Saturday, September 26, 2020

Talking To Your Brain


In order to have emotional fitness, one must learn to talk to your brain. Our brains go into overdrive when it senses drama and believes that the most important job that it can do is to protect you from danger. That fact is based on research. It is not to make you happy or happier. 

I have learned that we must train our brain. We must tell our brain what is good for us. It requires a kind, but tough talk to let our brain know that yes, we accept that the whole world seems to be in a funk. That does not mean that we all must slink around with our heads down and not be happy. Our brain needs to hear what some of the good things are that make us happy.

All of us have "those" days, even before the pandemic. Now, some of us, actually most of us, have "those" days more often. Usually, I am able to acknowledge how I am feeling, accept it without judging myself too harshly, think about what exactly and specifically is good in my world and move on. Usually!!

Yesterday was NOT one of those days. Stuff just kept piling up inside my brain and I was feeling lower than low. This actually lasted from the moment that I woke until later in the afternoon before I could shake it off. How did I shake it off? It took a long hard talk with my brain and actually telling it to step back and stop being so narrow-minded. Acceptance is a feeling that we can have some kind of control. That is to say that we need to focus on what we can control in each situation, not what we can't. Our brain makes it challenging to do this. The first thing that must be done is to kick out the drama. Stop being the drama queen which is exactly what I was doing to myself. I got stuck in the negative thoughts and this was not good for my emotional well-being.

I needed to learn from this. Embracing my feelings and challenges is a much better way then just surviving by keeping my head above water. Thinking of the word 'resilience' came to my mind. In a webinar with Nataly Kogan leading it, she said the definition of this word is to bounce back. Truly, that is not a bad thing. However, think about how much better it would be if instead of bouncing back, we bounce forward. Move on with a plan in place instead of just getting through it.

There are skills to put into place in order to bounce forward. Accept where you are, stop judging how you are feeling about where you are and do something about it. First off, gratitude is the one thing that can help us see something good instead of focusing on negativity. Open up your brain to a little tough love and to remind yourself that there are good things all around us. 

Our gratitudes must be specific to work well. Yes, we all are grateful for our family, our pets, beautiful weather...focus in and see the big picture and narrow it down to something smaller. I can give some examples:
  • I am grateful for my husband bringing me a cup of coffee when I am doing my hair and make-up in the morning.

  • I am grateful for the look of love from my furbabies eyes when they cuddle in to me.

I am grateful for granddaughters asking to call and talk to me and one old enough to send me text messages.

Without getting too political, there are things that I can't control such as how others feel and believe about the upcoming election and the division that seems to be happening in our country. It is a matter of agreeing to disagree.

Self-care means taking care of my emotional well-being. Some things that I can do is to be kind to myself and to others. Take little things such as grocery shopping, albeit on line, and ask how is this helping others? Well, it means we get to eat healthy since we are not ready to go out to eat, even under guidelines of mask wearing waiters and cooks and 6 foot distancing. I am so grateful that Steve and I are in this together. One thing that I am sure of is that we have become even closer by working together as a team. We support each other. 

When I make out my To Do List, I look it over and ask how does this help someone else? It gives me the bigger why I do it. It connects me to others through kindness. Picking up some birthday candles and cupcakes for one granddaughter's 4th birthday. She will be so delighted to be able to blow them out when we celebrate. The little things all add up to the big. These are things that I can control and make happen.

Giving myself a 10 - 30 minute self reset is very important. Read, write, draw, paint or organize a drawer or shelf. I try for one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This is kindness for myself. For others, just reaching out with a phone call, a text, a card in the mail? Sometimes it is these little acts of kindness that can help make someone's day extra special.

Kindness can not only help our own psyche. It does wonders for others all around us. As I was writing this blog, my husband asked me, "Would you fancy a cuppa tea?" Then, on his way out he told one of our furbabies, "Excuse me, sweet pea, I need to get through." OK! That is what I am talking about. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Magical Moments


In our every day life there are magical moments happening all around us. We must find the time to be able to recognize and to cherish them. There is so much beauty that gets overlooked or ignored. The old saying of stop to smell the roses along the way is so very true. It is a way to take a break and rewind your outlook on life, especially in the times we live in now. It is important to leave a little sparkle wherever you go. One way to do this is to share those magical moments with others.

Ordinary things can become extraordinary if you simply jumpstart your very own sense of wonder. Step out of the daily grind. 
Moving away from routine and feeling the magical moments can happen several ways. One way is live and in person. I have chosen not to travel with coronavirus still in full swing, however I can place pictures in my vivid imagination of places that I have been which help to make me realize the world is a magical place. All it takes is to recognize just how small I am. If you have ever been up high in the mountains to see the awesome know just how magical the moment can be. The same is true with the ocean or if you are out of the city lights and can truly appreciate the starry night sky on a clear night.

Taking a moment to refocus and to stop stressing over things that I can't control requires me to use my five senses. 

Opening my eyes to actually see the beauty and the magic surrounding me. With all of the cooking that Steve and I have been doing, this actually covers all five of our senses at once. We see it, smell it, taste it, hear it when sizzling is going on and depending on what we are cooking, we touch it to see if it is cooked through and through. 

The love that we see in our furbabies eyes when they come up in our laps. Touching and petting their soft wavy, curly fur is a way to definitely feel magical moments. Walking from room to room in our home is full of those kind of moments. We have our home filled with art, special knick-knacks, furniture, photographs of our children and much to take a break and share a magical moment. The same is true when we are outside all around our home. The front and back garden are simply magical to us. I believe it became easier once retirement arrived. It was not always so easy when I was in the working world, yet this is when I needed it the most. Perhaps, you too if you are still in a 9 - 5 mode.

I also learned how to say the word:



I discovered the feeling of empowerment when I used the word if it meant I was taking on too much. No one can do it all. Let me say that even if I thought I was multi-tasking and doing a good job, in reality? I was not. 

Being in the present is when I am able to discover and enjoy magical moments. Plus, I have learned how important it is to document some of these special moments through journaling, taking photographs, gratitude bowls and boards...anything that will refresh my mind about a particular magical moment.

Finding reasons to celebrate the high points of my day is extremely important to me. Thinking about something that I may have done or said to someone that possibly helped them and in turn most definitely helped me. Sharing kind thoughts with one another. If I am still and quiet I become aware of how others made my day awesome.

In this time of chaos all around us let's just remember that:

This is a book that I stumbled on while searching for a book to read on Amazon. It definitely is what life is all about. Find those magical moments, because life is always happening. I choose to bounce back by taking the time to open my eyes and see the magnificent world all around me.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Be Kind to Yourself



 Some days more than others, I find it challenging to be nice to myself. Self-compassion does not always come easy for me, especially when I am already in a foul mood. Luckily, I don't visit the land of negativity very often. Let me share an example. It starts off, usually, first thing in the morning. That age old expression of getting up on the wrong side of the bed seems to express how my day was going already.

First mistake for me was setting myself up for what my perfect day would look like. That is always a train wreck waiting to happen. There are no perfect days. We are not perfect human beings and there is a strong need for me to stop trying to be perfect. I was brought back to reality as I heard our youngest dog barking to go outside, then looking over and seeing Steve sleeping so peacefully. I just threw on my robe and slippers and took the dogs out, muttering to myself the whole time. Hoping to go back to bed when they finished. NOPE! It was 7 AM and the sun was shining through the shutters so Maggie Mae was ready to get up and play. Mr. Cool-dog, Davis, was just wanting to go back to bed for a short bit. Definitely he is not a morning dog.

My perfect day of getting up, going in and taking a long hot shower, washing my hair, playing beauty shop with the dryer, styling brush and straightner was smashed.  Picking out clothes, dressing nicely with maybe even some jewelry...all out the window now. I was telling myself that the whole day went down the drain. Basically, just not being nice to not only myself, but the dogs did not get my attention either. Very basic. They were fed, watered, given meds, and then promptly told to go over to their beds and take a chill pill. I was not in the mood for playtime. They are very empathetic dogs and did stay calm and out of my way.

Steve did get up and I was very happy for him and glad that he was able to get caught up on his sleep. (So much easier for me to give compassion to others, as if I did not deserve it, also.) It is important for us to stay healthy and get our rest. Since he can read me like a book, he just made sure that I had coffee for a while longer before talking. 

In hindsight, where I made my first mistake was not having a morning ritual of getting up, feet on the floor, stretching up to the sky and saying to myself that this is going to be a wonderful day. It is all in a mindset. Forget the perfect day! However, it could have started much better with a more positive mindset. Instead, I got stuck in my negative thoughts that my perfect day has already shattered before it really even got started.

The sad part is that it took me until 11:00 AM before I could talk to myself in a nice tone. My compassionate inner voice was trying to break through the negative tone. One thing to remember, is that we can't fool everyone.  My husband knows me like a book, sometimes even better than I know myself. He told me on my way back to our bedroom to just take my time and enjoy. How compassionate is that? There was a part of me telling myself that I needed to hurry and move quickly or the day would be gone. I started to wonder if I had thought bubbles over my head because he touched on exactly what I was thinking.

