Page 31 of 35

Lessons in Gratitude

                                            Lessons in Gratitude

It is hard to find lessons of gratitude when times are tough like they have been the last few years, but sometimes the hard lessons are the most important. I lost my beloved aunt and sister during the pandemic, so I know that gratitude is not the first thing that comes to mind right now, but if we reflect on the last few years, we can see that we have been handed a few lessons that we can choose to ignore or accept. Let me tell you what I am grateful for at this moment because of these lessons. I hope you can nod your head and say “Me too” to at least a few, and I hope this will make you realize we still have a lot to feel grateful for in our lives.

  • I am grateful for all the people who have stepped up to help those who have lost a job, are hungry, ill, or need assistance in some way. I was so proud of our country when I saw the outpouring of a response to need.
  • I am grateful that Covid has made me reorganize my priorities. I was spending too much time where it didn’t matter. I now spend more time with God, and my family. I am more present for my family, and I am enjoying the now instead of worrying about what I’m going to do next.  
  • I am grateful for the sense of peace I have because I choose to alter the negative, eliminate the wasted emotion of worry, and focus on the positives. We cannot always control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to it. I always find calm through nature, exercise, and music.
  • I am grateful that Covid has focused our attention on health. Healthy bodies and healthy minds are the steps to a happy life. Since Covid, there have been productive discussions about health.
  • I am grateful that as a nation we are looking at some tough issues. Some of the discussions are ugly, but if we can take out the emotions, maybe we can start to work together and heal some of the division.
  • I am grateful we are talking about mental health at a time when our mental health is taking a beating.
  • I am grateful for the doctor who I called about the continued fatigue from Covid who said, “Push yourself to the limit physically. Don’t let this thing win.
  • I am grateful for the creativity and resilience the pandemic has taught me and others. Many ways of life and work had to be altered. We had to figure out plan B, and if that didn’t work, we tried something else. I am thankful for the people who took the opportunity to do something different as a way to help others while reinventing themselves.
  • I am grateful for better communication both at work and at home because communication was crucial to our success. At school, I gave my students my number and I had theirs so if anyone was remote and there was a problem, they could communicate it. I also did it because I knew they were scared and I wanted them to feel connected.

Anytime we can improve ourselves and learn, we should be grateful. Gratitude is an attitude, so decide whether you are going to see your life as a burden or a blessing. I hope you choose gratitude.

How a Puppy Makes You Better

I distinctly remember agreeing with my husband that we would never have another puppy after our last adventure of surviving through the puppy period. I’m not sure how then, we ended up with a four-month-old border collie who acts like the energizer bunny on steroids. The first few days, I mentioned several times that this might not work out, or if I had the energy to give him what he needed. My husband pointed out that there are many positives to having a puppy, and although I initially gave him a you are crazy look, I realized he was right. Here are a few of the positives that I came up with.

When you have a puppy, you have to wake up early and let him out to go to the bathroom. This gives you more time to be productive, and you can sip on coffee and have quiet time.

My floor has never been cleaner because the puppy will find everything that has been dropped, so I have to make sure everything has been put away. I have to admit that seeing him completely wrapped up in the yarn I was using and then finding the tiny holes he had chewed in my flannel pajamas made me laugh instead of making me angry. After all, it was my fault for leaving them on the floor.

A puppy can improve your patience. It is like having a child and realizing he has to learn the proper behavior. A puppy needs your time, your attention, and lots of patience. I have been taking lots of deep breaths and telling myself that he will learn in time.

Having a puppy helps you to be more creative. I am constantly thinking of ways to stimulate his brain and his curiosity. It also comes in handy with obedience training. I am finding ways to take his attention away from chasing the cats.

I am more active since we found our puppy. He needs to burn off some of his energy, so I take him on walks and play with him in the backyard. I run a few laps with him as well.

Having a puppy improves your focus. When we go outside, I am looking around to see what the puppy might potentially want to chase after, and as I am playing with him, I am continually aware of my surroundings.

A puppy gives you an opportunity to socialize more because everyone wants to interact with a puppy. On a recent walk, we stopped every time a person approached because they wanted to pet the puppy and soak up some cuteness.

While I am trying to make sure the puppy is receiving enough mental stimulation it is also stimulating my brain as I come up with ideas to work with him, teach him tricks, and give him enough exercise.

I will never say that having a puppy is easy, but I think we have laughed more, plotted puppy strategy, and come together as a family.

