Blogtober 23rd: Hot Stress Breathing

I keep forgetting to breathe.  I keep forgetting to move, to roll my shoulders, to stretch my neck.  I got a Fitbit, and I finally got it working today.  Awareness really is halfway to success.  I haven’t been so aware of my movement (or lack thereof) since my personal training sessions ran out in spring.  As a results, it’s a little easier to remember to move, to breathe.

Several different friends have said just this week that it’s time to take a day, to practice radical self-care.  I agree.

Today I carried around Friday-night-level exhaustion.  All I really got done was the Powerpoint notes I needed for my online class discussion and then the running of said discussion.  Really.  That’s all.

But somehow it’s okay.  Or maybe it just is what it is.

I’m finding that, as the seasons are shifting between summer and fall–today it was 80 degrees, but tonight it will probably dip just below 60–so, too, do I appear to be in a seasonal shift.  My job is shifting, the conditions at my school are shifting, my family reality is shifting with the death of my last grandmother, my certainties and securities are shifting, my plans and dreams are shifting, the future is uncertain–it always was; I just didn’t realize it.  (Haven’t I learned this lesson before?  I am a slow learner.  Like my students, I need repetition.)

And tonight, with the warmth of the Peat Monster filling my throat and chest, the cooling air flowing from the window through the fan, creative foment stirring in my gut despite the exhaustion, I am grateful–grateful for…

  • the Peat Monster,
  • the story brewing,
  • the friend who skyped with me tonight,
  • sitting virtually in the same room, working quietly and companionably with someone,
  • cereal for dinner (Rice Chex and Honeycomb, if you want to know–from childhood),
  • friends who checked up on me to see if I’m doing well and to ask after my day,
  • the birthday gift card with which my Fitbit was purchased,
  • the prospect of chaperoning a field trip to the Ocean Institute next week (I get to go on the boat!),
  • a minimum day tomorrow, with time for planning for AP,
  • Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects on audio in the car, for a gripping drive,
  • Sarah’s reminder that I’ve got a light that always guides me, that I speak of hope and change as something good, that I live my truth and know I’m not alone.



(Photo source uncertain; found on

Blogtober 22nd: Of villainy and w(h)ine

So I spent my entire day at the district office today.  The bulk of that time was spent in a vertical teaming meeting, and then I had a more stressful and exhausting meeting afterward for the online class I teach.  The dongle for my new Fitbit doesn’t seem to be working.  My computer and phone memories are too full, and my pictures won’t download properly to the cloud.  An ex-colleague has decided to be nasty and invade my space and time with her venom and its after-effects, creating extra work for me.

This day has sucked me dry.  And thus the especial need to identify the positives and express gratitude for them.


I read Steven Pressfield’s “Writing Wednesdays” post about villainy…or rather, about the second act of a novel or film belonging to the villain.  And then some ideas about the villain for my novel began to swirl.  And then some ideas about the villain(s) in my own life began to clarify.  And I smiled inside.

If there’s no villain, there’s no conflict.  If there’s no conflict, there’s no story.  I’d prefer to live a conflict-free life…but I prefer even more to have a good story.

And so I’ll drop these villains into my novel and some sort of justice will be served.

To further shift the balance, I announce my gratitude for…

  • Supervisors who have my back.
  • Students’ parents who are kind and gracious in their emails to me.
  • Colleagues who are truly pleasures to collaborate with.
  • Friends who take me out to dinner and pay for my wine.
  • The edge of cool in the air these nights after the sun has gone down.
  • Friends who talk to me on the phone, talk me off ledges, allow me to talk them off ledges.
  • A particular friend who deftly reminded me that there is no shame in being emotionally wired the way I am (the family sap gene and all), and who helped me remember why I might have associated shame with that in the first place.
  • And, as always, my dog who is happy to see me when I get home, even when I’m late.
  • My bed, which will welcome me with open blankets in the not too distant future.

For these things and more, I am so grateful.

Blogtober 21st: From – to +

October 21, 2014

OK, this is an exercise in speaking positive into negative space.  After a day of too little sleep, an upset stomach, endless meeting, zero silence, and plentiful frustrations and insecurities, I need the deliberate positive input of a gratitude practice.

A book I ordered on Amazon came–Roald Dahl, on the recommendation of my good friend.  Looking forward to getting back into my reading habit again.  It really has been too long since I let myself sink my teeth into a juicy novel.

I managed to get some grading done today during the meeting, even found my way to the page where one can both read the assignment and enter the grade on the same page.  (Why is this a revolutionary concept?)

Enjoyed a short walk at work, the sunshine, the shade even more, the plumeria creamy-white in the after-lunch sun.

Actually cleaned a tiny bit in my bedroom while talking on the phone with my bff.  I love the kind of multitasking that doesn’t actually divide my attention from the conversation.

