This girl loves…lightness of life.

Life

Life lightening.

Life has been trying lately.  The passing of my dog still sits at the forefront of my mind most of the time, sometimes hitting me so hard that I gasp for air.  I miss him wholly and completely.  His loss is palpable.

But, there’s hope.  There’s happiness.  There is a lightening of life.

Lightness has taken many different forms.

Some lightness I’ve found in children’s books like A Snicker of Magic.  Some in light-hearted fiction like From Notting Hill to New York…Actually.  And some in seriously beautiful literature like The Hundred-Foot Journey.   In each of these stories I’ve found lightness.  In Snicker, it was Felicity’s hopefulness.  In Notting Hill, it was Scarlett’s kindness.  And in Journey, it was Hassan’s passion.  With each book read I’ve noticed little pieces of my heart being returned to me.

And it’s not just the stories illuminating the darkness.  Oh no, it’s so much more.

It’s the lightness I’ve found in tending to my plants, watching their slow growth.  It’s in the air I breathe each day as I gaze out at my grassy lawn.  It’s in the drops of dew I lift from a newly ripened strawberry.

It’s the lightness I’ve found in cooking.  With each slice and garnish I’ve lighted my way.  And with each bite, I’ve savored the flavors as they’ve filled my mouth.

It’s the lightness I’ve found in yoga.  I’ve found my center, my breath, and my soul.  I’m learning to breathe into myself.  I’m learning to listen to my body more and my mind less.

It is interesting how light, once illuminated, spreads. I know that “happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

I’m learning to turn on the light.  For, it is this lightness that fulfills me.

 

This girl loves…her dog.

The greatest dog who ever lived...

The greatest dog who ever lived…

My dog, my life, my love…passed.

I’ve been struggling with how I was going to be able to move forward, to sleep in my house again, to go about my life without him in it because he is forever on my mind.  When I saw the sun still shinning this afternoon on my way home from work, I thought, “oh, I’ll walk Bagel.”  When I took out the loaf of bread for dinner, I looked around for his begging face.  When I turned on the disposal and washed dishes, I waited to hear the lap of the doggie door that he always went through in avoidance of this wretched noise.  I looked for him in all of his usual spots around the house–under the desk, in his chair, outside on the porch.  Then cold reality hit again and again.

He’s gone.

His spirit still lingers but you can’t kiss or hug or snuggle a spirit.  I have been receiving so many comforting words like “Those you truly love, never leave you” but how do you hold that?  I need something tangible.  I need his soft fur to bury my face in.  I need his cold nose to rub against my fingers.  I need to feel his licks.  I need to hear the jingling of his tags, see the wagging of his tail, and watch him run and prance around the house.

I have lost a dog before.  I know it takes time.  I also know that no measure of time replaces that gaping hole in your heart after you have lost something you love.   I know I’ll be able to think of him without crying someday.  I know that I’ll remember the life he led and not just the past two months.

I know it gets easier.

That’s when you want to speed up the process.  That’s when you want time to fly.  When he was here all I wanted was to have one more moment with him and now I just want the time to pass quickly and the stages of grief to get on with it.

Each day there is something new to get used to.  Last night it was the first night he wasn’t here.  This morning was the first morning he wasn’t here.  This afternoon was the first afternoon he wasn’t home to greet me.  Tonight is the first night he won’t be sleeping by my side.  I think that’s what I am missing the most right now.  I’m missing our evening routine where he gets his treat (in bed, of course, because he was a prince), snuggles in next to my side while I read my book, then the “goodnight, lovie” and lights out.

I know there are more words and maybe with time they will come but for now all I have is: I miss you, Bagel.  I love you more than life itself.  I will forever be grateful for the happiness you brought me everyday of your life.  Your mother loves you.

 

This girl loves…inspiration.

My ah-ha moment!

My ah-ha moment!

Beep, beep, beep.  The alarm sounds.  I am torn from a restless sleep.  It’s Monday and I still have five more weeks until spring break.

UGH!

Now don’t get me wrong.  I love what I do.  I’m a teacher and everyday is a little different from the one before which makes for some pretty interesting stories.  It’s just that waking up on command, being “on” for a classroom of children, and no bathroom breaks get a bit tiresome when the days are so sunshiny and warm.  Talk about spring fever!  I’ve got it bad.

Or so I thought.

This morning I walked in and greeted my fellow third grade teammates.  One had recently returned from a writing conference and was full of wonderful ideas to share.  This same teammate has inspired me to read some blogs and books from a few notable professionals in the field of reading education.  I’ve found all of what I’ve read to be the boost I’ve needed in my own reading classroom.  Then, this morning she begins to talk about writing.

UGH!

