet richness: thick scents of walnut forest, black soil and wetland marsh. Mosquitoes danced about in this isolated space.

I marched on.

There’s a rustic observation deck overlooking the fen. As the sun hovered just over the horizon, I climbed and sat on its weathered boards. They were both warm and splintery. A ground bee buzzed around my knee and landed for a moment.

I breathed.

The voice of doom that I’d begun to turn away from began speaking to me again as I sat. That voice turns wishes to things that will never be, ideas to silly aspirations, and dreams to foolish pipedreams.

I sighed.

I gave myself my talk. This time of the year is one of transition. Summer’s ripeness is coming to a close. The fields are nearing harvest. Sunrise and sunset are both inching toward each other, lengthening the night. I’m here in this time and space, one of 7 billion others with similar concerns and many with fewer resources than what are available to me. I should be grateful. And hopeful. And acting.

I stood.

I raised my arms up above my head, reminding myself we’re all under the same sky. I bent forward and touched my toes, reminding myself I’m safe, grounded and where I should be. I turned my face to the wind, reminding myself to breathe in hope and breathe out my worries. I heard a nearby spring gurgling, reminding myself that action can wash away pain and fear.

It was time to go. The sun had set and darkness was falling. I made my way back to my car as the rush of daytime began to fall into the necessary and restoring quiet of night. One repetition of that cycle was coming to a close. Another was just around the corner.

I smiled.

It's almost time for all schools to be back in session and humming at full tilt. If you have not yet purchased a copy, I ask that you consider purchasing my guided journal, Dear Teachers. A full year of positive thoughts, visuals and space to record your own journey, all for less than what you'd spend on a week's worth of lattes. AND access to my Facebook group where I'll be posting additional writing!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

One Year of Becoming

rumi.jpgWe joke about how much can change in a year. My life is a case in point.

My first blog ever was published on July 31, 2016- just over a year ago. That piece earned a whopping 6 views! I had no idea what I was doing. The biggest accomplishment in that case was the very act of putting it out there. At 45 years old, I was finally done with beating myself up over whether or not I had any right or talent to write. I told that voice it wasn’t in charge anymore. After almost a ½ century of living, I’d finally decided I couldn’t listen to it anymore and I would listen to the other inner voice saying “Do it. Just...write what you feel.”

I was something. I was becoming something.

At the time, I was working part-time. For 5 years, I had immersed myself in the amazing world of elementary education. I was an educational assistant. I was a mom. I was a wife. I was a type 1 diabetic.

Earlier in the summer, I had started to run. I was becoming a runner. I had started to lift weights and dance. I was becoming healthier. I had started listening to new music. I was becoming a Kpop fan. I had started to write. I was becoming a writer.

The only constant in life is change, as they say.

Next, I started to explore Twitter. I am becoming a regular. I started collaborating with a photographer friend. I am becoming an author now by publishing my own book, Dear Teachers, and seeking to do it again. I am starting to reach out to more experts in education to introduce myself and my work. I am exploring and dreaming of more.

I estimate I’ve written over 100,000 words over the last year. I’ve connected with over 1,000 people on Twitter. I’ve gratefully seen over 130 of my books go out to amazing people both near and far. I’ve posted 85 essays on my blog and they have been viewed on 6 continents over 7,000 times.

I was. I am. I am becoming. I will become.

I started with nothing and am only 1 of 7 billion other people. I’m not writing this for compliments. I’m writing this as a reminder to myself and anyone else who finds my words: we can all change and grow over time. If we stumble or lose, we can find something (or someone) new or find what we lost again in another place and time. If we don’t give up.

I desperately want to earn a living writing and speaking. I desperately seek to be a voice of community and opportunity. I desperately wish to be a spark of light by writing not only for those in education, but for those with type 1 diabetes. I have other ideas to explore.  I’m not there yet. But I have hope, though.

Let’s all try to move forward with that: hope.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Serendipity



Serendipity: (noun) the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for


I decided to take a picture of one of my favorite t-shirts and post it on Twitter on Friday. It was a spontaneous decision and I’m glad I did.


My shirt came from TeeSpring and reads:


Mistakes Are Proof That You Are Learning


I love the mental space this message offers. It was sold as a math shirt, however I think it applies to quite a bit more. Like...everything. I’ve made mistakes in math, writing and science. I’ve also made some pretty epic ones at home and at work. With things. With people.


The very fact that we HAVE to make mistakes in order to grow has been a hard lesson for me to learn. I grew up with a nasty combination of both high expectations from outside and anxiety from inside. I suppose I posted the tweet to encourage others to embrace the strength of this message in a more timely fashion than me. That way of living is so painful and destructive.


What came after that post was the truly beautiful bit.


