Stay Connected, Safely

Down to one.

For the past fourteen years, I’ve shown up each day at work to greet around twenty to thirty children as they come inside our classroom. I love that first part of the day when the air is fresh and the day is full of promise and hope. I see the anticipation on their little faces as they cross the threshold. Seeing their friends is the highlight of each new day.

I also thrive from calling out “hello” and “good morning” to dozens of other teachers and school staff before the first bell rings. Over the years, no matter which school I’m at or which class I have, we’ve been through a lot, the students and I…the staff and I. Ups and downs. Celebrations and heartbreak. And whether the situation is good or bad, we rally around each other and cheer each other on.

While there have been difficult times that we’ve inevitably faced, never have we been forced to band together for a difficult time….apart. Until now.

Today was the seventh school day that I’ve been away from my students because of the shelter in place to try to stop COVID-19 from spreading. We’ve met in video conferencing a few times, but it’s not the same. We are lucky to have such technology, but the human interaction is simply irreplaceable. I don’t have children of my own to look after, but luckily I have my dog and my husband. But he’s busy with his own job, and my dog doesn’t talk. I’m not even sure she listens.

I also miss my colleagues. I’m grateful for our custodians and other staff members who are still reporting to work to keep the campus clean and operating as smoothly as possible. I appreciate our principal thinking of ways to keep some of our routines going through social media, and I love seeing the dedication and helpfulness of our office, district, and other staff. I’m amazed to see my fellow teachers grow with their technology skills in the span of a week, and I never thought I’d be so excited to “attend” a staff meeting as I am now….online…just. to. see. another. face.

Because my world is pretty quiet right now. And I’m sure yours is as well.

I’m down to one.

Just me.

So, resilient as ever, I’ve found some solutions to share with you if you’ve had enough of it, too. And, no, TV isn’t the answer. LOL

Here are 5 things I’ve done this week to combat shelter in place loneliness:

#1) Call someone instead of sending a text. Hearing their voice is such a treat.

#2) Invite someone for a walk, but walk several feet apart from each other.

#3) Schedule a video meeting with a co-worker, friend, or family member (Google Hangout, Google Meet, Zoom, Vimeo, etc.).

#4) Order some take out and go pick up it curbside–it’s a good excuse to see another human being AND it supports your local business. Make sure to wash your hands!

#5) Check out Facebook. There’s more traffic on there lately because it’s a nice way to check in with people in real time while we’re all scrambling with this new normal.

I think it’s so important to maintain human interaction as best we can. As an introvert, I thought this kind of situation would be easy for me. But I’m finding it’s not.

People still need people.

Stay well, yet stay connected…safely!

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3 Ways to Stay Focused Working From Home

If you’re like me, you’ve been suddenly thrown into working from home. Last week, my days were spent learning how to set up online live video conferencing and checking in with my students who found themselves learning at home on the drop of a dime.

I don’t know about you, but half my time was spent in crisis mode trying to do what I could with what I knew while the other half was spent spinning in circles not entirely sure what to do next.

Monday is ready to roll in again, and now that the initial shock is over I’m feeling more prepared to tackle this new phase of working from home. I learned some things this week that I think will be helpful to all of us who are unused to having remote offices and classrooms.

Here are 3 things we can do to help keep our focus while working from home:

#1 Get dressed

When my boss notified us that we would have our staff meeting in a live video platform connecting from wherever we happened to be sheltering in place, she sent a list of norms for this new type of meeting.

One of them was that we would need to make sure we are dressed as if we were showing up to work. The next day, it was super weird to get dressed for work knowing I wouldn’t leave the house. But I was really glad I did because something about putting on work clothes really got me in gear. Honestly, I think it helped me with my productivity. I’ve noticed that if I’m in my cozy clothes, I’m not feeling as professional. Such a strange mental phenomenon, but there you have it.

#2 Use your calendar

Not long into the week, I noticed I kept forgetting what day it was since I wasn’t leaving the house much. Since I didn’t have my normal classroom routine going on, I originally thought my lesson plan book would now be useless. But then I realized I would be able to chunk my list of things to do more effectively in the blocks of time that my lesson plan book (which is a calendar with lots and lots of space for each day) provided. Rather than a big long unprioritized “To Do” list (or several of them strewn out on Post It notes here and there),  I realized I could work more efficiently if I put all these new tasks in one place in a daily agenda. I don’t know about you, but I like the good old fashioned paper calendar/lesson plan book rather than digital.

