I spent the weekend traveling about, spending time with people that I love and love spending time with. I also spent a lot of time thinking about the idea of appreciation. I really don’t think there is any more important quality to develop in order to have a meaningful and happy life than the quality of being appreciative. Appreciation is a game changer. It makes good days fantastic and grumpy days bearable. Every moment in time offers something to be appreciative of, even if you have to search really hard. That is a blessing. Maybe, the biggest blessing in life. The best part of appreciation? With appreciation comes a peace that fills your soul even on the emptiest of nights.
Today I’m younger than I will ever be, and wiser than I have ever been. This is the happy thought that has been on my heart today. I was blessed all day long with sweet moments with friends, famiily members, and students. I’ve eaten more sugar in one day than I have in a month, and had Happy Birthday sung to me numerous times. It truly was a memorable birthday. I ended it by going out to eat with a good friend, then going to see the movie, The Giver. A powerful, thought-provoking movie to see on such an auspicious day!
The movie is about a society that has had their memories and emotions erased in order to have a peaceful existence, and the Giver who is the one person that keeps all the memories of the people so that he can advise in the future based on his knowledge of what has happened in the past before all the memories and emotions were wiped away. The movie is a wake up call, a call to choose to live life differently. To choose to feel emotions, all emotions, rather than trying to numb them out and pretend bad things never happen, but instead, to feel those emotions and use them for good.
So it was not lost on me that a few minutes after leaving the movie I would see a young homeless man on the corner. Encounters like that can evoke a lot of different emotions. Usually a feeling of helplessness that there is nothing I can do. At that moment though, I had some healthy food and a few other things I could pass along. It is always frustrating when I can’t do more for someone, but I try to trust that if I am faithful in doing what I can, that what I can do, is exactly what I was meant to do.
I don’t know how many more hours or days I get to enjoy this world, but I plan to enjoy them 100%. Good moments, bad moments, growing moments, they are all a part of the beauty of life. What a blessing to get to celebrate it!
Birthday picture made for me by my students!
August 27 was always what I referred to as “cake day”. This term comes from the fact that my dad’s birthday was August 26, and mine is August 28 so my mom usually made a large German Chocolate Cake for us both on the day in between. This is called compromise.
My father passed away five years ago and I haven’t had one of my mom’s German Chocolate cakes in years, but the idea of meeting someone in the middle and enjoying a win-win situation is always linked in my mind with August 27.
Compromising, or finding a way that allows everyone to get a piece of the cake, is a great way to follow Kid President’s advice and treat everyone like it’s their birthday!
Today is not just the dog days of summer, but the for real “dog day”. Except for when I was in college, I really can’t remember ever not having a dog in my life. It always amazes me how much peace and joy having a dog can bring. My husband and I are planning on building a new house in the next year and tonight we were discussing the preliminary plans. Plans which seem to get smaller every time we discuss the house due to time and financial constraints for building it, however what hasn’t changed is the importance of how to plan the house so it is pet friendly. As the old saying goes, “I try to live my life in such a way that I will eventually become as wonderful as my dog already thinks I am.”
Our dog, Koda, photo bombing my selfie.
Less is More
I work in a profession where I could work around the clock and still have a mile long to do list. Finding peace for me has to do with forcing myself to limit the work I do. Life has to be a balance. When I work too much, I’m too stressed to be productive or helpful to anyone.
Cooking Up Peace
I don’t cook. I don’t cook not because I’m a bad cook, in fact apparently I can whip up a glass of flavored water that is out of this world, I don’t cook because I have a very real fear of burning my house down. This fear is based in reality because I often walk away from things like curling irons, steam irons, and stoves completely forgetting that I’ve left them on.
This morning as I was sitting 10 minutes away from my house I realized I had done this again. It occurred to me that this is a fear and issue I need to overcome, so I came up with a solution. From now on any time I turn on an item that is electric and has the potential of a 911 call in the future I will put a hair band around my wrist to remind me to turn it off. So tonight I went to all the places in my house and put a hair band there so every time I turn something on I have a hair band there in easy reach to put on my wrist to remind me to turn it off. It is such a simple solution, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. I was feeling very excited about the idea as I enjoyed eating the egg foo yung I made for myself for dinner!
P.S. If any of you see me walking around with a hair band around my wrist-please point it out to me, umm…and don’t be surprised if I say goodbye quickly and walk away…
The Music of Friendship
Tonight I was at an outdoor concert that is one of the big events of the town nearby. I love going because I get to spend time with and see people I don’t see very often and because it is a lot of fun! I love that feeling when you get to let someone you haven’t seen in a long time that they are still special to you and you are so glad you ran into them. It is a relationship bank builder that brings a lot of joy.