Finding Health Help

Is there something about your health and fitness level you would like to change? Are you having difficulty doing it, or are you struggling because you don’t even know where to start, or is the possibility of failure overwhelming? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. So many people realize they need to make a change for a better quality of life, but they do not know how to start or the thought of how much work it will take to achieve a goal overwhelms them.

Everywhere you look there are messages for losing weight and exercising. The actors in the commercials make weight loss and good health look so easy, but what holds so many people back from their fitness goals? Why do some people struggle to lose weight or maintain a consistent workout schedule?

The answer to those questions can vary. Busy lifestyles can leave people exhausted without much extra time for exercise. If someone is overweight or not fit, a major change can seem like an impossible hurdle. People also have different perceptions of a healthy lifestyle, and others do not want to give up their habits to be healthier.

The first step to improving your health is to realize why you should do it. My reason is I want to live as long as possible and be the best version of myself I can be. I have 3 children and 3 grandchildren that I want to see prosper in life. I want to have a great quality of life and to do that I have to take care of myself. Sometimes being healthy is more about your loved ones than it’s about you.

Your health affects everything you do including how well you sleep, your mood, your productivity, and your general quality of life. Find your why. You have to be ready to commit to the journey and realize that success will not happen overnight. Break your main goal into smaller steps. If weight loss is your goal, focus on losing ten pounds first instead of thinking about the total number of pounds. If you want to get in shape, start by running/walking a mile and then build from there. When you feel you are ready, go to your health care provider to ask for advice and get the green light to change your lifestyle.

The next ingredient has to be consistency. Whether it is working out or eating healthy, you have to make it part of your daily life. You cannot do it for two weeks on and four weeks off. It needs to be part of your routine.

Now find inspiration and motivation, something you can turn to when you want to quit. I have a magazine photo of a fit woman with boxing gloves. She looks fierce, strong, and powerful. I use that photo to remind myself that I want to be strong. Set some goals that fit you. It could be to walk two miles or fit into a certain size of clothes. Pick something that matters to you.

Here are several websites to help you to improve your health.

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/27-health-and-nutrition-tips

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/22-ways-to-get-healthy#TOC_TITLE_HDR_5

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/mayo-clinic-diet/art-20045460

The Questions Behind My Writing

 Every author has a slightly different routine and inspiration for writing, and each one has a different answer to the questions about writing, so let me share with you what answers I give.

Why do I write?

I need to write to express all the ideas and feelings that are rumbling around in my head. I know I am supposed to write because I feel so content while I am doing it. It gives me a sense of peace. I also write because although I am very grateful for my many blessings, there have been those rough spots that most people experience. I have learned a lot from all of them, and I can help someone else handle the bumps. There is so much hurt and need out there, I would like to help alleviate it a little.

How do I find inspiration?

Most of my ideas come from what I hear people say or from what I observe. I am fascinated by people, their stories, and their thought process. You will see me staring at someone as I am imagining the life story. I also love to talk to strangers which is something my family hates. They see me get that look in my eye and one of them will say, “Mom, don’t do it.” The reason they say this is because most people want to talk and they need someone to listen, so it takes time.

I also get a lot of my ideas when I am out running. I’m alone, it’s quiet, and I have time to think about a million things. I have a whiteboard inside where I run in and jot things down when I think of them.

I have the opposite of writer’s block. I have so many ideas and not enough time, so when I think of something new, I write it down quickly. If I finish what I have to do, I go back to the list.

What do I write?

I enjoy writing essays the most because it is a quick way to send a message or information. My specialties are essays about education, parenting, self-help, and running. I have written two books, Stay Away from The Girl’s Bathroom (a teacher’s guide), and 101 Tips to Lighten Your Burden. (a self-help book) I write for our local media and I contribute to a parenting magazine called Screamin Mamas.

Where I write

I write mostly in my office. I have a huge whiteboard on a podium in front of a window where I can look out at the backyard. I also work at my desk where I am surrounded by photos, notes, and other things that lift me up.

When I write

I like to write when the rest of my family is occupied. I need the quiet to think. I also feel better knowing that everyone is busy doing something, and doesn’t need me. I try to write at least an hour a day.

Leave Someone Better Than You Found Them

                            

A friend was telling me about the message delivered in church that said you should always leave a place better than you found it. I like the idea of being a servant leader and doing whatever you can to improve something, but what if that idea extended to include people? Shouldn’t we try to leave someone better than we found them? Here are a few ideas on how to do this.

Give compliments freely.

Compliments are powerful and so easy to give. You can lift someone’s spirits and turn around a bad day. You might be surprised at the effect your compliment has, and how long someone remembers it. Find the good, and let people know you see it.

