The Sunday Gathering: Reading From the Week That Sticks With Me

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Reading is like breathing for me.  If a person is going to write, a reader they ought to be as well.

Sunday is the perfect day to reflect on all of those words and do some thinking about how to put them into action in my life – personally or in my work. Sometimes, this is one in the same.

As an educator, I read somewhere that it is our obligation to share what we learn with others.  Keeping it to ourselves only helps so many individuals.  By sharing it – who knows how far the inspiration goes?

Below is a gathering of some of the reading I did this week that I’m pondering on today.  Get some coffee and reflect along with me and let me know if any of it resonates with you as well. 🙂

Jessica Serran, an artist, guide and psycho-cartographer, blogs about owning your value and your gifts.  Mmmmmm. . . LOVE that.

Over at Circles of Faith, Elise Daly Parker shares a snippet from Holly Gerth’s latest book, You’re Going To Be Okay.  Holly writes about her grandpa’s life of serving and connecting with others.  Another book gets added to my Amazon cart! 🙂

My neice, Micara Link, writes about her panic attacks and shares how she now recognizes these attacks as her body’s way of speaking to her about needing more self-care.  She lists her key tools in her tool box to keep self-care in check. This young lady has shifted my soul in many ways.

I’m working through Jeff Goin’s Tribe Writers e-course and one big thing he writes about to build your tribe in order to share your writing is to create mouth watering anticipation.  Wow.  How do you do that?   Then, I came across Elisabeth’s Ellington’s blog at the dirigible plum.  Every Sunday, she creates a blog entry to round up her online reading from the week.  I anticipate it as I know her choices are ones I will savor and learn from.  So, I’m taking a lesson from her and creating my own Sunday list of readings.  Ta-da! Anticipation!!  Thank you, Elisabeth, for being a mentor blog for me and giving me the inspiration I needed today! 🙂

A teaching blog I follow faithfully is Blogging Through The Fourth Dimensions. Pernille Ripp writes from a deep and thoughtful place about the invisible children in her classroom.  It’s a thinker.

For a laugh, my childhood friend, Val, started a blog this fall to chronicle the issues we women have in our mid-life struggles.  I giggle at her stories because I live them, too.  I hear her voice in her writing and I’m anxiously waiting for her next entry.

Hope you find peace and love in your Sunday  and in the week that follows.

Be amazing ~

Shari 🙂

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Gratitude Quiets The Mind

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Bernice is on a rampage this morning. (Incase you don’t know Bernice, she’s my mind.)

Awakening on a Saturday morning at home, after being gone for almost a week, will get her going like a crazy woman with an anxiety attack.

“Get up and clean this house, for Pete’s sake, it’s disgusting – kitchen, bathroom, bedroom. . . honestly.  The heaps of dirty clothes need to get washed, there are no fresh groceries in the house – get to the store, and you’d better bake something – the boys are home – they are looking for treats, work on some school presentations and planning being  you have all this fresh knowledge in your head from Ohio, and you should get up to school and do some planning for next week anyway, oh my gosh – TAXES!  YOU NEED TO GET GOING ON TAXES!! Your car is still sitting in the driveway, you know from when you hit that deer last weekend!  You’d better get it towed to the shop – and what are you going to drive next week?  Check with insurance and see if you can get a rental and have it covered.  You have not written a blog post all week, you call yourself a writer? TAXES!!  Ugh, walk or do yoga or SOMETHING with your body today – you certainly didn’t need to eat that teramisu and french bread dipped in olive oil last week – not to mention all the other restaraunt eating that does not qualify as very healthy, better change it up – get some food prep done so you aren’t walking that path all week.  Did you exercise AT ALL last week? (Well, yes, I did yoga one day.) THAT’s not enough.  Giddyup!  You’d better call Gracie, have you checked on her lately?  And, your parents, do you even know how your dad is doing??  Check out where the world is on the Ukraine crisis – make sure you spend some time worrying about this – you have two soldier age boys, you know, you NEED to be concerned about this. . . and pray for the people on that missing plane. . . heavens. . .”

