Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Generosity 2016

There's a lot to be said about generosity. I think I was placed with a certain person because they have things to teach me about generosity. While there are some things they do that upset me, they are more radical than I am in their generosity.

When I daydream about a windfall, winning the lottery, or suddenly inheriting a decent sum of money from a long lost uncle, I often think about the debts I need to pay off, the repairs the house needs, or the new things I would buy that have been on my list for a long time. 

But I was recently reminded that giving without expecting something in return has a way of paying you back.

It's not just being nice to people, it's being generous that earns you favors. You never know when, or how, or who will help you out, so it's a game of patience and chance. Most people are afraid to play that game.

Also, I think there is a fear that people will take and take if you are giving out. Which is why you have to say no to some things and some people.

Saving up for yourself, feeling like you earned the treat, is good. Giving what you can to others to see the delight, the gratefulness, the joy in their eyes is better.

People used to say 'I've done my good deed for the day', or month, or year, but lately that phrase seems to have died off as more and more are saving up what they have against a time of distrust, war, and unrest.

But now is the time to give. Share, donate, volunteer, and provide respite. Be generous above being nice. Sure, you can hold the door for people, help a young mother load her groceries while she has a baby in a carrier strapped to her chest, or return lost wallets all day long, but you're never going to get the satisfaction that true generosity will bring.

I don't yet know where I will begin this new crusade, but I shall make it my new resolution.


Do What You Love: You

How do you do what you love?

1. Write down what you love most. Make a list, everything from favorite color to favorite hobby. Do they fit into your day in some way? Would you be happier if some of them were in your day more often?

2. Find the connection. How can you work that into your current day or your current career? Will it make you feel better?

3. Start incorporating what you love into your every day. Pin up an inspirational pic, quote, or note to yourself to remember to do or add one thing you love into your day. Then add one more.

4. If things get strained, as in, doing the one thing you love every day is counter to what you are supposed to be doing, begin to rethink your day. Is this the job for you? Is this the way you want to live? Can you make a change? Plan for a change if it is the right thing to do.

5. Take some time every day to reflect on the changes, debrief about the events of the day, and relax. Exercise is often a great way to relieve stress, but don't forget to cool down and stretch. Writing out a journal of the day's events might help you work through your emotions.

6. If your dreams are not reality, is there research you can do to learn more about how to make that happen? Google your passions. perhaps there are free webinars, information, or organizations you can join that will help you live out what you love.

Do What You Love: Me

They say you should do what you love. By loving to go to work each day, you will have a fun and enjoyable experience. You might not want to come home, except, home is where the food is.

If I could do what I love, what would that look like?

I would be a writer. I think I also would be a speaker. I would give to others, teach others, and share.

Some people know what they want. They go after it. I've always been a 'grab the bull by the horns' kind of girl, even if I got thrown down to the ground. I've entered things with gusto and confidence that I could do it, only to end up lacking. The fall from confidence to vulnerability is great and painful. Getting back up and trying again takes courage, but wiping yourself off and turning towards a new adventure is even more brave.

Life is about your experiences. It's is about people, adventure, savoring the moments, and making memories.

Living what you love would include being able to do these kinds of things in your life that make you happy and never having regrets.

I always thought I was a people person. I could read my fellow classmates and give advice about their social relationships because I'm both intrinsically and extrinsically aware of social constructs. But high school is very different from the real world. I found out there were more types of personalities out there than I could handle. I considered a life including some kind of counseling as a career, and for a while I sated this need in chat rooms with writing friends giving advice while I worked toward teaching as a career. Then, that took over my life, the website died, and the friends moved on.

I miss the social part of my life. Going to Trivia every Monday is not cozying up on the couch over hot cocoa and letting it all out to an empathetic ear.

I drown under other, stronger personalities and the weight of making decisions that are more serious than I'd ever imagined. Feeling a bit more helpless and clueless lowers my self-esteem. I blame myself.

I stopped writing, blogging, ficletizing, and creating as all my energy went into planning, staying afloat, and trying to feel worthy in a thankless environment where all I can see are my mistakes and how far I am from the goal. This is not the work that I love. This is stress.

My heart is clearly elsewhere.

Something has to change. I don't know what yet. I know that I need to refocus and re-prioritize during this break from work. I'm starting with writing. Instead of coming home and unwinding with a show or mindless facebook game, I will come home and write first. Without writing, I have lost myself.

After I organize my thoughts and write them down, I will find my focus. New motivation will come, the finish line will appear, and I will race towards it. The calendar will fill with deadlines and projects will become completed.

