Just Like Terry
“If ever there is a tomorrow that we are not together…
there is something you must always remember.
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think” ~A.A. Milne
Once again this year we will be celebrating the annual Terry Fox Run. Terry Fox was a young Canadian who embarked on an incredible dream to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. That goal in itself was very admirable, but paired with the fact that Terry was a cancer survivor and that he had only one leg and the other was fit with a prosthesis, makes this goal even more amazing. As a child we followed his story so closely. We were in absolute awe of his determined spirit and unwavering passion to fulfill his goals, despite much physical pain and challenges, unpredictable weather issues and the fact that he ran what had been described as a marathon almost every day. Unreal! It was an extremely sad day for the entire nation when we heard that Terry had to discontinue his run due to the fact that he had cancer once again, but this time in his lungs. This led to his untimely death on June 28th, 1981 just shy of his 23rd birthday. In his honour his dream continues and people all over the world have raised millions by keeping the tradition of The Terry Fox Run alive and well.
My students are fascinated by his story year after year. They are very curious about his artificial leg and how he could run like he did day after day. We have had many deep discussions about how it took much more than physical ability for him but also intense mental strength and fierce determination as well to accomplish what he did. One year a little boy came to school so incredibly sad and when I asked him what was wrong he replied with tears in his eyes, “Terry Fox died. My mom just told me.” I guess in our many discussions he hadn’t fully realized that Terry was no longer with us, so from now on, I make it a point to really clarify that, as his sadness over what he felt was “new news,“ really broke my heart. I wrote a cute little song to the tune of "Old Time Religion" called The Terry Fox Song for this time of year that the kids really seem to love. The words say “Terry Fox had a dream. Terry Fox had a dream. Terry Fox had a dream called The Marathon of Hope. So he just started running, so he just started running, so he just started running in The Marathon of Hope.” The last verse says “Now it’s our turn to join in, Now it’s our turn to join in, now it’s our turn to join in for The Marathon of Hope!” I encourage them to participate with great enthusiasm in our Terry Fox Run at school in Terry’s memory and honour, but to also be "just like Terry" by making a difference in their own special ways as well. One year a little boy drew a picture of Terry and gave it to me that I have still kept. It was very well drawn but really caught my interest due to the fact that for all the attention Terry got over his artificial leg in my classroom, this boy had drawn him healthy and whole with two good legs. It touched my heart as this is the way he viewed him.
Terry had so many ways about him that were admirable. Here are just some of the qualities that he had that made him a successful person. First of all he had a dream and he did not let anyone talk him out of it. What he envisioned had never been done before, yet he believed he could do it and was not afraid to try. Have you ever been there before? Maybe God has tucked a special dream in your heart but others have talked you out of it or discouraged you from pursuing it? I hope not. Terry did not allow this. Secondly, he had an unwavering belief in himself. Despite the fact that he was disabled, he used it as a stepping stone to advance his cause, instead of it being a stumbling block. It is incredible what people can accomplish when they start to actually focus on what they can do rather than what they can’t. We can get caught up with the fact that I am only one person and how much of an impact can I really make? Terry Fox is a powerful example that one person can make an incredible impact and difference when you really believe in yourself. Thirdly, he was extremely perseverant despite so many things working against him. Faithfully, he continued day after day and raised so much money for cancer research. Finally, he inspired others to do likewise. Through his actions he brought out the best in people. He inspired a nation to come alongside him in united brotherhood to embrace the goal of kicking cancer to the curb, and join together as a nation for a very worthwhile cause. People were inspired that if Terry could do something incredible, than maybe they could too.
It is safe to assume that each one of us have been personally touched by cancer in our lives in some way through someone we love or perhaps even you personally have or have had some form of cancer. Among several who are close to me is my mom who had bowel cancer and my cousin Lisa who had a form of lymphoma. My mom was able to have surgery and she was thankfully fine. Lisa who is just like a sister to me, had a much more difficult time and had to go through many difficult treatments, yet both of them are thankfully cancer-free today. To God be the glory! Our town of Leamington has been lifting up in prayer a little girl named Aubri Andre who too has cancer. She has been receiving treatment out west and although is still working hard to recover, is doing much better from what the latest reports have said. This is Childhood Cancer Awareness month and I often think of her. She like Terry has brought our little town together and has brought an awareness to this awful disease and how we all need to do our best to support finding a cure. Our town hosted many fundraisers to help her family and it will be a very happy day when we hear Aubri is healthy and whole which is what we all continue to pray for.
“Just Like Terry” is the slogan I see around on the posters around my school. Terry’s struggle was cancer and rather than feel sorry for himself, he chose to do the opposite and in doing so has impacted millions of people. What is getting you down? What is your struggle? As the quote by A.A. Milne says "You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” You have what it takes to be successful and overcome your challenges but a positive attitude is one of the first things you need to begin. Next give your struggles to God in prayer and partner with Him to be an overcomer. Know that with God “all things are possible.” God is the friend that sticks closer than a brother and He wants to help you have a breakthrough in your life in the area or areas most needed. Be inspired by Terry as a stellar example. In spite of having cancer, he left an incredible legacy for others to follow and from which to draw inspiration.
Thank you Terry! I know that I aspire to be "just like you" in many ways. You were my childhood hero and I will be proud to participate in your honour this week in our Terry Fox Run at our school. How can you be "just like Terry?" Give it some thought, as each and every one of us has incredible things to offer this world and you my friend are no exception!
Until next time,
Psalms 55:22 ~ Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you. He will never let the righteous fall.
Little Lesson Learned: Ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they believe in themselves and partner with God.
