Nutrition for Educators

February 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Nutrition Tips, Writing

Nutrition for Educators and Other Busy Professionals

Colleagues and friends often ask me how I have so much energy every day, teaching five preps, co-sponsoring the school newspaper, all while maintaining my paper grading load and still finding time to hit the gym five times a week.

A teacher’s day begins very early, and is dictated hourly by the bell. With barely enough time for bathroom breaks between classes, maintaining a healthy energy takes a little bit of planning along with a few prep steps each week. The steps may take a few minutes but will save on energy and precious time later in the week.

1. Prep food. On Sunday, wash fruit, cut and steam veggies, bake some chicken breasts, hard boil eggs, make a batch of oatmeal, bake sweet potatoes . . . the idea is to fill your fridge with as much grab-and-go healthy food that you most certainly won’t feel like preparing after a tiring day at work, when faced with those papers still waiting to be graded.

My Sunday groceries, ready to prep!

2. Snack. It’s just as important to prep the snacks. I love to prepare my own homemade trail mix. It’s much healthier, with no added salt or preservatives. I fill five small, snack size containers with raw pumpkin or sesame seeds, raw walnuts, raw almonds, dried cranberries, dried mulberries . . . whatever nuts and dried fruit I have. Here’s a post of mine telling more about mulberries. By the way, raw/no salt or added sugar is best for your nuts and dried fruit If you’re used to the salt, you will get unused to it, trust me. Give it time and you won’t miss it – either will your heart! If you don’t feel creative with mixing your own, here’s a tried and true recipe, TLC’s trail mix.

My snack mix

 3. Eat breakfast. Here’s where preparing a batch of oatmeal comes in handy. Grabbing a cup of coffee is not enough to sustain you for that early morning class or PLC meeting. Even grabbing a banana and hard-boiled egg is much better than nothing at all, and will get you your important macros (protein, carbs and fat).

 4. Drink water. Carry a water bottle with you throughout the day. You’ll be a reminder to the students to drink more water.  If you need your morning coffee, go for it – but that’s it. Too much caffeine will cause you to crash later. Check out my Reasons to Drink more water for more incentive!

5. Graze. Studies show it’s healthier to eat smaller meals throughout the day versus three big ones. Munch on some fruit or nuts that your brought in-between classes. Spread out meals so that you’re eating every few periods – don’t wait until your last free few moments of the day to gobble.

6. Avoid mindless munching. Bringing in birthday treats is a wonderful way to celebrate colleagues, and special occasions call for a little sweet cheat. If you’re eating healthfully on a regular basis, you deserve a treat, and allowing yourself to do so will avoid an overindulgence later on. Side note:  Avoid food that’s been sitting out all day – it’s bound to be spoiled with bacteria. No one wants that! So step away from the table after, say, Period 6. 🙂

So there it is, six super ways to maintain a healthy diet within even the most busy of days during the school year.  Stay tuned for more healthy recipes, workouts and lifestyle choices!!

A bonus, new recipe I just created – Protein Power Balls!

  • 2 Tbsp organic hemp seeds
  • 2 Tbsp organic chia seeds
  • 1 cup raw gluten-free, slow-cooking oats (I like Bob’s Red Mills but be sure to soak them overnight)
  • one mashed banana
  • 1 Tbsp raw almond butter (I like Trader Joe’s)

Mix the above ingredients. Form into 1″ balls and refrigerate. Enjoy in a couple hours as a grab-and-go energy snack.

 

St. Patrick’s Day Smoothie

March 16, 2016 by  
Filed under Eat Clean Recipes, Recipes

It doesn’t get much greener than this!! 

What makes this smoothie so healthful and energizing is the not-so-secret-anymore spirulina!! Have you heard about this multi-vitamin?!  All it takes is one teaspoonful a day to boost immunity, increase energy and support cardiovascular, eye and brain health.

I teach for three consecutive class periods in the early morning, which means I must be on and ready to go. This smoothie not only tastes better than coffee, it’s a healthy, natural alternative to caffeine. It leaves me satisfied and energized for that first essential half of the day!

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Try this combination and you won’t even realize you’re drinking healthfully ~ it’s just too delicious!

Coconut Almond Green Smoothie

  • 1 tsp Spirulina
  • 2 tbs raw almond butter
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 frozen banana OR 1 avocado (if you don’t want all the sugar)
  • 2 tbs unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2/3 cup filtered water

Mix all of the above in a Vitamix or blender, and enjoy!!!!

#EatCleanforEducators

#GradingGirl

 

Fitness for Educators

July 25, 2015 by  
Filed under Exercise, School's Out

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A teacher friend and I running a mud run two summers ago.

A teacher’s life is often misunderstood. The illusion of the workday ending mid-afternoon along with summers off is misleading. It underscores the incredible amount of time spent lesson planning, grading, answering parent phone calls and emails, attending meetings, pursuing professional development opportunities and completing coursework to update certifications. As a result, teachers often are frustrated over scheduling time for needed personal commitments as they struggle to juggle the responsibilities outside of the classroom. Coaching and extra-curricular responsibilities often take precedence too. Add a traditional food services menu still offered in schools (high carbs, processed food, sugary drinks, etc) that most would define as less than healthful, and one can see how it can be hard for teachers to stay physically fit.

