A “Win” for Me

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As we start the first day of a three day weekend, I can’t help, but think about everything that has happened. I am wrapping up my first year as a teacher and completely understand the “teacher struggles of May.” (T-minus 11 days until summer, by the way.) Teaching has been the most challenging yet wonderful thing I have ever done. Also, it is one of the most fulfilling things I have encountered. Those students…my kids…are why I try to work hard and be the best teacher I can day after day.

No matter how much you enjoy something, bad things still happen. Since March, I have been struggling with my depression and anxiety BIG TIME. On Sunday, March 31st, my sweet Nana went to Heaven. She was more than a grandmother to me. Growing up, my mom, sister, and I lived with my grandparents and Nana was actually a second mother. She was there for every school event, summer day, and tough time. It is just now getting real that Nana is no longer with us.

Grief is an extra “ingredient” that makes dealing with depression and anxiety so hard. There have been days I didn’t want to get up. There have been days I felt as if I wasn’t the best teacher for my kids because I zoomed out too often. There have been days when I have laid and watched hours of Netflix in the dark. However, I have discovered that it is okay to be feeling this way. It is okay to grieve. But, it is also important to remember that things will get better.

This morning, I got my car inspected. Yes, it is a small thing, but I have been trying to do this for a while. It is a win and that is all I need right now. Good things happen. Three day weekends happen. So, right now, I’m going to take my win and enjoy these days, the sunshine, and the unofficial start of summer.

xoxo,

Megan

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The Power of the Pause in a Busy Life

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The days are busy and the hours are packed with items to complete on our to-do lists. Let’s all admit it – life can be hectic, no matter what stage of life you are in. It can be easy to get into a routine of working all the time with little to no rest. Yet, this habit can make one tired, stressed, and not the best version of themselves. To renew your energy and add more balance to your life, practicing the power of the pause is key.

According to CEO of The Energy Project, Tony Schwartz, “human beings perform best and are most productive when they alternate between periods of intense focus and intermittent renewal.” In addition, author Cara Bradley writes in her article on mindful.org, that it is a commitment to practice the pause, but “taking the time to just be still and quiet gives your nervous system a chance to regain balance.” Sounds persuasive, right? Pausing in a bustling lifestyle is a form of self-care and one that should be done, often. Practicing the pause can be done for a couple of minutes, hours, or longer. One thing to keep in mind that no matter how long you pause, you need to omit noise and embrace silence.

Noise is all around us. Outer noise in our various environments and inner noise in our heads. Bradley is correct when she states that “we are over-stimulated with noise.” Don’t you hate it when you are trying to get to sleep and the thoughts in your head keep you awake? Well, practicing the silence side of the pause helps. Just like noise, there is outer and inner silence.

Pausing for a Short Period of Time:

First, whenever you are ready or in need of a break or pause, turn off all the outer noises, such as phones, televisions, etc. Also, try to get yourself in a silent environment away from distractions. To find inner silence, begin relaxing with breathing exercises and meditation. One way to do this is through the exercise below:

  1. While sitting down, place your feet on the floor, hands on your thighs, and close your eyes.
  2. Think about your feet and pay attention to where they are on the ground. Notice everything around you.
  3. Find your heartbeat and focus your mind on the rhythm of your pulse. Do the same for your breathing. At this point, you should begin to feel at ease and your body should start to relax.
  4. Continue this for a few minutes or however long you need to pause.

Practice this method by scheduling 1 to 2-minute breaks every hour. Pauses can happen at any time, such as getting in and out of your car, before heading into a meeting, or finishing a hectic errand. Always include a short pause when you wake up in the morning and right before you go to bed at night.

Pausing for a Longer Period of Time:

Inner silence can last longer than only a few minutes. Settle down with your favorite activities, such as an evening bath with candles and music, an afternoon walk, or reading and napping on a rainy Saturday. Get in the mindset with the same techniques as listed above. Trust me, there is no harm in taking a whole day and doing nothing. Find what “pause” works best for you and add it into your schedule.

There are many benefits to the power of the pause. Reduced stress, more balance, and focus increase in awareness of healthy choices, and a better you are just a few of the reasons. Make sure you practice the pause daily and more peace will be added into your life.

xoxo,

Megan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best of Nicholas Sparks

Author Nicholas Sparks once said, “Over time, quality work will lead to an audience for your work.” This quote is an accurate representation of the fan base Sparks has created throughout the years with his timeless novels. From The Longest Ride toDear John, Nicholas Sparks is one of my all-time favorite authors and the books below are ones that I could read over and over again. Plus, most of his stories have a connection to North Carolina, as the author lives in the Tarheel state himself.

