If you close your eyes…

I just got back from the most wonderful morning run at Ijams. It was amazing, really. And while I probably can’t put into words the way I felt, I have to try because this feeling isn’t common; this experience wasn’t ordinary.

With the Starry Night race on my mind daily, I went to run the 8.5k course. I have been planning on it all week because I wanted to know the exact distance and feel it out. It’s a gorgeous morning and it was very still and quiet at Ijams when I started at 8 a.m. For some reason, I was feeling emotional as I began the run. Often I run without music but today I brought headphones and Bo’s Garmin to help measure the longer distance than I’ve been running. When I have music, the distraction usually means I think less but not today.

I didn’t really feel energized or up for running today as I’m fighting a cold and feel worn out. But, there’s so little time that I get for myself that I have to seize the day. The first couple miles were easy, really, and then I hit 3 miles. I was starting to think about how tired and sluggish I felt. But, then my thoughts came back to Brody, the course, and why we are doing the race. If he does life everyday with a tumor inside his head, then I coud do the last 2 miles or so.

Along the course, I envisioned the signs of brain tumor survivors and angels that I will post on race day, the sweet faces of children I know and have met because of this race. Thoughts of children I don’t know were inspiring me too, thinking of children who are about to endure an all-day brain surgery. Or, children that are waking up from their resection in pain, unable to walk. Or, the children who will have a port put in to start their chemo treatments that may or may not work. Or, finally those children who have unfairly lost their life to brain cancer. Those are the kids that made me want to keep running this morning.

Will Skelton greenway really is a beautiful place to get moving so it was easy for me to feel inspired this morning. One song really stood out during my run, bringing both feelings of joy and sadness, a theme of today’s run….a theme of life. “If you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing’s changed at all. And, if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like you’ve been here before? Now, how I’m gonna be an optimistic about this?…”

Along the trail, I was noticing beauty. God was sneaking in. I was aware that it’s a magnificent time of year where you can see the death and life of nature all at the same time. Leaves are turning and falling , while fall wild flowers are in blossom. This is also the place where there are those acres of sunflowers, which have now died off. Even the dried stalks were pretty in the fields but it wasn’t until the end of the trail where I turned around that I found a hidden surprise. There is another field of smaller, blooming, new sunflowers! If you look for beauty, you can find it. Within death, there is also life.

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Because I was so pleasantly surprised, I decided to start snapping pictures with my phone while still running. The more I snapped, the more beauty I noticed. In fact, just a few snaps in, I looked down the see what the scene looked like while I was moving. Was it blurry? Was it of my shoes? No, what I saw was confirmation that God was with me on my run, pushing me on and encouraging me. Telling me that I am right where I am supposed to be.

To the naked eye, the sky was bright blue. It’s the crisp blue that we don’t often get in Tennessee, or that’s what I saw. But, when I looked back at the picture, I saw more colors. What appeared on the screen was not what I saw with my own eyes. The picture is filled with colors and the sky shows a type of colorful rainbow. Several more pictures surprised me and appeared this way with a bright glow in the center that definitely wasn’t visible to the naked eye.

That also made me realize that things can be even more beautiful than we imagine. While running,  I was reflecting back at the moment that Dr. Savage finally came to tell us that Brody was awake and talking, I was overwhelmed. I was so relieved that I started crying. My mom asked me what was wrong and I’ll never forget. I told her, sobbing,  I was just so grateful. Tears of joy.

When I first saw Brody in the PICU, it was so HORRIBLE and also so WONDERFUL. Just like the paths on my run today, the journey has been rocky and smooth. There have been hills and also easy, flat areas. With a brain tumor diagnosis, there is light and dark. There are bending paths that lead to surprising, pleasant places. And, I don’t think is a message just for me or just for brain tumor families. This is life.

Birth and death

Light and dark

Fear and hope

Smooth and rough

Life has seasons, and sometimes there are times we get to see how they overlap. We get to see all the colors at once. There are magnificent times when GOD comes clearly to tell us that this is the way it’s supposed to be and good is shining though, pushing us on. Beauty is everywhere. It’s in the bird house. It’s in the dried stalks. It’s in the new, bright sunflowers. It’s in the moving forward. Keep going to the end of the trail, and you’ll find beautiful surprises. Push on.