Teachers like to set positive examples for their students, and we teach the student much more than we teach the content. There can be, however, many roadblocks to teachers’ personal goals, and it’s unfortunate that fitness can easily take a backseat.

As a high school English teacher myself for the past seventeen years, I completely empathize with and understand frustrations. As a fitness enthusiast for most of my life, I’ve utilized tried and true tricks to stay in-shape even during the most stressful days of the school year.

While everyone is different, and there are a variety of specific nutritional plans and exercises that will work well for specific people, here’s a general list of simple practices anyone can incorporate into his or her daily life to promote more healthful living:

Teacher Tips for Being Fit ~

1. Schedule time for exercise. Teachers love to plan ahead and work by schedules so why not write your workouts within your weekly schedule. Scheduling 30 minutes of exercise in for three – four days a week is a good goal.

Before School Option:
Wake up a half hour – one hour early to give yourself time for a morning workout. Whether it’s spending time on basic at-home movement (such as crunches, push ups, bodyweight squats or simple stretches), partaking in a morning jog or visiting the local gym, you will be more wide awake and ready to take on whatever unfolds during the day. Also, getting up before the rest of your household might help squeeze your own needed time in.

During School Option:
If there is a gym facility available for faculty during the day, why not use your free period in the middle of the day for some movement? I know some colleagues who are completely refreshed after doing so and, thereby, combat the afternoon slump we may be susceptible to.

After School Option:
Go to the gym directly after you leave the building or go after dinner. I personally like to get my grading done before I go to the gym so that my mind is free but there’s something to be said for going directly to the gym right after you leave the building – you will get your workout over and leave your evening free for family time and any grading you may have.

2. Join a gym. This is one item in your budget that will be well spent. There are many gyms with various types of packages offered for single or family members, such as Life Time Fitness or XSport.

3. If joining a gym is not an option, exercise at home. There are many body weight routines available online. If you can push yourself through some crunches, push-ups, squats and toe raises at home, you’re off to a great habit. For a comprehensive compilation of home exercises in one convenient place, check out the world’s largest interactive list of over 200 calisthenics exercises HERE at Man vs. Weight.

4. Incorporate more movement during the school day. Take the stairs more often, go talk to colleagues across the building rather than sending emails and make an excuse to walk around the hallways or outside of the building during a free hour. I see some staff members partaking in regular walks every day during their lunch hour. Movement encourages thought, and this can be a great way to problem-solve or generate new ideas. If you really want some motivation, invest in an activity tracker such as a Fitbit.

5. Plan grocery shopping and prepare as many meals as you can over the weekend. I never have time during the week to ponder over meal plans so this is key to keeping me on track with healthful eating. Chances are your grab-and-go meals are going to be much more unhealthful than your planned ones. I peruse favorite magazines or sites such as Clean Eating for healthy recipe ideas, write down ingredients I don’t have at home and take my list to the grocery store.

6. Consume caffeine earlier in the day before noon. There are many benefits to drinking coffee but doing so earlier in the day will help you fall asleep more soundly.

7. Get regular sleep – this one may be the toughest!  You may think you are doing your students a favor by finishing that grading in one particular night but you will undoubtedly do a more thorough job as a wide-awake individual. Studies show this is true.

8. Drink water throughout the day. Stay hydrated. Perhaps keep a thermos at your desk. Yes, we live by the bell but, hey, if you have to run to the restroom in-between periods, that’s another opportunity for movement!

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The very infrastructure of a teacher’s day does not cater to our health needs so it’s important that we’re cognizant of all we can do to remedy our time management and stress levels.

Try some of the steps above and you will have more energy for life both in and out of the classroom. Moreover, you will be setting a better example for your students, and will feel more positive about yourself and your life in general.

 

 

 

Life Time Fitness vs. XSport Fitness

November 30, 2014 by  
Filed under Exercise, Fitness, School's Out

from my Instagram @GradingGirl

I‘ve called Life Time Fitness my gym home since 2000 but last year I was swayed by a newer XSport Fitness in my area.  Now, I can thankfully say that I’ve been a pleased member from opening day at each location. 

Since I’m continually asked to offer my opinion by friends and since, in this past week, referred two people these gyms, I thought I’d take some time to compare the two.   Both individuals I referred told me my reviews of each were dead on so I’m offering them here.  

**Please note, these are my own observations based on my own experiences only .  Furthermore, I’ve kept my comparisons fairly general here to be as fair and objective as possible.   Come visit for yourself – you won’t be disappointed at either one.**

My Conclusion:   Both facilities offer their own special amenities and I will be keeping both memberships.  Here’s why:

LIFE TIME FITNESS:

– More family-oriented. (more organized kid activities, organized birthday parties, swim classes, etc)

– More pool. There is both an outdoor and indoor pool; both indoor and outdoor pools at Life Time offer water slides, a lounge area, and small cafes.  There is one indoor lap pool available at XSport.  A perk to the lap pool at XSport – it is more out-of-way from the rest of the club, allowing for more privacy and serious swim.

– More organized groups and team activities (running clubs, rock climbing classes, yoga events, yoga instructor courses, etc)

– More varied free-weights.  7lb, 12.5 and 17.5 are currently absent at my XSPort.  

– More cafe.  Life Time offers a full menu of shakes, breakfast, lunch and dinner items.  Very nice place to sit down and/or sneak in some work in-between workouts.