I was talking with my co-workers today and we were discussing the International Day of Peace coming up on September 21. I was saying that I thought it would be great if we could have a different student read a short announcement about peace or about a peace keeper. My co-worker thought I meant every day of the school year. He said, “Do you really think you could come up with enough to say about peace for that many days of the year.” He really has no idea how much I think about peace. This was one of my thoughts today about adults teaching about peace to kids:
Today I was able to teach a group of students about Edvard Munch’s painting, Death in a Sickroom. If you have never seen the painting I will tell you that at first glance it is rather depressing (in case the title didn’t give you that clue). After seeing the painting the first time I asked them to write about their initial reactions, and most of the students did not like the painting. Then we really delved into the painting, discussing the artist, why he made the painting, the composition, the use of color, the themes of connection and love that could be found in spite of the obvious grief portrayed in the painting. By the time we had finished discussing the painting all of their opinions had changed and they had come to really appreciate it.
This is life, this is peace, the more you learn about your subject, the things or people you dislike, the easier it is to appreciate them.
Everyone Has A Place
I have a student in my class that has a hard time figuring out how to fit in or even how to finish her school work. She has a gift for illustration though. Today I realized that little cut out cartoon characters have started popping up all over the place in my classroom. A few climbing off the bulletin board, one on the bookshelf, several dancing across the dry erase board. They make me smile and giggle a little bit. Every time my student sees me notice a new character and smile, she realizes she has a place in the world, and her place while it may be very unique, definitely matters.
Time to build up
Sometimes I just like to think about the awesomeness of life. About how each of us are totally unique and the special part we each play in the timeline of history. It gives me a sense of security to know I exist because I was meant to be here, and a sense of urgency to share my unique qualities (and also to learn more about the talents I may not have even discovered I have yet) and use them to build up the world around me. How wonderful it is to consider all the good we have yet to accomplish both individually and collectively!
Forming A Habit of Graciousness
In some ways it is hard for me to understand how people become so angry they could raid and loot their own city, but then I realize I can easily be torn out of the frame just from having someone sit behind me in a public place and smack their gum for two hours.
Today I have been thinking a lot about how to deal with issues that I have no control over, but still bother me to an unhealthy degree. Here are some of the thoughts that have run through my mind:
Take a cue from my friends in A.A. and keep a small item in my pocket, each time I touch the item, think about that situation or person and send them blessings. Each of us is dealing with so much through this life, making graciousness a habit can be a blessing not only to the person I’m annoyed with but mostly to me.
Realize that if I know my immediate response is going to be snarky or hurtful, I need to immediately remove myself from the situation, it is more important to save a relationship than to be right or clever in the moment.
Attribute positive intent, the gum smacker most likely has no idea they are driving me crazy, they are just concerned with bad breath or trying to stay calm in a social situation that might make them feel nervous.
Realize that this may just be a personal issue and if so I just need to be patient. Time changes people, places, and things and there are issues I was really upset with years ago that now I can barely remember or understand why I was so upset during that time, or have been given additional information that helps me see the situation differently.
Recognize that sometimes there are things that need to be addressed, but only if I am in a calm frame of mind and can discuss it with an open mind. If I’m not in that place, I need to wait.
Have you ever tried to do something, and even if you put your all into it, you knew really it wasn’t that great and someone with more experience and skills could do a better job? Sometimes I have to be at peace with my lack of superwoman capabilities. Oddly, this is a hard thing to do, usually because I know if I had more time to do something I probably could do a great job, but sometimes I just have to recognize my limitations and move on.
Three months ago I created a website for the Master of Fine Arts academy that my husband is starting in Chattanooga, Tennessee. While the website was wonderful for starting to get the word out, it definitely needs some work. So today I have been trying to reach out to different people to ask them to nominate The East Chattanooga Academy of Art and Social Justice for a website makeover through the company, Full Media.
If you would like to help our our pitiful website and this great project by nominating us, the physical address for The East Chattanooga Academy of Art and Social Justice will be 2437 Glass Street, Chattanooga, Tn 37406 and the phone number to use is 731-435-9975. Our current website is www.eastchattanoogaacademyofartandsocialjustice.com and the e-mail is email@example.com
Please also feel free to share this with other people that would be willing to help by nominating us. Application deadline is August 31. The site to nominate us is http://www.fullmedia.com/project-impact/
I’m proud of you
This morning a sweet friend sent me a message that just said, “I’m proud of you.” It was such a simple encouragement but it made my day, so later I had the opportunity to pass along the blessing. I have a student who was chosen to act as a mentor for a younger student that is having a really tough time adjusting to the new school year. Today was the child’s first day to come to make it to class without crying. I made a point to let my student know how proud I was of her for helping him to start the day with a smile.
Team Building Games
Team building games convince me that peace is a skill that can be taught just like reading and writing. Today my husband led my students in co-operative games. The best part was seeing how my older students that went through this class last year had learned to work together as a team so much better. It was a joy to see them quickly solve problems together, everyone contributing. I think it would be amazing if it was required for world leaders to go through a yearly team building class.