Be kind.

Kindness is contagious for both the giver and the receiver. When you are kind to someone it can be a game-changer for them, but it also makes you feel better too. Kindness has a domino effect, and it is something that you hope continues from person to person.

Show an interest.

Most people are more interested in themselves than the person with whom they are speaking. Do the following the next time you are having a conversation with someone to show they are special.

  • Listen fully without interrupting before the person can finish the sentence.
  • Don’t rush to change the conversation to focus on you.
  • Ask questions to understand better.
  • Don’t be distracted by your phone or someone else. Focus on the person in front of you.

Use humor.

There are very few things better than laughter. It lifts you up and makes you feel better. I only have to hear laughter to smile myself. When you use humor, you can turn someone’s focus to something better.

Encourage.

Who doesn’t need a cheerleader, someone to give them support when it seems like no one else does? Help someone find the resources to accomplish a goal or solve a problem.

Be open. 

Let other people see your flaws and all your glorious mess so they will feel more comfortable sharing problems and telling you how you can help. Someone can walk away better merely by sharing the issue.

Pray

Prayer can change lives. When you pray with others, you release your problems, and you are no longer alone in your struggle. Knowing others are praying for you makes you feel supported. I have seen prayers do amazing things.

The Importance of Building Your Community

It has been proven that being a part of a community is good for our health and is one of the factors in living longer. Why do you think communities are so good for us? Here are a few reasons.

Being a part of a community can lessen loneliness. We can be surrounded by crowds of people and still feel lonely, but if we are a member of a community there is a sense of belonging and of being a part of the group.

We need human interaction and belonging to a community provides us with a chance to learn from each other and share thoughts and experiences. Laughing with each other and sharing our stories is better than any medicine.

Communities take care of each other. We all have moments when life knocks us down and a community can provide what we need during those times. Knowing someone is there to lift you up can make a huge difference.

Communities give us purpose. Communities require engagement of some kind, so being an active member will keep you busy and give you a sense of purpose.

Interacting with each other can stimulate our brains because we have to think about our responses. Being in a group means that you never know where the conversation is going next, so you have to be ready to respond to anything.

When we spend time together, we can share our relationships with God and tell stories about how God has worked in our lives. The Bible can be discussed and shared. There is a chance to learn new insights from others.

You might be wondering how you can build your community, so here are a few ideas on making connections.

Be open

I love people, and my family knows I will talk with anyone, but because of this I meet some very interesting people and form wonderful connections. You have a choice every day to close yourself off to those around you or to be open to interactions around you. All it takes to be open is to make eye contact and smile. You can serve someone just by listening.

Reach out

I think everyone would agree there is need everywhere and it often shows up where we least expect it. Our friends, co-workers, family, and sometimes random strangers are carrying burdens that we can help with if we take the time to reach out.

I always try to find a little time every day to be quiet, reflect on things, or read. I am now adding something extra to that time. Every day, my goal is to take some time to send an affirmation note to someone who might need it or text to check in to say “I was thinking of you today.” I think reaching out with little acts of kindness can make a difference for someone who needs it. Imagine if a simple act of showing you care could make a significant difference.

You don’t have to have all the answers to reach out to people. A kind word, a smile, an act of kindness can have more of an effect than you can imagine.

Give the gift of food

I have a friend who tells me my love language is food, and it’s true. I love to gift people with food. Food, in moderation, is our fuel, and a life source, but I think it is also an expression of love. Whenever there is a need, whether it is because of illness, birth, loss, or welcoming someone new into the neighborhood, the first thing we think to offer is food. There is comfort in food, and it can lift our mood better than anything. We recently had a treat at our school when a local business came with smoothies for everyone. It was such a simple thing, but everyone walked around with a smile for the rest of the day.

Be transparent

Most of us have worn invisible masks at some point. We want people to think the best of us, we want to appear at our finest, but we are all walking around with our glorious imperfections, whether it is a secret we hope no one ever discovers, a lack of ability, or a little crazy hiding in the family closet. I have a sign near my desk that says, “You have no idea about the burden the person next to you is carrying, be kind always.”

When we are transparent, it causes a chain reaction. My family has a fair amount of crazy in it, and I used to worry about what someone would think about me if I shared my family stories. The first time I was open about what was happening, all the people around me looked relieved and started to tell their own stories. Being transparent can not only release the burden you are carrying, but it can also make others more comfortable. It allows people to feel that they are not alone in their struggles.

