Judging The Different Drummer Too Quickly

As a teacher of 40 years and now a tutor, I have seen so many people marginalized who don’t fit into the boxes with all the convenient labels we want to put on them. I have seen people judged for being different and the harm the judgment causes. Many dismiss someone who doesn’t meet their standards as not worthy, but if they looked a little closer, and showed some kindness they might be amazed at what they find.

I learned many years ago there is usually greatness where there initially does not seem to be. I have heard comments to students that were meant to be funny like, “It’s a good thing you are pretty.” A substitute teacher once asked my student if she was stupid. Imagine how comments like that can hurt someone. I can tell so many stories of students who were judged as not being good enough, but who went on to college and did extraordinary things even though many of the adults in their lives had put limits on them.

Before you judge someone dig below the surface and get to know her. Many people who don’t fit the normal mode will be at one extreme or another. They are either very quiet and introverted, or gregarious with the possibility of some behavior issues. Get to know the person. You can do this by listening because most people want someone to listen to them. I have a student who says what is on her mind before she runs it through a filter, she is high energy, and funny, but she is also struggling with how others perceive her, and how hard she has to work to achieve with traditional testing when her brain processes things differently. A colleague saw me talking with her, and as she passed the girl she turned to me and rolled her eyes as if to say, “You poor thing that you have to work with her.” I don’t think a reaction like that is ever o.k., but I also think that the teacher has not taken the time to know this student because I think she is glorious.

Everyone needs someone in life that sees your potential and all your positives. This person is your cheerleader. There was a picture on social media of Jamie Lee Curtis going crazy cheering for another woman who had won an award. Everyone needs a Jamie in life.

So today, get to know a little better that person that is too quiet, or too loud, or doesn’t quite fit in, and give her a second chance. While you are spreading some kindness, be someone’s Jamie.

What Affects Our Moods?

Do you ever wonder why one morning you wake up in a bad mood, but the next day you are ready to take on the world? What controls our moods? After extensive research, and my own experience and observations, the answer to that question is complicated because there are so many different factors that affect our moods.

The definition of a mood is a disposition to respond emotionally in a particular way, and there are three main factors that create them. These factors are biology, (hormones and brain chemistry), psychology,(brain chemistry and learned responses), and environment (illness, emotional stress)

Our moods can be powerful and can influence our perception, motivation, decision-making, and social interactions. Let’s look at a few of the factors that influence our moods, and see how we can keep our moods as positive as possible.

Food

I selfishly put this first because it is the biggest mood-changer for me. I relate to the expression hangry because if I become too hungry, my blood pressure drops, and I become a different person, and she is not someone you want to meet. It is so bad that if we are in the car and I tell my husband I am hungry, he becomes a little pale and begins to look for restaurants or spots that will have a snack. When I coached cross-country, the other coach carried peanut butter crackers in case I had a hangry attack.

The obvious way to fight this mood changer is to carry snacks with you. It is also a good idea to eat small amounts regularly throughout the day.

Making sure you feed your child before heading out on errands can help avoid tantrums.

Fatigue

When you are tired, your mood goes downhill, you have trouble concentrating, and it can cause headaches. Make sure you are not dehydrated. Take a break and have a cold glass of water. If you are able to use a diffuser, diffuse peppermint, and breathe for a pick-me-up. Have a snack because fueling your body when you have an energy lull might be what you need. Take a power nap if you can.

Negativity

If you are surrounded by negativity, it will take a toll on your mood. Watch a few funny videos and surround yourself with positive people.

Social media

The next time you are on social media, pay attention to your reaction to different posts. How does your mood change? If it affects you negatively, limit your time on the platform.

Stress

How many things have you said or done under stress that you wish you could press the delete button and eliminate? I know I can think of a few. Stress can play havoc on our moods. Stress is a choice though. We can choose our reaction to it, and staying calm is always the better choice.

Your family’s mood

If someone in my family is grumpy, I can feel it wearing off on me. Negativity is catchy.

A few more ways to change our moods for the better are exercise, going out in the sunshine, being with friends, bright colors, wonderful smells, and great food.

The Paris I Love

As a French teacher, part of my job was to bring students to one of the many countries that speak French, and the student’s choice was usually Paris. After 18 student trips, several family trips, and living in France for a year, there are certain things about Paris I love, and one section in particular.

I fell in love with the Latin Quarter when I was a student in France. Everything is slightly less expensive there, and that was important to a student on a budget. The Latin Quarter has an ambiance about it that I don’t feel in other parts of Paris. It feels as if things move a little slower there, and there is more of a neighborhood feel.

