I Believe That Kindness Wins

Wanna hear a fun story? I haven’t written much since summer began, but I’ve been wanting to tell this one since it happened. It involves a few good staples of any summer vacation and a big dose of kindness.

I’m assuming by now you’ve all heard about the US Women’s soccer team winning that World Cup. Well, before they did that, a few of my friends and I made a last minute plan to go see the gals play the ladies from Germany in a semifinal game in Montreal.  We considered flying there, but plane tickets were a wee bit expensive with only a few days notice, sooooo…

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…ROAD TRIP!! Isn’t a road trip one of the best parts of summer?

There was head up...

Car games…

...fellow fans driving by...

…fellow fans driving by…

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…and RoadTrip Radio! Even though they wouldn’t let me play this one loud in the border crossing line.

Speaking of lines, let me cut to the best part of this story.  The whole trip was awesome…we walked out of our hotel on the way to the game just in time to see the team leaving their hotel across the street (Heeyyyy, Pinoe!), some nice Canadian bartender made us custom red, white and blue cocktails, we went on a little hike and especially the win, but I think we all agreed on our favorite moment.

We were feeling so excited as we walked to the metro station on our way to the stadium!  It might have had a bit to do with those America inspired drinks or else the Canadian beer, but mostly it was the hype of the game.  Lots of people were walking the streets in Montreal all decked out in their USA fan gear. It almost looked like the 4th of July.  What I guess we hadn’t thought so much about, was that all those people were going to the same place we were, so that when we walked into the metro station our pre-game bubbles deflated.  There was a crazy long line to buy tickets.  Super long.  All the way back to the back wall of the station long. Our hearts sank as we tried to squeeze into line.  I think we were all thinking the same thing, that we would miss the beginning of the game now. But we didn’t have a chance to say it or even really let the disappointment sink in, because the second we stepped into line, a man walked up to us and asked, “Are there four of you?” We all nodded, not sure what he wanted.  And then…he made our night!!  “Here you go!” he said and he fanned out four metro tickets in front of us. “Wait. What? For us?”  And then he explained, “Yeah, we just waited in that line and wanted to let someone else not have to.  Here you go! Have fun!”  OOOH! MY! GOOOOSH!!  Wasn’t that just a sweet and kind and super fun thing to do?! He just bought extra tickets to give away.  And he gave them to us!  Can you imagine our excitement?  It went a little something like this:  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! And then we ran!  We fumbled with how to work the tickets at the turnstile, and then we ran some more.  Straight down the wrong set of stairs to the wrong track.  That’s when another nice man said, “Uh…ladies.  Do you want to be on the other side?”  We darted a look across the tracks and saw our people, all red, white and blue on the other side. YES! Yes, we definitely want to be on the other side!  We yelled out some more thank yous and took off running again.  We were smiling and laughing the whole way to the stadium.  We made it with just minutes to spare before the gals took the field and the whole night we kept saying, “Remember when that guy just gave us metro tickets?!”

And we vowed to pay it forward.  Because making it to the start of the game wouldn’t have been nearly as great if we hadn’t almost not made it to the start of the game. It was the kindness of a total stranger that fixed that.  He made us so happy!  Thanks again, metro man!

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And to all the people we cut in front of, I’m sorry. But not really.  I am a little bit sorry for taking a picture of you, Backwards Hat Girl, while you were looking kinda miserable and I was looking and being so happy. I’ll try to make it up by being kind to some other stranger sometime soon.

 

Ready or Not, It’s Summer!

So here I am, at the beginning of summer vacation.  I’ve been waiting and longing for this moment for the past several weeks.  I usually try hard to stay present and not really count down the days, but the ramped-up pace of the last few weeks of school did have me keeping my eye on this prize.  Something caught me a bit off guard over the weekend though.  I was suddenly hit with this feeling of not being ready for summer.  I was pretty much ready for school to be over.  Though it’s always a little tough and bittersweet to say goodbye to my students, that part I don’t really look forward to, most of the time, I was definitely ready for the busy-ness of the busy season to end.  I certainly don’t want to stretch school out any longer, but all of a sudden I had this mixture of sadness and maybe a little worry because I feel like I’m not quite ready for the clock of summer to start ticking away.  I need to make some plans!  I need a new swim suit! Seriously! How can all the swim suits I want be sold out already?!

