All Talked Out

Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little
Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more
Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little
Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more

Remember those song lyrics from Music Man? I think about this refrain (I think that’s the right musical word?) whenever I just feel exhausted from all the talk. This is not a complaint about any one group or a particular individual. But have you listened to the news lately? Do you really hear what people are saying to each other in the grocery store? The sidebar conversations at meetings are just as bad. Pick, pick, pick.

It seems everyone has a solution for the world’s problems. Some of those solutions have become frightening. Very few of them appear to have any merit at really solving the root of our problems.

Except one.

Is anyone listening? Can you even hear your own voice? Have you reflected on what certainly could be the only solution? Do you sit in quiet and try to hear that still, small voice? There are a million love songs, but I’m afraid they have become just more talk. Let’s stop talking and start loving more. Let’s do something everyday to make at least one person feel wrapped in sweet love. An act of kindness. A paying it forward. A tender note, maybe anonymously. A bill paid. Dishes washed.

Let’s just stop talking about it.

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A few joyful things…

The last two weekends have brought a good amount of snow to this Hoosier state. And, I’m glad for it. Oh I know that it won’t be but another week or two before I’m thoroughly over it, but when the windchill is below zero, I try to remember how “over it” I was of summer in late August. I’ll take it for right now and be grateful for the opportunity to do those indoor things that I enjoy, too. So here are a few things that made me feel joyful this week.

Winter brings one of our favorite past times.
SOOOOOOooooo many birds this weekend. Probably 30 in this area including the ones in the bushes below and on the deck. Ben filled the feeders about three times a day during this stretch of cold.
I usually like my tea iced, but not during the winter. Searching through the cabinet I discovered my youngest left me a Joy tea. Oh, so lovely!

Started pottery class this week. This semester is sculpture. I have never done this, so I was a little apprehensive at first. I’ll get there, but I’m satisfied that I got a good start.
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Marital Longevity

Imagine being married 79 years. You don’t hear of that too much. If my parents were still alive, January 20th of this year would have been their 79th. I ponder the good days and, well…not so good days in all that they did survive.

We had pause to consider what goes into a “successful” marriage last month as my youngest married the love her life. I suppose we also did this when her sister married 2 1/1 years ago, but they had the benefit of a year’s worth of marriage counseling. The youngest and her betrothed didn’t get that. After all, they were an ocean away from each other for the last year.

It was they who asked us – in particular, my husband – to provide a little bit of wisdom from our 32 years of marriage. We sat together, sipping a bit of good bourbon, to encourage the memories, and brainstormed what we thought made ours last.

I suppose defining success in marriage has to include that whatever year you are celebrating, you can also admit that you are happy and still in love with each other, though I suppose there is room for discussion. Still that was our starting point. Below, is what we ended up both daughters.

29 Ways to Sustain a Happy and Healthy Marriage

By Mom and Dad Franklin  December 21, 2018

Don’t go to bed angry

Don’t talk about money after 5 pm.

Pick your battles.  Take the long view

Give grace; be merciful.  Know the difference.

Forgive and move on.

Don’t keep score

Communicate – don’t assume.

Be flexible.

Have a budget.

Never spend more than you make.

Have a date night.

Hug a lot.

Say “I love you” every day.

Keep God in your marriage.

God should be the center of your life. 

Talk, dream, talk some more.

Keep your thoughts on the future and what is possible not on the past and what could have been.

Know when to say, “Let’s talk about this later.”

Know when to count to 100 before speaking.

Words said can’t be taken back.

Give compliments.

Staying in love over the long term is a conscious decision with intentional actions.

Believe in and encourage each other.

Always tell the truth.

Rely on each other.  When one gets weary, allow the other to stand for the two of you.

Let NO ONE and NOTHING come between you two.

Husbands honor God, then wives should submit to their husbands.  1Cor 11:3 and Ephesians 5: 22-24.  This doesn’t mean that wives have no say or aren’t important.  And, when the husband is out of alignment with God, the wife should recognize that submitting to her husband is as sinful.  It is when both take their rightful place that there is joy and blessings in the marriage.  The husband should be wise enough to recognize the gifts of his bride and therefore, lean on her wisdom and talents, but then he should make the final decisions for the two.

