Move Your Office Outside

I can’t believe how much I have missed out on in our yard. I never took the time to appreciate how many birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, bees and flowers have been waiting for me to notice them. Why did it take a pandemic to wake me up to nature.

My New Outside Office

This morning I decided to move my office outside. I remember being excited as a kid when the teacher said “Let’s move the desks outside.” I realized it re-sets my brain to be a part of nature. It opens up new connections to be surrounded by trees, natural air, clouds and sky. It is impossible to be sad when I’m outside. I have always wondered why my husband never tired of yard work on our 1/2 acre property. He had a secret that the kids and I never asked about or participated in. Our loss ~~ he has made it beautiful.

The “Heart” Bougainvillea

I find myself gravitating toward books about birds. They are fascinating to me and it seems they can teach me about life and how to be resilient. Seems timely on the “learning to be resilient” part. Funny, I am late to the game but have found authors who have studied birds for decades. Jim Robbins writes for the New York Times and studies wildlife at his home in Montana. Jennifer Ackerman has been writing books about science and nature for over 30 years. Both are people to pay attention to.

My new routine is to find my way outside first thing when I wake up. This is before I ever touch a phone, computer or TV remote. It is amazing to listen to the sounds of morning. Everything is new and filled with optimism. What a great way to begin my day with a positive outlook to combat this terrible time of sickness and worry.

Now I’m adding working outside in the afternoon. I think I have found a way to create my new normal and look forward to it. I know for sure that I am changed ~~ and for the better.

What Are You Thankful For?

Every year at Thanksgiving I ask the question “what are you thankful for” at the table. I get a lot of sighs and “oh no not again” but reluctantly everyone finds an answer and whether it is real or not, they comply.

It is tough to answer honestly with such a broad question. Most everyone was giving general answers to this general question and I realized we were not getting to anyone’s true self. In order to change it up, I had to think of a better question.

There had to be a better way to make this fun and make it memorable. I remembered a list I saw on a bulletin board while teaching one day that intrigued me — It was from an article printed in HuffPost

25 Ways to Ask Your Kids ‘So How was School Today?’ ‘Without Asking Them ‘So How Was School Today?’

By liZ Evans
Blogger, Simple Simon and Company

Here are a few:

  • What was the best thing that happened at school today? (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?)
  • Tell me something that made you laugh today.
  • How did you help somebody today?
  • How did somebody help you today?
  • Where do you play the most at recess?
  • Who is the funniest person in your class?
  • If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?

I thought the questions were brilliant and after trying them out, I realized I learned a lot more about a day at school. It takes some effort to dig deeper to ask questions that will give you insight into another person. I am inquisitive. I like to know the deepest parts of a person. It takes the right questions to get there. The most interesting people don’t give up their thoughts easily.

Is everyone as bored as I am watching those 4-5 minute question/answer segments on the morning shows? You come away with nothing new about them and realize they were only there to sell a book, a movie or an album and that everything is scripted. I can’t imagine being asked the same question over and over again and trying to look interested. Guess what? That is what I was doing at Thanksgiving every year!

At the last second I changed it up — “What is one thing you did this year that you did not feel you were capable of?” Okay, I got the same looks but after a minute of hearing the answers of the kids, the adults took notice. The kids answers were heartfelt and genuine. They knew right away that a 100% on a math test was a huge accomplishment. Semester grades that had more A’s than C’s were worthy of a huge smile on their face. Getting through the first months of a new grade and feeling good about it was huge to them. It was their world and they were tackling it. It’s funny how math became the pinnacle of success. It told me that math was a tough subject to master. It is ever changing and you must keep up. It has exact answers. I know in my substitute teaching that I can see a lightbulb flash over the head of someone who understands a concept for the first time.

I was thrilled with the answers of the adults at the table who may have thought their revelations were simple — BUT — they displayed real amazement at their accomplishments. Painting a wall to painting people for the first time; moving to a brand new area and adjusting better than expected; finding a new way to visit Las Vegas and it being more fun; to my own revelation that working five days a week at jobs I loved proved to be more satisfying than I ever thought it would be.

I learned something new. Change up the questions. Find ways for people to talk about themselves in a different way. Be interested in learning what others are trying to accomplish. Most of all get them off guard and give them a reason to dig deep and reveal something no one has ever asked them before.

I saw lightbulbs over everyone that day. In the end, they may still roll their eyes at my questions but I think next year they will look forward to letting us in on their secret.

Lightbulb Moment

My Favorite Four Words

I substitute teach in my local school district. I created a bucket list of professions I wanted to try (teacher was one of them). They are mostly a culmination of undoing regrets or dreams that passed me by. I never give up hope:

  • Broadway Dancer (I go to Broadway shows)
  • Flight Attendant (I applied — was rejected)
  • NFL Sideline Reporter (I play fantasy football)
  • Beach Volleyball Player (I watch Kerri Walsh Jennings)
  • CBS This Morning Co-Host (this might be my long shot)

From my last blog post you know that I am none of those people above BUT — I always believe that if the opportunity came along, I would be ready.