Here I thought I was doing such great things with reading and now she brings up how we should be doing more writing!  Am I ever going to get it right?  First, we’re not doing enough reading so I’ve set a standard with my students where every free second they have  should be spent reading.  Don’t ask me what you can do when you’re done, I say, because the answer is READ!

I am a competitive person and when someone says we’re not doing something my first reaction is to prove them wrong.  So, I got to thinking.  I have this entire day with my students (a luxury only afforded to me on Mondays as every other day is broken up with “specials”).  I had planned to move on with our lesson on the Three Branches of the Government into the Judicial and Executive Branches but decided to scrap that and focus on some writing.

My students had participated in a discussion about how a bill becomes a law since we were studying the Legislative Branch.  They had watched the classic “School House Rock” video, the same one I watched as a kid.  They had also listed the steps on a post-it as their ticket out the door.  So, knowing all of this I figured I would have them write an informational paragraph describing the steps a bill takes in order to become a law.  I told them that they needed to “Inform, Explain, and Remind” in this paragraph.  The inform was stating a topic sentence.  The explain was explaining the different steps.  The remind was to remind the reader what they were writing about using a concluding sentence.

They all began to write.  The classroom immediately fell silent, the only sound being that of their pencils.  Before they handed in the paper I asked if they had “DOL’d” them (checked for capitals and punctuation) and then I read them.  What I found was a lot of restating of the list we had gone over the previous week.  So, I conferenced with them individually, asking them clarifying questions.  What is a veto?  Why does Congress have to vote again if they already voted on the bill?  Easily able to explain their thinking, I asked them to add it to their writing.  In doing so these students really learned how a bill becomes a law.  It wasn’t a set of steps they memorized and regurgitated for me.  They can actually explain, in writing, the process a bill takes.

Now I know we read to learn but I never thought about how we also write to learn.  I’ve been teaching for 11 years and today I finally got it.  Today was my ah-ha moment.  I love teaching for this reason alone.  I love that a tired, spring-fever-feeling teacher can come to school and feel inspired.  I really do have the best job in the world.

This girl loves…resolutions.

Making progress on my book!

Making progress on my book!

 

My brother inspired this post.  He has resolved to run a half-marathon and is actually doing it.  He has  inspired to me in his effort to set and make progress toward achieving a goal.  In one of his blog posts he wrote about his difficulty in finishing projects that he starts.  I could relate wholly.

I often begin projects, run out of steam, and quit.  It’s not a quality I particularly love in myself, but it’s part of who I am.  I am a dreamer.  I imagine myself doing all of these wonderful things and set my sights so high that it’s nearly impossible to follow through.

I started a book two summers ago.  My goal was to write a story I wanted to read.  From what I’ve read about writing a book, that is the first step-write the book you want to read.  At first the writing came quickly.  I had characters, a setting, and a basic plot.  I knew where I wanted my protagonist to go as I wrote the ending before the beginning.  I find working backwards, as when solving a mathematical problem, usually works best.

After making significant progress I lost my momentum.  I used my book as a way to escape the world and last year was so wonderful that I never felt the need to escape.  This was great for my mental health but not for my writing.  This summer I found I desperately needed an escape and the writing magically came back.  I set a goal, and for most of the summer, I made progress.

School started, I moved, and the writing stopped.  I promised myself I’d come back to it on the weekends or over the holidays but a week into the winter holidays I still hadn’t started.

Until today, that is.  I woke up, knew I had nothing planned, no place to be, and no one to report to.  I stopped thinking about everything except my book.

That is when the writing came.  All of the sudden I was writing furiously, finally finding inspiration and the rest of my story.  I’m not going to lie and say that the book will be finished anytime soon, but I will say that I am off to a promising start.  I want to finish this book.

Correction…I will finish this book.

This girl loves…Sundays.

Sunday...

Sunday…

Tonight, as I was cleaning up the dinner dishes, I began reflecting about my current state of happiness.  For no reason at all, I realized how happily content I felt.  Having felt a little less than happy as of late, this current state was absolutely welcomed.

Just yesterday, I was speaking about contentedness with a friend.  We reminisced about our trip to England and the sheer happiness we felt for every second we resided in that wonderful country.  We both agreed that it shouldn’t take a trip to make us feel appreciative and reflective; that life itself should provide these experiences.

I remembered the reason I started this blog almost a year ago.  I wanted to take the time to “smell the roses” and record them.  I wanted to practice my writing.  I wanted to take notice of my life and share that with the world.  Love is a strong emotion and one I do not take lightly therefore, lately I haven’t had much inspiration to write.  I haven’t really “loved” much these days.

A shift began this weekend though.

I planned a trip to the ballet, dinner with a friend, and time with my family.  Tonight capped the weekend off with a simple dinner at my mom’s house.

Sunday dinners have always been a kind of tradition as it was usually a night where my mom would cook a bigger dinner.  Now that my brothers and I are off on our own, my mom and I have carried on with this tradition, always having dinner together on Sundays.

