Shopping with Others

clem-onojeghuo-127163.jpg

I’m grocery shopping on a Saturday morning.

It’s crowded and I’m behind two elderly ladies who are walking slowly. I want to go faster. I feel anxious. But I keep frustration at bay. When the lane clears, I will get past them. Besides, someday, I, too, will have white hair, age spots and arthritis. They are cute. Are they sisters?

Suddenly, someone sighs heavily behind me. His cart dashes passed me and then passed the ladies, to our left. He is a very fit and tan man in his thirties.  Swiftly, he parks his cart in front of the glass doors, reaches for yogurt and throws it into his cart. He scurries out of sight.

How dare he! He could hurt someone! What a menace…

My indignation softens.  I actually feel sorry for him.  He’s in some kind of pain which manifests itself this way. If he was happy, he wouldn’t act that way.

Choosing to see him in this light, my anger dissolves.

 

 

The Best “News” Alternative

One of my goals with this blog is to write frequently in order to hone my writing skills. In doing so, I vowed to write original work and to avoid merely re-posting the work of others.

However, I love THIS WEBSITE so much, I need to share it with you:

Reading or watching the news lately has left me feeling a bit anxious. An instant spirit lift is this website. It’s news, but it’s all GREAT news. They cover individuals who are making a difference in their communities: city, county, country and the world. I recommend subscribing to this gem so that you get a bit of non-fiction inspiration daily.

Have a great Make it a great day!

Transgress Stress

 

 

I went to the mall last weekend and looked at these products. They were not discounted, so I didn’t buy them.

Today, one of my 5th grade students presented me with them! Funny how that happens!  In big letters, they say “Stress Relief.” As we near the end of the school year, stress relief is key. He is so thoughtful!

I wrote an email to his mother to thank her. She emailed me back:

“As for the gift, that was all “M.”* He used his money and it was his idea this year.”

He used his money! He’s in 5th grade and earns money by working for a hockey organization.  What an amazing kid.

Teaching kids like him gives me so much hope and optimism for the future.  Our kids are hard-working, thoughtful, intelligent, and just good to the core. They make me feel like everything is going to be OK.

I’m grateful to be a teacher and work with amazing kids each day.

A Family That Plays Together…

cards against humanity.jpg

Our family (my husband, two teenager daughters and I) had fallen into a habit of eating dinner together and then retreating to our rooms to do homework, watch TV and write. We were together many hours a week, but we weren’t interfacing much. I longed for that connection, but evening walks fell by the wayside and watching movies together (which we all enjoy!) was not exactly interactive.

Our girls have adopted snarky, rebellious attitudes. It’s normal, but I felt like it could alienate us as parents if we didn’t talk more. The girls once mentioned a fun card game. I logged onto Amazon.com.

20 minutes in and we’re laughing and discussing our answers. Yes, it isn’t exactly “politically correct.” But it’s funny and the girls find it very compelling. The game is hilarious and we all enjoy it. It’s not for everyone – just “horrible people”.

 

 

 

Classy

It’s not what you do, but how you do what you do.

She reluctantly volunteered to host the party. And then she complained and stressed about it for months. At last, the day arrived. She greeted the guests with a weary smile and they didn’t feel welcome at all. In fact, a good number of them wanted to leave right right away.  Her mood colored the evening a dirty gray.

As the party ended, she uttered aloud, “Thank goodness it’s over!”

The guests felt the same way.

All that time, energy, and money wasted.

If you don’t want to do it. Don’t.

If you have to do it, then accept it. Accept the situation completely.

But if you can, enjoy doing it. Spread love, not regret.

 

 

 

 

 

Mom

She used to treat us to McDonald’s every once in awhile, with money she earned selling Avon. We enjoyed sitting with her. My mom always beamed at us with love and pride.

I take my girls out for treats, too.  I hope they look back someday (as I do) and remember these good times.

Mom used to visit me in the middle of the night with medicine and a hug when I was sick.

I do the same for my daughters.

Mom used to drive us to violin, cello, piano and Tae Kwon Do lessons.

I drive my daughters to violin lessons, rehearsals, auditions and concerts, too.

Mom was always quick with words of encouragement, compassion and unconditional love.

I try to do the same, but she was (and is) better at it, definitely.

My mother taught me how to be a good parent and a good person. She’s still teaching me this.

Every nurturing mother in the world is the reason we have the compassion, love and support that we pass on.

 

15 Down, 45 to Go

student paper

It’s that time again: Fifth graders write a research paper on a famous scientist/athlete/politician/artist. They will dress up as the celebrity and give a 30-60 second speech in first person.

Grading the papers can bring tears of joy or sadness.