Once I begin writing, I will renew my energy to get back into the circles of critique and passion. I will find new friends to work with, learn new techniques for marketing, and maybe finally publish something worth reading.


I sat with my family in a booth at TGIFriday's for lunch after seeing a movie (it was a winter vacation family mini date) and I overheard a young adult gentleman counseling his young adult female friend (possibly his sister?) about income. He claimed that $60,000 dollars was the annual income you needed to be at to pay all your bills, save up some money, and save for retirement.

Mentally, I considered this counsel and snickered. First, I wagered that I was in the wrong career since he claimed to make just under that already, but after the sad wistful feeling wore off, I realized he was not taking into account supporting others. If you are SINGLE, $60K is definitely enough to feel satisfied. If you have kids, you'll be in so much debt trying to afford a larger house, larger vehicle, and feeding and clothing them, let alone school fees. He also never mentioned paying off his student loans, either. He's only getting half the picture.

I reflected on being a young adult, with half the pieces of the puzzle of life figured out. Once you finally learn all the life skills that high school never taught you about budgeting, laundry, bills, checking, loans, interest, insurance, and credit you think you have a handle on this adult life thing.

But you don't.

Perhaps this young man would have the knowledge to overcome all possible new obstacles smoothly and feel he always had life by the reigns and perhaps he always will as he learns new nuances about life. Maybe he will advance in his career and decide he needs 120K to live well, or perhaps he will be gobsmacked by a lack of 'gap insurance', or swindled by medical fees, or face any number of challenges that life has a way of hiding.

What would $60K do for me, as a one time gift, right now?

Just for kicks, I sat in the booth and mused about a windfall of this amount as I chewed my 1/2 club sandwich. I'd pay off my student loans, some credit cards that are nearly paid off anyway, re-roof the house, and sock some away for a vacation.

But that isn't very generous of me.

I've decided my new focus is to be more generous. This is my new Resolution. I'll write a post on it later.

Back to the money..

The husband and I have finally gotten on our feet for the first time. We have squeaked by this year paying down old debts and not incurring new ones. We discussed, briefly, what the next step is.

See, we both have had some rough dealings with work. I'm hesitant to say that these kinds of issues wouldn't occur in another place at another time, because they are mostly social in nature. People will always be people and people have a way of being selfish, arrogant, backstabbing, emotionally abusive, or exhausting in so many ways.

We all make mistakes, but calling our current positions stepping stones to something greater might not be one. What if this time in our lives is to prepare us for something greater? We've discussed the dreaded word 'moving' if it means that better things are out there. So far, we haven't made any huge decisions, but we've opened ourselves up to possibilities and opportunities. In this time where we desperately seek change to get away from the caustic environments of our jobs, we are still cautious and wary. We know from experience not to jump into things too quickly.

It's also good to remember where we came from and the young adult mistakes we ourselves made.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Time to Recalibrate: Retail Therapy isn't Real Therapy

Are you Christmas shopping yet? I am.

Last year was the first year I used the internet to shop. This year, I have already ordered.

Work has created enough anxiety for me recently, that agonizing over presents and prices is not something I want to do!

I have had my eye on the "perfect" gifts for my nieces for a month now. They are Animal Babies. Link to the giraffe I went into the store and there was a sale on the item, but the store did not carry the giraffe, nor the white tiger. I went to the store's website and they did not list all of their on-shelf items, and not even a whisper of these particular toys. So, it was back to my amazon cart; always faithfully holding these items for me. I found better prices and clicked "proceed to checkout". Done.

How did I unwind this weekend?

I went to a concert. The parking garage had me on edge. I'm NOT a parking garage person. I don't have much experience with these 'city' things! But I did okay.

Colton Dixon

Britt Nicole

Toby Mac and Hollyn
It was so much fun! I took my sister and youngest son. It was his first concert. Mommy-son bonding time! Plus, I have always wanted to go to a Toby Mac concert. Always. I get to check this off my bucket list. <3 p="">
How should I be unwinding?


At the concert, I was reminded of my dreams and desires. I threw off the anxieties and pressures of late, and I was open to listening to my heart instead of my mind. We were asked what our dreams were and challenged to live what we love and have a passion for.

With all the depression and anger and anxiety at work, I have been seeking solace in retail therapy; getting items for my classroom, for my nieces for Christmas, and even needed clothes for my boys. I have also been watching Netflix shows and Hulu, and I have been reading. None of these are real therapy. None of these solve any problems, push me forward, nor help me reach my dreams. They are escapist, avoidance behaviors.

