Thursday, May 22, 2014

Gettin' in the Flow

Proverbs 4:25
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
Valerie Burton calls it "flow", but I call it "focus". You've probably had one of those moments- the one where everything just falls into place and you are working on something, devoting your all, with no interruptions and nothing to sway you from your purpose.
I used to have those moments a lot, but not so much lately.
One of the things that my daughter hates to do the most is clean house with me. There I will be cleaning the living room when I make a stack of old magazines to throw away. I go to the trashcan and the trashcan is full, so of course I have to take the time to empty it. I can't have just a HALF bag of trash, so I empty ALL of the trashcans in the house. Then I have to take out the garbage. I sweep and vacuum the floors, but there are spots in the kitchen floor that really need mopping, so I dig out the mop. The spots won't come up, so I end up on my knees scrubbing away.
See a pattern?
I always thought that I was focused on one task- cleaning. After reading this week's chapter of Happy Women Live Better I now realize that I am allowing myself to be distracted from the task at hand. I may have set out with the purpose of just cleaning the living room, but I end up like the Energizer bunny, going....going.....going.....from one small thing to another, until either I don't see anything else that can be done or I simply collapse from exhaustion.
It isn't just cleaning that distracts me either. I have always been a "list person". Even if I don't take the time to actually write the list down or enter it into my cell phone notes, my mental list is still there. I really MUST get these 5 things completed today! Then I end up rushing from one thing to the next, trying desperately to check those things off my list.
The problem is that I am not taking the time to actually ENJOY anything that I am doing. I do it quickly; I do it concisely. Then I move to the next task. That list is always there looming in my mind, taunting me with the number of things that I have YET to finish.
So... what is the alternative?
Turn off that cell phone, unplug that television, and take the time to really devote your full attention to one task. FIND YOUR FLOW!
For me, the one time these days when I really "flow" is when I am doing some type of crafting. Just this past weekend I found myself, early on a Sunday morning in my silent craft room as the rest of the house slept. I needed a graduation card THAT DAY and I was determined to make it myself. A quick search on the internet and I found a card that I could use as a model. For the next hour or so I cut paper, folded it, cut more paper, trimmed, glued, and assembled until finally I had finished the card. I did not realize how long I had been working because I actually allowed myself to enjoy it!
The result?
THIS card.....
which my daughter says is her favorite card of all that I have ever created. (I secretly think it is probably one of my favorites too.)
I think that I need to do things like this more often. Crafting has always relieved my stress and now I know why- it makes me happier! I need to allow myself to truly put my eyes in one direction and not allow the stresses of today's to-do list or the dust around me to sway me from my purpose. I need to give myself a silent "ok" to focus on crafting something with my hands because the dust will still be there later.
What about you? What do you focus on that gives you happiness? What do find yourself lost in, savoring the moment and making you a happier YOU? I would love to hear your comments!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

REAL Connection

I sat down this week to read about the next trigger in my Happy Women Live Better book: connection. One glance at the subtitle of the chapter, "Why you are less connected, more anxious, and have fewer close friends than women in previous generations", and I knew that this chapter would hit home with ME!

I have often felt that I was born in the wrong generation. I have always wanted to be one of those women with a back fence and a friend to share recipes with, chat over the day's happenings, and discuss life's latest hurdles. I long for those Sunday afternoons like the ones I remember from my childhood: my brothers and I would play with the neighbor children while Dad played a friendly game of horseshoes with the minister and whatever male neighbor dropped by, Mom would sit on the porch chit-chatting with the minister's wife and the neighbor from the corner.

Those days are gone----

My children are growing up with schedules of their own: academic competitions, athletic practices, club meetings. My husband and I sometimes have 12 hour days at work due to meetings, groups, and trainings. When we do come home we bring stacks of paperwork with us. Sunday afternoons are now the time to squeeze in a quick nap before tackling lesson plans for the upcoming school week and grading a few more papers.

There are times when I feel more like one of these:

running, running, running...... but never really getting anywhere.

With all of that running, it becomes very difficult to make REAL connections. Even in today's world of email, texting, Facebook, and Twitter, our conversations are short and to the point. Few people take the time to write handwritten notes because it is so much easier to just text a swift- How R U?

Last week I did my own sort of personal experiment to see if the younger generation could really appreciate something that they had never received- a hand written, from the heart message. I sat down with a stack of blank cards to write a personal message for each of my eighth grade students prior to our end-of-year testing. With almost 60 to write, I paced myself, composing 8 to 10 a day until they were finished. Some of them came easier than others. Some of them were more personal and detailed, but the important thing was that each card was meant to be an actual connection between me and that particular student.

On Friday of last week, I distributed the cards at a gathering. Four students were absent that day and did not receive their cards, leaving about 53 who did. When the students left at the end of the school day I went back to the small auditorium to pick up the cards that were left behind. I knew that there would be some, but I was pleasantly surprised. As I wandered up and down the rows of seats, I found only 5 cards that were left, carelessly tossed in the floor, in the crack between chairs, or behind a cushion.