OVERALL:  Life Time Fitness seems to be geared toward both the serious, the want-to-be serious, and the weekend warriors alike.  I see more souls of all ages, shapes and sizes at Life Time.  It is a great place to meet like-minded fitness folks!!!  I’m lucky to say I’ve met a select few of my life-long friends there.

XSPORT FITNESS:

– More advanced equipment.  At the entry level gym facilities such as mine, for instance, the Power Plate is available.

– More one-on-one training sessions.  I see the personal trainers at my XSport working hard with individuals any hour – very late or very early.

More store.  XSport offers clothing, protein powders, accessories such as locks, headphones, etc. 

– More salon amenities.  Tanning beds and spray tans are offered at XSport.  

– Side Note:  The XSport that I frequent plays the BEST music – my all-time favorites included.  This may seem minor but music plays a significant motivator.  😉

OVERALL,  XSport seems to be geared toward the more serious fitness buff.  I notice more male and female clientele who compete regularly although there are folks of all fitness goals at the club.  Additionally, XSport is a great ‘get-in/get-out/get the workout done’ gym.  There literally is not as much room to roam – it’s not a social hour, it’s an exercise hour.  Gym class for adults!!!

BOTH FITNESS CLUBS:

– open 24 hours

– friendly, helpful staff

– ultra- clean facilities

– comprehensive, state-of-the-art cardio equipment

– great places to be!!

It doesn’t hurt to try both out and see what you think.  I believe that both offer  – at the very minimum – a one-day pass to check out the facilities.  🙂

 

Humane or Insane?! – My Skunk Stay

November 30, 2014 by  
Filed under GG's writing

I’ve long since shown my students these photos but I’ve been horrible this school year with keeping up with my own personal blogging site.  Maybe it’s the cold weather that makes me turn to nature.  Maybe I just want to show off these pictures.  Maybe I’m just a bit crazy and okay with sharing some of that craziness.  Whatever the case,  I devote my first of this new batch of blogs to Skychi, Gronda, Buente, Oka, Cincy, Gwtine, and Bwit!  

Seven inhabitants welcomed themselves around my home this past late spring and early summer.  Most folks would not take so kindly to these guests and my neighbors really hoped I evicted them stat.

I, on the other hand, err on the patient side of life so these creatures stayed with me for their needed nesting duration before moving on to greener pastures.

Long story short, these seven black and white furballs invaded uninvitedly but exited peacefully.  My niece uniquely named them:   Skychi (Mama Skunk)  and her children Gronda, Buente, Oka, Cincy, Gwntine, and Bwit  (she wanted to be sure I spelled them correctly here).  

 

Mama with one of her young - about 2.5 mos old here

Mama with one of her young – about 2.5 mos old here

Apparently, Mama Skunk and her babies felt completely safe around my home during their residency because they did not spray once.  They were quite quiet, actually.   I refused to cage them . . . not only is that inhumane, that would guarantee a stubbornly stinky spray session.  Rather, I waited for the six darling babies to grow and leave the burrow they called home under my home.

I looked at the situation more as an unexpected summer science research project and learned a bit about these creatures:

  • Skunks are naturally docile and only spray when they feel threatened.
  • They have MAD digging skills!!!
  • Mothers take very good care of their young. Skychi took her young ones out faithfully each evening around 9:45 for a quick leg stretch.  That duration became longer as they grew (and grew quickly they did!)
  • They sleep all day.
  • They are not disturbed by noise during the day.  On some days, I’d have friends sitting next to the hole, talking but neither hide nor hair from the skunks.  They were used to certain voices, I think!
  • The little ones don’t seem to realize their spray capabilities until they leave the nest.
  • Mama Skunk keeps them nested until three months old – she arrived late April, had her babies, and left with her clan in late July.
  • Skunks hate cayenne paper and onions!
Peeking out!

Peeking out!

 

Today, all holes have been professionally inspected and re-sealed very carefully with cement; I don’t think I’ll be graced with a repeat visit nor do I want to take a chance.  (I think I just got lucky with an extremely docile group).   My neighbors now talk amusingly about my summer hosting!  No one was sprayed so everyone’s content . . . and amused!!

 

One big happy, sweet family!

One big happy, sweet family!

 

Cute faces that I couldnt cage. I just held my breath that theyd hold the spray!!

Cute faces that I couldnt cage. I just held my breath that theyd hold the spray!!

Startling sight, but no spray to my delight!

Startling sight, but no spray . . .  to my delight!

First encounter/photo shoot with Mama Skychi

First encounter/photo shoot with Mama Skychi

Children are LOVE

August 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Listing through Life

I’m on the heels of a restful, soul-searching summer – mostly offline.  I’m about to start a brand new, very exciting school year – mostly online (district-wide 1:1 happiness!).  I’m sooooo excited about the new building, students, innovations, discoveries, classes, relationships, it goes on!!!!!   BUT before I go back, I must write a few posts.  Here’s the first pre-school post (truly, no pun intended):

Last week, I was lucky to fly home with my 4-year old niece, after visiting family in California, and host her for a few days of quality auntie/niece bonding!!  For the record, this was her first trip without either parent and she was completely patient on the delayed red-eye we endured!! Watching and caring for her this past week reminded me of some valuable life lessons I first learned years ago raising my now 22-year old daughter.

