2017-Let’s Do This!

It’s 2017 and I have yet to make the obligatory New Year’s post. Last year, I took the core desired feelings approach from my hero Danielle LaPorte. This year, I’m kind of making it my own with a combination of core desired feelings and the all famous word of the year.

Last year, I had 5 core desired feelings. This year I have three words/feelings that I want to be the center of my year: Joy, mindfulness, and present.

Joy- I chose joy because last year was a whirlwind. I never took a minute to really appreciate and enjoy the amazing moments as they were happening. Yesterday, I was creating an example of a New Year mobile that I was having my students make. One of the prompts was “What were the two best moments in 2016?” I actually skipped it. I couldn’t think of anything. Of course, there were great moments but I had never paused long enough to really appreciate them. After nearly 24 hours of thinking about it, I figured some out but it shouldn’t have taken that long. One way that Jake and I are going to try and keep joyous moments is that I have created a memories jar for 2016. It sits in our living room and has small slips of paper next to it. Whenever something memorable, funny, great happens we write it down and put it in the jar. (Side note: Today’s snow day has made it in the jar.)

Mindfulness- This one is becoming an obsession, in a good way. I got my first taste of mindfulness practice 3 years ago and fell out of habit. Last year, I went to a teacher conference and there was a presentation on using mindfulness in the classroom.  I loved it, but as teachers do it was put on the back burner.

This year, I have had a rough class. Really really rough. This of course is no fault of their own, but due to inconsistencies in teachers for the last 3 years.I saw this meme recently and it perfectly sums up how my schools year has felt:

Image result for my classroom looks like i'm losing a game of jumanji

I went and got a massage in December and my masseuse worked on me for 30 extra minutes (free of charge)because she could not believe how tense my muscles were and was genuinely concerned about my stress levels. That was a wake up call. So I went back to my mindfulness training and started meditating 20 minutes a day. I’ve also started trying to incorporate it into my classroom to help my kiddos become kinder and calmer.

Present-I want to be a better friend, girlfriend, teacher, co-worker. I want to make sure I’m fully present in the moments that I spend with them. This goes hand-in-hand with mindfulness. I want to be in the moment, I want to be a mindful listener. I want to make sure that my action and words are intentional.  I’m also limiting alcohol so that I can be fully present in the moments that I spend with the beautiful people in my life.

My real goal this year is to release some control, relax and just enjoy life to the fullest.

 

Love, love, love,

Jessica

A Thought on 2016

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Photo Credit: Jamie on Flickr 

 

2016 is almost winding down and therefore people will be writing their reflections and their resolutions for 2017. I have noticed a theme; most people believe that 2016 was a really terrible year. I disagree and here is why:

Some really shitty, scary, horrible things happened this year. That I completely understand. We lost many influential artists, wars and violence were a central theme, and there was an election that rattled many of us to the core. However, I think 2016 was the year we all needed. We needed to be reminded that we have not been awake and aware of our surroundings. We needed to be reminded that maybe we haven’t been fully appreciating the gifts that life has been providing us. We needed to be reminded that we must live our lives out of love, not fear. We needed to be made aware of people who need our love and support, but were not getting it. We needed to be shaken up and reconnected to humanity. I fully believe that as 2016 comes to a close that it is a time for us to reflect on what the lessons were this year. We need to not wish it away and think of 2016 as a horrible one, but to learn something from it.

I hope going forward into 2017, we love harder, we take care of our hearts, minds and bodies, we tell our loved ones how wonderful they are, we spread hope and love, we grow our minds, we live in the moments, we show gratitude for what and who we have and we smile more.

On Trump and Politics

The night of the election I didn’t sleep. Both Jake and I went to bed around 8:30 because we needed to quit watching. However, I was laying in bed obsessively checking the results on my phone and getting more and more anxious. We were both tossing and turning. Jake finally gave up around 11 and went downstairs to play a videogame. That’s when I checked and saw how close Trump was to winning and how far Hilary was.

I thought about how my 5th grade students the day prior had been scared because they thought they would have to go back to Mexico if Trump won. I thought about one of my African American students crying in the principal’s office because he was so scared of the election. I had told all of them not to worry because in my heart I was sure love would trump hate and he would lose. I was sure. 

When I saw those results at 11:30pm, I cried. I was wrong and felt I had in some way failed my students. I went downstairs because I needed to be near love. I made some tea and curled up next to Jake and cried. I felt sad, discouraged and completely defeated. I finally went to bed around 1am. 

