Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New Happiness Commandments

I've been working on some new happiness commandments for 2017.  I'm not set on them yet, but I did come up with some things that make me happier when I can do them.

Experience nature.

Build your village.

Just add music.

Work hard to make a connection.

Move your body.

Do your best, and be done with it.

Indulge your senses.

Learn something new.

Reflect. But don't ruminate.

What would you add?  What "commandments" do you try to live by that make you happier? 


Anticipate Fun

The day of our engagement!  On top of Stone Mountain.
We're planning a day trip to Stone Mountain this weekend, and I'm really excited about it!  Stone Mountain holds a special place in my heart, because it's where Robi proposed to me.  And also, we've had a tradition of going to "Snow Mountain" for the past several years during the winter break, so keeping up with that tradition makes me happy, too!

I try to remember to "anticipate fun," because looking forward to fun times makes me happier!  And I'm not the only one who gets extra happiness from anticipating fun.  The authors of this article in the journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life found that vacationers get a strong happiness boost before vacations, and have much higher levels of happiness than non-vacationers when looking forward to a vacation.  (After vacations, not so much!)

I try to let Flannery know our future plans, so she can benefit from anticipating our fun trips, too. Today on our morning commute, I talked to her about our upcoming Snow Mountain trip, and what we might do there--getting cocoa, building a snowman, sledding/tubing, perhaps riding the train around the mountain.  It really does make me happy to think ahead about the good times we're planning as a family.   We also have a quick weekend camping trip planned in a few months, and a beach trip we're planning for the summer, and just thinking about those getaways puts me in an instant good mood.

So, what fun time are you anticipating?  If you don't have a fun trip or vacation planned yet, is there a quick weekend trip you could start planning?  Do it!  Just be sure to plan it far enough in advance to soak up the anticipatory happiness!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Be Unhurried

My new favorite nail color -- Rosy Future.  Nice and natural but shiny. 
This has been the first weekend in a while that we didn't have big plans, and it has been so rejuvenating.  I slept in a tiny bit, took a nice long bath, and made breakfast--french toast for Flanna and her friend who's staying over this weekend, and eggs and sausage for the grown ups.  And I didn't feel hurried through any of those tasks!  It was so nice.

Then, I went to yoga with a friend, and we ran into another friend at the gym and ended up taking a nice long walk after the yoga class.  Again, unhurried--so nice!

Then, I came home and had lunch, painted my nails and the girls' (love this new color!), and made myself some hot tea (Cinnamon Chai, yum).  And now I have a few hours of endless options before Flanna has her Valentine's Dance for school.  Should I read a book?  Check Facebook?  Take a nap?  (Sleeping is my hobby!  That option sounds the best!)

As much as I love doing fun things and being with friends and family, sometimes it can be exhausting to go, go, go every weekend.  Being unhurried this morning has been refreshing!  Which makes me think that perhaps I should try harder to be unhurried more often in my normal routine. I could plan in a little margin of error in our morning commute, maybe.  I could more consistently make lunches at night, when there is no time pressure, rather than in the mornings when we are on a tight schedule.  I could plan my meals for the week ahead of time and be sure I have everything I need for each one, so I don't have to stop by the grocery store for any missing ingredients on the way home from work and school.  I could give myself a wide window between activities and appointments.  That way, when my daughter remembers that her jacket is all the way upstairs at the exact moment that we should be walking out the door for something, I can respond calmly, because I have planned ahead to be unhurried.  I'm definitely less snappish when I don't have to hurry.  And being non-snappish definitely makes me happier!

Do you feel this way, too?  That you're always hurrying and need to step back from that?  How can you try to be less hurried this week?  

Getting ready for her Valentine's Dance today

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Look Up

The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness, fullness thereof.  
This week, the tulip trees (Japanese magnolias?) have begun blooming all over the city.  I notice them as I am rushing to drop of my daughter at school, rushing to work, rushing home, rushing to the grocery store, and generally, well, rushing around.

I notice them, and they call to me.
To slow down.  To look up.  To take time, just a moment, to appreciate them while they are here.  Because they won't last forever.  Some gifts are brief.

And so yesterday, I paused.  I stood under a tree in a parking lot and looked up.

And peace came. I didn't even know I called it.  But it came.

What gifts call you to pause, and notice them? 

Call Peace

Flanna in front of a desolate city/tree-scape, several years ago at the High Museum
This week, the first week of Donald Trump's presidency, has been a difficult week for me to practice my 3rd New Year's Resolution --calling peace.  Each time I have checked the news, my heart has frozen as if it is a deer in headlights, staring at an oncoming logging truck barreling straight at me and my tiny fawns further behind me.

I try not to get too involved in politics, but I am fearful for our country this week.  Fearful for the long-term ramifications of allowing one powerful yet unkind human to "lead" a nation that is in desperate need of peace and unity but appears to be tumbling backwards in time and away from love.

I don't want to back down and be silent, allowing discriminatory actions to pass by without notice, but I also know that if I dwell too much on the larger picture of things that I cannot control, I will lose the ability to call peace.  I will forget to see the beauty in front of me.  I can easily become frustrated with my small sphere of influence and so much that needs to be done.  So it's a delicate balance, this caring for my family and myself, but also caring for my country and our world and all those hurting, oppressed, scared, suffering, and marginalized by these political changes.