The Longest Ride

Speaking of North Carolina connections, The Longest Ride has the closest setting to Forsyth County. Two stories interconnect in this novel and feature the locations of King, Winston-Salem, and Black Mountain College near Asheville. The first is about widower Ira Levinson, who reminisces about life with his wife, Ruth. The second story is about a college student attending Wake Forest University, Sophia Danko, and young rodeo star Luke Collins. While out with her friends, Danko meets Collins and the two fall in love. On the way home from a date, they notice a car that had drifted off the road and crashed in an embankment. Inside was Ira Levinson. Throughout time, the trio develop a friendship and share stories about life, love, and heartache.

True Believer

Published in 2005, True Believer focuses on the story of New Yorker Jeremy Marsh and small-town librarian Lexie Darnell. Marsh is known for debunking supernatural claims in his magazine column. After hearing about a phenomenon where ghostly lights appear in a cemetery in Boone Creek, North Carolina, he decided to travel down south and investigate for himself. There, he meets Darnell and a future for the couple starts to unfold. In the end, Marsh has to make the difficult decision of going back to New York or following his heart. If you are a fan of True Believer, I would definitely recommend reading the book’s sequel, At First Sight.

Safe Haven

Just like The Longest Ride, Safe Haven was made into a movie in 2013. The movie was good, but in my opinion, the book is better. Newcomer Erin comes to Southport, North Carolina and takes on a new identity, changes her name to Katie, and puts life with her abusive husband behind her. While there, she meets her new neighbor, Jo, and the town’s store owner, Alex, a widower with two children. However, upon discovering his wife has left, her husband, Kevin, becomes furious and learns that Erin is now Katie living in a small North Carolina town. Quickly, he takes off to find her. Meanwhile, Jo encourages Katie to develop a romantic relationship with Alex and create a family with his children. Through twists and turns…I’m stopping here, because the book has a big surprise ending that I don’t want to ruin for anyone. However, I can tell you that Safe Haven is a book you can’t put down and one you’ll quickly fall in love with.

Other popular Nicholas Sparks books include The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, Nights in Rodanthe, The Last Song, and Message in a Bottle. As an avid reader of this author, trust me, once you pick up a Nicholas Sparks book, you’ll want to read all the novels in his collection.

xoxo,

Megan

My Lesson in Patience

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We all have those moments – the ones that make you stop in your tracks and think about a lesson you just learned. Recently, I had one of those moments. A few weeks ago, I discovered plants that would start growing in a pot on your windowsill and could then be transplanted into the ground. Never really having luck with plants, I decided to give planting another try. I figured I didn’t have much to lose, as the small plants were less than $5.00 (thank you Target dollar section). My seven plants ranged from daisies to watermelons. Once home, I prepared my plants as instructed, placed them on the windowsill, and hoped for the best.

After a few days of watering and waiting, my patience almost got the best of me. I kept thinking “Why aren’t the plants growing?” Keep in mind, it had been less than a week, but I wanted to see results. Then, it hit me; the moment that made me stop in my tracks and reflect on a life lesson. I was in a hurry because I wanted my plants to grow. I wanted tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh daisies without the wait. It takes time for the seeds to grow into plants, but that’s not what I wanted. The life lesson I learned through this realization was the importance of being patient, and in time, all things will grow and become what they’re meant to be.

Yes, this lesson is probably one you have heard all your life, myself included. However, sometimes these lessons don’t stick with you until these “realization moments” occur. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, patience can be defined as “the habit or fact of being patient and being able to bear without complaint.” Unfortunately, one of the main things about being patient is waiting, waiting for the right time for something to happen. My plants will grow in their own, right time. I can’t dig my fingers into the soil and pull on the seeds and make them grow. After all, these seeds aren’t Jack’s magic beanstalk seeds. I had to be patient. I had to wait.

Quickly, I began to think about how I could use this new nugget of knowledge in other aspects of my life. What other things have I been rushing through or wanting to immediately happen? How many times have I wanted Monday to turn into Friday? How many times have I just wanted something to be over with? The beauty of patience is that it allows you the chance to take things in and actually notice your surroundings. You can enjoy the present and make more memories. Yes, that can be easier said than done. Sometimes life and stress get in the way, and we live in a world where we want things at our fingertips instantly (hello, online shopping and overnight shipping?). However, patience is a virtue, one that we must strive for each day. It’s a virtue I’m still striving for and learning.

I’m reminded of the value of patience through the story of the Chinese bamboo tree. Within this tale, a Chinese bamboo tree spends four years growing underneath the soil and in its fifth year of life, it sprouts to be over 80 feet tall. Within those four years, some tree farmers could lose their patience, while others continue on, because they know the trees are creating a strong foundation for what’s to come. Without being patient, the farmers might not be able to see the beauty of the Chinese bamboo trees.