The next day, I felt inspired by some of the messages of hope still out there. That Trump won because of fear, that this meant we needed to love each other harder and that we needed to listen to each other. Trump supporters are afraid of stuff going on in their life and we need to make sure they are feeling heard and feeling love. I went to work told my class that our room was a place of love only and that anything less than love would not be tolerated. They agreed. Still the day was hard and the kids were scared. Horrible things were said and done out of fear in my room.  We dealt with it, we moved on. We loved harder. 

My hope is that we all try to love more. However, when I log on to Facebook I see the exact opposite from both sides. Trump supporters gloating in the worst, most hate-filled way. On the other side, people are acting like it’s doomsday (we have checks and balances for a reason). Then there is the Not My President movement… Well, unfortunately, he is, because the citizens of the country you live in voted for him. That’s how democracy/a republic works. Do the results not align with what I wanted? Absolutely, but it does align with what the majority apparently wanted. We we have to respect that. If if we choose to ignore that, we are risking losing the right to vote for who we want to vote for. 

We all need to take this as a sign that not only do people feel our system is broken but, also that we feel broken. We feel alone. We we need to teach our kids about democracy, not what to do if we don’t get what we want. We need to pause and teach our kids how to love everyone ferociously. We teach by showing. We show by doing. 

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. 

Why I Cancelled all my Fitness Magazine Subscriptions

“7 Fast Moves for Flat Abs”

“Lean, Strong, Confident One Workout to Sweaty Bliss.”

“Look Great Beauty Playbook”

“Prevent Pounds from Creeping Back” next to another article “Break free from negative thinking.”

These are just some of the titles of articles from one “fitness” magazine that arrived in my mailbox. By some miracle there is not a single article in this particular edition about how to “please your man,” or some other garbage. These are the messages that are constantly pushed on women whether it is in the magazines, supposedly written for women or in advertising for the products to make you a “prettier, skinnier” version of yourself.

I cancelled all of my fitness subscriptions along time ago, minus this free one that I received with a purchase from Fabletics. This particular magazine goes straight in the garbage every month. I cancelled my subscriptions years ago, because I realized that no matter what you do these magazines will find a way to make you feel like shit about yourself. Every. Single. Time. Even if you think you are confident enough that they do not infiltrate every corner of your subconscious, I would guarantee they do.

Today, I checked my mail and found the above magazine in my mailbox after just finishing Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. That book is a game changer. Please, if you like yourself at all, read this book. There is some part of that book that will make everyone, man or woman, feel something. I know the book made me feel understood, I wept often feeling understood and grateful that someone wrote the words on the page

. One of my favorite quotes from the book struck me as I picked up the fitness magazine from my mailbox:

“Women who are concerned with being pretty think about what they look like, but women who are concerned with being beautiful think about what they are looking at. They are taking it all in. They are taking in the whole beautiful world and making all that beauty theirs to give away to others.”
Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior: A Memoir
 These magazines do not only makes us hate ourselves, they make us unkind and jealous of others. Instead of women loving each other and finding beauty in everything, they strive for an unattainable goal of external prettiness.
Sadly, I see this in my 5th grade girls (and middle school girls I work with) every day. They think it is cute to act stupid and that only boring people read or write or do creative things. That the only thing that matters is earning money and having a cute boyfriend. They are obsessed with this idea. These young girls have not learned to love themselves as they are and how to be happy with who they are. I have already seen many girls “watching what they eat” to be skinny. Starving yourself of food and life is not pretty. It makes me sad. I want to be a role model for them so I must practice what I preach. Real self-love. Being a beauty hunter as Jen Pastiloff says. Seeing beauty, recognizing beauty and becoming beauty. Living a full, beautiful life without shame of who we are.
There are little eyes constantly watching what we do, practice beauty not obsess about pretty.

Fear and Ignorance Around Refugees

If you keep silent, you lose your right to exist.” –Ziauddin Yousafzai

My mind has been racing a lot lately. With all of the crazy going on in the world I often worry. I’m passionate about working with refugees. These are people who have fled horrible situations, some who have endured unspeakable things, and are grateful to have a safe place here in our country.