Had a good class today.  Read Annie Dillard with my class.  In fact, read Annie Dillard aloud to my class, which is a gift all unto itself.  I love the poetry in her dense prose.  I think my kids finally started tasting it today.  I could see them licking their lips, smiling as they wrote furious notes in the margins.

teachers how to think not what to think

 (My goal)

Blogtober 20th: It could’ve been worse.

October 20, 2014

Of some days, the best that may be said by way of gratitude is, well, it could’ve been worse.

At least the day didn’t drag.

At least I didn’t forget my lunch or forget to drink my coffee.

At least I clocked hours in grading.

At least all the online grading wasn’t stupidly and prohibitively slow.

At least the technology didn’t completely fail.

At least my students were nice.  (When I asked them at the end of class what they’d learned today, one said, “The meaning of life!”  Hahaha!  I should’ve replied, “Well, yeah, we were reading Virginia Woolf and Annie Dillard!”  ;-)  Instead I just laugh heartily.  At least they’re starting to get it.

At least the department meeting wasn’t contentious.   (That could be because only half of the department attended.  Hmm…)

At least I feel a little bit grownup this week, having taken time on Sunday to schedule out time for the things that matter to me.  And I’m grateful in advance for the powers and providence and grace that will allow me to stick to those schedules.

Back to work…


 A little perspective

Blogtober 19th: For reasons not to blog

October 19, 2014

I’ve skipped two days of blogging, and I’m really happy and fine about it.  Today I find myself grateful for reasons not to blog.

What do I mean?

Well, Friday night I didn’t blog because I went out to dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen or even talked to in over a year.  When I ran into her at a district-wide training event on Monday, we had a massive hug and promised to schedule a get-together before October ended.  We did better than that–we scheduled it and saw it through before the week even ended.

We had dinner, drinks, talk, and uproarious laughter…for seven hours.  And it only felt like two or three.  It was amazing and fun.  And we’re shooting to do it again in November.

I didn’t blog on Friday, and I am grateful for the reason why.

Saturday night I didn’t blog either.  This occurred because I started working on a piece about my late grandmother, and I found my second wind, was blessed with a burst of energy and words.  I wrote over 2400 words, and I’m not going to look that gift horse in the mouth.

I didn’t blog last night, and I’m grateful for the reason why.

Gratitude practice is truly one of the best ways I know of to keep my perspective right-sized and well-aimed.  In the past, I might have beaten myself up for not blogging one or two nights of my self-imposed challenge.  What a waste of energy that would have been.  I am so grateful for the ability to enjoy what moments and experiences and gifts Providence puts in my pathway.

And this blog post is being generated in a small slice of available time, and I am off to meet another writer friend for catch-up and conversation.  Ciao.  I hope you are able to spot and enjoy the gifts in your own pathway this week.

Blogtober 16th: The Balancing Continues

October 16, 2014

The universe-corrections continue.  The balance continues to strive for its own restoration.

Today I stressed out literally the whole day over finishing my prep work for a live discussion I needed to facilitate for my online class.  It’s only the third one I’ve done.  My stomach was in knots all day.  Add to that the news that a dearly beloved colleague of mine–the one I finally get to collaborate with for my AP class, after almost a decade of soloing it–is going to take a special administrative assignment for the entirety of second quarter, and now I get to “collaborate with” a long-term sub.  (It’s a good opportunity for him, but oh my God….) (That last was a prayer, by the way.)  I’m drowning in grading backlog, and the quarter ends next Friday.  (No pressure…)

But then it was cooler today–in the upper mid-70s rather than the 80s or worse, and that was respite.  The clouds this morning were beautiful, with sunny God-rays piercing the cloud cracks.  I got my powerpoint finished, and the discussion went off without any real glitches.  I overplanned for it, which means I already have a starting point for next week.  Good lunchtime conversations with colleagues were decompressing (nothing like discussing the merits of cloth vs. disposable diapers, or potty training your kids to pee on trees, or how to make your lawn flourish by trying to kill it…using clear plastic rather than black plastic–LOL!). A friend is coaching me through my grading backlog, and she seems to always find the right balance for check-in frequency and intensity.  And a good friend tonight decided, quite out of the blue, to tell me ten things she liked about me–what an uplift!  (And yes, I got to reciprocate.)

And then there was this:

buechner justice grammar mercy poetry

“Justice is the grammar of things. Mercy is the poetry of things.”
— Frederick Buechner, originally from Whistling in the Dark, and later in Beyond Words

Amen.  I believe in the God who created grammar but who loves the art of poetry.

Blogtober 15th: The Balancing

October 15, 2014

Today I am grateful for the balancing.  “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” right?  (Newton’s Third Law of Physics)  I think that applies to more than just the physical world.  I think it extends to the spiritual and emotional realm, too.


  • A crappy, bitter email from a former colleague hits the inbox, but then another colleague comes by for a visit and an uplifting conversation filled with laughter and humanity.
  • The too-hot and somewhat windy day is followed by a cooler night and a temperature-tempering overcast morning the next day.
  • An annoying interruption in scheduled work time butts up against an impromptu meeting that yields an actual result.
  • A too-late night is followed by the gift of a nap and a relatively early bedtime.  (Of course the next night was way too late…but tonight will be earlier and saner.)
  • Strain and tension with a friend turn into goodwill and conversation.

