My Gratitude Jar

flowers -joyHabits, whether good or bad, start off as thin as a single strand of hair – easy to snap. However, if we continue with the behavior, that same strand-like habit will grow to be strong and sturdy like chain links – difficult to break. Having an attitude of gratitude is a habit. This is a habit that I am constantly working toward; it is not easy. It takes work. It requires reflecting, sifting through life experiences, and being aware that there is value in all my interactions.  It is not easy to be in gratitude when negativity steps in, when there is illness, death, or when bad news comes our way. However, I know if I search within, there is always something for which I can be grateful.

Over the years, I’ve attempted to keep a gratitude journal, but after a short period, the journaling of my thoughts became a dormant idea. Some time ago, I heard about the gratitude jar and I promised myself that I would start one. I don’t need a journal or a jar to express my gratefulness, but this tangible means of reflecting helps me to recognize my blessings and joys.

The birth of my Gratitude Jar was on January 12, 2016.  See photos at the end of this post.

My first note of gratitude:

This evening I spent some time with Rosh as she worked on her “bottle this feeling” jars. Her “About” page on her website talks about how being grateful contributes to your happiness – what a beautiful reminder for me as I bottle 101 thoughts in my head. I am grateful to my daughter for reminding me to live with an attitude of gratitude.

Here is another note from January 16th

I’m in gratitude for…

  • Kind, caring, listening ears
  • The gift of time
  • The gift of friendship
  • Knowing when to speak softly and quietly
  • Lessons in time management
  • Being honored with trust
  • Prayers and positive energy

I have decided to grow the habit of being in gratitude today and every day. I find that being grateful brings me joy. Although I do not write gratitude notes with pen and paper daily, I write them with my reflections and actions.

 Today, among other things, I am grateful for your friendship, my health, and the peace, joy, and positive energy that surround me.

 Thank you for visiting my blog!

 With gratitude,

 Elaine

 

A life Lesson from Sand Mandalas

Dear Readers,

I’ve been away from my blog and your blogs for several months now. A few life events kept me away and even zapped my motivation and discipline to post here and visit with you. Today, I feel ready to recommit my energy to blogging. It will take some time for me to catch up with your posts, but my intention is to visit your blogs as soon as possible.

This evening, I’m reflecting on an experience I had in 2010 which I posted here.

In 2010, I had the wonderful opportunity of witnessing the monks at the Buddhist temple in Miami create extraordinary, intricate, and immensely beautiful sand mandalas. As I observed their patience, skill, and mindfulness of their art, I felt a sense of peace within me. It was hard for me to understand how their dedication, love, and skill to the beautiful art they created will disintegrate after a few days; it will all be swept away and they knew it.

Now, years later, looking back at those moments, I can truly see how anything we create or build, no matter the work, skill, beauty, love, time, and talent we put into it, can all be undone and swept away. We just have to accept, embrace, and be in gratitude for the value and all that the creation brought us.  Life is filled with dual experiences and we learn and grow from each one of those experiences.

I’m glad that you’re visiting my blog!

With gratitude,

Elaine

A Lesson for the Teacher

The Daily Prompt asks this question: When was the last time you were embarrassed? I haven’t had a recent embarrassing moment, but I’ve had scores and scores of embarrassing moments that are not so recent. I’m too embarrassed to write about some of those moments on a public forum! Since the new school year is right around the corner, I’ll share a conversation that caused me to turn red.

When: Several years ago, on the first day of school, in a first grade class

Before the red face:  I greeted students and parents at the door, we got on with our first day procedures, we looked at supplies, and then I went to a student to talk about his missing supplies.

What I said: Can you please tell your grandma to send in a folder by the end of the week?

Student’s response: My grandma?

Me: Yes. Your grandma brought you to school, right?

Student: She is NOT my grandma. She is my mom.

I was so mortified with my horrible error that I was speechless for a few seconds. You can imagine how apologetic I was when I caught my voice! Needless to say, I’ve never made that kind of mistake again. I learned a fine lesson on that first day of school!

My Prized Possession: A Collection of Letters

For the past several years, just around the first week of December, I go to my closet and take out my box of birthday letters and spend a few minutes reading all the beautiful thoughts 37 people penned to me.