I worry because of all the hateful rhetoric out there surrounding these innocent people. In the past few weeks, I have a volunteered at a number of events to help the refugee community here in Colorado. It makes me ill that at every one of these events, before I exit my car, I really consider the possibility that some maniac could come in and murder every single person at the event because they believe refugees= terrorists. I fear for them and I fear for myself. This work is deeply important to me and so I continue to do it. I want to take a minute and give some fact about refugees:

  • Last year (FY15) the United States received 69,933 refugees (www.state.gov).
  • As of May 31, 2016 , the United States of America has received 41,424 refugees (FY15). The biggest four groups being from Burma, Iraq, Somolia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (www,wrapsnet.org).
  • The United States resettles more refugees than any other country in the world.
  • During the current Syrian crisis, the average vetting time for a Syrian refugee to be accepted into a country is 18-24 months, this means they are waiting in refugee camps until their application is accepted. (www.migrationpolicy.org)

This is the infographic from the whitehouse.gov website about the screening process to be accepted by the United States:

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Now seeing these facts, is it realistic for a terrorist to spend years in a refugee camp just to get into the United States? Absolutely not. So where does the hate speech and the fear come from? Ignorance and the unwillingness to learn are my best guesses. I highly recommend for everyone to seek out the refugee resettlement groups in your communities and ask questions. Get past the fear and get educated on the issue before fear destroys you as a human being.

The families I have personally met and spoken with all have the same message. They are here to help their children have a safer more prosperous life. The children who I have spoken to are incredibly excited to be going to a school in the United States, more importantly they want to get an education to try to make the world a safer better place. Yes, multiple children from multiple countries have told me this.

In a few weeks, Refugee Outreach Clothing Kids will be distributing brand new outfits. We are estimating over 400 children in the Denver Metro Area. If you are in the area and want to volunteer please sign up her are www.refugeeoutreachclothingkids.com. If you are not in the area but would like to read more about the organization and possibly donate money, please check out the website above.

 

Be Kind. Reconnect. Spread Love.

Not even a week ago I wrote about not being an asshole during this political season. Today, an unspeakable tragedy happened in Orlando. While I have seen love and support present itself in the wake of this horrible situation, I still cry on the inside seeing the hate, greed and narcissism that is still running rampant. This isn’t a political game, these are human lives that were taken needlessly. Fearmongoring is peaking and that is terrifying.

Today I plead with all of you: don’t play the blame game, don’t make this about left and right politics.  Make this about humanity and what the fuck we are doing to destroy ourselves. Make this about realizing that we are all so disconnected and unaware of each other that we misunderstand and we hate. Make this about fixing that flaw. Get to know people, talk to your neighbors, put down your cell phones, get off of Facebook and connect with your community. Be aware of the people around you. If you don’t agree with them, show them love anyway, show them understanding, listen when they speak…really listen. Offer help to people. Do random acts of kindness. Spread love.

We need to take care of each other, we need to create a community. We have to stop drawing lines in the sand and not interacting with people who aren’t exactly like us, who do not think like us. The only way we can save ourselves at this point is to reconnect with ourselves and humanity. Take care of one another and please if you want change, show it. Do something about it. 

Hate and Politics (Don’t Be an Asshole)

I’m deeply saddened and disappointed by people this election season. I absolutely hate logging in to Facebook and seeing all the hateful messages being passed around. I hate knowing that some people who I believe to be good, kind people turn into absolute assholes the second that politics is mentioned.

If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

One of the things that bothers me most are the Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters. Not only do we have a ridiculous split between parties, we now have a ridiculous split within a party which just spells trouble. Both sides of the Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton debate are equally as responsible for being terrible people. The post I see on Facebook, the comments I see in articles and on videos makes me so sad. There are personal attacks on appearance and on family (none of which are any of our damn business). When we are electing someone we should all be thoughtful and educated on both sides and also be understanding of other people’s views. You do not have to like the other person’s views but you need to respect them because they aren’t you and you do not know what their experiences are that have lead them to that point. I saw this post on Facebook today that was an unflattering picture of Hilary Clinton that caption said “Hilary is trying to get this photo removed from the internet, let’s make it viral.” Whoever that asshole who started that is needs to take a good long look at themselves and figure out why they are such an asshole. Regardless of who you support, that’s a dick move.

Not only that, but spreading hate is doing the exact same thing that Donald Trump is doing. Well done guys, you’re no better than he is. What is the point of all of this hateful speech? If you really look at the whole scenario, neither of those candidates are terrible people. Both of them have made mistakes, both have said or done things I may disagree with. There’s no need to be an asshole. In fact, that’s what everyone’s life motto should be: Don’t be an asshole.