Yes, I have been here before like the song told me. I have had practice runs last year while preparing for the first Starry Night. I have been at this same emotional place too, and I’ve asked myself “how I’m gonna be optimistic about this?”. As soon as I took this last picture, a new song came on that said, “And, you see the light.” My phone suddenly went black and died. (This has never happened before). I knew I had plugged it in to charge last night so I was confused that it would die so suddenly. I tried pressing the power button to turn in back on while running my last half-mile. Nothing. Black. Dead. So, I ran the last half-mile in a strong silence. (weird, I thought.)

When I made it back to my car and got in, I again tried starting it back up. It fired back on with 55% power. Then, I put Pandora back on. This is the song that was playing. Yes, it’s a “good, good life”.

Coincidences? I think not. God is talking to us if we pay attention.

20171006_083237.jpg#runningwithJesus!

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School is in full-swing, and fall is in the air with crisp morning air and football Saturdays. Time flies! In fact, fall break is just a short 3 weeks away. So, as the first interim reports are distributed at school, it’s been long enough to adjust yet we are still figuring things out.

The classroom procedures have been taught. Most kids have someone or something they like to play on the playground. And, we have learned that some of our children’s quirks. If you work in a school, you know that the first month is a whirlwind! Name tags, Open Houses, moving desks, cramming the day with new curriculum, and then also trying to get to know our kids. It’s busy! (for educators and parents!)

It can get so busy that we often forget to recognize the whispers. Sure, we hear the obvious. We hear the children tattling and whining. We hear the fighting. We see the test grades in red ink. We celebrate the goal they scored in the soccer game. Often, we only respond to the loudest and most glaring feedback as parents and educators while overlooking or not noticing quiet signs of growth. With both the good and the bad, it’s easy to overlook the whispers.

What do whispers look like and why do they matter? Well, this year I have met a tiny first grade boy who doesn’t speak….at all. He has not muttered a single word inside the school doors this year so far. In fact, until last week, we had never seen him move his lips or even attempt to communicate. He can and does speak at home but never at school. He’s a selective mute.

This is problematic for many reasons of course. He has to be able to communicate for safety and academic reasons, as well as with friends. So while he’s also slipped through this first part of school, this has become a personal goal of mine, to help this child find the courage to speak.

He’s had the opportunity for the past 3 weeks in my ‘friendship group’, yet hasn’t come around. He comes with 8 other children to my room once a week for 30 minutes. And, he’s my shining star for sitting quietly in his own space. Yet, he needs to be able to also participate in sharing with the group. So, last week before he came, I told him that I wanted his to mouth a couple of words because I knew he could do it (secretly I wasn’t sure he would but I told him I expected him to). The children in this group are working towards a minimum of 5 good choices in which I give them immediate feedback with a check on their paper. If they earn 5 or more ‘checks’, they may play for 2-3 minutes at the end. This little boy hasn’t been able to play so far in the friendship group because he hadn’t made all the choices I needed him to, like trying to communicate. But, this week, I believed he could do, told him I knew he could, and by golly, he was the first student I called on to share how he was feeling.

He chose the happy card and mouthed ‘h-a-p-p-y’! I couldn’t hear his voice but he very clearly articulated the word. I was beyond excited! He was the first child to earn a ‘check’. You might be thinking, big deal? Yes, it was a big deal! He also mouthed, ‘thank you’ when I prompted him to again at the end of the group. A smile was included and that was his choice! It truly was the highlight of my day.

While thinking about my week this week, this moment kept coming back. Then, I also remembered when another student actually took her old school papers out of her folder at home, finally, and did her homework. And, then there was the boy who was so angry and could have easily escalated to fighting another boy yet chose to walk away with me to the hallway. And, another girl who has worked weeks to earn a ‘blue’ on her behavior chart and delivered a signed note from her teacher at Open House that she achieved it. Then, there was the time at dinner when my own son realized and articulated that he has been taking his anger out on me and he’s sorry. These are the whispers I am talking about.