I always tell my family that I want to get my flowers when I am alive; when I can enjoy and feel the joy of receiving them. I always tell my family people need to hear kind words and nice things about themselves when they are alive. Why wait until the person dies? My family heard me. For my 37th birthday, one of my daughters spearheaded the “Mom’s Birthday Letters” project. The 37 letters I received brought immense joy and happiness to me then and still do today. These letters have taken up real estate in my heart! Today, I will share with you one of my letters. I’ve retyped it verbatim, except for my name. I replaced my nickname with my real name.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Elaine my dear,

Today as you celebrate your birthday, my thoughts will be with you as yours will be with many others as well. It will be unjust if I do not take this opportunity to congratulate Roshini for thinking about you and creating a gift that will probably end up being your most prized possessions; one you can refer to and cherish long after she is all grown up and gone. My invitation to participation in your book of love is indeed an honor.

Elaine, I have known you for about 17 years and I think you look the same – young and pretty.  Your early adult years were fun-filled for your childhood lingered. I realized that only because we worked together which gave me the chance to know you for the person you are. I watched you grow and most importantly mature through laughter and tears.

We spent some school years together, though not classroom time. We were there for each other for support and to lend an ear. Those days were rough ones and I will never forget them. Those were also good years where we actually developed our friendship as it is today. That time in your life was also blessed, for in my opinion, it forced you to grow up fast.

I remember vividly the excitement you displayed on your 25th birthday. I was very happy for you then as I am today. Youthful days gave you extra energy to deal with the trials of motherhood. You did a wonderful job and your success shows in the three beautiful children you have. Now both you and your husband can welcome their accomplishments with great pride.

Over the years, I watched you blossom into the woman you are. Your educational path led you here, your community involvement, your unselfish thoughts and time devoted to others, your family life, a loving wife and mother…these qualities my friend will continue to bloom and take you into the golden years.

On this your 37th birthday, the pleasure is all mine to be able to call you friend. It was God’s will and my good fortune to see where you were yesterday, where you are today and your journey into the tomorrows ahead.

A special wish to you for  a happy, healthy, and blessed birthday. Cherish today and continue to embrace tomorrow with a smile.

Love,

Seroj

bday cake

Brighten Someone’s Day- Today!

Credit: Bing images

Credit: Bing images

Why seven? Why not ten? Seven has a nice ring to it!

1. Be a coffee fairy. Surprise a co-worker with cup of coffee from his favorite coffee shop. Your heart will smile when you see the joy this simple, inexpensive act will bring to him.

2. Write a “just because” note to someone. Last Thursday, one of my students brought a handwritten note for each of her classmates. The smiles that lit up their faces were invaluable. I took a photo of the class holding up their letters because I want a tangible memory of her thoughtfulness.

3. Let someone go ahead of you in the grocery line, especially if they have just a few items. This happened to me earlier today. This act of kindness brightened my afternoon.

4. When the children are standing outside of the grocery store with their fundraiser chocolate, buy one and then give it back to them to resell. It’s a win-win situation (at least for me) I don’t need the extra sugar and they get an extra dollar.

5. Pay a compliment. Whenever I wear my coral blouse to work, I get lots of compliments. Each compliment brings a smile to my face and brightens my day.

6. The next time you take a digital photo of someone, add a cute frame, speech bubble, or caption before sending it off.

7. Be optimistic. Your positive attitude will rub off. It can be hard at times, but when things are challenging, remind yourself that you have the ability to find a good outcome. A positive attitude is a sure brightener!

When you brighten someone else’s day, the light reflects right back to you!

Credit: Bing Images

Credit: Bing Images

Reflections on Hurricane Andrew

Today marks the 21st anniversary of Hurricane Andrew.  On August 24, 1992 this category 5 hurricane ravaged the lands of South Florida. Here are some of my reflections on the storm…

Sunday, August 23: My husband and I were co-hosts at a local radio station. It was an interesting and fun experience. Upon our return home, we paid serious attention to the forecast and proceeded to make some preparations for the storm. We had never experienced a hurricane so we had no idea what to expect. I recall my husband taping our windows and bringing in loose items from the patio into our garage. We also filled up some buckets of water. That was the extent of our preparation. Was that serious attention to the news? I remember thinking how can we have a hurricane coming when the sky is so serene and blue. Now I know that was the calm before the storm!

Sunday night: We went to sleep with no worries at all. Sometime during the early morning hours, perhaps about 2 A.M, we woke up to the howling wind and the crashing of tree branches against the walls. We sprung out of bed. Our entire household woke about the same time – my parents and our two young children joined us in the living room.

In the living room: We drew the vertical blinds to see what was going on outside. The children and I knelt on the sofa with our noses pressed to the windowpane, observing the swaying of the coconut palm in our yard and the thick sheets of pelting rain. We were so naïve! The front door rattled and bulged with the pressure of the wind and I vividly recall telling my dad and my husband as they were getting ready to place a sofa against the door, “do not put the new sofa, get the old one”. Was I stupid or what? In the interim of moving the sofa, the door could have come crashing down and we would have had some pretty serious injuries. I can’t remember what time the power went out.

