Happy Earth Day!
Today’s picture was drawn just for you by one of my students, Leven. I love the way the tree seems to be reaching out to give a hug. If I’ve never mentioned it before, I’m a little obsessed with trees. Especially one particular tree that lives in my front yard. It is the friendliest of trees and no matter how bad my day, that tree can make me smile. It just makes me happy.
Actually as I think back over my life I realize that throughout my days I’ve always sort of “adopted” a special tree that I’ve just sort of considered mine. When I was in elementary school there was a huge tree in the front of the school that had a concrete seating area all around it. That tree was like a wooden angel, arms stretched out protecting us all from the blistering Texas sun. That is probably when I first fell in love with trees.
Then there was a mimosa tree that my brother planted in my front yard, with its pink tufts it always looked like a Dr. Seuss illustration come to life. When I first visited the college campus I had committed to going to for four years sight unseen, I literally got sick at my stomach. At first I couldn’t figure out why but then I realized, there were almost no trees on the campus. West Texas was a barren place. I allowed the sunsets to infiltrate my soul and take the place of trees, but I escaped as often as I could to a place called Buffalo Gap where all the trees in Abilene went to hang out.
When I got older and had two little kids, my husband would let me take a nap every afternoon to get a break. Often I would just lay on my bed and stare out the window at a huge oak tree outside. Even today when I need a happy break I often think about that tree.
I love earth day, I love thinking about how incredible our planet is, so diverse and creative. I went to my first earth day celebration in 1990, which was the twentieth year anniversary. The celebration I went to was in Atlanta, Ga. With concerts, arts, and face paintings, it was a great experience and I’ve tried to do something special on earth day every year since. Today I went to a nursery and picked out some perennials and azalea shrubs to plant near my favorite tree. Not only was it a joy break to wander through the nursery but I’m looking forward to how beautiful the plants will look under my favorite tree now and on future earth days to come!
Ways to Overcome Anxiety
It is that time of year, when flowers are blooming, the pollen is falling, and the stress levels of everyone I know is making me want to take out stock in Excedrin. So today I thought I’d research some natural ways to help the people around me and myself, deal better with anxiety. So here are some bullet points of easy, natural ways to keep calm and carry on:
- Breathe deeply, if you want to practice the correct way to breathe lay down flat on a bed and allow yourself to breathe deeply, exhaling through your nose. I learned this trick from my highschool drama teacher, Amber Walker. If you fall asleep while laying down and practicing the correct way to breathe, all the better-naps are another great way to let go of stress.
- Use essential oils to help you calm down. Good ones to try out are lavender, bergamont (now we know why we love Earl Gray tea), sandlewood, or citrus scents.
- Foods rich in tyrosine (amino acids) can help increase dopamine levels. Examples are: soy products, proteins, fruits and nuts, and green leafy veggies. Foods high in vitamin C and B vitamins have also proven beneficial.
- Exercise helps stress hormones to leave the body. Even short amounts of exercise like a quick walk, dancing for a few minutes, or doing some jumping jacks can be helpful. If you are stuck at a desk, a small stress ball can be helpful by tensing and relaxing your muscles for a moment…or by throwing it at the person who is stressing you out.
- Crying can be a good way to emotionally throw up everything that is building up inside. So find a good movie that touches your heart or a good book and let those tears flow!
- Talking it out with a friend can do wonders, but if no one is around it can also be helpful to write out your feelings. Ripping up the page if you don’t want anyone to read it can also help let go of any aggression you might be feeling.
- Think happy thoughts or listen to happy music. Just turning your thoughts up to a higher vibration can help you let go of anxious ideas that keep circulating through your mind.
- Meditating or staring into space, even if you do this for just a few minutes you will be surprised at how calming it can be.
- Spend some time in nature. Unplugging from the electronic world can do wonders. So take a break, go look at the stars and contemplate one of my favorite quotes, “If the stars came out only once a century, humans would stay up all night marveling at their beauty”. -Kant
If you had a wish for the world what would it be? That is the question my artist friend, Jennalyn Krulish, asked me. Jennalyn is currently working on an art installation for a show in June at the Arts Council in Mobile, Alabama. Part of the show will involve hanging 700 decorated paper feathers, each with a wish for the world, from the ceiling. I asked…”Can’t I have more than just one?” Because let’s face it, there are a lot of cool things I could think of to wish for the world. Thankfully she is letting the dreamer in me go wild so I am including a picture of some of the feathers I’ve already created. The other picture is one that Jennalyn painted of our little friend Emma. If you have any dreams for the world you would like to put on a feather let me know and I can make one for you! The opening for the show will be June 13th. Thoughts and words are powerful, and wishes can be the beginning of goals that become reality.
