A Pitcher of Water

I have been listening to old episodes of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. In an episode with Shawn Achor, who is a happiness researcher, he said one thing that I really liked.

People talk about whether the glass is half full or half empty. But the important thing to remember, is that if you scan your environment, you will see a pitcher of water nearby. It doesn’t matter if it’s half full or half empty, because we always have the power to fill it up.

Now, I admit that I am a naturally optimistic person. Hey, the name of this blog is “looking on the bright side.” But I am definitely a human with my good days and my bad days. When I have my bad days, I try to look for that pitcher of water nearby.

Sometimes we have to work for our happiness. It doesn’t always come naturally. But we can make active decisions to do things that will increase our happiness. Reach out to a friend you haven’t talked to in awhile. Put on that happy music. Plan an outing to somewhere fun. Sit outside and look at the clouds. Watch a movie that you love.

When you’re feeling depressed, these things can take a real effort and don’t come easily. But keep looking for the pitcher. It’s always there somewhere.

A Jason Mraz Playlist to Brighten Your Day

It’s been awhile since I wrote a post sharing some “Looking on the Bright Side” music with you. Songs that motivate and make you feel good. Well, one of my all time favorite artists is the king of those songs – Jason Mraz. I’ve put together a little playlist of songs to make you feel good with tracks from each of his seven studio albums.

  1.  Curbside Prophet Okay, so this one doesn’t exactly fit the theme of the playlist, but I needed to pick a song from his awesome first album, and I just love this one.  An introduction to Jason Mraz’s style if you are not familiar.  His lyrics are full of wordplay.
  1. Life is Wonderful A slower-paced song about how everything is connected in this life.
  1. I’m Yours One of his more recognizable hits about being open to love.
  1. The Freedom Song This song is from his fourth album, Love is a Four Letter Word.  The theme of the whole album, so I have several songs from this one for you.  This one is about the beauty and joy that causes us to sing.
  1. Living in the Moment A topic that I’ve written about before on this blog – the importance of being present in the current moment.  Let go of the past.
  1. Everything is Sound Another one about the power of music.
  1. The World as I See It We’re all connected, which makes it easier to love each other.
  1. 93 million miles No matter how far you go, you can always come home.
  1. Love Someone A song about the power of love.
  1.  Hello, You Beautiful Thing Wake up and know it’s going to be a good day.
  1.  3 things The three things we should do when going through a hard time to help us recover.  1) Feel the emotion and let it out.  2)  Have gratitude for all the good things in life.  3)  Let that chapter end and try again.
  1.  Have it All Giving blessings to others.
  1.  Love is  still the answer Love is the answer to everything.
  1.  Look for the Good Jason Mraz’s 7th studio album, Look for the Good came out in 2020.  We have certainly needed this reminder to find the positive in everything during this crazy year.
  1.  Make Love A reminder that peace starts with us as individuals. 
  1.  My Kind Love brings us together.  We are all connected as humankind.
  1.  You Do You A duet with comedian Tiffany Haddish.  We’re each unique individuals and special, but together we can do awesome things.

Learning to Love my Face

So I decided this week that I am going to attempt to give up makeup, specifically foundation and concealer. I hate my skin. Growing up, I had a lot of acne. After two rounds of Accutane in my early 20’s, I don’t have nearly as big of a problem with acne anymore.

No matter what I do, however, I cannot get my skin to be all the same color. I’ve tried for years to get rid of the darkness under my eyes and the splotchy redness on my sensitive cheeks.

I’m not a huge makeup person. Like I’m not someone who puts on a full face to go out, but I do try to even out my skin tone because I’m so self-conscious about it.

When the quarantine started back in March, I thought, “Maybe this is it. Maybe not wearing makeup for an extended period of time will allow my face to heal.” Well, it didn’t work. It still gets red and irritated. I went weeks without wearing makeup, but would still feel pressured to put on some concealer before taking a picture that I would post to social media or just running one errand.

