Blog Posts

Stuff! Stuff! and more Stuff!

I live in a community on the coast in south Georgia and we have what seems to be an annual hurricane event. This year as we await Hurricane Dorian, my home is on the side of the county where evacuation is has been declared voluntary; this doesn’t make it less stressful, just different. I have posted before about the fact that I try to find the silver lining in every cloud.  So, of course, I am searching for things to be happy about as I hunker down watching what seems like non-stop weather news on every local channel.

First of all, I am declaring this Hurri-cation 2019.  That certainly puts a positive spin on it, right? The long Labor Day weekend has now been greatly extended; schools, grocery stores, malls, government offices are all closed, so families are spending time together. It isn’t really a “-cation” of any sort, but Hurri-cation certainly sounds better than “mandatory, forced evacuation”, at least in my thinking!

I am a very reflective person most of the time, and facing the threat of a huge and powerful hurricane certainly got me thinking about priorities.  The first worry is always for family, friends, and pets. I will have immediate family with me: husband, son, daughter-in-law, and my Yorkie. The rest of my family members live far from this hurricane’s reach. 

So now, on to the topic of this post: STUFF!  If we evacuate, or if we stay, either way I have to deal with the subject of possessions…fondly referred to as “stuff” for the remainder of this post. Dealing with my “stuff” gives me a great big headache, for sure.  

I remember years ago George Carlin did a hysterically funny bit on “stuff”.  I still laugh every time I think about it.  The gist of his routine was that we surround ourselves with stuff.  We keep all of our stuff in a “box” called an apartment, a condo, a home.  As we age, we buy more “stuff” and then have to buy a bigger “box” (house) to hold our expanding collection of stuff.  We find ourselves sitting happily in our “box” surrounded by our stuff.

Now, that is all true until something out of the ordinary happens…like Hurricane Dorian!  When the annual hurricane(s) arrive, I am faced with the prospect of traveling OR putting all the important “stuff” up high and surrounding it with sandbags!  YIKES!! That is when the trouble starts! Now I am faced with the horrible decision about which pieces of our “stuff” are important and which can be sacrificed to the storm surge, gale force winds, or flooding. Color me stressed!

I am sitting in my house today surrounded by my “treasures”; I am certain that my collection is much too valuable to be referred to as simple “stuff”. I know, go ahead, it’s okay to giggle; I’m giggling now too. Anyway,  I keep wondering how in the world I am going to prioritize my lifetime’s collection of treasures.  

So as I sit here today, I have done everything recommended; critical paperwork is sealed in a waterproof envelope and in a safe, medicines are filled, the pantry is stocked with non-perishable food, batteries are replaced, water is stockpiled.  Yet, I still feel a sense of heaviness. My home is a single floor in an area that is about two feet above sea level. If we have a flood, can I save my grandmother’s china hutch or the antique tea cart?  What about my mother’s grandfather clock?  My father’s desk, the pictures from my trip to Russia (taken before photos became digital)…the list goes on.

Well, I have a choice to make. I can either sit and worry about my “treasures” or I can focus on celebrating the fact that I have my true treasures around me: the people that I love and who love me. I choose the latter.  So, here’s to my Hurri-cation 2019.  I choose gratitude…I choose joy!     

Seeking Gratitude

I live in south Georgia in a county with coastal waters; the Governor has declared our county in a State of Emergency ahead of Hurricane Dorian.  Hurricanes are not unfamiliar, we have faced Matthew and Irma in the last few years, but no matter how often, I always feel anxious.  

Today we are praying and preparing as Dorian heads our way.  The “cone of uncertainty” is so frustrating and seems designed to add to my stress…Should we evacuate? Should we stockpile water and ice? Should we believe it is going to miss us?  We have no answers, and I hate feeling out of control.