Waiting patiently at the gate for our delayed flight. : )

Waiting at the gate patiently for our delayed flight. : )

Lesson #1: Children do everything with love.  My niece, Skylar, lives love!  Whether making a craft out of whatever artifact she can get their hands on, baking cookies with extra sparkle for mom and dad, building a block house for Froggie, singing at the top of her lungs to one of many songs she knows by heart or simply jumping up and down with glee, I see her doing it all with LOVE.   Her love is pure, innocent and expressed whole-heartedly without worry over hurt or shame. Case in point, upon waking during her first morning at my home, my niece exclaimed in her bubbly articulate way, “Auntie T, I had a dream that I loved you so much that all around me was love, love love – SO much love I could hardly speak.”  This is word-for-word from her . . . I know because I was so enthralled I instantly grabbed a pen and wrote down what she said!!! My niece expresses what she feels and is not afraid to do so. Imagine the wholesomely sincere relationships if we lived more genuinely.

Dance - even when everyone is watching!

Dance – even when everyone is watching!

 

Lesson #2: Children live in the moment.   They are not ashamed of the past; they are not worried about the future. They enjoy what they are experiencing NOW for what it is.   Very young children are completely present with what they are experiencing and feeling.  They do not worry about what comes next, what others think, or what they look like – they just are. Caring for my niece was great practice in enjoying the moment and realizing the beauty and wonder in the seemingly small things.  Shapes of clouds, words to songs, colors of forks become subjects of deep conversation.   Imagine the dissonance dissipated if we lived more presently.

Sky exploring the sky!!!

Sky, exploring the sky!!

Lesson #3: Children play all the time. Play is how young ones learn and discover.  They laugh all the time.  They instinctively understand the concept of “You think, therefore you are.”  In other words, their imaginations are very powerful.  They are very creative individuals. I really see the wheels turning and the excitement forming when my niece states something like, “Okay, you be the student and I’ll be the teacher.  Let’s pretend it’s show & tell . . . . . ”   Imagine what we could accomplish as adults if we kept that powerfully confident creativity.

Her expression reveals her inquisitive disposition

Her expression reveals her inquisitive disposition

As I begin a new school year, I am going to try very hard to hold on to the value of genuine expression, the value of being fully present and the value of play to learn and discover!!   While my students are a good ten years older or more than Sky, these are important life practices to model and practice as we venture on our educational journey.  I’m so grateful and blessed to spend time with my young niece, watch my grown daughter bloom and share happiness with family and friends.  Each special person teaches us something – whether it’s a lesson easy to swallow or hard to hold, we learn, grow and become better individuals through the trials and joys we experience with each other.   Love, live, play . . . one step at a time!!

**For Sky MC ~ You’re a sky full of stars!!  I love you very much!

A life-size Lite-Brite wall!! (at Barrington Area Library)

Find ways to light up your world!

Take each obstacle one stump at a time!

Take each obstacle one stump at a time!

Graduation to Life

July 2, 2014 by  
Filed under GG's writing

It’s been a month and a half since my daughter graduated from USC!!  Wow, it’s still sinking in that I’m the mom of a college graduate.   As I type this, I just got off the phone with her, on the heels of her first business trip.  It’d be unprofessional (and perhaps contradictory to some of the words below) to brag like I REALLY want about her dream job that she landed a week after graduation, so this overly zealous mom will try very hard to focus this post on a significant event celebrating her and her peers’ accomplishments.

Bovard Auditorium at University of Southern California

Bovard Auditorium at University of Southern California

Graduation weekend still replays in my mind and always will.  Dare I say it’s an accomplishment, in an itty-bitty way, for parents who raised these accomplished graduates too.  I still spot tweets about commencement addresses that continue to resonate so I don’t think I’m too tardy in posting about this now.  

On-campus prep for graduation day!!!

Prep for graduation day!!!  . . . Breathtaking campus – with or without the tents!

One of the amazing experiences was attending the USC 2014 Baccalaureate Ceremony, a non-denominational, inter-faith celebration, on Thursday, May 15th, evening before graduation.   While we had the pleasure of listening to three commencement speeches before the weekend was over, Rainn Wilson’s keynote speech of the evening, “The New American Dream:  Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Service” is the one that resonates most with me.  Listening to his speech was particularly poignant for my family as we’ve watched “The Office” religiously since Season 1; Dwight is one of my daughter’s favorite T.V. characters – she still has her Dwight bobble-head!!  Sitting in the front row only added to the blessing of being able to attend!  HERE’s the speech in its entirety.  It is worth your eighteen minutes!

The following key points are as I digest them.  I really did want to take notes, as Rainn jokingly tells the audience to do.  But, articulating the major points of this speech now, after letting thoughts ruminate, is truly a cathartic experience in itself.  So I thank you, Mr. Wilson!!  You’ve helped my family through day-to-day stress years ago by providing truly fun entertainment on television; and now, you are providing thought-provoking philosophies to help us grow spiritually.

To open the presentation, Rainn Wilson candidly revealed that he came very close to canceling because he himself has been going through a rough month in his own life.  This instantly gave him powerful sincerity in the words he shares, believes and strives to achieve himself.  He is attempting to achieve these laws, admittedly with difficulty, within his own world.  Powerful!!

Speaking of powerful, he referred to prayer as the most “powerful force in the universe” and I’ve since used that phrase aloud myself in a number of conversations with a couple folks who are also going through a rough time.  I believe this is true.

