August 18th, 2014

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!

August 17th, 2014

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.

August 16th, 2014

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 smith@eastchattanoogaacademyofartandsocialjustice.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/

August 15th, 2014

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. 

August 14th, 2014

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. 

August 13th, 2014

Service vs. Helping

What is the difference between serving someone and helping them?  That is  the question my students and I discussed today after reading an article on the topic by Rachel Naomi Remen.  This is my favorite quote from the article,

"Serving makes us aware of our wholeness and its power. The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life. The wholeness in you is the same as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between equals: our service strengthens us as well as others. Fixing and helping are draining, and over time we may burn out, but service is renewing. When we serve, our work itself will renew us. In helping we may find a sense of satisfaction; in serving we find a sense of gratitude."

Service brings peace in a way that helping could never do. 

August 12th, 2014

Never Forget

Today is world elephant day.  I was super excited about it and picked out my outfit for the day based around a beautiful glass elephant necklace that my daughter gave me years ago.  Unfortunately as I was putting the necklace on this morning it slipped out of my hand and dropped to the floor.  When I retrieved it from under the dresser where it had slid, my glass elephant was now lacking his trunk and tusk.  I wore it anyway.  I used it as an opportunity to explain to everyone that stopped to admire my necklace that just like my glass necklace, life is fragile, and if we don’t find ways to protect the elephants they will be lost to us also.  I explained that a big part of the reason we have a declining elephant population is because poachers kill them only for their ivory tusks. 

I love this quote by Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair Magazine:

We admire elephants in part because they demonstrate what we consider the finest human traits: empathy, self-awareness, and social intelligence. But the way we treat them puts on display the very worst of human behavior.”

The elephant has always seemed to be my totem animal.  It seemed like for years without anyone knowing I had a collection, anytime someone would go on a trip and bring me back a souvenir, it would always turn out to be a small elephant carving or figurine.  Once my friend and I went to the zoo with her small children.  I stayed for a long time at the elephant enclosure, when she asked if I was ready to move on I replied, “When we first got here the elephant had it’s ears open, I was hoping he would do it again so I could get a picture.”  As soon as I said it, the elephant walked straight over to me and opened his ears, posing politely for me to get a picture. 

A few facts: There are currently only about 40,000 Asian elephants in the world, and one in three of those elephants are held in captivity.  Other facts and the new movie, “Return To The Forest” can be found at: http://worldelephantday.org

August 11th, 2014

Robin Williams

I was so sad tonight to read about the untimely death of Robin Williams.  It is hard to believe that someone that brought so much joy and laughter to others struggled so much himself with depression.  Many people have a hard time understanding depression, how it can choke your soul even when you have so much to live for.  I struggled a lot with depression when I was a teenager and young adult.  It is like being physically sick with the flu, you want to be well so badly but you can’t get out of bed and instantly heal yourself anymore than you can with the flu.  Sometimes you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other until you finally walk out of it and sometimes you may walk out of it only to find it return without any reason at a later time.  That cycle can become very discouraging.  That is why we need each other.  We need people in our lives that are tuned in, and we need to be tuned in for others so that we can be proactive in getting help before it is too late.  Taking time to take care of our mental health is just as important as taking care of our physical health.  Life can be a struggle, but we don’t have to struggle with it alone, sometimes we give help and sometimes we need help.  This is the flow of life. 

August 10th, 2014

Quiet Retreat

Despite the fact that I enjoy being around people, I am at the very core of my being a total introvert.  This weekend I had the opportunity to retreat from the world and indulge my introverted nature without any sense of guilt. Since my husband was away for a business conference, I did not leave the house or see another person (except the pizza guy that delivered my lunch today) for the entire weekend.  It was bliss.  I organized my kitchen, wrote all my upcoming events down on my calendar, created a budget for those upcoming events, planned for a retreat I’m speaking at in September, organized some upcoming school activities, read a novel, sang along with the radio, and spent a lot of time daydreaming. 

Being an introvert means you find peace and energy from taking time out to reconnect with yourself.  I’m so peaceful at this moment, I’m pretty sure if I opened the door, I would float straight up into the clouds. 

Learning to Surf

I spent some time today making a book of quotes for a friend.  This is one I especially appreciated:

"You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf." Jon Kabat Zinn

Problems happen, approaching them with a belief that peace is always a possibility, is my way of learning to surf. 

