11.20.2018

The Coolest Little Free thing on the Internet

Screenshot from tinygratitude.com.

Is your e-mail in-box the bane of your existence?  Mine used to be.  I would joke to colleagues that it was like a zit I had to pop every day or it would get out of control.  

So, after that delightfully gross comparison (yes, I work with middle grades kiddos), I want to share a cool little thing I found on the Internet that just might brighten your in-box.  

It's free.  

To try it out, sign up at tinygratitude.com to get an e-mail that prompts us to think of just one word of gratitude each day.  You respond, it makes a word cloud, and boom--a little more gratitude in your in-box.

I like the simplicity, and I find it delightful.

If you want to give it a try, it only takes about 10 seconds to sign-up here.

Happy Thanksgiving week friends.  



11.19.2018

10 Reasons to Watch It's a Wonderful Life for Thanksgiving

Photo from historyadventuring.com.

“We know love by this. . . to lay down our lives for one another.” - 1 John 3:16

I put up my Christmas tree.  I know, I know, I'm part of the problem.  I should wait until after Thanksgiving.  But as I sit here in the glow of my twinkle lights, I’m smiling.  

Not only did the kids and I put up the tree, but I also watched It’s a Wonderful Life (It's on Amazon Prime).  My aunts on the Steffens side always had this playing during the holidays when I was growing up.  I'm convinced it’s a Thanksgiving movie.  

Top 10 Reasons to watch this 1938 film for Thanksgiving this year:

1.  When that one guy bails in the pool.  During the dance scene, the gym floor opens up.  The man in charge (I think the Principal) starts to panic as chaotic ensues.  The moment where he throws his hands up and bombs in himself is a good life lesson, and it's priceless.

2.  People say so much while not saying anything.  How often are George and Mary saying everything with just their faces?  A favorite author of mine, Madeline L’Engle, had two signs hanging in her office: “Listen to the Silence.  Stay open to the voice of the Spirit.” And “Slow me Down, Lord.”  Sometimes fewer words are needed.

3.  Keep it simple.  The opening credits to this film are pieces of paper with someone grabbing one piece after another, sliding them out of the camera shot.  Don't make it complicated.  Simple can be beautiful.

4.  Look at my life with fresh eyes.  When George runs through Bedford Falls near the end, suddenly normal is beautiful and worth yelling about.  “Merry Christmas you wonderful old Building and Loan!”  

5.  For the fully-grown Oak trees.  There's not just one, but ten.  The visual of this says something about the value of sticking with people, of sticking somewhere over the long haul.  How might we feel more gratitude if we’re living Oak Tree lives?

6.  For the old times music.  Who doesn't want to get the song, "Buffalo Gals Won't You Come Out Tonight," stuck in their head?  You're welcome.

7.  To reflect on life.  The big question is asked twice, "What do you want, George?" And "What do you want, Mary?"  

8.  To see Zuzu.  She's cute.  You can't help but smile with her and that flower and, "Not a smidge of temperature."  I just love it.

9.  To giggle at Clarence.  Seconds after a tense situation, he's always laughing with his angel friends at the bigger picture.  What if we all just move on and laugh?

10.  To be reminded.  Our true value is not in what we make or what we earn, but it is in our relationships.  "No man (or woman) is a failure who has friends."


***

Cheers to that and Happy Thanksgiving Week!  Thanks so much to anyone who's reading along.  Today's Gratitude Dare is to express gratitude to a relative, so if/when you see family this week, take the time to say thanks.  



11.16.2018

Gratitude Held in Your Hands


"Everything is a gift.  The degree to which we are awake to this truth is a measure of our gratefulness, and gratefulness is a measure of our aliveness." - David Stendl-Rast
Junior high me was gangly.  She had just swapped glasses for contacts, and she wore a scoliosis back brace.  Her notebooks were littered with scribbles, so-and-so + so-and-so, TLA (true love aways), stick figures, hearts, stars, and practice signatures of my first name with the last name of the boy I liked.

I would like to say that my notebooks have grown up, but as I sit in meetings or trainings even today, my pen always finds a way to doodle, sometimes even my married name. . . Evi Jane Wusk.

One of my favorite writing teachers/writers/teachers of writing is Penny Kittle.  As I had my students complete one of her pre-writing exercises for narratives recently, I was struck by the gratefulness I felt when I made my classroom example, and struck by the memories it brought of those old notebooks.