There is a wide variety of food and places to eat it. There are food stalls, fast food restaurants, cafés where you can sip a coffee and watch the world go by, and cozy neighborhood coffee houses. One of our favorite cafés is called le Périgord. It is on Rue Des Écoles and it is always busy for a good reason. It is common in Paris for locals to frequent a neighborhood café. At Le Périgord, there are cubbies with napkins and cutlery inside each box. Each cubby is marked with a patron’s name. My husband ordered steak and mashed potatoes, and the waitress came out with a large pot and a ladle. She spooned out a large portion and laughed when my husband’s eyes grew wide. He said, “Jen, I feel like I’m in my grandmother’s house for Sunday dinner, not in a restaurant.”

If you enjoy nature, you can walk over to the Luxembourg garden, learn about the flowers, the vineyard, and the beehives, watch a tennis or pétanque game, as well as all sorts of other activities. There is a café/food stall if you need a drink or snack, and there are plenty of chairs if you want to sit and relax.

If you want to shop, Boulevard St. Michel has lots of stores, or you can go to the mall at Les Halles. If you like books, Boulevard St. Michel has quite a few and so does Rue Des écoles. There are also two second-hand cd stores on Rue Des Écoles if you want some French music.

There are many places to visit in the Latin Quarter. There is St. Chappelle, Notre Dame, Shakespeare, and Co., The Panthéon, and the Luxembourg garden. The Orsay museum can be reached after a beautiful walk along the Seine.

I hope you have a chance to visit Paris, and especially the Latin Quarter.     

Your Power Words

So many people make goals for the new year and then they usually forget about them after a few weeks. What if we chose power words instead that signified what we needed for the new year? A single word or two is much easier to remember than a long goal, and those words can become mantras that we know are powerful motivators when we say them over and over.

Several of my friends have chosen power words this year. One friend chose strength as her word because her husband is struggling with cancer. She needs strength to care for him well, to take care of all the emotions that both her children and she are feeling, and strength to continue to perform well at her full-time job.

Another friend chose healing because she is dealing with upheaval in her personal life, and she is feeling lost. The word healing reminds her how important self-care is for her mental health.

I have seen the success my friends have had using these power words, so I decided to choose a few of my own. I chose grateful and focused. I chose grateful because I want to remember how many blessings I have in my life. Do you ever find yourself seeing all your burdens when if you looked a little closer you would see all those hidden blessings? I want to keep my eye on all the blessings because I think gratitude is important. I also think receiving our blessings attracts more to us. Who doesn’t want a few more blessings?

My second word focused is because I want to focus on what matters. I need to be more aware of where I am directing my energy and be o.k. with saying no to those things that steal my energy instead of replenishing it. I also want to focus more on my writing. It brings me so much joy and peace, but I take care of all the responsibilities first. I am going to put it first more this year. What do you need to move up on the priority list in your life?

I love the idea of power words. I am going to repeat mine every day and spend some time reflecting on how I can harness the power behind the words. What are your power words?

Lowering the Grocery Bill

I know I’m not the only one who is struggling with the rising cost of food. Last week, I went grocery shopping and was careful to only buy what we needed. Even without any extras, I was shocked when I saw the bill. There are memes on social media saying that eggs are a luxury item, and the size of products seems to be shrinking while the prices rise.

When the shipping containers were at sea I was interested to see where the shortages were. One week, there weren’t any Fritos, but the week the cheese-its were gone I was convinced the apocalypse was starting. I like to put La Choy noodles in my salad, and they have been missing from the shelves for weeks now. Where did they go?

There are many questions we could ask about issues at the grocery store, but the biggest question is how to have enough money to purchase the food that we need for the survival of our families? Here are a few very basic ideas.

Coupons

I have never been a coupon cutter, but I have changed my ways. I find mine in the Sunday paper, and I have been surprised to find some very good ones. Look online as well.

Discounted items

Our local store has a section tucked away in a corner of discounted food like bread and baked goods. Take a look to see if you can save some money with the offerings.

Generic brands

Buy the store brand instead of a well-known name.

Make a list.

Make a list of what you need and stick to it.

Don’t shop when you are hungry.

If you go in hungry everything looks better, and you will put more in your cart.

Find substitutes for higher-priced items.

If you need eggs to bake, look on the internet for substitutions. If you need eggs for protein, find alternatives for that.

Buy items that offer more.

I can make more meals with a box of spaghetti than I can with a box of hamburger helper. Find products that will give you more for your money.

Be creative.

