Tag Archives: inspiration

Move

Sharks have to move to stay alive.

This is mostly true (Must Sharks Keep Swimming to Stay Alive?). For most species they have to move to push water thru their gills to breathe. So, to stay alive, they must constantly swim, be in constant motion.

What about us?

Do we need to move to live?

I say, yes.

And not just physically. We need to move mentally and emotionally. Living is moving. One of my dadisms is “We are all works in progress.” I know that we can stop growing, but we shouldn’t. Yet, there are too many things today that hinders us from moving in our lives.

The obvious factor is smart phones. I see the effects of this device as a dad and as a teacher. 

My students get restless when we take notes, but if I give them some down time with their phones… the room is quiet… and they just sit there looking at the screen. I see this with my daughters, too.

The way we use our smart phone gives us a false sense of motion, of living. An interesting TED Talk, “Why our screens make us less happy” by Adam Alter, highlights the fact that many of the apps, social media, and games have no “stopping cues”. Moments that allow us to consider moving on to something else, like the end of a chapter in a book. So, we scroll through Twitter or Instagram because we can, it feels like moving. It keeps us scrolling because the feed is moving, too. There is nothing that cues us to stop. Of course tools like this don’t want us to stop.

Adam’s talk also highlights why this can be an issue. In his talk he visually shows how much time we have in a workday from three different years; 2007, 2015, and 2017. The blue sections indicate work, responsibilities for family, and eating/sleeping. The white space is our “personal time” and the red area overtaking the white area is how much time we spend on a screen.

Chart from Alter, Adam. “Why are screens make us less happy.” TEDTalk. April 2017.

Life is moving. We are not moving when we hold a screen in front of our face. It’s not just the physical aspect either. If you think about it, much or our life is lived in our hearts and minds. The way we think, what we feel, our motivation affects how we move about in a typical day. 

We need to move in this field of our lives, too. Screen time is not the main hurdle in this area, attitude is. As an English teacher I have to fight the belief students have that reading is stupid. Understand, I teach seniors, so their belief about reading (and writing) is hard to break through. Reading is one way we can learn, but we can learn from others through listening to their stories and perspective. Social media is not the place for this, especially at this moment.

Growing takes emotions and thinking. Feeling all of our emotions allow us to understand ourselves. This takes courage and a willingness to face our own shortcomings. Thinking through our emotions and our perspective makes us better people. Also, this type of moving allows our everyday life to be lived on a deeper level, to have a fuller, more joyful life. We stop taking things for granted because our hearts and minds are in constant motion. We are moving. We are living.

Maybe Ryan Bingham (character from the movie Up in the Air) was right…

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Reflections Jan 27, 2021

The girls are settling down. The house is becoming quiet. My headphones are playing some of my favorite songs as I build a writing playlist on Spotify. Earlier I wrote a poem for my personal challenge to write a poem in 100 different forms. It was poem 81, a haibun titled, “A Father’s Gift.

But the writing muse is still burning. I am not sure where this post will end up, but it should be good (it will be musical).

I am tired. I am tired on so many levels, from the perpetual cycle of hate expressed in our culture, to the perceived apathy of living from people around me. I could link to any number of news articles to reveal how much pure negativity there is in this world, but I am tired of viewing those stories. If I took a random picture anytime during the day, it would show people staring at their phones. As if the height of living is text messages and photos saturated with filters.

In some ways, life is pretty simple. It is who we are and what we do with our time. A simple concept, yet filled with possibilities. Maybe it is because I am just months away from my 50th birthday, but time is a constant force in my thinking. I swear I can hear the grains of sand when all is quiet. I still have goals and aspirations I want to accomplish… the time to complete those is running out.

Again, maybe it is because I’ve been living for 50 years but I know that love works. I do believe that we have the choice on who we are. We are in control of how we treat people. What I don’t understand is how we keep thinking hate and pain make this world a better place. What saddens me the most is how deep this has gone. How many kids aren’t loved by their parents. How mean we can be to someone sitting next to us. How easy it is to tweet venom.

I have faith, though. Love is more powerful. Love is strength. I know I can’t change the world, but I can build my world, my home, my life with the foundation of Love. That is a start.

And then there is the pursuit of dreams… if I could figure this part out… Would I like to make a living from writing? Yes, I would. Will I? I don’t know. Money is not the main goal of my writing aspiration, respect or recognition is. To know that when someone says my name, they consider me a writer, a poet. I understand that most of that falls on my shoulders. How I present myself to the world. I know I am a good poet. My words do make an impact for readers. Yet, I feel like the world views me as someone who has a nice hobby. And I don’t know how to change that…

A final note as I wrap up this informal and somewhat musical blog. Even in these troubling times, this life is wonderful. There is pain, troubles for us to overcome. That is what makes the next day better than today. Tell your friends and family that you love them. Have a good cup of coffee and turn up that jam and dance.

