Same seats ~ On settling in before stepping out

I began a short-term teaching assignment this week in five public school classes. I put the chairs in a circle and didn’t make seating charts so I could watch the students come in, choose their spots, make their alliances, and figure out the lay of the land in their own ways.

“Sit anywhere,” I said at the door on the first day. Continue reading “Same seats ~ On settling in before stepping out”

Children and money

IMG_2696At my, uh, advanced age, but with a young adult son, I happily live in two worlds of thought. One is my own old school experience and the other is Christopher’s up-to-the-minute know-how. Both worlds meet when I talk about children and money.

Continue reading “Children and money”

Keeping the bridge open

For my mother, being a mother was the greatest joy. It’s been the same for me since the day Christopher was born. I’d do this journey of love and discovery all again in heartbeat. ~Which is why, sitting in church together during his a brief visit home to gather up some things before moving across the country was so hard. I recalled holding him as a baby and then toddler while we bounced and sang, and sitting close with my arm around him as a growing child and youth. This Sunday, memories flooded in and out again as tears and we sat with his arm around me. Continue reading “Keeping the bridge open”

On making first things first

Weather ~ a cool, clear, sunny summer morning

Wildlife ~ hairy woodpecker (looks like downy woodpecker but a little bigger), dove, fox squirrels and gray squirrels, chipmunks, finches, rabbit, cardinals, sparrows, titmice

Mood ~ grateful, one year today since cancer surgery, no problems

Not including our close relationships, what’s most important? – That activity where we invest the most time and money, what we like to talk about. If I’m honest, what I’d like to answer and what I do are often different. I’m looking at starting the new school year as a good time to put first things first.

* Freedom to say yes ~ When I get these right, financial stability and orderliness free me to focus on important opportunities. There’s room for growth here, but I’m going in the right direction with The Dishes.

* Joy ~ Easy to say, right? But whenever there’s loss or struggle, it can be hard to claim joy as a reward. Do you ever look for happiness when it’s really joy you need? I have, of course. Who hasn’t? ~ Claim your hope for the future, recognize overlooked blessings, connect with loved ones, and quiet the critical voices and hard memories. Experience deep joy.

* Eternal blessings~ What is your one unchangeable truth? For me, it’s faith that I am a citizen of heaven. If my choices reflected that knowledge, that passion, my days would be less about survival and distraction and more about worship and service. I would pray more, worry less; study more often that than, oh, say, baking a cobbler and watching a movie. I would enjoy recreation, occupation, and devotion with an eternal perspective.

An extraordinary elementary school principal, Keith Kincaid, a man of great character and great fun, encourages his team to keep first things simple:  Be nice, think solutions, and work with a passion. With that, they achieve kindness to others, balance in life, and meaningful work. That solves a lot of issues in a day!


Start with one corner


Weather ~ a cool, cloudy, early summer morning

Wildlife ~ chipmunks, gray squirrels, and sparrows, cardinals, house finches, titmice, and one nuthatch 

Mood ~ content

I was the youngest in a family with short lifelines and I look forward to the day when we are together again. Until then, we are connected in memories that are surprisingly comforting. And helpful. ~Such as when I haven’t done the dishes for a couple days and I can’t actually see the counters. “Start with one corner,” my mother used to say of spring cleaning. Or even cleaning my room.

Turns out, that works for all big projects and all ages.

Does your child have a long math worksheet? A room to tidy? Term paper? Divide it into smaller projects with clear stopping points and meaningful rewards after each — the younger the child, the smaller the parts. You’ll be teaching time management, self discipline and the power of earned rewards.

Special education aides know the value of dividing worksheets into rows, or columns, or blocks, or setting a timer for the required amount of attention. A small reward of time spent doing a more pleasurable activity follows the completion of each chunk of work.

For anyone with a short attention span, a tendency to procrastinate for fear of failure, or simple dislike for the job at hand, focusing on smaller pieces transforms what can feel like a life sentence into manageable steps. Then success builds on success. I’ve come to approach just about every project this way from complex magazine assignments to cleaning the garage.

What is that daunting project for you today? The household budget? FAFSA paperwork for your student’s college applications? Making Halloween costumes? Sorting and donating unused items in storage? Cleaning the car?

Above all, begin. Start with one page, one corner, or just clear off a workspace and gather the needed materials. Set a timer if that helps, then give the task your full attention, accomplish your first goal, establish a time to do more, then do something fun. You will have earned it!


The power of positive … speaking

Out the window …

Weather ~ a cool, clear, sunny summer morning

Wildlife ~ the usual ground crowd of gray and fox squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits, with a few cardinals, sparrows, and one chickadee by 8 a.m.

Mood ~ quietly optimistic

                                                             ~ ~ ~

“We have to be so careful with our words,” my sweet older brother said to me years ago. And so began a conversation to mend a hurt feeling from a simple misunderstanding.

There have been many such moments in the years since, with others in the family, co-workers and, worst, with children. Children start life open and tender, and these casual moments of distraction and hurt from trusted adults dent them, close them, train them. We can all do better. I can do better.

The Virtues Project is an excellent resource for teachers, families, and friends alike. It teaches the importance of, well, speaking grace.

It’s a simple, if not easy, concept, starting with the difference between praise and encouragement. Praise judges — “I like your drawing,” “You look nice.” Encouragement values and affirms — “You finished the whole thing,” “You made your friend feel welcome.” This is where naming the virtues comes in.

Virtues are positive character traits, such as gentleness, enthusiasm, honesty, courage, and more. We can speak criticism – “You’re so stubborn!,” or we can affirm each other and, in the process, start to see each other more positively too – as in, “I appreciate your determination.”

 Is your child taking too long to get dressed, in clothes you don’t prefer? Will you say “Hurry up or I’m leaving you!,” or “I appreciate how you are taking care getting dressed. I do want us to leave on time. Is there something I can do to help?” You’ll both leave whole and calm, no dents.

Extra credit: Try speaking the virtues to yourself. There’s grace for you too.