It’s akin to the feeling when a student gives you an end-of-year gift with the message of thanks:

You are my favrit teacher.

Or,

You are grate.

 

 

 

“1385”

20170508_191948

A belated (if there ever could be such a thing) Teacher Appreciation gift given to me today by one of my most eccentric 6th graders.

One of my favorite poems thus far:

“Secrets” is a daily word

Yet does not exist –

Muffled – it remits surmise –

Murmured – it has ceased –

Dungeoned in the Human Breast

Doubtless secrets lie –

But that Grate inviolate –

Goes nor comes away

Nothing with a Tongue or Ear –

Secrets staped there

Will emerge but once – and dumb –

To the Sepulchre –

 

That this student could appreciate great works such as this and create her own thoughtful writings makes my heart optimistic!

I Love Your Mohawk!

I was driving home and stopped suddenly – a mother quail ran across the street, with her 7 babies running right behind her. A family of quail is usually bookended by parents. After my car passed them, the daddy quail quickly crossed the street and caught up with his family.

Unfortunately, baby quail have an 85% mortality rate. They can’t fly for about 11 days after birth and predators are all over the place. Be safe, little ones!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clientele

My husband is a project manager for a commercial construction company. I’m a 5th and 6th grade English teacher.

This morning, over coffee, he says, “Some of my clients seem to think we work magic.” [He was about to complain about their unreasonable demands.]

“Some of our clients seem to think the same thing,” I say.

 

 

 

Parenting Breakthrough

 

I’ve discussed my trials and tribulations parenting teenagers here and here and…everywhere.

I had a breakthrough today. If you’re reading this and you’re a perfect parent, well, you won’t be impressed in the least. Maybe I’m a slow learner. But this is a true story.

I was walking today and listening Eckhart Tolle.  I know some of you think it’s all self-help crap and I’m a lost soul…but I have become a better person for it. Anyway, in this particular recording, Tolled talked about the importance of of “space” and “non-reaction.”

The goal, he says, is to feel at peace. At all times.

Just then, my daughter texted me. “—— can drive me to you.”

“Great,” I respond.

“I need to go home and change and do my makeup and then I need to be back at school by 6:15,” she texts.

“Can —– drive you home?” My boss had a retirement party this afternoon. It’d be quite challenging to drive back and forth.

Tolle continues to talk about the importance of space and non-reaction. If you can, create space between yourself and the angry person.

She calls me. I answer. Good, texting is dumb, anyway.

She talks to me in an angry voice. I can hear a bunch of teenagers trying to talk to her. She gets angry at me because I can’t understand her – she’s talking to me, she’s talking to them…I’m confused.

I ask her (again) if —- can drive her home.

She responds with sarcasm and anger. She sighs heavily, as if it’s so hard to have me as a mom. She talks to me as if I’m stupid. Her words become staccato with anger. I. told. you.

I hang up.

She texts me with more anger. Her answers include expletives. How dare I hang up on her!

I text back with: “If you think you’re going to talk to me that way, you’re out of luck.”

I’m proud of my lack of emotion. I feel the anger, but I refuse to react. Eckhart has my back.

Tolle continues, “Someone may even yell at you and you want to yell back, but don’t.” It’s as if he’s walking with me!

So I don’t. I don’t react. I want to, believe me. I want to remind her whose the mom…but I’ve been down that road before and it never works.

It never pays to engage with her rage.

Long story short, she tried to involve me in an argument. She wanted to place blame. She wanted to excuse her horrible behavior and blame me. I stop her. I re-direct her to make a plan. We make the plan. We execute.

Later, she apologizes. She has not apologized in a very long time…months, even.

We hug.

I see many painful moments in her future. She will have to learn the hard way, she always has. But that’s OK. I’ll be here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helicopter? – No! Says Eric Hoffer*

c8332a1a618751df8bbf9a40e44ea5f2.jpg

Helicopter parent

noun

informal
  1. a parent who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child or children.

Constantly hovering over children while they study, work, and do sports, etc. has been shown to “increase anxiety, depression and can lead to academic difficulties” (Psychology Today).

Effective parenting, is, in fact, nurturing your child to become independent!

Psychology Today offers these guidelines (abbreviated):

-Listen to your child, rather than imposing your goals and wishes on him or her. Listening to your child encourages independent thought and critical thinking. It helps you avoid a common downfall of helicopter parents: imposing your values on your child.
-Don’t manage your child’s relationships or communications for him or her.
-Don’t try to help your child escape consequences for his or her actions, unless you believe those consequences are unfair or life-altering. It’s fine to hire your child a lawyer if he or she is in legal trouble, or to intervene with a bullying teacher. But don’t try to get your kid out of detention or berate another parent who talks to your child about problematic behavior.
-Don’t raise your child to expect treatment that is different from, or better than, the treatment other children receive. Your child shouldn’t expect to get something they don’t deserve or didn’t earn.
-Encourage your children to solve their own problems by asking them to contemplate potential solutions.