Because when it is all said and done, today is the only day you have. It’s worth living for.

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100,000 Words

It Is All Connected. My little corner of the internet where I have spent seven years writing about life. I hope I have inspired readers, made them laugh, and maybe think about things at a deeper level. In a few lines I will hit a crazy milestone; 100,000 words on just this blog. (I do have two other blogs.) I know it is cheesy, but I wanted a certain word to be that 100,000 word, while also reminiscing about my writing journey. I have about ten words to that milestone, the word is…

WHY

There it is.

I considered lots of words to be the milestone word. Words that reflect what I believe, what I do, who I am. But, in the end, the word WHY reflects a central idea to my life. Answering the question, understanding my reasons for doing things has given me a clear, yet still difficult, path to follow in my career, family, and personal life. Now that I have passed that milestone, let’s look back and discuss WHY I write.

This blog has been an adventure. 2012 was the second year of this blog and the highest word count: 21,183, yet only one like for the whole year. Last year, 2019, was the highest year for likes: 281. In one way, not very impressive. I only have just over 8,000 views total for my blog. In our social media culture this means I am an unknown. Yet, I know that people have read my posts.

  • There are 105 different countries that have read my blog.
  • For the last 5 years someone has read a post I have written every single day.
  • Over a thousand times, someone has found my blog because of a search engine result.
  • My “National Honor Society Speech” is the single most read blog post.

So, why do I write? 

First, I just have to. Writing is the lens I see the world through, especially my poetry. (You can read all my poems I wrote for the Poetry Month Challenge at my creative writing blog.) I have notebooks filled with poems. I understand the pain and joy of this world through the written word.

Which then brings me to the second reason I write, to connect with people. Every writer wants to know that someone has enjoyed their works. It means that a part of the writer has made an impact with another person in this world. That is a powerful thing. I hope my works have inspired, moved, enlightened others. Simple as that.

The final reason is that writing, creating, is fun. I love the process of creating a blog post. Creating a header, finding a video, deciding on the layout. It brings me joy, even when I write about the hardships of this life.

Here is to the next 100,000 words. And thank you, to you reader. Whether this is the first post you have read, or the hundreth, I am glad we could connect.

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I’m Not OK

It was a tough day.

I learned about the song, “comethru” from a senior for an assignment last semester. I like incorporating music into my lessons. It allows me to see a different aspect of my students. This song was shared during our study of the book, Night. In chapter 6, Juliek plays a last “concert” for the prisoners with his violin. The students had to share a song that lifts their spirits when life gets rough.

Life is rough right now.

This morning the students were allowed into the school to get their stuff and talk to teachers about how their classes would be handled online. They were allowed in by grade every hour. At one point I had about 20 seniors in my class. They were laughing, enjoying the chance to be together… maybe for the last time as seniors.

“Five More Minutes” by Scotty McCreery was a song submitted as a poetic song for our poetry unit.

A classroom, a school, is an intense snapshot of life. Everyday is filled with the full spectrum of emotions. Of victories and heartbreak. Personal growth and steps backwards. Each student has their own journey, yet it is shared with everyone in the classroom. Some of the fears are the same for every student as they walk the path to graduation. But right now, we are all sharing the same fear and anxiety of the present moment.

For a few moments, I felt OK this morning. After everyone left, a senior came back in, hand out toward me. “I need one more,” he said. And we did our handshake that we do everyday in class…

I’m not OK now… But again, I should listen to my students… Another song submitted for an assignment.

 

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The Power of Together

I bet you have heard the word Synergy before.

Or maybe have read about how two horses can pull three times the weight of one horse. If you add in the factor that the horses were raised together, they can pull four times the weight. This is the example many people use to show the power of synergy.

But synergy is not just for horses, it is an important element to our lives. There are a few aspects to understand about the synergy concept to gain the most from it.

One, the idea of synergy is often renamed depending on the environment. In sports we call it team. In life it is family and friends. In business it has been labeled tribe and team. At the heart of the matter, it is the idea of everyone working together. Working together for a common goal. That is the second aspect.

Horses don’t just pull 30,000 pounds around the field for fun. It is work and there is a destination for the load. No matter the situation: a basketball season, a happy family, reaching a sales goal, there has to be a unifying destination for the work. A WHY. Simon Senik’s book, Start with Why, is a great resource for diving deeper into this part of synergy. At the surface, though, it means everyone working toward a common goal.

