Five-Minute Friday: Lift

(Note: “Five-Minute Friday” is an activity I participate in based on Kate Motaung’s blog, linked at the bottom of the page. Each week, Kate posts a one-word prompt, and people write for five minutes straight, free-write style with no editing and no over-thinking.)

This week, my father would have turned 67, so he has been on my mind more than usual lately. With this prompt, I immediately thought back to a card he sent me, one that I easily recalled in the wake of his death. I no longer remember the occasion that prompted him to send it to me, but I wrote the text of the cover in a notebook I keep that contains clippings my father sent me over the years – Reflections of the Day from The Boston Globe, strange newspaper articles (“Princeton mulls ban on nude run” reads one headline).

The message from the card is this:

I did not have an easy road to travel, but every time I reached the point where trouble was so deep that I thought I could go no farther, someone came along to help me through the deepest drifts. I didn’t always know who these people were, but I always knew who sent them. – Jeanne Morris

I love living in Cincinnati. Moving here last year was one of my life’s better decisions, but living here also means I have less chances of encountering the people my dad has sent over the years to lift me up when I needed it.

My dad was a dentist, and as such, he had an extensive network of colleagues and patients. In the seven years since he’s been dead, I have had random people come up to me to tell me they do not know me, but they recognize me from the pictures in my dad’s office and need me to know what a wonderful guy/dentist/doting father he was. Such encounters always caught me off guard since they occurred in the places I least expected it – at my former school’s library during a new parent reception, in the produce aisle of the grocery store – but I always appreciated them for the gift they were. I didn’t know these people, but I knew who sent them.

This week of my dad’s birthday, I might need a little lift. I will be on the lookout.

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Five-Minute Friday: Happy

(Note: “Five-Minute Friday” is an activity I participate in based on Kate Motaung’s blog, linked at the bottom of the page. Each week, Kate posts a one-word prompt, and people write for five minutes straight, free-write style with no editing and no over-thinking.)

As my summer winds down and I prepare to go back to the scheduled life of school, I thought this was a good week to get back into the 5-Minute Fridays, too. How fortuitous that the word is “happy” given that I have just had such a happy time off.

This week, I returned from a 7-day diversity leader training with an intense schedule. From 7:30 am until 9, 10, 11 pm, I participated in sessions with 55 other educators from across the country (and beyond). While I was happy to be there, that is not why I am including it in this post.

One of the videos we watched when discussing gender was this amazing poetry slam, “Pretty,” in which the poet includes a line that says the poem is “about women who will prowl thirty stores in six malls to find the right cocktail dress, but haven’t a clue where to find fulfillment or how to wear joy.” (Warning: if you watch the clip, there is one use of the F-word.)

The slam is powerful, but upon listening to it, I felt relief that I am not one of those women. I DO know how to find fulfillment and wear joy.

Here is what makes me happy, in no particular order:

  • My family, especially when we are all in the same place
  • Knitting
  • Running
  • Kayaking
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Being quiet, enjoying the stillness
  • Coffee
  • Working to leave the world better than I found it
  • Ice cream
  • Time off to enjoy all of the above

At this new job that isn’t so new anymore, administrators have the month of July off. This perk was one of many that ultimately drove me to accept the position, and I have to say, I underestimated the power of having such a large chunk of time off to recharge, regroup, and restore my soul.

Will I return to work next week happy? Indeed.

 

Five-Minute Friday: Limit

(Note: “Five-Minute Friday” is an activity I participate in based on Kate Motaung’s blog, linked at the bottom of the page. Each week, Kate posts a one-word prompt, and people write for five minutes straight, free-write style with no editing and no over-thinking.)

“The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice.”

The Boston Globe featured this quote in its “Reflection for the day” during my time in college. My father would send cards stuffed with newspaper clippings (I remember one about a skinny-dipping grandmother he thought would amuse me), random comics, these Boston Globe sayings, and a $20 bill. This particular saying, though, has been one of my go-to mantras because its truth applies to so many areas.

Recently, I attended a conference on Professional Learning Communities, and one of the keynote speakers talked about educational research and why some distrust it. One of the many reasons is that research is limited. During my doctoral coursework at Boston College, professors repeatedly drove home the notion that all research is perspectival. What we “find” is limited to the research question we asked in the first place, and the questions we chose to ask are influenced by our knowledge base (or that of our funding source).

The keynote speaker also said we had to be wary of any researcher who has not changed his or her mind. He said the mark of a true scholar is one who can say what researcher Richard Elmore and others said in a recent book: “I used to think…and now I think…” (Side note: I believe this ability to go back to the research with new knowledge and hindsight and revise one’s thinking also makes for strong leaders. I have never understood criticizing politicians for changing their stance on a topic based on time and new knowledge.)

Hearing this speaker made me wonder what fundamental “truths” I have changed my mind about based on my limitations and what I once failed to notice but now see quite clearly. Here is a list of some at random, indicative of a freewite:

I used to think that academic achievement reflected one’s intellectual abilities, and now I think it reflects one’s ability to “do school.”

I used to think that being busy was a badge of honor and a sign of productivity, and now I think that if you are too busy to relax and enjoy leisure activities, you are not as productive as you could be.

I used to think that meritocracy explained how people got ahead, and now I think meritocracy explains how people are blind to their privileges.

I used to think that if you are with the right person, marriage is easy, and now I think that all good relationships are the reflection of hard work.

I used to think seafood was disgusting, and now I think perfectly cooked salmon is divine.

I used to think that vulnerability was a sign of weakness, and now I think it is the greatest sign of strength.

Time’s up, readers, but I am very curious about what you have changed your mind about lately. Please comment if you’re willing to share!