Be Kind

Kindness is a beautiful thing.

Today begins day four of the new school year. (Edit: Despite my exhaustion, today is Wednesday, day THREE lol!) So far, the days have been filled with team building, getting to know each other, learning procedures and routines of the classroom and school, and practice, practice, practice of said procedures and routines.

I decided to have only two class rules this year. Keepin’ it simple. My rules are Work Hard and Be Kind. Working hard covers my desire for my students to always do their best, no matter the outcome. And Be Kind covers everything else I want out of a good human. Kindness. It encompasses so much.

Kindness is smiling at people you know… and don’t know. Saying good morning. Welcoming friends to class. Hugs and fist bumps and high fives and fortnite dancing together.

Kindness is helping friends that are struggling, picking someone up after they’ve fallen, cleaning up after a friend, an arm around the shoulder, a boost to the self-esteem.

Kindness is sweet words of encouragement – whether someone is struggling and needs a “You’ve got this. Keep going. I’ll help you.” or excelling and would love to hear a “You are amazing. You are so smart at math.” It’s “Want to play with me?” and “Here, sit by me at lunch,” and “I’ll show you where to go.” It’s translating what the teacher is saying into Spanish for the student that has only been in the country for six months.

Kindness is understanding that everyone has strengths and everyone has weaknesses and that it’s ok to be great at things and it’s ok to need help with things and never judging someone for their weaknesses.

Kindness is the hundreds or thousands of people across Facebook who are helping teachers they don’t know #clearthelist of things they’d love to have in their classrooms.

Kindness is teachers greeting teachers. Sharing lesson plans and creative ideas. Lending an ear to vent and a room to cool off. Lending a pen or a phone (you know we sign in at everything) at staff meetings. Sharing chocolate and coffee and chips and guac. Even as adults, kindness is still “Can I help you?” and “Here, sit by me at lunch,” and “I’ll show you.”

Kindness is knowing that everyone has a story. We may not know it, we may not see it, but it’s there. Everyone has a story and kindness is showing compassion and empathy even when we don’t understand what the other person is going through. It’s realizing we don’t need to know their story in order to show kindness.

Kindness is something within everyone’s ability to act on. Have a wonderful day today, friends, and please, be kind.

If you have the power to make someone happy, do it. The world needs more of that.

Learn to Surf

Life is full of waves, hmm? Things that don’t go as planned, missed opportunities, frustrating circumstances, unforeseen events, and everyday mishaps. Every darn day… although, certainly some days worse than others. It’s rare to have a day of just smooth sailing. That’s life.

We do have a choice in how we respond to it. We can let it derail us from our attempt at a positive lifestyle. We can seeth in anger, fester in the frustration, and complain… oh, the complaining. I’m the first one to reach out to my friends to vent (and I think that’s ok)… but I do believe in getting it out and moving on as soon as possible. The longer we talk about it, the longer we hold onto those yucky feelings, the worse they become. A bad five minutes can easily turn into a horrible, no good, very bad day.

Instead, we have tools to use and strategies we can put in place.

  • Talk to your closest friends, get it out, but then let it go. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t keep talking about it. Also, don’t tell everyone you know.
  • Change your thoughts. Take the negative and put a positive spin on it. This may seem awful now, but it will work out for my best.I choose to trust. Or. That person is really annoying me but I don’t know what she’s going through. I choose compassion instead. (Don’t let others take advantage of you but sometimes just thinking about the fact that we do not know other’s stories can help stop the anger over it.)
  • Look for a solution. What can you do about it? Are there any proactive steps you can take? Can you prevent it from happening again? Do you need to set boundaries?
  • Ride the waves. Things will not always go as planned. Have a flexible spirit. Adopt a go with the flow attitude.
    • Ok, this was not what I expected but I can roll with it. I got stuck in traffic and I’m late to work – it is what it is. I’ll apologize and get started on what needs to be done.
    • And there goes my coffee right down the front of my shirt. I guess I’ll let my students know that even adults make mistakes and we get to enjoy the aroma of hazelnut all day.
    • This lesson is not going as planned. No one is engaged and everyone is talking… time to switch it up. Deep breath. New attention grabber and impromptu lesson change ahead. Is the computer lab available?
    • It’s the 2nd day of school and my throat is killing me. Time for hot tea, throat drops, and creative ways to get students to listen quietly. I’ve got this. Quiet game anyone?

