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Change your habits and change your life

by R girl on 01/09/16

I recently heard one of my favorite radio talk show hosts make the comment "Life is a series of habits."  I let that sink in for awhile then realized that if you want to change your life, you need only change your habits. That doesn't sound too daunting does it?  It's a matter of giving up bad habits and cultivating good ones.


 Look carefully at how you spend your day.  Do you check email, facebook, instagram etc constantly? Are you mindlessly browsing on your electronic devices when you could be doing something more productive?  That's a fairly easy habit to drop.  Just decide how much time you want to spend on your computer and set a limit. Use the left over time to develop a new (better) habit.

Do you find yourself rushing around in the morning? Are you  always on the brink of being late for work or school? Develop the habit of getting up 30 minutes earlier each day.  You will give yourself the time to get ready without the stress of rushing through your morning.  Shedding the daily stress that starts out so many days is a habit that will pay off with better health and a happier disposition. 

Obviously these are just random examples.  Think about the ways you spend your time. Consider where you could make changes and improvements to your life. 
Pick just one habit that you either want to develop or one that you want to drop and really focus on it for the next 30 days.   See what happens when you take baby steps to change your life. 

The teachable moment-

by R girl on 11/21/15

     As the fifth grade teacher in a public school, it is my responsibility to have two students raise and lower the the American flag in front of the school office every school day. Its a privilege, and  my students look forward to the days they get to do it.  

     Last Monday morning, just days after the terrorist attacks in France, I got a call in my classroom asking me to send two students down to the office to lower the flag to half mast  as a symbol of our mourning the tragedy in France. So of course I had to explain to my fifth graders what all this meant, which led to prolonged  discussion about the terrorism that had taken place. I can tell you, it's very difficult to put into words what happened and what it all means. 
     One student asked why we lowered our flag, considering the attack was in France.  Teachable moment!  I told my students, "Think back to the  history of the Revolutionary War that you have already learned. What country most helped the colonists defeat Great Britain? What country sent money, supplies,  troops, military trainers?" It started to sink in. 
       It's very sad when you have to teach young children about terrorism.  There's a fine line between informing them and frightening them.  I was  careful not to cross that line, but everyday last week there was a silent reminder right out in front of their school office.  God Bless America.

Veterans' Day

by R girl on 10/27/15

It's not even Halloween yet and I'm already thinking about November holidays.  Of course there's the biggie, Thanksgiving, but 2 weeks before that we have Veterans' Day.  If you're anything like me, you are patriotic and thankful to those who stepped forward to defend our great country. I often see bumper stickers that proclaim Proud to be an American.  

I think it goes even deeper than that, what if we all acknowledged we are first and foremost Blessed to be an American and we lived our lives based on that premise? A blessing is, by definition, a favor or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness.    The day we realize it was a gift from God to be born in America we will view our citizenship differently. The very fact that you are an American is a gift.  Think how different your life would be if you were born in any country in the world other than America. We have rights, freedoms, and a standard of living here that is unimaginable in other parts of the world.  

Use the gift you've been given wisely.  Don't squander your American citizenship.  Educate yourself about American history and the good that Americans have performed all over the world. I'm not saying we haven't made mistakes, every country has. What I'm saying is, operate from the premise  that American citizenship is a blessing and be aware of how fragile the gift is if it isn't acknowledged and used to cultivate goodness, liberty, and truth. Treat everyday like it's Veterans' Day.  

Advertising 1-Eternal Truth 0

by R girl on 12/17/14

     It was during a class discussion, last October, with my 5th and 6th graders about the Europeans' goal to spread Christianity to the new world, that I stumbled upon this very sad fact. The overwhelming majority of my 29 students don't have a clue what Christianity is, what Christmas is about, who Jesus Christ is. 

