Gratitude Challenge

While perusing Facebook one day, I came across a post by Positively Present which was announcing the start of their annual Gratitude Challenge. It piqued my interest, so I went to the website to find out more. The goal of the “Challenge” is to focus on something to be thankful for every day. Blog author, Dani DiPirro, provides readers with a list of words to help spark the writers’/artists’ sense of appreciation and thankfulness. Since I have been in a writing slump, I thought this would be just the thing to get me writing again. Below are some thoughts inspired by DiPirro’s prompt list. I am still working on #6 and #9.

#1 WORDS – My world revolves around words – reading them and writing them. I am thankful that I have a love for words. Words have the power to heal, to hurt, to inspire, to tear down. If I can make my students understand how important and powerful their words are, I will have done my job as a teacher.

#2 OPTIMISM – I am thankful for days that I can be optimistic. I decided to make a list of synonyms for the word optimism.
#3 COLOR – There are no better colors than Autumn leaves. It is my favorite season, and I try to drink in nature’s beauty as if I am seeing it for the first time, appreciating it as if it were my last time.

#4 LAUGHTER – I don’t laugh as much as I used to; I read somewhere that the average adult laughs 17 times a day while a child laughs 300 times a day. I don’t even think I make it to 17 some days. Yet, I am very thankful for the people I can count on to make me laugh. My husband is never at a loss for “Dad jokes,” but being able to laugh together, at each other, and at ourselves keeps us going after 41 years of marriage. My kids and grandkids keep me laughing ALL. THE. TIME. I don’t know where I would be without my book club, The Chapter Chicks; our meetings have us cackling about anything and everything.

#5 HEALTH – Health is something you often take for granted until you have problems. I have a laundry list of ailments – most of which I am managing, but I am thankful that I can still go to school and teach, that even though they are not as sharp they once were, I still have my hearing and eyesight. and that there are generous people who help me manage the things I cannot do because of my health issues.

#7 LOVE – When I hear the word love, I think of my family – my husband, kids, grandkids, my siblings, and their partners. We are not a family that says, “I love you” at the drop of a hat. Those words don’t always roll off of our tongues, but that is not problematic. True love is revealed in actions, not in words, especially over the past four years. I have experienced a wealth of riches in the love department. In my world love looks like an unexpected helping hand to get through a difficult time, loading the dishwasher, filling my tires with air, laundry, an ear to listen to me when I’ve had a bad day. I could go on and on because my family is the best a showing me love!

#8 NATURE – Nature is my muse, my happy place. Now I am not what you would call the “outdoorsy” type at all, but I love observing the wonders of God’s creations from afar. These are just a few of the things that make my heart happy: the flaming colors of autumn leaves, sunrises and sunsets, the first frost crisp and crunchy under my feet. a gentle snowfall, ice-covered branches, winter songbirds, blossoming trees and flowers, fireflies and butterflies, the wind and the rain. We can learn a lot from nature if we only stop, look, and listen.

Faith in Humanity Restored

Sometimes Bad Things Have to Happen Before Good Things Can

Becca Fitzpatrick

Each September has me thinking about the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, especially this year with it being the 20th anniversary. It saddens me every year to recount the events of that day and watch memorial ceremonies. It also saddens me to recall how this country rallied around each other on 9/12; we found that there was more that united us than divided us. Now 20 years later, our country is so divided on so many fronts. It is disheartening. Enter a tornado..

On September 1st, our region in Southeastern PA was under seven different tornado warnings in one evening; several touched down wielding wild winds and destruction. Unfortunately, one the size of four football fields made its way through Ft. Washington, Upper Dublin, and Horsham (the town where I live). The 20 or more tornado and flash flood alerts we received that night were unnerving, but I was one of the lucky ones. The tornado skirted my neighbor by about 1/2 mile. Others were not so lucky.

On Thursday morning, 9/2, I received word that there had been significant damage to the school at which I teach. We were set to return on 9/7 with students on 9/8. The tornado lifted part of the roof off on the older side of the building. The four – seven inches of rain that fell completely destroyed two classrooms and seriously damaged many others. While it has been a very challenging couple of weeks, it looks like we will open on 9/20. This is no small feat, and it is only through the leadership of the principal and unbelievable support and help from faculty, parents, and contractors. Again, I was one of the lucky teachers who did not lose classroom and personal belongings.

On Friday, a parent invited me to join an Upper Dublin Facebook page (UD Storm Damage 9/1 Helping Hands) set up to help with disaster recovery. Here is where my faith in humanity was restored beyond belief. While I don’t live in Upper Dublin, many of our school families live there, and so many residents took a huge hit; many losing everything. Yet, seeing how this community ralled around each other was amazing.

What did they do? Everything and anything.