I have decided to stop trying so hard to fix my face. I am going to try to learn to love my face. I’m going to go out without makeup, and I will be okay. Okay, maybe just some mascara and lip gloss.

It doesn’t even look as bad in pictures as it does when I look in the mirror. Oh well.

Love Does

I just finished reading the book, Love Does, by Bob Goff.  It is a Christian book and the basic premise is that love is an action.  We show love to God and others through our actions.

Each short chapter tells a story about Bob’s often crazy and adventurous life, which he then relates to a belief or message he wants to share.  

The book is really good and an easy read.  He shows through his stories how he has chosen to live a fully engaged life.  It was inspiring, but also kind of made me feel like I could never do some of the things he does.  I’m never going to be someone who just picks up and flies across the world on a whim. It does sound cool, though.  And I’ll just have to figure out what my fully engaged life looks like.

How can I be fully present in my life?  How can I be fully present in my relationships?  These seem like big challenges to me, because they require courage.  It takes courage to be fully engaged.

“I used to think you had to be special for God to use you, but now I know you simply need to say yes.” ~Bob Goff

To me, saying yes is often scary.  It involves risk. It involves faith.  I do not view myself as a courageous risk-taker.  It is something I will probably continue working on for the rest of my life.  Taking risks, however, seems to come easily to Bob. He does it all the time.

One word that Goff uses a lot throughout the book is whimsy.  He is always talking about living a life of whimsy. I do like the idea of leading a whimsical life.  He calls it a “renewable, infinite resource that multiplies.”

This book is not just Goff’s beliefs about how we should live our lives.  It is his beliefs about how Jesus wants us to live our lives. It is about putting faith into action on a daily basis.

“I think Jesus had in mind that we would not just be ‘believers’ but ‘participants’.” ~Bob Goff

He suggests our faith should be more than just ideas.  It should matter to us. It should engage us. It should move us to change the world.  It should be a paradigm shift that changes the way we look at every thing and every person and every situation around us.

I highly recommend this book.  It’s not a how-to manual. He doesn’t tell us how to fully engage with life, because it will be different for each person.  Now only does Bob go on crazy adventures, but he saves tons of kids in Uganda through his work.

But through his example, maybe, just maybe, you will be inspired to think about how to live your life fully engaged and full of whimsy and fun and things that matter.  I’m not sure I can put myself out there in the ways that Bob does. He even puts his phone number at the end of the book to say that he is willing to talk to you about anything in it.  But maybe, in my own little ways, I can try to evaluate what “love does” looks like for me.

I Shall Not Live in Vain

Here is my positive thought of the day to share with you during this crazy time. A poem by Emily Dickinson.

We can all make a difference in big or small ways. Right now, we’re making a difference by staying home and isolating.

Shout out to all the people who are currently making a difference in big ways. The doctors and nurses, the first responders, the political and business leaders having to make big decisions to keep us safe, the providers of food and other necessities, and again to the healthcare providers. There are lots of people right now who are making a difference in big ways. But even if that isn’t you, think of all the small ways that you make a difference.

Spreading Love through Music – a Celine Dion Concert Review

Last night, my sister and I attended Celine Dion’s Courage tour in New Orleans. I love attending concerts, but this one definitely blew both of us away. It was amazing!

Celine Dion was our first major stadium concert back in middle school. I was a big fan back at that time, over twenty years ago now. I remember doing a project on her once for music class.

While I have always remained a fan, I have not followed her career closely in the intervening years. Last night reminded me how completely amazing she is!

My sister and I unintentionally wore outfits that were color-coordinated. We had a laugh at our accidental twinning. Many of the fans, however, wore sparkles, sequins, and fur in dramatic silhouettes. I wished that I had dressed with a bit more glam, although my outfit was chosen to take me straight from work to the concert. Together, we decided that we need to attend more events where sequins are the norm and bring some more sparkle into our lives!

And let me tell you, Celine is someone who embraces the sparkle. She had several outfit changes. Each time, I could not wait to see the dramatic and fun look she would sport next.