      First the back story:  We were having a class discussion about the Age of Exploration and how finding the "new world" changed the goals of Europeans from claiming land to spreading Christianity to the inhabitants of America.   One of my students asked me what that means.  Long story short,  I kept looking for some common ground.  Looking for something he understood about Christianity-nothing. We had finally back pedaled so far that I asked him if he knew what Christmas is about-still nothing.  And please, don't think to yourself "yeah but there are 28 other kids in the room surely the rest of them knew the story."  Sorry. No. Like I said, the overwhelming majority 22 out of 29 had no idea what Christmas is about.  Five of the remaining 7 had a vague idea.  They were pretty sketchy on the details. 
     Fast forward to the week before Thanksgiving.  Another class discussion about Thanksgiving traditions and what surfaces as the most common tradition (excluding the food)?  You guessed it: Black Friday shopping. Many of the kids go late on Thanksgiving Day, a good amount go on Black Friday.  Here's the rub.  The same kids who don't have the vaguest notion about the true meaning of Christmas, know exactly what Black Friday is all about.  I'd say about half even know why it's called Black Friday. 
      Now that my eyes are open, I can see evidence all around me. The true meaning of Christmas is vanishing.  The radio stations playing Christmas music, play way more secular songs than religious. My students don't even understand the references to stars, wise men, shepherds, or new born king in any of the Christmas music. 
      I don't know about you, but I consider this to be a very sad statement about the condition of our country.  Thanksgiving and Christmas have been completely overshadowed by Black Friday and consumerism. I think it's time to resurrect Christmas.  Bring it back in all its glory. Play the music, send out Christmas cards with nativity  scenes.  I know it's fun to shop on Black Friday, but the joy of a discounted appliance or a cheap pair of shoes pales in comparison to the eternal truth:  God so loved the world He sent His only son.

C'mon cheer up

by R girl on 09/07/14

     If you find yourself feeling down or in a funk the best thing you can do to pull yourself out of it is to do a good deed for someone else. I can't remember where I first heard those words of wisdom, but I know I have followed that advice and repeated it to friends and family many times. It's amazing how doing something kind for someone else can bring joy and peace of mind to both the giver and the receiver of the good deed. 

     Here's the best part:  you don't need to wait until you're feeling down to do something kind for someone else. What if you think of someone in your life who could use some help or some cheering up and make it your business to fulfill a need for that person?   Do you know someone who is lonely, bored, or unhealthy?  Any of those conditions can be remedied by a simple visit from you. If you bring some fresh fruits or vegetables from your garden all the better!
       Make a commitment to yourself.  This week pick one person who you want to do something for and then do it.  Notice how you feel before and after your good deed.  I think you may suddenly have a new understanding of the saying:  It is in giving that we receive. 

Enjoy your 100+ years.

by R girl on 07/14/14

It occurred to me recently that sometimes we get things backwards.  I'm sure you've heard or read the question;  What would you do today if you knew you would die tomorrow, or next week, or next year?  The question is  meant to prompt us to stop wasting time and go do the things that really matter- now, before it's too late.  I get it. we shouldn't  take our time here for granted.  There are no guarantees that any of us get to live a long life.  This lifetime is fleeting.  

But there's a flip side to that. Maybe the question should be:  What would you start doing right now if you knew you would live to be 100 or more years old?  The fastest growing age group is the 80+ year olds.  There is good  reason to believe that many of us will live well past 100 years. So what changes would you make?  Would you pick up a new hobby? learn a new skill?  Maybe you would learn a foreign language, or begin a new career.  
This increase in life expectancy should be welcome news for all of us. It also puts some responsibility on us to make sure we don't waste those golden years.  It's up to us, as individuals, to maintain our physical health, and to keep our minds active and engaged. we also need to plan carefully so we don't outlive our money.  So give the question some thought, and realize this isn't just an idle exercise.  Most of us should have a plan for how we want to spend the next several decades. 

Independence Day

by R girl on 07/04/14

 July 4th is the perfect opportunity to pause and appreciate our amazing country. I know I have done nothing whatsoever to deserve the gift I've been given.  I'm speaking of course, about living in America and enjoying the freedoms that American citizenship allows me. This country has contributed more to advancing civilization in the past 238 years than any other country, even those that have been around for thousands of years. I'm proud of that.

This may sound na├»ve, but I have decided not to dwell on what has gone wrong with our country.  Mistakes, bad decisions, corruption, and greed are part of any society. We don't have the market cornered on those traits.   What America does have an abundance of is: freedom, creativity, generosity, and  intelligence.  We have fought wars all over the world to advance liberty for citizens of foreign countries.  

So yeah, I'm wearing red, white, and blue today. I've been wishing friends and strangers a happy Independence Day since July 1. My flag is waving outside my house. I went to mass this morning to thank God for this wonderful country and to ask Him to continue to bless us with religious liberty, freedom of speech, and the ability to pursue life, liberty and happiness.  After all, isn't that what you do when you have been given an amazing gift... be outwardly grateful and appreciative? God Bless America!  Happy Independence Day!

