Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Cup of "Verbal" Tea

Living a better life took a new twist this year when several online friends and I chose a word (or two) for the year and began an enduring quest for abundance, discipline, balance, faith, joy, and excellence in our lives. Each month as I read their written contributions or look at their visual creations, I feel as if I’ve chosen not two words but six. I learn from each of them and am beginning to sense their words hovering around me – perhaps whispering in my ear.

For this month’s post, you may need to get settled into your chair as you sample our richly-flavored “verbal teas.”

Annemarie at So I Was Just Thinking says …

Discipline can sound like such a harsh word. It often conjures up thoughts of detention, grounding, the principal's office when actually it should be just the opposite. A person who lives a life of discipline is living a directed and goal oriented life - setting their sites on the prize and making sure everything that she does will lead toward that end.

When I chose Discipline as my word for the year, it was because I saw my life spinning out of control. I was completely living in the moment which is not always a bad thing. However, I was letting circumstances dictate my actions instead of the other way around. It was a life full of excuses and shortcuts. For example fast food instead of cooking because I had too many things to do.

A Disciplined life does not come over night. It is long journey, but it is one I am glad to make with my supportive bloggy friends.”

Peggy at Middle Age Ramblings shares this with us…

Leading a Balanced Life I have discovered IS in my control!

Very bold statement.....but when all is said and done it is not as difficult as we make it out to be. Let me explain how it works for me.

I begin each task with a purpose and give my attention fully to that task.Some tasks are easier than others to focus on, so I have learnt to slow down, whether it be driving, talking, entertaining, working, exercising......I recognise when I am off balance and this is when I stop and reflect and often ask for help.

For example my love of blogging sometimes interrupts my other interests/chores/work and when I feel it is taking over I discuss the problem with a friend who helps clarify what I want to achieve and gives me other options to ponder upon.

I would not achieve BALANCE in my life without DISCIPLINE....thankyou Annemarie for choosing that word and explaining how important your word is in all aspects of life. Keeping the FAITH that balance is achievable and not to give up when the going get tough...and JOY that it brings when successful....bless you Roban for those words. Of course an ABUNDANT life is then grateful to you Coach for leading the way. And then EXCELLENCE in all aspects of a balanced life becomes possible.....Julie more than anyone I know shines through with this word.

Finally the easiest way to lose our balance is to cling to fixed beliefs or notions of how things should be. The only constant in this world is change, so the more things we cling to, the more we will be thrown off balance when they disappear. It is like trying to ride a bike while balancing an enormous weight on your shoulders. It is much easier to maintain our balance if we lighten our load.

Octamom shares her thoughts on ‘Excellence’….

When I chose 'Excellence' as my word for 2009, I had a broad sense of how that directive could be applied in the upcoming year. I knew I wanted to bring a bit more care and finesse to some smaller areas of my life, such as housekeeping and chores. I knew I wanted to instill in the kids a deeper level of respect for working on their lessons with better attention paid to their penmanship, smaller assignments and the like.
I hoped to apply seeds of excellence to those more hidden areas of our lives. And I believe those seeds sown will bring a fuller harvest.

So often in pursuing excellence I have found myself focused on the big items, committing time and effort and high standard to those things that are most obvious, most seen, most noticed. But I've come to see that excellence requires a pervasive attitude that must wash though all aspects all of life, that the excellence I want to find in the grander projects must first be practiced on the smaller stage—a smaller stage in which I act for the benefit of the One who created me.
Because, really, that's what true excellence is, the commitment to doing one's best, even when no one is watching. When excellence is practiced at the smallest level, it becomes a true aspect of character. Anyone can act, on occasion, with great skill and adeptness, but true excellence should be found consistently, a thread of character binding all the pieces and patchwork of one's life.
And so our pursuit of excellence in 2009 continues.”

AVT Coach shares this with us…

The way I see it, I’ve lived a life of fortune: A college degree, a close immediate and extended family, and a quality group of close friends. These are the aspects of life that I had considered when I thought of abundance.
Still, I had the thought that I would “seek” abundance. I would “strive” for it. Since choosing the word I have intentionally lived my days with a certain assurance that my abundance was evolving. I put feet to it. I began new routines: yoga, more reading, more contact with friends and scheduling play dates with family and friends.

I can say now that I HAVE a life of abundance. I now have a habit of abundant living that carries me through even some stressed days. It is not that my life is perfect, I don’t live in perfection but I do celebrate each moment that I smile when I could frown, say a good word when I could speak ill, listen to music, read and meditate when I could fill my hours with slothful acts.

I love that no matter my financial or relational state my life of fortune continues. I will grow and evolve in many other ways on the journey but I do so abundantly.

And here are my thoughts on “faith” and “joy”…

Joy seems like such a simple three-letter word, but it is really so much more than that to me. It's not about being happy. It's not about everything being right in my world. It's just an internal sense of well-being that, despite what happens throughout the day, remains a part of me. I just have to be aware of it and look above, below, and through the din of daily life to see it sometimes.

