The Gift of Here and Now

One of the great gifts of any holiday season is time. In an age of hurried living and distraction, what I am most looking forward to over the holidays is just time. Time to connect over shared meals. Time to tell stories of holidays past. Time to journal in bed. Time to read the illustrated Goblet of Fire. Time to find Waldo. Time to play Settlers of Catan. Time to laugh over Madlibs. Time to take notice of the world, people, (and pets) around me.

Usually, I fill the holiday season with to-do lists. I then expeditiously cross things off my list to feel as though the time was well spent. Instead, this year, I’m making an effort to find joy in the here and now. I’m giving myself permission to not always know what to do with my time.

We know that boredom is often the catalyst for creativity. It’s why we have so many creativity bursts in the shower when we are free from any particular focus. This holiday season, free yourself (and your students and children) from deadlines and to-dos. Here are some simple questions you can ask yourself to prioritize the here and now this holiday season:

Connection: Who will you connect with and how will you let them know they are important to you?

Choice: What seemingly ordinary part of your day will you choose to slow down and take notice of this holiday season?

Challenge: What new things might you try because you want to not because you have to?

Play: What will play look like for you?

Story: What is the story of the holidays you want to look back on? What stories will you tell? What stories will you read? What stories might you create?

Discovery: How can you remind yourself to take notice of things that give you a feeling of awe?

Movement: How will you intentionally move to be more wide-awake to the here and now?

If you are looking for a little extra inspiration, I recommend reading aloud the picture book Here and Now by Julia Denos with someone you love. Or, better yet, have someone you love read it to you. It is a picture book meditation on how to live life more fully present. After all, time is the one resource we can never replace.

Better My Brave

“Mom, every day I want to better my brave.”

Jack, age 9

To our sons, the world is a playground. They climb trees (even on field trips when they’re told not to–sorry, Mr. Schwartz). They scale walls. They jump over garbage cans. Watching them, it seems like they have unparalleled energy and unimaginable courage. Over the years, I’ve learned to bite my tongue and erase “be careful” from my lexicon. I’ve learned to trust that they know their own bodies. They know what they can handle. And they will look to me for when they need help.

When our son, Jack, was in second grade his big goal was to climb on top of the monkey bars and stand up on them. Understandably, school wasn’t thrilled with his attempts at this. He came home declaring that all he was trying to do was better his brave. It’s hard to argue with that kind of dedication to self-improvement.

Based on our Jack’s idea that every day we should try to better our brave, we’ve created a summer family challenge (or really, my husband, Chris did–wish I could take credit for the idea). We are each choosing a physical challenge and a mental challenge to “better our brave” over the next few months.

Designing this website and starting this blog is my mental challenge. I’m not particularly comfortable with self-promotion, but I am a big believer in idea promotion. And, I think I have some ideas to share. Mostly stories. Tidbits that may provoke new thoughts for you. Details from my days.

Each week, I’ll be posting brief musings that offer insight into one of the seven pillars I write about in my forthcoming book Start with Joy: Designing Literacy Learning for Student Happiness.

The seven pillars are simple, research-based concepts to help you find more happiness in your life and to help children create more happiness in theirs. Together, the seven pillars can help you embrace a life philosophy, teaching philosophy, and parenting philosophy to start with joy whenever and wherever you can. Collectively, these blog posts will offer entry points for you to think about the seven pillars in your own life. Which are strongest? What represents a challenge for you? How can the pillars help you and the children in your life to live a happy life? The seven pillars are…

Connection. Choice. Challenge. Story. Discovery. Play. Movement.

Oh, and my summer physical challenge–go camping.

To better your brave and the brave of those around you:

  • respect that challenges will differ for everyone
  • catch yourself saying “be careful”–if anything, it distracts children from doing what they believe they are capable of doing
  • create your own personal or family challenge this summer to better your brave
  • listen to the words of children with care–“Attention is the beginning of devotion.”-Mary Oliver

© Katie Egan Cunningham 2019