OK, I really don’t care all that much about the swim suit, but I was having this weird anxious sort of feeling about summer starting. I was expecting to feel all jumping-in-the-air-clicking-my-heels-together excited like I do at the start of most summers, but that kind of wasn’t the case this year.  I’m quite sure it has to do with a whole host of factors.  A few of which I thought might be worth mentioning here.

One thing is that, endings are hard, even when you’re looking forward to what’s on the other side of the end. This year the end of school brought a few more goodbyes than usual as several close colleagues retired.  I’m often asked, as school is about to finish, about how to handle a child’s sadness and tears about the ending.  A few years ago, I started sharing Brene Brown’s Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto and directing parents to the part about teaching kids to feel their sadness instead of trying to take it away or brush it under the carpet. It’s hard to end something that was good.  It’s hard to adjust to the fact that you won’t be seeing the same people every day who you are used to seeing.  So I tell the kids that it’s ok to be sad about this. I am.  It’s ok to cry about this.  I did.  And then I remind them of an R-word (we’re big on R-words at our school). I tell them that they are resilient.  They will recover from this sadness and fairly quickly too.  I tell them that their heart can be sad and happy all at the same time, even if it feels very weird, it’s ok.  They’ll learn that this is the way of school (and life) and soon, before they know it,  they’ll be focused on pools and popsicles.  And so I’m telling myself the same thing.  (except I might focus on these grown up pops!  Scroll down for the boozy section.)

Another thing about the start of this summer that brought on some weird feelings for me, is the shift in schedule and that I don’t have all my plans all set. I don’t have a giant trip planned. I don’t even know what I’m doing for the rest of today. It feels like a little bit of a transition to go from the super scheduled and jam-packed days of June to the wide open days of summer.  Now, I know this is not an actual problem. There are people who are sick or hurt and there are huge injustices in the world, those are problems. I know plenty of people really deserve the wide-open days of rest and summer and some people never get them. I am so very grateful for mine.  I’m also very positive that I’ll come up with plenty of things to do and those wide-open days will soon be fun-filled.  I’m just saying, I felt a little uneasy about how my time would play out. I want my time to be well spent. I want this to be a really good summer.  But sometimes I fall into that whole trap of thinking that if I’m not being productive, I’m not spending my time well. And sometimes I get too caught up in planning and being “ready.” But only sometimes. I’m reminding myself of what I really know in my heart, that some of my most well-spent time and treasured memories have been those spent doing what seems like nothing with my family and friends, spontaneous happenings, unexpected meetings and unplanned moments.

I’m at that age where time seems to be going a lot faster.  I just kind of want a little buffer zone right now in between when school ends and summer begins.  Like a pre-summer, for deep breathing and dreaming and plan making. But we don’t get that.  So today I’m using a little lesson that my dear friend Regina taught me.  I can’t stop the clock from ticking, but I can notice this moment, this end sliding into this beginning.  And right here, the whole summer is stretched out before me.  Who knows what wonderful things will happen?!  I’m hoping it’s a season full of family and friends, lots of time outside, wonder and big newness.   As much as I can, I’m going to make sure it is.  I’ll keep you posted.

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I really love this line from the book I’m reading right now. It’s called “Phenomenal” and it was written by Leigh Ann Henion about her explorations of some of the world’s most extraordinary natural places. Her life and my life are quite different, but still…I love being wondrously astounded! I hope you also can’t believe your life in a good way this summer and ten years from now. I wish us all many moments of being wondrously astounded. Happy summer!