This week, I will pay attention, and do the small things I can do, like contact my representatives and be sure my voice is heard, and pray for those who are hurt by the actions of our current president, and pray for that president, that he may learn from his actions quickly enough not to do irreparable damage to our beloved country.  And when I feel too pulled into the headlights of that oncoming truck, I will step away, and take deep breaths, and lower my tense shoulders, and lift my eyes up to the trees, and study the long eyelashes of my darling daughter, and pet my cuddly dog, and kiss my husband, and work hard to connect with my sweet clients.  And there's a chance peace will come.

What about you, how are you dealing with the political changes going on right now? 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Tell Your Tough Family Stories

Flanna, age 2

I was talking to my daughter recently about her earliest memory.  She says she can remember me singing while I stood holding her in the shower in our green tiled bathroom with the bamboo shower curtain in our old home on Pulaski Street in Athens, GA.  She would've been about 2 at that time.  I do remember that moment, because it was unusual for me to hold her in the shower.  I usually gave her a bath, and even if I had given her a shower, I would usually just hold her hand and let her stand in the shower because I was too nervous I would drop her if I was holding her.  But on that morning, she had been sick, and I wanted to hold her up high so she could breathe in more steam from the shower.   I remember being nervous and holding her slippery soapy body so tightly, so she couldn't wiggle out of my arms.  But she just remembers a sweet warm care-taking experience, thank goodness, not my fear of her slipping!

Anyway, she asked why she doesn't remember anything from before this memory.  There were probably zillions of things that happened before that day that were just as interesting, if not more interesting than that first memory.  And I told her that one of my professors had taught me that we often do have sensory memories from before our "first memory," but that until we can understand and tell stories, we aren't able to encode those memories so that we can later recall them.  It was probably around 2 or 2 1/2 when she was first able to understand and tell simple stories, and that's probably why she remembers and can recall this moment.  

I think a lot about how stories are so important to us as humans.  Stories help us make sense of who we are, of who our family is and was, of how we got to this place and where we might go.  Stories are more than just looking back and reminiscing, they are actually important in how we see ourselves as connected to the world and what we think of ourselves individually.  Carol Westby, a brilliant SLP and researcher,  remarked in a recent journal article about the importance of teaching children to create stories about their own lives, "A coherent life story can lead to making informed choices, learning to effectively solve problems, and taking control of and responsibility for one’s life." Also, as I've discussed before in this blog, researchers at Emory University's Family Narratives lab say, "... adolescents who are embedded in a storied family history show higher levels of emotional well-being, perhaps because these stories provide larger narrative frameworks for understanding self and the world, and because these stories help provide a sense of continuity across generations in ways that promote a secure identity (see Fivush, Bohanek, & Duke, 2008, for a full theoretical discussion)."  When we can tell a story about how we overcame an obstacle, or how our family members faced strife but persevered, we help our children become more reflective individuals who can calmly face problems, flip back through their library of their own or others' experiences, and come up with solutions that might work in this case.

So, don't sugar coat your family history.  Tell your children the good family memories, but also the hard ones.  For Flanna, some of those include:  How her great great grandma died young, but the older children took care of the younger children as well as they could for as long as they could.  How the younger ones had to be sent to an orphanage, but they kept in touch and always sent letters back and forth.  How her grandparents worked hard physical jobs that were tough on their bodies in order to earn enough money to send their children to college, and their children were the first to graduate college on either side of the family.  How her great grandpa had a car wreck that caused a spinal cord injury but worked hard to relearn things with therapy and really enjoyed the therapy dogs that would visit the rehab center. How her great aunt wanted to have children for so many years and didn't give up and finally became a mom for the first time in her 40s.  How her grandmother had to move from one state to another the summer before her senior year of high school, and how that felt like the end of the world, but actually allowed her to meet her future husband.  How her great grandpa realized as an older man that he was actually homosexual, and how hard that was for the family, but also how it was probably such a relief for him not to feel like he was hiding his true self anymore.  How her great grandmother grew up in poverty but became a Women's Army Corps member and learned skills and got a great job as a switchboard operator and was able to provide for herself even after her divorce.

Giving our children the good stories along with the bad can steel them for the tough times in their own lives.  From our family stories, Flannery could learn:  that families take care of one another, that families work hard to stay connected, that our family values education, that it runs in her family to love animals, that children are a gift not a burden, that sometimes scary changes work out well in the end, that you need to listen to your heart and be true to yourself about who you are from the beginning, that it's smart to work hard and be independent and always be able to provide for yourself. It's hard and scary to talk about difficult things with our children, and we definitely need to wait until they are old enough to understand the concepts, but it's important to be bold enough to tell our tough family stories as well as the good memories.

What family stories do you think have shaped who you are as a person? What stories do you want to be sure to pass down to your children or your children's children?


Fivush, R., Bohanek, J. G., & Zaman, W. (2010). Personal and intergenerational narrativesin relation to adolescents’ well-being. In T. Habermas (Ed.), The development of autobiographicalreasoning in adolescence and beyond. New Directions for Child and AdolescentDevelopment, 131, 45–57.

Westby, C. & Culatta, B. (2016, Oct.). Telling tales:  Personal event narratives and life stories. Language Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, Vol. 47, pp. 260-282.

Friday, January 20, 2017

New Year, New Goals

It's a new year!  A new year, in a new state, in a new home, with a new job, and new routines, and new everything! Which, if you know the self help literature, means I have a clean slate--a brand new start! An easy new blank page for creating the life I want!