Rainn outlines the majority of the speech with laws for happiness but quickly declares how much he actually despises the word, happiness.  It seems to connote a fleeting choice that is outside of ourselves.  He compares happiness with eating cotton candy (which I’ve been known to inhale, so I related well to the fleeting sensation).  Like cotton candy, happiness gives us a high when we digest it but we almost immediately crash, wanting more fistfuls to keep us satisfied.  Joy, contentment, serenity are all words he likes better that connote more permanence.  These words more specifically refer to perspectives and beliefs within us.  Bottom line, this man knows a thing or two more than just paper.  His words are wise and real.

Trojan Cupcakes for dessert!!!

Trojan Cupcakes at the evening’s dinner!

Rainn’s Laws of Happiness Contentment (as corrected by Mr. Wilson himself) ~ He pointed out that these laws have been proven by science, psychology, theology and he, in turn, quotes numerous scientists, psychologists, and theologists throughout his speech:

1.   Happiness is not an if/then proposition.  If/then equations never meet our ultimate needs or fulfill our true standards.  Happiness is cotton candy – it’s sticky and dissatisfying.  Real happiness is found inside of ourselves, a choice that we make from within.    If/then decisions such as these only lead us wanting more:  (If I make _____ amount of $$, then I will be happy; If I become a ________, then I will be happy; If I marry _______, then I will be happy.). Happiness is not outside of ourselves or even something to be pursued, Rainn goes on to say.  Happiness is not defined by any thing or any person or any entity; it is a state-of-mind.  I believe this is true.  Choosing to view all life experiences as positive is a choice that leads to contentment, not necessarily the life experiences themselves (which eventually end) being the contentment.

2.  “Desirelessness” can set us free.  Rainn goes on sharing that desire leads to dissatisfaction whereas non-attachment leads to joy.  Physical happiness is limited; spiritual happiness is eternal.  According to the actor’s testimonials, spiritual beings have more human experience. Those who are spiritually engaged are far happier than those who are not because they are searching from the inside out rather than the outside in.  In his explanation, Rain explains that we constantly long for permanence in a world that is impermanent in every way – we ourselves are not permanent pieces of this earth.  Nothing remains the same.  Suffering, therefore, lies within any outside attachment.  When we detach from whatever is outside of us, we are free to be content.  We are so much a part of this outside world and are constantly bombarded with commercialism, as Rainn refers to, with societal pressures, with getting ahead and with wanting more.  Detachment from these things does not mean being uncaring, lazy or laissez-fair; it simply means not letting these things we can’t hold forever make us forget what we can hold on to – our beliefs and values.

3.  Live in the spirit:  Concentrate on the divine, spiritual part of who you are and you will find true satisfaction, according to the man previuosly known as Dwight.  Live in your soul.  To me, this means search for what inspires you, search for what makes you want to create, search for what you love – and you’ll never “work” a day in your life.  I don’t!

4.  Have an attitude of gratitude:   For this law, Rainn referred to his digital media company, SoulPancake ,and an experiment they conducted titled  “The Science of Happiness.”  I’ve been following his channel for quite some time.  There are numerous videos on this channel that are very useful supplementary material to share – – -hits-you-in-the-heart messages.  Rainn goes on to say that complaint is easy and, similarly, cynicism is easy to fall back on.  I personally know a couple souls who I believe truly feel more comfortable living within cynicism.  They don’t take gratitude and good fortune with nearly as much grace as they deserve to.  As Rainn stated, gratitude takes work – this I know firsthand but I also know firsthand that gratitude has the best payoff! I am genuinely grateful for all I’ve experienced, given and received – and I am trying very hard to openly express that gratitude much more often to more people.  Rainn Wilson is correct:   Think of something you are grateful for, share it and your heart will soar.

5.   Be here now! Live in the moment  . . . do not anticipate troubles, do not live in the past, do not be anxious over the future, do not live in your head or on your phone.  We need to live in the moment!!  I can’t tell you how depressing that too-familiar downward posture looks when I see a person peeled to his or her phone.  He or she misses so much!  Everything we need is right here, right now.  The past and future are illusions . . one is a dream, the other hasn’t happened yet.  I love this one!!  It prompts us not to worry about that which we have no control.

6.  The greatest meaning you will find in life, you will find in service to others.  Ironically, the more we search for ourselves, the less likely we are to find ourselves.  The more we search for God and our fellow man, on the other hand, the more we find ourselves.  Self-esteem, life satisfaction, sense of community is brought to light by service to others!  Show kindness, sacrifice time & energy – this is what life IS. The best way to combat a bad mood or even depression is to serve others – whether that means a full-out volunteer position at your local animal shelter or simply baking banana bread for your super wonderful, next door neighbor.  “In this me-me-me culture,” Rainn Wilson warns, “focus on yourself and you will find only misery, depression, emptiness. Focus on helping others and you will find joy, contentment, gratitude and buckets and buckets of eudaimonia”—a reference to the ancient Greek concept of happiness, which, Wilson explained literally means “human flourishing.”  Maybe this is why my job career lifestyle as a teacher does not feel like work.  We service some very special clients all day long – the students!  