It's simple.  Draw an outline of your hand, and then fill it with words and doodles of things you've held that mattered.  Sometimes Gratitude is so very tangible, something you can hold in your hand.    

Maybe it's just a silly scribble, a doodle of a junior high girl--but try it, you might be surprised at the memories that come, at the gratitude you've held in your hands.


***

Cheers to the weekend.  I'll be back here writing Monday--Thanksgiving week. :)

11.15.2018

Taking the Guilt out of Gratitude




"Gratitude is not only an emotion; it is something we do. It is like tending a garden. It takes planting and watering and weeding. It takes time and attention. It takes learning. It takes routine. But, eventually, the ground yields, shoots come forth, and thanksgiving blooms." - Diana Butler Bass, Grateful

When I read about gratitude, I always feel guilty--like it's something I should do.  Once I bought an orange gratitude journal from Barnes and Noble and set it by my bedside table, planning to write three things I'm thankful for each night--good plan right? 

It is possible that no item in my home has ever made me feel more ungrateful.

I would come to the end of the day, walk up to our bed rubbing my eyes, and think, "Oh, crap, now I need to feel grateful," as I begrudgingly picked up my pen.

So, I'm starting to think about gratitude as less of an obligation and instead as something that's bigger and smaller.

Gratitude Smaller . . . 

  • Instead of a notebook, put a gratitude rock by your bedside, maybe place it on top of your phone.  So when you reach for it in the morning, it's a gentle reminder to start the day with gratitude.
  • Do you make to-do lists at work?  When you're in this writing mode, quickly jot three gratitudes at the top before getting to task.  It only takes about a minute (and who doesn't love to procrastinate?)  
Gratitude Bigger . . .
  • What if gratitude isn't just personal, what if it becomes central in our families, institutions, organizations, and communities?  When I left my Waverly job, each retiree or person leaving received a hand-made pot from the art teacher that contained notes from students.  While presenting it, the librarian read a heartfelt note about the person's unique gifts.  Afterward she said, "Now you've been potted," with a smile.  Something about this meeting moved beyond work into something real, something so needed in our communities.  How could this inspire a similar gratitude ceremony in your family, institution, or community?
  • What if you start a class or a meeting with everyone sharing three gratitudes?  At first everyone will groan (plan on it), but reading them aloud might just be magic.  After the first day I did this with my students in November, they asked for it, and they linger at the cork-board where they are posted.  It changes the tenor of our community--and while it feels simple--I sense the group practice means something bigger.

So while gratitude does have a marketing problem--it's not easy to make sexy or bold or important--it really is free and simple and sometimes it can even feel a little magic.  It's not an obligation as much as it is a way to play in the world and show care.  

So, it's not about guilt.  It's about gratitude.  


***

Today's gratitude dare is to buy and send inexpensive thank you cards.  So the next time you walk by that display, maybe grab a pack.  You don't have to sign 'em--just use 'em. ;)

11.14.2018

Brave and True

Jim and Kelly at their daughter Maggie's wedding.




I am thankful to my friend Kelly for sharing her words today.  She and I met in graduate school at UNL.  More recently I've loved seeing her as a new a grandma as she shares pictures on Facebook.  Not only is she smart and kind, she's one of the bravest and truest women I've met.  Thank you Kelly.

***

November 28, 2010 is a day that will forever be ingrained in my mind.  I was ironing my clothes for the week, something I always did on a Sunday night.  I heard my husband, Jim, making some rather strange noises, almost like he was having a nightmare, in the family room.  I went to check on him and he kept reassuring me that he was ok.  Within minutes, he was unconscious.  I called 911 and screamed for my daughter Molly. As I was talking to the 911 operator, my husband stopped breathing, so my CPR training kicked in, and I was breathing for him until the EMT’s arrived.  As they were wheeling my husband out to the ambulance, they told me where they were taking him and that it didn’t look good.

Driving to the hospital with my heart in my throat, I was praying every step of the way, “Please God, let him be ok.”  Sitting in the Emergency waiting room, I was surrounded by family and friends, all praying and waiting.  A neurologist came to speak to me and told me my husband was as sick as any human could be.  My brother, an Emergency doctor, told me to prepare myself and my daughters for three possible outcomes: he makes it out of this ok, he would be permanently brain damaged, or he would die.  I would later learn that Jim had about a 7% chance of survival.  Talk about bringing me to my knees!

