Thursday, April 30, 2009
After our presentation today, Bob and I walked to Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf. We left the hotel at around 2:30 and returned around 6:00. We were on our feet most of the time, and I have blisters the size of Rhode Island. I've never actually achieved blisters in a pair of Merrells before so that's a lot of walking.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
It's a strange experience waking up in Amenia, New York, and ending the day in San Francisco while Duncan has his bath. It's also more than a little worrisome to find out on a full airplane that the WHO has raised the status of the swine flu to Level Five, Imminent Pandemic. I know it's a cautionary measure, but it has me worried.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
These are pictures of Duncan "doing tricks" in Nana and Poppy's yard. I should tell you that three hours later, when Duncan was begging us to play with him in OUR yard, we tried to encourage him to do some tricks. He said he couldn't because he might "hurt his head."
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Friday, April 24, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
I got the greatest thank you gift today. On so many Earth Days past, I felt guilty, as if I really should be doing something about the state of affairs here on the planet. This year, I didn't really do anything either, but I know I HAVE been making an effort. Actually, this is what I did for the earth today:
Happy Earth Day!
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
One of my former students passed away on February 28; she was 29 when her car was struck by a dump truck that skidded on the ice. I'm still struggling with this loss. One of her classmates just found out today about Bess' death, and he remarked about how we forget about how fragile life is and how much we take it for granted. Sitting at Bess' funeral, I vowed that I would never take my life, or the people in it, for granted, ever again, but reading Pete's message, I realized how easy it is to fall into our old habits...to complain about the little things rather than appreciate the wonder of our lives.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
How to Read a Poem: Beginner's Manual
by Pamela Spiro Wagner
First, forget everything you have learned,
that poetry is difficult,
that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you,
with your high school equivalency diploma,
your steel-tipped boots,
or your white-collar misunderstandings.
Do not assume meanings hidden from you:
the best poems mean what they say and say it.
To read poetry requires only courage
enough to leap from the edge
Treat a poem like dirt,
humus rich and heavy from the garden.
Later it will become the fat tomatoes
and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table.
Poetry demands surrender,
language saying what is true,
doing holy things to the ordinary.
Read just one poem a day.
Someday a book of poems may open in your hands
like a daffodil offering its cup
to the sun.
When you can name five poets
without including Bob Dylan,
when you exceed your quota
and don't even notice,
close this manual.
I so loved that idea because I work to step out of mine all the time. I'm an introvert who has some anxiety issues, but I know that life is best lived through experience, so I try to stretch myself from time to time. If I lived totally within my comfort zone, I might never leave the house so I work to avoid certain agoraphobia.
So this week, I challenged myself to read a poem aloud in morning meeting. It would not be a big deal for many people, but public speaking makes me extremely uncomfortable. The Introvert (as I have taken to referring to myself in the third person) does not DO public readings. Nevertheless, we've been asking students and teachers to volunteer to read poems each day in celebration of April's National Poetry Month so I did. If at least two dyslexic kids could read aloud to the student body, then I certainly could too. It made me uncomfortable, and I'm not itching to do it again on Monday, but I did it. I got through it, and I proved to myself that it's sort of okay.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Monday, April 13, 2009
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Our bodies have two possible reactions to a stressful situation: 1) we embrace our strengths, use our resources (including our social networks), reduce stress, and ultimately succeed; or 2) we spend all our resources on areas in which we're poor, focus only on the negative, divest from our social networks, increase our stress, and ultimately fail.
So why do we want to be happy? Positive brains perform better because happiness causes a neurotransmitter called dopamine to be released in the brain, and dopamine enhances memory. So we learn and remember better when we're happy. If we're usually happy and then encounter a stressful situation, our brain is more likely to go about finding creative, new ways to solve the problem rather than shutting down like a quivering mass of stressed out jelly. When we're negative, our brain deletes possibilities that are in the environment; when we're happy, we add possibilities. Our brain also invents what is called a "counterfactual" to measure the stressful event against. Think of the counterfactuals as "what might have been." Counterfactuals can be either negative or positive...the upshot is if you're happy, then you're more likely to think "thank goodness no one died when I rear ended that car" than "now I have to call the insurance company and pay the deductible to have my car repaired and go through the inconvenience of dealing with this mess." It turns out that it's actually pretty easy to teach our brains to create positive counterfactuals.
Long story short...we learn better and respond better to stress when we're happy most of the time, and there are some good ways to retrain our brains to be happier: 1) listing 3 gratitudes every day; 2) journaling; 3) meditation; 4) exercise; 5) random acts of kindness. AND doing something for 21 straight days creates a life habit. For me, blogging is journaling, and it's making me happy...so I'm going for 21 straight days of blogging, and I'm on day 9.