-Don’t do your child’s work for them, or keep track of deadlines for them. Even school-aged children can learn to remember test dates and classroom projects. By middle school, your child should be managing their schoolwork largely on their own, with only as-needed help.

-Support your child’s teacher, and encourage your child to respect the teacher’s opinions.
-Allow your child to face natural consequences for their actions. Don’t allow a child to stay home sick just because she or he didn’t timely complete a school project.

 

*Eric Hoffer was a great American thinker and he never actually said anything about helicoptering parenting. It just rhymes nicely.

Why I Became a Teacher

When I was eight years old, my teacher, Ms. Meretta, told my mother I was one of the hardest working kids she had ever had. Until then, no adult had ever said anything positive about me. Really. My parents were concerned that I showed no genius academically. They compared me to other kids (always unfavorably). My other teachers were either distracted by personal problems, or they just seemed mean (maybe they weren’t, but they seemed unapproachable). One teacher said she liked me, but I rushed through my work too quickly to get to the “book table.” I liked reading too much.

I loved Ms. Meretta. I worked even harder after her comment to my mom. But this time, I worked hard not just for myself..but for Ms. Meretta, too.

When I was a young adult, I worked as a summer camp counselor for the YMCA. It was a fun and rewarding job. I loved the energy the kids brought each day. I loved thinking of fun activities and working with them. I laughed every day. I laughed every hour.

I’ve held different jobs but none have had the creative opportunities or the intrinsic rewards of teaching. One of my favorite gifts from a student was a short letter. I had recommended him to go to a school for high-achieving students. He had older siblings who attended a school closer to his home. He always assumed he’d follow their footsteps. It was easy to hold the fastest track time there. It was easy to be the best student. I told him I knew he would succeed at the Academy, a school that was more rigorous and offered both Spanish and Mandarin. “Besides,” I told him. “if you go and you don’t like it, you can always go to the other school.” He went to the Academy and he loved it. He wrote a letter thanking me because he’s so happy and he’s learning so much. His younger sister now attends the Academy, too.

Helping kids is endlessly rewarding.

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. I wish the media and politicians would stop with the negative talk about teachers and public education. Why pick on educators? Of course not every single teacher is highly qualified, but not every doctor, nurse, accountant, or politician is, either. For every lousy teacher you hear about, there are easily 1,000 fantastic teachers. I’ve had to handle a sixth grade student who slashed her peers with a razor. I’ve had to handle a fourth grade student who crapped his pants every week. I’ve had to handle students who complained of verbally abusive parents and who cried of hunger.

I teach in Arizona. We rank absolutely LAST in teacher pay. Last! 

I did not go into teaching for the money and I will never expect the pay to equal the work or expertise.

My reward is working with the children. Yes, we get summer break, but most of my teacher friends will hold a second job (teach summer school, drive Uber Lyft, etc.) to make ends meet in June and July.

Did you know…

  • Teachers must get a fingerprint card renewed regularly and they pay for it.
  • Teachers must get recertified and they must pay for it.
  • Most teachers pay for school supplies for their students.

Let’s stand behind teachers who work to help students.

 

 

 

 

 

Just Try…and Then Let It Go

worthy-of-elegance-217491.jpg

It’s that time of year again…when students who want to vye for a Student Council Officer position run their campaigns: create posters, prepare speeches, record them and hope for the best.

As I recorded several children giving their speeches, I was touched by their earnestness and jitters. It’s impossible for all who run to win, yet they are all – each of them – winners.

If there’s one thing I think we don’t teach our children enough (at home or school) is that it’s OK to try, to take a risk and not reach our goal. That it doesn’t mean we’re failures or that we ought to be ashamed.

It might sound like common sense to you.

Yet the words “loser” and “ashamed” are so pervasive in our culture. And “risktaker” denotes a type of reckless stunt person.

Risk-taking is the only way we grow, and it often includes some degree of pain.

 

 

Focal Point

 

Taking a good picture with a manual camera requires forethought, patience and careful calibration. You choose what you take a picture of  – that is, you choose what you focus on.

You also choose what you focus to think about.  There is new scientific data that shows people who choose to meditate and/or think positively have increased plasticity of their brains. That is, they have strong external and internal networks in their brains. External networks light up when people think about external tasks and internal networks refer to matters that “involve themselves or emotions.”

Buddhist monks meditate and direct their minds to think compassionate thoughts and positive reflections. They purposely think this way.

Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist who ironically, suffered a brain hemorrhage. It (temporarily) disabled her ability for language and logic. With that, she was left with a dominant right hemisphere brain: creativity, intuition and imagination. She was happy. She was completely present and non-judgmental. All her thinking (and worrying) ceased. She had no negative thoughts! As her left brain recovered, she made up her mind (haha) to never go back. She chooses to think happy thoughts and to be blissful.

How do you do this?

Bolte Taylor says, “When you find yourself thinking negatively, it feels bad in your body. As soon as you feel it happening, think about something else!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parenting Pain

20161226_113628.jpg

No longer mine – can’t carry you anymore,

you’ll stumble, fall and eventually – soar,

As your path widens and grows long,

I realize how I was so very wrong

 

 

You take your steps while I watch

sometimes wincing

Your self-determination can be dreadful

yet entirely convincing

It’s fast becoming apparent

that your flubs and whims aren’t errant

You don’t own reasons for my heart breakin’

for I never “owned” you, in that, I was mistaken

Word Nerd Undeterred

boggle.jpg

Four 4th grade girls stand around, bored. I grab a board game out of the recreation wagon. “Here, play this, it’s super fun!”

They break into teams. Each has a pencil and paper. They shake the word box more violently than necessary.

“FUM!” Yells one girl with glee.

 

“Fum” is not a word!

Yes it is! Fee-Fi-Fo-FUM!

 

Mrs. Wipff, could you look up fum? Is it a word?

I look it up. “Well, according to Wikipedia, it IS a word: Fum is a traditional Catalan Christmas carol.”

The group disbands shortly after that.

Too many words. Kind of boring.

Boggle is the bomb! How can they call it boring? Maybe I’m just a word nerd.

My “Space” Experiment

octavian-rosca-208933

Octavian Rosca

We are all so busy with life: our work, family, and hobbies. My job is very noisy. I’m a teacher in an elementary/middle school and the hallways are filled with children yelling and laughing from very early morning until late afternoon. My students and I have lively discussions and then there are meetings after school. My fellow teacher (and friend!) and I are also sponsoring the school talent show – another boisterous endeavor.

When I get home, my husband and I discuss our day, my kids practice violin and tell us about their day. It’s all good, but…it’s challenging – to say the least – to get some quiet time. And I LOVE, love, love quiet time.

 

kristina-flour-185592

Kristina Flour

In addition to walking my dog after work and walking in middle of the day, I have started mini-meditations. In mini-meditation, I focus on my breathing. This might last 60 seconds or three minutes. I also meditate for 8 minutes in the morning right after waking.

Eckhart Tolle suggests the mini-meditations throughout the day in order to incorporate it as part of your “real” life and not as a compartmentalized portion of one’s life.

It makes sense.

I’ve noticed that since I’ve started this practice of incorporating space into my day, I am experiencing spontanenous moments of peace within chaos. Where I used to feel anxious or stressed, I feel calm and centered.

 

 

Are You Chicken Little or the Road Runner?

When I worked at a startup company years ago and things got stressful, my supervisor would wail, “We’re just set up to fail!” She cried real tears once, when it looked like we were going to miss delivering our McDonald’s Kids’ Meal prize on time.

The deadlines were tight and stringent. “We’re set up to fail!”

There was a bug in the system. “We’re set up to fail!”

The art department misunderstood the engineering department. “We’re set up to fail!”

In actuality, she meant, “I’m afraid we’re going to fail!”

In the end, the entire startup did fail. But our department never did, we simply met our goals with a lot of stress. The constant cry of the “sky is falling” unnerved the team. Projects that could have been accomplished with fun and enjoyment were, instead, completed in solemn urgency.

Isn’t this what many people do at work and life? Aren’t a lot of people motivated by fear? Fear of failure, fear of losing money, fear of losing face.

People can be motivated by fun and awe and still get it done.

 

 

 

Holocaust Remembrance Day: April 24, 2017

The Holocaust, by witness accounts (and primary source documents) was the most horrific act on humans by humans during the bloodiest, deadliest, most costly war in all of history.

As we observe this day, I invite you to make a difference: Show kindness all day. Substitute a kind gesture for all the moments you would normally express impatience or intolerance. Just try it for several hours or, better yet, the entire day.

Don’t honk your horn.

Don’t complain.

Don’t raise your voice.

Instead…

Help someone load their car with their groceries.

Hold the door open for others.

Pay for the coffee of the person behind you in the drive thru.

Smile at every person you encounter.

Speak up for the weak and oppressed.

 

Negative thoughts are pollution. Detoxing will benefit the people around you. Practicing love could become permanent!