Finding comfort on the floor: I think we were one of the few families that stayed in such close proximity to the danger of Hurricane Andrew. Most people gathered in their bathtubs,  in a study, or in a room. On the other hand, we brought out our comforters and spread them in the living room. We cuddled with the children until the howling and crashing winds and rains stopped. The children and I eventually fell asleep.

The daylight hours: The reality of Hurricane Andrew truly kicked in for us when we ventured outside. Our street was a jaw dropping sight… tiles from the rooftops, fallen fences, damaged cars, broken windows, houses with partial rooftops, blown out doors, dislodged cars, uprooted trees…you name the type of damage a hurricane can bring and it was there. The charging wind ripped apart one of my neighbor’s sliding doors, picked up a stereo speaker, and hit him smack above the eye. He had a huge bulge for days.

The damage to our property: The damage was minimal. It doesn’t compare to the other residents, so I don’t speak of it. We were saved from Hurricane Andrew, and I thank God and count my blessings for the protection. We were happy to only have had to deal with the loss of power for about a week, the summer heat during the day, and the mosquitoes by night. Hurricane Andrew taught us a valuable lesson in preparing for a storm.

Did I say I was four months pregnant at the time?

The aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in the Miami...

The aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in the Miami area (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A letter to my teachers

In 2007, I wrote a letter to my teachers at Zeeburg Secondary School for an alumni magazine. Unfortunately, the magazine did not take off and I did not pursue any other means of sending my letter. Last month, I attended an event celebrating the 50th year of Zeeburg Government Secondary School and I came back home inspired to find my letter written six years ago. I plan on sending out my blog link so my teachers can finally read this thank you letter.

Although many of my readers here do not know of my school, I am sure that you’ve got at least one teacher who made a lasting impression in your life. 

June 2007

My Teachers,

Although I think of you often and thank you in my heart for educating, loving, and believing in me, I have never taken the opportunity to show you how grateful I am to all of you. This tribute is long overdue, but I hope that my penned thoughts can in some small way express my gratitude to you for your dedication in teaching and nurturing my young impressionable mind. I thank you for the exceptional role you have had in my life when I was your student and for the influence you continue to exert on me as I go through life’s journey.

As teachers, you rarely get to see the fruits of your labor or the extent of your harvest, but it is my wish that you become aware of how your teachings have impacted my life and have molded and shaped me into the person I am today. You not only taught me academics, you taught me how to live, laugh, and love. You helped me to recognize that knowledge does not only come from a book, but from experiences such as mistakes, failures, and setbacks.

In this letter, I pay homage and give accolade to all my teachers. I would like to recount and reflect upon specific experiences, but I want to make it too long. I have encountered teachers throughout my life; each of us is a teacher in our own right, but had it not been for the influential and exceptional educators I found in you, I would not have experienced some of the personal triumphs in my life. You have instilled in me a love for school and the pursuit of lifelong learning. Thank you, my teachers!

You were masters at observation – because of the different activities I had in school, I was sometimes placed at the center of attention where everyone’s eyes were upon me.  Many times I wanted to deflect that attention by giving a poor excuse for not being able to participate, but being observant and intuitive individuals, my teachers recognized my doubt and fear and always nurtured my confidence back into place. Thank you for teaching me to believe in myself.

It is said that “teacher expectation” is one of the most important attributes in a student’s success and I can truly say that I bear witness to this belief. Here’s an example of such expectation: I recall when I was about 14 years old one of my teachers sent a message for me to go see him in his office. I was surprised, for this teacher did not teach me any academic subjects. However, he had an administrative role and that got my knees knocking. My mouth was dry. I was scared.

Upon arriving in his office, he looked at me through his thick glasses hanging at the tip of his nose, gave me a reassuring smile, and invited me to take a seat. In a soft, gentle, and kind voice he explained to me the reason I was sitting in his office – my marks (grades) had fallen; they were not where they ought to have been. There was no reprimand or expression of disappointment, just a reference to my gender, age, and the possibility that there might be some reciprocity toward the boys who were paying me much attention. He did not ask me to improve my grades, he expected me to do so. When I left his office that day, I decided to never give him the opportunity to invite me again for such a discussion. Teacher expectation was high. The lessons I learned decades ago have become a part of who I am today. Thank you, Mr. Gobin!