You know, right after I unpack, and hang photos, and pull weeds, and find a new doctor and new dentist and new salon and new eye doctor and...oh, eek, suddenly it's almost February and I still haven't decided on my New Year's Resolutions!  (Which I love to do, by the way!  I love goals and objectives so much that I write them both for work and fun!  Are you with me, my fellow allied health and special education peeps?!)

Anywho.  I always find that if I write my resolutions down where I will see them every day, I am much more likely to stick to them.  So, here they are for this year, below.  I've also written them on my Chick Fil A calendar in my kitchen.  And I'll rewrite them each time we switch to a new month, until they are etched into my very core.  ;)

1.  Just add music.
2.  Write.
3.  Call peace.

The first two resolutions are easy!  We have moved to Macon, GA, the Song and Soul of the South, so there is music everywhere in my new home and new city.  And as for writing--I have a blog that I am hoping to jump back into, and a zillion journals on my nightstand, and a writing group that will hold me accountable if I just ask.  But the last resolution is the kicker.

I was going to make my third resolution to practice pilates, but when I searched deeper, I realized that it's not just that I want to do Pilates--I want to feel the calm and peace and connectedness to my body and the earth that I feel when doing Pilates.  And really, I don't have to be doing Pilates to feel that.  I can call forth that peaceful grounded feeling anytime I want, just by breathing, and correcting my posture, and noticing the gifts around me.  So #3 will be the toughie but goodie that I think I can do a zillion times a day as I walk through the daily hurdles of this world.  How we need peace right now!

 I will start tomorrow, by loving on my precious daughter and husband and patients and families and calling peace at every greeting and parting throughout my day.   It's not much, but peace grows from a small seed.

What about you?  What are your goals for this new year?  Write them down in a comment!  You'll be more likely to keep them if you do!  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Boring Things My Therapist has Said to Me

The notes feature on the iPhone is da bomb, BTW.
I try to keep a list on my phone of things my therapist says to me that are so boring that I can't believe she actually said it and got paid for saying it.  It's getting pretty long.

Here's what I have so far:

1.  Go outside for a few minutes each day.
2.  Remember what worked before.  Do that again.
3.  Lower your expectations for yourself.
4.  Leave some things un-done now and then.
5.  Take a walk whenever you can.
6.  Create something to look forward to.
7.  When you're anxious something bad will happen, tell yourself, "That's highly unlikely."
8.  Get some exercise.
9.  Put alone time on your calendar.
10.  Find a tiny step to take, and take it.
11. There are tiny pieces of your day that you have some control over.  Make them work for you.

On their own, these boring things don't seem amazing or helpful.  But I have to tell you, put to action, they are magic.

I am a big proponent of therapists.  Let's all use them preventatively, people!  I, for one, think my boring therapist is simply brilliant.

What about you?  What boring advice has been helpful to you in your life? 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Be the Memory Keeper (and the Memory Sharer)

From one of my old photo albums.  Robi playing with his band back in the day. 
I have dubbed myself my family's "memory keeper."  I have always loved to take photographs and to print and share them and save them for posterity.  And now that my daughter is old enough to care about our lives before her, I really find it fun to share our old photo albums with her.  My daughter has heard our stories enough now that, when I mentioned last week to one of her friends who is taking guitar lessons that we are a musical family, she immediately jumped to telling the story of how her dad used to play bass in a band and that's probably why she is good at music, too.  (I always cough and try to interject that I sing and play instruments, too, ahem, but, alas, by then she and her friend had turned their attention to something else and I was old news.)


The point of this longwinded, um, story, is to say that I recently read a really neat article about how children who know their family's stories actually have better mental health and well-being than children who don't.  Especially if children know stories about our strife, and how we overcame it. According to researchers at the Family Narratives Lab at Emory University,
"Our results suggest that adolescents who are embedded in a storied family history show higher levels of emotional well-being, perhaps because these stories provide larger narrative frameworks for understanding self and the world, and because these stories help provide a sense of continuity across generations in ways that promote a secure identity (see Fivush, Bohanek, & Duke, 2008, for a full theoretical discussion)."
Isn't that interesting?  I read several articles on this topic, and there is so much amazing information here, but let me stick to the key point:  The stories we tell our children actually matter.  Sharing of ourselves, even about the difficult things--no, especially about the difficult things--makes a difference for our children.  When our children are well-versed in the stories of our lives, it helps them make sense of how they might fit into the world and how they might overcome strife when it happens to them.

So, aunts, uncles, moms, dads, grandparents, cousins:  I say to you, tell your story!  Then tell it again.  Bore the young children with details of how you felt, and how it was tough, and then how you persevered anyway.  Keep talking until they are rolling their eyes and can quote you verbatim.  Then, and only then, will you know you're a true memory keeper.

What stories that your parents or grandparents told are meaningful to you?  I love the story of how my maternal grandmother became a Women's Army Corps member during WWII, and of how my paternal grandmother didn't meet her husband until late in life and thought she'd be an old maid (and she went on to have 4 children!).  

Monday, March 21, 2016

Cultivate Communion with the Saints

Yesterday, I stumbled upon a gem.
Flannery & I read this book last week.  It was great! 

On Facebook, a friend of mine had posted a video of Father Thomas Hopko's 55 maxims for Christian living.  I googled the podcast transcript and was just completely overwhelmed by the wisdom in this little list that an Orthodox priest (who died 1 year ago yesterday, May his memory be eternal.) had written.

