Tag Archives: gratitude

(361) Unity

Today is my “U” entry for Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. I picked Unity for the subject today because it typically was a Sunday experience.

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What It Is

Unity School of Christianity was founded on the principles that Jesus’s ministry was one of healing. It takes a metaphysical, rather than literal meaning, to the bible and teachings of Jesus, opening up new ways of seeing and applying to our own lives.

I am not exactly sure how I started to attend Unity of Greater Cleveland. I think it was because I was already studying A Course in Miracles, and Unity had a study group. The minister, Joan Gattuso, had been raised Catholic like I was, so her experiences mirrored mine in many ways.

Although Unity Worldwide is based on Christian teachings in general, the Unity ministers have a lot of flexibility. This allowed Joan to teach from Buddhism, Taoism, A Course in Miracles, even Judaism as it fit the overall message.

My sister also attended Unity with me, as well as A Course in Miracles study group. It was a comfortable place to be on Sunday morning. What I learned to love best is that it was multi-cultural and inter-religious. People from all backgrounds could feel welcome at Unity, and there was something there for everyone.

The Five Unity Principles:

  • 1. God is the source and creator of all. There is no other enduring power. God is good and present everywhere.
  • 2. We are spiritual beings, created in God’s image. The spirit of God lives within each person; therefore, all people are inherently good.
  • 3. We create our life experiences through our way of thinking.
  • 4. There is power in affirmative prayer, which we believe increases our awareness of God.
  • 5. Knowledge of these spiritual principles is not enough. We must live them.

My Experience

I began attending the services in fall  of 1991. In the spring of 1995, I received the church’s newsletter in the mail. I saw that they were looking for a new youth sponsor for the teen group Youth of Unity. I heard a “calling” at that moment. I tried hard to ignore it.  I tried to talk myself out of it privately, then talked to Jim and my friend Iris about it.  Instead of talking me out of it, they both urged me to pursue it.

The next day, I told my minister and within a month I was on a plane to Unity Village in Missouri with a couple of teens from our Y.O.U. group ready for the annual conference. I was scared out of my mind. This was the big event of the year, and I barely knew these kids, let alone anyone else. It was crazy.

But, oh, so wonderful.  A week in a beautiful setting, with the right focus, the right people, and the right lessons.  I was assigned to an all adult “family” where we learned the curriculum for the Sunday classes and also got to do some writing with a published poet.  It was pretty awesome. The music, the energy, and the things I learned — simply out of this world.

Relationships

The Y.O.U. gathering in Missouri brought me one of my dearest friends — Kate. Her son was in a Y.O.U. group from the other side of town, and she was the sponsor. She became my guide throughout the week. Kate helped me immensely with all things Y.O.U., and at the same time became a friend and confidante in many parts of my life. I simply cannot imagine life without her.

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At the Y.O.U. Conference, Unity Village, July 1995

The best part, however, was the relationships I built with the young people who were in the Y.O.U. during the years I was a sponsor. I am on Facebook now with many of them, all who have grown into wonderfully principled people, pursuing their dreams, having families…it is wondrous to me when I think of who they were then, and who they are now.

Where It Led

I made the decision to stop being a sponsor about as quickly as I made the decision to become one. It was sometime in the spring of 1998 I decided to call it quits, allowing a few months time for them to find a new sponsor. (I knew at the time that my life would be going in a different direction, as I was going to pursue going to college.) What was weird was that my last day of being a sponsor we had the Wings Ceremony for three of the girls who were graduating and moving on to college. When I left Unity that day, I never returned. I never made a firm decision to leave Unity — I somehow just never went back. My friend Kate, always the wise one, said that Unity is a school and sometimes we graduate. I guess that is what happened.

I am convinced I would have never had the nerve to pursue teaching if it had not been for my time working with youth in this way. My commitment to Unity obviously was about that part of my journey. I grew in countless ways, found excellent principles to live my life, and can see the continuity with what transpired there in my every day life. I would venture to say that every day I have some memory related to my time with Unity. It was a wonderful foundation in which to build the second half of my life.

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My first and last camping trip ever was with Y.O.U. at Punderson State Park, July 1995
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There were two rallies a year, besides the conference. The spring rally was held in Holland, Michigan at Hope College. Every chapter had to give their report. Zander is shown here giving ours. According to the back of the picture, he told the audience, “We wanted to go to Mexico, but went to Chi-Chi’s instead.”  June 1996
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Rally at Hope College, June 1997.  Our group had grown!
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(312) It’s Over…Until Next Year

These last few days have been the most revealing, most rejuvenating, most enlightening, and most grounding days I can recall. I feel as if I’m on a high right now. Four days with great writers. It felt like a home I have been seeking for over 60 years.