Copyright: littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014
I "Wanna" Hold Your Hand
“I’m a strong person but every now and then I would like someone to take my hand and say everything will be alright.” ~ www.mediawebapps.com
I am the proud mom of two great teenagers which sometimes is so hard to believe. It is like I blinked and there they are now as tall as me or taller in my son’s case. I remember the specific and pivotal day that my daughter, then a toddler was finally old enough to walk beside me and not in a stroller or car seat anymore. With her on one side and my son on the other, all holding hands together we walked into the grocery store. A very common scene for others to witness, yet a momentous first for us. It was a memory that I will always recall as I knew then that life as we knew it would never quite be the same and especially that my baby girl was really growing up. It was very reassuring as a young mom that both kids help my hand tightly, yet I felt quite emotional as well knowing that the proud hand holding would end all too quickly in a mom’s perspective anyway. Years later walking the kids to school, I recall one of them saying “I’m grown up now Mom. Don’t worry. I don’t need you to hold my hand or anything.” I thought maybe you don’t need to hold hands, but I sure do. Sniff! Sniff! Both my kids handled the first day of school much better than I did that’s for sure.
As a student teacher I remember on my last day of placement on yard duty, I felt a little hand slip into mine. I was a bit surprised as this little guy had been quite quiet around me, yet what a little sweetheart he was. When I looked at him he sweetly and somewhat shyly said “Today’s your last day and I am going to miss you so much. Could I just hold your hand for a minute or two to remember you?” Needless to say it was hard to hold back the tears as this little gesture was so sweet. As the new school year has just begun I am always curious to see how long it will take before a student makes me a picture or card. Teaching second grade, this is pretty common for this age group. Recently I received two handmade pictures which had myself and the student in them. In both pictures we were holding hands which is interesting because this is not something we have done, but is instead rather symbolic to me. It shows that the kids and I have connected, which makes me feel so happy as it is so crucial for true learning to take place. I am flattered that they feel that I am not only their teacher, but also that I sincerely care for them.
Even as an adult just having one special person hold your hand is so reassuring isn't it? It helps us feel connected, provides us with reassurance and lets us feel valued by another person. Many times at my church I have had people come up beside me when I was praying at the altar and grab my hand and pray along with me. It made me feel that I was truly not alone and it was a very special feeling of comfort. All of us need to know that people care and that we are supported especially when we experience profound struggles.
In Isaiah 49:6 is states that God has written our names in the palm of His hand. This is how valuable we are and how much He wants to connect with us. I have written things on my hand in the past and it is always something very important that I must not forget. I remember the childhood song I used to love called He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands. It always spoke to me that even though God has the whole universe to be concerned about, He still had me and you in His hands. Wow! Pretty cool eh? This is a truth to really grasp as an adult that despite the terrible things happening worldwide that God needs to address, He has our backs and provides reassurance that He is not too busy to support us too in our time of need. A comforting truth for sure.
Maybe you are going through a very difficult time. Perhaps you wish someone would just take your hand in friendship and reassure you that everything will be o.k. I pray you have people who will do just that, but if not please imagine me reaching out to you virtually and grasping your hand. I want to tell you that you have a friend in me and God. I want to assure you that there is no problem too difficult to solve when you bring God into the equation. He cares and wants to help you deal with whatever is burdening you. I care and would love to pray for you. Feel free to email me at email@example.com so I can do just that. Remember "He's got you and me brother and you and me sister in His hands," so no worries. That is truly the best place to be.
Until next time,
Isaiah 49:16 ~ Look I’ve written your names on the back of my hands. (The Message)
Little Lesson Learned: Don’t be afraid to reach out for a helping hand or hand of support. Today may be the day you need it and tomorrow it will be someone else who you can help. We all need each other.
Copyright: littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014
Why Not Today?
“Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow’s a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present."
~ Eleanor Roosevelt.
There are some things in life we all love to do and then there are those tasks that require much more effort. You know those tasks that you try to ignore as you simply do not have the time or energy for them? We all have them that is certain. The tidying of my clothes closet was one of them. I had been avoiding organizing it all summer, as let’s face it, in the summer it is quite easy to live in shorts, t-shirts, and yoga pants. Now that I am back to work, I have to dig out my professional attire once again so the tidying of the closet became absolutely necessary. It was a long task, but a great feeling when it was finally done. As a teacher early in my career, I used to have a very messy, cluttered desk. I could never find anything and I felt like I was a terrible example to the students. I have since changed my ways and now pride myself in keeping a very orderly desktop. It is my belief that it is not fair to get after kids to tidy their desks, if mine is an absolute disaster, so I am glad I have improved in this area. It is quite humorous when we do desk cleanouts in my classroom I must say. I do them on a regular basis to help keep the students organized and it is funny because of what they find! The one who never has a pencil suddenly has six, or the missing notebook that couldn’t be found anywhere suddenly makes an appearance, or the permission form that they swear they never got, is there in all its glory. Certain kids dread this task more than others because their desks are more untidy, yet all of them have such grins of satisfaction on their faces when their desks are tidy. It is priceless to witness as they are so proud to show me their neat and tidy work space, and you can tell they “get it,” that the tidy desk option is so much more appealing than the messy one!
I have worked with so many people in the past in my social work career who had a “when I - then I” mentality. This is explained with examples such as “when I find more time, I will start exercising,” or “when my life gets a little less stressful, I will try to make time for positive changes.” The problem is that if you wait for the perfect opportunity, it will never come. An example of this is a young mom who repeatedly kept telling me that she “really wanted to get her family out to church,” but she had every excuse under the sun. “It is our only family day, and the kids are too young for the service and we don’t have proper church clothes…” You know how it goes and I did totally understand her concerns. I explained to her that we had a program for every age group and that church attire is more casual these days, yet no matter what I said, she just explained that when they were older, she would bring them. Well I bet you can guess what happened? Sadly that day has never come and her kids have really gone through some hard times. Her and her husband are incredible people and parents but she shared with me in confidence that she really wished she would have committed to regular church attendance when they were younger, as she knew it would have greatly benefited them and then they would be in the routine of coming.
Sometimes hindsight is 20/20 as they say, yet it is never too late to start something new. My mom always wanted to learn to play piano, but never learned as a child. She took piano lessons at age 40 and was so thrilled to be able to sit down at the piano and play church hymns and her favourite songs as she had always imagined. I always respected her for this as she decided one day that she was not going to put it off another day, but she was going to learn to play piano.