Just Pretend

I think I may have mentioned once or twice that this is my busy season.  There are so many work things to do before the school year is over! And lots of fun events happening too.  The wonderful thing is that just over the horizon of this busy season is my most restful season–summer!  I am so grateful that not only do I get to do a job that I love, am passionate about and from which I feel overwhelming fulfillment, but I also get the summertime…to rest, to play and to recharge for another school year.

The little problem I’m having right now is that there is so much work to do, but I don’t really want to do very much of it.  I’m pretty sure the kids don’t want to do all that much more work anymore either.  With summer so close, it’s very hard to concentrate on work.  I just want to make a list of a million and five summer fun things to do and then start doing them.  But I can’t.  I have a million and five work tasks that need to happen first. So today I thought I’d share a little trick I pull on myself when I have to do something I don’t want to do.

I play pretend.  I fake it.  Let’s say, for example, that I really don’t feel like teaching spelling.  I might really want to be going for a walk or reading a book or even making a dent in the mountain of paperwork I have to do.  But, I must continue to teach spelling, even if it is June.  So I take a deep breath.  And then maybe a few more.  And then I pretend that I just LOVE spelling!!  (In reality, I do love spelling, but not as much as my usual when it’s warm out and sunny and…June!)  So I smile.  I use my happiest teacher voice.  I take my time.  I don’t skip any of the parts or rush through the lesson.  I pretend that I’m the teacher I always dreamed of being and then… usually, just a few minutes into this little act, something shifts and it’s not an act anymore.  I get in my groove. I’m doing my thing and the thing I didn’t want to do is getting done and I am actually, genuinely, being the teacher I always dreamed of being.

I use this trick for all kinds of things. Often at school. In June.  Did I mention June? When a kid drops his pencil box for the millionth time that day and all the contents splatter across the floor and I do not feel like cleaning up a hundred tiny bits of crayon.  I take a deep breath (try not to let it sound like a sigh) and say, “I’ll help you.”  Then, even though I didn’t feel like it, the mess is soon cleaned up and the child is happy to have had my help.  Or when kids start arguing and maybe I’m pretty sure one of them is lying and another one starts crying and I don’t really feel like being a playground detective and conducting friendship therapy.  I breathe deeply, and say, “I’ll help you.”  I ask a few questions, try to smile with my eyes (not roll them) and soon, the truth is coming out, apologies are being offered and everyone is friends again.

Now, I don’t want this to sound like I don’t like my job and the things I have to do there, like teaching spelling and helping children.  I like my job.  I LOVE my job!  I love my job genuinely and deeply.  It’s just that some days… I don’t feel like it. Some Junes I REALLY don’t feel like it!  And this little trick gives me a jump start when I need it.  I imagine everyone has these days when they don’t feel like it, no matter what their profession, and even in our home lives.  Don’t feel like washing the dishes?  Pretend washing dishes is the best thing ever, then start doing it and next thing you know, they’re done.  Don’t want to workout?  Pretend working out is the most fun ever, then start doing it and soon it’s over.  And usually having these types of things done, gives me an added little boost of happiness.

I tried really hard to find this quote/research about happiness that I read or saw somewhere.  I thought maybe it was by Shawn Achor in his book called, “Before Happiness,”  but I couldn’t find it. And I have too much to do to look anymore.  So I’ll paraphrase as best I can, and if it wasn’t him who wrote this, I’m pretty sure somebody who’s very smart and does research did.  Also, his book is a good read anyway, also his TedTalk. It makes sense to me so…what someone said is, that we often think we act because of how we feel.  Like, I have a case of the blahs, so I can’t go for a run.  But in reality, it more often goes in the reverse order, we actually feel because of how we act.  So I go for a run, and then I don’t feel so blah.  What do you think?  I think it works for me…when I remember to do it.

Only 6 more school days until summer vacation!  I’m gonna pretend I can do it!

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Today’s photo is kind of unrelated, but we had some caterpillars as class pets and then they went and changed into butterflies. Little miracles that they are! This day I wasn’t so good at pretending to be calm when the children were pushing and shoving to get a good look and almost killed our dear pets. It’s ok, though, everyone survived. Aren’t butterflies amazing?!