Honor God and He will bless you both richly.

Happy spouse; happy house.

So what would you include? I’m interested.

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Loss, in the many ways it comes to us, causes us grief. 

I’ve been thinking a bit about what grief is lately.  Into a life a little rain must fall.  This describes my otherwise blessed life.  The holidays brought new family (in-laws) and pronouncements of a new baby, and time spent really, really being present with those we love.  Unfortunately, it was also the end of a year that my husband and I were blessed to have our youngest daughter live with us.  She didn’t just move out; she moved an ocean away.

The holidays seem to be a time for marathon movie watching.  This year it was the Harry Potter movies.  It was in one of those as I passively watched, I learned what a horcrux was.  I don’t consider myself a dark wizard or witch, but I began to turn this concept of leaving a piece of yourself in another in my mind.  I thought about how our children have a piece of us in them.  Well, of course, they have our DNA, but more than that.  They seem to have in them, us and the generations before us, pieces of ourselves in their character, their talents, and even their “hardwiring” toward the world at large.

When we lose a child, even just to the many miles across continents and oceans, we lose a piece of ourselves – a horcrux, if you will.  No wonder we grieve.

A piece of us is lost.  Why wouldn’t that hurt?  We lose a grip on our hopes and dreams, maybe.  For me, I lost my muse.  I lost the part of me that might have been.  The artist, the risk-taker, and the fixer/tool maven.  All of these are things that I thought I had a capacity for, but for whatever reason were not nurtured.  I’m amazed at her talents.  I try to emulate that risk taking.  Fixing things and figuring things out for myself rather than just letting my husband figure it out for me.  It is empowering.  Now I feel a little out on the edge about to teeter off.  And, I don’t like it.

So, why does this loss hurt so much?  I was reminded by a wise young person (Thanks, David Haigh) of a quote by C. S. Lewis: “It’s the cost of love.”

What isn’t treasured, loved, wanted and needed does not cost us.  It’s nothing to us.  So, this grief…. It’s the toll one pays for love.  And, I’d rather love.  This messy, chaotic, needy feeling that hurts like all of Hell in one pin prick.  So it hurts; at least I feel something.  How empty this life would be without love.  So, a piece of me lives in Bonn.  Pieces of me are in Heaven, but also in the wastelands of broken dreams and relationships, wasted moments and lost opportunities.  All own a piece of me in this amazing universe. Strangely, this moves me forward knowing I may meet myself again and again in others, connecting with those fragments perhaps not as lost as I thought.

In postscript, I learned today that a former colleague has left this earth.  She was way too young and far too impactful to be gone to us.  I grieve for the loss of her as well.  To Megan, and all the others – to Jeannie, to Geri, to Renee – who taught me to be passionate, to live life boldly, but lovingly – to my Aunt Charlotte and my father who taught me to live with high standards and integrity, and my mother who help me understand forgiveness and mercy – to all those who left a piece of themselves in me, I do grieve for the loss of you. 

What I know is that pieces of you are left in all of us, so when I look around I am truly surrounded by you.  The best parts of you remain in all of us. 

And, may that be true now, that I can be as warm and engaging, interesting and smart, and always the learner searching to understand.  RIP Megan McConnell

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The Joy Around Me

Several years ago, I read a wonderful little book called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It came at a particularly difficult time in my life when the negative in my world seemed to swarm around me, almost in a chokehold. I was challenged to write daily about the good that I saw in my day. I did that for close to six months. I have to say it was a powerful exercise in mental and spiritual health.

I haven’t done that for some time. I’ve retired and now work, more or less, on my terms. I’m not ashamed to admit that that alone helps! Still, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one negatively affected by the last couple of years of the election year chaos. A news “fast” is in order, no doubt, but I also feel I need to go back to making a joy journal. This time I want to record the joy in my life in pictures. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So, let’s give it a try!