With every speech (and every piece of writing), we take what we can and want to out of it, what works and resonates with us.  Each of the six “Laws of Contentment” speaks to me.  And unlike the character he played on T.V., Rainn Wilson didn’t need to pound on the podium or wave his arms around to get his point across.  Thank you, Rainn, for sharing your beliefs, your philosophies, your views, your care.  I am genuinely grateful!

Post-ceremony Dinner - delicious, elegant, joyous!

Post-ceremony Dinner – delicious, elegant, joyous!

 

To My Daughter

May 19, 2014 by  
Filed under GG's writing

 

This is a rare, super personal post for me.  I debated posting it but am so utterly proud of the daughter I’ve been blessed to raise.  Below is the letter I presented her with (minus a few private details) on the day she graduated from college. Since posting this, my daughter continues to flourish. She’s enjoying her third year as a publicist in the film industry, and recently earned a major promotion. She travels all over the world for work and pleasure . . . she’s living the life she dreamed – and isn’t that every parent’s dream for his/her children?!

photo

**Dear Daughter**,

I loved you before I ever saw you but felt you growing inside. The moment I caught glimpse of you on the evening

you were born, I fell in love all over again – your head full of all that

beautiful dark hair and your tan skin. I knew you’d be a dancer because you held

your hands and legs in the air, flexed and watched them intently the second

the doctor laid you down. You always were an intent human. Your innate,

remarkable concentration and focus amazes me to this day!   And, yes, while you shined in

many-a-recital growing up, you are truly dancing through life. You have a joie-

de-vie that people can’t help but like when they meet and get to know you. I’m

hearing that infectious giggle as I type this . . .

In you,  I saw all hopes and dreams for the future begin to

blossom. The first words I said to you when you graced this world were, “We are

going to have the best life together.” And we are!! While you are farther in miles

now, you are never far in my mind or heart. Raising you, I

tried to teach you to believe in yourself and give you wings. I taught you how to

fly the best I could – and look where you’re landing; you are thriving as a young

lady fervently pursuing her dreams and goals in a major city in another state!!

WOW!!

 I told you growing up and I’ll tell you now, you can achieve whatever

you want to. You have that indefinable it – and I’m not just saying that because

I’m your mom. Your achievements attest to your gifts. You are everything I

hoped a daughter to be when I was growing up myself dreaming about you.

Here is my wish for you: I wish that this life always brings you your wishes and

dreams coming true. I hope your worries stay small and you never have to carry

more than you can hold. This I wish for you today and always.

 Congratulations on your graduation from USC. This marks the beginning of the next fruitful chapter of the blessed life you lead.

I love you very much, dear daughter, and am so very proud of you. Love, Mom

Meeting John Green!

May 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Authors

“April showers bring May flowers.”  While the tulips in my front yard are finally peeking out and blooming their yellow petals, more than a few inspiring words have already been planted in my head during these opening days of May and will continue to impact me.

Case in point . . . On Friday, May 2nd, I had the honor of attending the 2014 Zena Sutherland Lecture at the Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago Public Library along with the wonderful Media Center Chair of the high school where I teach!  This year’s lecture was presented by John Green, New York Times bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, and more.  Most recently, Mr. Green is named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2014.

During his lecture, “Does YA Mean Anything Anymore?  Genre in a Digitized World,”  John spoke about the power of reading,  about the inspirations behind The Fault in Our Stars (soon-to-be released as a major motion picture), about benefits of both books and digitized text, and about inspiring reluctant-reading children.

Early birds get the good seats!

Early birds get the good seats!

The following are my interpretations of some resonating points from John Green’s speech.  (Italic words are from notes I scribbled during the lecture, followed by my own elaborations.)

1.  Reading allows us to get out of ourselves.  The world outside of ourselves is more vast than the world within ourselves.  Reading thoughts and experiences of others – even those fictional others – allows us to see that.  At times, we may feel as if we are the only ones in the world experiencing a certain problem; books, in fact, prove otherwise – every problem every person ever experienced has been written down somewhere.  Reading validates our thoughts.

2.  John Green wrote The Fault in our Stars as a book about sick people, not a book about the lessons healthy people learn from them.  In other words, he didn’t want the book to convey any clichéd messages about death reminding us how short life is.  Rather, he illustrates the true essence of struggles and emotions people living with a terminal illness face.   He describes the story as hopeful without being dishonest.

Telling Mr. Green about our students back home!

Telling Mr. Green about our students back home!

3.  John Green declared just how important it is for us as educators to frequent our libraries and bookstores to keep hard copies of books alive in many hands.    There is something concrete and personal about reading from a book that can’t be found within digital text.  What books can’t do, however, is provide an instant channel for two-way conversation.  Through electronic highlights and notes,  instant search engine access,  and easy chat with fellow readers, digital text provides constant accessibility that a book can’t.  There is value in both but one cannot completely replace the other nor should it.

4.  To our reluctant readers, John tells us to tell them that reading takes time. One can’t expect to instantly fall in love with reading after, say, one book.  Yes, it’s an investment – in time and in thought.   Wait, be patient.    The best part:  reading makes one a better person, a better friend, a better boyfriend (a particular motivator for Mr. Green growing up!), a better spouse, a better parent, a better teacher . . .  The more we read, the more we know.  The more we read, the more we understand and are understood.   Some of us inherently know this; some of us don’t.  That’s okay – books are available to all to use for personal interpretation and use!!

John Green and me

John Green and me!!