 

#1 – Passport for Dinner (plus #’s 10 & 13)

When do most people get their passports?  Probably before they’re 34, right? Probably because they’re going on a big trip…maybe to Europe, backpacking, or to some tropical island or maybe a cruise to lots of different places.  Well, I just got mine this summer and I promptly put it to goooood use…I went to Canada!  For dinner.  Nope, not to Niagara Falls, not Montreal.  Not for the weekend or even overnight.  To Frelighsburg.  For dinner. 4 or 5 hours, tops.  You do know where Frelighsburg is, don’t you?  Don’t worry.  I didn’t either/still don’t really.  What I do know is that it’s pretty close to my friend, MC’s lake house in Vermont and dinner in Canada was just one part of a super fun girls’ week on the lake this summer!

Last summer, I was the party pooper because, when dinner in Canada was suggested, I was the only one without her passport.  MC thought maybe we could just tell the border patrol officers that we’d be back real quick and they’d let me go without the passport, but I didn’t think that would work.  We briefly considered the hiding under a blanket in the trunk option but that may or may not have ended with getting arrested, so we nixed that idea too.  The only option was to apply for the passport and wait it out til this year.  So I did and after a little birth certificate confusion got straightened out, I was really happy when my passport finally came in the mail.  And I was even happier when we got to Vermont and I could put it to use! After we crossed the border, we went to a cute little bistro called 2 Clochers. (What does that mean?) We sat outside on their deck which was shaded by lots of trees and overlooked a little stream.  The menu was in French. (4 years of French in high school didn’t get me too far.) But it was tr`es bien(very good)!  Here’s how it went:

One mile to go!

I forgot to sign it. Then the officer asks MC, “So where you going tonight?” And she responds, “Canada.” Yep. There’s pretty much no other option at this point! She probably was not that impressed with or amused by us, but she did give us a good restaurant tip!

Oh yeah, Frelighsburg is in Quebec.

Checking out my first stamp. You have to ask for the stamp when you cross the border here. They don’t just automatically do it. Mine was the only passport out of 4 that she did. I needed a stamp to remember my first use!

#13 – I ordered something with tomatoes!!…

…I was not impressed. With the tomatoes! Once removed, the sandwich was pretty tasty!

Canadian beer > Canadian tomatoes

#10 – I got a lot of peaceful paddles in my kayak. See that mountain in the background? That’s Canada!

I wonder where I’ll take my passport next????

#23 – A Tour of My Own Backyard

OK.  So it wasn’t my actual backyard.  No tour needed there.  Walk out the door and you see the whole thing. It’s a tiny yard but I love it and I’m grateful for it because I love to be outside.  Lucky for me, there are lots of parks with hiking and biking trails and plenty of space for stretching out and exploring that are super close to home and feel just like part of my neighborhood.  Even luckier for me, my pal, Jenna, knows some of these trails like the back of her hand and way back in July, when it was summer play time, Jenna gave me a personal tour of Washington Crossing State Park.  Here’s the trail map:

Washington Crossing State Park

You can click it to see some details or I’ll just tell you a little bit about it.  There are about ten trails that crisscross and loop around each other.  There are horse trails and hiking trails and multi-use trails. Maybe you can mountain bike here? I don’t know.  There’s a nature center and camping and picnicking areas.  There’s even an outdoor theater where you can see plays and movies under the stars. (I haven’t done that though. Add it to the list? Maybe.) The park’s website says there are over 15 miles of moderate hiking trails in this area.  It’s definitely not the biggest park around here.  It’s downright small compared to some places I’ve been hiking, but I loved it just the same.  Maybe even more.  Why?  Because it’s home, it’s my backyard and because when you’re out in those woods, it’s not what people expect or think of when they think of New Jersey. Jenna and I talked a lot about traveling as we hiked that day and I got thinking about talking to people about my home when I’m not here.  I’ve traveled away to other states, as far away as Alaska, and people have actually cringed when I told them I live here. I blame TV.  Now I’m not gonna link to the Jersey Shore show anymore cause I’m sure these ladies aren’t helping much either (even though I completely admit to watching full day marathons!), but I’m just sayin, here’s another way to look at Jersey:Well, anyway that’s some of the stuff I like to look at around here…trees and green.  I’ll work on taking some better pictures, that’s #22.  You should also know that Jenna led the walk that day and didn’t need that map up there at all and I think we did about half of those trails in some combination, maybe more.  She just knew where to turn and connect them, to walk out on the road for a little bit and add an extra mile or two here and swing past the theater there and cleared the trail of logs and debris as we went and then looped back to where we started.  I think the total hike was around 7 miles.  PS- Jenna RAN that BEFORE she met me for the hike! Jenna, you’re AWESOME! Thanks for the tour! Where we going next?

#10 & #24 – Kayaks and Kites

I’ll just go ahead and give you the moral of the story right up front.  It goes like this…

dance in the rainAnd ain’t that the truth?!  We get one – just one – beautiful, amazing life!  We gotta get out there and live it!  It’s kind of what my list is all about/helping me learn.  BUT! But. If there is a storm, I mean an actual weather storm, with thunder and lightning and the whole bit, then you might want to wait it out.  Don’t let it stop you, just be safe.  That’s what happened this weekend when I went kayaking and kite flying at the beach with my good, good friends.  Thunderstorms ended our kayaking trip a bit early and delayed our kite flying for some time, but we did get to do both and we had lots and lots of fun together!  See here…

That little one in the middle is quite the paddler!

That’s not my kayak but I was still so happy to be on the water. And it was the first time I got to go with the little one. We were both psyched about that! Only a little longer til she can do her own boat (or try mine!).

“Look at that cloud! Looks like it’s leaking. Is that rain?”

BOOM! Thunder. Kayaking. Over.
We do some shopping while it pours.

At this beach, kite flying is only allowed after 6pm. So we take a walk by the water while we wait. We enjoy the pretty sky, assess the wind…

…we get hit with a wave while posing for pics…

…then we turn around and see this sky! And BOOM! more thunder…

So we wait it out with a pedicure for tiny toes.

Then when the storm passed…she just went for it! That kite was flying high!

She kept telling me to let mine go higher…

She came over to give me some pointers…

…so I let ‘er go to the end of her rope!

Pure joy! Worth the wait.

Look at those cute beach feet! Thanks, friends! The kayaking, the kites, the beach, the horse racing, taking the pics… the whole weekend was wonderful! xoxo

#24 – Not Too Old for Kites

I love being at the beach!  It’s a great place to do lots of things.  I like relaxing, reading, walking, napping, playing games, swimming, and, my new skill, ocean kayaking wave riding.  But, the beach has got to be the best place for kite flying.  At any other location, you have to wait for a windy day. Around here, that’s probably one day in March.  But at the beach, there’s a good breeze on most days. Sure, kite flying might seem like a kiddie thing to do, but who doesn’t want to feel young at heart? And remember when I was a lil down about being 34? Welp!  I wasn’t sad on my last visit to the Jersey shore. (Don’t forget!! This, NOT this!) There were smiles and laughs when I enlisted a friend and we flew some kites!  When’s the last time you did that?

First, we have to put our kites together.

Then, we get away from the people, because no one wants a kite crash.

And Bre’s kite just sails away!

Apparently, I put the string in the wrong place, so mine needs a little fixing – with my teeth! Aak!

Apparently, my teeth aren’t strong enough and I do NOT like the feeling of biting on string! Kite flying almost becomes NO FUN! But then, Jackie puts down the camera and fixes it for me. Thanks, J!

Bre’s having no troubles!

2nd try…

…and we have lift off!

We don’t know how to do kite tricks. Do you?

Go fly a kite!