Throughout my years at Zeeburg Secondary I spent much time with some of you, grappling with debate preparation, public speaking tips, and learning valuable life lessons that did not come in a textbook. Familiarity allowed me the enviable opportunity to ask questions that a typical teenager dared not ask of her teachers. My questions were given the attention they deserved, and were answered accurately. I must admit that the boldness I displayed as a teen has not in any way diminished with age! Thank you for satisfying my curiosity.

I would be remiss if I do not mention the valuable spiritual lessons I gained at my Bible Club meetings while in school.  Bible Club was an extension of the values I was getting at home and at my church. I can also say without hesitation that my ability to speak to an audience of my peers, as well as adults was certainly encouraged and nurtured during those meetings. Even today, I often reflect upon those lunch time meetings and bask in the warmth of those fond memories.  Thank you, Mrs. Tulsi for your love, care, and devotion.

My teachers remain a constant source of inspiration – your lessons serve and inspire me daily. Thank you for instilling in me the drive and ambition to embrace the noble profession of teaching. Yes, I am a teacher! Each day as I step into my 3rd grade classroom, I emulate your high expectations and love of teaching and learning. Like you, I am also touching lives, building bridges, and enabling dreams.  Like you, I am also planting seeds of possibilities. Like you, I may not see the fruits of my labor, but you have assured me that I can impact lives decades later.

My teachers, I thank you for your guidance, knowledge, skills, and expertise, but above all, I thank you for educating, loving, and believing in me.

With love and gratitude,

Elaine

Zeeburg Government Secondary School Photo taken in 2011

Zeeburg Government Secondary School
Photo taken in 2011

A Powerful Habit: Responsibility

Responsibility means doing what you’re supposed to do even when you don’t feel like it. ~Patricia Ortega, Mental Health Counselor.

Responsibility is a habit, a powerful habit. It is a habit that I strive toward daily in my life’s journey and I know I am not alone. I don’t think anyone gets up in the morning and says, “Today, I’m going work hard to build bad habits.” On the contrary, we all genuinely want to become better individuals. We all want to make our good habits better.

Here are my five ways, in no particular order, to build the powerful habit of responsibility.

Be polite: People may not remember what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel. You don’t have to know someone to say good morning, hello, or share your smile. Hold the door for the person behind you. Let someone else go ahead of you in line. Wake up each day and vow to be polite.

Be a good listener: Fight, fight, fight that urge to interrupt. In our family, we regularly interrupt each other. We definitely have to work harder on this one! Don’t finish other people’s sentences, unless you’re a mind reader and know what they want to say! Watch that wandering mind and bring it back to the conversation.

English: Houston, TX., 9/10/2005 -- Vicki LaTo...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Be “present” in the company of others: Have you ever noticed how someone picks up his/her cell phone while in the company of others and proceeds to have a conversation or exchange texts? If you’re expecting an important call or message, state it ahead of time. All other calls, tweets, texts, or updates can wait. Enjoy the human interaction. Recently, I was at a restaurant and every member of a family of four was on the phone or other electronic device while they were waiting to be served.

Dress appropriately: I firmly believe that we ought to dress to suit the occasion. I don’t wear a blouse and slacks to the beach, so I certainly won’t wear a low-cut top and ripped jeans to a meeting with my child’s teacher.

Be reflective: One might ask, “How can being reflective help me to be responsible”? Reflecting on our day, an event, a situation, or even a moment can help us to focus on what matters. Reflecting keeps us thoughtful, grounded, and balanced.

As an adult, when I keep these five points in mind and act upon them, I know that I am doing what I’m supposed to do even when I don’t feel like it. I’m working toward being more responsible.

Mother: Nurturer, Teacher, and Friend

Today’s daily prompt asks us to write a letter to mom. I gave my mom her letter yesterday. This post is a short reflection.

Every day is Mother’s Day and frankly speaking, we should not wait for this specific day in May to celebrate our moms. Having said that, although I do not tell my mom daily how much I love her or what a blessing she is to me, I am eternally grateful for all she has done to raise me into the woman I am today; the mother I am today. I am thankful for the many lessons she taught me directly and indirectly.

My mother- nurturer, teacher, and friend has helped me to recognize that…

Nothing is a coincidence

Each moment is unique and precious, and once passed it cannot be recaptured

When we ask for something, we ought to ask with the intention of receiving

God places people, situations, and circumstances in our paths to make our lives easier

Each disappointment, hardship, or setback we have, ultimately makes us stronger

People have the ability to collectively channel their thoughts for the greater good

Keeping the spirit of hope alive will make that which seem impossible, possible

Daughters do not truly understand their mothers until they themselves become mothers.

I am proud to be my mother’s daughter!

English: Mother's Day card

Photo credit: Wikipedia