You can combine several low-cost, healthy products to make a great meal. Stir fry some beef and vegetables and put them over rice.

Signs you are glorious

I have known so many people that I consider absolutely glorious people, but for some reason, they don’t see their qualities and often think they are less than others. This always surprises me because I think they have obvious signs that they are glorious. Let me give you a few examples and give you some of the signs so you can check if you have glorious tendencies you haven’t noticed.

Many of my students don’t think they are good enough for college. I think you would be surprised to know how many students feel this way. They have an image of college as something unattainable and scary. What always amazes me is that many of these students have a high GPA and have taken Advanced placement and honors classes. They are the students that most teachers dream of having in class. I love when they discover they are more than capable of handling the next step in their educational journey.

Finding a truly good friend is glorious. I do not have many close friends, but the ones I have are extraordinary. (Quality not quantity) They also are all very humble and do not have any idea how glorious they are. Glorious friends are real with you, they don’t pretend to be anything other than who they are, they cheer you on, and applaud your accomplishments, they make you laugh, and you are comfortable being with them.

Glorious people don’t have to win awards, they don’t need a long list of accomplishments, or fit in the usual boxes for success. The people I think are glorious probably have a few issues as we all do, but they deal with these issues with grit and grace. I have a friend who has had two strokes, a heart operation, and a wrist operation and suffers from back spasms. He never complains and says, “This is only temporary until I heal. I’ll just keep moving forward. Glorious people keep moving forward. When life knocks them down they rise back up and keep moving.

Glorious people are kind, compassionate, and full of love. They understand and know not to judge too much because everyone has some junk they need to work out. A glorious person sees your positives while you might be blind to them.

What do you think? Do you have the signs of being glorious? Do you know someone who does?

Preparing for The Next Crisis

In March 2019, when the Covid pandemic hit were you prepared? I definitely was not. I was teaching at the time and our headmaster told us we were to gather everything that we needed to teach from home, our tech director had prepared a booklet on how to use zoom, and we all headed into lockdown. Recently, I reflected on what worked well during the pandemic and what would I do differently if we were faced with another situation like that.

Establish communication with others

One of the things that saved me during the early weeks of the lockdown was a communication connection with colleagues and students. The ladies at my school formed a group me chat group and it was a Godsend because we could support each other, ask questions about how to do something, and ask if anyone else was having connection issues. While I was sitting alone in my quiet office the link to my friends kept me calm.

I also established links of communication with my students. I had a group me group for each class, and all my students gave me their cell phone numbers, and I gave them mine. It was perfect when someone needed to tell me they were having trouble connecting, and they also used it to send me classwork. It allowed me to have another way to connect besides zoom. One day a student’s computer would not connect, so we facetimed through the class. The students were very scared in the beginning, so the connection eased their anxiety a little.

Check-in on your friends and family. I found myself asking the question, “How are you doing?” often. Mental health was an important issue.

Fill your pantry

We were lucky that I’m a little bit of a prepper even when everything is going well because our pantry is always full of easy-to-make meals. You don’t have to break your budget, but when you go shopping grab one or two extra boxes of something you might need if we have issues.

Keep extra water

I wrote an article, I Might Be a Prepper, and a reader commented that it is always a good idea to throw an extra package of water in your cart. I think it is a great idea to have plenty of water on hand.

Buy lanterns/candles/batteries/blankets

Have the essentials for emergencies on hand. You can use them for storms, or any time we might lose power. Store extra blankets in the closet. I love to knit and crochet, so they are everywhere in our house.

Start a garden

A garden is easier to grow than you think. Buy some seeds and water, and voilà it won’t matter if the store is out of lettuce. If you think you don’t have room remember you can grow plants in containers. During the winter, root vegetables will grow outside, and you can grow others inside. I have a hydroponic garden as well.

Work on your health

It is always possible that a virus will kill you, but I’m not going down without a fight, and that means taking care of yourself to the best of your ability. Move your body, and fuel it with healthy food.

Pray

Prayer is powerful and it can bring a sense of peace.

I hope this list gives you a few ideas of things you can do to prepare for our next emergency.

Becoming a Runner

For some people the idea of starting to run is daunting. They have heard of the many benefits, but they are not sure it is something they can be successful at doing. The fear of starting something outside of the comfort zone produces the excuses of why running is impossible for someone. I could guarantee you that if you knew how running can improve your life in multiple ways, you would find time, motivation, and the courage to become part of the running community. Running can help you mentally, socially, and physically. You only have to show up to see that what you thought was impossible is possible.

