If 2020-2021 has taught me anything it has most taught me the necessity to relax. With so much happening that none of us were expecting, I learned to value time with those I love, respect and enjoy being around.
I learned that some things I once viewed as necessary may not have been so important. This also helped me to find more balance in my life, with personal life, work life and my spiritual life. When one part overwhelms the others exponentially, the equation of our lives can lose focus.
Spending time doing nothing, alone or with others, is not a waste of time. I have found a lot of calmness, peace and time to think more clearly in those moments. Relaxing is not a bad use of time. It provides us with more time.
Laughing, dancing and talking with friends and/or family are some of the best forms of relaxing that I’ve experienced over this past summer. Finding who you need in life helps us to stay healthy, happy and living the lives we are meant to live. It also helps to keep us accountable.
Relaxing definitely looks different at various times and can be very different for each of us, but it is so crucial to our mental health. While we should all take care of our physical bodies, this past year has taught us so much of the importance of mental health for all of us. No one is one dimensional. We are multifaceted for a reason.
If you need more balance, make it happen. Value yourself. Value others. Make it happen. You may need to start small, or you may be able to drastically change your life immediately, but whatever you do . . . relax.
So often, we humans can focus too much on the negatives of life, because they dare to tear us down.
We are thrilled when good things happen in our lives, but we also cling to wanting our lives to be full of good times and peace. While we realistically know that the bad moments are also a part of life, we can’t help but want to avoid the pain that comes along with those times.
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” – John 10:10
Every time I read this passage, I’m reminded of God’s mercy to us. Let me explain.
I spent many years of my life with asthma. At times, it was so debilitating. More than once, I came near death. I’ll never forget being asked by a paramedic, weeks after a massive asthma attack who not only treated me, but knew me, “I didn’t want to tell you this in the middle of helping you, but there’s still one thing I don’t understand. On that day, we couldn’t figure out how you were awake, how you were communicating with us [I used body language to get them to give me paper & pen to do this.], how you were even alive. How did you do that?”
I wasn’t certain what he wasn’t telling me, so after asking him what was so unusual about that, he replied, “Everything we had you hooked up to, every one of them showed your oxygen levels were at zero. Not only should you not have been able to communicate with us, but all signs pointed to the fact that you should not have even been conscious, let alone alive!”
That’s when I answered him with, “Well, let me tell you more of my story and my God.” Without Him, without my Lord, that miraculous situation never would have happened. While I don’t know why God used that health situation to occur, my life with Him has shown me over and over and over again, that He is good, that He is love and that His plans are always for our good. I give God glory for using me, even in that time, to touch the life and soul of another for Him.
Something that could have killed me, gave me an even stronger appreciation for being alive.
Since last March, it’s been even harder to avoid the negatives of life. Having lost loved ones and having seen so much grief on various fronts, I am all the more grateful for God who has never left my side. I say all of this as a known optimist, but I am also not naive and have had many situations throughout life that have dared to tear me down many times.
In spite of the ups and down, I still have a passion for life.
Just last week, the world celebrated Easter . . . the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ.
While Jesus had disciples who learned and did so much from Him and with Him, prior to Jesus’ death on the cross, they found life much more abundantly in the years they had afterwards. They were able to travel to various locations, preaching the Good News to so many. Miracles occurred again and again. However, their stories cannot be told without also knowing that they each experienced what we would call negatives in life.
While that was so long ago, I can’t help but see that they felt more alive than ever before. How? Because, even after all of my own painful life experiences, God has shown me through all of my life that the great moments in life are that much sweeter. The great moments in life aren’t as powerful, without also knowing the other side. Life is fabulously amazing, because He lives.
Because He lives, the art and beauty of this world and universe exist.
Because He lives, we get to have others to love and to be loved, in return.
Because He lives, we are still in awe when we see an amazing sunrise or sunset, when we hear the laughter of children, when someone says or does just the right thing when we need it most and when we experience the joy of God through it all.
Because He lives, we know the negative parts of life are not all that exist.
Because He lives, we have those who provide healing for the mind and body.
Because He lives, we have churches that remind us that we are meant to live in community, we are here for a purpose and we are wondrously loved and wanted.
Because He lives, we have teachers who spend time helping others to find themselves, to learn, to connect and to find their passions.
Because He lives, we can get back up again after traumas that will forever remind us that life is fragile, but there is still so much abundance of life giving moments ahead for us . . . HOPE.
Because He lives, we live. That’s something to rejoice over.
For while I have breath I know I am alive For while I have breath I enjoy the beauty of life For while I have breath I can embrace another For while I have breath I am a wife and a mother For while I have breath I can sing and dance For while I have breath I can take another chance For while I have breath I can live my passions For while I have breath I can provide compassion For while I have breath I can dream great dreams For while I have breath I have faith in the unseen For while I have breath I can make this world better For while I have breath God always holds me together For every breath that I will ever breathe I will know I was created By the King of kings.