 

Life Is Messy

 

clippers.jpg

I was getting uptight again. My husband cut his hair in the bathroom and left little bits of hair everywhere. Little bits of hair lined the tub, the counter top and some hairs made it into my contact lens case.

My frustration felt old and tired. I wanted a change.

The present moment. I’m in the present moment! I am here. But it’s not just being here that’s important. It’s enjoying the present. I decided to like what I see… the hairs belong to my husband. He left a mess. So what?

Life is a series of problems and messes. Living successfully means handling them mindfully. Getting upset over the same thing repeatedly is a waste of time. If you can’t change it, you can accept it and choose to see it differently.

 

 

 

Earth Year

Our Earth deserves more than a day of observance. We teach our students about the Earth and taking care of her on April 22. How can we incorporate these lessons throughout the year?

How can we effect positive change for our environment on a daily basis?

Small gestures on a consistent basis can make a big impact:

  • utilize reuseable shopping bags instead of using the plastic bags at the grocery store;
  • purchase in bulk;
  • walk, don’t drive (when possible);
  • conserve water;
  • utilize organic methods, not pesticides or hormones;
  • solar, not coal;
  • recycle, not garbage

Let’s take care of our home. It’s the only one we’ve got.

Waiting for My Muse

hello-lightbulb-216889.jpg

I waited. Surely, it will come.

I wait, eyes closed. I wait for the rumblings, the signs of it arriving.

Nope.

With my first self-published book under my belt, I’m raring to forge on! I want to write another one. I will write another one.  Alas…nothing. No (good) ideas. Not yet, anyway.

The harder I push, the further it seems. So I’m going to relax. Enjoy all the goodies in my life and trust that it will surface.

At Last…

cover2

I’ve published it.

On Amazon.com and a few other outlets, you can now purchase Esther, Mia and the Stars! It will say “Spanish version” but it’s in both English and Spanish, every page.

Esther and Mia are best friends. Esther must come up with a creative solution when she discovers that Mia is being bullied. Together, they overcome this painful event and tell their story in English and Spanish.

It’s imperfect, but it was a labor of love, illustrated by my daughters with a message of empowerment for children who are experiencing bullying.

Thank you to my blogging community! You provided much-needed support and encouragement along the way.

Hey, Jealousy!

ivan-cabanas-145921.jpg

by Ivan Cabanas

Ahhhh! Love!

Love can be destroyed by jealousy.

 

scary boyfriend.jpg

This is a mugshot of a man who was convicted for domestic abuse. You might say the signs were obvious from the beginning. But aren’t they always there in the beginning…  the temper, the irrational questioning, the possessive demeanor?

In the past week, several women in my life have told me their stories. It seemed like a sign to share it on my blog.

It starts with a whirlwind affair: the romance and attention. His questions and constant hovering are flattering. He really loves me!

I know far too many women who have dated and/or married such men. These women are smart, loving, and highly educated. It goes both ways, women do this to men, too.

Why do the perpetrators do this? Because (in most cases), they lack self-esteem. No one can give them self-esteem, which means that it’s not going to get better until they work on their self-confidence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the suspicious questions and constant angry surveillance take a toll:  paranoia, insecurity, resentment and finally, anger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instantaneous Inspiration

My friend and fellow chaperone was walking with me at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum in Washington D.C. We were in the aquatic section. He laughed, pointed at a fossil and said, “I think I’ve seen this in Star Wars.”

trilobite-fossil_1262_990x742.jpg

I laughed and realized that creators are most likely inspired and influenced by the strangest things!

“And this too!” He laughed. I could see exactly what he meant.

horncore.jpg

I imagined the designers and creators researching and studying ancient, strange creatures from millions of years ago. Maybe? Maybe not. But they were clearly inspired by the strange.

If you’re looking for inspiration, visit a musuem or an art gallery. Relax and enjoy yourself. Creativity is sure to reveal itself when you least expect it.

NBPOV2012_RichardWylie_WeedySeadragon.jpg

 

Minimalist Traveling

alex-holyoake-157978My 13 year old daughter and I are leaving tonight for a week in D.C. I’m still practicing “simplistic living” (subtract, subtract, subtract (!)) and my goal is to pack as little as possible.

 

I’m not checking a bag and everything fits in two my carry on bags. A small, nagging voice is wondering if I have everything I need, but I know I do. With little to worry about, we’re ready for a great time!

 

Clean Up!

catt-liu-1624.jpg

A group of Taiwanese elementary school students came to visit our school today. They wanted to play music for us and see how Americans learn in school.  Because our students learn some Mandarin, they were able to communicate – a  little bit – with each other. It was a wonderful cultural exchange.

