Surviving/Thriving Through Busy Season

Several years ago, around this time of year, or maybe it was in June, some friends had invited me to dinner on say, a Wednesday night, I don’t remember specifically which day of the week, but I know it was a weekday.  Anyway, I sadly declined because I had a lot of work to do.  My friends didn’t understand and said something like, “Isn’t school almost over?  Why are you so busy?”  Now, I’m not a big fan of the word busy these days, because I want my life to be full.  And I try to be purposeful about the things I fill it up with.  This springtime season can get very, very full.  It’s my busy season, whether I like that word or not.

It gets really full with extra work obligations like end of year paperwork, cleaning up the classroom, report cards and even already prepping for next year.  There is a lot that has to be done at school before that wonderful time of summer vacation.  Life also gets full of fun family and friend time around about now.  There are holidays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, a lot of birthdays for my people, retirement parties, promotion dinner, bike rides, 5Ks, and the sunny days are constantly just calling me to be outside.  It’s all, all of it, is good stuff.  But some days my plate overflow-eth with tasks and goodness alike and I question whether I will actually make it to that magical day in June when we get the teacher prize.

I had a morning recently that felt so rushy and overflowing and the bad side of the word busy.  It started out just fine with some relaxing morning time, trying to start the day in a purposeful way, reading and thinking about how I want to be.  Then by the time I was making breakfast and trying to do ten other things at the same time and still get to work early – make my lunch, prep a gift, answer texts, send emails, make a grocery list, etc, etc…I was so rushy. I was cranky and starting to get annoyed at even good stuff.  So I tried to relax myself on the drive in to school – just breathe, focus on the moment, no radio, no peaking at the phone, notice the sunshine and the blue sky.  I was good.  Until I walked into the building.  And then right back to rush mode.  I rushed through a conversation with a friend and felt bad about it. Someone rushed through a conversation with me and I felt bad about it.  I was running in the hallway even though you’re not allowed to run in the hallways!  I tried to pull it together again before the kids got there – deep breaths, look out the classroom windows and notice the green trees, see the birds.  I felt a little better, so I started to set up my desk for the day, pulled out the lesson plans, pulled out my calendar…and that’s when I realized that I totally, completely forgot about a meeting I was supposed to be at and missed it.  Frowny face.  I felt like I was doing it all wrong.  But I had to pull it together yet again, perk up, calm down and be ready to lead those kids, not rush them through the day.  Lucky for me, these kids know some yoga.  So we did some sun salutations together, practiced a few breathing techniques we know and then went outside for five minutes of play and sunshine.  Then someone gave me a weed flower, and I was back again.

Now, I know there are much worser things that happen to people than a busy morning.  And I know there are much busier mornings than mine.  All you mamas out there getting your own kids ready for school days amongst all this same stuff and more, huge props to you!  You’re amazing! I don’t mean to be complaining, even though I’m kind of complaining.  I am so very grateful for my life! But, you’ve had these mornings, right?  Days that just feel too full to focus? What do you do to help it?

When I thought about how many times I had to regroup that morning before 9 am, and all the things I did to try to help it, I thought of a collection of words that I always notice in this little daily devotional book I’ve been reading.  Words and phrases like – again and again, constantly, repeatedly, never-ending, time and again, over and over, daily, so many times, back and forth. Those words are often talking about how we drift away from our goals and then come back, we get stressed out, but can relax, things go bad and then go good.   And I use the words to remind myself that I’m not doing it wrong.  This is just how it is and this is it.  This is how life goes.  I love how Glennon Doyle Melton, an author and blogger has said it, “Life is hard.  Not because we’re doing it wrong, just because it’s hard.”   Sometimes it is.  Sometimes it’s busy season.  Sometimes it’s not.  I’m just gonna try to do the best I can.  And  look for the good parts and focus on them, even when it feels too full to focus.  Over and over.  Again and again.

I hope someone gives you a buttercup to focus on.

I hope someone gives you a buttercup to focus on.

 

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Gifts of Gratitude

Last weekend, I spent a lovely afternoon with some good friends enjoying a spring festival at a local winery.  I’m just so happy that it finally feels like spring!  And we can spend afternoons outside in the sunshine!  We chatted and sipped wine and ate good food and shopped a little.  And while shopping, I got an unexpected gift and a little chain of serendipity.