Just like my plants, anything worth having takes time and patience to become what it is meant to be. While you have patience waiting for something, you learn more about yourself and lessons that you can take throughout your life. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but there will be many “realization moments” in your life that will help those lessons settle in. Thanks to my plants, I have been able to understand the value of this virtue and how to apply it to my life. Plus, I’m still perfecting that skill, as only four out of seven of my plants have bloomed so far. Here’s to having patience (and hope)!

xoxo,

Megan

To Travel Is To Explore

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This past weekend, my sister and brother-in-law moved to Kentucky. While I am missing them tremendously, I’m also excited for this new adventure for many reasons. You see, with them living in another state, I get to travel more often and see more places – one of my favorite things to do!

Growing up, I remember watching Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown and her shows, Great Hotels and Passport to Europe. For each episode, I kept thinking “Samantha has the best job in the world and I would love to have it.” As I watched the shows, I quickly realized I had a passion for traveling.

The reason why I travel is simple-to see the world and gain experiences. There is so much learning to be had outside of your comfort zone. My travel philosophy is to travel as much as possible, while learning about the history of an area and the people who live there. It also includes being adventurous and making memories. This philosophy plays into my five step travel list.

For every trip I take, I must:

  1. Take tons of pictures. I always come home with about 1,000+ photos.
  2. Meet and talk with the locals. You’ll get the best information about where to eat, what to do, and learn more about the area from a person who lives there.
  3. Research the location’s history and plan out my must-sees. However, I am careful to not plan too much and allow time for adventures.
  4. Get lost—on purpose. Take a back road, walk down a different street, just get out and explore.
  5. Go back to that same destination. It might not be the next year, or the year after that, but sometime in my life, I will make the time to go back.

If you want to get out of your comfort zone and see the world, you must travel. It doesn’t have to be a three week excursion. It can be a day trip to a nearby city or even a stay-cation in your own town. Just travel!

Trust me-adventure is out there. You just have to make up your mind and go!

xoxo,

Megan

The Wisdom of Mister Rogers

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Best known for wearing his lovable sweaters and always singing, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” Mister Rogers connected with many people throughout the world with his kind and comforting personality.

Born on March 20, 1928, famous television personality Fred Rogers lived his life as a musician, writer, producer, puppeteer, and Presbyterian minister. Rogers went into television because, as he once stated, “he hated it,” and didn’t like what programs were currently on TV. After graduating from college, he worked at NBC before returning to his native Pittsburgh to work at a local television station. During this time, Rogers developed The Children’s Corner, went to seminary and the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Child Development. After Pittsburgh, in 1963, Rogers went to work at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the idea of a show about Mister Rogers was born.

From 1968 to 2001, Fred Rogers was a staple on American television, hosting Mister Rogers’Neighborhood. Through895 episodes, Mister Rogers welcomed everyone from all walks of life into his home. Regular neighbors of Mister Rogers were the “Speedy Delivery” man Mister McFeely, Lady Aberlin, the baker Chef Brockett, and the singing policeman, Officer Clemmons, plus more. In addition, famous guests visited the neighborhood, including Bill Nye the Science Guy, the Dance Theater of Harlem, and marine biologist Sylvia Earle. According to the official website of MisterRogers’ Neighborhood, the show “took us by hand and together we learned about ourselves, others, and the world around us.” For many people throughout the world, that statement rings true.

Throughout the decades, Mister Rogers gave the world many lessons about friendship, being confident in ourselves, understanding our feelings and the world around us. In addition, his wisdom related to the topics of helping others, welcoming and valuing everyone, and appreciating our similarities and differences. Lastly, Mister Rogers taught his viewers to wonder, explore, and be curious. He showed us that we should be open to new experiences and that it is okay to talk about difficult subjects. For these lessons, he consulted with Dr. Margaret McFarland, a well-known child psychologist, who helped Mister Rogers make sure his scripts were in line with true concerns and feelings of children.

These messages, such as the ones below from the many quotes by Mr. Rogers, will always resonate with people:

  • “Love and trust, in the space between what’s said and what’s heard in our life, can make all the difference in this world.”
  • “In every neighborhood, all across our country, there are good people insisting on a good start for the young, and doing something about it.”
  • “We all have different gifts, so we all have different ways of saying to the world who we are.”
  • “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
  • “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

The wisdom of Mister Rogers will continue to influence many generations to come. Think about how we could change the world if we all put these messages to use in our own lives and the lives of those around us. Imagine what would happen if we told people the same statement Mister Rogers said at the end of every show: “You’ve made this day a special day, by just you being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you; and I like you just the way you are.”

xoxo,

Megan

7 Ways to Make Time for Yourself

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Let’s be honest with ourselves – life is busy. The days are filled with work, family, errands, appointments, and more. Sometimes we become stressed and tired, especially if we spend more time caring for others and neglect caring for ourselves.