This is my big dog, Sydney, on his favorite lap in the house. Sixty five pounds of lover.
I love snow, but this is not us today. And, not likely Saturday when we get our first meaningful accumulation. My husband feeds the birds. I enjoy the show.
A reminder of my youngest who recently married and moved to Germany. I keep this on my desk.
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Brain Friendly Strategies – a compilation from two favorite books

Brain Friendly Strategies from The Brain-Compatible Classroom by Laura Erlauer

Foster Emotional Wellness

  • Reduce stress
  • Teach stress management techniques
  • Create a sense of community
  • Have clear expectations
  • Make personal connections with students

Address Body and Movement

  • Water, temperature control, lighting, fresh air
  • Create opportunities for movement
  • Encourage good nutrition

Relevant Content and Student Choice

  • Discuss applicability of lessons
  • Authentic learning opportunities
  • Plan lessons around multiple intelligences and learning styles
  • Provide differentiated options
  • Allow choice of seating and small groups or partners occasionally

Time Management

  • Shift activities in lesson every 20 minutes or less
  • Call on students randomly
  • Use review through application frequently
  • Incorporate time for reflection
  • Integrate subjects
  • Teach new information in the first 10 min of class
  • Use last 10 min to tie new material to previous


  • Puzzles, brainteasers
  • Problem of the Day
  • Always follow a “yes or no” question with “why”
  • Don’t give students all the information. All them to contemplate information and draw conclusions
  • Ask leading questions
  • Use music. Baroque for calming, Make up songs to remember things


  • Authentic – product based, models, presentations
  • Use informal and formal
  • Match assessments to the instruction
  • Infuse assessment into daily practices
  • Informal assessment should always be worth something, but not a lot of points
  • Feedback should be prompt, specific and from different sources


  • Pair and Share
  • Cooperative Learning (train students in roles)
  • Foster team work, not competition

Key points in effective learning from Make It Stick by Brown, Roediger, III and McDaniel

 What doesn’t work:

  • Rereading text
  • Massed practice or cramming
  • Highlighting text

What does work:

  • Retrieval practice such as flash cards, self quizzing or testing because we are very bad judges of what we really know until testing “calibrates our judgments”
  • Space out practice
  • Interleave the practice of two or more subjects
  • Trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution
  • Learning in forms not consistent with your dominant style
  • Learning the underlying principles or “rules” that differentiate types of problems. This skill is better acquired through interleaved and varied practice.
  • Learning requires a foundation of prior knowledge.
  • This process gives new material meaning when you express it in your own words and connect it with what you already know.
  • Put new knowledge into a larger context
  • Learn to extract key ideas from new material and organize them into a mental model – concept maps
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Of Garage Sales and Living The Good Life

Along about January, I think I began talking about having a garage sale. If you know me, that doesn’t happen in this household very often. I hate them! But, I was getting desperate to deal with our growing piles of stuff. Newly retired and recuperating from surgery – a little fix-me-up on the shoulder – meant that I was spend way too much time thinking about all the “stuff” we had that we just didn’t need.

I subscribe to a feed on Facebook call the Minimalist. It speaks to my heart and makes me yearn to get this thing about life right. Prior to marriage and children, I was fine with the basics. I really didn’t have that much to pack up any time the Navy decided it was time for a move. However, after marriage brought two households together nearing my 30’s, then the subsequent moves of my mother and his father leaving us with many of their belonging, followed by the Barbie houses, toys, books and other paraphernalia of raising children, our house began to look like a Goodwill Store.

Claustrophobia set in and I knew that we had to thin things out. We’ve had two maybe three other garage sales in the 29 years we have been here. But this one was BIG. I was pretty sure we could entice lots of people with the myriad of interesting things offered even if there were no longer baby clothes and strollers to be had. And, I felt we had a fighting chance with more than just a few signs and an ad in the paper. I had the Internet to help!

I enjoyed cleaning out rooms, closets, drawers, and boxes of forgotten collections. I spent more than three months attacking nearly every corner of the house, the garage, the cellar, and finally even Ben spent a good long time in the barn. Just before Easter, my husband and daughter emptied the storage unit and brought all of it to the garage where there was hardly a path to walk around all the stuff.