“Luck is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity”

Roman Philosopher Seneca

So, my more realistic list is exactly what I am doing now:

  • Law Office Administrator ( I love learning law)
  • Substitute Teacher (the kids are amazing)
  • Organizer (my passion)
  • Realtor (my experience in family law is a good base for what NOT to do when deciding to buy or sell a home)

From as early as second grade I was fascinated by my teachers. I decided to substitute teach to get a sense of what I had missed out on. The students think that they will have a free day when I walk in but I have spent a few sleepless nights planning how I will tackle the day. They are met with the following on the board:

Brave, Curious, Kind and Organized

These are my four favorite words. I have found they encompass everything one needs to create a career as well as becoming a good citizen. The Carver Rule is simple—Respect When Someone is Talking. Starting this discussion in the first five minutes of the school day works for me and sets the tone for the day — I also set criteria for a “Kind Award” for the student nominated by the other students after recess for an act of kindness.

KIND

BRAVE — Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is hard to be a student. No question is too silly and never be embarrassed if you don’t understand something. I tell them that I spent my entire high school life not understanding math. I never asked for help. That was just sad. I give extra points for those that ask questions. I make them the hero by keeping embarrassment out of the picture.

CURIOUS — Never stop learning. Be excited every day about what you get to uncover. Why be miserable and dreading the classroom. Look at it as a special place that gives you knowledge. Share what you know. Bring up subjects that are fascinating to learn about. My two “go to” questions at the end of the day are “if you could wake up tomorrow and be in any career what would it be?” and “if you could travel anywhere where would you go?” I crack up because the most common answer is Las Vegas. Las Vegas is marketing to a group they didn’t even know about! The most common career for boys is a professional athlete and to my delight the girls common ground is becoming some type of doctor. Saying “I don’t know” doesn’t fly — Everyone deserves to have a dream. To those wanna be professional athletes I urge them to know their financial picture every day and plan for the future with a second career.

Kind — To me kindness makes life happier. I watch the students interact with each other and out on the playground. I want them to notice when someone is going out of their way to be kind. It can be as simple as letting someone borrow their eraser to my ultimate goal of including someone who is alone every day at recess. The Giving Keys Organization focuses on ending homelessness through employment. It’s funny how quickly kids adapt to an atmosphere of positive feedback. I tell them that names on the board are a good thing. It is my responsibility to model kind behavior.

Organized — No one does well in chaos. I realize that everyone is not going to be at the same level of organization. I find that it needs to be taught and repetitive every day. It is a learned habit and most of the time not on top of mind for kids. As a substitute teacher I cannot effect much change but I look at it as planting seeds for ideas that could grow eventually. Clutter is a common theme in most desks. There just isn’t time to address the neatness of a desk by the end of the day. One way that I introduce this concept is taking 15 minutes for desk check and encouraging help from each other. I love watching a group effort and they have fun doing it. Oh and it’s a great way to find lost homework —

Now don’t you wish I had been your substitute teacher? Ha – not a free day!

Teaching has helped me in my life beyond what I could have imagined. I have to be ready after about 20 minutes of preparation and keep a group of students interested when it is not exactly where they want to be. Not easy skills to learn but so rewarding for me.

It has taken me a lifetime to be comfortable in my chosen professions — BUT I never lose the dreams of my first list.

Why The Moon?

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

President John F. Kennedy at Rice University, Houston, Texas September 12, 1962
A Daughter’s Reflection

It’s funny the things that stay in my memory.

I was seven years old when politics started to become a part of my life. President John F. Kennedy inspired my parents and that positive energy kept me curious as to what a President was and what he did. People liked him and he made them laugh. He challenged the country to give back and serve. He had an adventurous spirit and loved the ocean. He was an Irish Catholic and my grandmother beamed at that fact. He had a daughter that was my age.

It also was the first time I realized that evil could take him away forever. No child was protected from the news that our President had been killed. Our country cried for days and the sadness left a mark on all that remember that time in November, 1963. I kept thinking about his children. There were no neighborhood kids playing outside. Every business was closed. We were frozen watching Walter Cronkite on CBS News hoping that he was wrong.

Disbelief and Shock

We got to the Moon and beyond. His words repeated over the years as one of his greatest speeches — we choose to do things not because they are easy, but because they are hard . . .

I learned to be sad but to keep moving forward. Our neighborhood organized a talent show in our garage and sent the money to the Kennedy Family to help build the Kennedy Library. We were so proud to collect our coins and send them in the mail. We received the card that gave us hope that he would be remembered forever

Sadness/Giving Back

This week has been full of news reports about the 50th Anniversary of getting to the Moon. How could he predict such an accomplishment? It was said today that the technology that led to that famous landing set the course for all of our technological advances as we know them today.

I’ve heard many times to dream a dream bigger than you can imagine for yourself. Accomplishments come from doing hard things. Pride comes from a humble and hard-fought win.

I kept going in my life even when things got hard. I’ve made mistakes but worked hard to get back on the right path. Sadness takes a piece of our heart but it builds resolve.

The other night I saw an amazing and bright moon outside my window. I never want to lose that image of it’s bright light inviting adventure.