Then it occurred to me. Why was I in a hurry? We had no place to go. No time frame to deal with. It is not a selfish thing to take time giving myself the self-compassion that I would give to a good friend. That is exactly where I maneuvered my brain to go. I got out the conditioner that needed extra time to stay on in order to work. This snowballed into giving myself a facial with a mud mask. It did not take much to continue on this path of feeling better. Self-compassion involves a constant attitude of kindness and acceptance toward ourselves as a whole. 

The judgment of myself for being so late in pulling my routine off had to be released and the only way to do this was through kindness to myself. There was at one time a commercial about a beauty product that cost a little more than others but the jest was a woman came on the screen to say, "And I am worth it! 

We are worth being good and kind to ourselves. All of us suffer from things going on in our lives. The big question is finding something that can move you past that feeling of being imperfect or doing something really dumb like looking for your phone when you are talking on it or looking for glasses when they are on top of your head. Have a sense of humor about it instead of beating yourself up. On a larger scale, if I don't cross off all of my "to do's" on my list, the world will not come to an end so why call myself names?

This quote if from Nataly Kogan. Get rid of the gavel and stop judging how I feel. Allow it and accept it and then ask myself the question about whether or not this is where I want to be and choose what I need to do in order to move onward and upward. Sometimes, for me, it helps to think of what I am grateful for. It is important to be specific. 

There are so many benefits of self-compassion and worth it for me to grow a garden of self-compassion. We all face struggles but diving in for self-compassion will allow us to face the obstacles in a way that will motivate us to see the bigger picture. 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Virtual Learning


History is truly in the making all around the world in every aspect of our lives. Today, I want to write about education. I could not agree more with the statement that the best way to learn is with the teacher in the classroom. Some districts had to make tough choices about how to do this. Each one had their own decision based on their schools' situations. How many children are in the rooms, is there space enough to socially distance, how do they get from one room to another, are there enough custodians to keep sanitizing the bathrooms and classrooms on an hourly basis, children will eat in the classrooms because that would be too many bodies in one closed in space? The details of being able to pull in class learning go on and on. 

There really is not a right or wrong answer. It is based on how the superintendent and his board feels their schools would be able to handle the safety of the students and staff. I would like to commend two true leaders in our area, however, I have read about others all around the United States. Rhodes College and Shelby County Schools came out and stated that until the number of COVID cases go down to single digits, there can be no safe way to implement in classroom learning. These were two great leaders who weighed all of the facts before they made the decision. So, with virtual learning, we now have history in the making. 

Thankfully, many school districts are working very hard to help out in virtual learning. They are giving out laptops, setting up mobile wi-fi, having on line training for parents or those who will be at the home helping out the students, along with getting neighborhood centers set up for parents to drop off their children if they must go to work. These centers will have adults trained to help with the school work.

I know many parents now are saying that teachers just don't get paid enough now that they understand just how hard it is to teach. And, they usually have 1 - 3 in their home to teach. Imagine having 25-30 and holding their attention? Mind boggling! Plus, many of these parents are trying to work from home at the same time. 

After the first week of actually being in the virtual classroom, I have read some very funny comments of how it is going. I am not trying to diminish the importance of a good education by sharing a laugh. Most of all, I am trying to show that from the friends that wrote something to me or on social media from all around the United States, they all understand it is just the first week. Even in real time school the first week or two is utter chaos. Younger children crying, the drop off and pick up lines  are like driving in utter chaos, even though the rules were sent out earlier. (I can remember being in the pick up line for our granddaughter mid year and my husband and I messed up the flow - not on purpose, just had the car seat on the incorrect side of the car and not able to strap the seat belt around her. And I was an administrator there!)  So there will also be some hiccups along the way to the new virtual learning set up.

It does take a village to come together, even virtually, and having a sense of humor will help ease the stress. Stuff happens. Moms and Dads are doing their best and just share in laughter, even when your child calls you out on an answer or technology issues. You may need to request a parent teacher conference with yourself. If you found yourself thrown into virtual learning just do your best to remain sane. These are not normal times, so just be kind to yourself and your kids. Teachers are trying to show some ways to connect individually with each student when it is possible. I know some teachers see a dog or cat or baby brother or sister on the screen, takes note of it on a notebook nearby and when it is chat time and not learning time, she can then ask that child about what she saw. There are many ways to pull kids out of the screen. Calling on kids who do not have their hands raised will definitely help to keep more on task. Over lunchtime, some teachers are opening up the chat rooms so that the children can connect with one another over lunch. 