So, within this stress, I try to tap into my gratitude.  Today, I realized I was grateful for so many things I take for granted:

  • Having a husband who is my partner.
  • My son and his wife, who live just a few minutes away.
  • My freezer is full of food and I worry about losing the food in the freezer if the power goes out. How can I not feel blessed to have “extra” food to keep in a freezer? 
  • Being forced to clean out the refrigerator and the pantry; if we lose power, there will be fewer things to spoil.  As I do so, I think about families who go to bed hungry at night worrying about finding the next meal.
  • Water!  I am busy stockpiling water. Staying hydrated is one of my daily health challenges.  Today, my gratitude is great; so many people in the world do not have access to clean, safe drinking water and here I am stacking up a tower of bottled water.
  • Transportation…We always have “Clean the garage” on the To Do list; now we have to do it to make room for our cars. This reminds me that I am so grateful to have two cars that need to be moved into the garage! 
  • I am dreading the possible loss of power; it gets HOT here in the deep South.  Yet, today I realize I must be grateful that I have air conditioning to lose! 
  • Seeing the good in people; when faced with adversity, people step up to help neighbors. So many friends and family have already reached out to offer us shelter if needed. I am richly blessed.
  • Our first responders and linemen are already cueing up to help anyone in need. They leave their families to help others under the worst conditions.  

Yes indeed, I am richly blessed. There are so many things that aren’t on this list, but it is a good start. One thing I know for sure is that keeping a grateful mindset attracts joy!  So for today I choose gratitude. What are you feeling grateful for today? 

A New Chapter

Back-to-School is always so bittersweet. I can barely sleep the night before because I am so excited to meet my new flock of students, but when the alarm goes off at “zero dark thirty”, I groan and wonder why I put myself through this.

Why do I put myself through this? Easy…27 or so fresh young faces looking at me expectantly…eager to learn, excited to explore, wondering what this year will bring.

This time of year can be sooooo hectic … there is so much to organize and somehow administrators always take time away from us for meetings. There is so much to do in the classrooms; that’s why the school parking lot is full of cars even before school opens…they are all busy trying to get classroom bulletin boards displayed, name tags on desks, welcoming hallway decorations in place.

Over my long career, I managed to put together some items that I am sharing with teachers on Teachers Pay Teachers at my Chalk Dust and Dreams Back to School Store. Check them out!

MLK, Jr. ~ Freedom Fighter

Bring Learning to Life!

Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the world I live in and I always love taking time in the school year to celebrate his life and his work. I have posted a unit of ready-to-print-and-use activities. This unit includes:

  • a biography
  • words to know and use
  • fiction writing
  • informational/non-fiction writing
  • research
  • graphic organizer
  • art
  • bulletin board post-its
  • materials for a timeline
  • poetry
  • student self-evaluation
  • teacher resources for extending learning

New Products for Winter!

Check out my new items on Teachers Pay Teachers; they are all designed to bring some zing to dreary winter days.

If you have semester conference coming up, be sure to check out the Individual Student/Parent Conference Folder and the free Parent Conference Reminder Slip.

What Holiday do you Celebrate?

What holiday do you celebrate?  Is yours a home that celebrates Christmas? Kwanzaa? Hanukkah? Whether the candles are red, green, black, or blue, the message of our Winter holidays is the same. The message is one of kindness, caring, and human connection. Those flickering candles remind us to spread a message of love and light.

Today’s political climate makes this time of year even more valuable; we all desperately need to hear Winter’s message of kindness and to act upon it. I have realized that patience with an elderly person in the checkout line, a kind word for the young sales clerk, a warm smile for a stranger…each of these costs me nothing and yet could be of great value to the recipient. 

I love the holidays; I am excited for December to arrive so that I can decorate the house, trim the tree, bake warm cookies laced with warm, wintry spices, listen to favorite carols, and wrap packages for gift-giving.  In my mind, the Winter holidays reflect what our Earth is telling us; it is time to slow down and stay warm. I love long Winter nights when I can snuggle in front of a fire, eat a big bowl of soup with crusty homemade bread, and sip hot cocoa or warm wassail. I like to get busy baking cookies and smelling the pungent spices of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.  Indeed, Yes,I love the holiday season!

Sitting by the fire staring at the flickering flames is the perfect time for me to focus on how my life fits into the Universe. It is a time of reflection, self-examination, and goal setting.  How can my life make the world a gentler place for the people with whom I come in contact?  What can I do to improve the person I see looking back at me in the mirror each morning?  How can I keep my focus on the true meaning of Christmas?

