Saturday, October 31, 2009

Passionate Petals... Reflecting on Our Words

This year as I’ve journeyed through life contemplating faith and joy, I’ve been more aware of the beauty around me each day. Yet even though my focus has been on these two words, I’ve still had days when I saw the world through a darker lens. A busy schedule and seemingly constant demands have clouded my world at times.

When Peggy suggested that we choose a flower that reflects our words, my first thought was on finding a photo that captured the essence of joy. I thought of sunny buttercups and my mother’s favorite flower, tulips. I also thought of flowers that connected to my word, faith. All of which led me to Caroline of Nowordz Photography, one of the most gifted photographers I know.

Caroline brings joy to many with her ability to capture the beauty of everyday life, so I asked if she would be willing to share one of her photographs with me. And she sent this lovely shot...

The beauty of the flower against the muted tones of the background seemed to perfectly capture my feelings this month. Even when peering through the world in an imperfect fashion, there we find it. Beauty. It stands out against the backdrop of life leaving us with a more peaceful and joyful feeling.

Thank you, Caroline! If you haven’t been to her site, you’ll want to click right on over to Nowordz Photography and to Whimsical Whispers. I’m sure you’ll be inspired and in awe of what you see.

Peggy, who suggested that we choose flowers to reflect our words this month, shares this beauty with us...

The amazing flower I chose to represent my word is called "Hippeastrum Cinderella".I took this photo in my hairdresser's garden last week. The complete beauty and balance of this flower called to me as I was leaving his house.

Flowers have always been a source of pleasure and happiness symbolizing love and friendship and since the dawn of time we have instinctively known that flowers can lift our spirits and make us feel well again. They play an important role in restoring or evoking a sense of harmony in mind, body and spirit of healing in its quintessential form.

Annemarie shares this...

The orchid is considered to be one of four noble plants. Because it grew deep in the mountains, it was compared to scholars who had transcended the greed and fame-seeking of the secular world.

Orchid growth is affected by everything from elevation and light to humidity, air movement and nutrition. When I looked up how to care for this "delicate" flower, I realized that this is a flower I would probably kill in just a few days. In my search for a more disciplined life, I came to an understanding about myself. I like my laid back life. I love that I am not always worried about menus and shopping lists. My children are healthy and happy. Yes, my house is less than tidy, and my flower pots outside are less than tended, but I am happy. So as this year of searching for discipline is nearing an end, I will begin thinking about what it is that I would like to work on next year....I have two more months to think about it.

AVT Coach shares this with us...

I have spent the past ten months with an action plan to have the most abundant life possible. I have cultivated new friendships and renewed old ones. I have committed time to family and used social media to create more connections with people. I made efforts to use my leadership skills in my work and have encouraged countless families in their journey toward spoken language. I have meditated and prayed. I have listened to music that stirs my soul. I have set new goals for fitness and nutrition. Abundance has been all around me each step of the way.

My chosen flower can only be the flower that is a personal favorite. I have chosen the poppy. I smile when I see an abundance of poppies scattered across a field as in a Van Gogh painting. The dichotomy is that poppies have a bad rap. They are associated with a shady industry that is the demise of many people, unhealthy, commemorate the death of soldiers in some countries and symbolize remembrance.

They were used in the Wizard of Oz to hinder Dorothy's journey down the yellow brick road. Even so, looking over a field of these beautiful flowers gives me a feeling of abundance and of gratitude. Abundance spread in the open for all to see and enjoy.

And Octamom shares this....

As my blog buddies and I continue through our Reflecting on Our Words project, I have been delighted with the number of ways my creative friends have come up with to bring imagery and metaphor to their guiding word for the year. This month, the theme was to choose a flower that exemplifies each of our words. It was a fun mental challenge to think through flora and fauna that would give example to my 2009 word, excellence.

I at first thought of flowers that have great beauty or hardy qualities or are rare. But what kept coming back to me is the flower that we see a lot of during this season, the blossom that someone decided is the 'birth flower' for November. And that would be the chrysanthemum. (The chrysanthemum illustration on the right is from the New International Encyclopedia from 1902, with the image url being hosted at Wikipedia.) The chrysanthemum is actually native to Asia and wasn't introduced into Europe until the 17th century. It is often seen as a symbol in Chinese and Japanese artwork. In the U.S., it is a floral symbol of the season, a happy spot of color for the autumn.

