8 lessons 3rd graders can teach you to have an extraordinary life

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This summer has been amazing. Lots of family adventures and travel. I’ve got some images from a trip to Santa Fe I can’t wait to show you (soon!). I’m always a bit melancholy at the end of August, but there’s also some excitement mixed in there to get back at it.

As I head back to my classroom tomorrow, I will enter a place where I learn as well…A LOT, actually. I love letting go of the technology that has grabbed hold in our house with our teens. I love embracing the fact that I need to give all of my attention, because 8 and 9-year-olds require all of you most of the time. I am happy to give it to them. In fact, it’s nice to have someone want your attention and guidance sans grumbling! I have been making a list of what the small people in my life have taught me.

 

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1) Let go of multi-tasking and give it your all

I believe it’s true. Multi-tasking makes a person stupid…well, as least me. There is so much power in giving complete focus to the task at hand, whether it’s teaching writing or making a green smoothie. I’m hell-bent on committing to this..and not just in my classroom. Cooking isn’t something I enjoy, but maybe it’s because I’m trying to make appointments on my cell and organize the cereal cabinet while I’m making spaghetti. Focus, Lara, focus!

2) Your wardrobe shouldn’t hold you back from playing kickball

I have really enjoyed having just a few items (black and gray–my Johnny Cash wardrobe!) to wear this summer and I’ve gone to great lengths to weed out my fall closet as well. Lots of comfortable fabrics with flexibility for crawling around on the floor. I managed to find items that also look professional. The extra time (and space in my brain) this frees up is very liberating.

3) Forgive easily and often

3rd graders don’t hold grudges. It’s fabulous and I intend to follow their lead on this as well. Not to be trite, but life’s too short to keep score. Is it that we have so much baggage built up over our tired, harried lives that we just can’t let go? Ahhh..to be 9.

4) Ask for help when obstacles arise

I’m not good at this and I’m always amazed at how easy this process is for kids. In our getting our rooms ready week, I have bravely asked people I respect for help with certain teaching methods/curriculum for this year. ‘Feels good! People want to help and feel honored when asked. We should do this more often.

5) Seek friendships with all walks of life

3rd graders do not polarize themselves in our school. They tend to be very open with who they play with during recess. I can’t say enough how much the cover-of-the-book-judging has hindered some great relationships in my life. I’m more open now to different types of people and have been enriched with these friendships.

6) Get excited about simple things

I can’t tell you how much squealing ensues when there’s a prize box involved in my classroom….or some extra time for a class kickball game…or a visitor coming in to our room to teach us something new. Their enthusiasm is contagious and awesome—one of my favorite things about this age. Having coffee ready to go in the coffee maker at 5:00 is something to be excited about. As is a found earring on the floor of the car.

7) Celebrate small victories

When did we stop celebrating little victories? They’re the lighter fluid that gets that fire roaring. Times tables, continent memorization, handwriting improvement…so many opportunities to dance the happy dance when I turn on I Feel Good in our room. Behind the prize box, dancing on the desk (with feet “glued” to the top) is our most coveted thing in room 205. As an adult, having the bills paid with a little money left over for a weekend trip is definitely something to shake the disco booty about.

8) Show appreciation & affection at every given opportunity

I’m a hugger. My kids take full advantage of this at the end of the day. I want them to know I’m proud of them and happy that we had our day together. What’s great about 3rd grade is that they’re small enough that it isn’t awkward :) Especially with the boys. They slip and call me mom all the time–what a privilege to be in that category! Affection and appreciation is a bucket-filler for adults and sometimes we underestimate its power.

I hope your summer was extra lovely and you’re enjoying the beginnings of fall where you are.

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On my SIMPLICITY radar

It’s become a broken record saying, but it holds steadfast: Gratitude brings happiness into your life.

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I like this gratitude recording app because it pops up at random times during the day (hence the name!). I like going back through my days to see what was bringing me joy.

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Paleo eating has proven challenging when traveling to multiple destinations with the family.

I can’t remember what author stated that one who is mindful about what they eat “shouldn’t be caught with their pants down” (meaning, having nothing in my purse and a plethora of fast food joints in view are not a good combo). I have discovered some great purse-worthy snacks and these are at the top of the list.

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This bar  and this jerky have gotten me through some moments when there wasn’t any food for me around and I was in peril of snarfing down garbage.

 

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Loving this book—a good summer read when there’s much reflecting about the necessities of life. I have fallen in love with so many quotes from this gem…notably: “How do you grow into someone you like?”, “We must root to rise”, and “No one is static. You didn’t marry one person, but all the past and current and future people within that one person”. Molly Caro May is a poet and a visionary. Can’t wait until she writes another book.