Pictures that I take at concerts never turn out great, but here is a look at her six different looks.

She started the show with this sparkly red dress with a slit up to there! She is 51 years old, but she has a dancer’s body. Throughout the concert, she did squats and back bends in high heels like it was nothing!

Her next outfit was this tuxedo-inspired pantsuit with the biggest sleeves I’ve ever seen. My sister joked that she looked like a waiter carrying two tablecloths. But you know what, when you’re a diva….you pull it off!

Eventually, she ripped off the sleeves and performed in just the pantsuit.

Her next outfit was a lacy floor-length gown.

In this sassy and silver sequin jumpsuit, Celine performed a medley of covers including “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Kiss,” “Lady Marmalade,” and more. It was spectacular.

Her last outfit of the night was this dramatic poofy gown that she wore for the encore. She came out singing “My Heart Will Go On,” but actually ended the show with John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

It’s hard to put into words what made this show so amazing. It was such a positive, hopeful, and heartfelt performance. From beginning to end, Celine seemed so genuinely appreciative of her fans. She exuded kindness and gratitude. She accepted every gift handed to her from people in the front row as if it was a priceless treasure.

She was entertaining and funny, but even more, she was spreading the messages of love, courage, and peace.

When the couple seen at the top of the picture below got engaged during “Because You Love Me,” she was so excited.

Each part of the show was visually stunning without being too over the top. She highlighted several different musicians in her band. She even brought out one of her back-up singers (I presume) to do the Beauty and the Beast duet with her.

There were cool video montages playing during each of her outfit changes (which she did rather quickly).

She sang all of her big songs, both old and new. It truly was an amazing concert. My Celine Dion fandom has been revitalized. If you ever get the chance to see her live, I highly recommend it. You will walk away not only entertained, but feeling hopeful, loved, and maybe even a bit glamorous!

Thrive not Survive

This morning on my way to work, I was listening to the radio when the song “Thrive” by Casting Crowns came on. The song is about how we were made to do more than just survive, but to thrive.

It got me thinking. What does thriving look like for me?

There are days in life when our motivation is to just survive. Depending on our individual life circumstances, some of us may have more of those days than others. I do feel that I am fortunate enough to be able to focus on thriving, not just surviving. But what is thriving?

The dictionary uses several words to define thrive. It means to prosper. It means to flourish. It means to be fortunate or successful. It means to grow or develop vigorously.

So to me, thriving means always getting better. I am a big goal setter, and I always am working on developing new habits that will make my life better. To me, thriving also means finding joy and being happy in life. It may not be overly noble, but living with joy is one of my greatest goals.

So what does thriving mean to you? And are your daily actions and decisions designed to help you survive or to thrive?

Choosing Joy (even when it’s difficult)

It’s been awhile since I last posted. The holidays are always busy, and I also went out of town. So there will be some Disney World posts forthcoming. Today’s post is about choosing joy. But it’s really about choosing joy when life is difficult.

I purchased a new Mantraband for 2020. My other Mantraband says “Be the Change.” Mantrabands are nice reminders to wear on your wrist of how you want to live your life. My new Mantraband says “Choose Joy.”

I’m already a positive thinker. But I also struggle with anxiety. “Choose Joy” is a reminder to make choices that bring joy into my life. Multiple people can be presented with the same situation, but have completely different reactions to it.

On New Year’s Eve, we had a short stop at the beach. It wasn’t a big beach trip. We weren’t dressed for the beach. It was a quick stop. My daughter had so much joy in her as she walked to the edge of the ocean. She splashed in the water with abandon. She danced and sang to the ocean. I wished I could have as much joy in that moment. Instead, I concentrated on not getting wet and messy. I did get joy from witnessing her joy, however.

The past few days, I have not been feeling great. I feel anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, and sad. I have been making an active effort to choose joy and am still coming up short. I’ve tried to change my thoughts. I’ve prayed. I’ve listened to inspiring music. And I still feel blah.