She doesn’t stop.  Not even to take a breath.  I dread getting out of bed because I don’t know where to start.

Deep breath – get up and make coffee.

Ritual.  Start with ritual.

Climbing the stairs to my sanctuary to write, I set my coffee down, light a candle and open my notebook that begs for some words on the page.

I hear Bernice tell me to tell me to hurry up – I have things to do today.

Then,  a little nudge of an angel voice whispers in my ear, “Be grateful.”

I close my eyes and breathe from a place deep within myself.

Looking out the window, above my desk, I gaze at the sea blue sky, light fluffy clouds slowly sailing to the east – like ships moving, the sun shining directly in my window onto my notebook, still in rising mode.

My soul wells up.  Bernice quiets down.

I am so grateful for this day God gave me.  This gift of grace.  Of writing, this gift I give to myself, an honoring  of my true self.  The music serenading in the backgound – Chris Rice singing Hallelujas and guitars strumming. My deep dark coffee laced with swirling almond milk – this missing during my days away from home.  The first pen grabbed to write with begs to be written with and words flow out of it. My husband, who never harps on what I should get done on the weekend – he gives me this space.

This is my heart speaking.  I call her “Rose”.

I like listening to Rose.  She’s much nicer than Bernice.

I close my notebook and ask my husband what he’s planning for the day.

He tells me, “A little tv, I might shoot my bow, we should take some fish out for supper.”

I shake my head and smile at his ability to have a quiet mind and wish I could be more like him.  I know this is why God partnered me with him.

“You wanna get bundled up and go for a walk?” I ask.

“Yup, right after this hunting show.”

“Okay.”

I decide to have another cup of coffee and start a load of laundry.

I think it’s going to be a beautiful day.

Loving a Good Disagreement

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My teacher-friend bursts into the room with her laptop.

“Hey there, friend! Ya gotta minute?  I have to show you this  on the computer!”

“What is it?” I ask, excitedly, as I get up from my desk and meet her at the table, anxious about what we are going to see.

“It’s this new app that is out there.  It’s called Spritz. They are claiming we’ll be able to speed up our reading and finish a novel in 90 minutes!”, she beams.

“Oh my gosh!  I saw that earlier!  That’s HORRIBLE!!!! I could never read that way!” I tell her.

“Are you kidding? I WISH I would have had this app when I had to read all those boring psychology books in college!” she argues.

“Well, you wouldn’t be able to remember any of it with all of these words speeding by,” I blurt back.

“I have to disagree with ya there.  Your mind isn’t being taxed because you don’t even have to move your eyes. You don’t have to think about visual tracking, going left to right or anything.  Only thinking.”

“I think I’d be nauseous.” I tell her.

“Why? You don’t even have to move your eyes?”

“I don’t know – it freaks me out.  You would lose the savoring of the book.  Rereading to hear a beautiful phrase over, or to capture some words to use for your own writing because you love them.”

“Do you read all your books that way?”

“Well, most of them.  I’m a little whacked like that.”

“Well, I think of all the college reading that I just had to get read.  There was nothing to savor there.  This would’ve saved me boatloads of time,” she tries to convince me.

“How would you use your reading processes?  You wouldn’t be able to try to figure words out based upon them looking right, sounding right or making sense in the text because you are only given one word at a time?  What about fluency?  Without being able to see what’s coming up, you are not sure how to read with your voice?”

“All I know is that I would have loved this in college and I think it is perfect for when you have a ton to read and you have to get it done.  It’s a good option.”

“Maybe, but I’m not convinced,” I try to agree, but my gut is telling me, “I don’t think so.”

After thinking about it, maybe it would be a good app to use in some situations.  My friend’s ideas about it made me think outside of myself and into a new plane of thinking.