Being alive will always have its heartaches, but one thing I have learned from knowing how quickly one’s breath can be taken from them, is to never take a single inhale/exhale for granted. Never believe that we don’t matter. Never lose sight of hope. For within each breath we take, there are so many moments we are meant to be a part of and wonderful people whose lives are meant to intersect with ours. Every breath is a reminder of life, because He lives.
Don’t allow the hardships of life to tear you down. For we are more than just ourselves. There is purpose. We were made with strength. We were made with love. We were made to live life abundantly.
With every breath, know that you are alive for far greater things and with each breath your breathe you are walking further into your destiny. So never forget how each inhale and exhale matters. YOU MATTER!
Prior to the pandemic, people knew that making connections with others are powerful. People often want to be known. Really known. While many are afraid of rejection over the parts they don’t like about themselves, we still crave connection and true, unconditional understanding. From the first time a baby comes into the world and reacts to a loving touch or look, we all keep looking for genuine relationships with others.
As a teacher, it’s been hard in many ways. We’ve been in remote, in hybrid and soon, in-person. Making connections with our students, for most of us, is one of the biggest joys of our careers. We love what we teach, but we love who we teach much more.
Making those genuine relationships that make our students shine and grow knowing they are safe, are understood and are able to grow in the environment of that teacher’s classroom is magical. As this school year approached, so many of us educators worried about how we might make true, deep connections in a world that had shifted dramatically, no matter what might come next.
I love getting to know others and making connections that are real, whether they are momentary moments with a stranger in a store or ones that last for decades. As a teacher, it is a huge part of how I learn about my students, earn their trust and help them through the rollercoaster rides of going through the middle school years.
I love being real with them, and in turn, they all reciprocate in so many wondrous ways.
For example, a student who I had last year, could barely speak to me. Extremely shy, I never witnessed them even talk to other students. It was so hard to build a relationship with this student and know if I was connecting. Then, this very student took my creative writing class again this year.
Guess what? The student has been talking to me!
After I shared how very thrilled I was to take my class again after not knowing if I had any sort of impact on him, the response was, “You did. You definitely did. You never gave up on me, even when I wanted to give up.” Not only has the talking continued, but this amazing person shares more and more of themself through the writing we do.
Whew! That’s the power of connection.
Another student I have had the pleasure to know and teach this year, through one of my remote classes, was one with whom I have a great relationship. However, while trying to hide it, I saw subtle shifts lately. The work ethic didn’t change, but something was wrong.
When I saw that they had missed some days this week, which rarely happen, I sent an email to connect.
My Subject: EVERYTHING OK?
My simply message was, “I know you’ve missed classes this week. Is everything okay?”
Not only did a response arrive rather quickly, but it was followed by sharing all that caused the absences and what I probably noticed when in class this week. Then, at the end, “I will be at school tomorrow! I really appreciate you and everything you done for me!! I look forward to seeing you and thank you for trying to make that connection. It means a lot. ”
In remote, during a pandemic, this student has still thrived in huge ways and is even entering my student leadership training program. Relationships are not just maintained when we are with each other but also when we are not able to be together. What we do through the harder moments often speaks far greater to another’s heart, when they need it most.
Over my twenty years of teaching, I have seen a huge rise in mental health issues among more and more of our young people. For anyone to trust and share about this, it can be extremely difficult and sometimes, tragic.
Year after year, these students often confide in me verbally, through their assignments or in emails. While I always do what I need to do to make sure they get the help needed, from the right people, it is those connections that helps them to still become their best selves in the midst of their middle school years. More importantly, having those connections mean they are seen, heard, understood and they still matter.
One of the biggest examples with a student who doesn’t see much worth in school, but is extremely intelligent and capable, happened today. While yes, my job is to help my students learn. Yet, as a human who knows that together we are better, we must look to help one another whenever possible.
I squatted down next to this student and simply asked, “Are you okay? You haven’t looked happy in a while.” For the first time, this student was the most real I’ve ever seen. They shared what they were struggling with the assignment. My response was from what I have noticed about this student, so I used that to provide the help needed. Not only did that shift his countenance in a good way, but he asked me for additional help. This, from a human who clearly doesn’t like being vulnerable, became so and even thanked me as the class left.
Whether our positive, genuine connections with others is small or large, they matter.
Whether our positive, genuine connections with others is in person, through a phone, a computer, or other virtual way, they matter.
Whether our positive, genuine connections with others lead to long lasting relationships or the two parties never see one another again, they matter.
We don’t need to always see the impacts of these moments.
If we learn how to connect in ways that are true, honest, fair, pure and meant for the good of those we encounter within the journeys of our lives, that most definitely MATTERS.
Know that you matter! There are others who see you, hear you, understand you and want to embrace you. Better yet, these people want to help you become the best YOU.