In this society, we want to measure everything. People want to see the the numbers on the scale drop when getting in shape to show they are loosing weight. We want to see A’s on the report card. We wear our Fitbit to track our steps. Shoot, we even measure how effective our teachers supposedly are based on test scores. We measure, measure, measure and we want to see big change fast. 

But, I think we should also listen for the whispers, the little things that are immeasurable. I believe paying attention to the subtle, quiet moments matter just as much or MORE.

So whether it’s simply starting with mouth-ing the words or doing the right thing instead of the wrong, we should celebrate moments that aren’t so loud or that you cannot measure or grade. Even as adults, we need to pay attention to the whispers. Many times, those whispers are telling us a lot more than the noise but we have to listen and wait for them. We have to be paying attention. Subtle, quiet, and humble….good things are happening everywhere.

2016, you know what I say to you? Good riddance (along with some other choice bad words)!  I thought  2015 was the worst but then 2016 came along and laughed. I don’t think I’m the only one who’s felt like this either. We’ve watched the funny social media clips from Black Sheep  with Chris Farley tumbling head over heals down side of a mountain. He almost stops, hanging dearly to a tiny root half-way down, and then keeps flailing down the side of that steep decline. What the in the hell was that all about?!”, he exclaims when he finally reaches the bottom , stumbles to stand up, and looks back up. (Pardon the language but many of us have felt those sentiments exactly!)

Maybe it was a death. Maybe it was a health scare. Maybe it was facing hard truths. Maybe it was losing a job. Maybe it was the loss of a dear relationship. Maybe it was uncertainty for the future. Maybe it was a fire. I know others have faced hardships and struggles far worse than mine, and it’s time we all deserve a streak of good luck!

But, now that most of the smoke has cleared, here are some life lessons I’ve learned from 2016:

Expect the unexpected.

Don’t get too comfortable or complacent.

Friends make everything better. Appreciate them.

No ache or pain lasts forever.

Your mind may try tricking you into feeling stuck but experiences, feelings, and hurt do heal with time. (or at least your perspective may change)

Accept the hurt.

Silver linings do exist.

Instead of ‘why me’? Ask, ‘what now’?

Being quiet, still, and alone with your thoughts can open up hopeful revelations.

GOD gives us blessings. Be humble and grateful.

You may hurt. You may have lost. You may have been stripped down and be faced with having to rebuild, literally or metaphorically. But, those hard life lessons make us stronger. We may not have wanted them but we have survived them, somehow.

May 2017 bring peaceful moments, loving relationships, new understandings, exciting adventures, and hopeful hearts! Bring it 2017!

HAPPY New Year!

(click above to watch and listen. Life is precious)

It’s the frenzied time of year where even making a quick trip to the store seems like a chore. Is it really worth it with all the traffic? Forget the West Town Mall exit. And, you couldn’t pay me to go to Turkey Creek. It’s nuts out there….like really nuts! People are shooting each other in road rage? What’s wrong with people!?

We have lost perspective. Sometimes we loose sight of what’s important. And while many say that ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’, it’s often times not lived out. Jesus is the reason yet we are rushing around the mall? Jesus’ birthday is the focus but look at all my Christmas lights? ‘Put Christ back in Christmas’ but act rude to your co-workers, talk behind people’s backs, and complain about all the Christmas parties? We have lost sight of the real meaning of life, not just the season, when we get all wrapped up in all the superficial non-necessities.

Stockings, gift wrap, fancy bows, tacky sweaters, and that perfect Christmas card. It’s true that I am guilty too. Guilty of not being mindful. Guilty of getting sidetracked. But, thankfully, I have my children to help me get back on track.

Children are precious gifts. Messengers from God. Angels. Reminders of what is real, and true, and pure.