Today was just one workshop, and it was a good one: a super informative and fun time with Beth Ann Fennelly learning how to put humor in our writing. These techniques have been added to a long list of what I learned at this conference. I have so much to practice, so much to review, and many new ideas of directions to go in, both in writing and teaching.

I am grateful my friend Amy accompanied me on this journey. Her gentle spirit and insights are always appreciated. She has introduced me to Lin-Manuel Miranda, whom I will be following. He is the creator of the Broadway shows In the Heights and Hamilton, and has so much to offer in the way of culture and creativity.

Having some time to clear my head and get away from my every day life has also helped me see new directions with my students. I hope tomorrow can be a fresh start to the rest of the school year.

I have felt for a while that I want to get into songwriting. Last night at 3:30 a.m. I had the littlest bit of a melody with some weird words going through my head. I remembered Dan Bern’s advice, and got up and wrote down what I could. It could be the very beginning of a new phase of writing and musicianship. We’ll see.

That is the best part about all of this.  All the possibilities have been opened up:

  1. New ways to approach fiction writing
  2. New ways to think about words and their origins and weight
  3. New ways to think about images and what to do with them
  4. New ways to approach flash memoir (which I also heard called micro memoir)
  5. All kinds of ideas on how to approach songwriting
  6. Direct ways to add humor to my writing

I am filled to the brim, and can see that until the next conference I have plenty of application to do. I am grateful for this experience. I am grateful for the people I met and the work they have done. The feeling I have right now is one I wish to hold on to for a very long time.

(281) Thursday Gratitude

We laughed a lot in the classroom yesterday–in all my classes. The sound of laughter heals a ton of hurts.

I am grateful.

I have wonderful people to rely on in my profession. It has enabled me to focus on specific areas of need, without being sidetracked with minutiae.

I am grateful.

My husband helped me unexpectedly this week which saved me a lot of time.

I am grateful.

(274) Love’s in Need of Love Today

To say that one of my classes is a challenge is an understatement.

We started out so good…but their poor social skills have dragged the class down into the a snake pit.

By yesterday, my frustration with their hateful, mean, cruel attitudes and mocking postures blew me over the edge. It was a horrible feeling.

I was grateful for restorative yoga last night. The vibrations of the crystal bowls always set my mind right.

I remembered that there is one job I have: to love my students.

I remembered that every group goes through four stages: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing.  We are in the storming stage.  Happens every year at this time.  I never get used to it.

I remembered this song by Stevie Wonder.  I will use it today to start the healing in Room 408.

Love’s in need of love today
Don’t delay
Send yours in right away
Hate’s goin’ round
Breaking many hearts
Stop it please
Before it’s gone too far

The force of evil plans
To make you its possession
And it will if we let it
Destroy everybody
We all must take
Precautionary measures
If love and please you treasure
Then you’ll hear me when I say

Oh that
Love’s in need of love today

(268) Allowing

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Yesterday I wrote about getting back to flowing like a river (metaphorically.) There were challenges in my day, but I think I made some progress.

Then today I read this poem by Danna Faulds called “Allow.”  It is exactly what I needed to hear:

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream, and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in—
the wild with the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.

I had some moments yesterday when I felt that I was an alien just visiting this planet. I had moments where I lacked confidence or wondered how I am being perceived.

I do not like when doubt creeps in.

But then my wonderful writing group grounded me back. It is so wonderful to have friends, colleagues, and partners in the writing and teaching life that know me. We speak the same language. God blessed me with them and I am forever grateful.

I move on with allowing myself to be who I am — in the classroom, on the page, as a musician, as a wife, a sister, an aunt. It is easy to be swayed by those who live by fear. But living authentically is all I’ve ever really wanted.

I start again. Today.

(254) Appreciation: Electricity

The lights of lower Broadway, Nashville
The lights of lower Broadway and beyond, Nashville

It is so easy to take for granted.

This morning around 5:30 a.m. our electricity shut off.  The coffee pot, which is on a timer, was almost done brewing. I watched as the fan above me slowly came to a standstill.

