Magical Progress

It seems that it can be hard for me to notice my own progress while I am in the trenches putting in the work. When it goes unnoticed for too long, or I discount it, the motivation needed to keep going gets tougher. Instead of feeling motivated I feel stuck or defeated. 
Young children are so excited to share their improvement, their progress and celebrate it so joyfully! “Look at me! I did it!” At some point that joyful celebration begins to come less easily, with less enthusiasm.
When I was teaching Summer School most of my students were hesitant to write. “I can’t do it.” or “I am not good at it.” were common statements. As almost third graders they were feeling stuck and unmotivated. I know how that feels. They were unable to see, or acknowledge, their writing capabilities and unwilling and fearful to try and improve. 
I wanted them to notice their capabilities and see every bit of improvement they made. With support, effort, focus and fun we worked on our writing for the 20, half days we were together. Celebrating as much as we could, every little bit.
On our last day of school I decided to share some bits and pieces of our pre and post writing assessment with them. I didn’t share the scores, or the names on the papers, and we discussed not saying, “That’s mine.” or “I know who’s that is.” 
We looked at the pre and post side by side and noticed the improvement. What do you see that is better than the first test? We noticed spaces between words, easier to read, better spelling, capital letters at the start of a sentence, period at the end, clearer printing…Any little improvement we noticed it and we smiled about it.
 We did not discuss scores and didn’t use the word perfect. We used the words changed, improved, transformed and magic. Is it magic? It can feel like it, but we know it’s not because we know the effort, hard work and focus that it took to get better at writing. The feeling of owning the improvement is magical, joyful, and motivating!!
I hope that as they enter into third grade next week they carry that feeling with them and let that feeling give them the courage to keep working hard and to try their best. I hope they amaze themselves with all they can do.

nurturing an instant

I am intentionally looking for little moments that jump out at me in some way. A small flash of attention that can easily go unnoticed and therefore unappreciated. A tiny bit of time that when nurtured becomes filling. This practice began unaware as I watched a crow and a squirrel on a wire while sitting in my car at a stop light. In that 10 seconds I imagined they were watching the city wake up while talking about their planned adventures for the day. I continued to think about that scene all morning until I decided to sketch it later that day. I felt a stillness as I recalled that sliver of time.

If time allows and I can take a picture I do. If not, I take a mental snapshot. When it strikes me I make a quick sketch in my journal that I have started carrying around with me. The drawing has no requirements it can be colored, or painted, left black and white, but while I am focusing on it I bring back the moment and appreciate what it offered me. I don’t do this daily, I haven’t scheduled it. No rules. I am purposely keeping it free. I am reminding myself of it, but not because I am requiring myself to but because it feels fundamental.

I am finding that I do say to myself, “I wonder what I will see today that stirs up lightness in me?” I feel that I am adding weight to flashes of time that I am choosing and it is bringing me peace.

Remembering to Notice Again

I want to see and hear about more positive things happening. I want to hear stories of progress, adaptation, cooperation, and kindness. When I watch the news it seems to be filled with bad things that are happening and I start to feel helpless, and depleted. My answer to combat this feeling is to turn it off, not read it and not discuss it. I believe being aware of how much news I am consuming, and how I am feeling as a result of that is beneficial for me, but completely unplugging doesn’t sit right with me. Turning it off stops the influx of bad news, but it also hides the good news from me. It’s putting up a barrier and I feel separate from so much. There is a loss of connection, which I am sure lends itself to the feeling of powerlessness.

My friend, and mentor, Carl Paoli said that if I want to hear and see more positive news than I need to look for it, share it and be deliberate about it. To become the source of what I want to see more of.  When I thought about that it seemed simple, powerful and fully in my control. I can become the source as the root is to a plant. I can be the start of what I want to see more of, of what I think we need to see more of.  From that start there is possibiity for growth. Carl has reminded me of the difference a single act, a single person can make. 

The problems, and the sadness that I see in the news can settle a cloud over the good things that are happening around me. A simple way I can return to noticing joy, and goodness is to purposely  look for it and become that which I want to see. This requires my awareness and the responsibility is on me to do so. I have to put it into practice continuously.

Almost one year ago (Sept. 2020)  I started the Noticing Joy Together tree in my neighborhood, which lasted until the winter weather arrived. We looked for things that brought us joy  and shared it with each other by posting it on a  tree. The purpose of the tree was  to help ourselves practice noticing the good things (no matter how small) that were bringing us joy, and to share them with others to add light to their day as well.  This was during quarantine when the news was scary to watch, but that act of noticing joy together brought about connection and community.  I have forgotten how this activity helped me through that difficult time. I have gotten out of practice.

It has taken a reminder, and it will take deliberate practice but this way of being (becoming the source of what I want to see more of)  feels fuller, and with direction.  I appreciate the chance to begin again. 

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

Kaleidoscope Days

Written on April 7, 2020…approximately 3 weeks into quarantine…now a year later, as a family we continue to practice building kaliedoscope days, or being mindful of how we are spending our time and the choices we are making. It is a work in progress.

Right now our days are changed.  I have spent the last three weeks confined at home, taking ALL this in, and feeling overwhelmed. I am the parent of teenagers and for them being stuck at home, missing their school and academics, their sports, their time with friends…all of that is difficult, sad and worrisome.

As time passes I am becoming aware of a chance to build and learn as we adapt to our new situation. We have an opportunity to focus on our mindfulness, specifically becoming aware about how we are spending our time, and how that impacts us emotionally.

Kaleidoscopes have endless beauty within a confined space.  They are filled with a variety of colored pieces which contribute to a visual display. A kaleidoscope can twist or shift the perspective of the shapes and small pieces within, transforming what is in it to be seen differently, to change.  A new beautiful pattern with each turn.

Like a kaleidoscope we have the ability to shift, turn or twist our perspective to see the choices available to us, and the beauty within us. We have the ability to color our days.

For me I can pass a day scrolling through social media and watching Netflix.  It can happen in the blink of an eye.  At the end of those days I feel depleted, dull, I lack peace.  Those days happen.  For my children it looks more like video games, screen time, time shut in their rooms alone.  These are time eaters that dull what we see and feel, our kaleidoscope is mostly a single color.  The excuse is I am stuck at home, limited and that excuse can make staying dulled that much easier.  This is when we need to turn or twist our perspective just like a kaleidoscope can.  Shake things around, add more color (variety of activity), and rearrange our pieces (chunks of time) into something more fulfilling and beautiful.

 I am aware that if I purposely schedule time for exercise, journal writing, family time and chores into my day I feel much more at peace and motivated for what is to come. I can ask myself these questions: “What can I do with what I have?  How creative can I be?  What can I choose to do that is productive and helps me to feel better?”

This is a time that we can help our children build that mindfulness, and their ownership in their choices and time management.  We can ask them if they are building variety into their day. They can practice becoming aware of what their body, mind and heart feel like as a result of the actions they choose to take.

We can help our children, and ourselves, to start asking the question, “Am I creating kaleidoscope days?” We can also extend that question outwardly asking, “Am I contributing to helping others have kaleidoscope days?” We can notice, and be mindful, that the patterns and pieces that make one person’s day feel full and beautiful are different from another’s. We all have our own unique rhythms and interests. 

 My hope is that my children will explore what makes them feel fulfilled, content and connected as we face the changes, and challenges during this pandemic. I want to help them practice being aware of what their body, mind and heart feel like as a result of their actions that they have chosen.