Tuesday, August 7, 2012

     For as long as I can remember August has been a month of pure joy.  School supplies were the prominent display in almost every store.  Just the smell of crayons sent a rush through my whole body.  I've been known to buy crayons just to smell them and be taken back to that glorious feeling.  New folders and binders - especially Trapper Keepers! - excited me beyond words.  Put that together with shopping for new school clothes at McAlpins with Mom and it was almost too much emotion for one girl to stand.  And there was still the prospect of going back to school and using all those supplies!  I have loved school since I've been old enough to go. 
     Somehow this year has been different.  Perhaps it was because, as a teacher, I started training in July - and I wasn't ready for summer to be over.  Perhaps it was that I am just getting older and more tired!  Perhaps it was that I don't get to shop for school supplies for myself anymore.  Perhaps it was that I had to leave my family at home and go off to work.  But I was certainly not nearly as excited to see boxes and binders, or even crayons for that matter.  Didn't even shiver at the smell. 
     But that all changed today.  One precious, exuberant, bouncing child changed it all.  Today was orientation at my school for parents and kiddos.  A young boy came up to a group of teachers I was talking with and smiled a smile that finally sent those shivers through my body.  He boldly proclaimed that he was going to be a first grader.  His enthusiasm, I feel quite sure,  could be felt for miles.  We realized quickly that I was blessed enough to be his teacher.  All that old joy and excitement came back to me as he went through his school supplies one by one on the cafeteria table.  He couldn't even wait to get to the room to show me! 
     Later, as I put away extra school supplies, I caught a whiff of crayons.  I nearly cried.  Once again, because of a sweet, sweet first grader they smelled delightful.  Teaching is hard work.  But the rewards are simply indescribable. Today it was without a doubt the best job in the world.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

That is SO not fair.

     As the world of sports often shows us - some rules, judges, officials etc., are just wrong.  They make things completely unfair for a team or a person.  Jordyn Wieber - a gymnast for the United States received the worst of this reality on Monday.  While her score would have qualified her to compete for individual medals - the rule stated that only two from each country would have the opportunity.  Now, I know she understands this is the rule.  And she didn't come up with enough points to be her top to teammates.  But only just barely.  And she ranked third out of every other gymnast in the world.  How can the third best gymnast in the world not be allowed to compete?  Every one who commented on it on t.v., blogs or social networks, in the newspaper, everyone who knows something about the sport of gymnastics says it is a bad rule.  A horrible rule.  But thus it stands.  Utterly and devastatingly unfair. 
     While I wish that after all the hoopla about it the Olympic Committee would say, "Oh your right.  Bad rule.  We will change it right now", I know that isn't going to happen.  My point really centers around what Jordyn Wieber chose to do last night.  Last night was the team finals and she had two choices: give her all for her team or pout, sulk, and remain upset about how unfair her situation had become.  The first, would help her team win - including the two girls who beat her out for a spot in the individual competitions.  The second, is what I would have trouble overcoming.  Given the depth of the sadness it was obvious she was feeling, I can see where it would have been almost impossible to come out and give your best.  She could have chosen to falter.  To let her emotions get to her and not even be able to perform at a high level.  Yet, from the very beginning of team competition, this young girl did just the opposite - she gave everything she had to be the best she could be.  She excelled, she performed in such a way that inspired me - and I believe her teammates.  
     What a reaction.  I pray that when I face things that are unfair - and they happen to us all the time - that I will have the grace and the courage and even the smile Jordyn showed.  Most of the time you can't change what is unfair.  It just is.  So instead, we need to go out and make the best of what we have left.  Give it our all.  Do our very best at whatever lies ahead of us.  Be happy with what we have instead of focusing on what we don't, or can't have.  Forgive those people who wronged us or those who get what we think we deserve.  And then work as hard as we can to shine through the circumstances.
     She may not win an individual gold medal but in my mind she won a battle we so often face, with dignity and a beautiful smile. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Acts of Kindness

