Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking for Color and Giving

Can you believe the year is over? I can't! This week I've gone through such a wide range of emotion.

In the midst of it all my little family took a trip to Nature Realm that is part of Summit Country Metro Parks. The Visitor Center is perfect for young kids--hands on stuff. A naturalist even shared a Fox Snake with Sam. (I stood back--not a big snake fan-understatement.)

While at Nature Realm I was struck by how colorless, gray, and bland the snow covered, barren landscape looked with just a passing glance, but what incredible colors were a gentle gift to anyone who took a little extra time to look. The subtle horizon color when I looked at the tree at the top of this post. And these few stragglers looked like nothing but twisted brown on a little bush, but what surprising colors were there when a flash was added.

This made me think about how often I spend the winter from this point on rushing by and only seeing the gray. I wonder what I will find if I take a little time and shine my own light on the world around me.

In an attempt to shine my own little light, I have joined the 29 Day Giving Challenge. I've written about book 29 Gifts by Cami Walker here and here. I'm looking forward to keeping you updated on what this means for me and the impact of intentionally recognizing giving.

So as we say good bye to 2010, what are your plans for the new year?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Word For The New Year

Drum roll, please. . .

my word for 2011 is BRAVE!

I've already started by finding this definition:

possessing or displaying courage; able to face and deal with danger or fear without flinching

And here are a few thoughtful quotes

  • A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.
    Mohandas Gandhi

  • Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative place where no one else has ever been.
    Alan Alda

  • Fortune and love favor the brave.

So I'm feeling really enthusiastic and a little shy about my new word. I think it's all about taking action--whether the action is waiting or leaping in a new direction. I think it's all about letting go of fear. (I wish someone sold cans of "Fear-B-Gone!") I'm pulling myself out of the "I'm the only one" bubble by planning a Brave Women's Breakfast--more about this soon.

I also think the time is right for my little brave teacher e-zine to get off the ground, and I have lots more ideas for brave teachers--more about all of this will be forthcoming.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Inspired by Christmas

Lots of years I arrive at this point, and I feel like all my creative juices have been spent on Christmas stuff. This year is different. Here are some of the things that have left me very inspired this season:

  • Holiday lights through the eyes of a child
  • Time in the Hopeful World Class--POWER-FULL
  • Berry Christmas Granola
  • Elmo slippers being a most loved gift
  • Heifer Project being the best gift I honored people in giving
  • Our little family's new tradition: A birthday party for Jesus
  • Reminiscing by making (and eating) my mom's fudge and fruitcake recipes
  • Planning the first Brave Women's Breakfast
  • Watching Santa Claus is Coming To Town and Frosty
  • Having a little boy who hearts snowmen in a BIG way!

What is inspiring you today?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Simply Merry Christmas

Wishing everyone simply Merry Christmas!

There were lots of internal and external forces that tried to pull us into more complicated holidays, but for the most part we have resisted. This has given us so much more joy.

What did you do or leave undone to find joy this season?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Vacation, Here I Am!

My highlight since I last wrote was going to look at lights to celebrate the Winter Solstice with my little family. There is nothing like driving around in the dark at 6 p.m. with an almost 2 year old in the back seat shouting, "More lights! More lights!"

I made it! Winter break is here. It's hard to believe that it's Christmas Eve Eve. Since I last blogged I've made it through Christmas with my family, lots of my little family spending extra time with my husband's family, wrapping up the short by challenging week at school, and just trying to be gentle with myself and others.

While not everything is wrapped and ready I'm in a surprisingly good space with myself. I believe this is in large part due to the class I've been taking. (You can find out more by looking at Jen Lemen's blog on November 19.) It's been so much about waiting and patience. The power of this is just beginning to seep in and cause a shift. Without forcing or pushing or manipulating anything I'm more calm than ever.

Yesterday just as I packed up my bags and fed the fish I got to enjoy yoga nidra. I left so relaxed I didn't even feel like I had capped the Christmas volcano with my students for the past 3 days!

What are you doing to be gentle with yourself?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Recommending: Make Your Own Little Book

So I was frantically looking for a wallet I haven't used for a couple months when I came across this little book that I made. Looking at it was like a hug from an old friend--so comfortable and familiar. I realized I missed it and needed it. So today instead of recommending a book I'm recommending that you make your own little book.

This book is just a cute little spiral thing--nothing fancy. While it would be cool to have a super clever hand sewn book, I like the simplicity of this one. I didn't need to wait for the right time to assemble it. It has a couple dozen affirmations that I found over the course of a couple months. There was a point in time when I read the entire thing every day

I think this type of book makes a great gift. Either for yourself or someone else. I'm thinking quotes would also be lovely in this type of book. Do you have other ideas?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tips and Tricks: Math Facts

Kids hate to learn math facts. The age of memorization is passed. They don't even know their home phone numbers--it's in their cell phone. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.