A hard truth here, synergy has always been used to highlight the positive. The truth is that synergy can also destroy. In real life you can have a group of people who build momentum in their negative attitude and destroy a team. Destroy the culture of a business. So called friends that bring you down from accomplishing your goals. Synergy is about how much a group can accomplish together. That means both positive and negative outcomes. This truth highlights the importance of the destination. It also explains the importance of the third factor, the right team.

The example of how much weight horses can pull has an interesting twist. As the story goes, a single Belgian draft horse can pull 8,000 pounds. Two Belgian draft horses that are “strangers” can pull over 20,000 pounds. But a pair of horses that are raised and trained together can pull over 30,000. Consider that idea for a moment.

A team that has been together over time, who have gone through the same training or life experiences, has the greatest outcome. I hate to bring it up again, but that means both positive and negative outcomes. It is important to remember as we deal with changing things for the better. Back to the idea of a team that has grown together and the work they can accomplish.

This is powerful. This is a factor in an outstanding life. At the moment of writing this blog it is state basketball time. Eight teams in each class have made it to the state tournament. Teams have grown together over the season to reach this goal. You will hear the word “team” in the interviews, from both the winning and losing coaches. It might be a cliche in a way, but it is true. It takes a team to get to this level. A group coming together for a common goal. Synergy in action.

The same happens in our personal lives. Our friends, our family, are part of our personal synergy. The difficult part is that there is not always an end goal with these relationships. Sometimes the reason, or the why, of our relationships is lost. Then we feel like we are drifting. Relationships feel shallow. Understanding and working for the WHY of our relationships is paramount. A strong marriage or friendship takes work. There are many ways to do that work. One example from my life is our tradition as a family for each person to choose a word of the year, then displaying that word in a unique way in our home (Living by One Word). Throughout the year we check-in on how we are doing with our words. We grow together.

Creating positive synergy is a powerful element for any team. No matter what type of team you are on; basketball, sales team, or family.

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Our Gift is for Others

The hardest part of our gifts – of our talents – is that they are not made for us; they are made for other people.

Let me explain…

Yes, there is a payoff for our gifts for us. Our talents enrich our lives, brings us joy. In some cases we even become rich and famous from our talents. There is a payoff for us. But we can live our whole life without expressing our talents. We can be happy. We can even be rich and famous without spending a day working on or sharing our talents.

I am a writer, a poet, a blogger. But I could spend my time not writing and be fine…

Here’s the catch.

My gift, your gifts, are meant for other people.

We have a responsibility to give our talents to the world. This is where I am going to dive deep; the why of it all.

I’ll continue to use my writing as an example, but you can swap in your gift for the rest of the blog. Ready?

A void. There is a void in our lives and in the world if we don’t share our gifts. Yes, the world will go on. Our lives, as mentioned before, will go on, but there is a void. We and others will miss moments of joy and inspiration that can change the world. I know, you think I am using a hyperbole here. I am not.

You may have seen the movie, Coach Carter, where the above clip originates from. Or have read the quote, “Our Deepest Fear” from Marianne Williamson. Part of our light is our talents. Our gifts are meant for others.

One of my favorite moments as a poet was the night I attended an open mic in Omaha where I was able to meet a young poet who was inspired by my first book of poetry that I self published in college (And I Never Told You: 20 Year Anniversary Edition). His mom bought him a copy of the book at a local coffee shop when he was in high school. He is now a regular performing artist in Omaha and Lincoln. It was only because of social media that I got to meet him and know the story.

My story highlights a hardship of our gifts… knowing what happens after we give our talent to the world. Even if we become rich and famous, we don’t know how our talent helped someone.

Stephen King is one of my favorite authors. He knows his talent is appreciated by people because of the money he earns, by his popularity. But he has no idea how his books gave me an escape during some tough times. Stephen King doesn’t know the joy I’ve experienced sharing his stories with my kids. Taking them to see the new movie version of It. He doesn’t know… and that is OK because his gift was meant for me.

As a writer I know it is hard dealing with not knowing how my words affect the world. I am sure it is the same for you. I write something I think is awesome and nothing. No thumbs up, no like or love icon activated. No retweet. I have to be OK with that because my words are meant for other people. Writing brings me a sense of joy. It is awesome when a poem finds it way out of my head and onto the page. Then I must give that poem to the world for others to use. The same applies to you and your talents. If we learn how our gifts helped someone, inspired them, that’s cool, but usually we will never know. That’s not the reason for giving.