Whether it is five minutes a day or an hour a week, make it a goal this new year to add self-care into your schedule. Some of the many self-care ideas are below. However, it is important to always choose an activity that is fun and relaxing for you.

  1. Exercise: Take a walk, join a gym, or participate in a fun class at the Y. Being active is good for your mind, body, and spirit. Research suggests aiming for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Don’t consider yourself too busy to exercise. If 30 minutes seems too much at one time, break it into smaller increments. Try 10 minutes at a time and then build up to adding 30 minutes into your daily schedule.
  2. Schedule a digital detox: We are attached to our electronic devices and rely on them most of the time. However, when we are dedicated to a screen, such as our phones or computers, we are detached from those around us and from ourselves. Make it a priority to devote an hour or two per day to place your devices in a different room and not to touch them. Then, try it for an afternoon or whole day during the weekend. Think about it – don’t you feel stressed out by constantly checking your emails, looking at social media profiles of others, comparing your life to theirs? The more time you spend away from your device, the more time you’ll feel relaxed and more confident in your own life.
  3. Develop a new hobby just for yourself: One of the main things in self-care is making sure you are putting yourself first. It isn’t a time to feel guilty that you aren’t taking care of others or indulging in something you normally won’t do. It is a time to better yourself, so you can be a better person for your loved ones. A way to do just that is by developing a new hobby or restarting one that you had given up, one that is just for yourself. Maybe it is reading a book each night, sewing, coloring in a coloring book, or listening to a podcast. A hobby should be something you enjoy and want to do in your “me time.”
  4. Declutter: For me, I can get stressed out when things are all over the place and in a mess. To help with that, decluttering and cleaning up is the key. Every now and then, declutter a certain area in your home. It might be changing your wardrobe every three months and giving away pieces of clothing that you haven’t worn in a long time. Or you could use five minutes of each day to tidy up a corner of a room until it is done. When things are in place, our minds are calm.
  5. Educate yourself and learn something new: If you or a loved one are dealing with an illness, major life change, etc., research the situation and learn about all the different elements of how you are able to help. Sometimes being in the know about something takes away a great deal of stress. Also, learn something to broaden your horizons. Have you always wanted to learn another language or how to do a special skill? Now is the time.
  6. Change things up: Take a different route to work or go to that new restaurant you have always wanted to try. It is pivotal to have a routine, but every now and then, be spontaneous and try something new. An example could be making each Friday night the night to do something different. Do a new activity with your family and friends each week.
  7. Reward yourself after accomplishing a small or difficult task. Overcoming all types of obstacles should be celebrated. Reward these times with a pedicure, going to a fancy store, etc.

Self-care needs to be a priority for everyone and a part of a person’s to-do list. Find something that helps you and don’t feel bad taking the time to focus on you. As mentioned above, self-care makes you a better person.

xoxo,

Megan

Becoming…A Better Me in 2019 (Part 1)

Last night, as the clock ticked towards midnight, I found myself crying. It was happy tears that came pouring from my eyes. 2018 was a tough year, but when I started thinking about it, the year was probably one of the best ones yet.

Just to give you an overview of what happened in the now “last” year…

  • In January, my grandmother battled the flu and pneumonia. My family heard twice in the course of two weeks that she might succumb to the sickness.
  • Throughout the year, especially in the fall, she had numerous hospital visits and rehabilitation stays. We almost lost her when they had to do emergency surgery to drain fluid from her heart. In addition, it has been hard to watch someone you love so much, be so much in pain. We have had multiple doctors’ visits and waiting for test results. Lastly, my family has felt the emotions and tough love of being caregivers.
  • There has been financial stress. At times, we worried how we would make it to the end of the month.

All these things out may not seem much to you, but to me, they are what made me stronger. You may also be thinking “why was this year one of the bests?” Well, because of this…

  • I received a graduate certificate in middle grades education and accomplished my goal of becoming a teacher.
  • The opportunity of student teaching and getting a job at two great schools have made that dream and goal all the more of a reality. In these positions, I have been challenged and overcame obstacles that made me a better educator.
  • My sister got engaged and married in a beautiful ceremony.
  • Above all, my grandmother survived all the health scares. She is flourishing and doing marvelous for an 85 year old.

In fact, we all survived. And we are all here; stronger and ready to take on the next 365 days. So, yes, 2018 was a pretty great year.

Xoxo,

Megan