So here's my trick (which a stole and then made my own):

CHALLENGE CLUBS! We do Challenge Clubs on Fridays, and they take less than 10 minutes start to finish. Kids are very motivated by them, but I can't explain why. I have a folder full of 100 basic fact problems for each operation. Everyone follows my order (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and mixed extra challenge) and my procedure (4 minutes to complete 100 facts correctly.) At the end of 4 minutes I ask for people who have joined the addition challenge club, and so on down the line. Last year you got to sign a poster when you joined the club. This year I take your photo with your paper to hang on the door to our room, and I say, "Welcome to the Club!"

It feels competitive and elite, but it's simple. I like it because it's very cost effective, and students are mostly self-motivated on this one.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Respect for the Broken Bits

In our house we don't throw away much of anything, especially if we think it would make an okay plant container or an addition to a future mosaic tabletop. This got me to thinking. . .

I had a little conversation before yoga with a teacher friend. We were talking briefly about kids and bad behavior and entitlement and the such. While I deal with this stuff every single day, it always leaves me a little bit rattled--sometimes just mad.

So yoga started and I could not turn my brain off to the topic--faces and names and situations went through my mind. It always hurts my heart. I know behind every kid is a story, and most of them are not the fairytale type.

I am amazed, but no longer surprised, when I hear about the broken heart a child carries. I witness this so often--it usually takes the form of a mouthy girl or a withdrawn boy, or a blatent bully. It doesn't matter who the kids are, it's always there.

And it's there in the lives of parents. And also in the lives of teachers.

I wish school was a place where we could honor and respect the broken bits in all of us. And I wish that we could accept the fact that teachers do not have the magic super glue to reassemble all the broken bits--at best we gently move around the broken pieces into a mosaic.

I want to learn how to honor the brokeness in myself and others.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Inspired by Music and Fruitcake That Are Mine

So my day has not turned out the way I expected at all. I thought I was taking a personal day to get some end of the year stuff done, but instead it was a snow day. It's odd how different the weather impacts my life when I don't watch TV weather--no TV means none of the weather panic.

I've been inside baking all day. I've been making the infamous fruitcakes that have to be made. I feel like it honors the memory of my mom, and the smell from my oven whisks me instantly back to my childhood.

While baking I was listening to Christmas music. I LOVE gospel music, so one of my favorite Christmas recordings is the soundtrack to The Preacher's Wife, a 1996 remake of The Bishop's Wife. I was really struck today by these words from Step by Step:

And this old road is rough and ruined
So many dangers along the way
So many burdens might fall upon me
So many troubles that I have to face

Oh, but I won't let my spirit fail me
Oh, I won't let my spirit go
Until I get to my destination
I'm gonna take it slowly cuz I'm making it mine

I feel Christmas panic about how we aren't doing our fantasy or anyone else's fantasy this year. I'm trying to make my way in the world and discover what I'm really supposed to being doing. I was so inspired by the line about taking it slow because I'm making it mine. I'm going to hold onto that when people are opening Christmas presents and I feel very inadequate. I'm going to hold onto it when I'm trying to support students in personal respect and responsibility. I can take it slow. I can make it mine. That is enough.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Life is unfolding just as it should.

I historically pride myself on making some good homemade gifts. I've made calendars with my watercolor paintings and photographs. I've made scrumptious treats, scarves, adn the such. This year I'm stuck. I can't think of anything people actually would appreciate to purchase or make. I have lots of anxiety and stress about this-this morning I felt panic.

And then I thought: life is unfolding just as it should.

I'm holding on to that today. I'm trusting that when I really need it, I will have what I need for others.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Another Good Book

It's Friday, and I have another book to share.

I'm not even sure why this one came to mind today. It has woven itself in and out of my life over the past 6 years. Today I'm recommending Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. This is a powerful book (and film) about an Iranian girl growing up in revolutionary Iran. There are 2 parts to this graphic novel--sometimes they are published in one volume.

I think part of what draws me to this book is that Marjane and I are about the same age, and she references many cultural icons with which I can relate. That is where the similarities between our lives ends. However I love her honesty and poignancy. Can't we all relate in some way to growing up and life not turning out at all how we expected?

I would also recommend the animated film that was nominated for an Academy Award.

If reading this peaks your interest about Iran, I would recommend the travel documentary of Iran by Rick Steves.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Respect for Tradition

In many ways I'm not very traditional. I roll my eyes at lots of things. However, I'm learning, as a parent, that some traditions are much more about how good they make the grown ups feel than how much the kids enjoy them. I was thinking about this because this week we began the tradition of putting our shoes out for St. Nicholas.

The tradition that I know is that there should be small treats left in the shoes of children. We put our shoes out on the evening of Dec. 5. The next morning I asked him if he thought anything was in the shoes. Sam was delighted to receive a small train, a Christmas book, and a few treats we had hanging around the kitchen. We also received an advent calendar. It's the kind with little chocolates. (So just like a Pavlovian dog, if we say advent calendar, he now expects a little chocolate. hmmm!)