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HGTV candy

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This tiny house blew my mind on Tiny House Nation. It had so many cool uses of multi-use space. I’ve got a big ‘ole crush on Zack Giffin...and not only for his building skills!

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Finally, a fan letter to the Matriarch of Tiny (the BIG tiny, that is)…

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Dear Dee,

I adore you. Your wit..grit..humor..bravery. All of it. I got some strange looks on the plane while reading your book—seems laughing wildly is not acceptable in small spaces these days. I was moved by your story, but even more inspired by your character and attitude about life. You are a treasure and I can’t wait to see what you do next!

With admiration-

Lara Blair

(Hmmm…seems someone has an author crush. I can’t help it! There are so many wonderful simplicity writers out there putting their uplifting words on paper. So glad to have time to read this summer! ‘Beauty of being a teacher.)

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What are you eating, reading, watching this summer, friends? I’d love to hear!

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Who else yearns for family-free alone time?

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It’s clear to me that a huge part of a Simplicity Quest is letting go.

This summer, with a house full of “teen scene” and girls who would rather walk across hot coals than be seen with their mother at the local pool, I am experiencing a bit more freedom. I’m letting go of my roles as Julie McCoy (Love Boat cruise director for those of you under 35) and chauffeur extraordinaire. Stolen moments alone have been popping up much more lately, to my sheer delight. I was at my dad’s place this past week and I wrote about how it felt. Strangely, just having time to sit quietly and write felt decadent (and necessary).

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How many times have I sat in this same sandy dune, sparkly silver granules blowing in miniature tornadoes around my ankles? It’s an unusally warm day on the Oregon Coast and my shoulders soak in the sun like thirsty plants. I turn my head one direction and the wind blows past my ears, hair whips obstructing my view. I feel a complete part of this beautiful scene. I turn my head the other way and I’m deafened by the whipping gusts reminding me of the difference between California and Oregon beaches in July. As if  this beach is whispering, I’m still a rugged coast, water chilled and erosion beaten cliffs. Pointy beach grass shadows pave the way down to the hardened sand where I wiggle my toes, diving deeper, water seeping up to the top–future makings of drippings for a child’s sand castle trim. I am reveling in island time with no mom duties or schedule bending to fit the whims and desires of beach companions. Me, the steady white noise of the waves and a serenity trickling into my neck and shoulders stand in the center of this summer day, a deliberate release of seasonal frenzy and lingering to-do lists.

A steady gait leads me down the sand, tailwind propelling me with a promise of struggle when it’s time to turn and head home. It’s worth every step towards open, wide beach filled with kite boarders, family football games and shell-collecting children.

I love all of it.

This is my happy place, full of our family’s memory collection of 4th of July parades, 10 foot wide sand castle compounds and naps stolen against resting driftwood logs. It’s such a different experience on my own. I slowly play a movie in my head of all four seasons where I partake in this coastal luxury solo…thinking, writing, creating. Maybe it’s my recent finished read of “Gifts From the Sea”, Anne Morrow’s beachy answer to a “A Room of One’s Own”. There is zero guilt of taking this time alone and I feel free to fully embrace all the magic and nostalgia the coast can bring. It settles in my chest like a heating pad, dial turned up, tingling warm and comforting. Words like rejuventate, recharge and rest (r words are my favorite) pop into my head like a free association game I’m playing with the sea. Is it the crashing waves that drown out all worry and heaviness? Or is it the sand drifts, rolling in vast, airy space that allow me to breathe deeply? I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. Once again I reach for the invisible mason jar to bottle it all up so it can be poured out on my desk in February when the daydreams start…small coastal town ice cream shops, picnic-bound bicycles with baskets, and of course, my beloved Manzanita receding tides.

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Hoping you have time to think in a beautiful place ~ happy August!

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Small House ~ Big Style Part III

I think I’ve found my favorite tiny house. 

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Can’t you just see this little guy soaking up the sunlight in the high plains of eastern Oregon? Ahhhh…someday my scrub yard will come to fruition. No mowing!

Tiny home owners Andrew and Gabriella Morrison know a thing or two about design.

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See more of this home here.

Somehow this house doesn’t seem so small—could it be the photography? Or does it really look like I could hold a small yoga class in here?

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I’m so drawn to modern design with these little homes….like this one.  So crisp, bright and clean…yet, where in the world would I put my giant windmill in my kitchen?

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I’m also a bit obsessed with small houses that involve the BEACH of some sort. Small house + hammock + sand = YippdedeeHappiness

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Two things for tiny house obsessed peeps like me:

1) Tiny: A Story About Living Small is out and rentable from Vimeo. ‘Been waiting for this as I usually don’t like to pay 20 bucks to rent a movie.

2) Tiny House Nation is new and looks promising. ‘Got good reviews too!

 

This was my view from our little “drive-thru window” in the Twinkie this week.