  • Organized chainsaw crews to help cut and remove trees to clear properties. There were men, women, and children with lots of muscle power.
  • Set up meal trains and ran errands.
  • Helped find short term housing for displaced residents – some offering their own homes and extra bedrooms and then helping to pack salvagable items from their homes
  • Gathered supplies – generators, rakes, gloves, lawn bags, water, gatorade, plastic containers – they found a need – they found the supplies
  • Offered to foster family pets.
  • Collected books for schools that lost their classroom libraries, (There were three schools including mine impacted by the storm.
  • Kids had lemonade and bake sales
  • People drove around bringing sandwiches and snacks for the workers
  • Community businesses stepped up by donating food, supplies, and services such as places to shower and charge electronics, mental health help and yoga classes.
  • People offered childcare including for children attending the public schools.
  • Lists of places to find help in the county as well as FEMA were shared. If someone posted a question many people offered solutions.
  • Sold t-shirts and magnets to raise money for disaster relief

I am sure I have forgotten some of the wonderful works of mercy these community members offered to one another, but I will never forget the awe and joy I experienced when I read each new post. Just when I thought I had seen the very best, another generous offer of service surfaced. I felt like those days after 9/11 when we were kinder to one another and respected each other. No one cared if the generous people who offered help or the thankful recipients were Democrat or Republican, Christian or Jew, old or young. They are all just UD Strong.

The thing that I am most thankful for is that these selfless humans are being great role models for the children. The children who lost their homes or possessions see that they are not alone; the children who are helping with the recovery see and feel how good it is to be of service to another without an expectation of tangible reward. My hope is that this is the beginning of positive change.

You Are Seen

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The year is flying by, but the weeks are still long, and this time of the school year is tough. Spring fever is settling in along with Covid fatigue which makes each day just a little more challenging. If there is one thing that living through a global pandemic has taught me is this – there are far too many people in my life I take for granted.

Today’s post is an ode to teachers. Teaching is a nurturing profession, yet most teachers don’t take time to nurture themselves. This year especially has been a test of our courage and strength, our creativity and passion, and our self-confidence and endurance. I see you my friends, colleagues, and online teaching communities. You are seen.

You may not feel it,
but I see you.

I see you
Working – coming in early,
staying late,
working through lunch periods

I see you
Checking – on your colleagues –
on your students –
Tracking down assignments

I see you
Straining – under the weight
of demands being
placed upon you.

You may not feel it,
but I see you.

I see you
Struggling – exhausted
before the day begins
crying when you think
no one knows.

I see you
Worrying – about the sad ones –
the ones who are acting out –
the ones who try to be invisible.

I see you
Smiling – putting on a happy face
while your spirit
is breaking.

You may not feel it,
but I see you.

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What are you going to do to nurture yourself tonight? Turn off the email and put away the school bag. Do what makes you happy, what lightens your heart, what fills your soul. You deserve it!

Making the Most of Each Day

It is better to add life to your days than days to your life.

Rita Levi-Montalcini

On the board ledge next to my desk at school sits a perpetual calendar. Each day I flip the page and read the quote and look at the accompanying picture. Each day I try to find something to relate to either in the quote or in the picture, something to help get me through my day. The above quote was today’s offering; it gave me pause.

I believe that we all have a finite number of days here on Earth as outlined in the plan set forth for each of us by our creator. As I get older, I sometimes (not too often) think about how many days I may have in front of me. I know for sure the number is less than the days behind me, but today’s quote reminded me that the number of days is insignificant. It is what you do with your days that counts.

These past 13 months have been a huge wake-up call. Having so many people and things taken away from me threw me into an eternal case of the doldrums. I went to work, came home, ate dinner, and crashed. Every day was the same, and finding joy was difficult. Lately, I have been making a concerted effort to “add life to my days.”

Here is how it is going –

  • I have made time to read and have finished two books.
  • I weeded the front flower beds and helped my husband spread mulch (well, I supervised).
  • I had an overnight visit with my granddaughters. We made crafts, read stories, wrote stories, played “school,” played Candyland and Greedy Granny. It was exhausting and the best weekend I have had in a LONG time.
  • I am watching the Phillies games after dinner (not always pleasant though).
  • I am driving with the car windows open.
  • I am starting to plan for a couple of get-aways.
  • I am meeting friends for outdoor visits after school.
  • I ordered a new outfit for my sister’s wedding in June.

While everyone’s idea of “adding life” is different, and mine may seem mundane, these are little steps to regaining the joy that I let the pandemic steal from me. What should I do next week? Schedule a take-out night? Have a lunch date with my husband?

What are you doing to add life to your days? What suggestions do you have for me?

Cut Yourself a Break

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During the month of March, I successfully completed the Slice of Life Story Challenge. At the end of the month my writing life was feeling energized, and I committed myself to the Poem a Day challenge where as the title indicates, I would write a poem each day for the month of April. I made it eight days!