Trust isn’t easy, but when earned, it is an extremely powerful force in this world . . . before the pandemic, during and always will be.
As a proud citizen of this nation, especially having lived in the NYC metro area during 9/11 and then seeing what occurred at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, I have so many feelings and thoughts.
I am angered that people like those who caused the rioting insurrection were able to even get that close to the Capitol, let alone within it.
I am completely disappointed that law and order wasn’t in place far sooner in a manner that would have prevented what happened.
I am saddened by the deaths and huge amounts of those severely injured.
I am still aghast that those who represent our states on one of the most important days had to fear for their lives and go through all they did.
I am at a loss that in a time when our nation has endured so much and still has so much fear related to COVID-19 that a human who’s supposed to lead this nation that stands for democracy has instilled such additional levels of fear on top of the flames of all of his insane rhetoric on a worldwide stage.
While this nation won’t ever forget the act of insurrection on January 6, 2021, I will also fondly remember . . .
The power of people who worked together for the better good.
The day when Georgia’s senatorial race made major history on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.
Reverend Raphael Warnock became Georgia’s first African American senator who is the pastor of the church founded by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rev. Martin Luther King Sr.
Jon Ossoff became Georgia’s first Jewish person elected as senator.
Together they changed a strong red state with the help of many people of that state to a blue one.
When our nation’s government officials didn’t fail democracy on January 6th, to make sure that law and order, that the ways of our democracy would prevail before they left the building that hours before had brought many of them terror.
When social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) took away the current president’s ability to worsen an already terrible barrage towards violence, at least through those mediums.
When Twitter stated on January 8, 2021 would permanently ban this president from ever having an account again. Perhaps this will lead to others getting the same ban due to the extreme harm done against humanity.
I will also remember discussing what occurred at the Capitol on January 7th with my middle school students, because what they knew, how they thought and felt about the insurrection and how democracy still prevailed afterwards, instilled in me an even deeper hope in he future of our nation.
I know that generations caused a lot of harm in our nation, but along those paths, we have begun seeing tremendous amounts of evidence that the tide is turning and a better sun rising in more ways than one.
I choose to not let all of the horrific acts reign stronger, but rather be a stark contrast to what all the good that is rising up in phenomenal ways towards a more perfect nation. No land is perfect, but I can see a better one across the horizon.
Today was a GREAT day as a teacher. I had class discussions with groups in every hour of my day today about what happened yesterday at the Capitol. I allowed those who wanted to discuss or learn through the discussion to stay with me in the main part. The others who wanted to get work done were allowed to go to their own breakout sessions.
These 12-14 year olds continue to inspire me about what the younger generation will do to bring about more good into the world. They were articulate and able to explain with facts and reasoning. They are so very aware of far more and are not only thinking deeply about all they see, hear and witness. The passion in their voices and faces was something you could feel inside.
Some teared up openly, being moved by what they were feeling and seeing, but trusting us all to witness it. Middle school kids. I saw people understanding one another. I saw people being real. I saw students who joined with the intent simply to watch and listen, and then join the conversation. When I talked with them about the importance of them continuing talks like this with their families, friends and whoever they can, they made it clear to me that they would.
They are so clearly disappointed in so many adults who exist now and in years past who refused to see so much of the wrongs that have been done and are still doing. They want and plan to do better. To hear how many have already chosen to get involved with other causes on behalf of those like them and those not like them, because they’re human beings and not because they were made to is POWERFUL!!!
Then, in one of my final hours of the day, as I explained what they could discuss with me today if they desired, one of my middle school boys who is normally quite shy said the most amazing thing to me in the chat of our remote learning forum. He said, “I really appreciate how you always create such a safe environment for us. Thank you.” I told him how much that meant to me and asked, “Are you able to explain what you mean by that?”
Then he answered the best response. He said, “Well, you understand us middle school kids. We feel awkward all the time. I don’t even know how to really explain, because you know, it’s awkward. All I know is that you make us all feel less awkward.”
To top it off, this very shy boy then chose to join the conversation and keep his camera on. He didn’t speak, but his face spoke volumes.
THIS IS WHY I ABSOLUTELY LOVE TEACHING, in spite of this horrible year. For my students allowing me in like they do, whether in remote or in hybrid while also going through so much, inspires me to pick myself up and keep doing what I do.
What we educators do each day, in and outside of school, matters to so many generations. That’s a gift I will never take for granted, and knowing how many of my former students over these past 24 years have gotten in touch with me and keep me in their world, reminds me to never forget my WHY. When yesterday one of my early years of teaching middle school kids shared a post of how she feels as a black woman who is now a doctor making a difference in her own right, I told her how very proud I am of her. Even so many years later, they still appreciate knowing that their educators still care about them.
The more humane we can make this world, no matter what we do, is what we all should aspire to do. The kids are counting on us.