I haven't been writing. Not a blog, not a letter, not a ficlatté. I have worked on them sporadically, but not like earlier in the year.

I have felt more like a lost soul than ever.

That's not right.

This is not me.

It's time to re-calibrate.

I'm beginning here. I wrote this blog post. I am going to finish a letter to my friend. Then I'm going to open up Ficlatté in a web browser and type something. ( I'm going to reclaim myself. Writing is a way to deal with the feelings. Most of my dreams and goals are author-related. My empathetic being cannot keep pouring myself out to my students, my tutoring students, and my family, and never fill myself back up.

I need to dream, to live, to love, and to be happy again. My therapy, real therapy, is inside; and is expressed through writing, journaling, and drawing.

This is who God made me.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Learning from My Mistakes: Being a Good Leader

I've been VERY busy with school. I have had to make some significant changes to my classroom schedule including adapting for a new student and making changes required by my supervisor. I have begun to deal with the changes that giving my students a Standardized Test which pulls me away from teaching for at least a whole day have wrought upon my schedule. Schedules and plans are the center of my day.
It's also been stressful with adults in my room, my support team, not supporting me. Sometimes it is completely justified, and sometimes it is not. I'm human. I make mistakes. I fall for manipulations, I break things, I forget things, and I get distracted.

I'm on the comeback from some of those mistakes. The student who was such trouble the first 7 weeks is responding to the changes I have made. My support team has been able to de-stress about me and my leadership and again supported me.

I need to find a way to thank them. I need to thank them all year.

But most of all, I need to learn that to be a good leader, I have to be mean sometimes.
I have to change schedules, making some changes that people won't like. Secondly, I have to take their criticism of my actions less personally. That's the hardest for me. I take so much personally. I have cried, lost sleep, and stressed out hard over these personal attacks which I have made worse on myself.

I learned 3 things.

First, that I have to stop explaining my actions and do things to show them I am trying and working. I always want to be an example, but I can't see myself and how I appear to others. I may be doing my job, but appear to be sitting, observing, avoiding, ignoring, or even procrastinating. I have to work with the students, with a clipboard, with a visual schedule right there in front of my class.

Second, their opinions are often skewed. I may be falsely accused. It is far better to talk to me, ask me, and trust that I am telling the truth. Once, one of my staff felt that I was a liar and all my defensive answers to her questions were covering up the truth. They were not. It's hard to convince someone you are being honest when all they hear are lies. In this instance, I was able to later acknowledge her claim, bring evidence that I was not lying, and she had cooled off enough to accept my defense as truth.

Lastly, if I need to confront them, I have back-up in my supervisors. I can present the issue to them and take heart in the fact that I don't have to fight this battle alone. They will intervene if necessary and they will do so tactfully. I hope my 'bosses' are leaders, as I haven't given them the change to 'develop' me and 'coach' me as the pic above defines.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Teaching A Functional Class is Tough

One of the disappointing and stressful parts of my job is when you are the one in charge and a problem comes up that you cannot fix.

In my case, a student has decided to present challenging behaviors.

Yes, there are protocols. We always change the environment, use positive reinforcement, change our strategies and redirect. These always come first. We never know with this student what will be motivating. Sometimes it's saying that Dad wants something to happen, while other times it's using a timer or alarm with a beep that does it. Once the student might work beside the others, seeing that everyone is working, and another time the student wanted to go for a walk and get out of there, so they worked to earn some freedom.

But lately, the mood swings, from working to suddenly hitting the teacher or peers and fleeing the table, have been all-consuming. It takes a lot of energy to stop a speeding train and that is what this feels like. The behaviors escalate quickly and are headed straight for me.

Here's the thing to remember; this class is the only place public education has to offer. This is the bottom rung. I must provide learning opportunities that address what the state and government wants and fits the needs of my students at their developmental level. It's a challenge I accept most whole-heartedly.

When a student misbehaves this violently, safety is first. This means safety of all the humans comes before education. Not comfort, or making things easy, but safety. Are you hearing me?

This means, other students may move to another area of the classroom to work, or even be removed from the class altogether right in the middle of their lesson. This means that no matter how loud or how violent the student gets, we cannot give in to the urge to let them sleep, or to let them go home, if that is what they want. This is not comfortable for us, as teachers, nor the class, but it is what is best for the student who needs to learn boundaries. School is for work.

And boy is it work!

