Searching for WONDER

These past few weeks have been difficult in the US, and I found myself too wrapped up in the national and local news – the doom and gloom. So in the name of self – preservation I reminded myself to be on the lookout for WONDER – my OLW for January.

On Sunday, my daughter stopped by with my two grandsons for a socially distanced visit to exchange some things we had for each other. When Nolan, age 3, came up the driveway, he searched the blacktop and asked, “Nona, where’s the worm?” You see, the last time he was at our house (several weeks ago) it was after a particularly rainy stretch, and we spent several minutes watching a rather large worm make its way from the lawn, across the driveway, and into the flowerbed. Nolan expected to see that worm again in the same place. Lesson: look with WONDER at the innocent expectations of a child.

Last week we celebrated my grandson Parker’s 7th birthday via Facetime. My daughter made Parker a layer cake that “exploded” with Reese’s Pieces when she cut the first piece. Parker exclaimed, “Mom, you did this for me?!” Lesson: look with WONDER at loving gestures.

Of course, I can’t forget the lessons I learned from my granddaughters, Emma and Isabella (Izzy). My daughter-in-law posted on Instagram a short video of Emma (almost 7) and Izzy (4) commanding Alexa to fart! It was entitled – “Apparently Alexa can do different kinds of farts….Something I wish I never knew!” I couldn’t help but get caught up in the roar of laughter coming from the girls. Lesson: look for WONDER in the unabashed giggles of children.

There is WONDER all around us in the ordinary people, places, and things we passby, overlook, or take for granted each day. Where have you found WONDER this week?

Several Little Words

I was mulling over whether or not to choose my OLW (One Little Word) for 2021 or not. In years past my OLW has gone down the same path as my New Year’s resolutions – lost without a GPS. I was definitely leaning towards now choosing a word (I had given up resolutions years ago) until I read “Choosing a Word of the Month in 2021” by Christie Wyman. which was posted in the Facebook Group, Teach Write: Helping Teachers Grow as Writers If you haven’t checked this group out, you must!

Christie explained in her article how she too had trouble focusing on one word for the entire year, so instead she was going to choose a word for each month instead. I loved the idea and started to imagine what my monthly words could be. Since one of my writing goals for 2021 was to work on a collection of seasonal poetry, I thought I would start there. I chose one word for each season beginning with winter – REFLECT – RENEW – RELAX – REAP, and then looked for inspiring words for each month.

My OLW word for January is WONDER. (N) – feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable. (V) – 1. desire to be curious to know something – 2. feeling doubt.

I have the feeling doubt thing down to a science. It is the other definitions I need to work on. I definitely wonder what the world has in store for 2021, but I want to be curious about life and the people and things that appear in my life. I believe that there are no accidents – everything happens for a reason and a lesson. I want to look at the world through the eyes of wonder, the eyes of a child. So for the rest of the month I am keeping my eyes open to the wonders all around me waiting to be discovered or rediscovered.

He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is a good as dead; his eyes are closed.

Albert Einstein

The Tale of Two Cookies

Last week, my husband bought a bag of chocolate chip cookies – crispy and crunchy. Later in the week, he bought a bag of brownie chip cookies – soft and chewy. And so the tale begins.

The chocolate chip cookies really hit the spot with a warm cup of tea. Little by little the cookies began to disappear, and the few remaining cookies were looking lost in the bag, so I placed the three lonely chocolate chip cookies in the bag with the brownie chip cookies. That was a bad move; the next day, my crispy, crunchy cookies were soft and chewy just like the brownie chip cookies. I should have known better because when I bake chocolate chip cookies, I always store them in a tin because I prefer them crispy.

Now there isn’t anything really bad about chewy cookies; it’s all in the mouth of the beholder. Some prefer crispy, crunchy; and some prefer soft and chewy. But this cookie conundrum got me thinking about the moral of the cookie tale.

Be careful what and whom you surround yourself with because the more you are around places or people the more you can find yourself taking on those characteristics – good or bad. Don’t let your surroundings turn you into someone other than the person you were meant to be – the best version of yourself.

Languishing in a Creative Desert

Your perspective will either become your prison or your passport.

Steven Furtick

Covid has taken its toll on my life in many ways. Thank goodness my family and I remain healthy, but I don’t feel “well” in other ways.  I have lost my creative drive.  I cannot focus on a book for pleasure and my “free time” is often spent watching TV – Hallmark Movies, reruns of Shark Tank, and Guy’s Grocery Games.  I realize that these programs need very little real attention since they are a set format, which is good because my attention span is minuscule.  I am not faring much better in my writing life either as my last blog post was almost three months ago.  

A few days ago, one of my former students posted a video message on Facebook, and the student became the teacher.  Michelle Trifiletti. regularly shares experiences from her journey through life with her followers.  One of her followers made the statement that she wished she had her life “figured out” the way Michelle does.  Michelle took to Facebook to assure us she doesn’t have it all “figured out;” she just has a different perspective. Michelle went on to explain that “things don’t happen to you; they happen for you. They are all in God’s plan to make us into the person we are meant to be  – to learn the lessons we are supposed to learn  to be able to help the people we are supposed to help.” 