This week, as I walked down the halls of Bearden Elementary , I admired the fraction Christmas tree art and snowmen decor. So festive and fun the schools look this time of year! I paused outside of Anna’s classroom to examine the essays they wrote on “THE BEST GIFT”, the writing prompt. Some said the perfect gift was to pick up litter so the animals and earth aren’t hurt. One said a plane to visit friends and family. Some were about giving and many were about getting. Then, I saw Anna’s.

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Now, does that not show what we have lived the past couple years!? And, does it not also show the biggest gifts in the world can’t be bought!? As Anna put it last night, it’s better to give than receive.

She’s not perfect. And, she can drive me cra-zy! But, she also makes me so proud. She actually makes me a better person. She inspires me. She is a gift.

Friends and family: they are gifts. Comfort: what a gift. Peace: another gift. And, health: is that ever a gift!?

The best gifts cannot be bought, indeed. It’s a Hallmark card and also from the mouths of babes! And, when it comes from an eight-year-old, it truly seems genuine. Be mindful, older souls, that we have some many great gifts every day, even if you never make it to the mall! Merry Christmas!

#heartofgold  OR  #santaswatching!

We used to hear a lot about the left vs. right brain. And, it does seem accurate that many people with have a strength in math rather than language, and vice versa. It’s not that we can’t succeed in both but it’s almost like one comes more naturally, and it does. But, what I’m trying to emphasize in children the last couple years is that we have more than 2 ways in which we can be smart.

In 1983, Dr. Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard,  developed multiple intelligence theories suggesting that we have more than 2 areas in which humans are gifted. There are way more than 2 areas of strengths in the brain.

However, in public elementary schools, there is always a push with language (ELA) and math. The majority of the day is centered around these subjects. And while these are very important life skills, we really need so much more to lead a successful balanced. There are a lot of subjects that will lead to amazing careers and life skills that we minimize in school. And, it’s really painful and challenging for children who struggle with math or reading but may be inclined towards nature and kinesthetic learning, for example.

Fortunately, our kids still have music, art, and PE. There’s a push (and law) towards more movement in school. And, they do get some social studies and science sprinkled in there too. But, it’s still very unbalanced . And, I don’t expect that will change anytime soon. We need our kids to read and write. And, we need some basic math skills (although, computers can do most of that work for us)! However, when we look at the climate of this country, I would argue that we desperately need more of these other areas in schools too.

Not only is it discouraging when children struggle with the 2 main subjects, but school is also not fun. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard young children call themselves “dumb” because they don’t get math, or struggle to make C’s and D’s. What politicians decide dictates what we are teaching children in school. The problem is often times, these people (mostly men) come from business backgrounds and have never been educators. Shouldn’t the teachers, the people in the trenches who are in touch with children, be trusted to differentiate and guide their students in many different areas, exposing children to many areas of intelligence and interests?

If they’re not or can’t, it’s up to us as parents to emphasize all the ways our children can be smart. We can encourage them to continue to strengthening this skills outside of school, while also practicing areas of weakness too. For example, the child who naturally gravitates towards experiencing nature and animals should pursue researching and experiencing their area of passion. There’s a small second grade boy in my daughter’s class who is obsessed with sharks. He’s already so much knowledgable than most adults and enthusiastic about sharing this knowledge. This won’t be on the AimsWeb standardized assessment but who cares! He could do something amazing with his passion if he’s encouraged to continue learning about marine biology and the world of sharks. He can add and subtract different species of sharks. He can write essay on sharks. He can and should continue to shine in this area.

Another example is a 10-year-old girl who’s autistic and struggles socially. She is so sweet but fitting in doesn’t comes naturally, despite wanting to. These social skills take some practice for her. However, her ability to identify and verbalize her own feelings is outstanding. She has better intrapersonal skills than most adults as she knows what she likes and doesn’t like, and how she feels. That is an area of intelligence that can be taught and fostered but it doesn’t come easily for many. Think of how many adult friends you have who are depressed and working a job they don’t like. Many adults are still trying to figure out what they want and like, and this young lady already has some of that awareness. That’s intelligent!