Chrysanthemums are also used in a number of beneficial ways. The petals can be used to make a sweet tea. The blossoms make a natural insecticide that is not harmful or toxic to animals and humans. The plant is also used as an antibiotic and an antiviral agent. A potted indoor chrysanthemum has also been shown to be effective in reducing indoor pollutants in the air.

And now for the tie-in to my 2009 word, excellence.

True excellence brings with it the benefits similar to the chrysanthemum. When I operate in excellence, I can make life sweeter, more palatable for those around me. When I operate in excellence, I can help reduce the pests of procrastination and apathy. When I operate in excellence, I can help fight off the infecting agents of mediocrity. And when excellence is present in the room, the environment is all the cleaner for it.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I guess you could say that I'm on a literary kick.

Fact is, our school is ordering a class set of books for each grade level, so I've been scurrying around trying to decide on the best novel to read and share with my 8th-graders. I want something that gives me plenty to teach.... characterization, plot development, word choice, and theme while giving the students a good story to enjoy.

I may have found it with Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl.
Written from a teenage boy's perspective, this story weaves its message through a plot that focuses on peer pressure and the need teeangers feel to fit in and conform with their peers. Stargirl, the other main character, is a free spirit, who is more concerned with how others feel rather than what they think. Yet as the characters wade into their relationships with each other and with their classmates, they find that remaining true to themselves is more challenging than they imagined.

The story made me smile... and cry, of course. Don't they all? Yet I think it will soon become the new class set of novels for my 8th-grade classroom. Its theme of being yourself (and being happy with who you are) is one that I hope my students will embrace as they continue their journey into adulthood.

Although I can picture numerous activities to go along with the book, it only took me a couple of hours to read it. So, if you measure time by the seconds rather than the hours, you can probably squeeze this one in!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I'm Blushing....

I know we're not supposed to be obsessed with looks and image. I really try to let my daughter and my students know that "looks" aren't what make us who we are. What we do is what makes us who we are.

But I have a confession to make.

I've been looking a little drab lately.

My hair has hung without much shape, my face has seemed pale, and I've been thumping around with this air cast on my right foot for nearly three weeks. That little fashion addition definitely hasn't helped to improve my self-image.

That changed this week when I took Hannah to the Clinique counter at the local department store. Although I never wanted my daughter to wear make-up, she is definitely a glam-girl who loves to play with all things that come in powders, creams, pencils, and wands. It was time to restock her beauty supplies with an SPF/tinted moisturizer. I decided it was time to add a little color to mine.

Years ago I loved using a gel blush of Clinique's, but, as usual, it was discontinued a year or so later. Powders just seem to make my face look drier than it already is, so pale is my usual shade of color. I had just about given up on getting that blush of color on my cheeks when, voila, I discovered something "new" at the Clinique counter. A creamy blush stick that you swipe across your cheeks then blend in. I decided its $18 price tag was worth it; it was just the right shade and blended perfectly with my skin tone.

A little splash of color. A subtle blush. Suddenly, I'm feeling a little better about myself!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A True Time-Stealer....

What an amazing story.... one that moved me to tears and made me think again about the power of words and the power of the human spirit.

Over the past few years I've read several books that gave me insight into the lives of other people who lived in countries that faced brutality and death on a regular basis. Fictional accounts, yet historically accurate in many ways, these books made me more aware of the vast differences that exist in our world.

This weekend, with nearly 90 essays to grade, I kept stealing moments with The Book Thief. Essays lay on my lap, while The Book Thief remained on top, open to its story. As I stumbled through the last pages, I was in tears, wrapped in emotion so heart-breaking that it pained me to realize that this story could have been true of the children and adults who lived through the Nazi regime and the ally invasion that finally ended World War II.

In the beginning, I found the book difficult. Written from the perspective of death, I kept wanting to move into the story of Liesel... I didn't care at first to read what Death had to say. But as I continued to read, I became one of the people of Himmel Street, and I stayed there until the very end.

The essays await, visits to you are still to come, but I wanted to share this remarkable story with you. Written by Australian Markus Zusak, it's a book you won't want to put down. Read it when you can.... and let me know what you think about it.