My Reflections

EDUCATION: Culture Matters When Going Remote


Just some of how our school staff was welcomed back to school two weeks ago.

Last spring, schools across the nation went remote. Not enough time to prepare. Everyone in shock from the pandemic.

What helped my school? Our culture. The environment that had been established way before life changed.

When life has ups and downs, the culture helps people to rise or fall.

Nothing was as good as it should have been. Not enough was known about much of anything, and I’m not just talking about education. A crisis of massive proportions arose across the globe, and we functioned as best we could.

Our principals and leadership met with groups of staff each week, so we stayed connected, made decisions and processed together and cared about one another. Culture.

Teachers taught, but we spent a lot of time having conversations with our students through video meetings, emails and phone calls. Culture.

Whether students or staff, we knew we could rely on one another. We knew to supply grace to each other. We knew we were a community and the culture helped us feel like not all was lost.

What said even more were families and students sending staff emails. They encouraged us. They asked if we were okay. They shared what we meant to them.

They supplied light back, because of the light we provided in darker times. A culture like that creates a safe place to function, no matter what.

Now, in a matter of days, our students will start the new school year. It most definitely will not be what it used to be, except for our culture.

Knowing that the cornerstone of our school is a community of learning while also teaching to the whole child, every child, we’ve been learning. Through the summer. Through extra professional development. Through our own feelings of what if what we’ve always known to do and what we’ve learned isn’t enough. Because our culture means we go above and beyond, always, because our students and their families matter. Details matter.

The pandemic hasn’t gone away. It’s why we changed from students either being remote or hybrid to all going remote to start. Culture we can still maintain, but without safety, it’s hard to learn and grow.

A school cannot have a culture that could take us through a pandemic time, without the right leadership. Principals who have led us with grace, understanding, realness and wisdom, even as they’ve made changes and admitted some of their own struggles through this process.

They’ve given us leadership roles to not only delegate, but to show their faith in us, even now.

They’ve given us time and shifted their original plans, so we could grow, but not break.

They had us make videos of ourselves so this year’s students and families can see us, hear us, and know how much we can’t wait to teach and to also support them all.

Even more powerful than all of that was having us email and call the families of those students who we will be with at the start of each day. We let them know what to expect so they’re not feeling nervous for the first day and beyond, for the students and their parents. To answer questions. But most of all, to help let out a breath, knowing we care enough to call and be there for them even before we have met their children. Culture.

On my end, I adored talking to students who were excited to hear from me. I realized how much I missed hearing the awkwardness of being the age of middle school kids. I soared when parents shared how happy they were to receive my call, how much better they felt and how supported they felt. But, what made my teacher heart fill to completion was getting emails from several of my new students asking me questions they had and then thanking me for my help.

CULTURE! We haven’t even started our first day together, but our culture’s base has already been laid down.

Our school’s vision is to engage, empower and excite our students to grow and learn. Without a building, through emails, calls and soon via video conferencing and other online tools, they will thrive. They will learn. They will feel supported.

And we will be their school community, doing what we know is best for them. Content, we already knew. Learning new ways to engage, empower and excite our 2020-2021 students is simply a part of being educators. What more we may need to move forward? Well, we will grow together, stronger and our culture will be even better than it’s ever been, no matter what life throws our way.

One of the parts of my classroom that helps me establish our culture reminds my students that they while they are capable of much now, beyond this time and space, they should keep on dreaming and growing.

Dedicated to Blake Revelle, Tara Mahoney and our Amazing Knights Community. Love working with all of you!

My Reflections

WHERE WILL YOU STAND? (Part 6): Schools


Teachers do what we do, to make a difference.

Before I ever stepped foot in a school, my mom had already taught me the basics of how to read and write, among other useful life skills. She was amazing at what she did with me, as I discovered that her actions set me up for a love of learning and started me off, advanced for my age. Though she wasn’t an educator, she was to me. What my mother did in my life, in those young formative years, still impacts me and all of my students, to this day.

Through those experiences, I remember being a child, prepping my dolls, stuffed animals and my little sister for my favorite game of playing school. I would include books, paper, pencils and crayons to teach my sibling. At some point, an adult gave me an abacus, which fascinated me, and I added that to the learning process. Later, I would buy textbooks at garage sales to make my “classroom” more official.

My sister was my only human student during those times, and as I taught, I was enchanted by how she reacted. Her eyes would light up. She would look at me attentively and smile her big smile, especially as I encouraged her in her “lessons”. At first, it was truly a game. In time, as I saw that she was learning and grasping, the play time became a passion.

Then, during high school as I was talking with my father about what I wanted to do when I got into college, I told him emphatically that I was going to be a teacher. This turned into many conversations of other careers he tried to persuade me towards, as a way to earn more money than teachers make.

My response?

I told him, “Sure, I can choose those careers, but I cannot imagine not teaching. Yeah, the pay is far less than teachers deserve, but I want my life to make me happy and to make a difference. I know that money is important to live, but God has a way of making things work out when you do what you are meant to do, and I am meant to teach.”

Do I wish we were paid what we are worth, when what we do allows younger humans to be the next world changers? YES.

But, helping to create world changers and sending them forth is a gift that pays in ways most may never understand.

Teachers do what we do, to inspire.

After over twenty years of teaching, I still love what I do, very much. I know that I make a difference. Each year I have roughly 150 to 180ish students. To this day, that look on their faces when they “get it” and finally realize what they can do, when they trust themselves, when they realize they are already world changers who can continue on to make a difference, it still fills me with joy.

When a student gets ready to move on to the next grade, knowing what they want to be because of their experiences with me as their teacher, is worth far more than the money I get paid. As moments happen throughout the school year and they share their words or tokens of gratitude as a way to say, “Thank you! You were right. I am ________, and I’m so glad you believed in me,” it’s a humbling gift.

Whether we have these students for one year or more, they each become part of my “kids”. As they get older, they’ll stop by to visit from time to time. Later, as they have grown up into these amazing adults, they often reach out to me through social media to reconnect.

THEY INSPIRE ME. It is why teachers have a hard time not giving so much of ourselves, because every one of those humans’ lives are worth it.

Teachers do what we do, to help others be their best selves.

As I share a short period of my students’ lives with them, helping them to be the best people they can be, I know that some grew a little, some grew a good amount and some grew in leaps and bounds. They don’t all display it in the same way, but teachers become pretty good at reading each individual to see the signs of how far they have come.

We are forever grateful for the parents who do all they can to raise their kids and partner with their schools, so their children can thrive. We are thrilled when we have administrators and/or support staff of all kinds who are doing what they do, because of the kids. We are happy when we are shown that what we do and think matters.

This is why, during this pandemic, educators shifted gears drastically to educate and help our students during a very stressful time, as best we could. We appreciated hearing so much, by emails and social media that we don’t get what we deserve after parents realized how their kids can be when with them for longer periods of time and when they saw what they knew only we could do, like we do.

Now, as the time comes near for school to begin, it’s troubling when leaders don’t say the words or do what is right for the sake of students’, school staffs’ and our families’ lives.

You see? While we may not have even met our next group of students, we already care about them, like a parent waiting for their unborn child. We also care about our own families, even more deeply. To not even consider protecting any of them from the coronavirus is indefensible, but to not consider protecting us well enough means also hurting them.

Imagine a world without teachers.

For you see, “Teaching has transformed from a simple educational function into a complex profession. Teaching develops the minds of children and young adults, and prepares them to become worthwhile citizens of society. The history of teaching can be traced to Confucius (561 B.C.), who was the first famous private teacher. Many ancient Greeks hired private teachers to educate their children. In the Middle Ages, learning institutions such as Cambridge University were founded and teacher training became required.”

Beyond the time educators take to get their yearly professional development hours, we love learning and when we have our times off from teaching, we don’t shut down. We are constantly evolving into better versions of ourselves, just as we expect our students to do beyond our classroom. We couldn’t do anything less, if we are to do right by the generations that are entrusted to us, year after year.

We just wish, especially during these uncertain times, that more of our society made it clear how valued we are by doing what’s right by us, for the sake of our nation’s children.

Teachers do what we do to show others they are not alone.

One of the greatest skills and gifts we provide as teachers is the concept that we are not meant to do life all on our own. I see my students as individual humans, each with gifts they are barely aware may exist, to transform this world in the most phenomenal ways.

However, as kids get older, life tries to tell them they are not enough. That they shouldn’t let too many know who they really are and what they’re capable of, because as they try on those parts of themselves and stumble along the way. They make mistakes.

It’s like society forgets that in learning to talk, we start off babbling. While learning to walk, we trip, fall and pull ourselves back up. While learning to trust others, we often had a lot of trust instilled in us first, when we still lived most of our time in the bubbles of our homes.