I'm still enjoying how good this all makes me feel several days later. I love how much he wants to carry around the train cars, and it was a used freebie. I love that he doesn't get it, but he enjoys it anyway. (Wish I was more like that.)

I think part of why traditions continue and deserve respect is the reward we reap from carrying on with them. We pass them on for what we know the giver will receive, and that is worthy of some respect.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Inspiration for Courage

I love it when a word just haunts my life. I often pick a new word for each new January, but I must say that this December has a word that I'm seeing everywhere. That word is. . .COURAGE.

I must confess, it also makes me really nervous. What am I going to be asked to do? Is this word going to give me a gentle nudge or will it shove me off a cliff. Courage doesn't seem like the gentle nudge type.

What word is inspiring you?

Sunday, December 5, 2010


So this weekends has been one of enjoying the season for our little family. I don't think this is going to be one of those Martha Stewart holidays where everything looks put together. I would guess that it's probably going to be whatever the opposite of that is. (I base my hypothesis on the fact that the decorations on the bottom half of our tree are constantly being rearranged and often ending up clumped in one spot! And the fact that my first day of winter break is December 23.)

But if the little things count for much we are going to remember this December for many years to come. Saturday evening we ate a little meal as the tiniest snowflakes flew in the air, and then we were inspired to walk around our neighborhood all bundled up looking for "mas liths"--the i is long--let me translate: Christmas lights. We didn't even bother to stop for the calm and well appointed decorations. Nope we headed straight for the most garish displays possible. It's funny how when you look at the world from a child's perspective that way over the top seems just about right! We chose to say repeatedly, "Look at that exuberance!"

And as I write there are real snowflakes falling, and for the first time the little fellow is all bundled in a snowsuit while being pulled on a sled. And while his nose turns pink you just know that he is feeling exuberant.

And so I suspect that even if I had time to make 57 varieties of cookies or make the perfect gift for everyone or have well appointed decorations, there would be no more exuberance than seeing my son's dad try to get that son's boot back on while the little boy giggled and rolled in the snow.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Books and Abundant Generosity

So it's Friday and time for some books! I'm going to pass on something I wrote for a seasonal booklet. I think I've recommended these here, but not quite this way:

Abundant Generosity

Proverbs 22:9 “A generous man will himself be blessed. . .”

This is a season of giving. For most of us that means extra stress about spending money—often more than we can afford, remembering who all we should give a gift or mail a card to, and so on. Stress, stress, and more stress. Is generosity supposed to be stressful? Is giving supposed to leave us depleted? I doubt it.

This year many books have crossed my path about giving, and two stand out to me. The books are 29 Gifts by Cami Walker and The Power of Half by Kevin and Hannah Salwen. I love these memoirs, because generosity had the most amazing effect in the lives of the giving participants—not the recipients. Through giving the authors are miraculously and tangibly changed—physically, socially, spiritually.

This has really gotten me wondering if we are taught to give for what it does for others or what it really does for us. My focus is shifting from giving because I should or even the needs or desires of others to what I am supposed to learn or gain from the experience. I’m also evaluating how and what I give. I’m trying to be more experiential and less material. The shift is subtle and deep and abundant. And I am blessed.

What are your thoughts on generosity?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Simply Nourished

This evening we had one of our favorite meals. . . A Bakeover! This is such a simple way to serve wholesome and nourishing food. I learned about this from Mary Jane Butters. She is the goddess of organic farming and wise and whimsical self promotion. I love her books, magazine, and website.

To make a bakeover you simple choose vegetables to saute. I love the groovy little pan she sells to do this in--easy and efficient. Then you make a little crust--think biscuit mix and pop it in the oven. When you take it out of the oven you flip it onto a plate and then consume.

I love the combo of nourishment and simplicity. It takes a little time, but the quality is worth it. Tonight our meal had lots of potatoes from our organic farmer and friend, Dennis.

This also brought a little personal challenge to mind. What could I do to simply nourish my spirit or my creativity?

How do your simply nourish your body, mind, and spirit?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Let It Snow! Let It Go!

Today we actually have a little snow on the ground, and the flakes were flying off and on all day. No matter how much I want it to be gone in March, I have a giddy feeling in my stomach when it starts. I love to see how excited my students are to see the snow return.

I've also spent today thinking lots about letting go. Letting go of needing to follow the super rigid schedule in my classroom. My students don't care that we didn't start Math at 11:00 exactly. They barely even noticed. Letting go of doing everything just so--lesson plans, grading, etc.

I was really surprised to see that when I didn't force, I actually accomplished a great deal. I'm sure there's a great deal of universal truth wrapped in there! Can I respect and trust the process in life and at school?

What happens when you let go?