I love to be able to have an intellectual conversation with colleagues, disagreeing on some topic in an attempt to make sense out of something new.  There are only a few people I am able to do this with and I am blessed to have them in my life because they push my thinking and force me to reflect on my beliefs and theories of which I rest my entire teaching philosophy on. Emotions do not come into play because we know that there may not be a right answer, but that our own backgrounds and experiences can help us both to synthesize new ideas at a much greater depth than if we were to try to understand it on our own.

My thought to ponder on is, how can we nurture an environment where all groups of teachers are able to do this?  Certainly, it’s possible. But, what makes it possible?  We’ve all been in settings where it’s happened and you’ve left the group feeling like you’ve been to another planet and back.  We’ve been in other settings where it doesn’t happen and you leave feeling frustrated and stuck.

Einstein said, “We have to think with everything we have.  We have to think with our muscles.  We have to think with feelings in our muscles. Think with everything.  And so it is a flowing process which also goes outward and inward and makes communication possible.”

So, do we just have to all be thinking hard?

It’s more than that.

Joseph Jaworski writes in Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership, “When people come together and go beyond their habitual way of being as a group, even more possibilities open up.  But somehow a kind of block prevents those extraordinary experiences from happening.”  He goes on to quote Bohm, “You’ve GOT to give attention to those blocks.  You’ve got to find out where it comes from both in yourself and in anybody.”   If you can achieve this, the individuals in the group would be able to operate as if with one mind.

Personally, I thrive on trips to that other planet.  I know I have to be conscious of my own blocks that I bring to a group.  The key is to help all in a group to clear these blocks as well, to allow for the intellectual ideas flow through us.

“When most oarsmen talked about their perfect moments in a boat, they referred not so much to winning a race, as to the feel of the boat, all eight oars in the water together, the synchronization almost perfect.  In moments like these, the boat seemed to lift right out of the water.  Oarsmen called that the moment of swing.”

~ David Halberstam

I think that you, pretty much, have to trust the other men in the boat.

Hmmmm. . . . a thought to ponder. . .

Where Writing Comes From

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Awakened by a high pitched whine outside my bedroom door, I cover my head and burrow back into my flannel sheets and quilts.  Saturday mornings are reserved for sleeping in past 6:30, but being the lone human at home this morning, it would be my duty to wake up to Sandy’s calling.

As I shuffle to the biffy first, Sandy follows me.  I sit down and and I receive morning kisses – dog licks on my chin and nose.

“Yes, yes, I’m happy to see you, too,” I smile.

After this reassurance, she rushes into the bedroom to see if her master is awake.  She returns after noticing his absence.  Ice fishing called his name this weekend and Sandy was left behind.  Up and down the hallway she paces.

“Wanna go outside?” I ask her.

Her tail wagging in gear three and jumping means an absolutely “YES!”  Opening the door, she bursts out, galloping over to the woods.

“Sheesh!” I mutter to myself, shaking my head. “How can she be so wound up in the morning?”

I venture off to the kitchen to make some coffee and wrinkle my nose in disgust.  Dishes fill the sink and tracings of yesterday clutter the table.  A full day yesterday at work and exhaustion upon arriving home meant a little reading and right to bed for me.  I pay the price today.

“You need to get this cleaned up before you start anything,” Bernice scolds.

“Well,  it’s going to have to wait,” I tell her, “I have writing to do.

She frowns.  I’m getting really good at talking back to my ego mind.

I fill my cup with coffee and head up to my sanctuary, having no idea  what I might write about today.  However, I know, from daily writing, that if I show up to write, something will come.

A candle is lit. My inspiration playlist gently fills my ears.  I rustle through my pens to choose the perfect one that wants to write for me today.  My notebook opens to a blank page.

Okay. I’m ready.

And, I sit.

My eyes close and I breathe, hand placed over the page.  Deep breaths, breathing in this moment.  Stillness.

“Give me something – something. . . ” I ask.