Sitting in her house, cozy on the couch while the smells of her cooking fills the air, my soul expands in such comfort. Tonight’s meal did not disappoint: meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and fresh green beans.  I remarked this evening that I could make a living just eating mashed potatoes.  There is something strangely comforting about the warmth, the soft texture, and the taste which my mom has perfected over the years.  Mashed potatoes: so simple, yet somehow so perfect.

I believe finding happiness in the everyday is a good start to being happy for life.  I hope that I can continue on this path.

This girl loves…the holiday season.

The Thanksgiving Table

The Thanksgiving Table

It is safe to say that the winter holidays are amongst my favorite.  Like most people, I revel in the fact that people are kinder, far more considerate, and appreciative at this time of year.  These acts of goodwill are infectious and if you have to “catch” anything at this time of year, I’m glad to have caught this bug.

Parking lots are full of cars going every which way but I take a deep breath, remind myself that I am lucky to have my wits about me in order to navigate in this chaotic time.  As I walk along the paths of the outdoor markets filled with hundreds of people I take in the blueness of the sky in all of its glory, breathe in the rare cool air that this time of year eventually brings, and smile as I watch people calm their tired children.  If I’m lucky I can catch someone’s eye and make their day brighter, reminding them of how lucky we are to have money to buy the things we want.  A smile goes a long way in my book.  I chat up the cashiers, asking them how their day is going, knowing that the holidays bring many exhausting days.  These small conversations are my way of showing my appreciation for all that they do.

Finally, I think of my family that I have come to appreciate even more now that we are all apart (a new concept for us), and how thankful I am that we are able to be together.  This year was particularly special because two of our holidays–Thanksgiving and Hanukkah–coincided for the first and last time for hundreds of years.  Waking up under the same roof as my entire family on Thanksgiving, dog included, reassured me that no matter where we are all at we will always have a place in which to come home.  My mom has her own home, and for the first time in six years, we all know where we will be each year.  During this time of extreme change in all of our lives it is comforting to know that some things will stay the same.

 

Hanukkah at Home

Hanukkah at Home

 

 

This girl loves…feeding her soul.

Food for the soul...

Food for the soul…

How many times do you take a day for yourself?  A mental health day is what people typically call it, but how many people actually take these days?  How many people take the time to feed their soul?

I am not one to take these days.  I usually feel too guilty, reserving these “personal” days for sick animals, family obligations, or dental/medical procedures.

When did we lose sight of taking time for ourselves?  As a child I frequently missed school because I wasn’t “feeling well”.  Since I was a very good student my mom never protested.  Her only stipulation was that if I was too sick to go to school then I was too sick to go outside and play once my friends had come home.  I was content with this compromise and spent the day watching movies or playing in my room.  As a child I knew that sometimes it was nice to take a day for myself.

Today I did just that.  I attended a lecture by a professor that went to England with me.  I learned about the  “Fearless Females” Empress Matilda and Eleanor of Aquitaine.  I learned how they influenced Arthurian legend and how Arthurian legend might have influenced them.  They were strong women, ahead of their time in history, stifling their power in order to allow the men in their life to rise.

After the lecture I spent hours reading, feeding that hunger my mind craves everyday.  Fueled by topics of the lecture, I went on to read scholarly articles about the importance of reading and its correlation to creativity and innovation.  Following the advice of the author, I took more time to read.  I got lost in the story of Amy and Leo in “The Runaway Princess” and felt truly renewed.

Motivated by the characters in my book, I took my friend up on her offer to come out for a happy hour drink.  After a day spent in my pajamas, in a darkened house, I welcomed a perfumed and made-up body.  The night air was a welcome change from the recycled air in my house.

Discussing the events of my mental health day, I was reminded that these days are necessary.  I feel like I can start tomorrow renewed.  Sometimes you just need a day.

This girl loves…autumn.

A seasonal change...

A seasonal change…

Autumn marks the transition from summer to winter.  The leaves change from a bright green to vibrant oranges, yellows, reds, and browns.  Smells of apple cinnamon spice waft through the air.  A crisp breeze tickles your bare arms reminding you that the harsh heat of the summer is over and cooler weather is on the way.

Last night the air smelled of autumn.  I took a deep breath and knew that this seasonal change was not just in the weather, but in my life.  I felt my worries melt away and a sense of peace take over.  I remembered what I vowed to do last year at this time: to live.  I vowed to take in each moment as I did when I traveled throughout England.  And I was doing well, that is until the summer heat set in and moving arrangements were made.

Since June, the start of summer, there has been a brick of anxiety sitting upon my chest, making it difficult to breathe at times.  At first it was the question of where I’d live then the question changed from where to how.  How would I manage all on my own?  How would I deal with the emotions of leaving my mom for the first time in 34 years?  How would I begin to make a life for myself on my own?