There are ready-made communities that you can join. These communities include the church, work, volunteer organizations, gyms, and interest groups.

Our relationships with each other are the crux of everything that we do. Good family relations lead to happier home life, relating to our colleagues makes us more productive in the workplace, and being part of a community where we have good friends, and we also act as good friends have been proven to be a factor of longevity. Relationships are at the base of our ability to function in all aspects of life, and the simple truth is that we need each other.

Five Forgotten Factors About Running

     1. Body care basics.       When my cross country runners first come out in the late summer to begin training, we do not start talking immediately about speed or endurance or intervals. We start off by talking about basic body care because running can do wonderful things for you, but if you are not careful it can also cause some uncomfortable problems. One of my runners said one day, “When you think about it, running can really make you ugly.” When I asked her what she meant she said, “Think of the potential problems; blisters, peeling skin, chafing, sunburn, dehydration, black toe, no toe… just ugly.” Here are some ideas:

Take good care of your feet.

  • When you get out of the shower in the morning and after running, slather lotion on your feet. All the rubbing and friction can dry them out and cause painful cracks.
  • Put a band aid on blisters when running so they will not become further aggravated.
  • Make sure your shoes fit since shoes that are too small can cause black toe which eventually means you will lose a toe nail.

Choose your work out clothes carefully.

Wear what you are comfortable wearing and learn to dress for different types of weather. Do not wear anything on race day that you have not tested yet.

Protect your skin

It’s easy to think you are not going to be out long enough to need sunscreen, but you would be surprised how quickly you can burn. You need to wear sunscreen all year long.

Runners can buy body glide to prevent chafing on the torso, or blisters on the feet, but I prefer Vaseline.  

2. Shoe upkeep

Many injuries can be traced back to bad shoes. Avoid the following to avoid injury:

  • Improper fit
  • Worn out shoes
  • Non-running shoes

Go to a sports store and have someone fit you for a good running shoe and then change them every three months or so.

3. Mental Training

     We become so involved in training our body that we forget that the mental aspect of running is huge. Here are some ideas to enhance your mental training:

  • Break longer runs into segments in your mind. Instead of thinking about the total mileage you will cover, give yourself points that you reach as you gradually tick off the miles.
  • Practice positive self talk. When you are having one of those days when you want to quit, tell yourself you will go another two miles and see how you feel. Usually by that time, you have broken through the wall and are ready to keep going. Practice being your own motivational coach. Tell yourself you can do it, and that if you have made it this far, you do not want to stop now.
  • Visualize your success. Think about yourself running well. Imagine what you would do at each part of the run.
  • Talk to the trail.  I know this may sound strange, but pretending that the trail is your competition and trash talking it does wonders for getting you up the steeper hills.

4. Weight Training

     Runners need strong muscles to perform optimally and to stay injury free. Strong arms can help propel you that last few feet, strong legs will keep you going, and a strong abdominal will protect your back.

5. Rest

     It is very difficult for some runners to take a day off, but over training or working through an injury can cause much more time off for recovery. Here are some ideas to do with rest:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Cross train once in awhile and vary your routine
  • Forgive yourself for the occasional missed work out
  • Stop long enough to just enjoy the people and places around you. Put responsibilities on hold and enjoy friends and families.

A Mom’s Life #4 Parenting Older Children

We see a lot of advice for parenting newborns and toddlers, but not as much for older children, and as I said in the first blog, parenting is forever and so is the need for some help. I hope you are o.k. if I offer what has worked for me.

The newborn and toddler years are more about survival than anything else. You discover how well you can still function with only a few hours of sleep, and that you haven’t become ill by eating whatever was still left in the refrigerator. While this time requires physical strength, the rest of parenting will take all your mental skills.

I have discovered a few things that work and will make your life much easier. My husband saw one of these ideas in action last week. He looked at me with amazement and said, “Did you learn these Jedi mind tricks by being a teacher?” I told him that most of the time I just gave something a try and prayed it worked.

Let them fail.

Failure hurts, but it always teaches valuable lessons which is why no matter how hard it is, we have to let our children make those mistakes. 

I have heard many stories of first-year college students who ruin their first-year grades because they become too caught up in the social scene. I have also heard several parents say they made the students pay for the wasted year or for a scholarship that was lost. That is a lesson they will not forget. 

Say no sometimes.

The world is going to say no to your child a lot, so they should be prepared on how to react to that. They need to be resilient and flexible, and able to react well to being told no.