The waves will come whether we like it or not. The decision is up to you… Sink or Surf.

A quick side note. I’ve only been blogging for about two weeks and I’ve spent many of those days talking about strategies to use on the “average day.” I’d like to note that I’m not talking about traumatic events in our lives. Those situations are a whole different beast and take more to get through. I’m sure I will write about that eventually, but for now, I’m talking about the every day struggles of an ordinary time of life.

A Positive Lifestyle

Positivity is a choice – wake up and smile. 🙂 I love it.

This is my first 5am wake up call since summer is finished and today is the first day of school for students! My daughter was asleep by 8:30pm, I had an early night, and then… my echo dot went off 4 – 5 times last night flashing and making noises. My daughter must have been dreaming because she yelled out a few times, and there goes my great night’s sleep!

I’m feeling it a bit… but… I am also so excited! All around the county, for the next hour and a half, teachers and students will be waking up to a brand new school year. Little tummies will have butterflies. Students will have that feeling of this is new, this is different, I’m not sure what to expect. Teachers are hoping to get the year started off right with a great first day of building relationships and establishing routines. Nerves and excitement, joy and fear, this day is full of feelings and emotions.

Every day, we make choices that decide how we are going to feel. Our thoughts lead to our feelings and we are in charge of our thoughts. Now, this takes some practice as most of us are used to letting our thoughts run the show. But when we start listening to our thoughts, we can decide if they are worth thinking or not. We can change them, if we should.

Take today. A thought may pop in our head – What if no one likes me today? If we allow that thought to ruminate, we will feel anxious, nervous, and sad. If we catch that thought, we can change it. Everyone will like me today. I am kind. I am smart. I am a good friend. (There are those I ams that I am such a big fan of.) The positive affirmations give us that boost of good feelings, of self confidence, and thoughts that today really will be a good day. We then feel better.

Thought: What if the students get out of hand? What if I can’t handle it? Catch it. Change it. I am a great teacher. I have good classroom management. I will show the students I love them and teach the expectations of the classroom clearly and with fun. Smile, teacher friend, you’ve got this.

Thought: Third grade is going to be so hard. I’m not smart enough to do the work. Catch it and change it! I am so intelligent. Third grade is going to be fun. I am willing to work hard and ask for help when I need it. It’s going to be a great year!

We have the power, every day and in every moment, to change our thoughts. And when we change our thoughts, our feelings follow. The more positive thoughts we have, we choose, the happier and more at peace we will feel. Most of the things we worry about, never really happen anyway. So why waste time, energy, and emotions in worrying about them? Catch those negative thoughts, change them to positive, and feel fantastic.

It’s not easy at first. We have to be present and really paying attention to what we are thinking about. That’s not normal for most people. It takes effort and constant redirection of our thoughts. The more we choose positive thoughts, the easier it becomes. When we do it every day, several times every day, it begins to become a habit. As we build that habit, it eventually becomes second nature.

That’s not to say that the negative thoughts never pop in. But when they do, we quickly recognize them and can turn them around. That’s when it’s become a lifestyle. A positive lifestyle. It’s a goal worth shooting for.

Today will be amazing. Happy first day of school to all the teachers and students out there! It’s going to be a great one!

Fierce & Gentle

There’s a post going around Facebook of a gorgeous little girl in an atypical pose – hair a beautiful mess, viking paint on her cheeks, dirty, fierce, tough. The quote with it says, “Do not raise your daughter to look for a knight. Raise her to use the sword herself.” Oooh, do I ever love it.

My goal as a Mommy is to raise a good human, one who believes in herself, stands up for herself, and fights for others. A kind, gentle soul… that won’t let anyone take advantage of her. A girl… woman… who knows her worth and isn’t afraid to make a stand to be treated the way she deserves. But one who does it with grace and compassion, both for herself and towards others.

A bit of tall order in today’s day and age, but it’s my goal nonetheless. It’s a fine line to walk… venture too far one way or the other and it falls apart. A woman with only compassion, who doesn’t understand her own value, can easily be taken advantage of. A woman who thinks so highly of herself that she cannot see the needs of others, becomes cold and heartless.