Just like my daughter shines in having empathy and recognizing the feelings of others. She’s never been as school ‘smart’ as Brody , but she does well in school because of her work ethic. Math does NOT come naturally to her! But, her intrapersonal skills are impressive. She gets along easily with others and recognizes when someone is sad or left out. She just gets how personal actions impact the feelings of others, and she is kind. This is an area of strength that she’s both gifted in and we foster. Isn’t this skill set as important if not more than math and reading!? Look at our world, with all the hate and dysfunction. We need to value teaching empathy and intrapersonal skills. Research shows empathy and mindfulness can be taught and doesn’t come naturally for all.

It’s important to recognize and praise our children for their strengths. Our son, Brody, is smart, school smart, and he’s tried to point out to his little sister than he’s smarter than her. This is where , as a parent, I point out than Anna is also very responsible. She takes care of herself and others very conscientiously. That’s also super smart! That will allow her to live on her own successfully one day and not depend on others.

They are both smart but in different ways. Brody is that traditional ‘smart’ and I am proud of his good grades. In fact, I admire his ability to memorize things so easily! But, I will also celebrate the ways that aren’t always graded in kids too because these intelligences are just as important! Kids don’t always get a trophy or grade in all the many ways they can be smart but we can recognize and celebrate them anyway.

Parents are the biggest influence on their children. We can humble our children by reminding them to continue growing and learning in areas that don’t come naturally, and also continue pursuing areas that make them great and above average. We all have those areas of strengths and weaknesses. Just because school or society doesn’t respect all these areas equally, we can explain why all these skills can lead to a well-balanced, rewarding, and successful life.

We need to remind children to feel grateful for those areas that don’t take a lot of work, while also encouraging them to not stop trying to grow in those areas that are challenging or just not as fun to them. That’s what I want and expect out of myself too. We are never too old or young to keep growing and changing!

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Growing pains

Doesn’t it seem like the older you get, the more stressful life becomes? Then, I go to work and am reminded that there are also 5 year olds who are struggling, stressed, and resistant to growing.

Just yesterday, I checked in with a small kindergarten boy who’s only 5. He lives with Grandmother, dad is not in the picture, and mom sees him sporadically. He’s been in PAC several times already (in-school suspension) and is having a hard time adjusting the high expectations of kindergarten. So, grandmother came in yesterday for a meeting with teacher, assistant principal, PAC teacher, and myself to see what we can do to help him. She explained that he was born addicted to pain pills and spent 3 months in the hospital at birth! Now, being born drug dependent is going to be enough of a life-long challenge, but when you couple that with a dysfunctional family, it’s hard. He has an uphill battle that is absolutely not his fault. It’s the cards he’s been dealt.

Another boy this week, only nine and in the same grade as Brody, disclosed that he thinks about killing himself and sometimes hurts himself. His mother died when he was 14 months. And, he also lives with grandmother. He’s ADHD and thinks he’s stupid because he can’t focus. I’ve been told he’s made a lot of progress since he was in kindergarten and first grades but he’s struggling to feel like he’s “smart and a good kid” since he also was in PAC this week.

What are you going to do? We can’t expect them to be like other kids but we also can’t stop believing they can change and grow.

They are hurting. Many people are. Old and young, big and small. We hurt when things don’t go the way we hoped, when we wish we had different circumstances, or when we feel rejected. Life is challenging but isn’t also an opportunity to grow out of hard circumstances? Change takes work, and work is hard. Some of us live with misfortunes and unfair challenges. Many children do. But, we have a choice:

  • We can choose to grow ….. OR,
  • We can choose to stay stuck.

I’ve realized that growing and changing hurts. Whether it’s getting in shape and taking on a new physical challenge, like training for a marathon, or just getting out of bed and getting dressed, it’s not always something we want to do. It takes consistent practice.

When a child is acting out or extra emotional, we know they are struggling internally. Maybe they are truly having a growth spurt and are extra cranky or moody. Maybe they need extra food, sleep, and time alone. Or, maybe, they are acting out because they don’t understand how to get to the next stage of development. They are resisting do the hard work it will take to be like others. Learning and growing takes work but being stuck doesn’t feel good either!

