Blogging on The Brightside

"I think I can. I think I can. I think I can." -The Little Engine That Could

“Worry is a misuse of imagination.”

— Dan Zadra

As we (my district and many other fellow educators) begin a new school year tomorrow, I am overcome with a myriad of feelings.

Excitement. Anxiety. Hope. Doubt. Joy. Passion. Worry.

With every good emotion, feeling, and memory comes the struggle that follows every educator. A few questions will always remain.

Will what I do be enough? Can I change my students for the better? Will my students be better people when they leave my class? Will they show what they know? Can I get them to reach their fullest potential and try their best?

As these questions float around, anyone can feel overwhelmed. (There’s a reason that so many teachers leave the profession within their first few years.)

But what if we let go of the worry? What if we gave ourselves more room to imagine the best of our students, our curriculum, ourselves. When we pause and leave room for this kind of thinking, the room that is necessary to imagine the best in all situations, we can transform our classrooms. We can transform our students’ futures. We can transform our lives as a whole.

Use your brain for good. Remind yourself that as we start a new year, new season, new part of our lives, worry drains all the energy we have to make ourselves great. Use your imagination and lift yourself up. Living fully requires everything you’ve got. Whatever you give to worry you can’t give to anything else.

Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow starts a new year. Tomorrow could be a new life for you.

Make it count. Imagine the possibilities.

Love and Light, Carly

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Letter for a Friend: A Colorful Life

Recently, I have found myself coping with some darker days. Life is not always optimistic and at times, you can really feel like it is not on your side. I shared these days in a similar place to a friend of mine. We both dealt with a feelings of loss, grief, anger, and guilt.

I settled upon the idea that I would write a post for him. Easier said than done when what you are feeling is the same difficulty you want to write in spite of. I wrote this friend an email, and the contents of this email are what I will share with you all. No picture, no cutesy doodle. Just words.

I guess what we all need to realize is that a colorful life is what we should wish for, and without any one color, light, dark, or otherwise, our days, our experiences, our lives would not be as alive and complete.

Letter for a Friend: A Colorful Life

I am incredibly sorry you are dealing with this sense of loss. I would not wish it on my worst enemy. Knowing that you love someone and that the entire situation has changed can be very difficult to deal with. 
 
I appreciate your kind words and your compliments towards my sense of honesty and self-awareness. It has taken a lot of practice and, unfortunately, I must deal with the waves of grief, guilt, and anger (with varying levels of intensity). At the time of my loss, I had no way of processing what was happening, and how my life would be forever changed. I can promise you (while still accepting and thanking you for your kindness) that I continue to truly struggle with painting a similar picture of meaning, compassion, health, and healing. The hues of my picture can be found in a darker palette, and at times, the canvas all together is thrown out with overbearing sadness. Still, there are moments where I remind myself that each day is its own clean slate. The world is not black and white, and while we spend our lives working through the gray, inside and outside of our heads, our world is meant to be lived in FULL color. Every color imaginable works its way in– the darks that paint our days with sadness one day merely fill in the shadows of another. The lightest shades of a new morning can fill our worlds so completely that our eyes struggle to find darkness at all.
 
I encourage us both to take the darks, lights, and everything in between as part of this “artistic” process. We experience life as playful artists, and when we test our boundaries, our emotions, and ourselves, we can create some truly breath-taking moments with every emotional hue we possess.
 
I wish you the same vibrancy in your days as I do my own.
Love and Light,
Carly
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“When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.”

Chief Tecumseh

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In the morning, light pours into my bedroom.  It’s kind of a pain to fall asleep with the blinds open and the curtains pulled back, but it’s worth it to be greeted by light.  Then, for me, it’s baked oatmeal and one shot of espresso.  I’m not a morning person, and I probably haven’t had a single thought about anything worth remembering until I’ve begun to absorb some caffeine.  A quick aside- I’ve never understood why people don’t drink more espresso, is it the whip cream thing?  And then, a clean shave.  I (almost) always use a sharp razor, not a Gillette, and have replaced that blue goop with fluffy and fragrant lavender shave soap applied by a badger hair shave brush.

I’m sharing my routine with you, because I’ve found that from the first ray of sunshine to the first bite of oatmeal, the last sip of espresso to the last bit of shave soap, I tend to concentrate on how lucky I am to enjoy these little luxuries.  They are simple joys.  When you appreciate your situation first thing in the morning, you start the day off right.  And when you start the day off right, the rest of the day tends to follow suit.