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It was a hub/wife trip and we had the best time riding our tandem around the Olympic Peninsula, taking ferries from island to island. ‘Magical time!

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I have to say that I’m totally addicted to living in a small space in the summer. Everything’s within reach and it takes 3 minutes to clean. More time for adventure! I’m thinking that’s what the tiny house folks experience as well.

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This is a “nighty night” from the silver bullet. ‘Hope all you friends are having a fabulous summer wherever you may be.

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5 things from 1989 to better my life

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Is it a bad thing to constantly want to turn the clock back to 1989?

It’s not the cool high bangs look or the colored leather that brings such longing. Nor is it a yearning for synthesizer-heavy tunes, a livin’ large attitude or step aerobics craze. For me, it was the beginning of my “adult years” (ahem, the big 1-8 that year) when I was ready to take on the world and the world at that time was filled with face-to-face conversations, the beauty of being unavailable by phone (no email yet!), written correspondence, rerun city on the boob tube in summer and a general sense that a solid resume and a winning attitude could get you far in a possible career.

What has happened to us?

Yes, I’m a user of the internet. Heck yes, I’m a believer that it makes marketing and making a living easier (especially fabulous when done in PJ’s from your kitchen table). This is a very exciting time to be an entrepreneur in the making. Yet, there’s a flip side too….Who needs Christmas holiday letters when we can keep up with our friends’ dinner plate photos and party plans on Facebook all year round? Why mess with sending thank you cards when a short email will suffice? Teenage breakups are even easier when one can text a jilted lover that it’s over.

I’m beginning to feel that it’s all too much.

My heart is caught between a vice of the digital keep-up and a wedge of comparison to others’ lives. Lives I didn’t even know much about (which turns out was a good thing) before social media parachuted violently into our laptops and smart phones. I feel sheepish for yearning for the days when my home phone would ring and no one was there to answer it—I simply was not reachable. I hate to admit it, but I really, really like being unreachable sometimes. What does it take now for folks to render us legally unavailable? Balancing atop Mt. Everest? Gawking at penguins in the Artic? Somehow I’m thinking these two places might even be candidates for emergency cell service and it makes my head hurt.

I’m also keenly aware that I am part of the problem. I haven’t holed up in a cabin J.D. Salinger-style. I haven’t shunned social media with peacock-like pomposity and a drive to communicate with every person I know over coffee instead of Skype. I’m sitting directly in the center of this lovely glass house, arm raised, stone in hand. Yet there are days when my 80’s nostalgia rears it’s ugly heavily made-up eyes and wants it be different. I know I’m not alone because my spouse and I lament about this like two old ladies regularly over our morning coffee. My teen daughter was overheard saying to her sister, “It was so great that our summer camp outlawed phones. We were all happier for it. There was no FOMO going on while playing Capture the Flag or hanging in the lodge.” Ah, that one made me open my eyes wide, wide, wide. What have we done to our kids?

It got me thinking.

 

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1) Communicate clearly that I’m unavailable.

Hello vacay email and voicemail message. I’m not reachable when I say I’m not reachable, right? Of course, easier said than done for folks who have their superiors breathing down their necks all the time. For a teacher, I admit this one is a little bit easier. But this is my time capsule, yes?

2) Call a cease fire on social media

I’ve gone round and round with myself on this one and finally landed on a happy place of tweeting and FB’ing blog posts only. I don’t lurk or dwell, yet I do want people to read (like you!) about this message, because I think it’s important.

3) Adhere to at-home digital sabbaticals

We’re still working on this, but I’m loving it when we are committed. All phones go in a basket by the door when we have company, too—love that one.

4) Stop the hustle of trying to be heard

As a past photographer who did all marketing through social media and blog posts, I have had to wean myself of the proverbial tap-dance of self promotion. I think this hustle was a huge reason I left my entrepreneurial life for my teaching job. Frankly, I’m was done with trying to get my squeaky voice to rise above the din in the noisy lunchroom that is online networking. I just want to write and then hope that my words are read by and matter to someone. I’m officially subscribing to the JUST DO REALLY GOOD WORK mantra in this cyber world of horn-tooting and me-glorification and hope that it will be what it’s supposed to be. On this topic, I loved this article about more doing, less promoting.

5) Two words: Down time

I love the Italians for their phrase, l’arte di non fare niente, the art of doing nothing. I used to suck at this. I always had to have baskets and baskets filled with the fruits of my labor. And for what? Burn-out and anxiety. No longer is this something I feel guilty doing—it’s my weekend currency and I’m trying to spread this hang-out-in-a-hammock pixie dust to everyone in my clan. It’s important and I want my girls to know what it feels like.

Will they long for 2018 when they’re older? I wonder.

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Anyone else feel anxiety at the mall?

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Limiting one’s desires actually helps to cure one of fear.