Procrastination is a problem for many people. The bigger issue is as we choose to put off things for “another” day, the dreaded tasks just pile up and before we know it, what was once a mole hill, is now a mountain. In addition, the “another” day never seems to present itself. This then leaves us feeling more discouraged, so it becomes a vicious circle. Many addictions are like that and what was once a little habit, now holds people captive without them realizing. Change is a process and it begins with little steps. Hopes, dreams, recovery steps, and new pursuits can become reality when we decide not to embrace the “when I - then I,” mantra but rather the anthem of why not today?
What’s been on the back burner in your life? There is no time like the present to start looking at it again. The Bible says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. The cool thing is when we decide to make positive changes in our lives not only is God our greatest cheerleader, but He also promises us to be right beside us giving us increased strength to do so. I mentioned in my last blog that I have made a commitment to exercise more regularly, eat better and read my Bible more often. I am happy to say I am doing much better in all three areas. Have I been perfect in those areas? Absolutely not! Life happens. I am back to work fulltime. My son started university this week. My daughter has a lead role in a play that is two nights a week, and I have been very sick all week. The bottom line is I have had some big reasons or excuses to put me off track, but I look at the big picture instead. If today was not the best than all is not lost, as I know I can turn it around. All too often we let one bad day, spiral out of control and take us away from our goals. Don’t allow that to happen as every morning with every sunrise we get a new, fresh start. I would love to hear what you are working on in your life at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is exciting to think of where you can end up when you make a decision that today is the day that I begin putting positive steps into action in my life. Don’t let seeds of doubt or discouragement creep in. You can do it! Why not today? Today feels like a great day for positive change don’t you agree?
Until next time,
Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Little Lesson Learned: Don’t put off for tomorrow what you could do today. There is no better time than the present.
Copyright: littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014
Back to Class
“The best thing about life is that we never stop learning. Whether we are old or young, we always have someone to learn from."
This past week I had the pleasure of taking my son Tyler around the University of Windsor campus where he is starting this fall. Excited with schedule in hand, we walked around finding all the various lecture halls, student hot spots and parking areas to help him feel better prepared. It was a great feeling standing in these beautiful, new, spacious rooms knowing in a few short days he will begin a new chapter of his young life at such a beautiful facility. I teased him that I felt a bit jealous, as I thoroughly enjoyed my university days. We celebrated over lunch and chatted together with Shannon about the upcoming new and exciting days ahead for both her and Tyler as they head back to class. Also this past week, I spent quite a bit of time in my own classroom getting it ready for the first day of school which is quickly approaching. There is always lots to be done that is certain from sharpening pencils, assigning desks, lesson planning, preparing bulletin boards and photocopying just to name a few. It is always enjoyable to set up the room and anticipate what the upcoming school year will hold. In the quiet stillness of the room I ponder the assigned second grade children who will soon enter and become a huge part of my life. Names on a class list will come to life very soon. I wonder about how they will adjust, what their home life is like, where their struggles and strengths are and most importantly how I can make a powerful impact on their precious little lives. I pray that I will be a positive person of influence for them. Above the teaching of the curriculum, I want them to know that their teacher sincerely cares for them, believes in them and wants them to have a successful year. Most importantly the thing that I need to convey to a child to set the year on a positive tone is that “my teacher likes me.” If children feel that, they will feel more free to be themselves as they know they are unconditionally accepted flaws and all. I watched a real inspirational talk on YouTube and the incredible speaker was sharing about a miserable teacher on staff who said “ I am paid to teach these kids, not like them and furthermore I don‘t care if they like me either!” The speaker than quickly replied “Yes but kids don’t learn well from people they don’t like.” How true!
My classroom is ready!
Whether we are students or adults, we are always learning. I encourage my students to think creatively and let me know when and if I make mistakes. Learning from mistakes is so critical at any age. I remember teaching a math lesson completely wrong and not realizing it at first. One gentle student said politely “ This is interesting Mrs. R. because this is the exact opposite of the way we learned this math topic last year.” I quickly looked at my manual, apologetically caught my errors and retaught the lesson. I was very grateful for the kind comments that got me back on track. Through the years I have found better ways to teach concepts. I have had lessons that were so amazing in the delivery and results that I could swear Heaven and all its angels were breaking out in the Hallelujah chorus. Also I have had complete flops where I know the kids were not getting it at all and I desperately wished I could start over and be more effective. The main point is not to beat myself up about what went wrong, but instead do some beneficial reflection. Reflection is key regarding what was successful, and what wasn’t and how could I improve next time.
Life in general is all about reflection. Good old Dr. Phil says in life that “lessons are repeated until they are learned,“ and I completely agree. Sometimes it just takes some of us a little longer to have our critical “a-ha” moments. There are many things in life that if we had the opportunity, I am sure many of us would do very differently. It is important to take a close look at ourselves failures and all, and regroup. It is vital that we do not stay discouraged by aspects of our lives that did not go as planned, but use them as stepping stones for further personal growth. Some people feel they are too old to learn new things or change. The expression “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” could not be further from the truth. September has always felt like a fresh start time for me even before I was a teacher. I have set some goals for myself this fall and two target areas are increasing my fitness levels through better eating and regular exercise and more time for Bible reading. I know these goals will really help me grow as a person, so I am praying that I will be very successful.
My classroom motto is “I am special. I am smart. I will try my best.” This can be your life motto too. Each one of you is so special and precious to God and so many others. You have talents and giftings that are yours alone that the world needs to witness. You are smart and have intelligence in many ways. The psychologist Harold Gardner describes 7 Levels of Intelligence which are linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. Each person has intelligence in certain areas that are unique to him or her and the research is fascinating. I have studied this and know which ones I have and which ones I don’t. I am at peace because I realize I am exactly who I am meant to be. The third part of the motto is I will try my best. No matter what comes your way in life keep trying. As it is said: “It is not the amount of times that you fall that matters, but the amount of times you get up.” How true!
God has a plan for all of us and we often find it by way of the learning process. Some of our best life lessons are learned by trial and error or as they say are learned the “hard way.“ Let’s be open to new learning and know that we are never too old to learn and try new things. If things are not working in an area of your life, fix it. You are worth it and you will be so glad you did.