The trees outside are swaying wickedly as I gaze out the window above my desk.  The sun pops in and out of clouds.  The light so bright I have to squint my eyes.

“Wow! I have not seen that much brightness for awhile!” I say to myself out loud, the spring sun a gift.

The heat kicks in.  A vent on the floor to my right forces warmth up my way.

“M-m-m-m-m . . . this is heaven. . . the sun, the heat.”  I savor it.

Adelle’s turn to sing on my playlist.  Her words?

“Make you feel my love. . .”

I breathe again.  Angel arms wrap around me.  I shut my eyes and smile, a tear squeaking out, feeling His greatness.

“Thank you.  Yes,” I praise.

And, I put my pen to the page.

A Cabin Story (A Cold Morning)

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He slept in this morning.  Way past a hunter’s hours.  Neither of us could force ourselves out of bed.  One slip of my arm outside the quilts tells me why.  It was cold.

A weekend getaway at a primitive cabin in late October sounded blissful.  My husband could hunt and I could write.  What we didn’t expect was the cold.

“The fire must have died out,” I said.

“Probly,” he replies.

“I heard you get up last night.  Didn’t you add a few logs?”

“I can’t remember.”

He didn’t.  I know.  I heard him go outside to the bathroom.  He talked to Sandy (our lab) and then came back to bed.  I don’t know what he was thinking.

“I don’t think you did,” I remind him.

“I guess I didn’t.”  He goes back to sleep.

I lie in bed awake for about an hour.  I’m not so sure I can start a fire in the stove.  Besides, I’d freeze out there.  What would I do without heat?

I could make coffee maybe.  That might coax him to get up and then he could make a fire.  I crawl out of bed.  Looking for my insulated pants, long sleeve shirt, hooded sweatshirt, wool socks and slippers, I hear him mumble something.

“You should put your clothes on under the covers,” I hear him say faintly.

“Why?”

“So they warm up.”

I look at him and shake my head.

“That’s what I do.”  He rolls over and goes back to sleep.

For Pete’s Sake.

Coffee it is.

The coffee maker is an old 1960’s plug in percolater pot.  No filters needed.  It makes dang good coffee.  And it’s loud.  Each percolation is a pop-gun.  I wrap myself in two blankets, put on my cap and mittens, grab my book and wait on the couch.

Finally. . . hook, line and sinker.

“You makin coffee?” he creeps out of the bedroom.

“Yup.”

“Geezzzz, it’s cold out here!” he notices.

“Yup.”

He starts to make a fire.

I smile.

Notice, Name It and Pay A Compliment

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“Learning to compliment others well is a real art. . . receiving any kind of positive feedback (about writing) feels good.  Receiving a compliment that gets to the heart of what one was trying to do (as a writer) feels amazing.”

These words marinate in my brain this morning upon reading them in today’s Slice of Life Day #4 Challenge ~ words from Anna Grotz Cockerille’s post, in how we can teach our kids how to compliment one another’s writing.

Lucy Calkins,  Donald Graves and Donald Murray teach us to notice something positive that the writer did and name it for them.  I begin to think about the teachers in my school who are busy as elves today getting ready for parent/teacher conferences tonight after school.  Some are ready and confident.  Some are anxious and worry.  All are amazing in their own unique ways.

“But, do they know that?”  I wonder.

Not only is it important for us to notice and compliment our writers, but it’s equally and more important to pay attention, notice, name and compliment what others do as humans.  How often do we pay attention to the positive actions others do?  And, if we do take our heads outside of ourselves for a moment to be aware of what’s going on around us and notice it, do we give that someone a compliment SAYING we noticed?

Receiving a compliment that says “You’re awesome” is nice, but the most meaningful compliment is when someone takes the time to let you know they’ve noticed something specific that you did – and named it for you.

That’s authentic.

It’s real.

It’s the evidence that supports our awesomeness and you know what?  Those are the messages our ego needs to hear.