 

I’ve noticed some of the kids I’ve worked with over the years are acting out because they are stalled at place where a need stopped being met. They haven’t achieved that love and acceptance that they needed at an early age and they are emotionally stuck. And, they hurt because they want to be different, to feel different. Adults aren’t that different.

Growing is not without aches and pains. Self awareness and development is painful because we face some things we may not like. But, we can grow out of that. Personally, I’ve recently experienced this. I’ve realized that growth may take work, conscientious steps, patience, reminders, support and help from others. This stuff is not easy. Yet, we can resist and get stuck ,or fight through these pains and grow. Growing is what we are born to do, physically and spiritually.

The rewards are not instantaneous, and the work may be a pain and hurt. But, don’t resist the work and the chance to change. Believing in others and wanting them to change isn’t naive; it’s hopeful. With our children, our friends, spouses, or even strangers, we can remember that it’s normal to feel pain with this training regime. We can help each other not quit by encouraging and accepting that milestones will be reached at different times because each of us face different challenges. Physical and mental growth takes time, and that’s hard!

No path is universal. No metamorphosis is the same. Just like the drug-dependent baby who grows into a overstimulated and easily angered kindergartener, the challenges we face will all be different. Sometimes growth will come naturally, while other times the change will take a lot of effort and time.  But, when we see a soul, young or old, in pain, we can believe and help them understand they are growing….changing….and moving towards a better place.

As adults, we can remind ourselves this too. Change is painful. Growth is hard because it’s stretching out of our comfort zone. But, being stuck is worse. If we keep practicing and continue to believe something better is ahead, we can end up in a better place than where we started…. and that’s worth the sweat!

#growingpains

 

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Shelving it

As a counselor, one might expect that I would support facing emotions head-on. Acknowledge and confront feelings. Tackle problems right away. Talk about what’s on your mind. Don’t deny or run away from discomfort. Deal. Some of these ideas have surfaced throughout my blogging, yes, but I’m also suggesting another strategy today as we cope with life’s stressors.

For over a year now, I have discovered that sometimes we can practice patience and do the opposite of all of the above.  This strategy applies to parents and children, and it works.  Although no problem or person will ever be the same, there is a coping strategy that has saved me for the past year and I like to share things that work.

Are you ready for it!? Shelf it.

Yes, what has saved me from anxiety and depression is simply shelving my problems and not seeing them every day! At first, I didn’t recognize that this was what I had done after Brody’s brain tumor diagnosis and recovery because at first, I couldn’t run from this new reality. It was everywhere all the time. Literally. I remember it like it was yesterday and can picture the disarray and chaos of our house showered with cards and gifts. Easter decor cluttered the rooms, and it took me awhile (or longer than normal) to sort through the stuff.

But, slowly but surely, in spring of 2015, I began organizing all the prayer clothes, cards, good luck tokens, and hospitals mementos. That’s ‘stuff’ you just don’t throw away. I knew I would need it again…..and again….and again. So, every important note and magical token went into a plastic bin labeled “brain tumor” where it was intentionally placed on a shelf in our cluttered office closet, not out of reach but out of everyday sight.

Inside are his glasses that he wore for only 3 short weeks, the many homemade prayer clothes and guardian angel tokens, and the kind, encouraging words from friends and strangers. And, I don’t look at it often. It’s there, and at first, it looked a little eery and strange, glancing up every once in a while to see those words that seem so serious on a plastic bin. But, it also was comforting to know we didn’t need those things every day but they’d be there when we do, waiting for when we need the support and help again.

It’s been going on 6 months now since his last MRI (hallelujah!!). This is the record for longest length of time since his last check-up. His next check-up is on October 18, just a few weeks shy of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation race. And, I know it’s about time to crack that lid again. Every time, those heartfelt items brings us the same peace and comfort that they always have. Every time I touch them, it’s a heavy feeling but also reminder that I am not alone.

