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!

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

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!

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

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.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

 

 

 

 

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.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

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.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

“…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

 

Courageous Kindness

They’d forgotten me.

Tired and breathless, I began to cry. There I stood, in front of a roomful of strangers, sharing my tears with my old college sweatshirt and my trusty work badge still dangling from my neck. For several weeks, I’d been trying to maintain a facade of strength and smiles. Inside, however, the sheer exhaustion of not feeling healthy was slowly taking its toll.

After 3 months of coughing and finding no relief, I had taken myself to an urgent care on this particularly rough day, checked in, paid my copay, then resigned myself to sit and wait for however long it took until I was seen. They warned me it would be awhile. Hours, even.

Four hours and about fifty coughs later, I hobbled over to reception desk and asked if I was anywhere close to being called yet. They looked at me as if they’d never seen me before, and stared blankly at their list. Their expressions told me everything. Somehow I’d been overlooked.

I had spent the afternoon and part of the evening sitting in a corner that was not within their sight, listening to a Chip and Joanna marathon blaring over my head. I hadn left to go get food, even though I hadn’t eaten…I didn’t even use the restroom because I didn’t want to miss my turn. Now it was past dinner time, and past closing time.

They apologized profusely, and since it’s not in my nature to get angry in front of a roomful of strangers, I fumbled on my words as I produced my receipt of payment and quietly insisted I hadn’t left in all that time. I had gone weeks without proper sleep, had tried various medications, and continued to go to work through it all. I just couldn’t carry this any longer. It was affecting everything.

So when I realized I may have been sitting there waiting longer than I might have done, I wept.

My blurred vision from the tears led me back to my chair, and I kept my eyes on the floor trying really hard to not be noticed. Crying in front of others is not my favorite past time, but I’d been doing it a lot lately. This was not the me I was used to.

I honestly cannot fathom how people with chronic illness persevere. And knowing that they do, my heart holds a special place for them.

All of a sudden there was someone by my side. A beautiful blond-haired woman had abandoned her take-out burrito to come over to check on me. Apparently, everyone in the room overheard what happened as much as I had tried to blend in with the walls.

Sadly, I don’t even know her name, but she said she was in town from Kansas for work. She had arrived awhile after me, but when she discovered how long she would have to wait she had gone next door for a pedicure and some dinner. She sounded congested, like so many of us this season, but she chatted on as though she wasn’t bothered by it much. Impeccably dressed and well-spoken, she had been Face Timing with her children before their bedtime.

I explained in between coughs what had happened while trying to maintain my composure. By that day, I had reached a place where I no longer cared that I was in shoes with no socks (the absolute worst feeling!), with no makeup and wearing the vest that just that morning I’d spilled coffee down the front of. My hair hadn’t been washed in days because I ran out of energy to do even that, and I couldn’t even tell you if I’d remembered to brush my teeth. I remember wishing I had her joie de vivre.

She was just so kind.

That’s what struck me. Most people would watch and listen, but go back to their phones or continue watching the home makeover on TV. But the fact that she left her seat to come see if I would be okay—such a small gesture, just a couple of minutes– but in the moment when I felt so down…it meant so much.

In the middle of our conversation, they called my name and I bolted up so fast my back felt like it would snap. It was time to get a move on. We smiled at each other, wished each other good luck, and off I went ready to be helped. Later, I was the last patient let out into the cold, black night, so I never got to tell her thank you for coming over to comfort me with her benevolent compassion.

As I drove home later, I wondered at her kindness in a roomful of strangers. It is not that unusual, really, if you stop to look around. There is kindness being shown all over, even though the news would like us to believe the world is at its worst. Yes, horrible things truly are happening, but there are still plenty of good hearts out there who know how to extend a helping hand or a comforting word.

I try to be kind, but honestly….sometimes I’m just not that courageous about it. I thought on this for quite awhile, even into the next day. When it comes to strangers, I’m generally cautious. Especially when their emotions are trembling.  If I say something, will I say the wrong thing? Will I set them off into a tailspin? Or will I really be helpful?

This has been bothering me for a few years. For example, I’ve thought on it when I saw a young family struggling with their rambunctious children in a quiet restaurant. I wanted to reassure them that people understand that kids sometimes have meltdowns, or are loud. The mom had given up, clutching the stem of her still-full wine glass staring straight ahead like she wanted to be anywhere else, barely holding back tears of embarrassment. Meanwhile, the dad was about to snap with frustration that none of his efforts could stop his littlest one from happily bellowing gigantic grunting sounds so he could hear the delightful echoes from the concrete walls. They ended up getting the rest of their meal to go and left with heads down, mouths drawn tight.

I wondered after that, if I had just said something to encourage them would they have been able to relax and enjoy themselves? Or would they have told me to mind my own business?

And when a stranger is crying, like I had been. Have I ever reached out to try to offer an encouraging word?

Or have I been afraid?

Thank you, kind lady from Kansas. Thank you for making me think. For causing me to pause from now on when I see someone who is struggling and perhaps attempt to give them a kind word. Further, thank you for being an example of someone who takes the time to see what is happening around them….to really look in a person’s eyes and be attuned to what they may be feeling. For acknowledging that even reasonable, sound-minded people are not immune to unpleasant emotions. There is nothing wrong with that. We. are. human.

It’s kindness, yes. But it requires courage, too. Courageous kindness. 

Let’s have more of that.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” -Colossians 3:12-14

You Are Significant

Do you even know? Can you see it? That glow inside of you that the world sees?

You’re doing all the things. You’re doing the best you can, and you’re pouring out your heart and soul into what you think matters.

And you think no one knows, that no one can even begin to know how hard you work…how high you strive…you may think no one knows what you’re up against or what you’ve battled to get to where you are now.  What they think doesn’t matter…there’s only one opinion that matters, and that’s of the One who made you…who formed you into the special person that you are.

You plug in each day, you try your best, and you keep showing up. You are amazing. Your grit may not be noticed by the passersby, but something within you still says, “Just keep going. You’ve got this.”

So, you persevere. Because the alternative is giving in to self-pity—and there is no time for that. You’ve got bills to pay and people to feed and laundry to do and lives to inspire.

The world needs you…needs your voice, your love…your joy.

Your light is shining for all to see…can’t you see it? I hope you do.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin