Resolutions – Letting Old Stuff Go

I love the chance of a fresh start each New Year’s brings.  I’m overwhelmed thinking of things I could improve or change, but I want to keep it simple this year.  Otherwise, I find I’m defeated by unreasonable workout tasks, family commitments, etc. before January is even over.

I keep reading people selecting one word to work on for the year.  There are many words that could work for me right now- faith, embrace, balance.  So, I’m going to sit with them for a little bit.

One thing I do know is I want to make 2014 a little lighter.  The other day I snatched up a Feng Shui de-cluttering book that has me inspired.  As I devoured the book in one sitting, I was anxious to start getting rid of some of my junk.  (I come from a long line of – “We might need that someday” types.  Family gatherings usually have some sort of swapping old crap involved.)

By the next evening, I had thrown out all the expired food from the pantry and the refrigerator (I almost cried when I saw how much I wasted) and began to tackle my 2nd classroom/basement.  At this point the recycling bin and trash barrel were filled to the brim, but I was getting things done and feeling good.

One thing the book stressed was the importance of removing the unwanted items quickly once you’ve decided to part with them.  I was happy to be parting with things, but I found this to be true as I started to second-guess and remove my old crap from the donations box.  Luckily my friend, Mel, reassured me my mom’s hand-me-down decorations were not in style, or my style, and to let them go to a new home.  (Mel’s also had to do this with some old, hideous shoes I swore were cute still, but that’s another post.) So, I put the unwanted items back in the box and quickly walked away.

I knew these things had to go, or I would have found a reason to keep them all.  As I started to go through old mail- I discovered an mailing for a donations pick-up the following day (today).  It was meant to be.  Last night I scoured around in my basement and grabbed a few more gems and set it all on the porch.  I’m not sure why my old dinning chairs looked more attractive (they’ve been collecting cobwebs in the basement for a year), but I let them go.

After running errands today, my old stuff was gone.  I feel lighter already.  I’m realizing I want less stuff and more time with the people I love- doing things I love.

My only true resolution is to make a donation each time I receive one of those cards in the mail.  I’m feeling good the New Year hasn’t officially started, and I’ve already done this.

Here’s to letting old habits (and stuff) go and to a lighter and happier new year.  Happy New Year’s.

Love,

Jen

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Saturday Celebrations

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I’m celebrating my funny grandma, new traditions, emails, Goodwill finds, and flowers.

I was so blessed this holiday, but I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that some of the holidays were painful for me.  The get-togethers with family force some unwanted conversations.  It reminds me of what it felt like in college when your family members would ask, “What are you studying?  What’s your major?”

You knew these questions were coming, and you didn’t really have an answer.  Although the questions have changed, the anxiety is still there.  I know some of my family is wondering when I’ll get married or whether I’ll have kids.

The truth is- I wonder these same things.  It’s like telling someone they’ve gained weight.  You don’t need to tell someone that. They know they’ve put on pounds.  I know I’m getting older.  I don’t need someone to tell me that there’s a baby making window. I’m well aware.

Luckily, the questions weren’t that bad this year.  My grandma did ask me about my wedding, but it was actually funny.

She asked, “Do you think you are going to get married?”

Here we go again- I thought to myself.

She continued, “Do you think I could be a bridesmaid when you do?”

“Sure, what color do you want to wear?” I playfully asked her back.

“I look good in lime green.  Do you think you’ll have any other girls or just me?”  she asked.

“Probably just you,” I told her and smiled.

There was also a near breakdown at the ornament kiosk in the mall.  The stand with the occasion ornaments celebrating phases of life- engagement, wedding, baby.  I couldn’t help but notice there wasn’t an ornament my life fit.  There was no ‘I’m still figuring it out ornament’ and I was so heartbroken.

I’ve never been the type of girl who has their future wedding planned out, but I have always thought of traditions I want to do with my children.  One of them would be to give my children an ornament each year.

I poured this energy and sadness over not having my own kids this holiday into love for my friends’ children and started a new tradition.  I made ornaments for each of their kids.  It was amazing the joy this brought me.  I love how God gives me what I need even if it isn’t always what I think it will look like.

My favorite gifts this year were emails.  On Christmas morning I had an email from a former student.  She emailed me around 3 am when she couldn’t sleep and was waiting for her family to wake up.  I love that she thought of me and wished me a Merry Christmas.

I also had an email from the teaching in China coordinator telling me I had been accepted into their summer program.  I’m going to be teaching in China this summer!

One of the best things about having some downtime is being able to run errands and pull over and stop  when I see a Goodwill.  I love looking through the books there, and I always find something that jumps out at me.  This time I found a Feng Shui clearing clutter book that has kept me up late at night and has me motivated to get organized in the new year.

Lastly, I’m celebrating flowers.  I had my girlfriends over for our annual Christmas party last night, and this was an opportunity to give my house some much needed TLC.  I could celebrate so much about this – my house being clean and put together, the way my friends and friendships soothe my soul, etc.

I love hosting and paying attention to tiny details that no one will notice but me.  It makes me feel normal and domestic.  Often in my busy school schedule, I don’t get to spend time doing these taking care of a home things that I love.

Today I couldn’t help but stare at the flower arrangements I made.  I don’t know that anyone even saw them, but they make me so happy.  I mixed plain white flowers with these red berry looking things.  They are so simple and beautiful.  I love being reminded of the beauty of such simple pleasures.  (If I could figure out how to upload a picture, I would.  I’m still learning.)

I’m so happy to be celebrating.  This is starting to turn into a novel, so I’ll stop :).  I hope you are celebrating too.

Celebrating Lists and Being Content

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I’m a big list maker.  Lists create structure for my wandering brain and offer some resemblance of order and focus.

I create grocery lists, to do lists, wish lists, bucket lists.  Half the time I can’t even find a list after I start it- but I still love to make them.  (I recently stumbled across a list from August and was annoyed many of my to dos still haven’t been completed :).)

My lists are long this time of year.  I’ve got my to buy list, my to make list, my do before you go back to school list, my reading list, my school to do list.  Most of the lists won’t get completed, and I may get more overwhelmed at the mere sight of the length of each list.  I’m still working on them anyway.

I’m grateful for the one list I wasn’t able to make with ease this year- my Christmas wish list.  My step-mom always asks me for a some ideas of things to buy me.  Normally I have several things I want to ask for, but this year I couldn’t think of anything I wanted or needed. My boyfriend, Jeff, and I actually sat at dinner the other night pondering over what to tell her.  We both sat blank faced, staring off trying to think of things.  We even started going room by room of the house considering whether we needed/wanted something for each area.  Sure, we’d love a winning lottery ticket or a tropical vacation; but realistically there is nothing we want or need.

I thought this was a cause for celebration.  This feeling of contentment enveloped me and reminded me of how blessed I am.  I’m grateful there’s nothing I want other than to be, to read, and to spend time with people I love.

So here’s to the list I’ll make tomorrow and probably lose and to feeling like I’ve checked off many of the really important things in life.

Happy Holidays,
Jen

Jury Duty

I rushed out the door this morning and headed to my 2nd day of jury duty.  Remembering my gas light had gone on on my way home the previous evening, I quickly pulled over to get gas before getting on the highway.  After I filled up, I tried unsuccessfully to start my car.

What is going on?  Is it too cold?  I wondered.  I pushed my foot on the break again and attempted to restart my car.  The  inside lights flashed for a moment but faded fast.  I tried once more, but there was still no start.

I didn’t know why this was happening, but I knew I didn’t have much time to figure it out.  As I looked at the clock, panic started to set in when I realized I had less than a half an hour to figure out how to get to jury duty and do something with my now useless car. After a couple more failed attempts and finding someone who looked manly to reassure me I wasn’t crazy and that my car was not in fact working, I determined it was time to cut my losses and figure out plan B for getting to jury duty.

I called my dad who responded, “I’ll be right there.  Where are you?”

While I waited for him, I called the road side assistance people and tried to convince the gas station attendant why I’d have to leave my car.  Neither the gas station attendant nor the road side assistance person were thrilled when I was explaining why I couldn’t wait and my car would have to stay put until the tow truck could get there.

I threw the keys under my mat and jumped into my dad’s van.  The whole ride to the courthouse, I cringed as I watched the clock inch closer  to 9:15 and imagined them yelling my juror number wondering where I was.

I’m a pretty big rule follower, and I know jury duty is not something you mess around with.  I didn’t imagine that car trouble real or fake would be an excuse.  And, I didn’t even know how to get a hold of the court- so I did what I had to do.  Thankfully my dad was able to help with this.

I got to thinking about duty today and what it means.  Last night as I reflected on the trial, I had to remind myself that it was just that- my duty to the law and to a fellow citizen.  I was frustrated at the other potential jurors who had all but openly admitted their prejudices in an effort to get excused.  I couldn’t help but imagine the defendant being myself or a family member someday. As I looked around, I wondered who I’d want to sit in the jury box for me.  Who would give me a fair trial?  Would they give up their valuable time to sit and listen to my case?

After I got dismissed from the case, I picked up the phone and dialed my dad.  I felt like a 15 year-old waiting for my ride.  He dutifully answered, stopped his plans, and picked me up again.

I know my car trouble was an inconvenience to him too.  I apologized, and he responded, “This is what dad’s do.  It’s my job.  It’s okay.”

We all have duties, obligations, and people we will do anything for at a moments notice.  My dad works and has things he could and would much rather be doing.  He didn’t ask why I needed help.  He just showed up.  He didn’t try to get out of it, or tell me he couldn’t help.

My dad takes his duty as a dad seriously, and for that I’m grateful.  He demonstrated the kind of selflessness we could all learn from and apply to helping others and not just our loved ones.

I’m sad I won’t be able to see how the case turns out, but I pray the defendant and all defendants have jurors who take their duty seriously like my dad did.

Can I Celebrate Some More?

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I think I pressed send too quickly earlier.  Or, for the first time in a while I stopped to notice all the things I have to celebrate. Either way, I’m adding a few more :).

1. DEAR FRIENDS – Today I had a quick phone chat with a dear friend (a friend from grade school, high school, and college) that reminded me how blessed I am to have lifelong friends.  Just talking with her made me feel instantly connected and better.

2. CHRISTMAS CARDS – I rush to the mailbox this time of year, because I can’t wait to see the beautiful cards my friends have created of their growing families.  I tape them to the back of the front door and enjoy them daily.  I’m grateful so many people think of me with their holiday cards.

3. RELAXING – Tonight I caught up with Season 3 of Scandal.  I’m not even a television watcher, but a friend introduced me to the show last week, and I’ve watched 3 seasons in a week in a half.  I realize this shows I have no life, but it was a nice escape and an excuse to slow down and relax.  (The show is seriously like crack.  I can’t get enough of it.)  Now, I wait until Thursday to watch the next episode.  I’m glad to be caught up and to have something to look forward to this week.

4.  LESSON IDEAS – I’ve always felt like lesson ideas find me.  I read The Secret a few years ago, and I think I can still “secret” a good lesson idea.

As I was reading through my Facebook feed the other night, I stumbled across the story of George Bush sending a letter to the Alabama kicker who missed the winning field goal in their game against Auburn.  I used this letter to start my mini lesson the following day.  We talked about whether a letter from the President or former President would be enough to cheer you up in that situation.  Then, I asked the kids to consider who could cheer them up with something difficult they’ve faced.  The students wrote letters to themselves/to others during a rough time from the perspective of a person who could/who they’d want to encourage them.

We had to really stretch our thinking for this, but the kids loved it.  There were many letters to SpongeBob from Patrick? (I can’t remember for sure- I don’t watch the show, but it was someone like that.)

I’m realizing this is something we should try more often, and I love when I come up with an idea from something that is real and relevant.

Recently I read teachers who were talking about doing all the assignments they ask of their students, and I got to thinking I should write this too.  So, I wondered who I would want a letter from.  I think right now I want a letter from Ron Clark (one of my teacher idols).  It would read:

Dear Ms. F.,

I know it doesn’t seem like you are making a difference, but you are.  I’ve had difficult classes like yours, and it is hard to feel like what you are doing matters.  I wanted to quit and throw in the towel, but I realized the kids needed me.  Your kids need you too. What you are doing does matter.  YOU matter.

You may never see the impact you are having, but know you are making a difference.

Take care of yourself.  Remember the oxygen mask rule from the plane.  You are no good to them if you don’t take care of you first.

Just keep trying.  Keep showing up.

Best,

Ron Clark

Happy Saturday.  Hope you are finding things to celebrate too.  George Bush’s Letter

What I’m Celebrating

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I need to be honest and admit I’ve been really grumpy lately.  It’s been hard to get out of bed most mornings.  Between the cold weather and the challenges of my job, I would rather stay safe and warm under my covers.

I switched to a new school this year, and it’s been challenging to say the least.  Most of my kiddos are facing things outside of school no child should ever have to endure.  With that being said, my job as their teacher is hard.  Most days teaching them (trying to teach them) the academics seems like I’m doing them a disservice and not addressing their real needs.  Some days I feel like I can’t or don’t want to do it.  My best friend, Gwyn, always reminds me, “If not you, then who.”

In the midst of my struggle, I sat with a student yesterday and encouraged her with her math.  I assured her, “You can do this.  You are getting bits and pieces of it.  Don’t give up.  I can see that you are giving up before we start.  If you stick with it, I know you are going to get this.”

As I sat with her, I heard the words coming out of my mouth and realized they were addressed to me as much as they were to her.  It amazes me even in the middle of all my craziness that I might forget to turn to God (the only guy I should be turning to), but He doesn’t forget about me.  I’m grateful for gentle reminders that God is with me.

Getting Started

It’s been months since my first All Write Conference when I met dozens of wonderful new people all telling me, “All you need is a blog name.”

I’m not going to lie, I initially thought they were crazy.  I couldn’t imagine what I’d have to write about.  Sure, I consider myself a writer.  I have a writer’s notebook I carry with me everywhere so I can jot down a quote I want to remember or an idea I want to save for later.  But, the idea of blogging seemed too out there, too public.  I couldn’t imagine I could write anything online others would want to read.

However, after I got home, I had this burning itch to write.  Ideas started flooding toward me. Inspiration was coming from everywhere, and I yearned to become a part of this community.  I felt like a little sister watching her older sister and all of her friends going out and wishing I could tag along.

My first block came with not thinking of that “name” they all said I needed.  I reached out to Ruth, who sent me to Tam, and I still couldn’t quite get that perfect title.  So, I stepped away.

Last week my friend from Italy came and visited.  As were were visiting and talking about life and fate, she said, “It’s like that flipping a coin quote.”

I love quotes, so I was intrigued, but I had no idea what she meant.  She stumbled to explain and keep the meaning intact from Italian to English.  I immediately went to Google, and I fell in love with this quote that has inspired my new blog name:

“When you have to make a hard decision, flip a coin.  Why?  Because when that coin is in the air, you suddenly know what you’re hoping for.” -me n.n

I’m in love with this quote.  It is so me.  I struggle to make decisions and have felt stuck wanting to move forward.  I ask people all the time what I should do about big things and trivial things, only to squirm when they say what I don’t like.

As I get older, I’m learning to be gentle with myself and give myself permission to make my own choices and be okay with them, especially if they are not what I think everyone else thinks I should do.

So, here I am.  I’m ready to flip a coin and ready to move forward with life and my new blog.