I noticed a teacher being awesome today.  She confronted another adult when she disagreed with something that was going on.  It took bravery to do that.  I’ve seen her be brave like this before.  I’m awed by her.  I told her so today.  I don’t know many adults that go right to the source of a problem when they have one.  She does.

She deserved to be noticed and to be complimented on that – specifically.

I don’t know about you, but my ego doesn’t always believe, “You’re awesome.”

Ego usually says to me, “Yeah, right.  What did you do? I know frosting on poop when I see it.”

But, now, when someone gives me evidence?  That gives me PROOF.

I can then say, “HA!  Take THAT, Bernice!  See? I AM awesome!!”  (btw. . . Bernice is my ego, just incase you didn’t know.)

I challenge you to pay attention, notice and compliment not only other writers today, but other people.

My Angel of Love

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Life Book 2014 Lesson for Week 9 arrived in my email inbox this week.  I stared at it and already knew that I was not going to be able to complete this lesson this week.  Just like I didn’t complete Week 8, or Week 7, or Week 6.

I joined Life Book 2014 this year because I love to art journal, but I don’t make time for it, allowing “real life” to take over most of my time.  The bliss I feel when actually creating in my art journals is pure heaven.  The world disappears and my soul is nourished.  Early on, a disciplined student was I, Weeks 1-3 were completed. Now, the lessons sit idle, waiting for me.

Writing is different.  I write every day, even if it’s only for 10 minutes.  My hang up is making it public.  Fear of putting too much out there, looking like I’m self-promoting or needing attention, or being judged are issues I wrestle with on a daily basis.  This is why I joined the Slice of Life Challenge for March ~ and hope to “put something out there” every day this month, so that it feels natural to do so.

I fear not being able to keep up with it every day, just like my Life Book class.  Who can have something worthwhile to share with the world every single day for an entire month?

A fellow facebook writer friend today told me that I have things worthwhile to say.  Her words were savored by me ~ she probably had no idea how much I needed them right then and there.

How many times have we felt that our words didn’t matter?  That our voice would not be heard even if we spoke up?  Well, it’s not true.  Our words make a difference.  Even, if it’s for only one person.  That one person who needs those words at that one time, so that’s why we write.

I’m sharing my art journal page from my first Life Book 2014 lesson this year.  She is my Angel of Love.  She is a symbol for my WOTY, which is Love.  Gazing at her, she reminds me, to love my work, love my art, love to share my message and that it matters.

10 Tools for Pulling Yourself Out of The Blues

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We’ve had more than 65 days with below zero temps this winter.  Tonight? Another wind chill warning,  45-50 below zero wind chills with our actual temperature around 30 below is expected.  Yay.

This winter has been a hard one.  Not only on the heating bill, and the gas bill, and the extra food bill (we tend to eat more when we’re cooped up), but it’s been really hard on a person’s state of mind.  If it’s cold where you live, you know what I’m talking about.

I’m speaking of the Big D.  And, I don’t mean Dallas.  Or divorce.  Seriously, now.

The Big D (depression) has been following me around since I was a teenager.  I’m pretty good at keeping it under cover – gotta keep that smile on my face, you know, I have responsibilities.  There’s not time for sulking.  Years would go by and I would ignore it, even though I knew I was still carrying it around.   Blah, blah, blah. . .

Because this entry isn’t going to be my life story, I’m just going to say that I’ve come a long way in the Big D department.  It’s taken years.  I’ve also filled a monster truck with tools to combat the gloom when it tries to creep back into my days.  Some days I need tools 24/7.

Here are 10 tools that are the MUST HAVES if you are battling with your own dark cloud lately:

1.  You HAVE to recognize that YOU are not YOUR MIND.

Your mind is separate from who you are.  When you are depressed, your mind is mean to you. It tells you lies.

My mind gets so bossy sometimes, I decided to give her a name so I could tell her to shut up.  Bernice seemed liked the perfect fit.