Michelle made me realize that it all comes down to trust – trust in the journey –  trust in the process.  As adults we want to be in control; we want to plan and execute the plan; we want to get a certain result.  You would think that by the ripe old age of 62, I would know that control is overrated and plans are meant to be changed, but sometimes we need a reminder. 

So today I am changing my perspective. Maybe I wasn’t languishing in a “creative desert” but rather in a short “hibernation” resting up for a restart and a new adventure. Perhaps all the reasons that I couldn’t focus on reading or writing were happening for me so I could focus on other things that needed my attention. Regardless, I am going to stop trying to figure it out and remember to trust the process.

Thanks, Michelle!

Joy in the Journey

I made this collage over the weekend because I needed a pick-me-up, and nothing picks me up like Autumn. When the calendar turns to September, I know that Fall is not too far behind. It’s hard to explain, but pumpkins, haystacks, cider, and falling leaves in all their splendor bring me a true sense of peace and calm.

September also brings back-to-school. Any excuse to buy new writing utensils, notebooks, and stickers makes my heart flutter like those falling leaves. This year that excitement is tempered by the “new normal” we are all facing. I will be going back in-person to my 7th grade students; and while I am really excited to be back in my classroom, my head is spinning with all the Covid protocols and new procedures put in place to protect the students and teachers. It can be overwhelming if you let it, but I am doing my best not to let it rob me of the joy of teaching and all the reasons I became a teacher so many years ago.

To that end, I have a notebook waiting to be covered with pretty paper that will bring me joy. Every day before I leave school, I will list the things that brought me joy.

I know that I will be exhausted next week when school begins – I am every first week of school every year let alone the first week of school during a pandemic! That doesn’t mean I won’t be joyfully tired!

I know it is going to be difficult for everyone, and some days might be tougher than others, but if I only focus on the tough parts, I am in danger of losing my joy, and for a teacher that is career-threatening. Although I have been teaching for a long time, my journey is not over; Covid is not going to highjack my joy!

Social Media Sadness

What has happened to the art of conversation? As a child, I remember being at my Italian grandparents’ house for holidays and being wide-eyed and wondering at the “talking” going on around the dining room table. My mom was one of nine siblings, many of whom had no problem expressing their opinions in a very “animated” style. I am on the younger end of the cousin spectrum, and didn’t live in “the neighborhood,” so I was not as familiar with this form of communication as some of my older, wiser cousins. To me, it seemed like ferocious arguing that could at any moment break out into a brawl, but by dessert everyone was laughing and talking as if they hadn’t spent the last hour at each others’ throats, and I don’t remember any fistacuffs. What happened to the “good old days?”

Admittedly over the course of this pandemic I have been scrolling Facebook much too much. (I am working on a detox plan.) I love my education groups and discovering new ideas, catching up on the lives of family, friends, and former students and their families. Lately, I have realized this is not a good practice for my health and well-being. I know that tensions are running high after being cooped up for the past five months, but things are getting out of hand.

When you scoll the Facebook feed you see a plethora of post – Republicans vs. Democrats, BLM vs. Law enforcement, parents vs. school boards and teachers. Everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinion and to make decisions for their families based on their own thoughtful discernment, but what’s with all the trash talk? Discussions, if you can call them that have become bash sessions. While I know that going back to school is a hot button topic, and parents, teachers, and administrators are all in a tough spot, the posts I have been reading lately have been so disrespectful to public school teachers (my son is one), school boards, and administrators. I know parents are frustrated; my own kids have been struggling to make decisions about how my grandchildren will be learning in September, but where has all the “maturity” gone? Some of the things I have read have been downright disgraceful. It makes me sad.

I understand that people have different passions and post about them – sometimes when they are very worked up over the topic. What I don’t understand is why they feel they have the right to attack someone else. State your opinion; back it up with facts; sit back and consider the other side. Either you will be stronger in your own stance, move to the other side of the issue, or find some middle ground. The name-calling, insults, and defamation of character gets us nowhere. I wonder if many or most of the people writing the offensive posts would actually say those words out loud to a person? Some most certainly would; others can only “speak” in print hiding behind their computer screens.

What are we teaching our children? What kind of example are we setting for them. I am hard-pressed to think that the people writing these disrespectful posts talk any differently around their family dinner tables in front of very impressionable minds. We need to do better. Our future as a civilized society depends on it. Our children deserve more.

Color Blindness

I have had a difficult time putting into words what my heart is feeling. I never thought of myself as part of the problem, but if I am not part of the solution what am I?

My heart is heavy. My eyes are sad.

They have seen what they cannot unsee.

A man, George Floyd, was murdered this week

by an officer on bended knee. 

His desperate cries went unanswered 

falling on more than one deaf ear.

