A Hike, A Hang Out and A Full Heart

So my last post was about this busy season I’m in right now, and it seems to be getting busier and busier.  But a sweet and fun part of this full season, is that it’s also my birthday season!  OK, I don’t claim the whole season for birthday celebrating, but maybe I stretched it out for at least the weekend.  And I might extend it even a little more still too.

I know a few other girls who were also born in May, so I took advantage of several reasons to celebrate and planned a little something.  I’d been wanting to host a get together at my house and also to do some hiking, (my spring hopes come true!), so I combined the two and we headed out after school on a Friday to hike and hang out.

IMG_6360We took the Continental Lane.  Washington’s army did a good job of blazing the trail long ago, so it’s a nice easy walk through the woods.  Which was good for us.  We had kind of a larger hiking party and lots to chat about, so we couldn’t really focus on rock climbing  or scaling boulders.

IMG_6364I had a few moments during the hike and at my house afterwards when I saw this group of ladies before me  and my heart was so filled with gratitude for the people in my life. All the people.  I feel truly blessed to have these gals and lots of other good, good souls in my life and many others who aren’t in my daily days, but who have crossed my path and I keep in my heart.  I wish they all could have been there.  I could probably go on for a while about something sappy like how walking this trail in the woods is symbolic of the paths of life we walk with each other, but you probably saw that one coming, right?  I’ll spare you.  Just saying, my heart filled up. And my eyes might have too a few times… and then someone was walking without a shoe (Not naming any names. Or even initials!) and we had to poke in tree holes and we laughed and talked and walked. IMG_6372I took my Ling Bling along and found a good place to leave it for someone else.  Part of me didn’t want to give it up, but I like the idea that someone else might find it, get a smile from it, feel gratitude and pass it on.

IMG_6369After we hiked enough, we went back to my house and some more friends came.  We muddled drinks and cooked on the grill, enjoyed the patio, toasted to birthdays and friendship, ate cake and lingered around the table.

IMG_6359Full heart!  And a happy birthday month to my May girls!

PS – I didn’t draw that heart.  We just found it there on our path.  I hope you find lots of love on your path today!

 

 

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.

 

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.

photo-94

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.

photo 3-1

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!

 

Sharing Food

I love food!  I think I may have hinted at that once or twice in this space, I mean, except for the tomatoes.  But even those, I have learned to at least try.  I don’t consider myself any kind of chef or foodie expert, I just like eating and I think about it a lot.  I’ve recently given up sugar and nearly all processed or packaged foods which makes eating out a little trickier, but not impossible, maybe even tastier.  A few weekends ago my sweet and super-fun friends, Martha and Neil, invited me and my good friend Jackie, to go dining in Doylestown, PA.

There are so many cute restaurants in this town that it was hard to choose just one for dinner.  I will definitely be going back!

photo 1

We started out at the Station Tap House. This place continued the “It’s Hard to Choose” theme because they have so many beers on tap. If you’re into craft beers (Like I am!), this is a good place to do some tasting. We each chose a different brew and enjoyed the Happy Hour crowd.

For dinner, we chose The Hattery, which is the bar and restaurant of the Doylestown Inn, a quaint little historic hotel in the middle of town.  The restaurant’s full name is The Hattery Stove & Still which combines a few things that the building used to be – a hattery, a cigar shop, a shoe store, a restaurant and a speakeasy.  There are so many cool things in the decor of this place.  I wish I’d taken more and better pictures, but here are a few things I enjoyed…

Hanging hat lights above the upstairs bar

Hanging hat lights above the upstairs bar…

Unicycle bar stools...

..and unicycle bar stools!

I didn't understand why no one else was riding their stool...

I didn’t understand why no one else was riding their stool.

The food was yummy!  We shared some deviled eggs to start...

The food was yummy! We shared some deviled eggs to start…

I had the salmon with mushrooms and potatoes...

…I had the salmon with mushrooms and potatoes…

And Neil offered to share his fries...How cute is that little fry basket?!

…and Neil offered to share his fries.  How cute is that little fry basket?!

My favorite part of the restaurant were these big frames hanging on the wall with all these great quotes about food.

Like this...

Like this…

and this!

and this!

They reminded me of something my aunts often say, “Sharing food is a sign of affection.”

Because I love food, but I love it even more when I'm sharing it with my people...Thanks for a great night in D-town, Martha and Neil!  You two are always a blast!

Because my favorite part of the night was… my friends!  I love food, but I love it even more when I’m sharing it with my people!  Thanks for a great night in D-town, Martha and Neil! You two are always a blast! (I’m not sure what kind of blast is happening to the lady behind us, but I hope she had as much fun as I did.)

It’s Report Card Time!

Whew!  This week was full.  I had been hoping to write a post about food for this weekend.  But I’m still working on that one.  I didn’t get around to doing the research that I want to do for it. So I was trying to think of another topic to write about here, but I’ve also been preparing to do a different type of writing this weekend – writing report cards for my little first graders!

As I was preparing to report on my students’ growth and learning, a thought occurred to me, “How am I measuring up on these things?” I mean, hopefully it’s clear that I can read and spell.  I’m not so sure that I use punctuation correctly all the time (Too many commas?  Not enough?) and math isn’t my favorite, so I try to keep away from that topic on here.  But there’s this whole other section called “Personal and Social Development”  and it might actually be really helpful for one to reflect upon these types of actions, behaviors and abilities long after one stops receiving report cards from school.  Here are a few items from that area:

  • respecting the rights, property and feelings of others
  • demonstrating self control
  • resolving conflicts appropriately
  • demonstrating self confidence
  • participating willingly
  • seeking help when needed
  • working independently
  • cooperating during group work
  • maintaining attention to lessons
  • producing quality work
  • listening attentively when others are speaking

Of course, these things show up very differently for six-year olds than adults. While my little kiddos need to maintain attention in order to learn how to make change with money, how am I attending to the lessons of change that are showing up in my life? They need to listen as I read stories, but how am I listening to my friends when they tell me about their lives, am I hearing the birds as they sing in the spring mornings? And in all the many times that I’ve completed this report card, I never noticed how “seeking help when needed” and “working independently” are kind of opposites. You can do it by yourself, but we’ll help you if you need it. If only that balance got mastered in first grade, right?!

I’m going to try to find some time this weekend to turn the report card on myself, to reflect on my own growth and development. And as I recommend for the kids, not in judgement, but in a spirit of celebrating success and always aiming to grow. But still, I hope I get an A+!

photo-87

 

 

 

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?