Love Always Finds a Way
One of the hardest things for me to know is when to reach out to someone when I’m worried about them and when to back away so I don’t push them away. It seems like today has been filled with several encounters like that. I try to find peace in the hope that love is always the right option and if I have love for the people I care about it will find a way even if I have no idea what to say or do. An attitude of love will always shine through.
If you knew that you could contribute $12.50 a year to make a huge difference in the lives of over a million Americans, would you do it? I started my morning off by watching a video posted on a friend’s Facebook page about the difference it would actually make in the cost of products at Walmart if every beginning level employee made a living wage. The video http://youtu.be/vAcaeLmybCY explains how little it would actually cost the consumer if Walmart were to raise their wages to a living wage.
As I did more research about this topic I discovered that Walmart employs 2 million people. Wow. That is a lot, and their standard answer for why they don’t raise their wages to a living wage is that they provide a lot of opportunities for advancement if you work there. While that might be true, what do you do until that opportunity comes along? Unlike many of the people I know, I don’t consider Walmart an evil empire, they actually do a lot of good things for the communities they are in. What I do think is that they could do so much more for their communities by providing living wages for their employees.
What I would love to see happen is not for people to just bash Walmart, but to make it known to them that passing along a portion of the $34,880 profit they make every minute, to their employees would be a truly good thing for them to do. There are a lot of ways you can do this. Think Creatively! Maybe you could write a letter on a Walmart shopping bag telling them you shop at their store and you would like them to give their employees a living wage. Mail the letter to:
Walmart Home Office
202 SW 8th Street
Bentonville, AR 72716-8611
or maybe call their customer service at 1-800-Walmart (1-800-925-6278) in a polite way, let them know you appreciate the service they offer and that you would appreciate it even more if they would offer a living wage for their employees. Or you can e-mail them at https://corporate.walmart.com/contact-us/store-corporate-feedback
Or maybe you want to take a cue from students at several colleges that have held “camp outs” to bring awareness to the need for living wages for employees at their colleges, you can read about those examples at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_wage#Living_wage_movements I hear Bentonville Arkansaw is really pretty in the spring time.
Some of you are talented singers and videographers, surely one of you can come up with a song and dance number to promote paying a living wage.
Peacefully changing things can be fun, in fact the more fun and laughter you put into it the more people are able to see that you are not against them, you just can see a better vision of who they are capable of becoming. There are a lot more companies besides just Walmart that could raise their wages, but it is because I actually respect Walmart for all the good they have done in the past (including the incredible Crystal Bridges Art museum http://crystalbridges.org/) that I think they could be an incredible leader to help others see what would happen if they paid their employees a living wage.
#LW4WW, Living Wages for Walmart Workers, it’s a hashtag whose time has come.
A Vision Board for Peace
Tonight my husband and I spoke at the University of Memphis Lambuth Campus for a symposium about global citizenship. I knew going into this that I wanted to talk about peace because when I look at any topic I am most likely to look at it through that lens. What I didn’t know going into it was how beautifully the topics of the other speakers would blend in with what I had been thinking about. One of the other speakers, Dr. Cheryl Bowers spoke about happiness and that across the world the same base things promote happiness and can be built on to bring about even higher levels of happiness. Personally I found that really exciting because it tells me that as we think about how to create a better world we have scientific research that can be our guide. This is where our vision board can begin, this is what we would like to see everyone in the world be able to reach. “The secret to change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” -Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Dan Millman
This is a link to a study on happiness from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, published in January 2013 in Yes! magazine about the science of happiness: http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/10-things-science-taught-us-about-happiness-in-2012
Brushing Up On Peace
Toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, deodorant, soap, etc. my store buggy was filled with hygiene products today. All those goodies will soon be on the shelf of a local food pantry where they have a need not only for food, but also personal products for needy families. I had never really thought of this as a need before a student in my class started a small drive to collect these personal items for the pantry. It makes sense. I just had never thought of it before. There are so many opportunities to be peace in the world, sometimes we just need to be educated about how to get started. I’m thankful for my students that are often also my teachers.
Global Citizenship and Peace
In a few days I’m going to be speaking at a local college on the topic of Global Citizenship and Peace. To start thinking through my ideas I “googled” the topic. I was very pleased to find information about Haverford, a small liberal arts college outside Philadelphia. They actually have a center for Peace and Global Citizenship where you can do undergraduate or graduate work in the field. Tonight I read through their 2012-2013 annual report of all that was happening to promote their center. One of the things that always fascinates me about studying peace is that you have so many options and so many ways you can get involved and make a difference. From studying the impact and availability of healthy food on a community, to the economics of micro-loans there are so many ways you can turn a passion for peace into a career. It was encouraging to read about all the different kinds of programs the students had the opportunity to start or be involved with.