~ Seneca “Letters from a Stoic”

Having teens I’m coming to the conclusion that they naturally gravitate to the mall like a fly to stink. I would be a happy camper if I never went into one again and I’ve come up with a list that supports this I’m-the-mom-I’m-taking-a-stand decision.

 

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1) Safety

If you’ve been anywhere near a TV in the last ten years, you know that you might be safer driving through the streets of Watts than trolling the floors of your local shopping center. Such a sad state of affairs. Watching the news with my mouth on the floor (our local mall had a major shooting two years ago) and tears in my eyes has become too common. I don’t know the answer to my daughters’ questions of, “Why would someone hurt innocent people?” Call me paranoid, but if I can avoid being out in the open (with my children no less) when a loon opens fire, I will make that choice.

2) Avoiding the Teen Gimmees

Funny how they don’t surface quite as much when we’re hanging around the house. It’s that whole “out of sight, out of mind” thing. While I was working on this post, Joshua Becker came up with a brilliant list about raising consumer conscious teens. Good, good advice.

3) Fending off my own Gimmees

Funny how I don’t need anything when it’s not in front of my face.

4) The excess makes me anxious and sad.

Simply put, the place makes my heart heavy.

True blog confession here: I had a total freak-out the other day when I was shopping with my kids for much needed summer shorts. Our local mall was crowded and bustling and I was (as only I can do) equating my current view with the sad, materialistic state of our whole country. I was thinking about the broken people who fill the holes in their lives/hearts with buying stuff. I was thinking about women and our totally skewed view of our bodies due to advertisements telling us we need to feel okay. I was even thinking about the many poverty stricken folks in our midst who need us to help, rather than throw our money at things that just don’t matter. I’m not one for anxiety attacks or panic episodes, but in this instance my heart beat faster and I felt more agitation than usual. It was a “what have we become?” moment and I was sad to be a part of it. I had that let’s-move-to-a-cabin-in-backwoods-Montana feeling and it created a darkness for me that’s unusual. What the heck is going on here? Still trying to figure it out.

Does anyone else feel this way?

 

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**Our Twinkie trips are revving up for the summer, so posts may not be as frequent…trying to keep it simple, friends. :) **

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Three tools to help you realize goals & find contentment

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I believe in writing big goals down and reading them each week, if not every day. I believe that if we want something bad enough,we will work to make it happen.

 

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1) LISTEN

Listen to others who are realizing their dreams and listen to folks who you might want to do the opposite of. Then, most importantly, be still so that you can listen to the small voice within who knows you completely.

This voice is always right and is so teeny tiny quiet, that we may not ever hear it’s “rightness”. Meditation, prayer, quiet time..whatever works for you. 5 to 10 to 30 minutes investing in listening can produce some really amazing things. If only we all would take the time to take it seriously enough to give it the time it deserves. My ability to set aside quiet time is improving. I’m realizing that it is a detriment to avoid it and I’m committing to do it even when I don’t feel like it (frequently at 5 am.).

Do you have 2 minutes a day you can sit in the quiet to just listen?

What if it meant the difference between a pretty good life to one filled with amazing happenings and incredible circumstance? 

I’ve been clutching this compass so hard it’s making an indentation in my hand as I bustle about my life in the name of getting things done. There’s really a better alternative…I realize that now.

2) Look straight ahead and own your story

Tap into your own brilliance, even if it doesn’t look remotely like anything you’ve seen out there.

There is so much dreaming other people’s dreams going on in blogland as well as the creative world. First off, I think a lot of folks see something happening for an artist, writer, entrepreneur, etc. and they want what they think is that person’s experience. We have NO IDEA what kind of sacrifices occurred for that person’s success. We have no clue what their day to day is in juggling a career and family life. We just don’t know.  I’ve found it best to not assume anything about anyone’s success, as well as not covet it for my own life.

It’s taken me 43 years to get this, but I believe I really only want what’s best for this vida loca of mine—what’s best for my simplicity quest right now in this moment in my life. It’s forever evolving and changing, but I am honoring the process by not wishing for what is not mine. I’m looking inside for what is yelling out for my attention. 

I know myself well enough by now to be able to release, release, release looking at others’ success for my own growth to happen.

3) Pay attention

I am guilty of getting lost in my own list of to-do’s and errands and hustle & bustle. My children have taught me how to slow down. My youngest, especially, with her “naturalist” ways outside and love of animals has helped me to stop and marvel at the little things. I’m always glad when I do. There is a ton to be seen if you widen those peepers!

This is my favorite recent story about paying attention. I think it says a lot about what’s missing in our lives.


Joshua Bell plays in subway No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition. No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

(text via Pinterest)

How ’bout you? Do you listen to your longings & pay attention to the world around you? What are they telling you?

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