One thing we learned is that these Taiwanese students dedicate some time in their week – every week- to clean their school!

Other schools clean up after themselves too. Here is an article about Japanese schools that dedicate time to housekeeping.

“The practice, which starts when students are in first grade and continues right through high school, involves floor dusting, furniture moving and cleaning the hallways.”

Mic.com

The rationale makes sense: if students are personally obligated to keeping their school clean, they will treat it with more respect all day, every day.

I wish our public schools did this. I see students scuff walls with their shoes and our custodians complain that students urinate on the floors on purpose!

A Mother’s Twisted Take on “Vacation”

liu-jiao-16485.jpg

I am about to chaperone an 8th grade Close-Up trip. It will be hard work: a red eye flight and then lots of walking, talking, learning, and teaching for 6 entire days (and nights). BUT, I will not have to:

teach all day and then…

  • cook meals;
  • vacuum;
  • dust;
  • grocery shop;
  • feed the dog;
  • do laundry; and
  • drive kids to schools and violin lessons

This trip ought to be an R&R of sorts!

 

 

Harmony

nick-tong-76567.jpg

A co-worker of mine constantly tells me she needs to make a change in her life. She tells me she needs to exercise and lose weight because she has children and she needs to be a good role model. I just listen. She’s been saying this all year. I know she will take action when she’s ready.

By “ready,” I mean, “fed up.” Isn’t that really how you get motivated? You take action and make changes when you’re “fed up” with how you’ve been living.

She made a good point, though. Her life is not just hers. She affects her children enormously. Her health and well-being necessarily influence them. If she’s at her best, she can give more.

Research shows that your physical health is optimum when you are satisfied in all of the following areas:

Zig-Ziglar-Wheel-of-Life-Concept.png

Identifying our “weak” area can lead to the most effective goal setting.

 

If You Build It, They Will Come

adamara-174040.jpg

Our daughter played in a symphonic concert tonight. She’s almost 14 and is very active in several orchestras at the moment. The symphonic group she played in tonight celebrated their 50th anniversary this year.  This group is a district group, including all the kids in the city who audition and make it. The kids then come to three different rehearsals of 2 hours each. They perform in the local Ikeda Theater for parents and friends. Admission is free.

Wayne Roederer started this program 50 years ago. He has conducted and started many programs and just retired two years ago. He conducted one of the groups and spoke to the parents, his voice breaking with emotion. “It was a joyous experience for me,” he said, “to work with your children. It was well worth missing Judge Judy for several days.”  We all laughed.

The kids played with pride. They moved to the music.

Afterwards, we spoke with him. We congratulated him and told him how we appreciate his work. He said that he has worked with children who grew up to be adults who started orchestra programs of their own and now those kids have grown and are starting programs…

What might appear to be his legacy at first glance: the kids he worked with directly…is much more than that. This man has literally influenced thousands of people.

One man. An idea. And many helpful hands, parent volunteers and eager students. That’s all it took.

You are one person. You have an idea. Start building it…people will help you.

 

 

Toe Bone Connected to the Foot Bone…

My lower back has been hurting lately – and, the cancer survivor in me jumps straight to fear. It’s a tumor, it’s come back, I assume. I fight the urge to Google it. Believe me, nothing good comes from Googling “pain” + “cancer”!

Of course, after thinking about it, I realized that my plantar fasciitis has returned and I’m walking in a different way to compensate for it. Consequently, my posture and walk has been thrown off kilter and voila (!) back pain.

Have you ever had headaches and/or dizziness and realized that your shoulders are super tight?

Everything is connected.

Doing a body scan on a daily basis has become effective for me. Try this: When lying down to sleep, do a scan. Start with the top of your head, down to your temples, your shoulders, your arms and so on. Check in with your body. Relax each part as you settle in to sleep.

It can be informative. You’ll be able to relax tight muscles and maybe put to rest any worries you have.

 

The Non-Judgment Experiment

sebastian-spindler-221561.jpg

Photo from Sebastian Spindler

 

Animals and Zen masters are the most peaceful living creatures. They don’t judge.

 

I’ve noticed that I’m a lot more judgmental than I’d like to be. And this tendency is a formidable block to inner peace.

I’m on a self-imposed challenge: stop judging people. First, I must be aware of when I judge. It’s strongest when I’m driving. Wow! Do I have very negative thoughts! The good news is that it’s completely impersonal. I don’t know these people.  But still…

Will you join me? Next time you’re in the company of one or more other people, notice your thoughts. Are you judging? Be aware. And then let it go. Don’t try to fight it. Just let it go. Just say to yourself, isn’t that interesting? My mind is judging. 

As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.

Gandhi

 

When you change, your world will change.