If you’re a snooze button 12 times, rush out of bed and into the car to sit in traffic on the way to the job you dread kind of person, consider what you give up each morning.  You’ve missed the chance to be gracious, to take a few minutes to yourself to think about your day, to think about what you can do for someone else today.  By the time you’re expressing you’re road rage, you’ve given up the chance to work out that day or your opportunity to reflect in your journal.  Approaching the beginning of your day differently might change your outlook on school or work, especially if you’ve taken a few minutes to give thanks that you have gainful employment and think about how you can make a difference at work that day.  An improved outlook is often the key to improved performance.

So much of this blog is about having a positive and gracious attitude.  The reason is simple- life is better that way.  The time to establish that attitude is first thing in the morning.

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“Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.”

– Jackie Robinson

This post was submitted by our friend Joelle Wisnieski, a graduate of Akron University whose laughter lights up the room.

Robinson

As a first basemen myself, Jackie is one of my role models. A wonderful ball player and a passionate civil rights activist, he continued to play his hand when anyone would have understood if he folded, but more than that he really PLAYED. Not only was he the first African-American to play in major league baseball, but he was then named rookie of the year. I mean who has the courage to steal home 19 times! And I’m not talking about 19 attempts… that is 19 runs that Robinson scored by stealing home base during his baseball career. I think that this quote by Jackie pretty much sums up his attitude toward baseball and toward life. Life is NOT a spectator sport. Unfortunately, still sometimes find myself living as if it is one… letting my life pass before my eyes with minimal involvement, challenge, passion.  I don’t want to live that way – and I’m guessing neither do you.  Recently I found that I had all these dreams and aspirations for my life. I want to help people. I want to teach, and travel, and love. I want to enjoy the little things but experience the big things… but most importantly I want to make a difference. But then I took stock of my life and I was very upset at what I found. I’ve been wasting time, precious time. When I could have been making an effort to help someone, be a friend to someone, or maybe even to learn something new – what was I doing instead? – watching the latest episode of “The Bachelor” or rereading “The Hobbit.”  Don’t get me wrong, I love me some TV drama and I enjoy an excellent literary story, but what else was I doing.  At that moment I realized that I was sitting in the grandstand with my feet resting on the railing in front of me, but I also looked at the field and realized that they had been calling for a first basemen to come play.  I refuse to take a seat when there is one amazing life to be lived! We all have moments in life when we look around and don’t understand how we fell into a ditch. But don’t forget it is never too late to get your hands dirty and climb out.  Don’t live your life as a spectator (because I agree with Jackie on this topic) – it would be a waste. Instead, go out and play. Learn something new, go somewhere you have never been, challenge yourself and the people around you. I promise you won’t regret grabbing your glove and taking the field.

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On Empathy and Elephants…

It’s not really our style to write without a quote or clip for inspiration. But I’ve been struggling with writer’s block all year, and today my VP of Operations shared a metaphor that I knew I had to pass on to you.

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Consider a man standing face to face with an elephant. When you ask him to describe his experience, he says that when the elephant flaps his giant ears, the man is cooled by the breeze. He describes looking past the long lashes and into the eyes, into the gentle and wise soul of his huge companion. He describes being wrapped in the pachyderm’s powerful trunk and passing handfuls of peanuts through the ivory tusks and into the mammoth mouth.

Now consider a second man who is standing on the wrong side of the same elephant. When he tells his tale (pun intended) he says “It’s a giant butt. No really…it’s just a giant butt. Baby got back. Yesterday, this thing peed, and I about drowned. It pooped, and I’m still looking for my car. It stinks. A lot.”

Empathy is seeing the whole elephant. When you’re standing up front, don’t forget that it’s not all motherhood and apple pie. Somebody’s standing on the other side and dealing with the consequences of the actions taken at the front. The view’s not so magnificent, and they’re going to want to join you up front soon. When you’re standing on the back-side, consider what’s going on up front. When is it your turn to take over at the helm? When you’re up front, wouldn’t you want to be sure that someone was going to clean up the peanuts from the other side? Empathy is about seeing the whole elephant.

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“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”

— Ann Landers

I’ve noticed recently that I can be stubborn.

(Anyone who knows me understands that this is both a blessing and a curse and in no way a “new” realization, but purely a statement of fact.)

When carrying something heavy (physically, emotionally, etc), it is impossible to realize just how much strain is being placed upon me. It’s only after I set it down for a break or finally make it to my destination that I feel the toll it’s taken. It’s only after some time that I regain feeling, where my blood starts pumping again, filling me up, reminding me that those parts that fought through the pain are still there, still working, ready for the next task.