It’s why I do all I can to instill in my students a sense of team. From day one to the last day of school, my students know that I believe in them and that mistakes are simply stepping stones to help you rise up through what you learned. As they recognize the sincerity in that every day reality of who they are, in my classroom while learning the subject matter, they are also learning to trust one another.

Rather than talking words of destruction, they are to speak words of life.

Rather than seeing someone struggle, they are to come alongside and offer assistance whenever able.

Rather than watch a person in pain, they are to get help or be the help.

Rather than tear down the gifts of another that they don’t possess, they are to celebrate the gifts others provide to help themselves and the rest of our little community.

For isn’t all of that what makes for a better society for the next generation? Isn’t that worth giving every consideration for the sake of our babies, our children, our teenagers and the adults who spend huge amounts of hours with them? Isn’t that worth valuing the families who sacrifice time with their educator partners/spouses and parents, because teaching consumes a lot of our time both in and outside of school?

As the pandemic continues, give school districts and teachers grace, by coming alongside your school districts.

This post began circulating on social media recently, as we are deciding how school will happen for this year. We all could use some deserve some grace through this time.

The medical community does what they do, knowing that it could risk their lives. While teachers know they might have to protect their kids from an intruder, most educators are scared of returning to our school buildings, without being safe from COVID-19. We are concerned for those students we know and those we already care about who we’ll have.

We are worried about what it would do if even one student, one staff member or one family member of any of us contracts and God forbid dies, from the coronavirus. The mental health of students, staff and families matter.

It’s hard to cope, teach and learn in the midst of deep grief. This reality can happen. It’s why school districts are working hard to make the right choices for how to manage this particular school year.

The general consensus across our nation’s school districts appears to be remote online, hybrid or in school, in some variation. This makes deciding how this will happen VERY difficult for those involved, with a huge awareness of knowing that not everyone will be happy and nobody wants to make anyone more anxious, but it will occur anyway.

No matter what, we will be there for our students.

Nobody ever thought that our nation would face a worldwide pandemic, let alone one that would shift so many parts of our lives. Even after school districts decide how school will operate, the virus can very well still cause some of the new plans to shift again. Let’s hope not, but it could happen.

Know that the majority (I would like to think & believe.) of educators, school administrators and Boards of Education don’t want more distress for anyone. I mean, this has been an intensely stressful summer break for us, when it’s usually a time of refreshing.

The present may suck in many ways, but we must never give up on ourselves or the potential that exists in the younger generations.

If your minds and emotions are feeling a sense of overload in how to manage your life and that of your families, please remember that so are ours. Plus, we are trying to figure out how our students’ lives and the lives of their families and ours will be impacted. THAT’S A LOT for us.

We will continue to do all we can for the sake of the wellbeing of students, while also keeping all of us safe. We can all learn how to take deeper breaths and let go of what we cannot control. We can all spend more time focusing on some of the positives more on a daily basis, because they do exist. For me, I will be doing all of that, plus praying, trusting God and cherishing those who are still in my life.

As I typed the conclusion, this post appeared on my social media. Our lives, especially that of children and teenagers, deserve us to all do our part to make life safer again. We owe ourselves, and most importantly them, at least that much.

I know how hard this has all been. I know what it’s like to lose loved ones to this virus. I know that I would love nothing more than to be in my classroom, as usual, connecting with my students and inspiring them that they are truly the amazing human beings I know they are and that they can still change the world for good.

We’ve always had unknowns in our lives. I know that this generation of students will be some of the most resilient, most innovative and most compassionate people this world will ever see. This time will propel them in ways that will inspire them to make the years ahead far better than this year has been, thus far.

How can I say all of that and believe it? Because I’m a teacher through and through, and I believe in these kids and teens. I really do. Together, we can do far more good for all.

Believe in us. Knowing you trust us in the midst of all of this, helps us know that we are valued and as a community, we will get through this.

Let’s show the love to our teachers, to our families, to our neighbors and to all who share this space on Earth with us by taking care of ourselves and each other. In the meanwhile, schools will be doing everything in our power to let the students of this nation know that they matter and that they have our support.

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My Reflections

WHERE WILL YOU STAND? (Part 5): Universal Trauma


The lockdown that began in March, shook us all.

Trauma may always be a part of 2020 for many, but with time and healing, it can help make us better.

I am not a trauma specialist, by any means. In fact, this blog post has taken me longer than normal, because trauma can be difficult to face and be even harder to process.

Yet, there’s no doubt that from the onset of the pandemic, trauma indeed has occurred from the impacts of COVID-19, everywhere. Whenever our lives get hit with a negative, unexpected event it typically causes some levels of distress. However, without a way of knowing when this might end or what may still happen, it makes it hard to gauge what more could occur.

Universal trauma began in waves, until the whole world was feeling it.

This concept is often referred to as collective trauma. The Verywell Mind website explains this as “the psychological upheaval that is shared by a group of people who all experience an event. This type of trauma can affect groups of people of any size, including entire nations or societies . . . . The COVID-19 pandemic is a global event that will result in both individual and collective mental health effects. The social and economic impacts remain to be seen, but it is likely there will be long-term societal mental health consequences of the pandemic.”

While I experienced 9/11 living across the water from where the Twin Towers once were, in a town that lost the most amount of people, I now know that what many of us still share since that day is collective trauma. It’s why even as the 19th anniversary of that day will be here in about 8 weeks, those who struggle with PTSD from the experience still feel parts of the impacts associated with what happened. While that catastrophic event is not like this pandemic, the results of it all lasted for what seemed like a very long time after that nightmare of a day.

I admit that every 9/11, I am not fully myself. There’s no intentional desire to relive any of that time. However, living in the midst of the horrors, grief and sadness of what was occurring then, still impacts me every year in various ways.

Likewise, with this pandemic experience it is likely that we will have portions of this time that impact our current society in ways that stay with us. Whether it’s what happened in our nation, or other lands, this world has had aspects that we have shared and those that are unique to America alone.

One example for us is while most other countries have been wearing masks when asked to wear masks, there are people in our country who have attributed wearing or not wearing one as a political statement in connection to our upcoming election. This has caused major cases of anxiety which can lead to further trauma, as potential repercussions of these decisions involve a deadly virus that doesn’t care what our votes will be or who we are.

I hope that mask wearing won’t always be needed by the general public, once it’s safe, but down the road people may wonder why we may struggle when we see a doctor or nurse wearing one. Going to a funeral in the future may trigger thoughts of loved ones who died by the virus and didn’t have a proper farewell. We will universally share certain parts of this time, years after life has moved on to better times.

As protests have occurred in most cities for our fellow Black community members and for the sake of equality, other countries have joined our protests. With racism occurring in many places of this world, there will be some shared universal trauma significance. Here, in our country, it most definitely is felt.

Said by the character Alex Karev, in Shonda Rhimes’ show “Grey’s Anatomy,” this profound quote is a great reminder that while trauma may stay with us, it can also propel us to be a part of creating a better tomorrow.

However, worldwide there will be collective or universal trauma for those of us who have had some level of fear of getting the virus. Being in isolation, may be seen by future generations as some time alone, whereas those who struggled with it now may have traumatic scars from the idea of being alone. Even the situation of life getting turned upside down in a matter of weeks, for us all, is enough to imprint us with some issues we may need to work on overcoming, after life gets more normal.

What we all have been experiencing here in 2020 has been a worldwide pandemic, something that no one has experienced before. That is why my view of the concept is more of a universal trauma. Since our cultures all over the globe are different, there will be parts of this time where the trauma impacted us and not those in other countries. Others, will be ones that relate in many parts of this Earth, universally.

We lost a lot this year and it’s taking its toll on everybody.

Social distancing occurred suddenly and swiftly as we all hunkered down into lockdowns in our homes when the pandemic began. Schools and businesses closed their doors in a hurry, as students adjusted to learning from home, educators shifted to teaching from home and most people were working from home for the safety of all.

Houses of worship closed completely, while their leadership did what they could online or started figuring out how to be online, to connect with those who would normally attend. This left a lot taken from us, nearly all at once.

When in public, social distancing started following a 6 feet apart rule if you had to be around others. We had to learn how to not touch our skin, especially in public. Wearing a mask became a requirement, then a recommendation and lately a back and forth situation depending on government officials and our own choices.

While we’ve had to give up a lot during the pandemic, it has also made us value parts of our lives so much more. When there’s traumatic experiences, there can also be a new awakening.

Not knowing how long this would all last, there was mass panic and hoarding ensued as there were mad rushes at the grocery stores. It’s still difficult to find cleaning supplies, and there was even a shortage on meat and many other items.

Then, we came to realize that our essential workers like medical personnel were in a life and death situation, not only for their patients, but also for themselves and their families. That was soon followed by grocery store workers, who eventually got to wear masks and then have plexiglass shields installed around them for their safety and that of customers.

