Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Take Care of Yourself FIRST

Do you know the best way to take care of your spouse and family?

Take care of yourself FIRST. This was my guest post this week on I think it is worth sharing with my blog followers today.

Such a simple thing, but how many of us actually do it?

Consider the old adage, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” That’s not far from the truth.

Here are some ideas on how to take care of yourself.

1 SLEEP. Schedule enough time each day to get adequate sleep. If you are still groggy most days when the alarm interrupts your slumber, consider going to bed 15 or 20 minutes earlier. If you tend to have problems sleeping, talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist.

2 STRETCH. When you wake up in the morning, take a few minutes to stretch your muscles to help prepare for the new day. Try some simple bends and stretch like a cat to relieve the kinks in your bones.

3 SOOTHE. Set aside at least 15 minutes every day to do something personal for yourself. Maybe it’s to read a romantic novel, take a relaxing bath or meditate to relieve the stress of the day. You deserve this little luxury, whatever feels right for you.

4 SMILE. It takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown, so take the easy way out. The great thing about giving someone a big smile is that they most likely will give it right back. Then you both feel better, which is a nice win-win situation. Here’s another idea: If you happen to spend a lot of time on the telephone, put a small mirror where you can see it. The person on the other end of the phone will hear the smile in your voice.

5 SAVOR. Take the time to smell the roses. Look for things to be grateful for every day. We are fortunate to have a roof over our heads, food to eat, a safe environment and a sun that rises every day. Even on bad days, we can find something to appreciate.

6 SIMPLIFY. Reconsider all the things you think “have to” be done. For example, Easter is coming soon. How many of your planned activities can be pared down to save time, money and aggravation? Ask your children and family for feedback. Do they really care if the hot-cross buns are homemade or bought? Can the Easter Bunny bring simply colored eggs instead of individual masterpieces?

7 SAY NO. Choose which activities & commitments in your life are worthwhile. Just because someone asks you to do something doesn’t mean you have to. Even better, you don’t have to give a reason why you can’t do it this time. Just say, “Sorry, I won’t be able to [whatever].” I used to have a small plaque on my desk that made a good reminder. It said, “Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

8 SAY YES. Say yes to putting yourself first. You deserve it and so does your family.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Personal Values Writing Workshop

Are students in Ireland very different than students in America? Yesterday I had the pleasure to find out when I conducted a Personal Values Writing Workshop to a classs of 16 year old girls in a Dublin school. They all had lovely Irish accents which made it just a bit challenging to understand when they spoke softly.

In the course of this trip abroad, I've managed to catch a miserable cold. By the time of this workshop, my voice was almost gone and I seemed to either squeak or croak when trying to talk. Needless to say, my presentation was not quite as dynamic as usual. Fortunately, the young women were all well-behaved and I didn't have to yell. LOL

The workshop started out with a discussion about Personal Values, why they are important and from whom we learn them. At first, the girls seemed a bit reluctant to respond, but before long they offered their own ideas more willingly.

Each of the girls selected a few of their favorite Personal Values from a sample list of about 30, then wrote a short story about why they were important to them and how they had learned them. There were several recurrent themes throughout most of the stories, such as friendship, loyalty, honesty and respect. Those same values seem to resonate with American students as well.

One thing that surprised me was that none of the girls wanted to read their own writing. Rather, they volunteered to read someone else's story, which has not been the case in any of my other writing workshops. The Principal explained later that in Ireland, all children are required to learn Gaelic in addition to English. So they have less time available to work on speaking and presentation skills. From just the little that I saw on street signs, there doesn't seem to be any similarities between the two languages, as there is in French or Spanish.

A few of the girls responded quite well to my encouragement to write. In fact, one student wrote a lovely story in spite of her usually not participating fully in the classes. I was very encouraged to see that.

So the biggest difference I noticed between American and Irish students? It was their lack of confidence in their presentations. Otherwise, there were many similarities. As always, I was pleased to see their positive reception of my message.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Biography Writing in Scotland

Today's post is one of the lovely stories from my Biography Writing Workshop in Scotland. The students all did a very nice job of interviewing someone, writing their story and reading aloud it to the class. This story is from Marcela M.

The Life Story of My Granny M

Ester M known as Granny M to the family was born on the 13th March 1926. She lived in a small flat in a town in Scotland. In the flat there was a kitchen, 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, a scullery and a parlour. She lived with her Mum, Dad, her 2 older brothers Charles and Alistair and her 2 older sisters Isabel and Margaret. Gran was the youngest child in her family. There were 7 of them in one small flat and there were only 2 bedrooms. So Isabel and Gran slept in the kitchen. Charles, Alistair and Margaret slept in one of the bedrooms and her Mum and Dad slept in the other bedroom.

Her house chores were to wash and dry the dishes and dusting which she despised so much. She worked really quite hard and her weekly allowance was 1-2 pennies and she used it for sweets the way we do nowadays. Alistair was teased by Gran even though Alistair was older than Gran. She didn’t have any nicknames and didn’t ask many questions. She wishes she had asked more questions instead of just watching people talking and acting all shy. Gran’s only ever pet was a small budgie. Her favourite food was sweets like a lot of people. Gran really liked playing outside on clear sunny days with her best friends Kathy and Irene who were also her neighbours. Gran lived in the flat in the middle of the close. On one side of her house lived Irene’s family and on the other side was Kathy’s family. Her proudest moment before she was 18 was joining the Land Army.

