Friday, May 22, 2020

A Very Different Looking Memorial Day This Year


This year Memorial Day will look very different for most of us. Big camping trips and backyard barbeques of the past will now be replaced with much smaller and more intimate events.  So many of us are longing to spend the weekend at a beach, camping or at a big family gathering, but fears of spreading the Coronavirus have changed all of that. 

This pandemic may have changed our type of celebrations, but the meaning behind Memorial Day not changed. We will honor the men and women of our military who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Their willingness to face danger and put their lives on the line are a debt that we cannot ever repay.  During this pandemic we have seen medical professionals show that same kind of courage. 



Memorial Day has become known as the kick-off for the summer. School is done and warmer weather is here.  This year, summer plans are put on hold as states across the country begin to cautiously open back up, but fears of a ‘second wave’ will keep many of us close to home. Memorial Day will likely see our country cross an unimaginable threshold of 100,000 deaths due to the pandemic.*


Perhaps now, more than ever, we truly understand the value of human life. 


So far, more than 7,000 U.S. servicemen and women have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (2,298 in Afghanistan and 4,572 in Iraq) and over 52,000 have been wounded.  In Vietnam 58,209 US servicemen were killed and 153,303 were wounded in combat.  In Korea 36,516 servicemen were killed and 92,134 were wounded.  In World War II 405,399 US servicemen were killed and 670,846 were wounded.  In World War I 116,516 US servicemen were killed and 204,002 were wounded.  We owe a debt of gratitude to each and every one of these individuals, and we should NEVER enter into war without considering the enormous price these men and women have paid for our freedom. 

*as of Friday afternoon there were 97,637 deaths in the United States.   
(https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/)

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Fear, panic & facing an uncertain future

I have struggled to put these thoughts into words. Not only have I suffered from anxiety and brain fatigue, but like so many others my emotions have been on a roller coaster ride of epic proportions for the past two months.  

The Coronavirus has affected all of us, and it is unlike anything we have faced before. It has stripped the layer of protection that so many of us felt we had in our lives. No one, rich or poor, old or young, urban or rural, is safe from this tiny enemy and we have all had to deal with our fear, grief and anger in different ways. 

I recall a story that I read, and I wanted to share it here:

The story goes like this:
A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her.  She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up.  She was tired of fighting and struggling.  It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.
Her mother took her to the kitchen.  She filled three pots with water.  In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and the last she placed ground coffee beans.
She let them sit and boil without saying a word.  In about twenty minute she turned off the burners.  She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl.  She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.  Then she ladled the coffee into a bowl.  Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see?”
“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.
She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots.  She did and noted that they were soft.  She then asked her to take an egg and break it.  After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.  Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee.  The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma.
The daughter then asked, “What’s the point, mother?”
Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity… boiling water – but each reacted differently.  The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting.  However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.  The egg had been fragile.  Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior.  But, after being through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.  The ground coffee beans were unique, however.  After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.
“Which are you?” she asked the daughter.  “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond?  Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”
Think of this:  Which am I?
Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?
Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat?  Did I have a fluid spirit, but after death, a break up, a financial hardship, or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff?  Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?
Or am I like the coffee bean?  The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain.  When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor.  If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.
When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate to another level?
How do you handle adversity?
ARE YOU A CARROT, AN EGG, OR A COFFEE BEAN?

As I think about this virus, I am again struck by the wisdom in that story. We all have different ways of reacting to this pandemic.  

I have to remind myself almost daily how very fortunate I am. I am still employed and I am able to work from home. My husband is working part of the time from home, but he does have to go in to work, and that means he has to go into hospitals, which is a frightening thought during this pandemic. We have been careful. We have groceries delivered when we can. We have stayed home, except for a few rare excursions where we did not even get out of the car near any other people. We have masks that we use for any needed shopping or errands. 

We are taking this virus very seriously, not out of fear, but out of respect. My 91 year old father absolutely would not survive if he were to get coronavirus. My daughter has asthma so I am worried about her health if she were to get the virus. I don’t want to unknowingly spread this virus to anyone. 

It is frustrating to not be able to go see my Dad or make plans to go and see my daughter and grandchildren in Tennessee. I am sad, but I am more than willing to put up with these inconveniences if it means that my loved ones are healthy and safe. 

I am a history geek. I love learning about history. Right now my knowledge of history is helping to give me hope. Our country has faced great struggles in the past and we have gotten through them. This virus threat will pass, we will find effective treatments and hopefully a vaccine, and when we do I know we will be able to see and hug our loved ones without fear of anyone getting sick. I also know that this virus has the ability to teach us something very important about ourselves and our personalities. Like the carrot, the egg and the coffee beans, we all will have the chance to let this experience weaken us, harden our hearts, or we can grow through this experience. We can become kinder, more caring, and more aware of the importance of our relationships; we can change and become better people. 

Friday, October 25, 2019

It's been awhile.....but I'm back & ready to write


I have neglected my blog for a few months, but my life has finally begun to settle down a bit and I am ready to start writing again. I have so much to share; from some amazing trips I took this year, to current events and my own personal journey and growth. 

I am also going to attempt to complete NaNoWriMo this year. If you are unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month where thousands of authors from across the country attempt to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. It is a daunting task that requires a great deal of dedication. Authors must complete an average of 1667 words per day for the month. I was able to successfully complete this challenge only once. 

As always I will share my blog posts on my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/LaurieWJN/ so please stay tuned for what I hope will be some insights and some fun.  