Suddenly, we not only were worried about our physical health, but our mental health became more prominent.

Life shifted even more drastically, causing further tension for all. If you’re not aware of how much stress got placed on everyone at once, let me jog your memory or help you realize what others have been enduring.

TOO MUCH TOO SOON: We’ve all been there where life may seem like a constant spiral of negatives happening in our lives, but this time everyone else has been experiencing it, too. There weren’t others who could tell you how they got through this before. Others were just as stressed, so why burden them further? Then, there has been the rollercoaster of emotions that didn’t always make sense or didn’t feel typical to our pre-pandemic selves.

STAYING SAFE: We became afraid of touching our faces. Using hand sanitizer and washing our hands became a practice that turned into a neurotic type of habit. Wear a mask? Don’t wear a mask? Stay 6 feet away from everyone, except those in your household. In general, stay away from others, as much as you can. Hope someone who has the virus doesn’t somehow pass it onto you. That’s A LOT!

NO MORE TRADITIONAL CLASSROOMS: Educators, like me, are used to planning way ahead and juggling a lot. We know how to adapt quickly to change and that we may need to protect our students from a person who means us harm and somehow gets into our school building. Then, in a matter of weeks, we all figured out how to still teach the best we could through Internet issues, families and pets all being around at the same time, and not getting to make the same type of connections we value so much with our individual students. Suddenly, we were seeing our students in groups through video chat sessions and hoping we were making positive impacts on them, academically and emotionally.

With each of these dramatic shifts in our lives, and the problems they may have caused, may we come out on the other side with new understanding of ourselves and others, of new ways to do life and learn how to go with the flow better, knowing how much we were truly able to handle.

PARENT TRAP: Parents of school aged children were typically working from home instead of at their normal places of employment, while also needing to support their kids with school and handling the pandemic. Issues with the amount of devices needed to be used at one time, the major slowdown of the Internet nationwide and how to manage it all added to the stress. Then, there were so many decisions to make on behalf of our families, as well as handling living at home with families 24/7, with no clue when the lockdown would end. It wasn’t a matter of lack of love, but more of a HUGE shift in the everyday dynamics that once was.

FOR HOW MUCH LONGER: As the lockdowns happened everywhere, nobody believed it would endure for as long as the pandemic has been lasting. Many hoped it would be over or at least better by summer, so that life felt more normal and there was less anxiety. Living with a hardship is always difficult, but many hardships have an end. Lose a job? When you get hired, life’s on the way up. Many hardships have an end in sight or at least the dreams for when it will come. For many, the fears have risen or rollercoastered as COVID-19 numbers have risen, dropped and risen again. Uncertainty on who to trust, for which information, has been difficult. Remember when you were in the car as a kid and kept asking, “Are we there, yet?” That’s all everyone wants to know, but the one driving is a virus.

Of course, there is far more that people have endured to test our mental health. Buying enough food and supplies. Doing enough for safety of self, loved ones and/or others. Doing too much. Not doing enough. All of the politics that can most definitely be a major nuisance on society, but even more so during an election year while a worldwide pandemic is happening. Then, while the coronavirus would be plenty to have to handle and then some, the Civil Rights Movement took on a much needed resurgence this year when George Floyd became the final straw and protests erupted in nearly every city, while many of us are still fighting for equal rights for all.

SOME TRAUMA CAUSES

Fear is powerful; it’s all a matter of what you
choose to do with it.
  • Fear of getting the coronavirus
  • Fear of someone you know getting the coronavirus
  • Fear of a loved one or friend with the virus dying alone, after dropping them off at a hospital
  • Fear of being asymptomatic and transmitting the virus to others
  • Fear of a lack of employment, whether you own a business or are an employee
  • Fear of essential items running out
  • Fear of making the wrong decisions to stay healthy from the virus
    • Wear mask vs. don’t wear a mask
    • Social distance in all circumstances vs. gathering with large groups you trust
    • Sending children to school, remote learning, a hybrid or homeschool
    • Returning to your place of employment
  • Fear of voting for the wrong candidates, knowing how our lives are in their hands should the problems with the virus still exist or worse occurs, in the future
  • Fear of losing more parts of what was once normal life
  • Fear of the unknown

These causes are from what I’ve experienced, known others to experience and/or have read or watched information about how others have been responding. By no means is this an exhaustive list of sources for the trauma.

The one aspect that you have probably deduced by now is that fear is the major cause of the universal trauma most are experiencing on some levels right now.

PROS and CONS

Fear can help us or cause harm. During all that 2020 has changed in our lives, it means understanding the power of how fear works in us, for the sake of taking care of ourselves the best way we can. With all of the the possible causes of trauma, how our bodies are reacting, plays a huge role in our lives.

As Adventure Collection reminds us, that fear can keep us safe, as “fear acts as an internal danger alarm. It compels you to action and helps you make wise and prudent decisions. Without fear, you wouldn’t live very long because you wouldn’t be aware of or care about the threats around you.”

It is good to know that fear of what could threaten us, during these times, can help us to make the best decisions for ourselves and those we love. However, fear often can get out of control when there are so many avenues for fear and so many others feeling it around us. Social media has added another dimension to how often those worries or panic can stare us in the face.

HOW TO HANDLE THIS

A good starting point, always, is to talk to someone you trust so you’re not keeping all of that trauma and possible fear inside of you as you try to appear strong. The CDC has some great help to know when and who to turn to, if you need more guidance or help.

To find how you can help your mental health feel better, I suggest:

  • Talk About Mental Health: In case you’ve only ever considered your physical health only, know that our thoughts, emotions and a lot of our physical health within us is impacted by our mental health. When mental health isn’t managed well, it can cause responses within our physical wellbeing. What could it hurt to learn more helpful tips for yourself or for those you know and love?
  • Coping with Stress: There is a lot of options offered here, as well, after some more in depth explanations of what you might be feeling due to the pandemic.

As the CDC shares, “You may experience increased stress during this pandemic. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions.” It’s often hard to figure out when fear is helping us or hurting us. Don’t go it alone.

THERE IS HOPE

Just like in the 1930s Depression, universal trauma was felt by those who experienced those hardships, but so have their descendants in certain ways. It’s why my parents’ generation, who were raised by parents who lived during the Depression, made us eat all of our food. Their parents lived in fear of not having enough.

However, as any situation in life that impacts us on a major scale like this, there is hope. We know that it won’t last forever. While at times we may worry that this time will never end. It will. Life has shown us that, as well.

We have so many resources to help us through it:

  • Medical people and scientists are working tirelessly to protect us from COVID-19, and possible cures appear to be working. Just type the possibilities into your Internet search to see for yourself.
  • People have adapted their lives, because we want to survive. Never underestimate the power of the human spirit.
  • We have mental health professionals who can literally help us through managing what we are experiencing, both online and in person.
  • If you’re a person of faith, as I am, you know that God is with you, the Bible is full of God’s promises and truth to rely on, and your minister, pastor or priest along with those who share that faith with you, can be a source of comfort, help and support.

Ultimately, while varying levels of trauma may have already occurred in your life or may come, before this time in our lives moves on, I truly have faith in the strength of who we are as human beings. As long as we do all we can to stay safe, make the best choices for our lives and take care of our minds, bodies and spirits, we may very well look back at 2020 seeing it as the year that made us the strongest versions of ourselves.

While we may have lost much in this year, already, I anticipate a greater future for us all. If you’ve experienced trauma, know that many of us have, providing us all with so many more people to grow with and learn from, once this part of our lives is behind us.

As the realities of life happen, I for one, will never stop dreaming, and I will work daily to make those dreams come true.

Don’t stop having hopes for the future. One of my favorite poets, Langston Hughes, impacted me to dream and to never let go. He inspired me as a young girl greatly, to this day. Coupled with my faith in God, this Bible verse is one I have reminded myself of again and again. May you find comfort in both the poem and words of the Lord. As it says in Jeremiah 29:11, God tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” May this time of trauma propel each of us to pursue our dreams with a passion.

As with all of my blog posts feel free to COMMENT, to FOLLOW my blog and to SHARE. I value you taking the time to read my posts.

My Reflections

WHERE WILL YOU STAND? (Part 4): Community


There is nothing like community.

The Kansas City Metro Area is known for its sense of community. Our strong commitment to our sports teams, to festivals, to the arts, and even to how KC rallies together to support worthy causes. What is a huge population of people on both sides of State Line can often feel like one amazingly beautiful community.

It’s hard to believe that on February 2, 2020 our Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl, fifty years their last championship win. Don’t get me wrong. I was in full-fledged, “Let’s go Chiefs!” mode. However, since that day and the parade that came after, life quickly changed worldwide.

Think back to the start of 2020, when the holidays were over and people felt generally hopeful, as often happens during each new year.