My classroom is ready. It is quiet and still for only a short while longer. Soon it will be a flurry of activity. We will learn together, laugh together and maybe at times even cry together, yet the important thing is we will do it together. I am ready to teach and learn as well. Are you ready for new learning? We are all in this together. Don’t be afraid to “go back to class,” in areas of your life where you need further instruction. The investment in yourself is so worth it. Remember “You are special. You are smart and through trying your best always, with God by your side, you got this!
Always learning too,
Psalms 86:11 ~ Teach me your way Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
Little Lesson Learned: Many of the best lessons in life happen outside the classroom.
Copyright: Littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014
Finding Me Time
“The major work of the world is not done by geniuses. It is done by ordinary people, with balance in their lives, who have learned to work in an extraordinary manner.”
~ Gordon B. Hinckley
Summertime is an awesome time of year. Everyone seems happier, more alive and eager to get out and enjoy the sunshine. I am especially blessed as being in the teaching profession, I am one of the very fortunate ones who gets the summer off. This is something that I do not flaunt or brag about, as I know how hard many people work around me who do not have this amazing career perk, and I am sincerely aware and sensitive to that. My husband is one of those hard working people who works year round, yet thankfully he does get some vacation time with me in the summer. My profession like many is driven by a strict schedule and is ruled by the bell on a daily basis. This is how a school day must operate and it is an effective system. When the summer comes my life however becomes quite the polar opposite of my day to day life from September to June. Rather than rushing out the door to begin an action packed day, I am afforded the option most days of having a more relaxed, less structured day that is not ruled by the clock which is quite refreshing. I highly recommend that everyone schedule some of these days on their calendar no matter what type of job you have. When the school year commences, I try to keep my Saturdays this way as much as possible, as it seems to be just what I need to offset a busy week.
Life in general it seems has become far too busy for everyone. Our calendars are often plastered with so many commitments and appointments that even to look at the schedule can make us tired. Balance is something that many of us are lacking. Often when we get busier, we can fall into the trap of poor self care and it can really take its toll on us. To be effective in our workplaces, families and society in general it is so important to take time for ourselves, to be the best we can be in all aspects. We need to make a conscious effort to order our lives with the inclusion of activities that edify us. “Me” time looks different for everyone, yet here’s my thoughts on six things I do regularly to lift my spirits and keep my life in order when it gets a bit hectic.
~ Find a great hobby or interest
Taking time for ourselves can come in many forms. Some of us need to find new hobbies or interests. What do you enjoy that excites you and is a healthy, enjoyable option? Blogging has become a new and real keen interest of mine and I am really enjoying it. It keeps me writing and allows me to get in touch with people in a way that was never possible in the past. Several months ago, I did not even understand what a blog was or what I would even write about. Now it has become something very special to me and a unique way that I am hopefully making a difference in other’s lives.
~ Schedule a nap
Taking time for ourselves may mean getting more rest. Many of us are walking around sleep deprived and we may not even know it. Coffee can help, but it only gets you so far believe me. I love to nap! It is one of my favourite things. Funny how when we were younger, naps were something most of us dreaded. Not now! At least not for me, as it is a chance to forget about stress for a bit anyways. I always set my alarm so I don’t oversleep for a nap and then when I wake I feel more ready to take on the second part of my day!
~ Get moving
Exercise is a great way to put yourself on top of the priority list once again. Honestly, I enjoy walking but need to get back to more regular exercising as when I do I feel so much better. This is one of my current goals to make exercise once again more of a regular routine as I know how much it will benefit me. Find what type of exercise you most enjoy and make a commitment to it. You will be so glad you did.
~ Candy Crush Anyone?
A little mindless activity can be very beneficial as well. Admittedly, I am a big Candy Crush fan and I do enjoy Facebook and seeing what everyone it up to. As mentioned balance is everything, yet games and social media can be great as long as they are used in the right amount.
~Bonding with Besties
Spending time with friends and family that encourage you is crucial. Make an effort to call a good friend and get together or have a nice phone conversation with a best buddy. This can be just what is needed to put you back on track. Those that love us most let us be ourselves and help us with getting perspective and problem solving.
~ Power of Prayer
Taking time for myself means spending time in prayer and asking God to direct my day and help me with my problems. I bring to Him all my concerns both big and small and in return I feel refreshed and so much better. I pray that I may operate in His strength as we were never made to walk this life on our own. His strength is perfect and will keep us going even through the hardest of days.
You are so amazing and are meant to thrive not just exist. All work and no play can lead to a very stressful life. Taking time for yourself is not selfish, but very healthy. Make sure that this happens on a regular basis in the ways that work for you and you will be a much healthier and happier person.
Psalms 91:1 ~ He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Little Lesson Learned: Take care of yourself. You are so worth it!
Copyright: Littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014
Bathing Suit Season
“As long as you look for someone else to validate who you are by seeking their approval, you are setting yourself up for disaster. You have to be whole and complete in yourself. No one can give you that. You have to know who you are - what others say is irrelevant.”
- Nic Sheff
The other night my teenage son came along with me to do errands. As an eighteen year old, I am sure it was the thrill of his life to run errands with his dear old mom, but to add insult to injury on the list of things to pick up with the bottled water and toilet paper was yes wait for it people … a new bathing suit for me! Ugh! Just thinking about this upcoming purchase was causing me great stress and believe me it had nothing to do with my son coming along. I debated about postponing the bathing suit ordeal, yet I knew that my son is pretty cool about that sort of thing so I went for it. I am a blessed woman because not only did he not object, but he even gave his opinion on suits. I would say I have a son who is an excellent sport and off to a great start of being a compassionate and patient husband one day!
Well ladies, I am sure I am not alone in my feelings here. It is not a fun experience to try on bathing suits at my age I can tell you. After two kids, three abdominal surgeries and being in my mid forties, what often looks huge on the rack, seems to magically shrink in the change room. I find myself almost every time behind closed doors mortified trying to squish my body into what seems like the swimsuit from hell. Then to make matters worse, I have the pleasure of viewing myself from every angle with the full body mirrors. Now that’s really lots of fun! I always feel like the judges from American Idol with each one. You know the standard line “Ah, it’s a NO from me!” Funny though by some divine miracle I did end up finding not one but two suits that looked decent on me, so I did what any self respecting woman of my age would do! I bought them both because at my age you just never know when you will find another suit that looks good on you again!