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Survival strategies for Teachers

It’s time once again for teachers to return to their beloved classrooms. The new school year is so full of possibilities. Every teacher believes that this year they will reach those struggling and challenging students, this year they will actually get through all of their curriculum, this year the principal will send informative emails instead of long and unproductive staff meetings, this year all of the parents will be kind and supportive and this year, their duty station will be in the shade. 

Here are some back to school survival tips for teachers:
1.   Scroll through Pinterest for some fun classroom organization ideas, but don’t feel any pressure to use all the ideas, remember that these teachers are freaks that obviously have no children, spouses or pets at home to care for so don’t feel any pressure. Just pick and choose the fun ideas that will work for you.

2.   Before school starts, dust off your copy of Harry Wong’s classic The First days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher. Taking some time to review these classic ideas can refresh your classroom approach – especially if you have been teaching for a while. If you don’t have a copy jump on Amazon and grab one.  You can get a used copy for $10 and it is well worth it.
3.   If you do have to attend mandatory back to school meetings and trainings, pass the time by counting the school days left in the year, and have some fun by writing them in your planner. This will come in handy later in the year when you need some motivation to get through the day. 
4.  Don’t worry about labeling your pencils or coming up with some elaborate scheme to keep track of your pencils, look for back to school sales & stock up on extras, and click on this link for a totally FREE box of pencils to start your new year. Free Pencils Be careful not to over-plan or over-organize. You don't need to add an extra stress to your life. 


5.   Find your tribe. Every teacher needs some peers who can help out when needed, even if that means just making you laugh. Plan some fun NON-school time with your tribe to enjoy each other. There is nothing more important than supportive friends.  
6.   Remind yourself each and every day that what you do matters. You are making a difference in the lives of your students. 


Have a wonderful year and thank you for being a teacher!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Mistakes

One of the most difficult things in the world is watching someone you love make a mistake. You want to stop them. You want to scream and yell and make them listen to you, but ultimately you begin to understand that they must figure things out all by themselves – even if that means making mistakes.  


If you can’t stop them from making mistakes, what can you do? First, and most importantly, you can love them and be there for them.  You can listen to them and only offer advice IF THEY ASK for it. If you are a parent you will understand how difficult this part is. Parents desperately want to help, but sometimes the most helpful thing is to allow someone to make a mistake and learn a valuable lesson. 


I know in my life I have made mistakes; lots of them! Each one of those mistakes helped me to grown and learn and become the person I am today.  In a strange way I am actually grateful for my mistakes. 

Monday, April 29, 2019

Happy Birthday dad

We all seem to have fears about getting older. Millions of dollars are spent each day trying to reverse the signs of aging, hiding wrinkles and grey hair. We all seem to be running as fast as we can to avoid the inevitable – growing older. 


This dogged pursuit of eternal youth is not a healthy way to deal with the normal aging process. I have been giving a lot of thought to the idea of growing older. This past week I was incredibly fortunate to help throw a surprise party for my 90-year-old father. It was a headache at times, juggling schedules, preparing food, etc., but the party was a big success. It also taught me some important lessons. 


While getting older can be challenging sometimes, there is so much wisdom in the experience of growing older. We know so much more than we did when we were younger. As I enjoyed the party, I got a chance to observe my Dad. At one point, as everyone was chatting with relatives they had not seem in awhile, my Dad was busy playing with his great grandchildren, letting them hit his birthday balloon.


And when everyone was clamoring for pictures and organizing everyone to sit next to him, my dad sat and calmly continued to eat his birthday cake. 

He wasn’t in a hurry; he was just enjoying himself. 
We all could all learn some important lessons from my Dad. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Writing is hard!

 I am going to be very vulnerable and share my current struggles with writing. Writing is really hard. Finding the time to be able to focus and put words down on paper is a struggle. It is so much easier to simply get distracted by the black hole that is social media. And the times when I actually do manage to get the creative juices flowing, I often get interrupted by my hubby or dog or phone and – poof – the words that were just sitting in my head vanish. I am not trying to be a whiner or make excuses, but I am trying to take a hard look at my lack of progress on my writing goals. 
 One of the most uncomfortable moments for me is when I run into someone I haven’t seen in quite awhile. Inevitable they ask, “Are you still writing?” While this is a well-meaning question, it causes me to flounder and mumble something to the effect of yes, but I haven’t published anything lately.  This moment is uncomfortable because it forces me to look at myself and acknowledge that I am not being as focused and as goal-driven as I would like to be.  While my existing books still trickle in a few sales here and there, for the most part I cannot say I am currently working on any one specific writing project. That is not to say I don’t have ideas, in fact I usually have far too many ideas and I have trouble with focusing and finishing any of my existing projects. 
 I need to change my approach and treat my writing like a job, scheduling time to complete a certain number of words or pages per day. I know this is how most professional writers do it. For me the biggest stumbling block is the self-doubt that anyone will actually want to read my book – which is absurd because as an avid reader I know there are people who will be interested in my books if I could just acquire the self-discipline to actually get them written. For the past several years I have included a goal of completing X number of books during the upcoming year, and yet I have failed to accomplish this year after year. It seems clear that I have to change my tactics if I am going to accomplish this goal. Committing to complete at least 1-2 pages per day is a much better goal, allowing me to take on the writing in smaller and more achievable chunks. It is time to make this happen. 
I have the ideas – now I need to push myself to get those ideas onto paper.