Kansas City Chiefs’ Quarterback Patrick Mahomes volunteering for a local community cause in the fall of 2018.

Live in Kansas City for even a short while and you see pretty fast how much community matters to those who live here. As this year began, the entire area was a constant sea of red as everyone seemed to wear Chiefs’ clothes on most days, and not just on the traditional Chiefs’ Fridays that are typical all football season long, in Kansas City.

Our renowned KC fountains and statues were decorated to show our pride for our team. Chiefs’ flags on homes and vehicles were seen flying everywhere. Even the school where I work had an entire Spirit Week leading up to that important date, as we also showed community support.

That’s community. We came together in force, as a group. We showed the nation and our team that we were all in this together.

When trouble came, our community still acted as one.

Then, nearly 6 weeks after the huge national win, our state and much of the nation was in a lockdown for our lives. Coronavirus hit, rattling every community across America, just as it had in lands all over the globe. Yet, community still remained.

While it physically appeared more like a ghost town atmosphere, with everywhere hunkered down as best as possible and stayed indoors. Businesses of all types found ways to help their employees to work from home or close temporarily. Schools shifted, within a short matter of weeks to teaching remotely for the remainder of the year. All for the cause of community, maintaining as much as we could of the area we love even if we had to operate differently, to save as many of us as possible from the horrible virus.

As restaurants were allowed to remain open with curbside pick up, we formed groups on social media to pull together for these beloved businesses to keep them running. For example, a family owned Mexican restaurant was happily overwhelmed by their already loyal clientele and a plethora of new ones who came in droves to make sure they would still remain when this was all over. From their Facebook page video, it was clear that they felt our love.

While places like the hair salon I use had to stay closed for weeks, clients bought hair products and gift cards that were sent to our homes, to help show our loyalty to the amazing owners and staff in a great variety of ways. Moments like this happened again and again all over the Kansas City area. They knew we were here for them, as they have always been for us.

When we got on the other side of fighting COVID-19, it was clear that our community wanted to not lose what makes us who we are, as much as possible.

We all need a sense of community; it’s ingrained in who we are.

Before a child leaves the womb, parents often find ways to celebrate the upcoming arrival of their new family member. They talk to the baby and get a room, as their family community grows. It’s important that the newborn feels like a part of them right from the start.

From the time shortly after birth we have a tendency to reach out to connect with others. It’s why a newborn holds out their finger and whoever witnesses it takes a hold. It is part of who we are deep within; we want to belong and find acceptance among other human beings.

Our first community is typically our family unit. Even God noticed after making the first man that it wasn’t good for him to be alone. Through that experience, we meet other people in life and continue wanting a sense of belonging, when family isn’t always with us.

With each encounter with others, we naturally look for those who might bond with us. Some of these moments are simply a part of life, such as attending school, while others happen by what appears to be just a matter of circumstances.

Thus, we make connections with people again and again from childhood through the adult years, becoming a part of even more community groups. Friendships, peer groups at work or school, clubs/interest groups, sports and places of worship are just some of the communities in which people normally find themselves. No matter which community you’re a part of, one thing is very true of them all.

The human experience cannot fully be embraced unless we connect with others.

The pandemic made many of us feel a lack of that sense of community dynamic. Thankfully, people are highly adept at being resilient and adaptable as needed to keep community with others.

As each family member is born into it, the family tree grows into a community of individuals tied together through blood, marriage and choice. With dedication and work, each member will also choose to become members of other community groups, as new connections are made which will benefit them in their life journeys.

Just like the newborn scenario above, most people formed stronger bonds with their family unit first. So, it makes sense that as the family unit we are living with during the pandemic spends much more time together, the connections established earlier became reignited in many households. The isolation times have allowed many to reconnect in a variety of ways to help us all to continue managing this unusual time together.

As the pandemic began, there was a sense of global loss of the communities we so often relied upon, in our lives.

Times with colleagues, friends, family who are not living in the same home and so many other groups of communities suddenly were cut off from us. At least it seemed that way, at first.

Though many have had family members, roommates, etc. within their homes during the pandemic, the desire to stay connected to those we have bonded with in other parts of lives caused many to feel a sense of grief. Especially not knowing how long it would be till we all could reconnect again.

To cope with that sense of isolation, once again, resiliency of the human spirit prevailed. Most found ways to show how important community is in our lives.

One of the most well known examples of this deep need for community is this video from Italy that went viral, one of the hardest hit in the world when COVID-19 began attacking with a vengeance.

Even if they couldn’t see one another or be near each other, many of Italy’s people maintained the sense of community as they joined together from their windows or balconies, singing a song that connected them all to one another. It was a beautiful and powerful way to not feel so alone as they collectively went through the trauma of what COVID-19 did to their nation, while feeling determined to get through it as a nation.

Then, as the medical communities everywhere became the heroes fighting tirelessly to save as many as possible from the awful coronavirus as possible, that sense of connection turned into moments like this:

Our medical workers have been working so hard, literally putting themselves in danger like never before, as they’ve endured seeing way too many patients die and becoming heartbroken over loved ones not getting to connect with those who wouldn’t be returning home to them. Meanwhile, the vast majority have remained separated from their families even as I type this blog, out of fear of transmitting COVID-19 to them. So, city after city across America joined forces, without jeodpordizing one another, to let them know their communities are forever grateful and that they matter.

This is why, even though there wasn’t a lot of time, schools quickly adapted to online or remote teaching for students. It wasn’t for safety and academic purposes alone, but it was also for the social aspect of students and teachers interacting and maintaining the connections made over three quarters of the school year. Normally, the last quarter of a school year is when the classroom dynamics of community are at their strongest, so the educational communities everywhere rallied together, as always.

Employees who shifted to working from from home maintained their communities through online meetings. This often shifted into having virtual bonding moments, such as eating lunch together via their screens. Many companies even had traditional or not so traditional versions of Happy Hours to help with the isolation.

I have even done my walks/jogs with others doing the same, as we spoke via bluetooth.

Whether a church is in Oklahoma or New York, people across the globe can connect via church online.

Churches and other houses of worship have even gone online during these times. Some already had services viewable online before the coronavirus, while others have come to realize the importance of it as they quickly worked out ways to go virtual.

As one of the largest community groups worldwide, many of us have found solace in still getting to worship together through our screens. Personally, having that regular part of my community has been a great source of comfort, wisdom and normalcy, praising God, hearing from the pastors and still having opportunities to connect during the week.

Clearly, we may not have the same sense of community now, as we have had in the past, but we have found ways to adapt.

With the family who haven’t been able to safely come together, people have gotten creative. Suddenly, everyone used the gift of video chatting in all its forms to continue those associations with one another with chatting face to face on screens, scheduling times to eat meals in their individual place at the same time, watching one show in their individual homes while chatting and reacting together, and even continuing or starting game nights together.

As a teacher, even with us on summer break, many of us have also stayed connected in some of the above ways. Since most educators are relational people, and with so much up in the air for the new school year, we have reconnected quite a bit. From video chatting to catching up and discussing, to forming groups via social media, to even organizing ourselves to drive to a location, gather and drive by another colleague’s home to wish them a happy birthday, social distancing style we have found our ways.

We all simply crave the need of remaining connected, even if it occurs in what was once unconventional ways.

Waving before leaving a chat has become one noticeable adaptation from the pandemic on video chats with others. Experts explain on a CNN article that “as video calling becomes a default way of communicating during the pandemic, people adjust and adapt their behaviors accordingly — plus they’re craving more of a human connection.”

Not knowing how long the pandemic will continue, and as areas of our country have been phasing in re-openings of businesses, stores and restaurants, allowing more interaction outside homes, it is clear that we will find ways to connect. Why is that?

Communities have traditions that people don’t want to miss.

While schools were in session online, many had Spirit Weeks for when they met with their peers and teachers. Churches have continued finding ways to give to those in need. In our state, many outdoor team sports were allowed with social distancing requirements in place.

The author of this blog has even adjusted to doing multiple virtual races with a community of others all over America.

However, concerts, festivals and in many areas even 4th of July fireworks got cancelled. Those used to doing yearly athletic type of competitions, like 5Ks and 10Ks got cancelled, if they couldn’t operate in a virtual manner.

Even our national sports have adapted. In mid-March, the NLB cancelled the rest of the season. While normally the MLB teams would be playing as usual during this time, they have even changed how they’ve trained, shifted their game schedules and they will likely play to empty stadiums, unless it can be worked out to have some fans join them to cheer when it’s safer.

So much has changed that we have always counted on, in our lives.

In the summer, with people normally traveling or going out locally for fun, the shutdown of Broadway and all things theater nationwide, as with movie theaters, has been just a part of traditions many have missed enjoying. Many vacation spots may open, it can’t be business as usual.

How have we transitioned, as a community?