I saw these really cool re-purposed wine bottle lamps, vases and wind chimes.  And I wanted one for my patio.  So I bought this one…

photo 1-1And then I got talking to the artists who make them.  You can find them on Facebook here.  I found out that they host DIY parties and teach people how to cut and create their own bottle artwork.  We chatted for a few minutes while they wrapped up my purchase and then the woman told me that I was their first sale that day, and so she was giving me a special gift…

photo 2-1I got a Ling Bling! The artist, Lori Merck Ingwerson, creates these whimsical charmed sun catchers, calls them Ling Blings and gives them to her friends (and customers!) to remind us to be thankful…for what was, what is and what is yet to come.  She sends them with people when they travel and asks that they leave the bling somewhere for someone else to find or to give it away and then to send her a picture of your bling out in the world.  This kind of thing is totally up my alley!  And that’s exactly what I told her when she gave it to me.

I love the idea of giving thanks, of gratitude, and especially of gratitude in action.  I’ve written here before about one of my favorite authors, Brene’ Brown.  She is also a researcher who studies shame.  Which might sound kind of sad, but in the process of studying shame, she has discovered and taught many ways to live courageously and authentically. One of her findings is that people who practice gratitude often feel a deep sense of joy in their lives.  She writes in her book “Daring Greatly” about practicing gratitude.  She says, “I use the word practicing because the research participants spoke of tangible practices, more than merely an attitude of gratitude or feeling grateful.  In fact, they gave specific examples of gratitude practices that included everything from keeping gratitude journals and gratitude jars to implementing family gratitude rituals.”

When I got my ling bling, I immediately thought of this idea and I love how this artist is doing something to spread the spirit and action of gratitude in others. I’ve kept a gratitude journal (because Oprah said to!)  on and off for years.  During some seasons of life I write in it every night, other times I use it more sporadically, and there have been stretches of time when it’s been almost forgotten.  The practice of writing down things, people or situations for which I’m thankful has pulled me through some tough times and helped me savor the sweet seasons of life.  What I’ve found though is that whether it’s a rough season or smooth sailing, I can always find something to be thankful for, and in addition, perhaps most importantly, the more I notice the good things, the more good things show up in my life.

Perhaps a little example of this is that one day this week, as I often am, I was thinking of what I might like to write about.  This ling bling popped into my mind and I decided I would write about it and thankfulness.  So I was scheming up how I’d compose this post, and on that same day I was to teach a lesson to a girls running group that I coach.  When I flipped to that day’s lesson in my coaching manual, I got another little gift from the universe…the topic I was to teach to my little runner-girls…gratitude!  So we practiced turning our ungrateful thoughts into grateful ones.  And then we ran our hearts out!

So I’m holding on to my ling bling for now.  It’s hanging on a hook, right across from where I eat breakfast each morning and where I finish up this blog each week, and I’m looking at it and I’m looking for a good time to give it away or leave it on my path for someone new to pick up and carry on.

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For each lap the girls ran, we wrote a letter or a heart. These rock stars busted out 16 laps! I’m so grateful for these girls, our whole little running crew and the lessons I teach and learn along with them.

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I’m grateful for these friends! I’m grateful for spring, sunshine, wine, artists who share their work with the world, ling blings, food trucks and all my people (I hope you know who you are! 😉

 

 

What Happens at Starbucks

I didn’t quite know what to write about for this week. So I sat around in the coffee shop, looking for inspiration in my old posts (What were my spring hopes again?) and maybe in the pictures on my phone.  I sat scrolling and sitting and thinking, but still my screen was blank. And then I overheard something beautiful at the table next to mine. It touched my heart, so I thought you might like to hear it.

This is not my story to share so I hope I am forgiven for eavesdropping.  I wasn’t trying.  I just couldn’t help but notice the love.  Really, I couldn’t help but notice the adorable baby first.  She was crying when she arrived with her mom.  So mom walked her outside while they waited for their friend.  When friend came, baby settled happily into friend’s lap and the two women chatted.  I didn’t really notice them for a while as I chatted with my own friend.  It was when it was time for me to write, and I couldn’t, that I turned my head and noticed the mom wiping a tear from her own cheek.  I looked away to give them their privacy, and also because I was supposed to be writing, but then I started to hear the friend’s words.  I glanced back and saw that they were holding hands, their eyes were closed and the friend was praying aloud for the mom.  She was asking God for support for this new mom and her family, to send the right people into their lives to help them, praying for the woman’s husband, the baby and also for herself. She asked God to show her what she could do to help the mom.  It brought tears to my eyes.

This moment struck me as beautiful in so many ways – the friendship, the faith, the connection. The mom was struggling and the friend was sending these beautiful hopes of goodness out into the universe for her.  The mom was struggling and here she had this other woman sitting with her as she cried.  I thought of how we are gifted with friendship and family, with each other to help us through.  I thought of how we are called to show up for each other as we walk through the tough times, how my own people have done this for me and how I try to do it for them.  These women were obviously holding some big pain in their hearts, but at the same time they were literally holding this tiny, adorable, baby-girl-miracle in their laps.  And I thought of how we get the most amazing wonders and beauty even in the midst of our hardest trials.  They prayed.  To God.  They prayed to God in public, out loud, right in the middle of strangers.  And I thought of how amazing it is that people can choose to live by faith. Faith in a higher power or even just the hope of happier times to come. Seeing these women…I felt my heart.

And then they left and two college kids sat down and started loudly talking about Nine Inch Nails. Ya know? The band.  And listen, I have been to a Nine Inch Nails concert.  But something about it rubbed me the wrong way, and I wanted to stop them and I wanted to ask them, “Do you know the sacred thing that just happened at this table?!” How could they just sit down and start talking about rock music when people were just crying there and praying?!  My friend and I rolled our eyes and joked about it.  But then we wondered…are they on a first date?  And so I asked myself, “Do you know what sacred thing could be happening at that table?”  Because before the praying women, a couple was meeting with their wedding photographer, dreaming up what would surely be one of their most sacred days.  And I wondered what else has happened at that table – breakups, job interviews, new friendships, house purchases, business deals, and so many just every day average, sacred cups of coffee…all right there in public, out loud.  This life, you guys!  It’s what happens at Starbucks.  And all the other places too!

I'm praying today for moments of happy, for my people and those women, for the college kids and the engaged people, for the photographer and the baristas.  May there be many moments of happy in your days!

I’m praying today for moments of happy, for my people and those women, for the college kids and the engaged couple, for the photographer and the baristas. May there be many moments of happy in your days!

 

Seasons

As I begin to type this post we are preparing for some more snow to fall here.  Also, it will be the first day of spring.  Are these two things really happening on the same day?  It’s got me thinking about seasons.  The literal season change from winter to spring of course, but also, the bigger seasons of our lives, which don’t change as predictably or on designated days.

I live in a location where we get to experience all four seasons.  And lately they’ve been a bit extreme, especially the winters – record low temperatures, like just one measly degree, and a parade of snow and ice storms.  One might ask why people would choose to live in such weather when there are plenty of places in the world where the sun shines and the air is warm most of the days.  In fact, I am that “one” asking the question to myself many a day as I strap on my glacier-grade coat for recess duty.  On those days, if I’m just considering the weather, it feels like there is no good answer.  I might nearly be tempted to start packing a U-Haul and head south.  But then…then…

…then comes this time of the year.  The light changes, the sun hangs out longer and one magical day…I don’t need a scarf!  I can see the grass again, it starts to turn green, the songbirds serenade the sunrise and little buds pop out on brown branches.  The winter seems utterly unbearable at times, but the spring always comes.  And after all, as John Steinbeck wrote, “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?”

I’m sure that people who live on tropical islands do enjoy the warmth of their yearlong summers just fine without ever having to pull on their mittens, but there’s something to be said for coming through the cold and dark season.  It’s such a good lesson from Mother Nature to us about our own lives.  A few years ago I went through a pretty tough season which, (even though I do believe that nothing “just happens”) happened to coincide with winter, and a wonderful coworker-friend of mine gave me this beautiful book called, “Collect Raindrops: The Seasons Gathered.” It’s filled with inspiring words and pictures by artist Nikki McClure. And to accompany the gift my friend wrote a heartfelt note to me in which she encouraged me to take comfort in the rhythm of the seasons.  She wrote, “just as the trees and the rest of nature, you don’t have to flower right now, you just need to survive.  Every day from now, the days are getting longer and you are heading out of the darkness.  Be guided by the healing power of nature which is always renewing itself.”  A little while later, she gave me another thoughtfully chosen card and it said, “Then, when it seems we will never smile again, life comes back.”

