Anxiety/Worry, awareness, Faith/Spirituality, fear, Serenity, Special ed pre school

“Make Good Choices👍” (From the “Everything I need to know I learned in Special-Ed Preschool” series)

Some of my biggest life-lessons have come as a result of working for a few years with Special Ed pre-schoolers. As a 48 year old with a full-time job, a published author and a mother of 3 almost-grown children, that’s saying something. The “something” that is says is that at my core, I still need the simplicity of pre-school principles in order to address my emotional, relational and spiritual challenges. If I ever master the basics, I’ll be sure to let you know.

So, without further ado, I bring you another entry of “Everything I Need to know I Learned in Special-Ed Preschool”.

I tell you what, it’s been about 4 years since I worked at that school and I can still picture their adorable faces and hear their tiny voices in my head. One life-skill we worked very intentionally to teach them is the importance of making good choices. We regularly said to them, about a thousand times in a 2 hour time frame, “Make good choices” and accompanied that instruction with a smile and symbolic “thumbs up”. It occasionally made a difference, but it also took tattling to a whole different level. I distinctly remember a little boy finding me during play time and proudly informing me that so-and-so had made a “bad choice”, accompanied with a symbolic ‘thumbs down” gesture. Bless his precious pre-school heart…

This weekend, out of the blue (or maybe not so much, since I was thinking not-loving thoughts about and being extra critical of myself), I had a revolutionary thought. Remember the days (sadly, a fad that has waned a bit) when people wore WWJD? bracelets and put said stickers on their cars? It is an acronym for “What Would Jesus Do?”. And regardless of what you believe about him in a spiritual/salvation sense, I think most of us can agree that if we could indeed model our life and love patterns after Jesus, we would be pretty darn pleasant people. So, back to my revolutionary thought; Maybe it would be a better practice to ask myself WWJT?. “What Would Jesus Think?”. Because, my brain has a hard time deciding what exactly Jesus would do. Would he really work-out or tan or spend $5 on a coffee drink or kill time by wandering through Target? It’s a confusing question for me (like I said, I learn a lot from pre-schoolers so that should make perfect sense to you). But what I am fairly certain I can answer “yes” or “no” to is about what kind of thoughts I allow myself to entertain. It’s one thing for a thought to come through my mind, but whether I choose to let it in again or ruminate on it should depend on my answer to that question.

In other words, or in pre-school lingo, that means I have to “make good thought-choices”. Not that I am in the clear entirely about my not-so-nice thoughts about others, but I have found that my most destructive and anti-like-Jesus thinking is more about my thoughts about myself. In fact, even when my negative thoughts start off being about others, they usually circle back around to me (the EGO is a powerful monster). When I have jealous or covetous thoughts about another persons success at work or their material possessions, the root of those thoughts goes back to me feeling like somehow I have failed or don’t measure up. My thoughts quickly beat and batter myself over my perceived failure. I have a hundred more examples, but I think you get my point.

But most of all, it is worth posing the WWJT? Question to all the self-thoughts that cycle through my head minute by minute. I think part of the reason this idea was triggered in me this weekend was because I sang at church. I regularly doubt myself and my talents, comparing them to others who seem to be more confident and blessed with more natural vocal abilities. That’s when it occurred to me that these were not thoughts that I believe Jesus would have about himself. I can’t imagine that Jesus would tell himself that he stunk at what he was doing or that he wasn’t as good as that person so he might as well quit. I don’t believe he would complain about the body God had blessed him with or whine because his Father didn’t answer his prayers the way he expected him to or in the time slot he felt would work best for everyone. And here’s a good one, I don’t believe Jesus would worry in his mind about what his employer or co-workers think of him. He would do his best and forget the rest. What they thought of him ultimately had no bearing on his calling. I don’t even believe he would stress about what other people believe about him or if was who he said he was, knowing that they are in the hands of God himself who desires that each person should have an intimate relationship with Him. He just focused on loving God and loving people. He probably didn’t spend time obsessing about his problems, telling himself that things usually turn out bad for him so why bother expecting God to show up. Pretty sure he didn’t have thoughts like I often do: “I’m so stupid-lazy-forgetful-insensitive-worthless”. And this haunting thought that I am not enough (not spiritual enough, not thin enough, not smart enough, not tidy enough, not attentive enough, not serving enough, etc.) is not something I imagine he would entertain.

If I can learn to catch myself quickly, as all my thoughts creep in, and ask myself WWJT?, I just might be able to finally give myself a break. Maybe I can relax and trust God for my well-being, my affirmation and my identity. Maybe I can learn from Jesus’ way of thinking, how to think kinder, gentler thoughts about myself and my world.

