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

Pin by Tour Within on Awakening | Rumi quotes, Rumi, Words

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!

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.

Retreat

10 Beautiful Quotes to Help You Slow Down and Relax - Literally Simple

Today was the first day of my Easter break. It was scheduled to be our faculty retreat day, but because of continued COVID protocols, we did not have an in person retreat. Instead we were given a link to watch Rev. Stephen DeLacy, the Vocation Director of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. We could view it whenever we wanted on an honor system. Fr. DeLacy had some good food for thought, and I think I will watch it again and take notes. While I missed physically retreating to a place for quiet contemplation, I appreciated Fr. DeLacy’s words that touched on so many things I have been experiencing during the pandemic.

When some people hear the word ‘retreat’ they immediately think of a religious experience, but the word ‘retreat’ means the act of moving back or withdrawing – something we don’t do enough of. When was the last time you went on ‘retreat’?

The Slice of Life Story Challenge is a sort of retreat for me. Not the rest and relax type, but a retreat nonetheless. Participating in this challenge with this community of writers is something I look forward to each March. Grant it, some days I am scrambling to get an idea to write about or get a post written before the midnight deadline, but it is still a retreat. I retreat from whatever normally fills those minutes and allow myself to write without feeling that I should be doing something else. It recharges my creativity in so many ways beyond writing.

When was the last time you took a retreat? I have found that I can retreat without leaving my home. Why not try retreating to something that will allow your body, mind, and heart time to heal? What is it for you – reading, listening to music. taking a walk or a drive? Whatever it is, I hope you take the time to retreat from the challenges of this crazy world and to something that helps you renew, refresh, and recharge.

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I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge for the month of March. I will be posting every day this month. It is sponsored by twowritingteachers.org. #SOL21

Flowers

Before I left school today for the start of the Easter break, I flipped my calendar to April and was met with this quote. I decided to put in my writer’s notebook. What evolved from that quote is today’s slice.

Day lily

I have been blessed over the course of my life with good friends. Some of my friends are perennials. They have been with me a long time, and I can count on them to be with me year after year after year. Even when I don’t see them, I know they will return like the spring flowers follow winter.

Dahlia

Then I have my friends who are the annuals. They may change from year to year but they bring their own unique beauty to the garden. Each of these friends has added to my happiness as they moved in and out of my life.

Forget-me-not

Some are more like biennials. We may not see each other every year, but when we finally do talk or meet , it is a sweet reunion

I am not a gardener; plants stay alive in my house thanks to the care my husband gives them. Yet, I love flowers! Cultivating friendships is like cultivating flowers; you need to pay attention and treat them with care. I like to think that I am more attentive to my friends.

Thank you to all of the friends in my beautiful garden of happiness. Each of you, in your own special way, have helped me blossom. You are bouquets of blessings!

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I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge for the month of March. I will be posting every day this month. It is sponsored by twowritingteachers.org. #SOL21

Weathering the Storm

Heartbreak is a storm of the heart. Stand strong in the winds of change. |  Roots quotes, Storm, Wind of change

Last night the strong winds were loud and the windswept rain beat on the vinyl siding. I had touble falling asleep, so I got out my trusty bluetooth headband and cued up a Calm sleep meditation to mute the constant pounding. I was starting to feel more relaxed and it wasn’t long before I was sound asleep.

That was short-lived. Around one AM, I was awakened by another round of driving rain and hammering winds. This time I put on some soothing guitar music and turned up the volume. I snuggled farther down under my covers and thought how glad I was that we don’t have any big trees near our house and that my phone was fully charged. I usually would enjoy listening to the rain lull me to sleep, but last night Mother Nature sounded angry.

This morning I was greeted by colder weather and a full moon that seemed to follow me to school. The winds were still in action (I should have used more hairspray). but the day felt calm.

I feel like we have been in one long angry storm for the last year, and now the winds are dying down, and calmness may soon be at hand. We are coming out of the storm with deeper roots. We have learned just how strong we can be. We are better equiped for the next storm.





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I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge for the month of March. I will be posting every day this month. It is sponsored by twowritingteachers.org. #SOL21

Pain

Funny Body Pain Quotes. QuotesGram

Today was rough. A plethora of ailments keeps me in pain much of the time, but today everything was barking at once. I think if was mostly because of the changing weather patterns. It is cold/cool in the mornings and then warms up as the day progresses; couple that with rain, and I turn into a human barometer. I’m not going to lie; there were even a few self-pity tears.

I couldn’t decide if my knees and hips, the headache upsetting my stomach, or the lower back pain was trying hardest to get my attention, but they all acting like petulant children screaming, “Mom! Mom! Mom!”

I am not being too hard on myself today for my little pity party, because it is the weekend. I spend all week in my classroom plugging along, gathering inspiration from my students, and hiding my pain the best I can. I can figure out a way to keep moving, or I can let the pain win. Losing is not an option!

Time for a cup of tea and an early bedtime. Tomorrow will be better.

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I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge for the month of March. I will be posting every day this month. It is sponsored by twowritingteachers.org. #SOL21