When I chose my two words for the year, "faith" and "joy," I barely thought of the connection between the two, but as the year progresses, I am more aware of how faith and joy go hand-in-hand. To have faith means I can worry less. To worry less opens a window between my soul and the joy that surrounds me. I won’t say that I am now leading a worry-free life. No. I still worry. But I do know that needless worrying is using up more of my energy and crowding out the joy of life. So choosing to walk in faith and embrace the joy that is given to me is something I am learning to do… one step at a time.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Poetry on Demand

One thing I have my students do each year is to write a poem from a random group of words. The first time around, each pair of students pulls a list of four words from a cup and work together to create a poem using those words. Afterwards, I let each student choose the words they want to work with. I'm always a little in awe of some of the poems my students create. Like this one....

I lay on the grass
until sunset

in the moonlit sky
I felt God's presence

at that moment
I think He blessed me

and this one....

All alone
on the rainy midnight trail
a traveler moved along
his horse was spooked
by sounds of the wild
he tried to grip the horse's mane
but slipped

Off into the night the stallion ran
his body bruised
his muslces sore
the traveler crawled to a nearby bank
and lay on the cold, wet ground
Now just a spirit in the wind
but some say
on a cold, rainy night
a lot like that night
you might
you just might
hear him crying out in pain

Aren't they great? And these are their first drafts... completed in less than one class period. Poetry on demand so-to-speak.

Friday, April 17, 2009

sPriNg fEveR

i must have it...
spring fever that is

as i sit in the shade
of an old umbrella
i listen to the birds sing
while the leaves
whisper their own melody

the puppy wags her tail
while dreaming

i look up at a blue sky
and remember
blissful moments
of springs past

of creating poodles and giraffes
out of cotton candy clouds
that hung suspended in the sky

of hunting the juiciest blackberries
plumped up delicious
on the hill behind the house

of sitting quietly
with a book in my hands
as dusk began to settle
all around me

i sit here now
and think about
what i should be doing

no... instead
i'll succumb to spring fever
i will...

and experience

this blissful joy
called spring

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Memories...

My mom loved Easter. She loved creating Easter baskets for my sisters and me. And she loved dying Easter eggs, even after I was grown and married with a child of my own. I'm the same way.

One year, a friend and I used only natural ingredients to dye eggs. Red cabbage and red onions made the prettiest and most natural blue colors. Coffee created a mottled brown. It was fun even though a strange odor pervaded the house for a day or two. This same friend and I exchanged Easter baskets for several years. One year, I was the lucky recipient. The next year, she was. She even drove down to my house after I had moved so she could dye eggs with my daughter and me one year. I think she and I were hogging the dye and eggs a bit. A two-year-old barely stood a chance with the two of us at the table!

This year, my daughter suggested that the Easter bunny not hide any eggs for her to search for. She was okay with receiving a basket though. And she and I definitely had to dye eggs, even though this was the smallest number we had ever dipped and decorated.

While I've always enjoyed the fun of Easter... dying Easter eggs, decorating a small "Easter" tree with ornaments, getting out framed photos of my daughter from Easter's past, the significance of the day doesn't pass me by, and I am thankful.

I am thankful that Jesus died for me. I am thankful that the tomb was empty when the stone was rolled back. I am thankful that Jesus appeared to his mother and to his disciples... that He is with me today.

I hope you have had a wonderful Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2009

You've Met Scout ...

Now it's Maggie's turn.

We tend to be a two-dog family but have spent the last 12 months or so with just one. That was until my husband met this speckled, freckled pup in a store parking lot. She was one of several being given away to good homes. Ours definitely counts in that category. When it comes to providing a good home to a dog, you could say that our dogs live as comfortably (if not more so) than we do.
When I first met her, my husband was quick to point out that little Maggie would be the smartest dog we've ever owned. "Part lab, part border collie," he said.

"She looks kind of like a bird dog to me," I replied.

"Hmmm," said my husband, "that's exactly what the vet's office called her."

According to the vet's assistant, Scout, our shepherd-hound, is really a "coonhound." And now Maggie is listed as a "bird dog." I guess the vet's assistant doesn't have quite the imagination needed to properly identify such fancy mixed-breed dogs.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Not Exactly a Snow Day, But ...

I'll take it!

How can I be sitting in front of my home computer on a Friday at a time when I'm usually spreading my teaching charm to a classroom of eager 8th-graders, you ask?

Easy! It's a ... "bad roads" day! Really. You see, it's been raining here for days. The school system got word yesterday that many of the roads were flooding or just too muddy for buses to drive on, so they dismissed school a little early and called off school today. Because I had planned a half-day off to enjoy the final moments of my daughter's motherless spring break, I was able to take a whole day off to spend with her!

I'm making light of the situation; however, we're actually under a flood warning until around 10 p.m. on Sunday. So, I pray that everyone stays safe and that their homes and belongings stay dry.

But, it's still pretty cool to be able to spend my daughter's last day of spring break with her. Even if she is still sleeping.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Meet Scout...

Isn't he a handsome fella'?

When we adopted him several years ago, the worker at the animal shelter referred to Scout as a shepherd-hound mix. The vet's assistant simply referred to him as a 'coonhound. But I think he's way too dignified for that!