Definitely there is no one right way to do things. Experiment and share with other teachers ideas that worked or failed. And as I read in an NPR article about some advice from the founder of Khan Academy, Sal Khan, "...if you fail, fail forward. Learn from it, tell your friends what worked and what didn't work and then try a new iteration."

One parent posted and shared this:

How is Virtual Learning Going?

1. Two students were suspended for fighting

2. Another student is requesting to transfer to another school.

3. The Lunch Lady quit the first day.

4. The Custodian has never had to clean so much messiness.

5. A teacher was fired for drinking on the job.

As I said before...we are all in this together so let's have a sense of humor and carry on. 

Alice Cooper had a hit record called School's Out. Well, it may be out for a lot of families now but once this Covid virus is better under control, we can return with safety precautions. School will not be out forever, even if Alice Cooper sang that.

Some of the stories that I heard the first week of virtual learning, I would like to share with you. They are events that friends from my area, to Texas, to further north even have shared and are able to learn and grow, as well as continue to teach.

  • Background noise sometimes is really loud and one teacher overheard a child saying that she was ready for a nap. (Honestly, the teacher was too, and this was at 10:45 in the morning.) Very challenging teaching the children to mute their computer when told to.
  • In the real world classroom, teaching kindergarten students has been described as being like herding chipmunks all together to the circle time. Well, when they are off separately, it takes a lot of patience to keep them all together and with you.
  • Another teacher had a student put his chicken up on his desk and introduce this hen to the class. 
  • Yet in another household, while the child was on the computer, her Mom walked by in a towel during the reading lesson. The teacher was hoping the students were on speaker view and didn't notice.
  • A student walked away from the computer when it was break time. She did not come back but the house cleaner was at the desk, feather dusting and cleaning. Quickly, the teacher put that computer in the"waiting room."
  • When a teacher was calling on a student and discovered that she had turned down the sound and proceeded to go over to her bed and jump up and down for 10 minutes of the lesson.
  • A teacher enabled the closed captioning feature and the way that it translated her southern accent was with some inappropriate words or topics, so she quickly disabled the captioning.
  • One high school teacher reported that a student actually lit up and started smoking on camera. 
  • In a kindergarten class, a teacher was asking what letter does juice start with, stressing the "j" at the beginning. Finally, from the background a male adult voice answered, "J!"
  • Another funny situation happened, when all of a sudden a loud motor type noise was coming on line. The teacher asked all to put their sounds on mute but one little girl said that she still could not hear because she was outside and the gardener was blowing the leaves with his leaf blower. The teacher patiently asked her if she could carry her computer inside for a moment while he was working in their yard.
One story that I heard was a young student could not figure out some of the technology so the teacher wrote to go and get her Mom. The little girl said that she could not because she is asleep. Before we judge, perhaps this Mom had to work at night. Perhaps the teacher could communicate with the Mom later to find out if this is the issue or not. If it is, maybe help her come up with a back up plan for when she must sleep?

Parents and kids and teachers have been amazing. They literally troubleshoot each other when there is difficulty with the technology. The good news here is that the village is coming together. Slowly but surely we will get there.

It is rather like watching or hearing about a skit from SNL. You can't make this stuff up. 

All I can say is that we have one granddaughter going through virtual learning now. This past week was her first week. Leading up to the first day of school she was not happy about it at all. In fact, the drama queen that she is, everything was blown out of proportion. Ah, but in her eyes it was something to worry about. Her Mom had her decorate a Worry Box. (an old shoe box) Then she told her to write down a few things that she was worried about. She did. Then she was told once they go in the box and the lid is closed there the worry will stay until she actually goes through the motions of what she was worried about. Amazingly, she grasped this concept and it worked.

Each day after school, she FaceTimed me to tell me about her day. Each day she was more excited than the day before. I asked her what was the 'high' of the day. She spewed off all of the fun things that she did and learned. Then I asked her what as the 'low' of the day. She looked at me as if I had lost my mind and said there were none. It was all good. 

On Friday after school, one of her teachers wrote to me that our granddaughter sent her a praise in a chat box. The teacher asked me how does she know how to do these things? And then another said that she wants her to come to her class to show her.

What could be an issue is that she knows things like the Alexa in the room can answer questions for her. Our daughter moved the Alexa. 

It makes me proud to know that our granddaughter and her teachers, as well as her parents are going to make it through this. I will most definitely have that on my Gratitude Board.

What she could come up with next? Virtual Homework!