There is so much pressure all around us for women to look good. We fuss over our hair, our weight, our skin and our wardrobe just to name a few. I remember even when I was in my early 20’s about to be married, I put great pressure on myself in this area. Weighing about 125 lbs and in great physical shape, I faithfully drank Slimfast shakes to hopefully shed a few unwanted pounds before the “big day.” In hindsight I see how unnecessary that was for me at that life stage, but at the time I could not see it. In university I participated in a psychology study that has left a lasting impact on me to this day. If we helped a grad student with his or her thesis work, we got bonus marks so I was all for that. When I arrived for the assignment, the grad student was flustered and clearly unprepared for me. She apologetically asked me to take a seat and encouraged me to look at some fashion magazines while she got ready. In a few minutes she announced that she was ready. She asked me if I felt that I had any body image, self esteem issues or weight issues. I answered “no,” as I clearly did not really feel I had any of those. She then had me stand in front of a screen and I am not sure how she did it but just like those crazy fun house mirrors, she morphed my image to look as flat as a pancake. It was very humorous, as I looked like a paper doll. She then instructed that as she had obviously made me very paper thin, she would gradually morph my image to what I really looked like. I was instructed to tell her to stop when she reached the “real me,“ in my opinion, which I did. Next she did the opposite. She started with a very obese version of myself that was very difficult to witness and kept making me smaller. Too bad that did not exist in real life! I was instructed to tell her to stop when I thought she reached what I would feel would be my "ideal" weight. It was to be the me on the screen where I would feel beautiful and satisfied, and so I did. That was it and then we sat down to talk. What she proceeded to tell me next has impacted me ever since. First of all she said the magazine viewing was not to fill time, but a planned part of the experiment. It was to fill my head with what society deemed as beautiful. Next she said that what I perceived as the “real me” was about 30-40 lbs over my real weight and my “ideal” me would be very anorexic if that was actually me. I was shocked because for someone who did not think I had body image issues, this was a very eye opening experience. Often I have shared this encounter to enlighten people with the fact that even when we think we are not affected by the world’s view of beauty we often are.
Even young girls feel this pressure to look a certain way. I teach eight year old students. I remember doing a lesson on new year’s resolutions. We discussed many options for them to consider of what would be a good new year's goal for someone their age and I can assure you that weight loss was not one of them. When each was asked to share individually what goal he or she had selected as the most important, one little girl said her goal was to lose weight. It broke my heart that at that age that was the most important new year’s resolution she could come up with. I jumped in and explained as children are always growing and changing, it would be a better option to say as a goal, “I would like to become more physically fit.” She was content with that, and it made we feel better as eight years old is just too young to be fixated on a weight issue.
The Bible says that “man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart.” We can be so hard on ourselves as women and people in general. It is not wrong to want to look nice, but when too much emphasis is put in this area, great problems can result. Focusing on our inner qualities is just as important yet we often fail to realize this. Inner beauty is in God’s opinion what He truly values. God looks at us through a loving father’s eyes. He does not see a flawed, mediocre person, who is unworthy of love and acceptance as he or she is. Instead He sees a unique and amazing person that He created with a calling and purpose. He looks down and says “That’s my kid!” I love what author Max Lucado says. He says “ If God had a refrigerator your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet your picture would be in it… Face it friend He’s crazy about you!” Every one of us is so unique and special. We need to stop looking at the world’s measure and standard of beauty and look at what God says about us. He cares so deeply for each one of us and longs to have a relationship with each one of us. He desires a friendship with us to love on us and reveal His unique will for each of us. See yourself the way you were meant to be seen, as the truly special and beautiful person you are. Don’t look at the photoshopped versions of perfection because you as all of us will always fall short. Focus on who you are, not on who you are not. We all have room for improvement, yet we all have amazing qualities too! Next time you look in the mirror, let it truly sink in that you are incredible and that the world has become a much brighter place simply because you are you are in it! Self improvement strategies are wonderful, but let’s not lose sight of who we really are!
Here’ s to the beautiful person you are no matter what you are wearing! Please enjoy these two videos about who we are in Christ as women and men. They are very powerful. Don’t just listen, but hear who you really are!
Psalms 18:19 NCV - Because he delights in me, he saved me.
Little Lesson Learned: See yourself the way God does. You’re perfect through His eyes of love!
Copyright: Littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014
Say What You Need To Say
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
- Mother Teresa
Well our eighteen year old son Tyler graduated from high school last week and I am still in shock! The time goes by so quickly! I feel like I blinked and there he was walking across the stage in his cap and gown. He left the next morning for a father - son trip with my husband and some friends of his to Chicago. It was an incredible time of fun, fellowship and “testosterone filled” male bonding. While they were off on their exciting adventure, it left my daughter Shannon and I home for a fun girl’s weekend. I cannot tell a lie and no offense to my husband and son, but it was absolutely wonderful. School had just wrapped up and Shannon and I slept in, went out for lunch, and dinner, went bowling, went to the mall, took in a chick flick movie (for the second time) and spent some time just chilling and gabbing in the hot tub. A great time for just the two of us to reconnect, laugh, and relax. The end of the school year gets so busy, that it seemed some quality time was truly long overdue. I am blessed to have two wonderful kids who have both grown up into two amazing human beings in spite of my ups and downs as their mom along the way! I am extremely proud of them both and I do really enjoy their company.