Up on a pedestal

by R girl on 06/14/14

     I have some very good friends and family members who seem to have it all together. They are thoughtful, generous, honest, hardworking, selfless, smart,  fun to be with, you get the idea. I was thinking aloud one day, and telling my daughter how truly blessed I feel to have these people in my life.  She said something I will never forget.

 "Mom instead of putting so and so on a pedestal, why don't you climb up there with her?" 
     What?  You mean instead of observing and admiring the qualities of others I should try to imitate them?  Honestly, this simple question made me stop and think.  It's so easy to look at others and give them credit for the good they do.  But that mindset puts distance between us and the people we admire. We put them on a pedestal.  They are up there and we're down here.  The truth is, there's no good reason not to climb up on the pedestal with them.  We have already recognized what it is about them that makes them extraordinary. So why not cultivate those traits in ourselves?
     That's my plan.  I'm going to stop just admiring the good qualities in others and start imitating them also.  There's room up on the pedestal for you too. 

Anything worth having...

by R girl on 06/06/14

     I'm always looking for ways to make improvements to my life.  At times I'm concentrating on improvements in my health (physical, emotional, spiritual), social interactions, my work, creative endeavors, you name it, I've probably tried to enhance or enrich  it  in my life. 

     Whether we notice it on a day to day basis or not, we're all changing. Some times for the better and sometimes for the worse. We who are consciously trying to better ourselves are changing and  making progress, it's just such a slow process we can't always see that we're actually making incremental progress toward our goal.
 I get discouraged when I don't see dramatic changes in an area I'm working on, but I figured something out recently: that saying about if it's worth having it's worth working for is absolutely true. The trick is to enjoy the part about working toward the goal.  Then the desired results are icing on the cake.
     Keep in mind, there is a part of all of us that doesn't want to change,  Call it the lazy side, or the fearful side, or the stubborn side,  Whatever it is, it's going to fight against self-improvement.  There's a reason we all get to a  point in our lives that needs change.  The reason is: we liked getting there. We enjoyed the self indulgences eating the wrong things, taking a break from exercise, ignoring the demands of our religion or obligations to our community or our work life.  That's the easy road.  The new road is challenging and uncomfortable. And we need to constantly be aware that the deck is stacked against self improvement.  Part of us doesn't want to change and the results aren't immediately evident. Pretty strong stuff.  So if you've hit a rut, or you're feeling discouraged on your journey to self improvement, keep this in mind; It's a life long struggle, you never actually arrive. You will always be working toward some goal.  Convince yourself that the struggle is worthy and the desired results are a bonus. That's what we call a win win. 


The change will do me good.

by R girl on 03/30/14

I admit it.  I am not very good at embracing change. In fact, I would say that many of the major changes in my life I resisted and went along only after lots of kicking and screaming.  Why is that?  Certainly I don't think I'm the one person on the planet who will avoid the discomfort and uncertainty of change.  So why do I resist rather than embrace changes? 

I've given this topic a lot of thought lately, mainly because my work world is undergoing some big changes. I'm facing uncertainty about who my new boss will be, what my new duties will be, who my new co-workers will be. It's all up in the air right now.  None of the planned changes are going in a direction I would have chosen, if I had been given the choice.  I guess that's the part that's hard for me. I need to come to grips with the fact that I'm not going to make the decisions that will affect my professional life.  There is no element of choice involved, as far as I'm concerned. 

I've spent the past four weeks wishing the changes weren't coming, and allowing myself to be sad and scared of the uncertainty that lies ahead.  It occurred to me, while on a walk this morning, that the more time I spend wishing for what was the longer it will take me to adjust and move forward in my ever changing world. I decided today to embrace the changes and be grateful for the good aspects of my job.

I've completely turned my attitude around. Rather than dread the unknown,  I'm going to look forward to meeting the new people who will be entering my work world.  I'm going to welcome the new duties and make a point to do the best job I can.  After all, that's what I'm paid to do.  I'll use this as an opportunity to become stronger and more flexible because it's only a matter of time before the next change comes my way. Wish me luck!

       Get Old Or Die Trying