Another injustice delivered – 

Every black mother’s most dreaded fear.

I watched as many cities went wild – 

my own “City of Brotherly Love.”

I prayed for an end to the looting

And a miracle from up above.

I prayed for those in law enforcement.

I know many an honorable one.

I prayed for those doing the damage,

for they are someone’s daughter or son.

I prayed that I would listen and learn

To open my eyes to what should be.

I am ashamed that I haven’t done more.

“I was blind, but now I see.”

Window to the World

A colleague at school invited me to join the Facebook group, “View from my Window.” I wasn’t really sure about adding another group to my social media scrolling “problem,” but I am glad that I did.

During these past months of staying at home because of COVID-19, this group has become my window to the world, and I have been traveling to places far and near without even leaving the recliner.

I have imagined what life might be like in those well-manicured gardens, sandy beaches, city highrises, desert communities, and seaside villages. I have enjoyed reading the little descriptions that people post along with their pictures. Most are telling bits and pieces of their lives in quarantine. The stories are as varied as the pictures – people who have lost loved ones, frontline workers who are not living at home, people living in countries other than their birthplaces, young parents home with school-aged children, senior citizens happy to still be together – yet they are more alike than different.

I haven’t posted a picture yet because I have been a little intimidated by the beauty of the views I have been marveling over. I wonder if people take those views for granted or if they think they are as extraordinary as they appear to me?

A few things have struck me as I scroll each day.

  • God has blessed us with unbelievably beautiful world.
  • My view of the world has been so very narrow.
  • It is highly unlikely I will see any of these places in person, and that’s OK. Although nothing can compare to seeing beauty in person, traveling within my mind can still bring a sense of contentment.
  • While some people apologize that their view isn’t that beautiful or lovely because they are living in urban setting, there is somthing very pleasing in noticing architectural details.
  • Looking “out” is important in helping us see the bigger picture and in nudging us to look “in” and notice what really matters.

I plan to continue my trek around the globe this summer from the comfort of my couch. Only once school is finished for the year, I will be able to look at these photos closer, spend time researching the various places, and learn more about people around the world whose lives are so different than mine, yet have so many more commonalities than I ever imagined.

Stay well.

Staying Grounded:Letting Go

Today’s notebooking

How do we stay grounded in the midst of confusion? Somedays I wake up with that thought. How am I going to stay grounded today?

Early on in my daughter’s career as a mental health therapist, she would often listen to her father or me ranting or raving about something going on in our lives. It could have been about any number of topics that in the grand scheme of things were not truly important, yet seemed important ot us at the time. She would listen attentively and when we seemed to deflate to a semi-calm state, she would reach out her hand and say, “Here is your balloon; let it go.” She wasn’t being sarcastic; she was providing us with a visual metaphor for releasing the things that were weighing us down and letting them go.

Today there is a storm moving in (literally), and I can hear the wind whistling and whipping around the house. The lights have flickered once, and the forecast is for stronger winds tonight. Will it be as bad as predicted, or will it pass us by? I have flashlights with fresh batteries, so I am ready for whatever it brings.

I feel like the weather is a metaphor for how life right now is so unpredictable. The forecasts are all slightly different; we are not sure what to expect, and we need fresh batteries every morning to get us through the day.

Have you ever seen someone with a bouquet of balloons struggling against the wind to get them in their car? That’s how we are if we hang on to all the things that are weighing us down. We are struggling to keep everything inside when what we should be doing is letting go of those burdens and hanging on to the things that keep us grounded.

My notebooking page above illustrates the things I am desperately trying to let go of and the things which keep me grounded. If I let my balloons go today, these winds will surely send them far and wide. (Yes, I know they are not good for the environment; it’s a metaphor!)

What balloons are you holding on to? Isn’t it time to release them? Look at your two feet firmly planted on the ground and think about the things that keep you grounded. Then you might be better prepared to weather the storms that may come your way.

Stay well.

Discovering the Unexpected

Spending so much time at home alone lately has led me to make some unexpected discoveries.

  • The first weeks of the stay-at-home order were filled with almost nonstop TV viewing and trying to get my head wrapped around the situation. Now I limit my TV News viewing, but I still have no idea which news agency is reporting the truth.
  • The dog nextdoor barks – a lot!
  • I get more accomplished when I am wearing shoes.
  • There are “conversations” that take place during the day. The refridgerator begins to speak and the water heater responds; then the creaking walls and attention getting pipes want their voices heard as well.
  • Being caught up with the laundry really is possible!
  • While I was a little envious of my retired friends, these days at home are really long, and I REALLY miss my students and my classroom.
  • I dislike partisan politics even more than I thought.
  • Evidently I have ringing in my ears that I haven’t noticed before because my life has been too noisy!

I wonder what other unexpected discoveries I will make in the weeks (hopefully not months) ahead? I am definitely learning that I have taken some things for granted, have ignored some things, and have let some things fall off my radar. What unexpected discoveries are you making during this time of COVID-19?

Stay well.