The part where all the interventions and strategies do not seem to be working from day to day is maddening. I understand that this student has a 2-3 month adjustment to new routines. This is a new school year. Everything is new. Just like counting your blessings, you have to reward the student for the small steps and breakthroughs that they give you. I hand out rewards that are earned like they are Halloween candy. But sometimes even that is not what the student wants.

I know that all the things I am doing are right, however it still wears on the body. I'm tired physically when I'm deflecting blows and doing any kind of physical restraint that I am trained to do. I'm tired mentally when my thoughts are bouncing from one strategy to another. Thank goodness for my teaching partners who take over for a bit when the student isn't responding to me! Emotionally, it's exhausting to think that you have to go in to work on a new day and could see a replay of the day before.

Preparing yourself for a day like this requires a lot of energy. It requires patience, doing what you can to prepare the physical environment, prepping and debriefing the wonderful people who help, and finding the positives in the negative.

If you can't do that, even for a moment, it feels very depressing. I have to really chill out at least one day of the weekend before I can focus on making the changes necessary to prepare for a new week.

Then I deal with all the other things that come up: consults with therapists, students who forget their lunch, health problems of students, signing up for meetings, late buses, paperwork, and band-aids, for example. I hope no one ever says that teaching is easy.

I love 3 day weekends. More time for me. More time to prepare. My students asked me if I were going to be thinking about them Monday when we don't have school. I can always answer "Yes!"

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Friday, August 7, 2015

How Setting Up My Classroom Is Like Writing

It's back to school time! I've been frantically trying to set up my classroom. I've moved furniture, put up posters and borders, and sorted items into areas in the room. I haven't located what I did with the batteries, but I'm sure they will turn up.

I found a pedometer and put it on halfway through my day. I logged 2 miles in my classroom. It says 4,598 steps. I came home tired. It didn't feel like I worked that hard, but I guess 4 miles of walking will do that.

The next day I put on the pedometer as I walked to my car. When I walked out of school hours later it said 5 miles.

But besides the exercise of the back to school frantic rush, there was this one revelation...

I've realized I set up my classroom the same way I write a book. 

First, the outline.  I make a floor plan of my room and decide where all the students will go and where all the academic parts will take place. I make a schedule and decide which groups go where and when.

Next, the rough draft. I pull out all of the things pertaining to that area, making it very cluttered. Every toy, device, paper, file, or writing utensil as needed are right there in the right place. But they aren't all used at the same time.

Then, I have to edit these areas like I edit stories. Is this really necessary right now? Can I put it someplace else? I have taken out the things I'm going to use first and left them in the areas in an organized way while putting everything else in the closet. I can rotate toys and books and vocational work tasks later. I don't need a shelf of them hanging around looking slightly messy.

Then it's time to work on the cover art. In my room, I decorate with posters, bulletin board borders, and pictures. I make it look fun and cool and presentable as best I can.
Now, to spend my last free weekend of summer NOT worrying about school!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Went to the Zoo Again and Had A Blast!

Despite it being extremely hot, we went to the Indianapolis Zoo. We went early to see the animals when it was a bit cooler, so they would be willing to move around a bit. By 10AM we were sweating! The animals that had water were in it. The animals that had dirt, shelter, or shade were in it; anything to stay cool! We brought umbrellas because the weather forecast was 60% chance of rain, but the only rain we saw was on the drive in. It was already hot, then, too.
I took 475 pictures. I shared 100 of them on facebook. I can't possibly do that here. Well, I could, but we'd be here forever! I'll share the highlights of my trip.
Firstly, being early, we were able to watch the 10AM Flamingling. Flamingo-Mingling. They let the flamingoes out to see the public!

 This is how close the flamingoes got to my boys. It thought maybe they would come closer but my sons kept moving and scaring them off.

 I love all the birds in this tree. This was the first year we got to see the birds. For me, the more colorful the better!

We saw all the traditional aniamls, lions, tigers, bears, sea lions, walruses, polar bears, giraffes, elephants. Oh, here's a baby elephant.
This zebra picture is one of my favorites.
Then we were able to see the new orangutan exhibit. This building allows them to go climbing outside!

We also got to go to the butterfly gardens. I had not been inside this building before.

Since it was now blistering hot, we spent time in the oceans section with the penguins, sharks, fish, and dolphins. We ended the day with the dolphin show. This year, I actually got some pictures of the dolphins. They move fast, so I was unable to capture them previously.

Dolphins are my favorite animal. I'd go back to school and get a degree in Biology for them. I have so many more pictures. If you want to see an animal, request it in the comments and I'll add it to this post.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.