Most heartwarming to me were the comments that I received: "Thank you, Mrs. Baker", "Mrs. Baker, you almost made me cry", and even a thank you from a mother whose son actually took his card home and shared it with her.

What does this show? Connections CAN be made in today's society (even with that so-hard-to-reach younger generation). We can connect with those around us, sharing our heartfelt messages. We only need to make the time.

Valorie Burton offers the following advice in her book:
  • Stop typing and start talking- Pick up the phone and actually speak to a person rather than texting. Better yet, go visit them in person and spend some time REALLY talking.
  • Make eye contact- This one speaks for itself. Look the person in the eye; that is the first connection that needs to be made.
  • Get out of the house- Actually get out into the world and spend time with others. If you are not WITH them, how can you CONNECT with them?
 A real connection is sharing from the heart. God offers the following words about loving others in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 It is this type of connection that will truly create happiness within us. It is that type of connection that we need more of in today's world!

I challenge you to go out today and try to make a connection with someone that you spend a lot of time with- someone that you may not REALLY know. Look that person in the eye, take the time to listen to what he or she has to say, and then share your heartfelt thoughts with them. 

You never know what a difference a connection can make. Those students who I wrote notes to last week? As I walk down the hallways this week, I have noticed more of them greeting me with a, "Good morning Mrs. Baker." More of them give me a smile and stop to share personal thoughts or comments. They seem happier and I know that I am! Maybe the notes that I wrote have something to do with it- maybe not, but I like to think that my efforts at connecting with them on a more personal level have helped us all!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

There is Still Time....

I just wanted to take a minute to remind everyone about my gratitude giveaway.

There is still time to get your name entered in the drawing.

Go to This Post and be sure to post a comment. That will enter you into the drawing. The giveaway closes at midnight tonight and I will select the journal winner tomorrow. BE SURE to leave a comment so I will know that you are following my blog.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Giving Thanks...... and a little something else

I find myself in the midst of a tough season right now. It is the end of the school year and I am once again preparing students for the upcoming end of year testing. My students are tired and I am tired, but we MUST keep working. By the end of the day when I finally arrive home I am exhausted. Last night I sat down on the couch with my sweet daughter to unwind with a bit of television. The next thing I knew the phone rang and I found myself jolted from a restful sleep. Later I asked Kari how long I had been asleep and she said, "At least an hour and a half." I would like to think that she was using hyperbole with that statement, but to be honest, she could very well be right.

This week's happiness trigger in Valorie Burton's book was gratitude. I hate to say it, but sometimes I find myself so caught up in the day to day tasks, stresses, and routines that I do not always take the time to stop and reflect on the many things that I have to be grateful for. I see the big things: salvation, a home, a job, a loving family, but it is EASY to see those things. It is the little things, those tiny blessings that flutter into our lives like butterflies- those are things that are easy to overlook because they can come and go so quickly.

Because of this we must take the time to truly focus and reflect on the day- to think about those things that blessed us throughout the course of our day, to consider WHY they are important to us, and how they make our lives better. Valorie suggests keeping a Gratitude journal and doing our reflection at the end of the day. Write down 3 things from that day that you are thankful for. Don't just list them! Explain what those 3 blessings mean to you. Why ARE THEY blessings?

Why is that so important? Of course, the Bible tells us to give thanks to God, but in giving that thanks it also helps us to become happier. It helps us to recognize what we TRULY DO HAVE! I came across a quote from Oprah Winfrey that reads:

It is true. Negativity and continuing to focus on what we THINK we need or what we just don't have right now will make us even more depressed; yet focusing on being grateful can help us see that we are already blessed beyond measure! By focusing on what we already have, those blessings in our day to day life, we realize that we ALREADY HAVE MORE than we recognized: more love, more life, more happiness!

I am going to try the Gratitude Journal and I would like for you to join with me. I purchased 2 pads of paper from the local Dollar Store and I have converted them into journals. I will be giving one of them away. Here is what you have to do in order to be entered:

1. See that box to the right, just below my picture? Enter your email address there to become one of my followers. If you are already a follower, don't worry. I will go ahead and put your name in the drawing too!

2. Share this post with someone. You can email a link to them or even share it on Facebook. Leave a comment below telling me who you shared it with. You don't have to give their name, just tell me that you emailed a link to a friend or something like that.

3. Post a comment telling me about 3 things you are grateful for today. What made your day a little brighter?

For each of those things that you do, your name will be entered into the drawing.  That gives you 3 chances to win, if you do all 3 things! You will have until midnight Sunday, May 4 to enter. I will draw the winner on Monday, May 5 and post the name.

Join me on my quest to be more grateful- so that I can realize that I already have MORE THAN ENOUGH. I just need to open my eyes and realize it!