In those moments, rather than strain and fight through the unnecessary pain, I could just as easily ask for help or allow myself to be helped by those around me. It would be the best thing to do, right? Then why do I insist on doing it all by myself? Why won’t I just let it go?

Why do any of us when faced with something that burdens us, that weighs us down, that hurts us, resist the urge to simply let it go?

We’ve all got something of which we are afraid to let go.

We struggle to decide if, in that moment, letting it be is better than letting it go.

Open your hands, your head, and your heart to something that will better serve you. That will bring you closer to where you really want to be and what you really want to feel. If it helps and if you can, let others ease the burden, lift the weight, and support you in the process.

Remind yourself that if you have the strength to “hang on” and “hang in” that you also possess the immense and incomparable strength that is regained when you loosen your grip. 

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Instructions for a Bad Day

Shane Koyczan is an amazing spoken word poet whose work has been featured all over, including a TED Talk he led about being bullied. This poem in its entirety is being written in my planner as we speak. I find it so refreshing, humbling, and centering. I hope that this poem will bring you to a better place if by chance you stumble across a bad day.

There will be bad days.

Be calm.

Loosen your grip, opening each palm slowly now.

Let go.

Be confident.

Know that now is only a moment, and that if today is as bad as it gets, understand that by tomorrow, today will have ended.

Be gracious.

Accept each extended hand offered, to pull you back from the somewhere you cannot escape.

Be diligent.

Scrape the gray sky clean.

Realize every dark cloud is a smoke screen meant to blind us from the truth, and the truth is whether we see them or not – the sun and moon are still there and always there is light.

Be forthright.

Despite your instinct to say “it’s alright, I’m okay” – be honest.

Say how you feel without fear or guilt, without remorse or complexity.

Be lucid in your explanation, be sterling in your oppose. If you think for one second no one knows what you’ve been going through; be accepting of the fact that you are wrong, that the long drawn and heavy breaths of despair have at times been felt by everyone – that pain is part of the human condition and that alone makes you a legion.

We hungry underdogs, we risers with dawn, we dissmisser’s of odds, we blesser’s of on – we will station ourselves to the calm.

We will hold ourselves to the steady, be ready player one.

Life is going to come at you armed with hard times and tough choices, your voice is your weapon, your thoughts ammunition – there are no free extra men, be aware that as the instant now passes, it exists now as then.

So be a mirror reflecting yourself back, and remembering the times when you thought all of this was too hard and you’d never make it through. Remember the times you could have pressed quit – but you hit continue.

Be forgiving.

Living with the burden of anger, is not living.

Giving your focus to wrath will leave your entire self absent of what you need.

Love and hate are beasts and the one that grows is the one you feed.

Be persistent.

Be the weed growing through the cracks in the cement, beautiful – because it doesn’t know it’s not supposed to grow there.

Be resolute.

Declare what you accept as true in a way that envisions the resolve with which you accept it.

If you are having a good day, be considerate.

A simple smile could be the first-aid kit that someone has been looking for.

If you believe with absolute honesty that you are doing everything you can – do more.

There will be bad days, Times when the world weighs on you for so long it leaves you looking for an easy way out.

There will be moments when the drought of joy seems unending. Instances spent pretending that everything is alright when it clearly is not, check your blind spot.

See that love is still there, be patient.

Every nightmare has a beginning, but every bad day has an end.

Ignore what others have called you. I am calling you friend.

Make us comprehend the urgency of your crisis.

Silence left to its own devices, breed’s silence. So speak and be heard.

One word after the next, express yourself and put your life in the context – if you find that no one is listening, be loud.

Make noise.

Stand in poise and be open.

Hope in these situations is not enough and you will need someone to lean on.

In the unlikely event that you have no one, look again.

Everyone is blessed with the ability to listen: the deaf will hear you with their eyes; the blind will see you with their hands.

 Let your heart fill their news-stands; let them read all about it.

Admit to the bad days, the impossible nights.

Listen to the insights of those who have been there, but come back.

They will tell you; you can stack misery, you can pack despair, you can even wear your sorrow – but come tomorrow you must change your clothes.

Everyone knows pain.

We are not meant to carry it forever.

We were never meant to hold it so closely, so be certain in the belief that what pain belongs to now will belong soon to then.

That when someone asks you how was your day, realize that for some of us – it’s the only way we know how to say, be calm.

Loosen your grip, opening each palm, slowly now – let go.”