#3 Take a walk 

At work, I’m used to a lot a walking. Teachers stand a lot in the classroom. We walk to get the kids from recess, to the library, to lunch, pick them up from recess again, move around outdoors for P.E., and walk them up to the front of the school at dismissal. Not to mention all the before and after school errands on campus that are necessary, like going to the staff lounge to make copies, drop things off at the front office, or visit a colleague’s classroom to collaborate. Working at home, there are no school bells to remind you it’s time to transition, so I noticed that at home it’s easy to forget to go outside and get some fresh air. So I’m going to set alarms for a few walk breaks to, well, break up the day. It’s a good thing to do all around. Get out and enjoy the sunshine…and if bad weather keeps you indoors go to Plan B—->turn up the tunes and dance!!!

I hope these suggestions help you get through the next week of your shelter in place. The world still needs us, friend, so chin up and have a great Monday!

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I Am Not A Writer

With sadness, I set down the dish towel I was holding and leaned against the cold, white tiled counter. Outside the kitchen window, a bird sang a melancholy tune that matched my realization. I had been thinking of how much I love to write. I am a teacher by day, but when I come home I find myself writing. About anything, really.

The thing is, I get caught up on whether or not I am truly a writer. What is a writer anyway?

So as I was rinsing a dish this afternoon thinking on how much time this shelter in place would give me to work on my writing, it dawned on me that I am no writer. Or am I?

I tell myself I want to encourage people. But if I’m being honest, so often I’m really trying to encourage myself. I have accomplished a lot of really great things which I am proud of, but there are lots of times when I don’t feel respected out in the world…dismissed. I often feel like I’m just not smart enough or confident enough for others to have faith in my ideas.

I don’t know what that’s all about, or if it’s even true. But it’s what I feel.

So am I just a woman who randomly throws words upon a screen, hoping to be heard?

With writing, there is a lot of inner conflict that I didn’t know I would encounter when I started this blog two years ago. I didn’t realize I’d give too much attention to checking how many “hits” my blog gets. I didn’t know I would crave feedback as to whether or not what I was writing was any good. That wasn’t my original intent. My goal was to encourage. To help others by sharing my thoughts in case they had similar thoughts, and then to inspire them to persevere.

I do get feedback from sweet friends, and I am encouraged to keep writing. But I’m always thinking my writing could just. be. better. So if you have insecurities, writing is one of the toughest things you will ever face.  I am grateful for the ones who Like or comment on my posts. It’s because of them that I keep coming back and share my thoughts. I’m hoping they will be encouraged.

I go to writing conferences, seek inspiration and advice from Facebook groups for writers, and listen to podcasts for writers. But my job keeps me busy, and I’ve never been one of those people who will come home after work and haul their laptop into a closet to stay up past midnight so they can write while the rest of the world sleeps. With my writing, I still struggle with too much of what they call telling, and too little of what they call showing.

Finished cleaning up, I set the towel down and reached for the light switch to turn off the kitchen light….and the question still remained…I couldn’t let it go. As teachers. we teach that writers write to persuade, to inform, or to entertain. I don’t really do much of that.

So I searched and searched, and I caught my breath after reading this list from an article called 7 Reasons Why Writers Write, and You Should Too from The Writing Cooperative:

Why Writers Write

    1. To release their often complex and convoluted thoughts, providing an effective source of grounding and stress release, taking a greater burden off of their shoulders

That. I do all of that. If I let that be my criteria, then I am a writer after all.

Good to know.

Any other writers out there? 🙂

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Challenge Accepted

God gave us hearts, He gave us souls. He gave us personalities and lives, some pleasant and idyllic…but some complicated and tragic. And some of us teeter on the fence, perilously suspended somewhere between fulfillment and discontent. Which are you?

We can choose to conform to all of who others want us to be—demand us to be—or we can choose to be ourselves and not worry so much about who we think we ought to be.

Some of us are like square pegs, and we may never ever fit into the round hole.

And wouldn’t that be nice?

To flee from the formulas, the agendas, the criteria. To breathe and be with God and for God…and not let the people be who we want to please, but instead seek contentment with the Creator? To love like Him and show love like Him and be love like Him.

My heart wants to dance on the white sands of night beaches and be free of alarm clocks and lists. My soul wants to rip the anxious ties that bind it and explore creativity with reckless abandon.

And where do we square pegs fit in this world of ambition and competition and the aspiration of enough-ness…when all we want is to simply be?

Just be.

I know I have responsibilities and I will not desert them, but they do not need to overwhelm my every hour of my every day.  My lungs needs space, my heart needs to maintain its rhythm, and my mind needs rest.

And so I will focus on what needs to be done—but at my own pace, with my own skill, and rising to my own expectations…listening to the voice of reason and not losing sight of who I am.

Just. be. you.

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Why I Love the Sunrise

There are mornings a sunrise appears weak…

and there are mornings when it radiates brilliance so bold it stops you in your tracks.

It’s all about the conditions surrounding it.

Is the thick fog in the way?

Are strong clouds supporting it? Or are they blocking it with their bulk?