What do ya think? Time for another kind of bracelet? WWJT? 🤔

Control, Recovery, Special ed pre school, Uncategorized

Never Cut Your Own Hair (from the series “Everything I Need to Know I Can Learn In Special Ed Pre-School”)

Yesterday I was reminded, yet again, that “Everything I need to know I can learn in Special Ed Pre-School.” (See previous blogs in this series). It’s a simple, and seemingly logical rule of life that all too often, one has to learn the hard way: “Never cut your own hair.” I was sitting with an adorable 4 year old, admiring her new hair style. I asked her if she had cut her own bangs. She started to say “no” and then confirmed pretty quickly that indeed, she had cut them herself. The others teacher asked, “and who is the only one who is supposed to cut your hair?”. “The barber,” she replied confidently. Clearly, she had been coached. Cutting your own hair rarely begins on ends well. I have a friend (who shall remain nameless) who cut her own hair into a mullet after a couple glasses of wine and and an Ambien. At the time, it seemed to her like a phenomenal idea and, until she woke up the next morning, she thought she looked like a rock star (In some ways, she probably did!)! I have personally never cut my own hair, but I do recall that when I was in junior high, I took it upon myself to cut my little sister’s hair. It was all one length and my friend and I decided she would look better if we cut it into a bi-level. I know I didnt’ ask my mom’s permission but as I recall, we didn’t have to hold my sister down or anything so I took that as a sign that she was open to the idea.

There are a few valuable lessons we can learn from these scenarios if we are willing. Regarding cutting your own bangs…this is an impulsive act. It’s one that’s taken with very little thought about the outcome, the consequences or even the reason behind it. This is something we do without considering if it’s the wise thing to do. Our society thrives on impulsivity. We are offended so we lash out without hesitating or considering the devastation of the aftermath. We send that text we shouldn’t have and hurt people. We flirt or flatter someone other than our spouse. We lash out at those we love or even complete strangers because we are on edge about something that has nothing to do with them. We can avoid so much needless pain for ourselves and other people if we will take a moment. “Pause, pray and proceed.” Or often, DON’T proceed.

And then there’s the mullet catastrophe. How often have we made decisions that seemed like a good idea at the time, only to regret making such decisions while in our previous state of mind. Sometimes people call or text or act when affected by alcohol and get themselves into big trouble. This is clearly a common problem since apparently there is a feature on cell phones that can prevent you from calling certain people you tend to “drunk dial”. Sadly, we are relying on a mobile device to filter out or bad decisions. But let’s say this isn’t you. Maybe consider the times you have made a rash decisions when you were angry or your feelings were hurt or you were feeling slighted in some way. Maybe you have written off a friend or a spouse because it felt right to you at the time. Often, instead of waiting until morning to decide if we actually have what it takes to sport a mullet, we make decisions when we are not in our right minds and end up with deep regrets. Getting your spirit right with God and reasoning things out with another wise human being before taking actions that could render long-term consequences will help you live in harmony with yourself and others.

And cutting someone else’s hair, well, that’s just idiotic. This is what happens when I think I know what’s best for someone else. I am quite sure this has been a problem for me since I began my “hair-cutting career” as a junior higher. I have spent way too much time trying to get other’s to live the way I think they should live. Trying to guide them in the way I think they should go, without considering that God might have a whole different plan for them. I am not All-Knowing. I don’t see what goes on in the depths of their spirit. I don’t know the circumstances God has aligned to lead them to a relationship with Him and to a life of freedom. It’s not my job to “cut their hair” and frankly, my skills are not stellar in that area.
While all of these stories made me smile, the ways I have related them to my every day life do not. I am not proud of the times I have made selfish, impulsive decisions without considering the ramifications of them. I am embarrassed of how many times I have made decisions to take actions while affected by alcohol, anger, hurt or fear. And I am fairly certain that just the other day, or maybe that was this morning, I was trying to manipulate someone into doing what I thought was best for them.

Oh, the things you can learn from a sweet little girl with quarter-inch bangs…

Control, Serenity, Special ed pre school, Uncategorized

Sensory Break Part II (“Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Special-Ed Pre-School”)

It’s been awhile since I have posted an entry from my series on “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Special-Ed Pre-School”(If you are new to reading, please go through the archives and catch yourself up). This has been on my mind this morning because, after a week of Spring Break, a short vacation, my son returning from college, Easter, and just the basic stresses of life in general, I am feeling like I need a Sensory Break. A Sensory Break is a fancy word for taking a break from “seated learning activities or sedentary activities.” However, seated and sedentary are not words I would choose describe a pre-schooler. More often than not, The Sensory Break was used to calm and center a child when they became agitated and flustered from being OVER-stimulated by their environment. It might be a walk down the hall with a teachers-aid or a quick trip to the a room that had swings, balance beams and other toys that would bring them back in to focus. Quietness was also a helpful bonus. I have to admit that I am in this category. I certainly don’t need a break from being sedentary or seated. I need a break from all the rest.

A few years ago I read (most of) a book called “It’s All Too Much.” It was about organizing your home, but the premise was that the root of the problem was not lack of order as much as it was about the unnecessary, the overload of stuff, the striving for more. Some days I feel like that about life; “It’s all too much.” I don’t even know where to begin to sort it all out. So here is my body’s natural response: Numbness. A few years ago, the band U2 wrote a song called “Numb.” It was written using approximately 2 different notes, repeating a list of “Don’ts” (Don’t move, Don’t talk out of time/ don’t’ think/ don’t worry/ etc.) for 4.12 minutes…. One note…the whole time. It’s intent was to “recreate that feeling of sensory overload.” They were attempting to make you experience in a 4.12 minute song, what it feels like to be overwhelmed, overloaded, and shut down as a result.