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“Many people die at twenty five and aren’t buried until they are seventy five.”

Ben Franklin

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Personally, I am most comfortable when I can get into my routine.  I am very careful to plan my week on a calendar, create a to-do list with sub-to-do lists just to make sure everything gets accomplished.  And it’s the deviations from this routine that causes stress and makes me uncomfortable.

But is that really living life- commuting to work from 9-5, getting in a workout, and catching a few reruns of the Big Bang Theory before bed?  Is that as good as it gets?  Honestly, that’s the trap that Ben Franklin realized a lot of 25-year-olds (okay, I know you’re just pretending…) fall into.  And, after all, isn’t that why we call it ‘the grind’?

Ben Franklin was definitely a character with many interests and hobbies.  I think he encourage those of us who have sailed into the doldrums of life to bypass the Lethargians and find some ways to spice things up.  It might not be a big life-altering decision, but maybe there are some little place you kind add excitement in your schedule.  I’ll help you brainstorm.

Wake up early enough to enjoy breakfast in a new restaurant, or leave the lean cuisine at home and try a new restaurant for lunch.  Cook a new recipe- autumn’s here so why not something pumpkin?  Host a dinner party for some friends, or suggest a Friday night dinner outing at a new place.  Switch out the Coors Light for a festive microbrew.

Try a new kind of workout- can you rent a kayak or a bike?  Give a spin class or zumba or fly-wheel a shot.  You could even change up the route you always run or just run it backwards.  Find a mountain, and take a hike.  Go fishing.  Maybe you don’t work out- take a walk or a swim.  Ben was an avid swimmer.  Invite someone new to join you.  Really not into working out?  What about following a new sport- become the expert.

How long has it been since you read a book?  What about a mystery or a new genre?  What other hobby’s could you find interesting?  Homebrewing?  Ben’s recipe was called “Poor Richard’s Ale.”  I just brewed my first batch last weekend.  It’s not that hard to get into, and I’m confident you could do it.  What about canning?  Maybe it’s just an arrangement of fresh cut flowers on your desk.

Could you take a course in something you’ve always been interested in?  Join a bible study or a small group?  Join a book club or start an investment club.  Meet some new friends.  Travel.  Take a day-trip or a long weekend.  Find out what beautiful landmarks are around you and go photograph them.  Then make a rainy-day hobby out of photo editing and make some art out of it.

I don’t know what it is that will make your life more fulfilling and exciting, what that something is that will make you excited to get out of bed.  And honestly, one thing probably isn’t enough.  If it’s just one thing, it’ll become part of your routine.  But always be learning.  Experiment.  Live.  These little things are what make life worth living.

Have a great week, everybody.

-R

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“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.”

 Benjamin Franklin

geographer

It’s easy to be lost in the darkness and to hide in the shadows.  When a stream of light is pouring through the window, move your work and your thoughts into its beams and exist in its glow.  Let its warmth radiate in all that you do and melt away your worries and troubles.  If you teach, open the blinds and let your students learn by the same light by which history’s great minds have studied.  If you are a student, take your book under a tree in the grove and let its pages be illuminated by sunlight.  And when you feel a drop upon your head and the rain clouds block out the sun, when you’ve rushed back inside to take cover, remember to turn on the light.

Have a great week everybody.  Do great things.

-Ray

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Genius is eternal patience.

-Michelangelo

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Michelangelo, the world’s best known sculptor, was commissioned to paint well over 5,000 square feet of frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  The project required him to learn the technique of buon fresco, the most difficult type of painting undertaken by only the masters, and challenged him to learn to paint perspective correctly on a curved surface 60 feet above the viewer.  Besides these challenges, it was truly an exercise in patience.

He did it mostly by  himself.  Sure, there were assistants to carry his paints up and down the scaffolds, but most of the brushstrokes were his own.  He painted for four years, bent over backwards and painting over his head.  The master complained that the project forever ruined his vision.  500 years later, all who visit the chapel stand awestruck for a few minutes to soak up the splendor of the work.

You’re going to lose your patience this week.  You’ll sit in traffic or get put on hold for hours.  Your computer is going to freeze, probably before you remember to hit ‘save’, and your boss is going to give a ridiculous and tedious assignment.  Your baked potatoes will take longer to bake than you expect.  The check out line will be too long.  Your kids will need to use the bathroom when it’s time to get on the bus.  But if you can take a deep breath and keep it together, your patience might lead to a stroke of genius.

Have a great week everyone.

-rge

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