Yes, I do literally thank God every day for his health. But, I don’t carry those powerful, scary memories with me every day. Shelving those has helped me in so many ways. I think it’s helped Brody in so many ways. We sometimes think and talk about his brain tumor but we also don’t dwell on this being the center of our life. That problem is something we don’t want to take center stage so we literally and metaphorically, shelf it sometimes.

With other people’s problems, I can see this strategy working too. When a girl comes to see me about a friendship problem, yes, we talk about it. Then, we often wait a week to see if it’s still a problem before doing anything else. (problem usually miraculously solved!). If we are having a hard week with our kids and you feel like this new, challenging phase will never end, shelf it. See if it’s still there a week or two later. If you’re angry with your spouse, feel it, yes, and then shelf it. See if it’s still an issue a couple of days later. If any of these problems are still there after a pause, you may have to crack the lid and start sorting through the ‘stuff’. And, it may bring up some unexpected or difficult feelings. But, I’m suggesting that you don’t always run straight to digging through all the bin. Sometimes, we just need a break to discover that this problem might not be something that will take over your life and become center stage. Decide if it’s stuff you want and need cluttering your life or if it can be shelved and brought out only when needed.

There have been days when I have randomly browsed the bin, but it’s become less and less frequent. In fact, it’s been months. Get a bin, even if it’s metaphorically, and choose to put some ‘stuff’ in it. Decide what needs to be taking over your brain space every day and if the ‘stuff’ isn’t helping you or even if it’s just confusing you, shelf it for a few. See if a few minutes, a few days, or a few months without ‘it’ will bring you some perspective.

#I’llgetyououtwhenIneedyou

#choosingtopause

#willthisstillbeaproblemtomorrow?

#patience

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Outlet

“out”- moving or appearing to move away from a particular place, especially one that is enclosed or hidden

“let”-not prevent or forbid

“outlet”-a means of expressing one’s talents, energy, or emotions

I am fascinated by this word, outlet, a word that’s been speaking to me lately for some reason. While I’m stopped at red lights, daydreaming, or sneaking some quiet time, the idea keeps coming back to me. OUTLET.

Organizing a race and fundraising event is not simple task. There is a lot more that goes into a one-day event than I ever imagined, and the jury’s still out on whether Starry Night Knoxville will be profitable. My gut feeling is that it’s worth it , though, either way.

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Recently, I have had a few friends ask me how I’m doing it, or make statements like, “I don’t know how you’re doing it.” With a new school for me, back to work as a counselor, and trying to juggle the demands of motherhood, it does feel busy at times. Not a bad-busy, but a good-busy. I enjoy doing it. This brings me back to ‘outlet’: a means of expressing one’s talents, energy, and emotions. Organizing this race is my most current outlet, the choosing of where to express my energy and time. This outlet has felt like a calling, or just what I needed to do as I have considered it since last fall. It just feels good to be attempting to do something good.

Regardless of the outcome, it’s my means of not getting stuck. It’s my way of moving away from bad feelings or times of hurt. It’s my way of forbidding negativity to overtake my world. It is the way I express my energy. Because we all have time, and we all choose what to do with it. Right now, I choose to keep focusing on positive outcomes.

Not only does the word and action, ‘outlet’, work for me, I see it work for others too. When I counsel kids who are stressed, upset, or hurting, I have discovered those who hurt the worst are those without outlets. Kids who lack true hobbies seem less resilient, and overall, less happy and less likely to get over stressors. Without ‘fun’ or positive things to do and think about, what are we left with?

It’s easy to get depressed or stuck when we have nothing to look forward to. The daily grind, for children or adults, can just get old. The most successful or positive people I know, both young and old, are those with hobbies or ‘outlets’. We have to have channels for our energy, our physical and mental energy. Without a distraction from the challenges of life, these outlets may show up in negative channels: depression, hateful actions, gossip, hurt, abuse, and apathy. Our energies will go somewhere. We need direction, and sometimes we have to create this for ourselves  and choose the best outlet so it doesn’t choose us.