Here is just a tiny snippet of his list of maxims:

4.  Say the Lord's Prayer several times a day.
5.  Have a short prayer that you constantly repeat when your mind is not occupied.
7.  Eat good foods in moderation.
8.  Practice silence, inner and outer. Just sit for a few minutes everyday in total silence.
9.  Do acts of mercy in secret.
16.  Read good books, a little at a time.
17.  Cultivate communion with the saints.
18.  Be an ordinary person.  Try to be like others as much as you can.
19.  Be polite with everyone--first of all, the members of your own family.
20.  Maintain cleanliness and order in your home.

There is so much here!

But what struck me most was #17 - to cultivate communion with the saints.  I've talked about this before on this blog, about how helpful it is for me to "consider the saints" and learn about them, so that I can be encouraged in this life on earth, which can really be tough.  The saints that went before us faced the same problems we do, and worse.  Yet they managed to rise above them.  They weren't  superhuman.  They were just people like us.  

For example, Flannery and I read last week about Saint Patrick.  I didn't know that he was captured from Britain as a child and taken to Ireland as a slave.  After six years as a slave shepherd, he escaped and tried to get away on a ship.  The ship was full of hunting hounds, and the story goes that when Patrick tried to board the ship, the captain didn't want him there because he suspected he was an escaped slave.  But the hounds howled and barked each time Patrick stepped away from them and quieted when Patrick was near, so eventually the captain agreed to take him home.  And even though he made it home to his family, Patrick felt called to leave them to share the word of God with the people of Ireland (who had earlier enslaved him!).  He went back and started a church in a barn in Ireland.  And now he is Ireland's patron saint.  I mean, I may have a stressful life sometimes, but I've never had to go try to teach my former captors about love and forgiveness.

So today, as I look ahead at a week crammed with too many evaluation reports to write and too many meetings to hold and too many meals to plan and too many birthday presents to buy and too many appointments to keep, it helps to think that others have faced all this and more.  That others have fought the good fight and won, and are now cheering me on from above.  It might sound cheesy, but in the Orthodox faith, we do believe that the Saints are able to intercede for us and to help us in our worldly struggles, even now.  Sometimes when I'm having a tough day, I like to pray for Saint John the Wonderworker to pray for me, and it gives me strength.  I also often pray that my grandparents (and my husband's grandfathers) and my uncle pray for me & my family.  Many times, I have felt so comforted by the thought that they are interceding on our part.

Cultivate communion with the saints.  It's more than just "considering" the saints, I think.  And this week, I'm going to try to do just that.

What about you?  Do you feel connected to those who have gone before you on this journey?  How do you cultivate that communion?  

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Mary Oliver, On Not Being a Helicopter Parent

Flanna riding her big bike, with gears and a basket and a cute bell.
"To live in this world,
you must be able to do
three things: 
to love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones
knowing your own life
depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go."
   --Mary Oliver, from "In Blackwater Woods"

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Do What You Love

art by my Great Aunt Elsie
Lately I've been giving myself permission to read and write more.  To let the laundry pile up and the dishes wait to be unloaded.  Because when I am stressed out and busy and don't let myself do what I love, I become a strange tense version of myself that I don't want to be.

Anywho.  One of the benefits of letting myself write more is having something to share on my little blog!   Below, I'm posting a poem I wrote about my Great-aunt Elsie. Enjoy!  (And by the way, what will you do this week that you just love?)

Card Castle

I never visited her,
my great aunt Elsie,
Never saw the life she built
out of the bad hand she was dealt.
Born to an overwhelmed father and an ailing mother,
with so many mouths to feed
in the Great Depression.
Not a single ace or king, nothing up her sleeve.

Her mother passed (Passed what? The final test?)
and her older sister (my grandmother) tried to care for them—
Elsie and her tiny twin brothers--,
her young newlywed husband (my grandfather) just couldn’t handle it. 
and so, it was off to the orphanage.
My grandmother stood tall, in heels and her best skirt,
watching small, wiry Elsie twist her dark auburn hair.
Finally, she signed the papers at the counter, so many words stuck in her throat,
and the clerk hurrying her with his eyes.
I don’t know much about the orphanage, 
except that that’s where my grandmother said
Elsie must’ve learned to be a lesbian.
Long years of living with so many other girls 
and no boys, she explained.
But I have the wisdom of time, 
and so many homosexual branches off my family tree.
Genetics are genetics.

My sister visited their apartment once, in Seattle,
Great Aunt Elsie and her artist partner.
They painted flowers and trees and laughed from a purple velvet couch.
They walked down to the farmer’s market every Saturday.
I like to picture them side by side,
Gray hair swaying,
pushing bicycles with baskets heavy laden 
through the shining streets.
I like to study her art hanging on the wall 
in my hallway in California.
The beauty she created smiles out at me.
I like to think of her, her head tilted,
considering the lines, the light, 
a cat sunning in her window.
I like to think of how she built a quiet castle
out of a bad hand of cards.  

Friday, May 8, 2015

Just Add Music

I've been listening to the new Weepies album, Sirens, lately.  It is so lovely, and has brought me so many moments of joy as I drive here or there, or cook dinner, or get ready for work in the mornings.

Here is a beautiful lyric I love, from a song called, "Wild Boy:"

Every ship at sea deserves a harbor,
and don't I know it
No little tree alone can make an arbor,
and don't I know it. 

I think I will make this our family motto--"Every ship at sea deserves a harbor."  I feel this way about my family --that they are my safe harbor.  Deb Talan of the Weepies fought a battle with breast cancer this past year, and I wonder if the same is true for her--that her family was her harbor amidst that storm.