August 8th, 2014

Noonday

My friend was wearing this gorgeous necklace today made from polished tagua seeds and I complimented her on how beautiful it was.  That is when she shared with me the story of Noonday Jewelry.  Curious to learn more I looked up their website when I got home…

our impact


“Noonday Collection’s mission is to create economic opportunity for the vulnerable. We partner with artisans in the developing world, empowering them to grow sustainable businesses. By creating a marketplace for their goods, we create dignified jobs at living wages. This allows our artisans to earn more in order to support their families. We also offer no interest loans and make advance payments on orders. This way we are able to shoulder the costs of materials and build a lasting relationship based on trust. We offer scholarship programs and emergency assistance. Noonday Collection also donates a portion of sales from adoption trunk shows to place orphans in forever families.

Noonday Collection is not a charity and we do not believe that providing a hand out is a sustainable long-term solution to poverty. We aim to be a sustainable business that gives women across the United States a way to make a lasting difference in the fight against poverty and injustice. This is what makes this movement so special.”

Their jewelry is beautiful, and lucky for me…my birthday is this month! I may also think ahead and get some Christmas presents to set aside.  To learn more about this innovative company, go to: http://www.noondaycollection.com/our-story.html

August 7th, 2014

Crazy Makers

Crazy Makers.  We all know at least one, and maybe at times we are one.  I’ve been thinking about crazy makers this week.  I discovered the term Crazy Maker about 15 years ago.  I had a good friend that always had something horribly wrong happening in her life all the time.  At first I was very sympathetic and would listen to her discuss her problems, I would be pulled into one drama after another always trying to find a way to help her climb out of her latest dramatic fall from grace. 

I don’t really remember what happened, but one day I realized all this craziness was like a game for her.  She was making one bad decision after another and pulling everyone down with her.  I realized I was not helping, in fact by being sucked in to each crazy episode I was actually making things worse.  I finally realized that I had to help her by not helping her.  When she would call with her latest disaster, I learned to say, “Wow, that is an interesting predicament.  I’m so glad that you are capable of figuring out an answer to that issue for yourself.” Then I would change the subject.  It took a while for her to realize that I was not going to rescue her or be the audience for her dramas anymore…but soon enough she did start working out her own problems, and started making proactive choices to prevent problems. 

Today I gave an impromptu lesson on the importance of being proactive in making choices as a way to promote peace.  When you are in middle school, with your frontal lobe still sitting there like a lump of clay, the idea that peace can always be choice for your life, even when everyone else around you is a crazy maker, can be a really novel and interesting concept.  My students have high test scores, and the funny thing is I really focus more on peace in my classroom than I do anything else.  If you are at peace, and choosing peace for your life, it is so much easier for everything else to work out.  It is a strong link to success that we often overlook in the classroom, and in our lives.  Those peace choices can be as simple as, “Put out the clothes you are going to wear the next day the night before so you don’t have to scramble in the morning and come to school in a bad mood.” Small choices, big differences.

August 6th, 2014

Stepping Up

Tonight I gathered up a bunch of rowdy kids that were bored in the setting they were in and spent time with them so their parents could talk with friends and enjoy a few minutes of quiet.  This was a peace choice that was very spur of the moment.  Sometimes you just realize, a change needs to be made and instead of waiting on someone else, you just step up and do what you can with your own resources.  It was fun spending time with the kids.  I got to play with toys, read books, and talk about bugs.  A peace choice well made!

August 5th, 2014

Until

Having dinner tonight with a friend, we started talking about friendships that may seem unlikely but work.  It made me think about this concept, we often label people, either consciously or subconsciously, until they are someone we have grown to love. 

So we may think, that person is too old, too young, too educated, too uneducated, too wild, too boring, too opinionated, too mousy, too immature, too radical, too much trouble…until we get to know them, really know them, and then we realize the labels we tried to stick to them seem to flutter away, and suddenly they are too wonderful to have any label other than friend. 

August 4th, 2014

Whatcha Going To Do?

I spent an hour and a half working on a power point, only to think I had accidentally erased the entire thing.  I had two choices: complete melt down, or taking a deep breath and beginning again.  Choosing peace I simply did a very scaled down version of the first power point only to discover that when I went back to save it, I hadn’t lost the first power point at all. So now I have two options! Peace, it is always a choice.