America is broken. The system is broken. Again if you aren’t part of the solution you are part of the problem. Be happy, spread love and be good people. As Martin Luther King Jr.once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness;  only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Drive out hate, stop perpetuating it, please.

 

How the Spark Returned

Ten months ago, I wrote about how I was burned out on teaching in this post: Why My Fire Burned Out. Yesterday, I found myself looking at Education Master’s degree programs and even in the future, Doctorate degree programs in education and human development. That doesn’t sound like someone who is planning on leaving the profession does it? What happened?

At the end of last year, I was done. I was exhausted, I felt like I was drowning and not being the best version of myself let alone the best teacher I could be. I was not feeling inspired or driven to improve myself. Then, my administration changed, major changes were made at my school and I started feeling like people cared about student’s and student growth. This is when I started to feel my love of education start to return. Not only did I see other people care, I began feeling heard and like my opinions mattered. That changed everything.

Then, it began to spiral. One of my students came up to me at the beginning of the year. I had her step-brother last year and he was a work in progress. A brilliant student who wasn’t motivated by anything and hated everyone. By the end of the year, he would give me hugs regularly. It was a huge transformation from the kid who cringed when I would touch him on the shoulder. He transferred schools, his step-sister did not. She came up to my desk and was talking to me about her step-brother and told me how he loves and misses me, that he still talks about how I was the best teacher he ever had. Knowing me, I got emotional but had to keep it together. These are things you need to hear periodically as a teacher, to know you are actually doing some good.

Opportunities kept presenting themselves to me, maybe it was because I was seeking them out and became more active in my desire to be better (as a teacher and as a person). I went to a conference and met amazing people who had amazing ideas. I began speaking to more teachers in my building and built friendships. No matter what career you’re in, you know the importance of this. You need those people who at the end of a long day you can drink wine and talk to. I took on the school yearbook, which I bitched about doing 95% of the time, but really did learn a lot.

Finally, this week, I overheard a conversation between two of my students. One of my toughest cases, a student who literally did zero work for three quarters despite everything I did, was talking to another student. “Ms. Blake cares about me, she loves me. That’s why she’s so hard on me, she wants me to do well.” he then sees me near by, “Right, Ms. Blake? You love all of us and that’s why you get frustrated when we don’t do our best?” Again, I had to keep my shit together and not turn into a puddle in front of twenty-seven 5th graders. “Yes,” I said. “That’s exactly why I get so frustrated because I love you and want you all to be successful and good people.” Then I felt little arms around my waist and looked down and saw another one of my boys who I’ve fought tooth and nail with all year. All he said was, “I knew it! I knew you loved us.”

And I do love them. They are my children, which is why they drive me insane sometimes. I love my job despite all the bullshit that comes with it. I love and value education and want to see improvements in the education system especially in urban areas. What I guess I’m saying is, apparently I’m in it for the long haul and my fire is being reignited.

 

My Ode to Mornings

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I love mornings because…

It’s quiet – when I take the dog out first thing in the morning, there’s hardly anyone out and I can barely hear traffic on the streets. It’s quite lovely.

Calm- there are some mornings that it’s just so quiet and calm that I just want to sit and soak in the peacefulness of it. That’s why I get up so early in the morning. I have an extra 30 minutes to enjoy breakfast, coffee, and me time.

I do my best thinking- every blog post I write is written in the morning. I simply cannot write in the afternoons or evenings. Also, if I go to bed stressed about something the night before suddenly when I wake up the next day I have a sense of clarity and what I need to do about the situation.

I feel more productive- on the off chance that I really sleep-in (I’m talking past 8 AM which rarely happens) I feel like the day is over and I cannot accomplish anything. If I wake up before 7 AM I feel I can accomplish anything!

The morning sets the mood for the rest of the day- If I oversleep or feel rushed or something upsets me in the morning, my whole day is off. If I wake up and have a calm, wonderful morning my whole day is immediately better.

Meditation can set your intention for the whole day-I saw a quote the other day (and naturally cannot find it again) but it went something like this, “Set your intention for the day or the universe will do it for you.” Shit happens but at least if you go into the day with intention maybe you won’t be thrown off when shit does happen.

Coffee- yes, I drink coffee throughout the day, but there is nothing like sitting on the couch sipping coffee first thing in the morning.

Sunrises- I love summer mornings because of the Colorado sunrises. I’m up early enough to get to see them. I miss my old apartment because it had the best view of those sunrises.

 

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