Or could it be that it’s just about to shove through the clouds above it with all its might?

The sun will still rise despite the obstacles in its path.

It may not shine so brightly sometimes, but it will still rise.

And when it does, I am reminded that we are like the sunrise, you and I.

We wake up each morning…and sometimes there is fog in our way.

Sometimes we have support, and we beam with gratitude.

Sometimes we have obstacles before us and they block our rays of light.

Sometimes we are on the verge of greatness, and the promise of victory reflects down upon us to urge us onward.

The breathtaking glow, the kaleidoscope of tangerine and lemon…the welcoming encourager—the catalyst of joy.

And there are days when there is not a single cloud in the bluest of blue skies to stand in its way of lifting toward the heavens.

No matter what the conditions are, the sun still rises and lights the world.

It climbs higher and higher with purpose and steadfastness.

And so we rise, too.

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Checking In With You

Now more than ever the world needs encouragement.

Stocks have been plummeting. Schools are closing. Employees are working remotely if they can. Sports and other events are cancelled. Travel has been abandoned. Toilet paper rolls and loaves of bread have vanished from the shelves. Bottled water can be as hard to find as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The world is having quite the scare. At the heart of it all is the spread of the coronavirus.

I’m not going to give my opinion on any of the above. I’m no expert in economics, and I’m not a medical professional. But whether you are in a tailspin of desperation or one who is trying your best to stay positive, the fact is that it hurts. It’s hurting everyone in some way.

But I just want to check in with you for a minute and remind you that if you are worrying over this, remember that this will pass. We will be affected by it. Some people may even be forever changed by it…but think on this: The bible says “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind (II Timothy 1:7).”

I understand there are people who don’t believe in God or Jesus, but I do. And the bible is my owner’s manual on life. God commands us not to be afraid and to trust in Him, so I ‘m going to work on not being afraid. Trusting someone isn’t always easy, even when it comes to trusting our God and Savior, honestly. But we can surely try.

There have been stretches of time in my past when I have not been able to shake the fear…when I’ve sat in hotel rooms or airplanes and worried I may die. There have been seasons in my life when I’ve not been able to sleep because I feared I might have some horrible disease. I’ve watched parents and grandparents suffer with illness and have felt helpless because I couldn’t make things better for them.

Fear is a beast. And in this world crisis, I’m not going to let it win.

We have no control over some things. It is those things we need to let go of so that we can truly live. The things we do have control over we can be smart about and make good choices. In the meantime, we don’t need to allow fear to put us in a headlock where we find ourselves forgetting to be kind to others. Wrestle with the fear and win. Or better yet, don’t even give it the satisfaction of showing up to the fight. We’ve got this.

Be wise. Be courageous. Be kind.

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“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? -Matthew 6:25-27

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let Joy Win

I’m doing laundry today. You know…my favorite thing. Just kidding! While my hands are busy, my mind has been engaged in a gentle spin of a thousand thoughts.

Despite a list of challenges I’ve encountered in the last month or two, this morning I woke up feeling energized and excited for the week ahead. Such a gift— a new dawn, a new day…and I was feeling good. Then, as I went to make my coffee and start the first load of clothes, the memories of those recent hardships tried to cancel out all those positive thoughts.

Thankfully, some kind advice from a friend earlier this week came to mind—the reminder to “take it all in stride”. Being able to accept and tackle difficulties well is truly a life skill, and one I have been able to accomplish more and more. But it takes practice. Instead of dwelling on all the negatives, I instead chose to shake off all those things weighing on my mind and trust in whatever the outcomes may be.

And just like that, joy wins.

Throughout my life as far back I can remember I’ve had my fair share of trials, as well as accomplishments. We all have. We all face obstacles that can feel annoying or insurmountable. They can threaten our joy. But we all have a list of things we can be proud of (and if you think you don’t, I challenge you to make a list of wins in your life to remind you of your awesomeness). It’s important to recall the good stuff.

In this last half of my life (because a few weeks ago the doctor declared I was middle-aged), I am never more thankful than now for the fact that God can see through to our hearts. He knows when we feel overwhelm…He knows what we can handle, and He will give us what we need to persevere. He is available to us through prayer, and His word will equip us through even the hardest of times.

We have that access to Him all because of Jesus and what He sacrificed for us. We are loved—YOU are loved—THAT much. The creator of the universe is our constant companion. We are not alone in our trials, and the love of God–the joy He offers–will carry us through, if we just seek it out.

So hold your head high, my friend. Follow the loving path of the One who loved you first. Remember your strengths and focus on that. You don’t need to dwell on the past…and you don’t need to fear the future. It is waiting for you with joyful anticipation, because with God by your side you can handle anything.

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“…Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” -James 1:2-3

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” -John 3:16