Suddenly, all of the streaming services added shows and movies sooner than originally planned. Hamilton, the musical, went on Disney+ to bring one of their former Broadway performances to the masses.

Fire pits were a popular add-on to families’ lives as we mostly stayed home, rather than travel during a pandemic.

Families all over the country took money they would have used to possibly travel, to redo their backyards in ways they hadn’t originally planned, to make oases of their own at home. With fire pits to talk around a cozy fire in the evenings and maybe make some s’mores, trampolines to allow children to have fun outdoors safely, and even getting pools from the kiddie type to ones large enough for the whole family, it has made months of being at home better to handle during the hot summer months.

An added bonus to this has been the continued bonding time provided to families, as they bond in ways they’ve enjoyed in the past or by making new traditions.

This couple thought they had to postpone their wedding, until the new online show SOME GOOD NEWS got a little help from their most favorite show’s actors.

One of the largest traditions that caused many people a lot of grief was the loss of their scheduled dates for weddings, proms, graduations and so much more.

That’s until actor John Krasinski started a new phenomenon of a show called SOME GOOD NEWS, using Facebook. There were so many viewers that he had to change to YouTube. People all over the world ended up feeling more connected as they watched famous people connecting with everyday people in a way never done before.

It brought a sense of happiness for many who were struggling with sadness and fear. It was something everyone could watch, and watch they did!

Seeing a heartbroken couple getting married with loved ones included was an amazing moment to witness. Sending an invite to a virtual prom caused major glitches with the show starting later than planned, as John Krasinski found a way to handle the overload of virtual prom attendees and viewers all over the nation. There was even a graduation for all of those feeling the deep loss of milestone traditions. These new way of connecting, and providing what others needed, made a huge difference in the lives of many. That’s community!

Communities are needed more than ever as we continue the fight against COVID-19.

Communities encourage one another. As family and friends have had to face getting tested for the coronavirus, the first thing most have done is reach out to their community of humans. One of my dear friends kept me in the loop from the time she found out she might be infected until the negative response was received. Those going through this need the support, as they face the fear of the what-if.

Communities care about and support one another. Likewise, as people we know have died, potentially without any way to communicate with those they love like I’ve gone through more than once, we need our “people” more than ever before.

The encouragement received was overwhelming and needed. From cards, flowers, and more sent to us, to texts, calls, and video chats with those I know all over the country, each of them were a powerful source of love to us as we knew there was no way to get together and say goodbye to the ones we had lost.

Communities provide a place to belong. From those in our homes, to the towns and cities we live in, to a large group of communities that exist, it helps us to know that while our experiences are different, we are in this together. We are not alone.

A true and healthy community is diverse, but united.

I hope that you have your own community or communities, but if not, may this blog post help encourage you to reach out to others during these times. We live in this world together. During a crisis that has literally impacted our world, community is so important.

A good community makes you a better person, provides balance, as well as genuine bonds through the good and the bad times. Feel free to check out these great tips on 10 Traits That Make a Good Community for more ideas of how to know if a community might be good for you.

My best example of the power of community is Jesus when he walked this Earth. Even those who don’t profess faith in Jesus Christ know that He had 12 disciples. His relationship with these twelve men show that as a group there were many differences among them. However, they supported one another. They defended each other. They cared about each other. While Jesus ministered to others, He didn’t do it alone.

As Coretta Scott King said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

Don’t do life on your own, especially now. Rather than embracing the fear of the unknown, hold fast to those connections to others that are making us all stronger individually and together, through this worldwide collective experience.

May we leave a legacy we can be proud of, of communities that knew or learned how to stand together for the greater good of us all.

As with all of my blog posts feel free to COMMENT, to FOLLOW my blog and to SHARE. I value you taking the time to read my posts.

My Reflections

WHERE WILL YOU STAND? (Part 3): Health


Most people value their own health.

Since the earlier months of 2020, we have been inundated with information about how to remain healthy. However, it has also become a very confusing time to know what’s best for us, to stay healthy in a world still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

How do we know what to believe as truth?During this pandemic, we all are looking for wisdom.

There are parts of staying healthy that still apply today.

Ways to stay healthy before the coronavirus still hold true. Eating well, exercising and regularly maintaining good hygiene have always been in our best interest. Essentially, doing those three things should always continue, whether the coronavirus is still impacting our lives or not.

As for social distancing, we normally tend to do certain things to preserve our own health in public or even in our homes when there’s sickness. We naturally keep ourselves away from those who are sneezing and coughing a lot. If it is apparent someone is feverish, we definitely do our best to keep ourselves from catching it.

Then, it stands to reason that social distancing is important with people moving about in public, when too many don’t yet know if they even have the virus. They may be asymptomatic and pass it on to others, never knowing that they were a catalyst for someone else’s ill health.

This is why so many areas of our country are requiring masks again and strongly modifying or temporarily re-closing certain businesses and events. Valuing the lives of ourselves and of others, as well as doing all we can to have more “normalcy,” should cause more people to do all they can for the good of all of our nation’s citizens.

Mask wearing has become part of the new normal, in 2020.
PHOTO BY RACHEL BASDEN

Most definitely, the coronavirus has caused new ways for us to protect our health.

You may be doing some of the recommendations or mandates put in place where you live. There may be times when you’ve gotten lax from remaining protective. It is possible you’re wondering what more you can do.

WAYS TO REMAIN HEALTHY AT HOME:

  • Staying physically active
  • Looking after our mental health
  • Quitting tobacco
  • Healthy parenting
  • Good eating

Source: World Health Organizing
(clicking on the SOURCE provides more details)

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF & OTHERS:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Avoid close contact
  • Cover mouth & nose with a cloth face cover in public
  • Cover coughs & sneezes
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily
  • Monitory your health daily

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(clicking on the SOURCE provides more details)

At this point, you may be thinking that none of the above is new to you. While that may be true, the virus numbers are rising in areas that didn’t have high numbers before and other areas are showing upticks of those contracting COVID-19 again. Why?

Now is not the time to get lazy.

As humans, we too often allow ourselves to get lazy, and in summer this happens often. While we may have done most of the preventable measures even before COVID-19, these times need us all to stay diligent in all the above areas.

Think about it. Which ones of these scenarios have you noticed in recent weeks?

* People going into stores and/or businesses without masks
* Large groups gathering together in public places
* Those exercising outdoors and not maintaining enough distance from others
* Visiting friends and/or family members without social distancing and/or wearing masks

Single experiences like these may not amount too many health problems for people, but with summer, too many are doing the above. Summer is usually when we want to just let loose. No matter the season, the cases in our country rising and governments trying to enforce the precautionary measures once again are occurring, when all we want is for times to improve.

Some aspects of staying healthy are within our control, but there are always unknowns.

I won’t bombard you with all of the possible unknowns that the pandemic has caused. The radio, tv, social media, people we talk to and so many other sources provide us with enough panic of what could or may happen. It’s too easy to allow ourselves to give into fear.

Even if you are not a Bible reader, Matthew 6:27 has great advice: “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” No, it doesn’t. It only worsens our mental health, which impacts our physical health if we allow ourselves to become overwhelmed with the distress that worries instill.

This is not to say that we should not focus on the parts of life that are bad and that we need to know about, but it’s important to not obsess or overload our minds. That’s true any time of the year.

When it comes to our health, it is important to not put all of our attention on only the physical part of ourselves alone.

Most people are better aware of the importance of managing our mental health, but we still don’t do as much as we should. As real as our physical health is, the mental part of us is equally and at times even more essential.

What you feed your mind with the most is what your mind focuses on the most. When the mind has enough true, real and good information to zone in on, it allows the mind, soul and body to boost itself up, both mentally and physically. It provides balance during tough times.

Whether there is a pandemic or not, there are always ways to focus on positive, joyful aspects of life. Need some ideas?

Below are 215 of them included below from “215 Things to Be Thankful For in Life (Even if You’re Struggling)” which you can click on to find even more resources.