Two individuals stood up and responded. One from New Jersey (Jace @inspire0818). One from Georgia (Chris Shearer @hbprincipal). Between the two, something clicked in me. I found myself back in Wisconsin combining their thoughts into a brand new statement:


Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn, but either way, you cannot lose.


Then, Mr. Shearer took it up another notch and designed this cool graphic and shared it with us all. (As an aside, I can even see this as another t-shirt opportunity. I know I’d buy one.) Let’s dig a bit into this collaboratively-crafted sentence.


Sometimes You Win & Sometimes You Learn


There are times when we totally get it. There’s nothing better than feeling that wave of adrenaline when we achieve what we had hoped for and we can raise our arms up and howl in triumph. We’ve won! And yet, typically, we reach that AFTER we’ve failed. Whether it’s catastrophes or a simple series of minor hiccups, the victories come AFTER we learn from our mistakes.


Teachers remind students of this every day. We all could benefit from a voice gently whispering this reminder into our ears as we go about our days. “It’s OK! What worked? What didn’t? What can you do differently next time?”


Either Way, You Cannot Lose


When do we really lose? When we quit. When we lose hope. When we close ourselves off from people, from experiences and from the rest of the world. Initially, it may feel like we’re protecting ourselves. However, when we lock ourselves away from opportunities to win or learn, we in fact become adrift. Why? We don’t obtain the tools needed to captain our ships. Adrift, we are tossed about by the storms of fear, doubt, depression, and anger that brew for us all.


My experiences on Twitter over the last year have been amazingly uplifting. If you’re in education and aren’t active on it, you should check it out. You can find some fantastic peers and sources of inspiration. This was one of many beautiful connections. I’m encouraged to see what resources I can find as I continue my memoir/journal book for those with diabetes and begin writing another edition of Dear Teachers.

We’re all stronger #together. We’re all stronger when we win and when we learn #together. As long as we’re doing one or the other with positive intentions, we cannot lose.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

How We Heal: Play, Laughter & Joy



My time on Twitter this summer has led me to some amazing individuals, groups and ideas. Growing Bolder is one such organization and this selection caused me to pause particularly. It quickly expresses my own ideas on life and the reasons why we should do certain things while leaving the specifics to our own discretion.


We can look at ourselves in 3 parts.


I find great connection and value with this notion that we are composed of a body, mind and spirit. I wrote about this in a piece titled Summer Soliloquy, in a March piece titled Boxes and back in 2016 in relation to a great organization called Playworks. It really helps me deal with what I sense as reality. I have a physical body, a mind inside of it and a connection with the outside (other people, our world and perhaps beyond that) that I define as this intangible thing called spirit.


We each have a unique relationship with our 3 parts.


I could have a great body but not consider things much and therefore get in trouble. I could have a great connection with others and serve them but be dealing with mental or physical pain. The health of our parts changes over time and as we grow. If we’re not open to growth, those relationships can become stuck. Also, outside forces affect our parts positively and negatively.


We can heal (and grow) our parts with certain things.


As this proverb describes, our parts can be nourished. If we look at the entire proverb’s action plan, I see an overriding theme: Play. Laughter. Joy. These 3 things are intimately connected.


Play, by definition, is something “fun”. Because it’s “fun”, it should fill us with joy and that joy will trigger a response: laughter.


You may want to argue that “play” is for children and wish to scoff at the whole notion. I’m going to argue that the intent of this proverb is more broad, even though I would also argue that we would all do well with a bit of real play with kids on a regular basis. Here’s the thing: we can all do something fun. Examples include golf, dance, lacrosse, swimming, running, gardening, carpentry...there are adults out there who think one or more of these things is enjoyable and doing them builds our bodies. Not convinced yet?


We add “spirit” and “mind” into the physical action to make it more fun.


We put our minds to it and come up with missions for the action. Learning a trade to expand our minds. Habitat for Humanity construction. Runs for cures. Volunteer garden work at city parks. Roadside cleanup events for community beautification. We make something fun by connecting the action with the other 2 parts of self.


Another big concept comes out when we think of it in these terms. It’s all leading to pulling together. As individuals, pulling our 3 parts together into action leads us to more success. When we then ALL pull together, we ALL become even MORE successful.


Layer upon layer, pulling together.


What do we have to lose? Let’s play. Let’s laugh. Let’s be filled with joy. Together.


Some folks are already heading back to school or will do so soon. There is still time to order yourself a copy of my guided journal, Dear Teachers from Amazon (Prime eligible!). In addition, I have signed copies available by contacting me at DearTeachers2017@gmail.com. Of those, I am offering readers of my blog a CHANCE TO WIN one free copy for yourself AND one Dear Teacher whom you nominate by going to a Google form here.