But the middle line… it’s beautiful. Idealistic? Maybe. Achievable? I believe so. I’m working hard to get there myself so that I can lead the way for my daughter. I pour my heart into my daughter, my family, my friends, and my students. At the same time, I’m learning how to stand up to others and say, “No, this isn’t right. It needs to change.” or “They deserve better” or even harder, “I deserve better.”

I have a long way to go. I lean way more towards the compassionate and not knowing your own value and worth side. But that’s ok. There’s room for growth.

I’m raising my daughter to be both – loving and kind, to think about how her actions affect others, to care… and also fierce – to not let anyone take advantage of her, to stand up for those weaker than her, and to not let anyone else tell her how to feel or dictate her worth to her. Some weeks I need to focus more on one side than the other, but overall I’m hoping to achieve that balance. That beautiful balance of what strong really is.

The photo above is one of her fierce photo shoots and below one of the lovely gentle ones. It’s totally possible to be both at the same time.

Miracles

I believe in miracles. Amazing things that happen in our lives that we can’t explain or reason or figure out. Miracles of all shapes and sizes and with people from all walks of life. Today, I’d like to tell you about one of my miracles.

My daughter was born on June 6th, 2011 via C-Section. She was perfect in every single way. The moment they laid her on my chest, my world changed for the better. Those delicate eye-lashes, that cry, those eyes. Those inexplicable moments that are forever etched in a Mommy’s heart. I melt just thinking about it. 7 pounds 2 ounces of perfection and bliss.

She was born on a Monday evening and by Wednesday morning we were talking about going home… until. Until. They realized she was jaundiced. They took a blood sample to check the severity of the jaundice and then things changed. They rushed in and took my baby to NICU. I followed. They put on me on the phone with a Neonatologist at a children’t hospital and what I heard was devastating. My baby was sick. Her blood was too thick and having trouble traveling through her tiny body. Too many platelets… more technical terms… things blurred.

They had to take her. They were getting ready to load her in an ambulance, take her to the Children’s hospital. Once there, they were taking her into surgery. They were going to go in through her belly button, remove some of the blood, replace it with saline and hope it helped. I couldn’t ride with her.

I told the nurses I was leaving, discharge papers or not. They got the authorization and released me. One of the nurses was a Pastor’s wife. She prayed with me and put out a prayer with the churches prayer circle. My mom was there and we left the hospital – no driving for me, two days post operation. Thank God for my mom. I got onto Facebook and begged for prayers. At least two of my prayer warrior friends put the call for prayer out to THEIR prayer circles at their churches as well. Prayers poured in from around the country and I soldiered on, putting one foot in front of the other, barely comprehending what was happening.

We arrived at the Children’s Hospital and I made my way up to NICU. The neonatologist met me there and he spoke. “I’m not sure what’s happening. We re-ran the tests before going into surgery and the numbers are improving on their own. In fact, I don’t think we need to do surgery after all.”

I’m pretty sure it took me a few moments to respond. In less than two hours and many, many people praying, she begin to heal on her own. When I say on her own, I mean without medical intervention. God healed her. He heard the prayers and responded. In this case, he said OK. He said Yes, and He healed her. My miracle.

My punkin was kept at NICU for four days – receiving antibiotics and care for the jaundice and for observation. Every day, she was improving. Every day, I was there, holding her, telling her how strong and beautiful and special she was. God’s miracle.

On Saturday morning, we were released and begin our life together – my daughter and me. That is not our only miracle story. In fact, in a different miracle God said NO to my prayers and it still turned out to be just what we needed. That’s how God works.

If you are in need of a miracle, reach out. Pray. Ask others to pray. God is still in the business of miracles. Sometimes he says yes and sometimes he says no, but he’s always looking out for what is best for us.

Just Sing & Be Happy

It’s the last Friday before students come back to my 3rd grade classroom. There are a million things on my to-do list and my mind is spinning. Meditation this morning was a bit of a train-wreck with the constant need to bring my thoughts back to the breath and away from the day. Redirection every 3 seconds!

That’s OK though. Some days start out like that. The question is – how do we handle it? Will we just try to power through, our minds a wreck, running from one thing to the other? I often have done just that but it doesn’t make for a very good day. I end up nervous all day long with an underlying feeling of distress. (I wanted to say frantic-ness, but I don’t actually think that’s a word.)

There is another way. There is always another way.

First, recognize that most of the things you are worrying about are not really worth worrying about. I love the quote that says “if it’s not going to matter in five years, then don’t spend more than five minutes stressing over it now.” Let it go, Elsa.