I think the key with global citizenship is that due to communication being so much easier now, friendship and awareness occurs with people you could have never had the opportunity to meet a few years ago. Learning about each other and learning about new cultures are beginning steps to walking a path of making the world a better place for everyone. I love this quote by Mr. Rogers and what it says to be about how cool our world could be if we stopped trying to just “beat” each other and instead worked together so that everyone could be sustainable and have an opportunity to reach their fullest potential.
“There was a story going around about the Special Olympics. For the hundred-yard dash, there were nine contestants, all of them so-called physically or mentally disabled. All nine of them assembled at the starting line and, at the sound of the gun, they took off. But one little boy didn’t get very far. He stumbled and fell and hurt his knee and began to cry. The other eight children heard the boy crying. They slowed down, turned around, and ran back to him—every one of them ran back to him. The little boy got up, and he and the rest of the runners linked their arms together and joyfully walked to the finish line.
They all finished the race at the same time. And when they did, everyone in the stadium stood up and clapped and whistled and cheered for a long, long time. And you know why? Because deep down we know that what matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What really matters is helping others win, too, even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then.”
― Fred Rogers
The Sunny Side of Life
Tonight I saw a job fair advertisement for a new solar energy company coming soon to a county near me in Tennessee. Having lived in a totally solar electric house for several years this made me curious about the current state of solar electric activity happening in Tennessee. It is exciting to see how many things are happening to promote solar energy in the state. It is generating not only clean electricity but also over 6, 400 jobs. In Tennessee there are over 300 rebates, incentives, or tax credits available for residents that choose green energy. More information about those can be found at: http://www.solar-estimate.org/?page=solar-incentives&state=TN
Higher education is getting into the act with colleges like Libscomb in Nashville offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees that focus on sustainable practices: http://www.lipscomb.edu/sustainability/about
If you are interested in learning more about solar energy in Tennessee I recommend you check out http://www.tnsolarenergy.org/
Music heals. It just does. So I was excited today to meet a young doctor from Memphis that uses music as a way to connect with his patients. Then tonight I learned about another organization that is also using music to make a difference in the lives of kids struggling with medical issues. You can read about Dr. Chris Peoples here: http://www.cru.org/city/memphis-doctor-prescribing-worship.htm and about the Songs of Love organization here: http://www.songsoflove.org/about/
Answers for James
So the other day a friend sent a request to me to answer a few questions about basically life, the universe, and everything. I like this person and when they asked this of me I didn’t think too much about it, until I got the list. Thirty two deep questions with a request to give back up proof of everything I believed. Wow.
So today I spent a couple of hours doing some deep soul searching to answer his questions. It was an exercise in love, because even though I write a daily blog where I try to be very honest and real about my experiences, this was truly opening myself and being vulnerable by answering questions on a much deeper level than anyone ever bothers to ask. I felt honored that he truly wanted to know my thoughts about these topics, and nervous because I realized my words would hold a lot of weight with him because he values my opinion. All in all it was a good experience though, a good reminder of what I hold as my core values, and I’m hopeful that what leaked through in my answers also leaks through in my life…love. The answer to all the important questions, James, always comes back to love.
A Positive Focus
Do you ever have conversations that make you feel really excited about the potential of the future? Are they with middle school students? Today I was able to facilitate an incredible conversation with my students that seemed really heavy, it started out discussing violence occurring in schools today, but what amazed me was that they had some truly brilliant ideas about what needs to occur to make a difference.
The first thing they brought up was that anti-bullying programs don’t work and may actually cause more harm. We found this to actually be true when we were mandated to have one at our school. The reason they don’t work is the same reason Montessori teachers say, “Please walk” instead of “Don’t run”. Your brain focuses on the last thing said, so “Don’t Bully” is interpreted as “Bully”. They felt the best way to address the issue would be to instead have programs that simply focus on kindness and promoting friendships, that instead of focusing on the bullies, there should be more focus on strengthening diversity and that we all have something to give to the world. Programs to build up self esteem should be equally matched with programs that build up self compassion and compassion for others.
The other thing they discussed was their concern about the way the media focuses on negative reporting. Every day we have community meeting and part of that is a time to share current events, and we ask them to try to focus on positive news. Their complaint is that it is very difficult for them to find positive stories to share. They felt that if the news media would make more of an effort to promote positive stories that more good things would happen because instead of getting attention for negative things people would be seeking to get attention for positive actions.