What I do really treasure as mentioned is that exceptional occasion where I can spend time with each alone. This is where I can truly focus on only that child and have more meaningful interactions. This is where the most meaningful dialogue takes place. My husband and I both try to make a conscious effort to spend time with each individually to strengthen our relationships. I remember especially when they were little how nice this would be. To have two little ones to take everywhere could get very complicated, but it was amazing how much easier and enjoyable it seemed to just have one with me some days. I feel very blessed that my kids feel they can talk to me about what is on their hearts and they will let me know when they need to talk. My husband and I find it funny that it is often at midnight that they feel the need to bare their souls, but as a parent you have to take it when it comes. Apparently I was the same way according to my dad. My parents would have been asleep for hours, and I would just barge in and start babbling on about something important, trivial or exciting in my life. No matter what, they would always listen. God bless them because in hindsight, I think I did this often not being very considerate of them!
It is so great to have these times though as it opens opportunities to let our loved ones know how much they mean to us. Those closest to us need to hear it. It is not enough to assume they know, but we need to tell them! It is like that with great friends too. I have some amazing friends in the teaching profession. Sadly several of them retired this June. Although I am so excited for them entering this new chapter of their lives, I will miss them so much. Not seeing their friendly and enthusiastic personalities in the hallways in September will be very difficult for sure. I knew the last day would be very emotional for me. It always is anyways, but even more so this year with my friends leaving. Trying to keep it together, was not easy I assure you. I must admit as the day went on, I was struggling. I had prepared a little musical number for the retirees with my class, yet did not know if I could pull it off emotionally. Later I came to realize though that tears or no tears, the show must go on and we were doing it. Well as expected I was an emotional wreck throughout the song, but I explained to the kids that it was because these teachers meant so much to me. I explained that when people are special to you, it may make you cry as you will really miss them. Several kids were crying too, but it was a powerful tribute to these teachers who everyone adored. Those friends came and told me later how much that meant to them. I am so glad I did it, as I knew this was my last chance to honour them in this small, but touching way. I said what I needed to say through a song and a little speech and I have no regrets. Interestingly right after my class presented, the next class came in and we all joined in with a spontaneous dance and sing along of the “Happy” song so that definitely lightened up the mood a bit.
I am sure there are many special people in your life, whether friends or family. I encourage you to let people know how you appreciate and love them. Lately there have been so many tragedies it seems. There are so many stories of people gone too soon often very unexpectedly. It is very heart breaking. We do not want to live with regret. Send a text, write a letter, fire off an email, or make a phone call. The person may seem a bit surprised, yet will be touched by your kindness.
My students are the best for that. They are so honest and sincere. They tell me they love me and that I am a great teacher often. I never take it for granted and it never gets old. I remember one particular day was rather difficult for me and a student came in and said right away “I just wanted to let you know how much I love school and I am so happy you are my teacher.” Those simple words made a very powerful difference for me that day! They model for me the power of showing appreciation spontaneously and in many ways I strive to be more like them.
Starting conversations of this nature can seem awkward at times, especially if you haven’t done it lately. Pray for wisdom on what to say and God will direct your conversation. You will feel great because you let someone know how much he or she is appreciated and believe me the person on the receiving end will feel like a million bucks! Don’t delay! Say what you need to say!
Proverbs 16:24: Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Little Lessons Learned: Life is too short. Take the opportunity to show the people closest to you how much they mean to you!
Copyright: Littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014
Talent Show Time
“I believe that God has put gifts and talents on the inside of every one of us. When you develop that and you believe in yourself and you believe that you’re a person of influence and a person of purpose, I believe you can rise up out of any situation.”
Talent shows! They are always interesting and very entertaining don't you agree? Several months ago we had a fantastic talent show at my school that my students and I really enjoyed. The only problem was that many of them had auditioned for it, but sadly had not made it. This is understandable as they are very young and only so many acts can be included. It was obvious though how disappointed they were to not be able to perform, so I made them a promise. My promise was that before the school year was up, we would have our own talent show where everyone from my class who would like to perform could do so for peers, parents and anyone else I could round up! Well today was the big day! Today we had a wonderful class talent show in our own little classroom. Desks were pushed aside. Chairs were set up and our carpet area was magically transformed into the "stage" where they were to make their big debut! Among the variety of acts were singing, dancing, comedy routines, magic tricks, hula hoop stunts and even mime theater. The really cool thing about this show is the eight year old students came up with their individual or group acts with minimal input from me. The students were so excited and very confident performing. It was wonderful and heart warming to witness. The show was such a success that we are going to do an encore performance next week for some other classes and parents who were unable to attend the original show. It was very touching for me to see the level of enthusiasm and effort the kids put into the show. I told them that each had the option of performing or simply watching the show if they preferred, yet all chose to participate which was wonderful. It is so exciting to see a child having a moment he or she will always cherish. I could tell this was to be a memory that would be filed away as something unique and special from their school days. I felt honoured to be some small part of this with them. Our grand finale was a real crowd pleaser. It was a lively rendition of Hard Knock Life from the Annie musical. When the show was over, I was so grateful that I had taken the time to allow them to showcase their talents and skills. It was so obvious that it meant so much to them as they grinned from ear to ear and took their enthusiastic, final bows. This is a memory as their teacher I will always cherish as well.
I love to watch the show America’s Got Talent. I find it especially exciting to watch the first auditions of acts that you know are going to really make it big! It gives me goose bumps watching some auditions as you can literally sense the power of the moment. The literal moment where this person’s life is about to drastically change is unfolding. Many acts have caught my attention through the years. I felt so impressed when little Jackie Evancho took the stage. She is a young opera singer who absolutely took the audience by surprise with her polished, mature voice of an angel. I was thoroughly enthralled by Terry Fator who is an amazing ventriloquist. He sang elaborate and complicated duets with his puppets, many who were female with perfection. Last year’ s winner Kenichi Ebina also was incredible. What he describes as a "dance- ish" performance was unreal and I am so glad he won as he was my favourite from the start. I have included his original audition below for you to enjoy. I love it when the judges ask each person or act what they are going to do and sometimes you see them smirk or roll their eyes before the act starts. The camera keeps rolling and the “judgmental” judges are later on their feet in thunderous applause with the crowd! I love it when that happens, as many people have incredible talent within them. They just haven’t had a chance to showcase it yet.