Ah, how a song can speak to our hearts.  Music is truly a gift. And I am thankful.

What song is making you happy lately?  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Speak the Truth in Love

A friend of mine gave me this beautiful wisdom once--told me that her motto in marriage, and in life, is to, "Speak the truth in love."  And I try to do that in my marriage, and in my life, too--to say the hard things, and to also listen to the hard things about myself.  Because that is the only way to grow into better versions of ourselves.

Anywho.  Here is a little poem I wrote, along those lines.  

It's called, "On Marriage."

It's worth the toil, this quiet peace I feel with you.  
The days of struggle, of defining how this will work,
of establishing a new routine each era,
of date night fuss and working hard to make a connection--
it all seems so far away and needless 
when this beauty cycles back around.
My first thought each morning is ThankYouGod, 
for my wonderful husband and family,
and it's so easy.
But there were times of toil--hard times, of disconnection and jostling for power, 
and a desire to be right. 
That all seems so silly when I look back on it. 
Still, marriage is meant to keep us on our toes--
to not let us grow weary of being better each day.
Marriage is salvific--and you are the one helping me face demons, 
and I hope I help you.
Because no one else on this earth can see me so clearly,
can list my quirks and failings so comprehensively,
as the one I choose to see me through it all.
And no one else has given me more grace, either,
has shown me how Christ's love might really be--
all-knowing, and still all-loving--
except you.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Do What Spring Does

in my back yard
Spring is coming, coming quickly.  Here in California, it's upon us already.  On my morning walk, I couldn't get over all of the new blooms that have popped up overnight!  It's lovely to see the renewal.

And it got me thinking this morning as I was walking with my dog, that I, too, need renewal.  I need to allow myself to do what spring does.  I need to push away the old brown, decaying leaves that have covered up the beauty that is possible in my life, and make way for new green shoots, for new colorful buds.  I need to get rid of the patterns that keep me always in a hurry, always behind a step, always stressed, always anxious, and make room in my life for wandering, and thinking, and reflecting, and connecting with the ones I love, and being the person I want to be.  Because it's so easy, automatic almost, for my priorities to get covered with decaying leaves.

along our fence
Today, with my to-do list hitting 3 pages long (for reals!), and my dog needing to go to the vet (he has a scratch on his eyelid), and my daughter's orthodontist appointment looming at the end of the day, and with dishes and laundry and e-mails piling up every moment, I am going to try to take deep breaths, and revel in the fabulous deep kiss my hubby gives me as he heads to work, and the way my daughter's hair flies behind her as she rides her scooter to school, and how my sweet dog chooses to lay on the thin kitchen rug just so he can be close to me as I work even though there are a hundred more comfy cushions and blankets for him all over the house.  And as I write IEPs and do all of the boring paperwork that comes with being an SLP, I will picture the grinning faces of my students when they learn a new word or say their /s/ sound just right. And that will be me, doing what spring does.

Because renewal doesn't mean my whole life changes, that the muddle of deadlines and chores and hard things goes away.  Renewal means that I push these things aside for tiny moments, that I focus briefly on what means the most for just long enough to let the green shoots of gratefulness break through the hard ground of my busy life.  Drawing our attention to beauty, that is what spring does.

How will you invite renewal into your life this week?  

Friday, December 12, 2014

Do What You Love

I bought myself a journal a few weeks ago that says on the cover, "Do what you love."  I use it to take notes each day at work.  And that message --"Do what you love"--has been a good reminder to me-- to appreciate the meaningful work I get to do each day, and also to stop and do something for myself now and then.

I've even written a few poems (writing gives me such a happiness boost!) in my little journal, in the wee hours of the night when I'm finishing up with work.  It's funny--this one tiny "splurge" on a $6 journal for myself has really brought me happiness--both by helping me feel grateful in the moment and by encouraging me to write more.  Here's a poem I wrote this week called, "On Family."


On Family

My mother saves pictures of us
off of Facebook
and onto her phone.
She likes to look at our recent faces
as she waits on a prescription.
Love across the miles is hard.

I, too, collect tiny bits of family connection.
I listen, alone on my commute,
to songs my family once sang on car trips.
I frame bits of lace
made by a great grandmother
and hang them on the wall.
I point out to my husband,
at a school play,
how my daughter's jaw, eyes,
are so like my sister,
and smile.
I stand at the kitchen counter
and rub a well-worn cookie recipe
in my mother's handwriting,
as if it were her own dear cheek.

We are a tribe fractured.
Hunting and gathering remnants,
of a life we meant to have together.


Do you regularly get to "Do what you love?"  And if not, how can you work toward that bit by bit? 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Letter to My 8 Year Old Daughter

My dear girl,

Yesterday, you turned eight years old.  Eight! 

On your eighth birthday, there are so many things I want you to remember forever.  I want you to remember your daddy being the "mail slot monster" and cracking us up as we left for school the other day.  I want you to remember how our sweet and cuddly dog, Valentino, loves nothing more than snuggling under your blankets in your bed with you as we read together at night.  I want you to remember the mountain of cards that arrived in our mail today--from grandparents and aunts and cousins who all love you so much.  I want you to remember your excitement at reading Harry Potter for the first time this week. I want you to remember how kind you are to your friends, and how gentle you are with the kindergarteners in after-school with  you.  You take time to help them, hug them, play with them, and really listen to them.  We were leaving from school a few days ago, and at least 4 kinder students ran to hug you as you left.  You took time to hug each one and say something special to them.  I want you to remember how you supported a friend recently when someone called her a name at school.  And how you cheered on the Spartans football team and tried not to give up hope that they would win, even when it was looking grim.  I want you to remember the cheerful, fiery, silly, brilliant, hard-working little girl you are right now.