     Yesterday I began to clean my sink and the counter around it.  I know began sounds like a pathetic word as it shouldn't take that much time or effort to clean a sink and counter.  Let me do a little explanation.  First of all the counter is one of the longest surfaces in the house.  It's probably my favorite features of our home.  However, it becomes quite crowed with an amazing number of hair, face, and body products.  In all actuality it is quite ridiculous.  One person could never use it all - and of course - I don't.  Second, it had been quite some time since I had bothered to go through it all and clean under it.  So when I say began - I mean I started and decided I simply didn't have the energy or desire to finish. 
     Which is really where my story begins.  As I was finishing up a tiny portion of the counter, my husband came into the bathroom.  He saw what I was doing and I explained that I would finish it on the weekend.  Today, my husband did not have to work summer school but I had to go into work for training.  As I drove down the highway I randomly had the thought that it would be super cool if my husband decided that he would just dive in and tackle the task for me.  Unfair I understand - but he's been known to do that kind of thing before.  I then brushed the thought off as he had two kids to take care of and this was his only day off from summer school all week.
     However, as you might have guessed, when I came home from school, not only had he cleaned my sink and my entire counter but he had cleaned the whole bathroom.  Yes, I understand I am blessed.  And yes, I am beyond grateful.  It was the one thing I really needed to make me smile and help me get motivated.  He has an uncanny ability to see what I need and make it happen.
     Again, as you probably guessed, this got me to thinking.  Sometimes what people need to bring them joy, to encourage them, to help them to motivate them to do what's next, is a seemingly simple task.  And by doing so we may save them from what to them is a significant amount of time, energy and frustration.  And I think, if we are paying attention we could fairly easily observe what others need.  What others would consider an wonderful gift.  I won't say I'm good at it - but I will say that Rich simply payed attention to how frustrated I was while trying to complete the activity I had started.  What a difference we could make if we payed just a little more attention to the signals others are giving off.  If we noticed that they were having a hard time at something and helped.  If we observed how others were feeling and did what we could just to bring a little joy into their day. 
     Don't get me wrong, building houses for others, building wells for communities, providing food for those who have none, etc. change lives forever and we should aspire to do help others in these ways.  But what a much happier, pleasant and quite possibly productive atmosphere we would live in if we paid attention to small signals and then followed through. 
     As one on the receiving end of such a gift it is now my job to pass it on.  "Pay it Forward" if you will.  And I will do so with a smile on my face and a huge sense of relief!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

This morning as I stumbled around at 4:00 a.m. (Sleep currently alludes me), I unintentionally kicked a box of my sweet child's crayons.  Thinking I had thus cleared a hurdle I continued on to my destination, thinking I would right the wrong on my way back.  But as I took a step, I kicked the box again.  Now this seemed to me to quite odd as the box was small and should have been kicked out of my way.  So this time I looked down and saw that stuck in the fold of the box was a ruler.  Apparently, the first time I kicked the box, the second time the ruler.  So now several thoughts are running through my head.  One, I should have taken care of the problem immediately.  Instead of waiting to fix the problem later, if I had picked the box up I would have saved my foot one less pain and the box one less kick.  Seems to me I do this often in life - I'll deal with that problem later.  And the longer it takes - the bigger the problem becomes.
     Second, if we continue to stick ourselves out there - there is going to be some getting kicked around.  The ruler stuck into the box gave the box not only have a much higher chance of being kicked - but of being kicked multiple times.  My first reaction, naturally, take out the ruler.  Then hide the box away - and it won't get kicked.  But then as I am wont to do - especially in the early hours of the day, it became symbolic.  Yes, when we lay ourselves out there, we may get kicked.  And while this is bad for a box of crayons, which yes I did pick up!, it is not always bad for us as people.  Sometimes, being kicked can get us out of our fog and get us up  and ready to go.  Sometimes, being kicked can get our feelings hurt, but also reveal some of the "rulers" we have sticking out that make us easy targets.  Like anger, resentment, negativity, etc.  And thus remind us, maybe we ought to reign it in a bit.  I don't know anyone who likes to hang around people with these kind of "rulers" so prominently sticking out.  And don't for a moment think I'm preaching - I'm speaking straight from personal experience and reflecting on me - not anyone else.
     Third, sometimes we stick ourselves out there for good reasons.  Friendship, love, belief, etc.  And we will get kicked.  Not every attempt we make at these things will be received positively.  But kicked or not my sleepy, mushy mind believes that it is worth it every time.  Even if it shakes us up a little, if we get some nicks and cuts - ultimately sticking ourselves out for others or for relationships that will bring joy is worth the price.
     I know, I talk (write) too much.  But I have learned three other things: 1.  I should probably not right when I am so sleepy I can barely but a coherent thought together! 2. I watch too much SportCenter - I spelled nicks - knicks.  3. People are talking way too much about the Knicks.  If I am going to have basketball on the brain I want it to Wildcat basketball!!
With all these thoughts running through my head I thought I'd better find a place to but them all down.  Feel free to join in my musings - although I don't promise they will be life-changing.  They will be my thoughts on little things that happen that appear to have a larger significance to me.  My train of thought often wonders and often simple things remind me of much larger issues.  Thus, a blog.  Typical I know - but none the less - sounds like fun.