  1. Holidays where you can spend time with the important people in life.
  2. Having a romantic partner or spouse who is there for you
  3. Being surrounded by friends and family
  4. Your children
  5. Having access to clean, drinkable water
  6. Not being hungry and having an abundance of food
  7. Having a roof over your head and safe place to live
  8. Your parents who raised and molded you in the person you are today
  9. Kindness from strangers and random acts of kindness
  10. Mistakes that helped you grow as a person
  11. Modern conveniences that weren’t available even a century ago (electricity, indoor plumbing, air conditioning)
  12. Having full use of your senses like eye-sight, hearing, and taste
  13. A new book
  14. Not being hungry and having an abundance of food
  15. The ability to learn something new
  16. The kindness of strangers
  17. A warm campfire on a cold night camping
  18. Feeling of acceptance
  19. The beauty of a work of art that moves you
  20. Making a final payment on a loan
  21. A nice hot shower
  22. Healthy foods
  23. Equality and diversity
  24. The voice of a friend or relative you have not seen in a long time.The ability to work from home -in your pajamas
  25. A beautiful sunrise
  26. The sound of a song you love
  27. Simply relaxing and playing a board game with friends or family
  28. Catching up with your favorite blog
  29. Having a personal routine that helps you accomplish tasks efficiently
  30. The smell of freshly baked cookies
  31. Creating a gift for a family member with your own two hands. (crochet, woodworking, art etc.)
  32. Surprises
  33. Access to the medication you need to stay healthy.
  34. Free time on your “to do” list
  35. A hot cup of tea
  36. A home that is free of clutter
  37. The sincere appreciation of others
  38. A movie that makes you laugh
  39. Amazon Prime
  40. The mother who gave you life, nurtured you, loved you, taught you and supported you.
  41. Seeing your favorite band in concert
  42. Free apps like Todoist that can organize your life
  43. An ice cold beer after a hot day working in the yard.
  44. Questions in emails that can be resolved in a single sentence (this one always makes me happy.)
  45. New clothes
  46. The joy of rewarding yourself after completing a difficult task.
  47. The values handed down to you from your parents
  48. Entrepreneurs who constantly create technology that makes your life better
  49. Love that lasts a lifetime
  50. A really comfortable chair
  51. Realizing it has been YEARS since you have wanted a cigarette
  52. Knowing how to make a budget – and sticking to it!
  53. Visiting an amusement park.
  54. Snow days
  55. Respect from others
  56. Paydays
  57. Dancing for the pure joy of life
  58. Someone enjoying your writing/art/creativity
  59. When you’re the recipient of a random act of kindness.
  60. Thank you notes
  61. Fresh popcorn — especially in a movie theater
  62. A favorite memory that you cherish
  63. An office desk with a great view
  64. Pizza
  65. The sense of accomplishment when you complete a difficult task
  66. The ability to complete a bucket list (If you don’t have one, here are 553 ideas.)
  67. Puppies
  68. The feeling of uncontrollable laughter.
  69. Great Ted Talks
  70. Being pushed to “think outside the box”
  71. A massage
  72. Teachers who spent the extra time to give you the knowledge you have today
  73. Taking a morning walk
  74. Bathing in a nice warm hot tub or thermal spring
  75. Fuzzy socks
  76. Your dog or cat snuggling with you when you feel bad
  77. Faith
  78. Having easy access to clean drinking water
  79. Chocolate
  80. The ability to spend time on a hobby you love
  81. Enjoying an episode of your favorite TV show
  82. Hugs
  83. The ability to learn from your mistakes
  84. A stranger opening the door for you when your hands are full
  85. The fresh smell of clean sheets
  86. Freedom of speech
  87. Coloring to relieve stress
  88. A colorful sunset
  89. The honesty of a child
  90. Happy people who make us happier simply by their presence
  91. The feeling of accomplishment when you stop procrastinating and complete the task you have been avoiding
  92. Memories of your first kiss
  93. Enjoying a movie marathon
  94. The freedom of choice
  95. Internal strength
  96. A child’s face after they get a present
  97. Spellchecker
  98. Being in love
  99. Foreign cultures we can visit and learn from
  100. Having a vibrant imagination
  101. Meeting up with your friends for lunch
  102. That new car smell
  103. Being accountable for your actions
  104. Trying new things. (even if it is simple – like a new cup of coffee)
  105. Old photographs
  106. Technology – for allowing us to stay closely connected with friends and family regardless of distance
  107. Netflix and other streaming service options that provide an abundance of viewing options
  108. A safe landing after a rough plane ride
  109. Positivity — even when things are difficult
  110. Visiting new places, especially ones you’ve always dreamed of seeing
  111. Getting a full night’s sleep (If you struggle with this, then here are 17 ways to fall asleep easier.)
  112. Home cooked meals
  113. The pride of owning a home.
  114. The first flower of Spring
  115. Home cooked meals
  116. The pride of owning a home.
  117. The first flower of Spring
  118. Having a morning routine that gives you energy throughout your day.
  119. The weekend
  120. Happy memories from your childhood
  121. A unseasonably warm winter day
  122. Long drives listening to a great podcast or audiobook
  123. Therapy
  124. Real honesty
  125. People who care about the environment, human rights, and animas
  126. Meditation
  127. Your car after it has been cleaned and detailed
  128. Getting a facial
  129. Grandparents
  130. Being forgiven for my mistakes
  131. Finding unexpected money in your pockets
  132. Sitting down for dinner time with family
  133. Aromatherapy
  134. The fresh smell of a Christmas tree
  135. The snooze button
  136. A sibling who listens to your problems without judgement
  137. Kittens
  138. Acting like a kid again
  139. Sharing a smile with a stranger
  140. Overcoming your fears
  141. Fall when the leaves change colors
  142. Going for a swim in the ocean
  143. People who go out of their way to try to make us happy
  144. Clean air
  145. Apps that help you save money (Here are 17 good ones)
  146. Dreamers who never give up
  147. The sounds and smell of the ocean
  148. Fresh healthy smoothies
  149. Good hair days
  150. Uncontrollable laughter
  151. Having a mental health day
  152. The heavy ozone scent right before and after a thunderstorm
  153. Driving and getting nothing but green lights
  154. Cell phones
  155. Spending the night in a fancy hotel
  156. God
  157. Blinkist
  158. A warm cup of coffee
  159. Doing something spontaneous
  160. Getting your most important task completed early
  161. Cheering for your favorite team
  162. Having a picnic with your family
  163. Wearing something that makes your feel confident
  164. Wearing a pair of comfortable shoes
  165. Getting positive feedback from other
  166. Poetry
  167. Having a roof over your head
  168. Doing work that matters
  169. Taking a power nap
  170. Discussing old time times with an old friend
  171. Participating in a hobby you enjoy
  172. Watching a funny Youtube video
  173. Having the ability to read
  174. Having good friends who you can share good times with
  175. Quirky family traditions
  176. Craft beer
  177. Couponing, travel hacking, and other unique ways to drastically save money
  178. The convenience of Amazon shopping
  179. Feeling hope
  180. Feeling inspired (If you don’t feel inspired, then here are 23 motivational podcasts that can help)
  181. Laughing so hard it makes you cry
  182. Healthy children
  183. Forgiving others
  184. The perfect playlist (Check out these 35 motivational songs you can add to this list)
  185. The smell of lavender
  186. My Fitbit pedometer
  187. Peace of mind
  188. The successes and accomplishments that you’ve achieved in your life
  189. Money in the bank
  190. Family vacation
  191. Good health
  192. Time to practice mindfulness
  193. The amazing scale of the universe
  194. Flying a kite
  195. Hearing good news
  196. Lists and organization
  197. Kindle
  198. Refreshing herbal teas
  199. Air conditioning
  200. Hiking trails where you can get out into nature
  201. A sincere apology from someone who hurt you deeply
  202. Honest conversations full of deep questions and getting to know someone better
  203. Showers with strong water pressure
  204. Walking on the beach
  205. Quiet time
  206. Free Wifi
  207. Overcoming anxieties
  208. Journaling (Here are 59 ideas to help you get started)
  209. Farmer’s markets and local craft fairs
  210. Books so awesome they keep you up all night reading
  211. Apple pie
  212. Feeling like a kid again
  213. The billions of stars on a clear night sky
  214. Remembering the people you have loved
  215. People sharing your stuff on social media

On a final note, it is always better for our health when we live in community with others.

Never forget the power of talking to or interacting with friends or family. If you can’t access those people in person, the pandemic has shown us all the power of virtual meetings online. There are forums like Facebook Messaging which are free to other sources like Zoom which are free for 45 minute intervals or allow for larger chatting or interacting time for a fee.

Whether life is difficult or you’re experiencing something wonderful, having connections with others is good for our health.

What about times, like late at night when it might be more difficult? Never underestimate the power of talking to God, even if it’s your first time or you don’t feel like you’re on good terms with Him.

As this verse in Psalm reminds us, no matter what we are going through, God will always be with us, everywhere we go and at any time. May that provide some peace to your health.

We are all better TOGETHER. Let’s stay safe for the sake of ourselves and others. We are all truly in this journey of life together. Let’s make the most of it.

As with all of my blog posts feel free to COMMENT, to FOLLOW my blog and to SHARE. I value you taking the time to read my posts.

My Reflections

WHERE WILL YOU STAND? (Part 2): Emotions


Emotions are part of our everyday existence.

We can all relate to having an emotional attachment to something or someone and noticing that attachment everywhere. For example, a child wants a dog and is trying desperately to convince their parents to get them one. So, they seem to become obsessed, noticing every dog that shows up on the shows they watch and the ones they see in public.