Because I hold all these things in my heart.  As you grow, I see you not only as you are now, but as a patchwork of all the beautiful moments when your nature has been revealed, noticing how some things remain constant as you grow.  I, as the memory keeper for our family, hold you in my heart as the amazing eight year old you are today, and also as the strong baby who cried with such gusto at birth.  And as the conservative new walker who was careful and thought out your actions before you tried them.  And as the nurturing protector of animals and children you were as a toddler carrying your "kitty" and "baby" around and rocking and cooing to them.  And as the artist intent on her work at the light box in your montessori. And as the athlete scaling the school monkey bars at age 3!  And as the talented creator of amazingly accurate and realistic 3D models in preK.  And as the careful and insightful mathematician creating and discovering patterns in your blocks in kindergarten.  And as the writer of interesting and creative tales in first grade.  And as the calm and collected performer with the sharpest memory around, standing on a chair as the angel in our church Christmas play.  And as the nurturer of the ignored, ridiculed, different, and forgotten children that you are this year as you navigate the sometimes difficult social world of school.  You are, and have always been, a treasure to me and your dad.  And when I look at you, I see you as you have been, as you are, and as you will be one day.  And I am proud to call you my daughter. 

Happy eighth birthday, my sweet!  Your daddy and I love you with all our hearts.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Be Unhurried: A Lazy Sunday

Flanna's bed head and our cute pup
Today we had a long breakfast with our sweet friends from back home and then saw them off.   And then we had a lazy day at home.  We had all intentions of going to the park, but now it's dinner time and that just didn't happen!  But we had fun!  I read a little poetry.  Flanna put on a Barbie wedding, complete with song performances, and taught herself how to play Minecraft.  And Robi worked a while and now is grilling our dinner.  It was definitely an unhurried day, which is a welcome change and really boosted my happiness!

What about you?  Did you get a chance to "be unhurried" this weekend? 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Celebrate Traditions: Decorating for Fall

Flannery and I decorated for Halloween this weekend.  We put gravestones out in the front yard, and spider webs and some skulls, because Flannery really wants our place to be "spooky" this year!  We added a touch of fall color indoors, too.  And then the very next day, our little dog decided to chew the corners of our orange pillows--bummer!  At least they are from Ikea, so we're not out lots of money.  :)

It was really hot this weekend, so we decorated quickly outside, but it brought back so many memories of celebrating this tradition when Flanna was small.  I remember when she was tiny (maybe one?) and we decorated with pumpkins on the front porch of our green house in Athens, and every time we came in and out of the house, she had to kiss her pumpkins.  Sweet thing!  She has been a little spunky bit of sunshine her whole life.

from her pumpkin patch field trip this week at camp

What fall traditions are you enjoying? 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Be Unhurried

The view from my bedroom window this morning--Hydrangeas are blooming!
One of my happiness commandments for myself is, "Be Unhurried."  It sounds so simple, but it's one thing I have a hard time doing consistently. 

Take, for instance, this morning.  A friend of mine was taking Flannery to camp, since her kids were going to the same one and it was on her way to work (and not on the way to mine).  My family got up with plenty of time to get ready, and then 15 minutes before it was time to leave, Flannery decided to switch outfits and wanted my help getting ready.  I was cream-cheesing her bagel and bobby-pinning her hair (it was dress up day for the last day of camp, and she went as a hippie) and entwining lavender flowers into her headband and looking for my shoes and not finding my phone and putting dinner in the crock pot all at the same time. 

Sometimes, "Be Unhurried" is about as do-able as "Be a giant frog." 

But, even after I had dropped her off, when I had a little more margin to get ready for my day, I noticed myself thinking, "Maybe I could go for a walk.  I could squeeze it in."  Which was true.  I could.  And it really does make my day much better all day long if I get in some good hard exercise in the mornings.  But then, I remembered that I'm a much less anxious person if I try to "be unhurried."  So I decided to take a nice calming bath rather than taking a walk and then having a rushed shower.   And I actually shaved my legs carefully for once instead of shaving in 15 seconds like normal.  And it was so rejuvenating.  (I'm not quite sure it was as rejuvenating as a good walk, but sometimes we have to pick our battles, as well as our happiness-inducers!) 

Sometimes, too, "Be Unhurried" isn't really about changing my schedule.  It's more about changing my attitude as I go about my day.  I can breathe and say to myself, "I have enough time to get the important things done."  I can smile and wink at my daughter as I get her into the car.  I can play good music on my commute so I don't feel so rushed and crazy in traffic.  I can try to notice beautiful things in nature as I drive to a meeting.  And even if those things don't buy me time, they do make me feel less hurried.  And that makes me happier.  

So, today, how can you help yourself be unhurried?   Can you leave 10 minutes early for your meeting and then take the time before your meeting starts to reward yourself with a little reading or just a brain break?  Can you drop something off of your to-do list that was really too much to get done in one day?  Can you cut yourself some slack here and there and realize that if the floor isn't swept before your friends come over, they're still your friends and who cares? Or can you just try to have an unhurried attitude throughout your normal busy day?