I have been running for over 40 years, and it is the biggest positive in my life. I have done everything from the 5K to the ultra-marathon, and I have coached cross-country for many years, so I know I can help you start to run. I will stick to the bare bones because part of becoming a runner is asking questions of veterans, learning about what works for you, and adjusting your running program to fit your lifestyle. Here are a few tips to help you start.

Attitude

I know you probably thought a running program should start out with how far to run on the first day, but one of the most important elements of your running program is your attitude. Start with a positive, can-do attitude and tell yourself that you will make gradual improvements to meet your goals. Don’t compare yourself to other runners because someone will always be faster and slower than you. Have a growth mentality.

Make goals

Why do you want to run? What benefits would you like to see? I met a couple yesterday who said they were empty nesters and had decided it was time to improve their health. They also wanted to enjoy the social aspect of the running community. The woman told me her goal was to run a whole 5K instead of having to walk some.

Start slow

One of the reasons people give up so fast is that they do too much too soon and end up sore, miserable, and discouraged. Start off by running/walking and gradually run more than you walk. Many running stores and community centers offer running programs where you can ask experts how much is right for you.

Be consistent

Don’t run two days in a row and then take two weeks off before you run again. Consistency will help you become a stronger runner.

Fuel your machine

You need your energy to be a runner, so make sure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet to fuel the extra activity. Don’t eat everything in sight though because running only burns so many calories.

Ask questions

Runners love to help each other, so ask questions. I am always learning new things to make me a better runner.

Good luck as you start your program. You only have to take that first step.

Using the Positive Force of Distraction

We all know that distractions can cause havoc in our lives. If you are distracted when listening to others you can miss out on valuable communication, and we have all been behind the distracted driver at a light who realizes the light has turned green with just enough time to go through but leaving a line of angry drivers behind. Thieves use distraction as a tool, and it can cause us to make all kinds of mistakes. Knowing all this would you believe me if I told you it can be used in a positive way? Here are a few examples of how you can use it for good.

Distraction is a powerful parenting tool

I was babysitting my grandson today and he wanted to go outside, but we were having a torrential downpour, so it wasn’t a good idea. I could see his temper rising so knowing that he loves to draw I quickly pulled out a pad and markers. He turned away from the porch door and focused on the new activity. Mental mind games are a parent’s friend and fairly easy to do.

You can use distraction to achieve health goals

If you are trying to stop smoking or drinking alcohol, or you want to lose weight you can use a tactic called the 4 Ds. The 4 Ds all involve using distraction to avoid something. They are delay, deep breathing, drinking water, do something to keep your mind off of an activity. Keep yourself distracted with positive activities to eliminate the negative.

Distract yourself to exercise longer

I love to run and one of my favorite distances is the ultramarathon which is anything more than 26.2. Although I love to run, in order to do an ultra you have to have some distractions. Here are a few that you can use.

Work out with someone so you can talk and motivate each other.

Have a playlist of songs that you love and lose yourself in the music.

Work out outdoors and enjoy some beautiful scenery.

Work through some problems or ideas.

Distraction doesn’t always have to be negative. Use it to your advantage and enjoy the positive effects.

Adjusting your pronoun/A search for identity

When the topic of using the correct pronoun first became popular, I was confused. My first question was if I’m addressing a person why would I use any other pronoun than you? If we are talking about respecting someone, in this case concerning a choice of gender, isn’t it simpler to agree to respect people in general by speaking to them directly and not in the third person?

My husband and I went into a Starbucks where the baristas had name tags that told their pronouns. I again had questions when one name tag said Sheila’s pronouns were she and they. I have to ask how can Sheila be they if she is only one person. When I told my husband I didn’t understand, he said, “Honey, I don’t think I even remember what a pronoun is.” I hope he was kidding.

Before you say I have missed the whole point, let me assure you that I understand, and I believe everyone has the right to be whoever they choose to be. I also understand how difficult that can be. There are societal and family norms that can restrict the search for identity, and haters are everywhere no matter who you choose to be.

I think we have lost our minds when it comes to identity, and in my humble opinion, a lot of that comes from social media. Social media platforms can attack your view of who you are and harm your mental health, whether it is the barrage of ads and videos telling you how you should look or act, or the judgments about posts, likes, and followers. You can lose yourself instead of seeing the beauty of who you are meant to be.

Make your search for your identity less complicated. Forget about who everyone else wants you to be. What will make you happy? Be that person. No matter what you do there will be haters and people who don’t want your happiness, but there are also genuinely good people who will lift you up. Find them and leave the negative energy behind.