Were there suddenly more dogs around? Not likely. The child simply has their emotions tied up strongly to their desire for a dog.

With couples, ideas of children and parenthood are common. Maybe they are trying to have their first child. Maybe they’re waiting for a birth mother to choose them as the adoptive parents. Perhaps, the couple isn’t ready for a child yet or at all, but others are pressuring them with questions of when they will have a baby. Whatever the situation, the said couple cannot seem to help but notice pregnant women everywhere or couples interacting with their child/children.

Why? The emotions of the couple are wrapped up on a strong desire to become parents or to remain childless. Either way, situations like these are usually full of emotional reactions.

Selective Attention or Attentional Control are why our emotions can cause our bodies to react this way. Essentially, each day we are overloaded with so many things to occupy our attention.

Imagine you’re walking your dog through the neighborhood. You notice the houses you’re passing by, the way the sky looks, the joggers and cyclists, the sound of kids laughing in a yard somewhere and for some reason, you happen to zone in on one person sitting outside their home looking sad.

Why? Normally, our mind will choose to gravitate to where our emotions are, when too much is around us to focus our thoughts.

It’s likely that a source of sadness that you’ve experienced during the pandemic caused your emotions to pay more attention to the sad person, since you could relate.

Emotions have power.

Take the same scenario of walking the dog above, only instead of a dog you are walking through the neighborhood with your early elementary school aged child. While you go through the same walk, your child who is aware that the pandemic has changed life but doesn’t fully understand it strongly enough as an adult, gravitates to the laughter of kids in a yard.

Your child then says, “Hey, hear that?! When we get back home, can you run through the sprinklers with me? Wouldn’t that be fun?!”

What’s the difference? Whether we are an adult or a child, we have power to control which thoughts and emotions to concentrate on more rather than allowing our emotions and thoughts to empower us in a negative way.

Maybe you’ve gotten the coronavirus or possibly, you’ve lost loved one during these times.

Perhaps you are a person of color, as I am, and your heart, mind and soul keeps breaking over all of the injustices that are still occurring.

You may have felt inadequate in one of your roles at work, home, or in any area trying to navigate the new ways of life since the pandemic became more real for our country.

There may be exhaustion setting in, as you haven’t had a break or vacation for far too long and all you want is some way to temporarily escape and have some fun for a while, but it isn’t possible.

I can go on with a myriad of scenarios that can apply to just about anyone, but the point is that mental health is super important and you have a good deal of power to stay mentally healthy.

This video is Renée Elise Goldsberry from the musical Hamilton, as performed on Broadway and more recently shown on Disney+. Watch this brief video explaining the concept of the power you have within you.

Emotions can lead our thoughts astray or steer us onto the best paths.

That one minute video says a lot. The creator of that musical who also played the main character of Alexander Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, shows this very clearly. In a nutshell, Hamilton was a minority having been born and raised on the island of St. Kitts. He arrived in what would be America, an orphan with nothing, who had also witnessed his own mother’s death. Yet, he saw all of the pain of what was happening in this land and asked himself the questions referred to in the video above.

Rather, Alexander Hamilton said POWERFUL statements like the following:

He could have given into so many negative emotions, wasting away his life and just survive.

He could easily have said, “What’s the use? This is too much. I’m just one person. I don’t even have any family with me.”

Instead, he saw that he was alive, intelligent and resourceful and chose to seize the moments being given to him. To stay focused on the positive emotions that were telling him, “Go for it!”

You can gain control.

I don’t know your situation, but we all have the power to take the reins of our emotions and thoughts, which while clearly different are also heavily intertwined, and decide what will have power in us. Even during a worldwide pandemic that is still shaking up people’s lives, this holds true.

As Galatians 5:22-23 reminds us, we can have these as our points of focus. They can change even the worst of situations:

  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-Control

Use your emotions to be the best you.

Hamilton Theme

Two major themes of both the musical and of the good that many have done during the pandemic is this concept.

As a Puerto Rican Christian woman, a wife, a mother, a teacher, a business owner, I know that my life impacts others. During these times, our lives’ impacts matter all the more.

Whether we like it or not, we are living a part of history. People will look back on these times we are living to see how we handled them. What will they learn from us?

Hamilton Theme

We can be complainers or encouragers.

We can be hopeless or hopeful.

We can be bystanders or world changers.

We can be blind to reality or stand up for those who need us.

None of the above are easy, but it’s up to each of us to rise up!

You’ve got the power!

Maybe you have been already been managing your emotions fairly well. I’m proud of you! That isn’t easy when life is full of so many unknowns.

Alexander Hamilton (in the musical) makes this powerful statement.

Possibly, you may have reached this point and wish you had maintained your emotions better than you did. Or you may think you haven’t done enough to help yourself and/or others.

The great fact is that you have power. You truly do!

Moving forward there are still many ways to shift your emotions for your well being and that of those around you. It’s not too late.

And know that this doesn’t mean that you can’t have negative emotions. They are just as important to have at certain moments, as long as they are not where you remain.

With so much ahead of us to accomplish as a people, living in times that are not ones any of us have lived through before, our mental health matters very much.

As writer Joshua Becker wrote on this subject:

These realities [Selective Attention or Attentional Control] extend to almost every possible response toward life, no matter the circumstances:

  • If you’re looking for reasons to be scared, you’ll find them.
  • If you’re looking for reasons to be mad, you’ll find them.
  • If you’re looking for reasons to be encouraged, you’ll find them.
  • If you’re looking for reasons to be grateful, you’ll find them.
  • If you’re looking for reasons to be confident, you’ll find them.
  • If you’re looking for reasons to be pessimistic about the future, you’ll find them.
  • If you’re looking for reasons to be optimistic about the future, you’ll find them.

If you are looking for a reason to be x, you will probably find it.

YOU have the power. YOU can decide. YOU can act. YOU can make the journey better.

Life is yours, so don’t lose focus.

For me, I find this a great source of help as I journey through life, no matter what happens.

Whether you believe in God or not, the concepts of this Bible verse still has powerful truths.

Focus on what you are thankful for.

Focus on speaking praise to those who deserve it and need it.

Focus on good when life gets bad; balance is good.

Focus on love. Those you love and those who love you.

Focus on holding on to faith, to believe in what you can’t see knowing that it’s coming, for this generation and for all the ones that will follow us.

Hope is powerful! Though life is hard and often can be VERY HARD, we humans are quite resilient and resourceful.

While New York City still has the most amount of victims of COVID-19 in our nation, and there is still a world of pain there, take solace in this video and maybe find a song of your own that makes you happy and fills you with hope. Then, go and do all you can to make this world a better place.

One hundred churches in the NYC Metro Area participated in the making of this amazing video, including my friend Efren Seldura.

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My Reflections

WHERE WILL YOU STAND? (Part 1): Faith


The ground moved under our feet, all too quickly.

As a teacher, this summer break has been very different. Before the summer of 2020, summer has often included times of fun with others, a possible vacation away, and moments to relax, refresh and rejuvenate after a school year of teaching. It meant more carefree times. Instead, at least for my family, we have been largely isolated to do our best to stay safe from COVID-19.

Our schools were only three days into Spring Break, before the nation was essentially locked down. Life, as we had known it, had changed and it felt like someone had kicked our collective knees out from under us. We knew the virus had impacted the eastern part of the world, but too many of us believed or hoped that it would never land here.

Suddenly, we all began to feel unsteady.

Within two weeks, we shifted from traditional learning within school buildings to teaching and learning remotely online from the youngest of students in elementary school through colleges and universities. Educators, students and families all had to shift accordingly.

Businesses, of all types, began closing down. Those who were fortunate enough were able to shift into working from home. Food and supplies became scarce in stores, as hysteria appeared to take over and people began buying in large quantities with the intentions of hoarding. Medical workers and grocery store workers became heroes, but they also were getting put at great risk, even with governments setting up mandatory face mask wearing protocols when out in public.

Without knowing what the future held, as a worldwide pandemic made it to our hemisphere, fear set in among our citizens, right here in America.

The virus changed our world, and we didn’t know what would shift next.

Prior to the official start of summer, I lost my mother and my grandmother in a matter of two weeks due to COVID-19, each having died in two different states while I was in a completely other state. There would be no time to gather with others to console one another. There would be no memorials or funerals, with hopes for the ability to do this in the future. This would follow about a month later with the loss of my father-in-law and us joining the memorial virtually.

Losses like this are HUGE under normal circumstances. This time though, we couldn’t count on the typical traditions we would typically count on during times like this, ones that often help to bring us comfort and support.

One thing I learned during those times, and as I continue to learn as we move forward, is that the virus has most definitely changed the world and how we are living. However, there are still constants that exist, in spite of the virus, ones I knew I could depend on strongly for the comfort and support I needed.