I was told that Jim had suffered from a ruptured brain aneurysm and he had bleeding on the brain.  When a body experiences that trauma, it usually sends confusing messages to other parts of the body and they begin to shut down.  The most common outcome is death.  Jim was a runner and was in amazing physical condition.  That saved his life.  His body was strong enough to overcome those messages and keep him breathing and his heart beating.  Thank you, God!

Jim spent six weeks in the ICU at the Nebraska Medical Center.  He was surrounded by amazing nurses and outstanding doctors.  My daughters and I were surrounded by family, friends, church family, co-workers, and even my third grade students.  We never wanted for anything and felt support and love from all of them.  Thank you, God!

After his six-week stint in the ICU, Jim was finally moved to the neurology floor for a week before being transferred to Madonna in Lincoln for two weeks.  We truly thought we had dodged a bullet, as Jim could walk, talk, eat, and function as a normal adult.  He came home, and we thought we had put all of this behind us.

We later found out that the blood from Jim’s brain had traveled down his spine and was causing scar tissue to form. The blood also pooled in his left eye socket, scar tissue was forming there, too.  He had a surgery to remove the scar tissue in his eye, but it was too severe, so he lost vision in his eye.  As the scar tissue continued to pull on his spinal cord, his walking began to worsen.  Jim endured three different back surgeries trying to remove the scar tissue in his spine, but to no avail.  He now walks with the use of an AFO, a cane, and sometimes a walker.  The spine has also affected other areas of Jim’s body and has made it difficult for him to travel and do some of the day-to-day things we all take for granted.

This November will mark the 8-year anniversary of almost losing my amazing husband.  So first and foremost, I am so grateful that I have had the past 8 years with him, and for the 33 ½ years being married to him.  I am grateful he got to see Molly graduate from High School and college.  I am grateful he was around to see Maggie graduate from college. I am grateful that my husband encouraged me to pursue my doctorate and supported me at the age of 49 to switch careers and move to teaching higher education. I am so very grateful Jim was able to walk Maggie and Molly down the aisle on their wedding days. I am grateful he was around to see both of his daughters become gainfully employed educators. I am grateful he was here to celebrate the birth of our first grandchild this past May.  I am grateful that I still have my very best friend to spend my time with.  He is a living, breathing example of God’s miracles on Earth. Thank you, God!

11.13.2018

to Notice



I was scooting down the school hallway, copies in hand, shuffling my keys to unlock my classroom when I saw her, she was standing still and looking at posters.

"Good morning," I said quickly.

"Aren't these neat," she said, gesturing so that I would stop and really look.  "They really are saying something."

I have walked past these posters what feels like one million times and never taken the time to read one.  As I stood there with her, reading one after the other, I felt my shoulders softening, my to-do list somehow feeling more manageable.

Yes, we teachers move fast to get things done, but this woman also had things to get done--and one of the things on her list is to notice, to notice the good stuff around us.

This small interaction changed my pace for the rest of the morning.

I was moving slower, but yet getting more done.

I noticed more, saw more things that were actually pretty cool if I took the little time to notice.

It was as if the noticing--with gratitude--had re-set my whole day to a better metronome beat.

And I'm not saying I've got this all figured out, far from it, but it's something I'm working on.

So today's challenge is to notice.  Notice that pretty tree on the way home from work.  Notice something about someone you live with that you haven't taken the time to really see for awhile.  Notice that picture you hung on your own wall.  Why was it there again?  Maybe use your camera, or just use your five senses to notice today. . . and say thanks.

11.12.2018

Thank You Veterans


Thank You Veterans.  Your service is our gratitude. 

I saw something this weekend that I want to share.  Any time the word "gratitude" pops up in a video going viral, I'm paying attention.

Pete Davidson apologized to Lt. Com. Dan Crenshaw on Saturday Night Live.  Pete had made a joke in poor taste, and--whether NBC put him up to it or not--the resulting TV clip is worth a watch.  It is especially worth watching at the 3:15 mark when the conversation turns to gratitude.  #neverforget.  Here is the link (it's under five minutes).

Thinking of you today Veterans, especially you Sarah. If you haven't read her writing from last week, it's a good read for today.