As I look over my post before I press “publish,” I notice it doesn’t nearly convey all the inspiration and excitement and hope I hold just as strongly now as from the moment my friend and I walked off of Floor 9 in the library.  It doesn’t show the brightness in my students eyes as I tell them I met you over the weekend.  It doesn’t give any of your books or vlogs or blogs any rage review that they each deserve.

Mr. Green, thank you for providing thought-provoking stories that speak to a wide-array of readers of many ages and backgrounds.   One of my students, also at this event, was literally shaking with nervous excitement as she spoke to you.  She’s read each one of your books and listened to some of your CrashCourse videos (while cleaning at home!) to prepare for an upcoming AP test.  Thank you for providing a voice teenagers can trust, a voice (from your words) that is “hopeful but not dishonest,” direct yet not harsh, and sympathetic but not lamenting.  We can’t wait to see what you share next!

 Here’s a link to a video John Green recorded and placed on Instagram the very next day after his time in Chicago.  It showcases a large crowd of fans, lined up and waiting for the first screening of The Fault in Our Stars movie,  screaming as John passes by. What truly makes me happy is the rockstar status he is gaining from his writing.  Writers Rock!!!

Let it Go

March 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Music

Congratulations to songwriting duo Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez for winning an Oscar for their original song with “Let it Go” during the 2014 Academy Awards.

I recently Skyped with my 3 1/2 year old niece who fervently sings every word to this song (see our video below!).  What empowering lyrics for girls!!  The chorus alone repeating “let it go” gives message to relinquish control over that which is out of our grasps, lose fear that holds us back, and express ourselves without apologies.   Wow!!    It is truly music to my ears to hear a sweet, young voice such as my niece’s echo strong, declarative statements.  See the video at the bottom of this post that I recorded over spring break  . . . don’t play it too loudly, though, or you’ll hurt your ear drums because I can’t help but belt out a chord or two myself.

“Let it Go” by Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez

performed by Idina Menzel

(A+ for empowering lyrics coupled with a memorable tune) 

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight,
not a footprint to be seen.
A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I’m the queen.
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside.
Couldn’t keep it in, Heaven knows I tried.
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see.
Be the good girl you always have to be.
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.
Well, now they know!

Let it go, let it go!
Can’t hold it back any more.
Let it go, let it go!
Turn away and slam the door.
I don’t care what they’re going to say.
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway.

It’s funny how some distance,
makes everything seem small.
And the fears that once controlled me, can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do,
to test the limits and break through.
No right, no wrong, no rules for me.
I’m free!

Let it go, let it go.
I am one with the wind and sky.
Let it go, let it go.
You’ll never see me cry.
Here I’ll stand, and here I’ll stay.
Let the storm rage on.

My power flurries through the air into the ground.
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back; the past is in the past!

Let it go, let it go.
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn.
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand, in the light of day.

Let the storm rage on!
The cold never bothered me anyway…

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GG and SkyMC!

Forget the Finish Line

January 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Listing through Life

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This time of year, I’m particularly discretionary in choosing articles from blog feeds because too many sound alike in reference to resolutions.  It wasn’t until I came across Entrepreneur’s “Forget Setting Goals.  Focus on this Instead.” that I stopped to read and take heed.  It talks about the finality of goals – once we reach them, we tend to lose motivation.  Case in point:  after weeks of marathon training, motivation runs amuck once the finish line is crossed OR after studying hard for a test, the daunting details are forgotten. hmmmm

As the article states, “When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.”  THIS is how I want to live my 2014 and beyond.  THIS is how I will help my students live their 2014s and beyond.  It’s about focusing on the journey not the finish line.  Goals are not senseless; they are good for planning what we do and how we progress on the journey.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big advocate for lists (just take a glance at some of my previous posts under “Listing through Life”) . . . I just think that when we focus more intently, more inwardly, more presently, we progress more authentically.

My 2014 Life Resolutions**
**a sampling  🙂

1.  I will invest in the daily habit of actively sharing, spreading and shining MORE L O V E.     Look out blogging friends, that means you too!!  You’ll see plenty of smiley faces and exclamation marks around this site! 🙂

2.  Every day I’m with my students, I will continue to ensure EACH student KNOWS I appreciate him or her being present on that day (even a 30-second acknowledgement can make a difference).  Each student brings something special to the classroom and the world, and there are too many who don’t believe that about themselves.

3.  I will present and/or collaborate at as many conferences as I can.  I will take and/or teach as many tech courses as my schedule allows.  Technology offers wonder and discovery every day, and I look forward to sharing the exciting trials and tribulations!!

4.  Every time I assign a blog post for my students, I will create a similar blog post.  I’ve always proudly practiced this with my speech students – every time I assign speeches, I give a similar one myself.  I’ve fallen too far behind in personal blogging and this process will keep the keys clicking.

5.  I will read every book that I currently own but have not yet read.  This includes YA books, professional development books, fitness and nutrition books, memoirs and picture books.   I may not write reviews for all on my Goodreads page, but I will honestly rate them.

6.  I will conquer the headstand . . . not just the against-the-wall headstand.  I have a mental block on this that I’d like to conquer.  Classes at my yoga studio will very much help this.

7.  I will try an ariel yoga class.  A trapeze class would be fun too!  And how about a trampoline class?!!!  My mini trampoline only gets so far.