The last thing they discussed was the most interesting to me. They said they wished they could change the cartoons and programs targeted for kids. Since I don’t watch very much TV, I was interested that they felt it was too violent and negative…remember these are thirteen and fourteen year old’s talking! They started waxing nostalgic for old t.v. shows that seemed happier to them.
Our conversation really sparked a lot of emotion and I tried to explain to them that if they felt that strongly about it they could do something. They don’t have to be passive, they can write advertisers to encourage positive programs, they can promote the positive programs they do see on their social media sites, and they can start conversations to encourage better writing and programming on TV.
Personally, I’m excited to see their discontent, because these are the kinds of changes that do need to happen, and hopefully their discontent is the start towards making different choices. This summer the Hub TV network is going to start showing a new show based on the Kid President videos. Since I know the quality and character of the KP videos, I am really thrilled that they will get a wider audience and maybe open the way for people to see how much more fun and encouraging it is to watch positive programming. It is our world. We don’t have to keep going downhill. We can pull ourselves up. The time to change things is now. Here’s to being awesome and giving the world a reason to dance!
Feeling like a kid in a candy shop! I just discovered a new website for sustainable and stylish design, Inhabitat. I found them via an article about the wonderful new design work that is being done by the French Architecture Studio, Moatti-Rivie’re on the Eiffel Tower. The new improvements will include sustainable features like solar and wind power, and equality features for easy access for disabled visitors to be able to visit the first floor of the tower. You can check out the website and the article about the improvements to the tower here: http://inhabitat.com/ambitious-eiffel-tower-renovation-turns-the-aging-icons-1st-floor-into-a-green-energy-powerhouse/
Implications for Peace
"One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child." -Maria Montessori
How do you think the world would be different if at an early age students were being taught how to peacefully solve internal and external conflicts, the importance of peace, and how to create peace in the world? I have a new book available. The title is Implications of Peace: Montessori Elementary Education. The book is actually the thesis I wrote for my master’s degree. The reason I felt it was important to publish it was because I have a strong belief that the change that most needs to be made in education right now has more to do with helping kids to feel at peace, and know how to respond to each other in peace than it does with just what kind of tests they can pass. If students are not at peace they aren’t going to have room in their brains to learn new information. The book can be used by both Montessori teachers and traditional teachers to rethink and restructure their classrooms in a way that promotes peace.
Peace isn’t impossible. It is a skill, it just needs to be taught, and practiced.
Lessons I learned about peace from cat urine.
I know there are people in this world that can make it through an entire day without feeling the need to put pen to paper. They exist. I’m just not one of them. At some point in my life I learned that if I put pen to paper at least once a day, I feel better about the world. It is my coping mechanism, and it has to be real paper and a real pen. Typing things out just doesn’t have the same emotional impact.
Usually about every six months I purchase a huge five ring binder and fill it completely with every thought I need to purge on that open white page. About a month ago I realized it was time for a new journal. I bought one in an especially happy shade of blue and covered it in positive quotes and affirmations about life. It was so happy I couldn’t bring myself to write anything negative in it. So all those frustrating, negative thoughts that normally make their way to the page…and then sometimes to the paper shredder… have been left to linger inside my head. I just couldn’t bear the idea of putting any of that junk into my happy notebook.
If you have been reading my blog you already know because I have been whining for the past few days, that I got really sick. Super high temperature, sleeping constantly, body aches…blah, blah, blah. So in this state of abnormality I left my happy journal on the floor by my bedside. Apparently the universe decided this would be the perfect way to teach me a valuable lesson. I went to pick up my journal only to discover that it was wet. At first I thought I had knocked my water onto it, but upon a closer sniff I realized the cat had decided to add his own mark to my journal. That’s right. My happy journal was now soaked in cat urine. The truth is while this should have made me furious, it was actually a bit of a relief. I needed that sign to remind me that it is perfectly normal and healthy to have a safe place to be “pissed off”. Perhaps even the reason I became so sick was because I have been holding on to all those negative germs of thought.
I’m going to be getting a new journal, and while I still hope to focus on good things, I feel a little more at ease realizing the negative emotions are just as important. Having a safe place to get those feelings out helps keep me healthy and sane. I would never expect someone else to always be positive, and I need to be gentle and honest with myself and trust that my negative feelings are just as valid and play a role in my life to promote change. If I don’t allow myself the freedom to experience and see them in some way they can’t be harnessed and used for the good they are eventually meant to bring about.