Exercising, writing, reading, helping, volunteering, coaching, adventuring, traveling, praying, loving. Choose an -ing, and do something! Don’t fold and allow the let-downs to take you down. Choose to move away, or get out of your head. An outlet will motivate and stimulate us. Outlets are what keep us moving ahead instead of getting bogged down and stuck.

We need to urge our children to have an outlet, something they’re passionate about.           (* And, something besides video games, Brody! We need an -ing!) We need to choose our outlets and keep ourselves healthy so that we can give positive energy back to the world. Even if it only appears to benefit us, positive outlets impact those around us to. Making ourselves happy, and not just expecting it to happen automatically, takes some work. But, with the right outlet, it just might be done!

lanterns

#runStarryNightKnoxville

#joinourcause

#haveacause

 

 

 

Mindfulness and the Garden

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We are hearing about it more and more: MINDFULNESS. Some schools are even teaching ‘mindfulness’ and it’s working. Discipline referrals will drop and the overall climate can improve. Some schools use yoga while others are simply focusing on breathing activities.

Mindfulness to me is becoming more aware and slowing down, two actions that aren’t valued in this culture. We rush, rush, rush, and pack in learning and fun. ‘Work  hard. Play hard’. Yes, and I am also slave to this mindset. How can you not be working in the public school system!? There’s so much pressure to succeed and succeed fast.

It was last week , however, that I took a slight detour and planned a simple outdoor scavenger hunt for my kindergarten weekly guidance class. This Pinterest activity is something I’d do with my own kids during the summer. We find something for each of the 5 senses, something you see, hear, touch, smell and finally taste from the school garden.

I wanted this quiet activity to promote mindfulness and simple awareness of our surroundings. When we slow down enough to recognize our senses, we can control our choices more too. We also may grow more aware and appreciative of nature and of life. Instead of rushing blindly, mindfulness outside can bring a calmness that I witnessed in this sweet group of 5-6 year olds. Mindfulness outside can also promote respect for our environment and awareness of the little things, be it a slimy worm under a smooth rock or the sweet smell of a flower.

I had students picking yellow dandelions and rubbing it on my skin, smelling the grass, and getting excited to hear a bird. What is even more exciting and amazing is that all the while, their playground is right beside the field and woods where we were doing this activity. No one ran away or whined to play; they became excited to fill in their list. If they found the first 4 senses, I told them I would let them taste something from the school garden too. Who knew so  many kids would try fresh spinach!? Another example of positive peer pressure!

So, this year as a School Counselor, I have challenged myself to add in some outside ‘gardening’ time and the kids really love it. I love it because it feels like a break from the grind! Are we always learning something monumental? Sometimes, or we maybe just weed and move the compost around. Kids really love the watering too, if you want to add this to your chore list at home! It’s a chance to be outside, feel like we are doing something helpful, and get our hands a little dirty while also just slowing down and getting a change of scenery with some fresh Vitamin D. I only wish I had time to do it more!

We lead by example. When I was a child, my hippy parents always had a garden. I think I liked picking green beans and riding on the back of the tractor when my dad was tilling up potatoes when I was very young. But as I grew older, I remember thinking it was not fun at all but it shaped me. What do I want to do now? Create a garden, plants some tomatoes, and grow some flowers! Kids are impressionable and will be influenced.

We can teach kids to be mindful, to appreciate being outside, and to find joy little things. Tasting spinach leaves, finding worms, touching soft moss, and listening to birds can be peaceful and also fun to kids if we promote and encourage it. It sounds so hippy-dippy but some kids and adults need to slow down, de-stress, and smell the roses! We should all try it more often. Here are some mindful activities for children to practice.

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When we rush though life, we neglect to feel the five senses. If it’s not outside, make time at dinner to slow down enough to appreciate the food, the conversation, and the table to sit at. When we are mindful, we are more aware. We are more ourselves because we feel more. And when we recognize how we feel, we can show more gratitude, empathy, and love towards ourselves and others. Be it the spinach leaf or the ability to take a deep breathe and slow down, we can all grow more aware and loving each and every day.

#GROWMORE

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