See how this goes?  I am grateful for the balancing, especially when I blend it with my focus on positive self-talk and looking for things great and small to be grateful for.


calvin-on-scientific-lawShh.  I know this one says the First Law, but it works for the Third Law, too.


Blogtober 14th: Bullets of Grateful

October 14, 2014

Yesterday was a timely and useful professional development session.  That is something to give thanks for.

Attitudes at said PD session were majority positive.  That, too, is something to be (hugely) grateful for.

Jennifer Rothschild, whom I met in England this summer, posted this nugget on her Facebook timeline this week:  “Gratitude helps you desire what you already have rather than always needing to have what you think you desire.”  I appreciate this always timely reminder, and that, too, is something to be grateful for.

This has been a long and busy day, and I am about to go fall into bed, and that, too, is something to be grateful for.  G’night, y’all.

[Edit note:  Oops, I forgot to make these bullets.  Meh.  Oh, well.]

Blogtober 13th: Self-Care, Synchronicities, and Synthesis

October 13, 2014

Today I am hugely grateful for an early release from school (student-free day, professional development meetings).

I am grateful for the nap that ensued shortly thereafter.  What an unusual gift a nap is for a high school teacher and a night owl.  I had just been talking with a friend about the need for more sleep, and the health values of it.  And then tonight I was talking with someone else about radical self-care.

These kinds of synchronicities keep arising, as they often do for me, and they often make me happy.  Today I came across a blog post that reminded, “God’s not religious, but people are. God’s not out to control you. God’s love is out to free you and to transform you.”

And then another friend reposted Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote:  “It’s your life — but only if you make it so. The standards by which you live must be your own standards, your own values, your own convictions in regard to what is right and wrong, what is true and false, what is important and what is trivial. When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else or a community or a pressure group, you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being.”  (as seen on Brain Pickings)

These two quotes connect in my mind.  Those connections may not be entirely clear to others, at least initially, so let me synthesize them.  I grew up with the impression of a controlling God, and my circles of acquaintance seemed to support that notion.  I have learned much in the past year.  I have learned that I do not believe in a controlling God any longer.  I believe God is in control; I just don’t believe God is controlling.  That’s a vital difference.

Furthermore, I’ve learned that much of what I thought I believed…I don’t actually believe.  They were someone else’s beliefs and (possibly mistaken) impressions.  This process of figuring out what I believe has been nothing if not scary and interesting, interesting but scary.  But I am grateful for the freedom and ability to do this process anyway.


cat nap 2   cat nap 1


(Incidentally, further to naps:  I had the occasion, when I was traveling back East last week, to meet again a student I sat near in 1st grade.  It had been years, possibly decades, since I’d seen him.  He was a tall boy then and is a tall man now.  I had occasion, upon this meeting, to recall that, during naptime in first grade, when we lay down on blankets or towels beside our little desks, shoes off, I would rub my stocking feet in his soft blond hair.  I continued this practice until he told on me and I was ordered to desist.  Fortunately, by now, I think he’s forgotten about it, and I didn’t take the occasion to remind him.  To this day, however, I love rubbing my stocking feet on soft and silky things.  These days only dogs and maybe one of the more patient kitties seem to stand for it any longer.)

Blogtober 12th, second installment (make-up for Blogtober 11th)

I hadn’t intended to try to make up missed posts, but this one presented itself this evening.

How could I have forgotten?  Well, I didn’t–not really.  But tonight’s Office of evening prayer featured both Psalms 36 and 130, the themes of which are mercy and…mercy.  This repetition of the notion of mercy always puts me in mind of Mary Gauthier’s “Mercy Now.”

However, I know Psalm 130 best through John Rutter’s musical setting of it in his exquisite, painful, and yet reassuring Requiem.  After my beloved and prized great-grandmother, Grandma Gracie, died in 1983, and we could not go to see her or even attend her funeral, it took me many years to process her loss, and one of the key factors in that processing was Rutter’s Requiem the first time I heard it, on the late KFAC 92.3 FM, in the wee small hours of the night.

The lyrics of this piece are Psalm 130 verbatim, in my favorite version–old-school Shakespeare-style poetry, and you can listen here, if you’re so inclined (turn up the volume):

Out Of The Deep (Psalm 130)

Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord:
Lord, hear my voice.
O let thine ears consider well the voice of my complaint.
If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss:
O Lord, who may abide it?
For there is mercy with thee: therefore shalt thou be feared.
I look to the Lord; my soul doth wait for him,
and in his word is my trust.
My soul fleeth unto the Lord: before the morning watch, I say,
before the morning watch.
O Israel trust in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy:
and with him is plenteous redemption.
And he shall redeem Israel from all his sins.