That was years ago. And she was right.  That season passed for me and life came back and seasons have come and gone in between. This winter was not at all like that one a few years ago.  Though the weather was a bit rough at times, my life actually had a good amount of growth, lots of good times and flowering.  But every spring since my friend gave those beautiful words to me, I have thought of them.  So if winter tries to linger on and keep us inside with one more day of dark and snow, or if life throws a storm of unwanted stuff our way,  we don’t have to worry,  the spring will come.  Even when it seems like it won’t, we can rest assured,  it will. It will.  Perhaps we just got a few extra dollops of sweetness for the warm days ahead.

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This morning– the sun shines, the trees are dotted with sweetness…”Be conscious and hold on as we spin around the sun one more time.” ~Nikki McClure

 

 

In the Way of Beauty

So, I stayed in on New Year’s Eve and didn’t do much of anything.  Well, to be honest, I did quite a few things, but not your typical New Year’s Eve agenda. It was relaxing, fun and even a little productive.   I made a really nice dinner–salmon with orange and ginger, roasted on a cedar plank, along with sauteed spinach. I also vacuumed. And I was asleep before the ball dropped. I did other things too, but since I already confessed to vacuuming,  I’ll try to save myself from appearing extra, extra dorky here and not list them all.  Let’s just go with my regular amount of nerdiness, ok?  Along with resolutions, I feel like there’s a lot of hype and expectation surrounding a person’s New Year’s Eve plan.  This wasn’t the first time that I’ve stayed home on New Year’s Eve though, so I knew that I could not go out and still be ok.  Better than ok actually. We all agree that waking up with no hangover is better than ok, right?

Still, I wanted to do something to celebrate and welcome the new year, to begin 2015 in a special way.  So here’s what I did…

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I woke up early,  I went out in the cold, I drove to the beach and I watched the first rays of the sun peek over the horizon and shine light on this new year.  It was beautiful!

I got the idea the day before when I was thinking about a quote I heard recently.  It’s from the movie ‘Wild’ which is based on the memoir of Cheryl Strayed.  I wrote about that here. I think this quote is in the book too, but I couldn’t find it when I went back and looked for it.  In the movie, Cheryl recalls her mother telling her, “There is a sunrise and a sunset every day.  You can choose to be there for it, you can choose to put yourself in the way of beauty.” That’s good stuff, right? And what better day to soak up some beauty, than the very first day of the new year?

I’m so glad I went!  I kind of felt like doing some sun salutations right there on the sand, but it was a little chilly for that sort of thing. (22 degrees!) And the Alaskan-grade boots and coat I was wearing don’t quite allow for maximum flexibility.  Then,  I remembered something that Elizabeth Gilbert (of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ fame) has talked and written about – creating your own ceremonies to mark the beginning of a new year.  So I just made up a little new year sacrament.  I thought of some things I’m hoping for in the year ahead, for myself, and for my people.  I found a little piece of a shell and I wrote those things in the sand. Then as the waves came in and washed the words away, I made a little wish and entrusted my hopes to the world, to the universe…

Now, I worried that admitting this little ritual publicly would move me a few notches up on the dork-o-meter, but I don’t care.  Because it made me pretty happy and because I have some big dreams for this year, and I started right there at the very crack of dawn making them come true.  Happy New Year!

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I’m hoping for joy, love, health and beautiful moments for me and mine and that we will be truly awake to really see and feel all of these things this year.

 

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I also went for a little walk…

 

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… and found a heart-shaped rock, not a perfect heart shape, but that’s kind of the point, right?

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Sunrise, January 1, 2015 – “There’s a sunrise and a sunset every day, and you can choose to be there for it.  You can put yourself in the way of beauty.” ~Bobbi Lambrecht, Cheryl Strayed’s mom