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?!

 

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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!

 

 

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!

 

When I Practice NOT Listening

As a teacher, you could probably catch me saying the word ‘listen’ just a few hundred times a day. But a big practice of mine is choosing not to listen. Somewhere along the line, I noticed a little habit of hesitation in myself. Part of me feels a little lame admitting that, like it’d be much cooler to start out saying that I’m a spur-of-the-moment kinda gal, fly by the seat of my pants, I’ll just jump right in at the chance to do anything. Now, I can be spur of the moment. Sometimes. But the truth is, it’s not my default mechanism. I’m much more likely to overthink be thoughtful about things. Thoughtful is reeeeelly nice for some things, but over-thoughtful can hold you back… if you let it. The best things often happen when I don’t listen.

Here are a few examples of how it’s gone down recently…

Remember when I went to the beach to see the sun rise on this new year? Well, I had the idea to do that a few days before New Year’s Eve, but then, I spent longer than I’m comfortable admitting, debating with myself about whether it was really a good idea or not. It sounded something like this in my mind: “Is it crazy to drive an hour there AND an hour back just to see a few minutes of sunrise? It’s going to be really cold. Do I feel like being that cold? It’s warm in my bed. I’ll have to wake up pretty early. Wouldn’t I rather sleep in? It’s going to be dark for most of the drive. Are drunks still driving home at that hour? Is this safe? That headlight still isn’t fixed, what if I get pulled over? That would suck. That would just ruin the whole thing.” I could come up with a ton of reasons not to go, reasons that I thought might make people think I’m really weird. But then this thought slapped me across the face, “Really?! Are you gonna let yourself talk yourself out of the first idea you had for yourself for this new year?” And that same thought bubbled up again and woke me up at 6 o’clock, with no alarm, just enough time to throw on the warmest clothes I have, drive, park and catch the 7:20 sun show. I’m so glad I didn’t let the hesitation win.

It will keep trying though.

Just this past weekend, I had another idea. One of my friends from college sent a message to a few of us in this ongoing group text session we have. Her kids were trying her patience and for a while we joked about why do we ever get so excited about teaching kids to walk and talk?! Because after a little while, we’ll do just about anything to get them to sit still and be quiet!  We’re kidding. We love kids. But if you spend any deal of time around children, you’ve likely had a day or two like that, right? So my idea? I’ll go surprise my friend. I’ll drive to her house in the morning with some coffee for her and her hubby and doughnuts for the kids. Won’t that be fun? Cue the doubts: “Doughnuts? Not the best thing to calm kiddos, is it? What if they’re still sleeping? What if they have early morning sports? It’s a forty-five minute drive and they could not be there. It’s literally zero degrees. I can’t even leave the treats on the porch if they’re not home. ‘Hey, I left you some sugar rocks and coffee ice-bergs.’ What if they wanted to go out to breakfast? It’s Valentine’s Day, what if they want some privacy? What if one of them is sick?” But then I imagined my friend’s laugh, her surprised face seeing me on her doorstep.  I could almost hear her laughing, like we were in the same room and I thought, “I wanna be in the same room as her!” So the next morning, I picked out all the heart shaped doughnuts and started driving. Halfway there, she sent a text. One of her boys HAD gotten sick the night before. “Long night,” she wrote. Sounds like someone who’d be happy to have a hot cup of coffee delivered to her door. And you know what? She was! She was super surprised! And we sat around the kitchen table and drank coffee and laughed, just like old times. Not listening wins again! It sent me on a little not-listening-high and I surprise-visited my brother and sister-in-law on my way home!

When I confessed my whole sunrise story to a friend, complete with all the worrisome thoughts, she said, “I thought all those same things for you when you sent me that sunrise pic.” So I know I’m not the only one who hears some hesitation, but I love when I’m NOT listening. Or else I would have missed this…

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