I know it sounds like a lot of psycho babble when I write it, but it was a fantastic in-service. I encourage everyone to take a look at Shawn Achor's work and consider reading his newest book. He explains it much better than I do. He works with a lot of institutions, from colleges to wall street investment bankers. He is hired to teach people to be happier so that they can be more effective workers. He's an engaging and lively speaker and a brilliant psychologist. In fact, you can watch his lecture online if I'm not convincing (or if I'm so convincing that you want to know more). If you don't buy into it, just support me for 12 more days...I should feel pretty happy by then!
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Interestingly, with Duncan's full-time preschool status has come a preoccupation with monsters. He's only been full-time in the preschool room for four days, and on at least three of those days he has asked Jamie or me to tell him monster stories. When he's not asking for stories about them, he is repeating his new mantra "I love monsters." Mind you, it was not that long ago that he banished Leonardo, the Terrible Monster and his Wild Thing from his room because they were scary. (Sorry Wild Thing. I know you have a name, but I don't know what it is.) Also, when he first started transitioning to the preschool room, the only fear he expressed was that the books were "scary." Now, I might be reading too much into this, but I do have a lot of psychology under my belt so it's kind of what I do in my "free time." So I have two theories about the monsters.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
I'm sorry I brought so many people to tears in my Friday post. Today was better on many fronts. I picked up Duncan early for his doctor's appointment, and when I got there, he was dry and still wearing the same pants and underwear he was wearing when he left the house. He also ate a little bit better. We have this great lunchbox, but we've never used the individual containers because they don't all have lids, and his lunch was supposed to be removed and stored in the fridge (in which there is not room for his cool little bento box). We thought today would be a good day to try it because the novelty might be enough to get him through lunch. In addition, ever since he stopped eating baby food, we've been sending in a very balanced lunch of leftovers, which were healthy but required utensils. We thought that this week, with "new" bento box in tow, he might be more successful with finger foods. With the all the new experiences he's going through in the pre-school, maybe it will be more effective if he doesn't have to think about how to use a fork. He didn't eat like moose, but he ate more than Friday, so that's a start. (Oh, and did I mention that we bought a sandwich cutter so he can have dinosaur sandwiches?)
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Friday, April 3, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
During our second week of vacation, we took a day trip to the New York Botanical Gardens. Jamie and I craved the warmth and color of a greenhouse, and we thought Duncan would enjoy the "chocolate and vanilla adventure"s in the Children's Garden. We were initially awed by the green grass and spring bulbs already blooming in the Bronx, but our enthusiasm for the outdoor displays was quickly dwarfed by the orchid show in the conservatory. It was heavenly; the smell was hypnotic, and the inexhaustible display of orchids was sumptuous. It was the plant equivalent of Tiffany's. Although Jamie and Duncan quickly grew weary of losing me as I lagged behind with the camera, we all enjoyed our walk through the conservatory. In the Children's Garden, Duncan wasn't overly impressed with the chocolate and vanilla adventures, which were designed more for the 5 year old crowd, but he had a blast climbing inside the bee display that was designed to illustrate how bees see color. For him, of course, the highlight was the train ride, and on the way home, he declared "This was FUN." It was a lovely blast of spring for everyone.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
We spent the first half of our spring break in pursuit of cake. Duncan turned 3 on March 13 and had no fewer than 4 separate birthday celebrations. (I think this may be why he is 3 going on 30 - if he averages 4 birthday celebrations for each birthday, that would make him 12 in party years, which doesn't even begin to approach 30, but it's an equation still under development). On his actual birthday, Duncan awoke to his big gift, an old-school, classic, Radio Flyer tricycle, complete with helmet. He declared it "the bicycle I ALWAYS wanted" and took a few turns around the living room with his introductory pedaling skills. He headed off to daycare, where he had a cupcake party (banana with cream cheese frosting), and after school he opened the rest of his presents, ate pizza, and devoured ANOTHER cupcake. The next morning we headed up to Albany to celebrate with Nana and Poppy and Lorna, Vernon, and Colin. We took a birthday trip to the children's museum and took in a space movie at the planetarium. Back at Nana and Poppy's house, we had a party with a Blue's Clues cake and...wait for it...more presents! Yay presents! The following weekend, Grandma and Grandpa and Paul came to visit. Duncan, Paul, and Jamie took a birthday trip to Kids' Time while I finished the cake. Later in the afternoon, we enjoyed a smorgasbord of pizza followed by chocolate cake and...more presents! Duncan had a great time sharing his birthday, and we thank everyone for their continued love and support.
P.S. Duncan also had a BLAST with his Chicken Dance card from Baby Ben. I'll try to upload some video of that as well.