Do you see the void now? If you do nothing with your talents you miss out on a deeper joy in your life, but the world suffers more. When you share your talents you gift the world opportunities. Opportunities of inspiration. Opportunities of joy. Opportunities to change. Your talent is a gift… give it.

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

 

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What Happens When You Strive for Your Goals

Last Friday the country artist, Hailey Steele, visited our school to sing a few songs and to share an inspirational message about chasing dreams.

You may or may not recognize her name (I share a music video at the end). Hailey was part of the duet, The Line, on season two of The Voice.

Hailey shared part of her story with us in between singing some of her songs. She decided to drop out of college after her first semester to follow her dream of being a country music artist. She was only 19 when she moved to Nashville. You can learn more by reading her story at her home page linked above.

But that wasn’t the part that stuck with me. Hailey shared the advice we all hear, to follow your dreams. Which I agree with, but that is for another blog post. What stuck with me was when Hailey shared how pursuing her dream led her to opportunities she had never dreamed of. That by going after her dream she was able to do lots of cool things along the way.

Hailey Steele doesn’t have a number one song… yet. She is still working on her dream. But because she is working on her passion, her path is filled with moments that couldn’t be experienced if she had never went for her dreams.

Reaching our ultimate goal is never guaranteed. Not everyone wins. But reaching for our goals creates moments that enrich our lives. By working on our passion, by striving, moving forward, our paths take us to new opportunities we would never have had otherwise. Those moments should not be taken for granted… they are milestones for our hard work.

Thanks, Hailey Steele, for reminding me of that.

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Snow Day Reflection

Yesterday was a snow day.

Yesterday was a good day.

Yesterday was filled with games, reading, a nap, and snacks.

It was a day of family, movies playing in the background, and laughter.

Yesterday was HOME.

I wondered how other people’s day was? Who was yelled at? Who spent the whole day on their phone? Who was hungry?

One of the challenging aspects of teaching is knowing that some students don’t have a home. For my faithful readers you may remember the student poem, “I Wake Up,” that I shared on my educational blog last year. As a teacher I wish I could change the world for all my students. But I can’t. That is a hard truth that is difficult to live with.

As a husband and father, I am proud of the home I have built. It takes work. It takes work everyday. But yesterday was a reminder of why it matters. Yesterday was a snow day. It was filled with joy. It was good to be home.

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More Stars

Last night my oldest daughter had pep band for a volleyball game. I had gotten the three younger girls to bed, so I headed out to the school to wait for my daughter. It was a clear, cool night so I opened the moonroof in the minivan.

I parked in the faculty parking lot. There was not much light pollution there, so I could see the night sky filled with stars. I turned off the minivan, leaned the seat back a little and just enjoyed the view. Without getting deeply personal, stargazing is a spiritual activity for me. As I enjoyed the moment, a thought shot across my mind… then my heart. I was looking at more stars than I had days left to watch them.

In a crazy moment of thought and feelings, I sat up. I actually got out of the van to get a better view of the sky, with that thought running through me. I was seeing more stars than days I had left.

I could tell the game had ended because people were exiting the building, walking toward their cars. I knew my daughter would soon be coming. She sprinted out of the doors looking for me. As she got into the van she noticed the moonroof was open. “Awesome!” she said.

She spent the ride home gazing up at the stars. She told me how much she loved the night sky. I didn’t share my insight. My daughter was in a joyous mood. She had every right to be.

I wish I could say my epiphany made today great, but it didn’t. I am actually in a somber mood, but not for the reason you might think.

What would a day look like? A classroom? A home? If we truly lived with the understanding that we have only so many days? How would we react if our personal night sky lost a star everyday… as our days dwindled… as our sky turned dark? Would we then choose love?  Would we then choose to pursue or dreams?

I know the idea is not new… but last night I realized that there are more stars in the sky than days I have to view them… I’m not going to miss any opportunities.

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No Answers Until

This was the last statement of the sermon last week at church. The priest had a handout with questions about the faith. But this blog is not about the sermon, it’s about the deep truth of the statement.

“There are no answers until you take the test.”

Ponder this idea for a minute… not in a school setting but in the overall view of life…

Let’s look at the powerful truth of this statement considering the impact it has on our life.

First, what answers?

All of them. 

For questions like: “Can I lose 10 pounds?” To deep questions like: “Am I a good father?” Any questions we have about our lives will only be answered by taking the test.

What test?

Our life.

An answer is not given simply by asking the question… the answer is discovered once we test our life for it. In one way, it sounds simple. It is. On the other hand though, it is easy to wonder about lots of things in our life, but never actually try to answer them. I know it is scary because we might not like the answers, but life is meant to be discovered. So, grab a pencil… it is time to answer those questions you keep asking…

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