Next, know that you are going to do your best and that’s good enough. You cannot possibly do more than your best, so if you are giving it your all – be happy with that. Make a list, prioritize, then be in the moment as you get each thing done. Check it off the list. And the things that don’t get finished today, will get finished another day. No big deal. It’s really not going to matter in five years if my bulletin board was perfect before students come on Monday or if there is a pile of papers still on my desk. It’s really not. So have yourself a little celebration over each check mark made today on that list, and be happy.

Take time to quiet your mind. If you are really having a hard time stressing throughout your day, take a mindfulness break. Spend another 10 minutes in meditation. Do some yoga. My favorite yoga person in the world is Adrienne at https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene. She has tons of FREE videos on just about any topic you’d like and all different lengths. Search stress and she has two about 6 minutes long and several longer ones as well. A well placed short break could be just the thing you need!

In the end, on an average day, how we feel is totally up to us. We can choose to live in the anxiety filled stresses of life or we can make different choices and learn to just sing and be happy. It’s not always easy, but it is possible. Choose happy. Choose Joy. It’s worth the effort.

Like a Boss

Yesterday, when I wrote about moments, one of my own lines caught my attention. “You are magnificent chef.” Is it vain to say that my own words made me smile? I’m really beginning to enjoy cooking and the thought of telling myself how magnificent I am at it was silly but fun and it made me smile.

It also got me thinking. We spend so much of our time criticizing ourselves. It’s second nature to most of us and happens on a subconscious level often. It’s the reason we need “I ams” and positive thinking and to retrain our brains! Thoughts like that was dumb. What did you do that for? That wasn’t a good choice. OMG I can’t believe you did that. Idiot! What were you thinking? That was awful. You messed that one up again. Sound familiar? Your thoughts may be way more harsh or even more subtle but unless you have an active practice of mindfulness and affirmations, I’d bet money your internal thought life sounds a lot like that.

So my thought was… what if, as a way to combat all the negatives, we just got really silly and outrageous and spent all day telling ourselves how amazing we were?! Not in an arrogant or show off way. Not as a way to make ourselves feel better than others. But as a way to just make ourselves smile and laugh and change the script of our subconscious.

Imagine… you wake up in the morning, go to the bathroom (everyone does that first, right?) and start your day and think… Wow, you amazing human you. Just getting right up and starting your day like a boss. Props to you, my friend. You make your coffee, take that first sip, and Wow. You are a master coffee maker. Gold star, you fantastic Barista! Singing in the shower? You could win American Idol, you diva. You eventually head to work and congratulate yourself on driving. Nascar like relexes, Smooth driving skills. Bring on the Daytona 500.

Are you getting the idea? Hilarious. So over the top EXTRA… but I can only imagine how much I would smile if I continued this throughout the day! Forcing my thoughts beyond the negative, beyond the accepting, beyond the “I’m ok” to I really rock this world.

I know that personally I am not in danger of become cocky and “better than you” by thinking this way. I’m definitely not meaning to use it in a way to brag or sound crazy to others. Rather, as a simple tool to change our thinking from negative to positive in the most ridiculous extra way I can think of.

Shall we try it today? Give it a test run? I’ve never done this myself. Totally a new idea but I think it could be life changing. And once we get used to speaking to ourselves this way, maybe we pass it on to others. Tell them how amazing they are!

For today though… Be silly. Be absolutely absurd today in your thoughts. Maybe even with your best friend or your spouse (you know, someone who will understand haha). Let’s do it and share our results. Comment below and tell me what crazy ridiculous compliments you gave yourself today and what you thought of the exercise!

Here’s to a stunning day, you wondrous ray of sunshine, you.

Fall in Love with Moments

Moments are wonderful things. Little snippets of time full of life and soul. There are very significant moments in life… the first moment your baby smiles, or laughs, or says mama. Your first moment of school. The moment your name is called at graduation. Special moments – moments that will never be forgotten.

There are lots and lots of other moments though. Hundreds of thousands of moments in between all of those monumental ones. Moments that can easily be overlooked and dismissed. Moments that we are not present in… the moments when our little ones want to play pretend for the thousandth time, moments at fun events when we get distracted by our phones. #guilty Moments that we let the sadness of the past or worry from the future steal from us.