8.  I will run the Disneyland 10K with my daughter and enjoy the long-distance progress tracking we’ll be doing for each other along the way.

9.  I will attend a yoga retreat to focus on balance and meditation . . . . preferably in a state, country or region in which I’ve never been.

10.  I will dance it out somehow, some way, every day!!  I used to – no reason not to now.  We need more dancing! 

from Maddie Rose's Tumblr site

And the list goes on . . . .

“The House Without a Christmas Tree” in The House with 3 Trees

December 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Writing

Today on Christmas, my family is reminiscing on yesterdays as we count our endless blessings.  Rummaging through Christmas storage boxes, I found this old tattered book!!

Does anyone remember this CBS special with Jason Robards that used to air every holiday season?!  I looked forward to it quite a few years in a row. The special, which won an Emmy in 1973, was based on the story of the same name by Addie Mills.  My mother found this book for me one Christmas knowing how much I adored the show.  It’s the story of a 10-year old girl’s struggle with communication with her father that comes to a head when he refuses to buy a tree for their home one Christmas.  The message of empathy, generosity and growth in relationships still resonates with me today.

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my tattered old book

Tree

A beloved old story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hmmm . . . perhaps recounting this story so often as a young girl made me extra exuberant with holiday decorating.  Hosting a cozy get together with cousins I haven’t seen in years may be another reason this special year.  🙂  My house holds three proudly standing soldiers this season:  the white “Rudolph” themed tree, the main tall red/nutcracker/dance themed tree, and an extra tree this year for my visiting niece and baby cousins – the Disney character/Barbie tree.

Happy Holidays to all!!!  May the new year hold dreams achieved, goals reached, and new blessings born.

Three trees in my home!

Three trees in my home this year!

 

Long Days, Short Years

August 12, 2013 by  
Filed under GG's writing

I’m fresh from an exhilarating morning hill run with a dear friend who is also a teacher just as excited as I am with the approaching school year!  I’m about to enter my school building, in fact, but felt the need to stop and reflect before charging through the rest of the day . . . .

 

While summer is flying away as briskly as it usually does, I reflect on life lessons learned or reinforced over the warm days.  Reflecting on summer occurrences helps me mentally prep for the exciting new school year ahead.   There were quite a few mini-lessons these past few weeks but the one that resonates louder than ever is make the most of this moment we have NOW.  I’ve always believed living for today is essential:  yesterday is gone and done, tomorrow is not guaranteed.  My very first online post, Living in the Moment,  illustrates such subject through a poem I wrote for my mother years ago.

The major reinforcer of this lesson is watching my daughter embark upon her senior year of college.  Time flies more than we can foresee.  — My advance apologies if I start to use a bit too many clichés.  I tend to fall back on them when I philosophize.  —   I’ve told my colleagues who currently have little ones how much it seems like yesterday my girl was the same age even though it was two decades ago.  Gretchen Rubin’s video illustrates how long days can feel as we trudge through daily responsibilities and routine; however, looking back, the years seem short. It’s a poignant video that reminds us to revel in the routine!!

As my students sometimes complain that Thanksgiving or Christmas or spring break can’t get here fast enough, I always, always tell them that they’ll look back fondly and school days won’t seem as long.  Of course, they shake their heads disbelievingly but maybe someday they’ll understand.  🙂

Another reminder of what it means to enjoy our days stemmed from the recent loss of our pet of almost 16 years.  Full disclosure:  I am not a cat person by nature.  I grew up with dogs and, until we rescued our Crystal cat from a shelter, I was very close-minded about those I viewed as “cat people.”  Pet discrimination – guilty as charged.  To this day, I would always pet Crystal much more roughly than she preferred.   Anyhow, cats require lower maintenance and that’s exactly what I was seeking when I went back to work full time.  Crystal charmed us with her tricks and companionship.  She exemplified patience and unconditional, simple love.  What better lesson is there to learn than that?!  While I plan on getting a yellow Labrador or Golden Retriever in the future, Crystal will always hold a special place in the corner of our hearts.

Most negative incidents hold a very positive lesson within them.  Perhaps we just have to be patient or look a little deeper.  Case in point, my daughter sprained her foot badly at the very beginning of this summer.  What was supposed to be her last summer running (sometimes, literally) around Chicagoland turned out to be many hours spent sitting.  Flexibility is key in our minds even if our bodies aren’t always as flexible.  What this created for us was an opportunity to spend more time talking, sharing writing, looking at old videos, reading recipes and relaxing like we should and usually don’t.

One of my favorite simple summer spots

One of my favorite simple, summer spots

And so, as the new school year starts very soon, I’m grateful for the summer of reflection and the precious moments spent with the special people in my life.  We truly learned how to revel in moments this summer – it was pretty awesome!  The little downfalls we experience along the way are minor in the grand scheme of things.  Looking forward, I’m grateful for new beginnings.  I’m grateful for personal and professional possibilities.  I’m grateful for the exciting unknowns.

I’ll be watching with a fresh viewpoint as I ask my students to reflect on their own work.  I am anxious for the changes approaching at school:  new iPad classes, remodeled building, new homeroom period . . . as these changes and more occur, I will remember that, however long a particular day may sometimes seem, the school year is indeed fast!!   The end of the year approaches quickly; while there is work to be accomplished in between, it is the amazing students I teach that make the months fly by.

 

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