When my daughter Kait was ready for high school, she wanted to continue in the system where her friends were, but I wanted her to come to the school where I was teaching because I thought she would have more opportunities. Kait was very angry at me for an entire semester. She continually told me she wanted to go to the other school. She did not do well in two classes that semester, but instead of giving in, I signed her up for two online courses to make up for her performance. Finally, she settled in and blossomed as I hoped she would.

This was very difficult for me and several times I wondered if I should give in and send her to the other school, but something happened that made me think my school was where she was meant to be. My school is very expensive, but as a teacher, I received a 40% discount and we discovered that students who had at least one year of an IEP at a public school were eligible for state money to go to a private school. The amount varied depending on the learning difference. I remember that before I pushed the calculator that told the amount offered, I prayed that it would be enough so it would not be a financial burden. It took my breath away when I saw it was the exact amount of what was left to pay.

Surprise them.

Our children think they know us and how we will react to everything. You can throw them off balance by acting completely different than what they expected. Let me give you an example.

My daughter Kait struggles with anxiety and she had painted college as an insurmountable monster. Throw in a teenage girl’s low self-esteem when I tell you she did not think she was smart enough and you have a perfect storm. She came to me and said, “Mom, I’m not sure I want to go to college.” She expected me to become angry at that point, but I calmly turned to her and said, “No problem Kait, but you are going to have to tell me what your plan B is. What will you do instead?” Putting her in charge of the decision helped to diffuse a potentially volatile discussion. She and I had a great talk about college and her fears. She is now in her second year and she’s doing great.  

My son Tyler was constantly saying he wanted a Mohawk with red tips. John and I are both pretty conservative so we always told him no. One day, we were driving to Kroger and he asked me again and I said, “Sure Ty, let’s go to Great Clips, and you tell them what you want.” When we returned home I said, “We might as well get this over with and go, show dad.” We came into his office and all my husband said was, “I see.” Tyler left and my husband said with controlled anger, “Why did you let him do that?” I replied, “Honey, in a few days, he will realize how ridiculous it looks and he will never ask us again.” He paused for a minute and then said, “You are a genius!”  

Don’t enable them.

Doing their homework, writing to teachers for them, waking them up every morning is not helping them. They need to learn to handle things independently, and when they do, it frees up a lot of your time. Teach them how to do chores.

Listen.

Growing up is hard and hopefully, your children will share the challenges with you. Keep your ears open.

Discuss without emotion.

This is difficult, but you can have better discussions if you stay calm and discuss each situation without screaming and tears.

Show a united front.

My husband and I always checked with each other first before we dealt out decisions or discipline. It helps to feel that you have each other’s support. Divided we fall is true because children will figure out who will give them what they want. 

Know when you are being played.

I tend to be naïve and trusting, but teaching has helped me figure out when the facts don’t add up, so check your facts.

Pray.

There will be many moments where praying that everything works out is the best you can do.

My book

I have just published a new book called 101 Tips to Lighten Your Burden. My publisher is Loving, Healing Press and the book is available through the following links.

Kindle     https://www.amazon.com/101-Tips-Lighten-Your-Burden-ebook/dp/B09JLB5NRY

Google play   https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Jennifer_Bonn_101_Tips_To_Lighten_Your_Burden?id=ZohIEAAAQBAJ

Amazon     https://www.amazon.com/101-Tips-Lighten-Your-Burden/dp/1615996109

This is the perfect book to give someone who is struggling or who needs some kind words. It is like having your best friend in a book.

ABCs of Running

Most of the time reducing wisdom to its most basic form gives us the greatest benefit. An example of this would be to look at running advice in the form of the ABCs.

Add more mileage gradually. 10% more per week is the recommended amount.

Be a cheerleader for yourself. Celebrate the triumphs and don’t worry too much about the rest.

Continue to try to improve.

Decide what your challenge is going to be and get ready to meet it.

Energize with nutritious food.

Forget all your problems and enjoy a great run.

Get a good playlist on your Ipod.

Hydrate.

Invest in a good pair of shoes. Many injuries stem from poor shoes. Protect yourself.

Just run and have fun.

Keep track of your time and your mileage.

Love your feet. They are carrying you and they need tender care.

Mentally prepare yourself to run.

Never run through an injury.

Openly recruit friends to run with you.

Prepare for a race.

Question veteran runners to find what works for them.

Rest.

Set goals.

Try new routes and routines.

Understand that there will be days your body does not want to run.

Value a good long run.

Weather is not always an excuse not to run. Dress accordingly.

X out injuries with common sense.

Yell for and encourage others in your races.

Zeal will keep you going when your body does not want to.