One of the best things that I have learned from counseling is to be in the moment. Be really in the moment. Set aside distractions, look the moment in the face, and enjoy it. Breathe it in. See it, hear it, feel it. Be all in.

When you’re writing lesson plans, write them. Just do that one thing. Plan a great lesson, be proud, finish, and move on. When you’re making dinner, be that chef. Chop the onions, saute the veggies, season the food and savor the moment. You are a magnificent chef. When you sit down to watch a movie – go ahead and just enjoy the heck out of that movie.

When you’re having family game night – be there. Laugh with your kids. Play the game. Try to win. Celebrate who ever does win. Laugh some more. When your child is trying to talk to you, listen. Ask questions. Look at their little face – memorize the freckles and dimples and sparkle in their eyes. When a student hugs you, hug them back. Let them know they are loved and worthy of that moment.

When you give someone your moments, you are saying they are valuable and worthy of your time. When you allow yourself to be in the moment, you are saying that YOU are valuable and worthy of the time. I can’t think of a better message to send.

Always Beautiful

I love this punkin. She’s 8 now but the pictures I use come from all points of her life. I LOVE photography and she’s the best subject. She’s quite used to having her picture taken and usually enjoys it. She’s a beautiful human – inside and out. I tell her often because I want it to become a part of who she is. Not that I think beauty is important but because every woman I know struggles to believe they are beautiful. And every one of us are, you know. Beautiful. Each and every one of us. Don’t roll your eyes – it’s truth.

We don’t see it though. We are so hard on ourselves and just don’t see the beauty when looking in the mirror. We see our flaws. Overweight. Bad hair day. Big nose. Long arms. (Is that a thing?) Weird feet. Imperfect skin. On and on the list goes. What would my punkin think, how would it affect her, if I always pointed out and told her things like that? It would cripple her, yes?

Why then do we do it to ourselves? Do we really think we are helping ourselves by constantly noticing the imperfections? Is anyone perfect? No and No. Every time we criticize ourselves, we are hurting ourselves. Destroying out self esteem. Lowering our boundaries – not just to ourselves but to others. The worse we are to ourselves, the worse we will allow people to treat us as well.

We are beautiful, friends. Beautiful. Imperfect? Of course, but perfect just the same. We have hearts that love, souls that sing, people we care about, passions, and humor, and fierceness. And when people look at us, they see just that. The beauty.

I struggle with this a lot. I am overweight and somehow in my mind that makes me less of a person. Less worthy. Less deserving of love. One of my best friends, Mandy, tells me she sees such beauty when she looks at me. She gets my feelings, understands them, but just doesn’t see it. Most of the time, I think she’s just being nice. Except… I know she’s not. She’s telling the truth as she sees it.

I wish we could see ourselves the way others do. I think we can… I think we can get there. It takes a lot of work though. A lot of he undoing of the lies we have believed for so long. It’s going to take affirmations daily and constant monitoring of the mind. Every time we think one of those awful thinks we think about ourselves, we need to stop and turn it around. For every one awful think, we need at least 3 positive thinks. “I look awful today.” No. NO. I am beautiful. I am beautiful inside and out. I am strong and lovely and I will overcome these thoughts. “I’m so stupid. What a dumb mistake!” No. NO. Everyone makes mistakes. I am smart and kind and hardworking. I do great work on a daily basis. One mistake does not define me. I am intelligent and good at my job.

Change your thoughts and then move on. Don’t dwell on it. And when the next awful thought comes, do it again. And again, and again, and again. I’ve overcome some very limiting beliefs through this process. From weak to strong, from scared to brave, from unworthy to worthy. (That last one is still a work in progress but I’ve come a long way.)

The one I still most need to work on is – I’m beautiful. Inside and Out. When I wake up in the morning to blog, I first spend some time in meditation, then prayer and I end my prayer with a request for the right picture and the right words to speak. I haven’t been planning ahead just open to the opportunity and what feels right. So I wasn’t planning on writing about my inferiority complex when it comes to my looks or about affirmations or beauty… but it’s obviously what I needed today. Something I need to work on. I AM working on health – moving more, eating better, drinking more water… but the fact that I am working on improving my health doesn’t make me any less worthy or beautiful as human.

So here goes. Here goes to the upcoming days of beautiful affirmations and hard work to continue to grow as a lovely human.

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