The world I live in is media-driven; advertisers pour millions into ad campaigns to promote “stuff”.  The challenge is for me to keep my mind on what matters. I remember a Psychology Today magazine cover about 45 years ago.  It showed a child surrounded by a mountain of crumpled wrapping paper, bows, and toys tossed about the room.  The child was not impressed with any of the new toys, rather he was happily playing in one of the empty cardboard boxes!  The message was loud and clear. Running up a credit card bill was not going to make Christmas a success. 

I sat and really thought about what I wanted; it was very clear to me that what I wanted was for my son to be happy.  So the real question was, what could I give him that would make him happy?  I quickly realized that a new toy was not the answer; what he wanted was time spent with mequality time…put-your-phone-away-and-focus-entirely-on-me time.

Guess what? That is what we all want.  Your husband, wife, sister, parent, and the young person at the checkout all want a moment of your undivided attention. And that is really all it takes for them to feel valued. I have learned that simple things make people feel valued: making eye contact, smiling, listening, and replying.  All free!  

So, what I know for sure is that the message of Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah is not “spend”.  The message is “stop”…notice the people around you, count your blessings, value the time we have with those we love, spread kindness, create precious memories, and celebrate life.  So, from my home to yours, Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa!

Lucky Me!

I want to share my excitement at winning a free logo from Ashley McCulloch, the creator of ThistleGirl Designs. I am a member of her website and use her clipart almost exclusively in my work with Chalk Dust and Apples.  She creates clipart that is multicultural, and that is very important to me.  I think it is critical for young students to see themselves reflected in the displays around the classroom.  

Anyway, I was sooooo excited to win her free logo and she didn’t disappoint.  It has been a wonderful collaboration and I am very pleased with the end result.  She provided me a couple of banners and a small logo to use in my products.  

So, thank you so much, Ashley!  I will proudly display the logo everywhere.  

Black Friday…good name!

I blogged about the fact that for many the Christmas season now begins the day after Halloween.  Today, I am reflecting on the fact that Black Friday is certainly a dark day… “black” indeed. 

My children work in retail. Today is Thanksgiving, but I will not be sitting down to a lovely meal with my family.  No, my children have to leave at noon to get to their retail establishments because the shopping frenzy begins at 2:00 p.m.

Why? Because Black Friday is no longer a day; it has spread like a vicious virus into a week, perhaps even a month. Black FRIDAY begins at 2:00 p.m. on THURSDAY.  This gentle holiday of thanksgiving has morphed into a day of unmitigated greed.  

Are people sitting around the table lingering over coffee and pie, chatting and reminiscing?  Why no!  We are frantically focused on our Smartphones checking shopping apps for alerts that let us know where the best deals will be.  What next?  A race to the mall to fight the crowds, run up credit card bills, and load up on more “stuff”.  

Today was meant to be a day that families revel in each other, celebrate life, create wonderful memories, and reflect on life’s blessings.  So, when making the decision to race away from your family to run to the stores, think about the fact that life is so short.  When we find ourselves at the end of life, I promise we don’t think about how lucky we are to have accumulated a lot of stuff.  In that moment, it is about family and friends.  

I will NOT be in the stores today or even tomorrow.  I will be home snuggled up in front of the fire sipping a cup of apple cider. For my family, friends, and the gifts of the Earth, I give thanks. 

I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

To everything there is a season…

aut12_pileofleavesAs a child, I would get so excited for Halloween; costumes, candy, how can it get any better?  I would look forward to this one night for a month!  The month of October was a blur of excitement! This same pattern would repeat itself for the entire month of December. What child doesn’t love all the excitement of Christmas? The month of December raced by! Leading up to the big day there were Advent calendars, cookie exchanges, gift shopping, gift wrapping, tree trimming, enchanting store windows, and finally Midnight Mass.  Basically, December was another blur!

Nestled between October and December is the month of November.  November allowed us to glory in the Earth’s brightest smile. November is when we all took a breath; we relaxed and focused on gratitude and the blessings we enjoyed. We raked, jumped in leaf piles, put on sweaters, and went enjoyed bedtime stories more because it was dark outside.