I don’t need their help. I can do this all my little self. Numbness is a state I live in when I feel overwhelmed or out of control or over-stimulated by worrying too much about people or problems that have nothing to do with me. Or when I stay so busy rushing from one activity to the next that I don’t take the time to feel the joy, frustration or pain that regularly interrupts those activities.   As a full grown adult, I am realizing that I too need Sensory Breaks. As a rule, I am terrible at this. I used to use major events or life transitions as sporadic sensory Breaks. Ever try that one?: “If I can just make it until my vacation next month…If i can hold on until they go back to school this fall….If I can keep it together until I go out with the girls/guys after work on Thursday.” The problem with these types of breaks is that the in-between time is spent just trying to survive until the next one comes along. It’s not enough to really live on.

I have been prepping to write this all morning: I read up on Sensory Breaks and Mindfulness tactics and perused Wikipedia on U2’s “Numb” and read the Intro to “It’s All Too Much” on Amazon (because, apparently I have misplaced it…). I knew I needed to write but also felt like I had very little to offer in the way of solution. Actually, when I looked up ways to utilize tools of Mindfulness and remedy Sensory Overload, I was so overwhelmed I became more anxious than ever. Talk about “It’s All Too Much”!

Luckily, before I launched in to the insanity of sharing all these ramblings with you, I paused long enough to center my mind on some readings that tend to bring me to simplicity (The author uses scripture and interprets it as if God were talking directly to the reader). Not surprisingly, here is what the entry said for today-for this exact day of my crisis of chaos:
“I am training you in steadiness. Too many things interrupt your awareness of Me. I know that you live in a world of sight and sound, but you must not be a slave to those stimuli. Awareness of me can continue in all circumstances, no matter what happens. This is the steadiness I desire for you…As soon as something grabs your attention, talk with Me about it…I help you cope with whatever is before you…This is the way of Peace.”

This I can do. Or at least try to do. It’s simple but not easy. I can return my attention to Him throughout my day, taking Sensory Breaks to pray, meditate, sit in silence, listen, read, remind, trust, get perspective, and be grateful; these are tiny but profound adjustments I can integrate into my daily madness that just might allow me to live in the present with the “peace that passes understanding.” Dear God-Let it be so.

*in editing my blogs i realized I wrote on this topic In October of 2015! Progress not perfections, right! See part I in archives.

Special ed pre school, Uncategorized

“DO. YOUR. JOB.”

There’s a well-known book that was written several years ago called, “Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten.” Well, after working there for 2 years, I would argue that “Everything I Need to Know I can Learn in Special Ed. Pre-School.”  I have a whole list of articles I plan to write based on said topics. One of my favorite refrains that was heard in every classroom throughout a typical day was “Do your job.” A common scenario might look something like this: Line of 12 pre-schoolers attempting to get to the library from the classroom. One child ( or seven) is pushing/shoving/pinching/poking/licking their “neighbor”. The teacher stops the line and walks to this child and squats down until she is eyeball to eyeball with this adorable hooligan. With all the calmness she can muster but using her “I mean business” tone, she says, “I need for you to DO. YOUR. JOB.” They are smarter than the rest of us. They know exactly what their job is and that they are presently NOT doing it. If only I were as clear on MY job as a human being. The thing is, the God who gave me my “human-being-ness”  is crystal clear on this. I have somehow just complicated it to the point where even though my goal is to get to the library without incident, I am instead “pushing/shoving/pinching/poking/licking my neighbor.”

As far as I can tell, God says my JOB is to “love God with all my heart, all my soul, and all my might and to love my neighbor as I love myself” (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Mark 12:30).  This sums up the whole purpose of life. If I focus on doing my job, all the other things will fall into place. My behavior will be loving, kind, selfless, noble, encouraging, etc. All the details of walking around in this world will take care of themselves and life will be lived in simple trust. I know it may sound naive and childish, but we also  know it’s harder to practice than we think. We feel more important and smart if we try to live life like we are in the Doctorate program at Harvard. We don’t want to admit that we haven’t mastered the  Special Ed. Pre-school skills and will probably be working on those skills for the rest of our lives. Loving God and others with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is a BIG JOB.

And while we are on the topic, notice the word YOUR in “Do YOUR job. ” I have spent A LOT of time and energy trying to do SOMEONE ELSE’S  job. Or worse yet, making it MY JOB to make sure others are doing THEIR job. God tells me to “mind” our OWN business, not other people’s business. What a relief to finally BELIEVE what God says. He is squatting down, looking me eyeball to eyeball, and saying, “Sweet child, Relax. I’ve got this. You, DO. YOUR. JOB.”