I am a vocalist and I remember feeling that way in high school. I love to sing and had sang in church many times, but had never had an opportunity to sing at school. My chance came and I was nervous, yet incredibly excited. I hoped the crowd would receive me well. My first solo in high school was for a Remembrance Day assembly. I sang an Amy Grant song called “I’ll Be Waiting.” I was accompanied by my sister Judy on keyboards, and two friends on bass and drums. This song is about the prodigal son returning, and although it is not a Remembrance Day song, the lyrics were very suitable as it talks of someone longing for their loved one’s safe return. This moment was so surreal. I could feel it was to be a turning point for me! I was singing a solo for my entire school and this was my dream come true. Pinch me! I also could sense to my relief and delight that people were actually enjoying it! This was the real icing on the cake! From then on I got many solos at school and my confidence soared. It was so powerful when you feel that people believe in you and support your abilities and talents!
Many of us have talents just waiting to emerge, but may be unsure of what others may think. Don't worry about that. You will meet people on your journey in life who will celebrate you and others who treat you like you are invisible. My advice is focus on those who bring out the best in you! They are the true friends and the folks who help us become better people. I have struggled with feelings of inadequacy at times through the years. I have often wanted to do things, but felt someone else would do a better job, or was very nervous about failing, or was unsure if I should step out into unfamiliar waters. Feeling vulnerable and out of my comfort zone is not one of my favourite scenarios that is for sure. I have come to realize that life is too short and I don’t want to live with regret. I want to use the talents that God has given me to bless and help others and I pray for direction daily on how I can best do that.
There is no one out there just like you. Of all the people in this entire universe, you are the only one who is you! Just ponder that for a moment. Isn’t God’s creativity amazing that He could create that many different kinds of special and incredibly unique people? Wow! We serve an awesome God! You, yes you, have something special to offer this world that only you can give. You may not know what it is exactly, but God does. He wants to use us for His glory if we allow Him to. I encourage you to pray about this and make yourself open to new possibilities. God can open doors that no man can shut and take you on a journey you could not have dreamed of if you are willing. If you are discouraged remember that you are an amazing person with incredible abilities and potential. There is a “stage” out there for you and your unique audience awaits. I have many mentors along my life’s journey and one of my mentors who has helped me immensely with my writing career said to me recently, “ I am so excited for you and how your writing is taking off! I know I will look back and will be able to say that I knew her when she was just starting and now look how far she has come!” I really value his opinion and his kind words meant so much to me. When others see potential in us, it allows us to look deeper inside too and recognize what we have ready to offer this world.
Finding our callings, passions and truly using our talents and abilities to the fullest can take time. Be patient. You will be glad you did and so will those around you as they stand to their feet and celebrate you believing in yourself and becoming all that God has for you. Your moment is coming! Can you feel it? I can and I have goose bumps!
1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
Little Lesson Learned: Everyone has something he or she is good at. That something can be a great blessing and encouragement to others!
Copyright: Littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014
It's A Hard Knock Life!
“I learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s) he handles these three things:
a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”
Recently my daughter Shannon and I had an amazing experience of performing in a childrens’ theatrical production in our home town called Annie Junior. It was our first show together and clearly a dream come true for both of us. I have directed many plays in my teaching career, yet had not had much opportunity to be in any. My daughter was an orphan and servant and I was a servant as well. It was produced and directed by good friends of mine, Terry and Lenore Raisbeck who are extremely talented and gifted in the arts. I have long admired them and to be able to perform with them was so wonderful for both my daughter and I. They run a theater company called The Little Tomato Theater involving youth from our area and the shows that they produce are absolutely second to none. What an meaningful experience for kids to be a part of something so magical and memorable. It was so exciting to watch Shannon grow as an actor and get into character as both a rough and tumble orphan and a prim and proper servant. Polar opposite roles for sure, yet she played them both very well! Nearly 2500 people came to see this heart warming show where an adorable redhead finally gets a family. I will never forget when the curtain opens with all the orphans in place ready to sing their big number, a clear crowd favourite, “Hard Knock Life.” The song speaks to the “rotten, smelly life,” these orphans endure day after day at the hands of a cantankerous, task master, the manager of the orphanage, Miss Hannigan. Fortunately, through a wonderful turn of events, not only Annie, but all the orphans have a happy ending when the very rich and compassionate Oliver Warbucks comes to their rescue. Their once “full of sorrow” life now had a bright future and the audience could not have been happier!
It is wonderful when life is like that and things work out for the best, yet as you know it does not always work like that in real life. Happy endings do not always come in the real world. Many times we can feel like those orphans and that nothing seems to be going our way. Crisis, serious problems or maybe just a million little things bring us down. Life gets so hectic and the day to day grind can really take its toll. My mom, a retired teacher regularly volunteers in my classroom. She comes in with the most creative insights and simple life lessons to share with the kids each week. Last week she decided to launch a discussion on expressions and what they mean. She was curious to see what the students thought certain common clichés meant. It was cute to see what the kids thought about these common expressions. I had to chuckle to myself when she said “What about this one? Stop the world. I want to get off!” I was feeling that way lately with being into the crazy season of final assessments, report cards, and final projects and exam prep for my own kids. Interesting though that she also mentioned an original expression that my comical grandfather, her dad used to regularly say as well. He always had a positive spin on things and unique perspectives despite his circumstances. When asked how he was he would often reply “Everything’s jiggaloo!” Simply he meant like we often say these days “It’s all good!” A good example of a positive outlook for us to follow.
Perspective is a truly wonderful thing. No matter how hard we have it in life, there is always someone who has a worse scenario than us. It is easy to complain about little things when truly we are so blessed and have so much to be thankful for as Canadians. Sometimes it is good to make a conscious effort to take inventory of what we truly have. We forget too quickly all the wonderful things that God has given us to make our lives more comfortable and meaningful. The expression “This too shall pass,” often holds true for many of the challenges we face, although we sometimes cannot see it at the time. Sometimes getting away from things for a while can be just what you need to get a healthier view on things. Recently, my husband and I went away for a weekend together to a quiet retreat center, not far from home. He works afternoons and we were really needing a chance to have some time together to reconnect and talk about things other than what errands needed to be done and the day to day household chores. It was very quiet there with very few guests that weekend. All the staff kept apologizing for the lack of activity on the grounds yet in reality this was exactly what we needed. A welcome change from the hustle and bustle of life. I work with 20 little kids in one room all day long, so a quiet, restful atmosphere was absolutely heavenly. We felt that the staff catered to our every whim and we left feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. This is something I recommend for all married couples. You really need to take time for each other and carve out time for just the two of you to keep your sanity in the busyness of life.