I have down days when all Bernice does is yak away at how I’m not getting enough done, how bad my hair is, or that I should be working out more because my jeans are tight, or how pathetic the house is, or even worse, sometimes she goes on and on about how I’m a bad mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor, teacher, writer, and person all together.   Basically, I’m doomed.  If I continue to listen to her, I get so bogged down that I don’t even want to get out of bed.

Now that I’ve named her, I can recognize her as separate from me.  I know her voice.  And, I can tell her to take a chill pill, a hike, or whatever else I’d like her to do.

Bernice is not me.  And, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

2.  Start your day with meditation.

I listen to Oprah and Deepok every morning.  I’ve downloaded several of their 21 Day meditation series onto my iphone and I keep listening to them over and over. They last about 10-15 minutes, if that.  As soon as I sit down to do my hair and make up, I turn it on and listen and breathe at the same time.  They help me begin my day with positive energy right from the start.

3.  Keep your car radio on a station that plays uplifting music.

Many a day, the song on my radio has lifted me up from the slums.  My car radio is set to “The Message”, a Sirius Satellite station.  I tell ya, God speaks right to me through music and his love penetrates into your being and dang, that just feels good.

4.  GRATITUDE

This is a BIGGIE.

You NEED to be committed to be conscious about being grateful for as much as possible in your life!  The more you are grateful, the more goodness comes to you.  Start out with gratitude first thing when you wake up.  If you wake up on time, then give yourself a thank goodness I woke up on time.  If you didn’t, well, thank goodness you got a little extra sleep!  Be grateful you have food for breakfast, your car starts, your milk isn’t sour, or even that the toilet paper roll is full.  There is so much to be thankful for and this alone can transform your life.

5.  Move. Your. Body.

Yes, you must do something besides sitting, or sleeping.  Even if you can get a 30 minute walk in, entire gray skies will lift from your being.  If you can do this with a good friend, that will give you a double boost of endorphins because the talking is good for the soul and releases some of that stuff building up in you that is bringing you down.  Some of my best medicine happens during walking and talking with my friend.

6.  Vitamins – get enough B’s

Make sure you are getting a good dose of B vitamins.  B vitamins turn the food we eat into energy and it boosts our metabolism.  If you are tired, sluggish, fatigued or can’t think clear, run out and get some B’s.  I’m serious.

7.  Create Art

Create something.  Anything.  Let the gloom come through your work.  Release it.

I art journal, write, or paint when I am stuck in a funk.  Literally, my muse shows up and works through me and sometimes I do not know where the stuff that ends up on the page even comes from.  All artists feel emotions deeply.  The great ones do something with it.  They create.

8.  Do something every day that you can be proud of.

This might be doing the dishes.  Maybe you were nice to someone.  Perhaps you made it to work on time (if you don’t usually).  Today, I made supper for my husband and I AND I did the dishes!

Remind yourself of this good thing throughout the day.  You really are amazing, you know. 🙂

9.  Do something you love every day.

I love to write.  I love to read.  I try to do them every day.  Even if it’s for 15 minutes.

Make a list of things you love to do or that you love  if you aren’t sure what you even love.  If you aren’t sure, then google “Things I love to do”.  People have lists out there and I’m sure what others love, you love too.  Make a Love List of 100 things.  Live by it.

10.  Laugh.

Oh my gosh, don’t you just love to laugh??  Laughing feels so good and instantly brings you joy.

Some ways to get my laughing fix is to be with kids.  Luckily, I work at an elementary school, so being around kids is my job. If I’m down, 10 minutes of being with kindergarteners will change that in a heartbeat.

Or, watch some Bill Cosby youtube videos.  He is so dang funny, I just cry watching him.  If you have not watched him talk about serving chocolate cake for breakfast to his kids, you have not lived.  Watch it here.  Now.

I have about a hundred more tools.  I’ll keep writing about them this month, perhaps until spring shows up.  I’m going to be using them anyway, I should be sharing them.

Until then, know that you are loved.

Shari 🙂