Gran really disliked school. She cried for a whole weekend and refused to go to school. Her Mum eventually told her she had to go to school to learn and to become educated. Although she didn’t like school she had favourite subjects which were Poetry, Reading and Spelling. Gran said that her school day went by really fast and also went really well. Gran and her brothers and sisters walked to and from school. The Primary was a 5 minute walk away from her house and the Secondary was just across the road, but she said she was still rushing at the last minute. There were around 40 students in one of her classes. Gran was in the same class as her two best friends Kathy Barclay and Irene Heart. They met when they were all around the age of 3. During playtime Gran, Kathy and Irene played Pever, Skipping, Beds and played with YoYo’s.

When Gran grew up she wanted to be a Vet but said to me that she didn’t have the brains to become one so didn't. After school she worked with Mitchell's and at 17 joined the Land Army. At the weekend she and her friends went swimming. Gran took piano lessons and after she was used to playing the piano she also started swimming lessons. Gran’s family didn’t have a lot of money and didn’t have a radio so Gran rarely heard anything on a radio. Robert Burns’ songs and poems were quite popular then and She really liked them.

Gran saw her first television in the late 1960’s. The Sound of Music and Mamma Mia are Gran's favourite movies. She saw them in a picture house with her daughter Jan who is my Auntie. Gran and her dad entered sailing races in a very small yacht. The yacht was so small that there was no room for seats so you had to stand. The only other thing Gran remembers doing with Kathy and Irene was going out for a bike ride or going for messages on her bike.

Gran and her family didn’t do much celebrating or hosting any small parties. She said that on her birthday she didn’t get anything special and it seemed like any other normal day. Now Gran receives cards, presents, yummy chocolates, perfume and clothes. Sometimes she goes out for dinner with some of the family. The first family wedding Gran attended was at the Bath Hotel in Glasgow. There were around 50-70 family members or friends that were there. There were 2 food tables but the food was very plain not all fancy like what there are at some weddings. The wedding cake wasn’t all big and fancy with all these decorations, it was a small plainish type of cake.

For their holidays they went to Arran in July, for Christmas they went to spend time with their family they didn’t see much and for New Year the family they saw at Christmas came to their house for a big family dinner. All the children were told to go into the parlour and wait until the adults had finished eating. Gran said that if the table was messy before they ate they still were given the blame and were still told to clean it up.

Once Gran was married she went abroad quite a lot and sometimes went away herself. In the 1990’s she went on a lot of lovely sunny cruises with Grandpa. Now if Gran goes abroad she goes with my Auntie Jan but it’s usually just bus tours now to different places. Sometimes Gran goes to watch the bowling since she used to play bowling herself. Gran's proudest achievement in her adult life was having a happy healthy family and seeing how they have grown since they were tiny little babies. The one other special occasion was her Golden Wedding which is 50 years of marriage. WOW! Gran has been married a very, very long time.

Gran’s most important values are her Family, Faith and Friendship. Gran learned these values from her Mum and Dad. She wants to see manners, respect, kindness and fairness from other people she meets in the streets or in shops. Gran treats people with kindness, respect and care because whoever she treats like that she wants to be treated like that as well.

I hadn’t realised that Gran worked so hard during her younger years and lived really near her school. How she put up with sleeping in the kitchen and sharing her bed space with her older sister Isabel I have no idea but I know I couldn’t share a bed or a room with Elena or Ronnie. Now that’s a FACT! You might think that 1-2 pennies isn’t that much money but that was quite a lot of money 80 odd years ago.

I find my Granny M’s life story really interesting because I didn’t know much about her life so now my knowledge on her has become much better. I play tig or football at my breaks whereas Gran and her friends played Pever, Skipping or Beds. When she explained the rules of these games to me they sounded really quite fun. I’ve learned a lot more about my Granny M’s life than I knew before. Some of it is quite funny, some is interesting and some is a little different from what I thought it would be. If I was given the chance to try Pever or Beds I probably would. The things she did for fun are really different from what I do in and out of school.

I have thoroughly enjoyed myself finding out more about my Gran and her family since she knows all about mine. I also liked finding out about how small her house was compared to the size of mine or yours, and how school hasn’t changed that much. The subjects that Gran had, we have today here at our school. The one thing that has changed and I’m glad it’s changed is that if we are bad we have our name on the chart, we are moved or we are given a purple card and stay in for lunch. If Gran was bad or someone in her class was bad they were told to go out to the front of the class and were hit with the belt or the cane. I’m so happy that we aren’t hit with the belt or the cane.

Writing this biography has been really interesting and made me think how hard it was for Gran and her family then. No wonder Gran couldn’t remember some of the things in her life when she was young because there is so much to know about her. By Marcela M

Monday, March 1, 2010

Who Do You Think You Are?

Scottish Biography Writing Workshop

How well do you know your own heritage? Do you really know your grandparents and great-grandparents? If you don’t know as much as you’d like, today is a great day to start learning more about them!

Today I am very excited to have started giving a 3-day Biography Writing Workshop at an island school off the coast of Scotland. The students are in sixth and seventh grades and it was delightful to see their eyes light up as we discussed the process of their writing a biography. They were eager to get started.

The rules about who to interview for their writing are pretty basic: 1) someone they already know, such as a family member or friend, 2) someone over 18 years old and 3) someone they want to know better. Within a few short minutes of discussion, each student had selected at least one person for their first interview. A few of them asked if they can interview more than one person, which is gratifying.

Each student was given a list of questions to ask their subjects on a variety of topics, such as their early life, their school life, what they did for fun, how they celebrated events and holidays and what personal values are important to them. They can also come up with their own questions to ask.

Over the next two days, the students will interview their person of choice and start writing that person’s story. When we meet again, they will continue writing the story, then revise and edit it until they are satisfied. On the next day, they will read their stories to the whole class and the top three presentations will be awarded prizes.

If you are ready to get started on your own biography by interviewing someone near and dear to your heart, now is the time to get busy. For a list of the questions the students are using, send me an email at and put Interview Questions in the Subject. I will be glad to share them with you!