I'd love to hear what helps you "Be Unhurried!"  Leave a comment below for me if you have ideas!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Be in the Moment: Indulge Your Senses

Chloe Rose - from Sephora  (It's lovely!)
A few months ago, I got myself some new perfume.  It is heavenly.

Every time I put it on, I feel beautiful and fresh and soft.  Sometimes I even put it on right before I'm going to work out.  It's energizing!  (And crazy, too, I know, but energizing, nonetheless!)

Also, sometimes, I light a candle at the end of a long hard day.  The vanilla or cinnamon scent (my two favorites) cheers me up and makes me feel pampered for just a moment. And sometimes when I'm stressed or tense or tired, the feel of a warm mug of coffee or chai tea in my hands is calming. I also love to take a really hot bath sometimes when I'm reading.  I hate to be cold, and a warm bath on a cold evening is so nice!  (Here in Cali, sometimes even in July, the nights are cold!)

I think the thing about catering to my senses is that paying attention to our senses puts us instantly in the moment.  We don't have to do anything bust listen, or feel, or look, or smell, and suddenly we are not thinking of all the things we should've done that day or all the things we need to do or are anxious about in the future--we are grounded by our senses to that specific time and place where we are feeling or smelling or seeing something that brings us a bit of happiness. 

And this, my friends, is why I just put on perfume, even though I'm about to go kayaking with my hubby on a sweltering July day.  :)

What do you do to to indulge your senses now and then? Does it help you to stay in the moment, too?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Forget Not the Beauty of the In-between: Body Edition

I just cleaned out my closet.  It looks so beautiful and organized now!

When I'm cleaning out my closet, I'm brutal about what I keep and what I don't.  I try on "iffy" clothes to see if I still like them.  If the clothes don't fit perfectly and if I don't feel great in them, I try to get rid of them.  Because who wants to feel blecky in your own clothes?

This time around, it was hard to get rid of clothes that once were my favorites.  But my body has changed.  I've had a baby.  I've had surgeries.  I've been working out regularly this year, and I'm getting arm muscles--crazy!  Anyway, trying on my clothes, I tried to remember my happiness commandment--to "Forget not the beauty of the in-between."  And to try to dress my current body--not the body I used to have, not the body I want to have one day, but the wonderful healthy body I have right now.  Because this in-between body--not the body of my youth, or the body I picture having when I'm super-diligent about workouts--is strong.  I can race my students across the playground, and sometimes win!  I can stand all day washing dishes and folding laundry without my back hurting.  I can do pilates and be much less shaky than I was a few months ago.  These are all gifts.

I read a poem this week that really inspired me.  It's by Anne Sexton, who lived a tough, troubled life, but who had moments of amazing insight and clarity, and wrote this during one such moment.  She sometimes called herself Ms. Dog (she loved palindromes and liked that dog was God backwards, both lowly and lofty at once!).  Anyway, here's the poem:

"Ms. Dog prefers to sunbathe nude.  
Let the indifferent sky look on.  
So what!
Let Mrs. Sewal pull the curtain back from her second story.
So what!
Let United Parcel Service see my parcel. 
La de dah.
Sun, you hammer of yellow,
you hat on fire,
you honeysuckle mama,
pour your blonde on me!
Let me laugh for an entire hour
at your supreme being, your Cadillac stuff,
because I've come a long way
from Brussels sprouts.
I've come a long way to peel off my clothes
and lay me down in the grass.
Once only my palms showed.
Once I hung around in my woolly tank suit,
drying my hair in those little meatball curls.
Now I am clothed in gold air with 
one dozen halos glistening on my skin.
I am a fortunate lady.
I've gotten out of my pouch
and my teeth are glad
and my heart, that witness,
beats well at the thought.

Oh body, be glad.
You are good goods."
--Anne Sexton

Body, you are good goods, indeed.   I am thankful, grateful, glad for the muscles that move me each day to my teaching, my laughing, my dog-petting, my husband-hugging, my dish-washing, my thinking, my living of life.  And I think it's high time we looked at our bodies with such gladness.  Be they new or withered, strong or weak, broken or mending, or somewhere in-between.

What about you?  What about your body do you most appreciate? 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Learn Something New: Comic Strip Conversations with "Show Me"

One of my "happiness commandments" for myself is to "Learn Something New."  Learning new things really makes me happier!  And one thing that is always out there to learn is new technology.

Yesterday, I was working on a project for my job trying to make a quick mini-lesson about conversations, and I realized that there was an app I had used last fall just for fun with Flannery that would work perfectly for my needs.  So I experimented with it a bit, and after a while, I figured it out!

 I've used comic strip conversations (developed by autism guru Carol Gray) for years now, but I used an interactive whiteboard app called "Show Me" to bring them into the techie arena.  "Show Me" allowed me to make my comic strip conversations into little video lessons that I can easily share with teachers, paraprofessionals, parents, and anyone else who would like to help me teach my students how to carry on social conversations.

I use comic strip conversations to help students track the flow of the conversation visually, and show them that conversations have many turns, and don't just end after you answer a question.  To teach students these conversations, I generally start by having them practice the conversations in our speech room, then in their larger classroom, then in the hallway, then at lunch, etc.  Once my students are pretty good at the conversation, I have them practice it with the office manager, with a teacher, with peers, etc.  It's also important to share these strategies with families, but until now, I had just shared a photo of the comic strip conversation, which I'm not sure was really that helpful.  But with the "Show Me" app, I can insert a little teaching moment via voice recording, and families and students can watch the videos and learn more together.