The answer was: start small.  Baby steps.

So I did.  Slowly I unpacked; each box emptied representing a tiny piece of that brick lifting from my chest.  A couch was delivered.  Pictures were hung.  Floors swept and mopped.  A house slowly turned into a home.

This morning, I sit in my home, I hear the sounds of the leaves rustling in the trees right outside my open door.  The breeze cools the air inside as well as out.  It is autumn and this girl loves it.

This girl loves…lazy mornings.

Lazy, early mornings are the best

Lazy, early mornings are the best

I just read an article from The Huffington Post last night entitled, “The Habits Of Supremely Happy People”.  One part that stuck with me was the part about finding pleasure in the most simple of tasks.  “A meticulously swirled ice cream cone. An boundlessly waggy dog. Happy people take the time to appreciate these easy-to-come-by pleasures. Finding meaning in the little things, and practicing gratitude for all that you do have is associated with a sense of overall gladness.”

I found this to be so, what’s the word? Simple.  I could not resist the pun.  (Bear with me, it’s been a long week.)

Since my last post over a month ago, I’ve moved and started school.  That may not seem like a whole lot to those of you that have never moved while also trying to set up a new classroom, but it is.  A whole lot.  Just take my word.  It’s quite a task.

In keeping with the rules for happiness, I am trying to find pleasure in the small things.

First of all, I have a terrific class this year.  I did not think I would be lucky enough to have yet another great class two years in a row but the education gods were with me this year.  I think they knew that I’d suffer a nervous breakdown if it had worked out otherwise.  Whatever the case may be, I am “supremely happy” with my class this year.  They are bright, well-behaved, and enthusiastic; what more could a teacher ask for?  A larger salary maybe?  Just kidding.  Well, maybe not.

In addition to my wonderful class, I have a new, beautiful new home of my own.  It is certainly not without its faults, but for the most part it is absolutely perfect.  The walls are painted a bright blue, a color that reminds me of the sky on a sunny, spring day.  (preferably on my birthday!)  So, I get to wake up each morning and enjoy a cup of tea while I admire these beautiful walls that I picked out.  Perhaps it is the fact that I picked the color and the arrangement of my furniture that pleases me so.  There is something to be said for pride of ownership.  I have had a say in every single piece of this house–the paint, the appliances, the furniture–and it feels good to be able to put my mark on my home.

It is just so nice to wake up, make myself a cup of tea, and watch the sun greet the day.  There is no one telling me I have to go somewhere, do something, or be someone.  I get to enjoy this morning, this miracle, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Therefore, it is safe to say that this girl certainly loves her lazy mornings (in her own home).  I think a second cup of tea is warranted.

 

 

This girl loves…Shakespeare.

So many resources!

So many resources!

If you have been reading my blog this summer you’ll remember that I have spent the entirety of it at home instead of traveling to far away places.  With that said, I have been far from unproductive, in fact, I’ve probably done more research this summer than any other summer prior.  It is all because of a wonderful man, William Shakespeare.

For as far back as I can remember (in my English classes, that is) I have always been intrigued by Shakespeare.  I couldn’t wait to start Romeo and Juliet as a freshmen in high school and I read  Macbeth three separate times throughout high school.  I fell in love with The Merchant of Venice as a senior finding much sympathy for the character of Shylock.  My love would go further than that as I embarked upon my journey in England four summers ago.  It was there that I was able to learn about William Shakespeare as a person.  It was there that I was able to truly understand why he wrote amazing and complex characters like Iago and Caliban as well as hilarious characters like Bottom and Puck.  I read more Shakespeare in six weeks than I had in my life thus far and I LOVED IT.

Upon graduation from my MA program I decided I needed to make Shakespeare a part of my daily life.   I thought,  what better way to do that than to integrate it into my elementary school reading program!  I was lucky to be teaching in a school that would allow for this new vision and I’ve not been disappointed by the results.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my students have fallen in love with the texts I’ve exposed them to.  They’ve analyzed sonnets that most adults have difficulty even reading.  They’ve brought characters to life as I imagine Shakespeare’s troupe of actors did hundreds of years ago.

This year I have the opportunity to really make a mark.  April 23, 2014 will mark what would have been Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.  Celebrations are occurring all over England and I wanted to be in on the action.

So all summer I have been researching Shakespearean texts, watching movies, engaging in scholarly discourse with anyone willing to listen (namely Kate, Dylan and Tyler), and making plans for a ShakesYEAR!  Tomorrow I meet with my curriculum advisor to discuss my plans for the year and I couldn’t be more excited.

I cannot wait to impart my knowledge, my passion.

My goal is that by the end of the school year each and every student at my school will know one detail about William Shakespeare.  I don’t think that is too much to hope for in a world where Shakespeare can be found most anywhere!