 

Self-Publishing Update

img_3955

I finally received my proof for Esther, Mia and The Stars today!

It looks really good. It’s not perfect. But it’s a labor of love and I’m going to publish it. Two illustrations need to be replaced and I have to figure out how to center the ISBN code on the inner cover…but that’s it!

My friend, Sierra, translated the English to Spanish and told me it was a very fun process and that she learned a lot. I felt the same way. The process was extremely satisfying. My daughters loved making the illustrations at first, but then became self-conscious and self-critical. I hope the fact that I encouraged them to complete it will impress upon them the importance of crossing the finish line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery Blogger Award

photogrid_1476365612975

I was tapped with the Mystery Blogger Award today. I like the premise of this idea, which is to highlight other blogs.  Shamim Sobhani of My World named Kismet among her recommended blogs. Thank you Shamim! Go to her blog. She has some mind-blowing stories!

This award was originally created by Okoto Enigma of https://okotoenigmasblog.com/my-greatest-creation-yet/. Okoto is a very energetic writer. Check her out!

RULES for the Nominees:

1. Put the award logo/image on your blog post.

2. List the rules.

3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link.

5. Tell readers 3 things about yourself.

6. Answer the questions the blogger gave to you .

7. Nominate 10-20 people.

8. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.

9. Ask nominees 5 questions of your choice (one weird/funny question).

10. Share link to your best post(s).

Three Things About Me Are:

1. Writing is my world. I write and I teach writing.

2. I am the child of Korean immigrants to the United States.

3. I am grateful for my family and friends. I have the highest quality sister and brother.  My parents sacrificed so much for me. My friendships are fiercely loyal – I will do anything for my friends and they for me.

For the Next Mystery Blogger Award I Nominate:

  1. Reimagine Therapy
  2. Soul Food 101
  3. Whippet Wisdom
  4. 67 Steffen
  5. Crazy Genes Blog
  6. Gaston Bessette
  7. Phil H52
  8. Robert Okaji
  9. Thoughts of SheryL
  10. Sascha Darlington

They are an eclectic group and each offers a unique perspective and information. I enjoy them!

Answers to Shamim:

1. What’s one of the most helpful tips you can offer, whether it’s about motivation, living as an expat, or about life in general? Live in presence, in the light of gratitude and grace.

2. What’s one positive thing about my blog and one thing I can improve on? So many great things about your blog! But I the first that comes to mind is your writing voice. Your personality is so strong and consistent throughout your site. Improve on? I don’t know…maybe change your calendar to something else more personal?

3. Have you ever been caught in an emergency before? If so, what happened? If not, what’s something funny or awkward that’s happened to you? Emergency: a week after giving birth to my daugher, I bled profusely due to a blood clot. I almost died. I was brought to San Francisco Emergency and all the patients waiting to be seen as I was hurriedly carried in said out loud, “Wow, she’s really pale.” They removed the clot and gave me blood and I was fine.

4. What motivates you to wake up the hour you wake up and get through the day? I wake up at 5am to work out to Jillian Michaels workouts. It makes me feel strong and alert all day.

5. If you were given the option to choose one country in the world to live in, which would it be? Hmmm. Hard to say. Country? I love my country, despite our current administration. I’d love to live in South Korea for a year, but I wouldn’t want to live there permanently. I think maybe England.   🙂

My Questions to My Nominees:

  1. Have you had a bad habit or vice? Have you been able to kick it and if so, how? Do you currently have a bad habit you need to break? Why?
  2. What is the greatest thing about your life?
  3. What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you and how did you overcome it?
  4. What’s your favorite dessert?
  5. What are you reading right now?

Thank you all! I love my WordPress community.

 

 

The Simplicity Experiment

aneta-ivanova-776.jpg

Confession: Once in awhile, I fantasize about selling EVERYTHING I own and taking just the essentials in a backpack and trekking across country.

Reality: I’m a mom of two teenage girls and a 6 year old dog. I’m also a wife and a teacher. I have too many responsibilities. But I’ve always been a fan of simplicity and this year, as I approach 50, I’m more determined than ever to pare down every part of my life to the bare esssentials. Why? Because – and I’m speaking for just myself here – I believe living a minimalistic life is a path to true happiness.

Biggest Challenge: I have a family. I can’t – and won’t – get rid of their things.

Method: I’m a fan of slow. Slow and sure. Every weekend, I fill a bag or two of things to donate. I’m careful with grocery shopping. I freeze excess and rarely throw anything away. I’ve been purchasing books on Kindle and in thrift stores. My bookshelves contain only the books I am passionate about.