So, check it out.  Do you think that if I sent you this, you could help teach your child with autism how to have these conversations?

Many of my students would typically stop talking after the first two conversational turns, but given this visual structure, they can see that they really need to keep the conversation going further!  It can also help take the "mystery" out of social conversations.  Many social conversations (ex:  how are you, how was your weekend, etc.) happen over and over in a similar way every day or every week, so teaching how they work in this really structured way can be a simple way to increase students' positive engagement with their peers.  And that makes all of us happier, not just me!  :)

What new thing have you learned lately that made you a bit happier?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What The Speechie Wore Wednesday

I'm pretty sure everything in this whole outfit is from Target! (except the dog)
It's been a whirlwind here the past few months!  So much work to be done, so much fun to be had!  We had a wonderful visit from my mom around Easter time, and we loved getting to show her around.

Annnyway…I took a few pics of myself in the last week.  I'm still trying to add some color to my outfits, and it's been fun!  Check it out!

Just got this necklace from Target -- it's normally long, but I doubled it here. 
new espadrilles for summer!

extreme close up of my pale skin.  :)  

wearing my ginkgo earrings my hubby gave me from Aurum in Athens, GA

long bronze finish necklace from Target

bright sun washed this pic out, but the dress is from Old Navy

The belt is Old Navy, too. 

lime green accents on this oldie but goodie dress from Target

The dress is from Old Navy, and the pearl/silver necklace is Lia Sophia--fun!

I have to admit this dress was only 97 cents!  Old Navy had a sale,
and everything that ended in a .97 price was only 97 cents!
I would've happily paid the regular $14.97 for this, but what a nice deal!
I promise I don't start the day with my hair up--but I pretty much end
every day with my hair up!  Guess I should take pics earlier in the day, hah!

floral button-down  top from a thrift store, and grey capris from my mom

Flanna took these of me--trying out her skip rope  :)  It's hard!

So there you have it-- a few extra dabs of color and a little more attention to accessories has made it fun to get ready for work in the mornings!  

What about you?  What outfit makes you feel good?  

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Give Empathy Hugs every Morning and Night

spring is almost here!
I love reading about relationships, and I hate that I can't remember which book I read this in, but there is a fantastic practice I've been working into my routine lately, and I just had to share it. 

It's called an "Empathy Hug."  And here's how it works. 

In the morning, right away when you wake up and greet your spouse, hug them for a few moments and really try to think of how they are feeling--what they might be worried about, excited about, focused on, working on, etc.  Really try to cultivate empathy for them in that shared moment.  Then, when you wake your kiddo (if you have kids!), do the same.  Hug your kiddo for a few moments, and really try to get into their mind and think about what they might be thinking about, feeling, worried about, hopeful about, planning for, etc.  For that moment, try to take their perspective.  Then, at the end of the day (before bed, for example), do the same thing. 

It might seem a little strange at first, but I really find that trying to take the perspective of my loved ones as a part of my regular routine really makes me think of them all day with more love and care.  It builds loving connection whether we are together all day or not.  

Also, I find that if I'm trying to think about things from their perspective but I'm not sure what their concerns for that day might be, that spurs me to ask them specifics like, "What's on your plate for today?" or "What are you looking forward to today?"  And then, once I know something specific about their day (for example, my daughter was excited that it was her teacher's birthday today, and she had made her a card.), I find myself wondering during the day how that went, and just generally feeling  more connected to them all throughout the day, just because I know a few little specific things that they were thinking about that morning. 

Also, sometimes if my hubby or daughter have mentioned a concern that morning, and then that evening they seem upset or irritated, I find that I more often have an empathetic response (rather than an angry why-are-you-in-a-bad-mood response!) because I have already tried to think about things from their perspective that day. 

So often, I think that our thoughts shape our responses to our loved ones.  So when I make a habit of cultivating empathy, I think it's easier to feel connection and caring and to respond with patience and understanding.  But when I'm busy and only thinking of the thousands of tasks to check off my to do list in my head, and don't take time to cultivate empathy, I'm much more likely to respond with annoyance or irritation. 

So, what do you think?  Is it worth a try?  Give it a month, and see if you don't feel closer and more connected to your family members just by giving two little "Empathy Hugs" per day.  (And then let me know how it goes by leaving a comment!)

What helps you have greater empathy toward your loved ones?  When do you feel the most "connected" to your family members?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

What I Wore Wednesday

speech therapy and meetings
I've been trying to hold myself accountable for putting a little effort into my outfits lately, and since I was too busy to post last week, I have quite a few outfits to post today.  Some are rather blah, but I tried to use more accessories this week, and it was fun!  I do feel better when I'm wearing at least one piece that I really love.  I also took time to do my nails this week, and felt much more put together when I'd see my shiny teal nails in passing.  :)

What makes you feel good when you wear it? 

my new favorite grey suede shoes with little silver studs

church and out to a movie

I've been experimenting with larger earrings, fun!

speech therapy, new long necklace from Ross

meetings and speech therapy

speech therapy and evaluations

office day - paperwork and meetings

tunic and leggings with boots, running errands with Flanna on Saturday
sporting some new earrings from Target and a long necklace from Lia Sophia

Paperwork and meetings - neat India inspired silk shirt from my mom

working from home - report writing/paperwork (I added the scarf to go out to pick up Flanna)

Saturday brunch with the family - hand-me down animal print cardigan from my MIL

speech therapy and testing day; this is my wonder woman pose.  :)