I know that one cannot be happy all of the time. Today at work, I flipped through a book that I bought to use in counseling called, “How to be Happy, or at least less Sad.” If you can decrease the sad feelings, then the happy feelings naturally increase. They may not currently be at the level that I would like. Joy is defined as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. I am not currently full of joy. But it is always the goal and baby steps count.

In the interest of taking those baby steps, my plan is to notice the small things that bring me joy, even if only briefly. Once I’ve identified that something brings me joy, I can concentrate on having more of that thing. Right now, I am struggling to change my thoughts. So my only option is to attempt to replace them. If I replace the anxious thoughts with joyful thoughts, I should make a little progress.

I added a layout to my bullet journal to encourage me to write down the little things I notice that bring me joy. Hopefully that and my Mantraband will help me be more cognizant of those things. And hopefully, I come out of this funk soon.

Gratitude

Practicing gratitude has many benefits, including improving our sleep, happiness, optimism, and connection to others. It decreases anxiety and stress. Practicing gratitude means taking the time to notice and reflect on the good things in life.

Just take a look at the name of this blog, and you will know that gratitude is something I try to cultivate in my life. In the past, I have kept a gratitude journal. I also use the A.C.T.S. format in my prayer life, which stands for Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, Supplication.

A couple months ago, I decided to try a different type of gratitude journal. An art journal! I don’t write in it on a schedule. But when I have a little extra time, I try to draw something that I’m grateful for. I’m going to fill it up with my sketches. I am no artist, but that’s part of why I wanted to do it – to challenge myself. Here are a couple of my better pictures.

This year at school, I have been implementing the Jesse Lewis Choose Love curriculum with my students. The Choose Love curriculum has a four part equation to choosing love: courage + gratitude + forgiveness + compassion in action = choosing love. I’m spending one quarter on each ingredient of the equation. So I have spent the past couple months discussing gratitude with all of my students in grades k-12. I culminated the unit by having each student draw something they are grateful for on a paper square. I then put them together to make a “gratitude quilt” to hang outside my office and remind all of us that we have a lot to be grateful for.

So take a little time today (and hopefully every day) to reflect on the things you are grateful for. This is especially important when things in life are challenging.

The Strengths Within

I want to write something about recognizing the strengths in those around us and in ourselves.  I work in a school that specializes in educating students with dyslexia and related learning differences.  A couple of days ago, while attending a college workshop for high school counselors, another counselor started asking me questions about what my students can do after they graduate.  During the course of the conversation, I had already acknowledged that many of my students struggle with standardized test scores. I know she did not mean her questions with ill intent, but I definitely got the feeling that she was curious how they could possibly go to college or be successful.  Many of my students are successful in a traditional college setting. But I also found myself explaining to her the strengths of the dyslexic mind, such as big picture thinking and spatial reasoning.

I spent the last two days in the cold, cold woods with my 12th graders on their senior retreat.  Spending time in this “untraditional classroom” makes it really clear just how many strengths my students have.  Many of my skills made me successful in traditional educational programs. I can read and write well and have a decent ability to memorize and reason.  I always did well on standardized tests (except when I took the ASVAB in senior year, which tested things like mechanical comprehension and assembling objects, in addition to the typical English and math).  Things like reading comprehension and expressing my thoughts on paper come pretty easily to me. Every day, I see my students struggle with these tasks.

But on retreat I get to see my students shine.  I get to see them take their strengths and work together as a team.  My students solve problems in unique ways. They see things in a way that I cannot see them.  They persevere and push through obstacles where I just give up. They use visual-spatial reasoning in a way that I never could.  It is awe-inspiring to watch them tackle a problem and solve it.

So as you observe the young (or old) people in your own life – your children, your students, anyone you come in contact with – remember that each and every one of us has gifts we bring to the world.  Each of us was created to contribute in some way. We all have strengths! It is easy to focus on the struggles, but it is important to recognize the successes. You may have people in your life who do not fit the mold of what society expects.  That’s okay. It’s actually pretty awesome! This is where we find the artists, inventors, leaders, and thinkers who will change the world.