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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Lessons from the Shimmy

I thought I’d share a little story today about doing things differently. I wrote about habits and routines and how I am trying to do some things the same each day.  But something happened at school a bit ago that made me think about doing things in new ways.

In my teaching life, I am a big fan of routines and consistency.  If you have children or work with children, you’ve probably seen the benefits of this. Kids thrive on doing the same thing over and over.  Think of that “Drop-It-On-The-Floor” game that babies love.  Children, and maybe all of us, like it when we know how things are going to go, when we can anticipate what will happen.  Routines and consistency can also make our daily activities easier to do, because they eliminate decision making.  If you decide that you’re always going to have a turkey sandwich for lunch, you don’t have to spend the energy to plan lunch each day.  Some things we just put on autopilot, and then we end up doing the same things over and over. It’s how you can drive to work seemingly without thinking about it.

So, you might know that I teach first grade and my little kiddos  are learning yoga this year.  And a few months ago, our yoga teacher taught us a little warm-up, movement, dance-y activity called “The Shimmy.”  There’s a song, we sit on the floor, we do some cute little motions to match the words. After the teacher taught us this, I would often lead the kids in doing it at different times of the day as a little movement break. We sit on the floor, sing and dance then get back to our work with renewed energy.  It’s good for the body and brain!  We had done it many times, when one morning, our yoga teacher was back for her weekly lesson with us and we were about to do some chair yoga. Then she said something like, “Let’s start with The Shimmy.  We’ll do it standing up today.”  Whaaaaaaaat?!  You can do The Shimmy STANDING UP?!  The kids and I had the same reaction.  Almost as much as they love routine, they love to learn new things.  I had never thought of doing this dance standing up though.  Now, this is not rocket science.  I am aware of that.  But it just struck me that day how sometimes we always do the same things the same way, but there might be a different way.  It’s a little example of how the familiar and the novel show up in our daily grind.

The author and blogger, Gretchen Rubin, writes about the idea of paradoxes of happiness, how we seek to control our lives through routine and habits, the familiar, but also, novelty makes us happy.  She cites studies which confirm that people who do new things often have more of a feeling of well-being than those who stick with the same old, same old.  So apparently, while not rocket science, there is some science to back up our excitement about the standing shimmy. The author gives examples of new things that are bigger in nature, such as traveling to a new place, and smaller novelties like learning a new game.  My experience with The Shimmy certainly falls into the small change category, but it made me and the kids happy none the less.  It made me think about what other tiny little things could I do differently that I’m not even thinking about.  Eat at the dining room table instead of the kitchen table, arrange the patio furniture in a new way, drive a different route?

Like I said, I know this wasn’t a complicated or difficult change to make, it’s just a silly dance.  But the thing was, doing it in that way, hadn’t even occurred to me. I probably would have never made that change without our teacher showing me a new way.  That part made me think about how we gain from each other in small and big ways.  Sometimes the kids do this thing  where they get mad if another kid “copies them.” (Um, are we adults doing this too?)  I don’t mean copying as in cheating on a test.  I have a very passionate speech to discourage that sort of thing.  What I mean is,  how we get ideas from each other if we are open to sharing with each other and learning from each other.  I got interested in kayaking because someone I knew kayaked, I started running because my friends run and they invited me to join them, my class and I learned a lot about yoga because this mom was willing to share her passion, knowledge and skills with us.  We benefit from each other.  This is how we grow and we bring each other along.

Do something a little different.  Share with others.  Learn from the people.  Just a few nuggets of meaning that I mined from a shimmy.

This picture doesn't have all that much to do with the content.  I drew it to encourage some little runners one day.  I hope it makes you smile today!

This picture doesn’t have all that much to do with the content. I drew it to encourage some little runners one day. Smiles kind of go with everything, right?

Winter Review & Spring Hopes

I have a hard time deciding when is the best season for setting goals.  The winter has all the New Year’s resolutions hype, new calendars and year-in-review stuff.  But as a teacher,  I often find myself making new goals in the fall as I prep for a fresh new year of school.  Still the spring has all the blooming and things coming back to life and that feels like the perfect time for some new plans.  As soon as daylight savings time kicks in and I don’t feel like I need to go to bed immediately after work, I’m ready to come out of hibernation and I’m pumped to make some spring plans.

I think about setting goals fairly often. It was kind of the basis of how I started blogging the first time. I’m often dreaming of new things I want to try, new ways of being, acting thinking.  To grow and learn and improve.  Plans I want to make, places I want to go, things I want to do.  I’m kind of a dreamer like that.  The change of seasons feels like a good time to reflect on the past few months and look forward to the next few. Maybe every season is a good season for setting goals.

Back in January, I made a little list of goals for the winter and I didn’t do too badly in making them happen.  In that post I also wrote about when goals don’t happen, so I’m okay with the ones I haven’t accomplished yet. It’s the trying.  Here’s the list I made and a little update on how things went:

  • write – I’ve written a post every week so far this year.  Last weekend was my 50th post on this blog.  This make me very happy.  I really enjoy the process of writing.  I do it mostly for myself, but I’m very appreciative to my family and friends and even the strangers who read here.  I like hearing that you enjoy my writing and I’m glad when a lesson I’m trying to learn is something you’re working on too.  Makes us feel even more connected.  Thanks for reading, friends!
  • hike – I did not go hiking this winter.  I had envisioned the beauty of snow covered trees and trails, but I underestimated the lovely lure of warmth.
  • go to a few new (to me) restaurants – YUM!  I wrote about that here.
  • host some gatherings at my house – I didn’t host any parties or dinners this winter. That’s what I was picturing – gatherers around my dining room table.  I had visitors, but nothing like I’d planned.  I can’t wait to open the patio soon though.  Patio party anyone?
  • take a spin class – This didn’t happen either.  Some amazing friends of mine wake up before the sun and make it to spin class before work.  I’ve managed to be up and work out in the super early morn,  but not quite getting out of the house for it yet.  Some day friends, I will join you.  I think you are amazing!
  • log a few hundred miles on my bike trainer – Just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling, pedaling, pedaling…I didn’t make it to Canada, but I’ve been spinning my wheels.  Can’t wait to move that bike outside!
  • continue learning yoga – I only missed one of my weekly classes this winter.  I continued learning along with my first graders and have dabbled a bit with practicing at home.  Yoga is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do. And it’s teaching me a lot.  See here.
  • do something that scares me – This.  This blog here scares me a bit.  Putting my thoughts and feelings out onto the interwebs and in front of my family and friends is a little scary.  I worry what people will think of me.  But I do it anyway, because I have to be me-er.
  • plant a terrarium – Ugh.  Why do I want a terrarium again?  Why can’t I just buy one already planted?  Did I ever tell you about the time I had my library privileges revoked on account of a book about terrariums?  I kept it for a year but still didn’t plant the dang thing. I’m a bit of a procrastinator.  And I’m busy.  You too?

I did and didn’t do a lot of other things besides those on the list and those I’ve written about here.  All in all, it was a very good season. I made a lot of changes this winter.  The spring gets a bit more full with commitments for me.  I coach a girls running group, I have to kick things into a higher gear with the bike riding and school gets a lot busier before it winds down into summer vacation.  Those things will fill up my days with happy outdoor time and work, but I’m still hoping to make time for some spring hopes to come true.  Here’s a little list for the season ahead:

  • keep writing
  • hike
  • learn to take better photos
  • break out the kayak
  • try some new yoga classes

It feels good to take some time to consciously think about how I’ve spent my time and how I want to spend it.  While I want to be open to where the flow of life will take me, I also want to live on purpose and make some things happen.  Here’s to spring happenings!

Thank you for reading!

Thank you for reading!

How To Do Tree Pose

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Or

What I’m Learning By Practicing Yoga

I’m not actually going to give you a tutorial on how to do tree pose.  For that you should consult one of my little first graders. He drew that adorable picture and also wrote step by step instructions on how to complete it.

I just officially began learning yoga a few months ago.  It was actually my first graders who gave me the push I needed to really get into it.  I’ve been interested in yoga for a bit and I will admit that I’ve had a yoga mat and blocks and a strap and maybe a DVD or two for quite a while.  5+ years would be my rough estimate.  Maybe I used them thrice in that time. (Yikes! Embarrassed face.) But this year my students are learning some yoga at school, so I was inspired to learn a little bit more than they are. (Are you smarter than a first grader?)  I had been worried that I wouldn’t know enough to take a class, which is silly, I know, but true. So I finally joined a little beginner class at a nice studio nearby.  I have a wonderfully knowledgeable teacher and sometimes no one else shows up to class and then I get a private lesson.  I thought I’d share just a few little tid-bits out of the many things I’m beginning to learn and think about as I do my poses.  Spoiler alert — It’s not all about the physical poses.

The first happened one Sunday when my friend invited me to join her at a different yoga class.  I was a little nervous about venturing out of my beginner level, but I figured that yoga people are supposed to be all peace and nice, right? So I went.  It was a lot more crowded than my usual group and slightly cut-throat about mat placement, but once everyone was settled and the lights were dim, it did feel like peace and nice. There was even nature-y sound music in the background.  I sweat a lot more than usual and a few portions were beyond my beginner ability, but there was a sweet little yogi lesson that I’ve been thinking about in every yoga class since, and many times off my mat too.  Once we had gotten into a pose (I can’t remember the name of it, but it didn’t feel so hot to me), the teacher said something to this effect, “If you’re uncomfortable, try not to get out of the pose as fast as possible, instead, see what you can do to get a little more comfortable in your discomfort.”  She suggested that we maybe lean on a block or bend a knee. And, oh, yeah…BREATHE!!  I kept thinking about that as I finished the class and it was really helpful.  I felt like I didn’t have to resort to giving up on some poses that were a stretch for me, I could just maybe change a little bit or take a few breaths and then the uncomfortable didn’t feel so bad.

Right around this same time, I read a great quote shared online by another yogi who writes at a site called “The Spiritual Spoon.”  I highly recommend you check her page out if you’re into yoga, wellness and/or spirituality. She writes and shares some really wonderful and inspiring words.  The quote she shared said, “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”  That feels kind of overwhelming at first.  I mean, everything I do is a lot of things.  Is that the point, though?  Hmmmm… Anyway, I end up thinking of this quote often before yoga class and many times during it.  Before it because there can be times when something happens that makes me think I might skip class.  I have a super busy day or my friends have other plans and can’t go with me and I think about maybe just staying home instead.  But if the way I approach yoga class is the way I approach everything, what else am I going to skip out on? So I go.  And inevitably during each class there’s at least one pose that feels a bit uncomfortable for me.  I remember my first yogi lesson and try not to get out of the discomfort ASAP and when I hold the pose without toppling (or crying!), I think, what other discomforts can I make it through?

Just this past week, the teacher was showing me a pose and as she was demonstrating she actually said, “I think you can do this.”  But guess what…I couldn’t.  We tried to modify; she tried to support me. It wasn’t happening. I felt like I had zero control over my leg.  (Who’s leg is that?!)  I just couldn’t do it.  After a few tries she said, “Well, here’s your practice.”  I love that yoga is often called a practice, like every time doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as we’re trying. It’s something we work on.  We do it over and over again and try to improve. I can keep trying to improve.  So, if that’s the way I’m trying to do yoga, that’s the way I’m going to try to do everything, even when it’s uncomfortable.

Namaste

In only five simple steps…Namaste!