Time went on, and no electricity. I started to kick myself for not washing my hair yesterday.  Trying to wash it in the dark and without a blow dryer today seemed crazy.  I wondered if I’d be able to get out of my garage.

We lit electric candles and I had a flashlight handy. I could use my phone since wi-fi isn’t necessary.  It got a bit stuffy in our house, by never too hot.

It wasn’t long — maybe 45 minutes — before the electricity came back on. But that brief time was enough for me to think again how grateful I am for lights and air conditioning and computers and electric garage doors and all the other things that I take for granted every single day.

Happy Friday!

(253) Appreciation: Lost Things Found

imageIt was sitting on my sink in the bathroom when I came home last night.

I remember the day it went missing: November 21, 2014. I had come home late after an exhausting day at school, called my mom to wish her happy birthday, then collapsed into bed. I was coming down with a mean sinus infection at the time.

The following week when it came time to get ready for work, I could not find the necklace. We looked everywhere we could think of looking and looked again.

All along I felt it was still in the house. I never doubted it.

Then yesterday my husband was looking at some things he had stored under the bed. And there it was.

I bought this amethyst in June 1997 at my favorite little shop in the world: the Greenhouse in Glendale Springs, North Carolina. I had been reading about the meaning of different gem stones, and the amethyst stood for spiritual courage. I found this beauty at the shop that very day — it was a Sunday — and I couldn’t have been more delighted with it. It has an opening in the back so the light can shine through.

That was the summer I had my cancer scare. After my surgery, one of the first things I had Jim do was put this necklace back around my neck. I didn’t have cancer. We were grateful.

Later that year, I would discover my secret dream of wanting to be a teacher. I still think of the day I bought this necklace as having special significance in many things that have happened for me since.

I cannot wait to put this precious item back on and wear it today. The inner joy I feel at having it returned cannot fully be expressed.

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My 42nd birthday, a week after my ovarian cyst removal. I’m with my writing friend JoAnn — we met in a personal essay writing class.

(252) Appreciation: The Poetry of Mary Oliver

imageI love her glimpses into nature and spirituality. I love how she brings me into myself when I read her words. I love that she lives the creative life so fully and generously. Mary Oliver’s poetry is one of those things that is very right with the world.

I had a chance to hear her read and speak about her poetry a few years ago, an event that was held at a church on Sanibel Island. When she reads it is like hearing a gospel. But her self-deprecating humor kept her from being a preacher.

I came by way of the poems most people know: “Wild Geese,” “The Journey,” and my personal favorite “The Summer Day.”  But there are many more poems that have brightened my life, the one above being an example. Thank you, Mary, for reminding me to live and sing and appreciate the life I have. Everything else shrinks in contrast.

(251) Appreciation: Freedom in the classroom

I had lunch with a friend who teaches at a private school. A few parents are making a lot of demands over what is taught and how it is taught. They say Poe is too gory and bloody, that certain passages in a grammar book teach feminism and climate change, and that they want a lecture format, none of this collaborative learning stuff.

Wow.

This week I am voicing appreciations, and today I am appreciative of my freedom in the classroom. This does not mean a free-for-all. I am discerning, and of course I review everything for appropriateness for the age. I am grateful I am encouraged to have my students ask big questions, to think deeply about things that are happening in the world, to collaborate and debate and discuss. I am glad no one can tell me I should be teaching the bible in literature class. Or how I should grade papers. Or what kind of written pieces the students should bring home.

With all the issues in public education, I am glad to be in a place where my choices count. I can bring an authentic experience to my students without interference. And that is what makes teaching so worthwhile.

(231) Gift

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Artist: Pam Malafronte

This collage hangs in my writing and music studio. It is a gift made just for me from my friend Pam. She gave it to me when I received my Masters degree in 2006.

I met Pam when we were both going in to take the English 6-12 Teacher Certification Exam. We discovered we both were going to be entering the Teacher Immersion Program, and needed to have the exam under our belts.

We became fast friends, and are still friends to this day. I have a few friends older than I am, and many who are younger. Pam is just about my age exactly. This gives us a shorthand. We were doing the same things at the same time. There is so much that does not need explaining.

Pam pulled this together from gift cards, gift wrap, some glitter, and her own unique hand. The words she wrote were ones that related to me. I am grateful for this unique and thoughtful gift, hanging here where I create my ordinary life.

Yet, I can’t help but reflect on how extraordinary some friendships are. For that I have another G = Gratitude.

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