As though November wasn’t already perfect enough, it brings us Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is such a perfect holiday; it is all about food and friends and family.  It is calm. There is no racing about, no shopping frenzy, no chaos.  The worst thing that happens is a post-turkey tryptophan-induced nap.

Somehow, we seem to have lost Thanksgiving.  Christmas decorations show up in the stores before Halloween.  Christmas music is played all day everyday beginning November 1 and Christmas movies are on every channel.  By the 2nd of November, my Facebook and Instagram accounts are filled with pictures of Christmas trees that are twinkling in my friends’ living rooms. And then there are the teacher accounts…teachers bemoaning the fact that though it is only November 3rd, the Christmas frenzy behavior has already begun.  And why wouldn’t it?  Everywhere children go, all they see and hear is Christmas.  Not the religious meaning of the holiday, but the glitz, glamor, and greed.

So, yes, I miss the “over the river and through the woods” Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving reminds me to be grateful for what I have and to do for others…to be the good in someone else’s life.  During November, the Earth slows down and settles into the coming of Winter. Days are shorter, trees drop their leaves, animals hibernate or migrate. Nature knows it is time to settle in.  November is a chance for us all to step back, take a deep breath, and focus on how we fit into the world. Everything calms down, so why do we race into December and all the “crazy” that seems to go with it?

Let me say again, I refuse to ignore Thanksgiving.  I love shopping for just the perfect, plump turkey. I get excited to smell pumpkin pies baking. I make bread for the stuffing, I simmer autumn spices in the potpourri pot, I fill my house with pumpkins and gourds, and I relax. I spend time focusing on my gratitude…and I have so much to be thankful for.

Will I enjoy Christmas?  Absolutely, but I refuse to sacrifice this time to just be still.  December will come and I will put up a tree, wrap gifts, and enjoy the twinkle.  For now, I am content to be fully present in my November. 

Golden Globes + Black Dress = Big Deal?

I have been reading and seeing on the news that several high powered Hollywood actresses, the movers and shakers, are planning to wear black dresses to awards events such as the Golden Globes and the Oscars. Their purpose is to draw attention to the ME TOO movement that is sweeping the nation. Keep reading to find out why I think the black dress protest is definitely NOT a big deal.

The Facts:

  1.  I definitely want the men and women of Hollywood to use their fame in positive ways that support needed social and environmental changes. Today, an important issue is that of female empowerment!
  2. I am a 69 year old female, a retired teacher, and certainly not an expert on life in Hollywood.
  3. I was a young woman who fought for women’s rights throughout the 1960s.  During summer breaks from college I worked as an office temp; I remember the “girls” at my first office job had to threaten a walk-out to be allowed to wear a PANTS SUIT to work!
  4. I support the “ME TOO” initiative; no one should be forced to compromise her/his dignity in order to get or keep a job.

The Problem:

The women of Hollywood are beautiful.  We all love seeing them close up on the big screen; they are who many young girls aspire to become.  Female empowerment is a serious issue, not just for women of Hollywood, but across our country. Serious issues need serious solutions.  Now is the perfect time to take a stand for this issue, while it is in the public eye.

My Questions:

Many of us watch the pre-show and the Awards ceremony because we want to see what everyone is wearing.  The  iconic Red Carpet question is always: “Who are you wearing?” Does it matter that the gorgeous, incredibly expensive dress being worn is black instead of red or blue? Is wearing a black dress to a glamorous awards ceremony a SERIOUS SOLUTION?

My Answer:  No!

My Solution:  

As I said, Hollywood actresses are beautiful!  They would be beautiful if they showed up in a burlap sack.  So, instead of wearing a $75,000 black dress to the ceremony, wear a $1,000 dress and donate the other $74,000 to a program that supports women’s shelters.  When asked “Who are you wearing?”, I would love the answer to be Kohl’s or Belk’s, or any average department store in the area.

OR, how about wearing the same dress you wore last year and donate the entire $75,000 you would have spent to women’s shelters. We need to make it less frightening for women and their children to escape from abusive situations.

Not interested in women’s shelters?  There are plenty of single mothers and their children living in homeless shelters or on the streets.  All I am saying is that women need to stand up for women in a meaningful way. Change is a possibility that resides within each of us.