In my own home, my immediate family (both human and animal) were able to listen and help us process. They were able to provide hugs when we broke down in grief. When needed, they stayed near when all we could do was just sit quietly and allow ourselves to feel, think, and remember without any interference.

The virus changed our world, BUT FAMILY rallied together.

The gift of technology proved to play a huge part in helping us through the healing. We were able to spend time talking or texting on our phones, and more importantly video chatting with the rest of our family no matter where we each live in the country. In a time of isolation from most, this was a HUGE comfort and helped us to process further with those who also knew these important members of our lives. We felt like we could stand more steadily, after that.

As our entire life largely shifted to staying at homes and outside on our properties, many great and unexpected changes began to happen. This wasn’t just in our home, but also in the homes of many families’ living all over the country. Life began to slow down for most of us. We were having more time together, to engage more with one another, to make have actual home cooked meals more regularly and together, and our pets loved having us around more.

The need for using apps, like Zoom, caused many to catch up and stay more in touch with family and friends whether they lived a few houses down or across the country or globe. It appeared the gift of time had helped us remember that who is in our lives matter more than what is in our lives.

Life wasn’t entirely what we knew, and like most of you, I needed to find a firmer place to stand with so many unknowns ahead.

You see, way before COVID-19 ever emerged, my biggest comfort and support was one I was already very familiar with and one that had never let me down, even in the toughest of times . . . GOD.

I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord  himself watches over you!The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever. PSALM 121:1-8

From the first time I ever knew troubled times existed in life, and every time since, God has been there. He was the One who has always held me close when I’ve cried out to Him. He was the One who has let me scream at Him when I have been frustrated or angry. He was the One who brought the perfect people to me, at just the right moments when I needed them. He was the One who reminded me of so many truths that not only have lasted the test of time through centuries, but have lasted the test of time in my own life from a very young age.

Getting my legs back didn’t change a lot of what was out of my control, but it helped me stand so much stronger.

I found myself using the time that was now freed up to talk with God a lot more. The ability to pray to the One who knows far more than any human ever could know, provided me with immense peace.

This peace was with me when my mother was in the hospital for over a week, without knowing what the outcome would be. It was with me on the morning of Mother’s Day when I learned of my grandmother’s death and soon followed by my father-in-law. It stayed with me as I did all I could to teach from my home, in a way that was not how any of us expected to finish the final quarter of the year that I was still reaching and supporting my students. That peace reminded me to trust my Lord and those He put in my life.

This peace was with me, anytime fear rose up over the unknowns of living life with the coronavirus now in it. Remembering Bible verses were a source of strength and peace. Having the luxury to read the Bible for longer periods of time provided me with peace like even my favorite novel cannot do. Talking and listening to God, in prayer, however and whenever I needed has kept me standing strong.

The virus changed our world, BUT GOD has never changed.

Little would any of us know that life would still have curveballs to throw at us. While my faith is usually strong, it doesn’t mean I don’t feel afraid. Every human does. With 24/7 news and social media providing continuous information and misinformation, along with photos and/or videos, faith has been the key to my mind, heart and soul remaining tethered through it all.

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,”he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,”he said, “why did you doubt?”MATTHEW 14:28-31

There’s a part in the Bible, in Matthew 14, when Jesus sends His disciples to get into a boat while He dispersed the crowd of people they just finished miraculously providing for with food none of them had. Imagine the fear of hundreds of people not knowing when their next meal would be. Yet, Jesus provided for their needs and probably saved so many lives that day. He also increased the people’s faith that God saw them, God knew what they needed and God could provide.

Then, those disciples got into the boat knowing Jesus would catch up with them. After just seeing the miracle of food simply appearing in their baskets to give out until every mouth was fed, it was clear that had God seen them, God knew what they needed and God provided. Then, rather than waiting to catch up with the disciples on the other side or by following in another boat, Jesus was standing on the lake water itself and asking Peter to trust Him and walk to Him, on that lake.

What does this have to do with the coronavirus?

That moment has everything to do with the pandemic that we are still living with, in our nation and across the globe. Peter took initial steps of faith in Jesus Christ as he began to walk towards Him, but then suddenly, the human he was saw the wind blowing and his eyes went off Jesus and most likely looked at the water as he freaked out and cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Even then, the Lord saw what happened, saw the need and provided. Jesus reached out His hand and caught Peter. He knew Peter had faith, but like us, Peter also struggled during times of “rough waters”.

We have moments when we feel more at peace, as though God or even humans, have life more in control. We feel completely comforted and in full faith that life will work out and there’s no need to worry.

Then, we see the numbers rising again of those testing positive for the virus. We see that the new school year is right around the corner and worry as an educator, as a parent or loved one of a school age person or as all of the above. Masks are required to be worn again and some businesses have to close temporarily again, while others do so for good, not being able to handle the lack of money anymore. Events that were looked forward to get cancelled and sports are making major changes, as well.

We read, hear, or see all of that. Then, we have moments when even though we are still alive and may even have what we need, we feel our faith dropping. Like Peter, as changes continue to occur through these times, and we feel the wind moving and the water beneath our feet, we realize that while we may have faith, we also feel better feeling and touching the realities we are used to around us.

The virus is not greater than God.

This is why talking and listening to God, reading His Word for instruction, for guidance, for assurance, for wisdom, for how to handle whatever comes in life is so vastly important.

God is always with us, whether we acknowledge His existence or not. He sees us. He knows what we need. He provides.

His provision may not always make sense to us, like when Thomas the disciple saw Jesus alive again, after His resurrection, and needed further physical proof it was Him. Then after some time of rejoicing over His return, those who had seen Him after rising from the dead, soon came to realize that Jesus had to return to the Father. Imagine the immense confusion and hurt that brought on, not knowing when they would see Him again. Yet, their stories continue on with greater moments of faith that changed the lives of so many people in the world for His glory.

As it indicated in this Bible verse, we are truly blessed when we have faith, belief in God, when we cannot physically see His presence before us.

Why? Because, God knew that this pandemic would occur. He knew that we would be afraid at times, whether we have faith in Him or varying degrees of faith in Him, at times.

YET . . . GOD is far greater than anything life throws our way, even the coronavirus.

The virus doesn’t take away our faith.

For those of you who struggle to have any faith in God at all, the amazing fact is that we all have faith in something or someone at different points in life. While each of us continue to live our lives as best we can, He still sees us, knows what we need and provides for us.

When the dark news related to the coronavirus interferes with our lives, we continue to keep looking for the light. Most humans can’t seem to help it.

No matter what unknowns will come our way, pandemic or not, don’t give up. Have faith. It helps us to stand firmer, to keep going and to remember that better times will come.

The light exists and will always outshine the darkness.

Stay tune for the next part of this blog series. Keep the faith.

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My Reflections

FEAR HAS ARRIVED ON A GLOBAL SCALE . . . BUT


Feeling lead to type this to whoever is meant to read it. I feel like the Lord is testing His people with the fact that coronavirus has caused across the globe. How? He wants us to remain vigilant in the hope we must always hold onto, remember that our hope is in the Lord. He loves. He sees. He is working.

He wants His people to pray on behalf of humanity and believe that He knows what He’s doing. While yes, there is sickness and death, the true harm is the fear. He says to us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. ” – John 14:37

The enemy wants fear to spread like wildfire. Sound familiar? It has indeed been doing so, worldwide. Humans fear the unknown. That’s normal. We are finite, but God is infinite.

We need to trust Him. We need to trust the medical community. We need to get more comfortable with the unknown, because unknowns are not going to go away.

They’re all around us. But, look around. We still love. We still live. We still connect with people, with life and we keep going. It’s who we are.

Hope lives. Yes, fear is real, but hope and love is what has always made situations better and made us finite beings better.

When we don’t have the wisdom we want so badly, like when we were children, we must trust those who know more, who have the wisdom we don’t have.

As 1 Corinthians 13:13 tells us, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

When fear seems to overtake us, these are some words from the Bible that have often helped me:

• Psalm 91

• Ephesians 6: 11-17

• 1 Corinthians 13

For those who doubt God’s existence or anything about Him, we’ve all at least experienced unknowns in our life that have scared us immensely. Many of us have also come out on the other side of those experiences.

Stay hopeful. Trust those who know more than we know. Then, breathe and remember you’re alive. Alive for a reason and live.

As often as the clouds come and can seem to overcome the beautiful blue sky we want to see, we tend to try and focus on the blue breaks in the clouds. That’s hope. That’s what keeps us hanging on, when the clouds cause us to only see dark skies. Hanging on to the truth that the clouds (or the fear) will disperse and that the sky (hope) will appear fully again is belief, belief that life will be good again. It’s not that we don’t see the clouds. It’s that we refuse to give in to them. Hope. Photo By Rachel Basden

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