In the interest of my love of poetry writing, I had to stop. To me, poetry is like a fine meal; it takes time to prepare and time to enjoy. My poems were becoming more like fast food than fine dining. If this were an episode of Chopped, I would be the first chef going home.

Sometimes goals have to be re-evaluated, and plans need to be changed. That’s OK. I had to repeating this to myself, because I felt like I was letting someone down by not continuing to write a poem every day. Who was I letting down? My millions of followers? Myself? I write almost every day even when I do not publish a blog post. I don’t know why that isn’t enough. Why am I feeling like I failed?

Over the weekend I spoke with my daughter and was telling her my tale of woe. She suggested that I might be putting to much on my “to do” list and that my expectations were too ambitious. She really got me thinking.

Goals should be realistic and attainable or else you are setting yourself up for failure. While wanting to write a poem a day and admiring my circle of writing friends who do, is a nice thought, I know that realistically I can’t do it for a couple of reasons. First, this school year is just so demanding, and some days I don’t get to write until way past the time of coherent thinking. Secondly, poems don’t come quiet as freely to me as prose. I need to spend more time on a poem before I feel ready to share.

So I decided that I am going to feel satisfied that I wrote a poem for the first eight days of April and let it go at that. Hopefully I will write a post a few more before the end of the month, but if not; that’s ok too.

How about you? Are you being kind, patient, generous, and accepting of yourself? Are you cutting yourself a break? If not, you should. It is refreshing!

Color My World

30 Color Quotes for a Colorful Life - Best Quotes About Color

Today we had a middle school club period; I moderate the Poetry Workshop. Our focus today was on color poems. First the students did a quick write about their favorite color, and then I shared Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill. If you don’t know this book, you must check it out. It is a beautifully written and illustrated collection of color poems. Below is my quick draft that I wrote while the kids were writing their color poems.

PURPLE

Purple is royal and regal and proud.
It can be muted, or it can be loud.

In the kitchen purple can be small or big
Eggplants and onions; cabbage and fig

Purple is hyacinths, verbena, and aster.
It’s also in sunsets over the pasture.

If you’re Prince, you see purple in the rain.
If you’re clumsy, you see it after the pain.

Purple has many names; here are some:
amethyst, lavender, magenta, and plum.

What’s your favorite color? Why?

#nationalpoetrymonth #verselove #PAD

Mountain Climbing

Today’s poem is a triolet. “A triolet has 13th century French roots linked to the rondeau or “round” poem. It is an eight line poem.

A (first line)
B (second line)
a (rhymes with first line)
A (repeat first line)
a (rhymes with first line)
b (rhymes with second line)
A (repeat first line)
B (repeat second line) (Writer’s Digest)

Here is my draft of a triolet.

Mountain Climbing

The stairs are always cruel to me
my Mt. Everest for sure
one at a time, knee by knee
The stairs are always cruel to me
I hate that others have to see
that climbing stairs has become a chore
The stairs are always cruel to me
my Mt. Everest for sure.

#poemaday #verselove #nationalpoetrymonth

The Hugs

Big Hug Quotes (Page 1) - Line.17QQ.com

Sunday was the day! On Sunday, we gathered at my son’s house to celebrate Easter. All of the kids and grandkids were there, and my husband had the day off. The weather was perfect fo the egg hunt, and the grandkids loved it.

Sunday was the day! Three of six adults are completely vaccinated while the other three get shot two this week. It had been over a year since we all were in the same room together. Even though we still were wearing masks and the visit wasn’t long with the entire family, it was wonderful! There were hugs for the first time in over a year!

Sunday was the day! I cannot even describe the feeling I had as I hugged my children and grandchildren. I wouldn’t say we were an overly affectionate family, but there are definitely kisses and hugs when we enter and leave each others’ company.

Sunday was the day! I felt hopeful for the first time in a long time.

Going Back to School

someecards.com | Vacation quotes funny, Vacation meme, Back to work after  vacation

Today’s poem is a Cinquain. “Inspired by tanka, the cinquain is comprised of 2 syllables in the first line, 4 in the second line, 6 in the third, 8 in the fourth, and 2 in the fifth. Plus, poets have the freedom to add or subtract one syllable from each line.” (Writer’s Digest)

This is my draft of a cinquian.

Tuesday
feels like Monday
first day back after break
the countdown to the end of school
begins.

Easter Egg Hunt

Today’s poem is a Quintilla.

“The quintilla is a Spanish poetic form that, as you may have guessed from the name, uses five-line stanzas. Here are the guidelines:

  • Five-line stanzas.
  • Eight syllables per line.
  • An ab rhyme scheme in which at least two lines use the “a” rhyme and at least two lines use the “b” rhyme…
  • But the stanza cannot end with a rhyming couplet.”

(From Writer’s Digest).

This is my draft of a stanza of a Quintilla

Kids ran in every direction
to find plastic eggs on the ground
filled with delightful confection
searching and giggling abound
now each have their own collection