Whenever I download “stuff,” I feel so light and free!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perennially Radiant

paul-morris-137448.jpg

The flower does not ask for anything. She simply looks up to the sky and drinks in the sun. She absorbs the water that comes her way. She gives so much: pollen to procreate, nectar for the birds and bees and beauty for all to see.

Can you imagine the flower complaining? Or arguing? Or gossiping?

Do not succumb to insecurity or ugliness.

Be brilliant. Be brilliantly, bravely, unapologetically you.

 

 

Sunday Study

eugenio-mazzone-190204

I’m reading a synopsis of the book Unleash the Warrior Within. It’s written by a former Navy SEAL Michael “Mack” Machowicz. Obviously, he’s quite a self-disciplined, productive individual: host+ producer of Discovery Channel’s “Future Weapons”, author of Develop the Focus, Discipline, Confidence, and Courage You Need to Achieve Unlimited Goals and he possesses multiple black belts in martial arts.

One surprising piece of advice he gives (considering he’s a former Navy SEAL!): pursue your objective at 80%, not 100%. Why? Because you can’t give 100% long-term. You’ll burn out. This made me relieved because that is what I already do.

Yay! I’m not a slacker!

 

 

 

 

 

Breast Reconstruction

florian-klauer-14840 (1).jpg

Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with early stage I breast cancer. I had the cancer removed (a radical mastectomy) and breast implant surgery at the same time. Actually, I had expanders put in when they removed all of my breast tissue. For those of you who don’t know what this means, basically, expanders are hard balloons that get placed UNDER your chest muscles and saline is injected every week or so to create space for your implants. This is a very painful procedure for the entire duration until the expanders are replaced by silicone or saline implants.

Six surgeries later, I went from a 34A/B to a full 34C. It felt like The Reward for all the pain that accompanies a cancer diagnosis. Why so many surgeries? One of my suspicious masses was too close to my chest wall for a needle biopsy, so I had to have a surgical biopsy. I had a defective expander (this is very rare, I am told), I had an infection; I had a defective saline implants and then one of the surgeries was because my doctor thought silicon would look better than saline.

Did you know you’re supposed to replace them every ten years? So that means at 50, 60, 70 and 80 (should I live that long!), I need to replace the implants.

I’m thinking that perhaps, at 60, I may opt to remove the implants altogether. Will I be courageous enough to do that? I live in Arizona where it’s 100 degrees Fahrenheit for five months of the year. I have a pool. I like to wear a bathing suit. I know there are inserts you can wear, but I’ve heard stories of them escaping your suit and floating in the pool.

In any case, these are the issues involved with breast cancer and reconstruction. I am grateful to be living in these modern times with amazing technology. In the 1800s, breast cancer was only treated when it manifested itself physically (really, too late for treatment) and they had mastectomy surgeries without anesthesia. The ladies just bit down on a bolt of cloth while the surgeon used a hot iron to cut it out.

 

 

 

 

Abundance

annie-spratt-147609.jpg

You don’t have to own anything material to feel life is abundant.

I walked my dog this afternoon. Cacti were blooming fire orange flowers. Wildflowers of purple and yellow were sprayed everywhere. Insects and birds were busy working.

If you can find joy in wildflowers and nature around you, then no one can take that feeling of abundance from you.

 

Self-Publishing Update

robyn-budlender-112521.jpg

Working through CreateSpace (Amazon’s answer to self-publishing) includes the following phases:

  1. Create
  2. Setup
  3. Review
  4. Distribution
  5. Sales & Marketing

Esther, Mia and The Stars is now in the Distribution phase. This is my first book, so I’m very excited! I’m enjoying the process immensely, even when things go wrong.

I’ve been meditating an extra minute every morning. This morning, I meditated for 11 minutes and tomorrow, I will meditate for 12. What I mean by meditating is concentrating on my breath and not thinking. Why is this important? Because the mind can work in overdrive and  interfere with inner peace. Meditation has (already) helped me keep calm during challenging moments. My sixth graders were very loud and obnoxious today, but I was fine. My illustrations scanned at a dpi that was too low and I had to re-scan and crop them all over again, but I just did it and didn’t feel anxious or upset at all.

I’ve written my book description:

Esther and Mia are best friends. Esther must come up with a creative solution when she discovers that Mia is being bullied. Together, they overcome this painful event and tell their story in English and Spanish.

My “About the Author” blurb:

Caroline Chung-Wipff delights in working with children who are often much wiser than adults. She lives in the desert with the love-of-her-life (Willey), her two amazing daughters and Opal the Dog Wonder.

Amazon tells me:

Your book files are still being reviewed. A final print ready cover file is needed to continue to KDP. You will be e-mailed when the review is complete.

So I wait.

Please ping me if you have any questions about the process thus far. It’s so fun!