The world lost a wonderful and compassionate soul this week. I have long admired Maya Angelou who is an actress, poet and civil rights activist and her deep insights and perspectives on things. She went through many challenges in her youth but she learned how to overcome them and made a name for herself. Her positive outlook on things and determination to keep focused on the things that really matter in life where truly her saving grace. She was a powerful mentor of Oprah Winfrey and I have included one of her quotes on the blog this week.
I don’t know what you are going through right now. You may have a “rotten smelly life” or your life may be going very well, quite “jiggaloo” as my grandpa would say. Life has good times and bad and we have to handle them all. When the bad times come, we need to remember that life can be hard, but God is good. The Bible says: He will never leave us or forsake us which means God is there as a source of comfort for us always. Talk to people you trust too. It is very healing to know people can relate and they have been where you are and have lived to tell about it! Keep your perspective everyone! Whatever you are going through can be used to make you a better stronger person if you let it. Often our biggest struggles with time, patience and the right outlook can become blessings if we are open minded to it!
Deuteronomy 31:6 ~ Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord God goes with you: He will never leave you or forsake you.
Little Lesson Learned: The right perspective can turn a seemingly impossible situation around quickly if we allow for this possibility.
Copyright: Littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014
“Butterflies can’t see their wings. They can’t see how truly beautiful they are, but everyone else can. People are like that as well.” Anonymous
A beautiful thing took place for my family last weekend. We had the incredible experience of witnessing the water baptism of my two teenagers. In our particular faith (Pentecostal), we dedicate our children as babies and then each individual chooses the right time to be baptized in water for him or herself when he or she is ready. Both my kids decided that Easter Sunday was the right time for them. Together with family and friends they shared their stories of how they wanted to live a Christ centered life and make a public confession of their faith. This time our church started a new tradition with baptisms which was having a parent or significant mentor speak a blessing over the person being baptized. This was a very powerful experience for me and for those who attended as well. It was extremely emotional, yet so meaningful. A very proud moment for parents when their kids have chosen on their own to live for God and can get up in front of a packed church and declare that. We witnessed a beautiful thing take place that day. Parenting teens certainly has its ups and downs, but when a parent experiences a moment like this, it is one they will truly always cherish.
Likewise I heard a beautiful thing tonight. I attended a concert in my hometown that was truly incredible. This small orchestra made up of mostly teenagers played a wide variety of songs from pop to classical and left the crowd mesmerized with their incredible talents. The most impressive thing about this orchestra was that all their instruments were made from garbage, literally. The call themselves The Recycled Orchestra and they were from Paraguay. Among the various instruments were violins created from paint and baking cans and saxophones created from eaves trough tubing. Why you might ask? The reason is that this is the only option they had to bring music to this impoverished area. It was unreal that instruments made of junk made such beautiful music mimicking the actual instruments they were based on so authentically. I did not anticipate this when I went there and was so impressed by this group. I heard something beautiful arise from what others would see as just a pile of rubble originally. It always amazes me when people can see such potential in something. Who would think that a cookie tin could be converted into part of a guitar or a oil can a string base? Wow! A concert to remember that is certain! They kept saying talent is everywhere but opportunity is not. This was their way of creatively trying to level the playing field a bit and I would say they were very successful. There is a saying that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure and I literally witnessed this tonight.
Beautiful things are all around us but we can get so busy it is hard to notice them sometimes. A child’s giggles, a favourite song, a sunny day, a warm hug, a wonderful visit or even a hot cup of coffee. Beautiful things come our way all the time and we sometimes need to remind ourselves how truly blessed we are to be able to experience them.
As people we may not feel like we are that beautiful at times. We may struggle with feelings of low self worth or a sense of inadequacy, yet God specializes in making beautiful things out of our lives. We bring Him brokenness and he provides healing. We bring Him fear and he brings us peace. We bring Him worry and he brings us faith. On our own we cannot do it, but with God’s help He can bring out the beauty in all of us if we are open. A song I have sung often is called Through His Eyes of Love and the lyrics say “Through His eyes of love. See yourself the ways God does. Through His eyes of love. You’re perfect through His eyes of love!“ When Tyler was little he had a collection of tiny ceramic dogs. He loved and handled them so often that they were very nicked and scuffed. When I noticed what rough shape they were in, I inquired about what he wanted to do with them. Tyler quickly replied that he just loved them “that much more,” because of their nicks. He was looking through eyes of love and something beautiful was seen despite their obvious flaws.
It is so vital to focus on seeing the beautiful things that exist in all people. I believe we need to attempt to focus more on seeing the potential in people around us over their shortcomings. What a world we would have if we all tried to envision more frequently what could come from a person or situation if the right opportunity and encouragement was provided. I have often shared the starfish story when I have speaking engagements. The story is told of a little boy who was walking along the beach one day. The tide had gone out and had left countless starfish stranded on the beach. One by one, he began frantically tossing them back into the water. An older man witnessed this and inquired about what the little boy was doing. The boy explained that he had to save the starfish. The negative man scoffed saying “There are so many starfish and only one of you! What difference can you possibly make?” The little boy sweetly replied as he tossed a starfish in the water, “a huge difference for this one!” He saw the beauty and potential.
We all have beautiful things inside of us to offer this world. I know there are beautiful things just waiting to be shared in you and I want you to see it as well. Take a good look in the mirror tonight and know that a truly beautiful person is looking back at you. Believe this and let the world see it too!
Isaiah 61:3 ~ God gives: “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
Little Lesson Learned: Beautiful things are in us and around us. Take time to realize that and notice them today. Enjoy the song "Beautiful Things" below.
Copyright: Littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014