Keep in mind that we outfitted two apartments for college-going girls with full kitchens and all the basics without buying hardly a thing.

How do four people accumulate so much? There were some lessons to learn here. Some obvious ones and others that were almost so subtle as to miss them.

1. Save your money. Those ads for Pier One and the cute ideas on Pinterest? They are spending your retirement faster than you can make it because you think you need what they advertise. I’m pretty sure that I’ll never remember a table setting during a holiday event with family. My memories are about conversations, food and activities – not the cute lanterns hanging from the apple tree on a summer afternoon.
2. Once you have found that ONE picture from the event that says it all. Print it and frame it. Do you need 100 pictures of band camp – each day? They take up space and sit either on your digital devices or in boxes where no one sees them or remembers them. Just one.
3. Same goes for clothing. I get it that you found a pair of pants that fit you perfectly so you bought 3 more pairs. Wear them and wear them out, because if you’re the norm, that perfect fit won’t be so perfect if a few years. Moreover, you didn’t need them in every color offered. Trust me.
4. I remember as a kid playing with the pots and wooden spoons in the kitchen at my mom’s feet. My children did, too. In spite of the Made-in-China, bright pink paraphernalia of the world of the little girls, the most fun was the cheapest fun. Save your money.
5. There were two moments during the sale that were emotional. Selling the girl’s Barbie house and giving away a tattered dog igloo. The Barbie house was big. It was in the barn for more than a dozen years and needed a good scrubbing and a repainting. But I remember all the good times watching the girls and their friends act out the drama of their life with Ken and Barbie. The house went to one the first students of mine who now is 36 and has an 8-year-old daughter. I knew the old house would get good use and couldn’t think of a better family to give it too. This young woman represented a part of me – the best of my efforts in the classroom – and in some ways “my kid”, too. It was an emotional moment to see her all grown up and doing so well. But it was cool to know we would be sharing a common experience. (My, I’m getting old and mushy!!)
6. The other moment: sometimes you just have to give things away. It’s a largess that has been shown to me time and time again. It takes so little to be kind. This guy drove up in a beat up small sized pick up. A happy dude, just out enjoying the beautiful day… I had just taken a picture of the igloo with the intent to put it on the Facebook garage sale site for free if someone would just come pick it up…and there he was before I even hit enter. Look, buddy, you need this more than I need your 5 bucks. He told me that I was a blessing to him. Nope. Got that wrong. You blessed me. “Now, you need help getting’ that thing in your truck??”
7. My husband and I had way too many of those moments discussing the value of objects – whether or not to keep or let go, and how much it would take monetarily speaking to let go. Things have come to represent our memories. A kind of place marking, and a way to not forget what we treasure. Things also represent what we believe we have accomplished in the course of our lives. For some, letting go of the “thing” is tantamount to giving permission to forget the memory or dismiss the value of its attribution in our lives. For those of us who desperately wish to be minimalists, it is necessary to remember that that “piece of junk” is someone else’s diamond in the rough. Dismissing what you deem as junk is in effect dismissing the value of your loved one’s life, too. I’ve talked to numerous couples this spring who seemed to be paired in opposites: one a keeper, one a cleaner-outer. Perhaps this should be one of those questions during pre-marital counseling….how will you handle a garage sale situation? For us, we were stretch painfully acknowledging our differences.
8. And back to that ultimate issue: what do we really need? I guess in some ways I don’t regret the things that have accumulated. As I walked the garage sale during the quiet moments, I realized that we are rich in memories because of some of these things. Now they are off to enjoy a second life and many memories for someone else. I don’t need to hang on to the things, but in writing and talking about those memories, we preserve them. I am the keeper of my mother’s diaries. Many journals, books and letters that I haven’t even opened yet. Even after 4 years, I just haven’t been ready to open that door yet. What will my children read after I’m gone? I want them to read about how much fun we had. I’ll keep those diaries and who knows, maybe I’ll actually read them, too, but these words are for my kids. We did have a lot of stuff, but it wasn’t the stuff I loved; it was the memories we made with them. I have room to keep my memories, but not necessarily the three-story dollhouse.

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Memorial Day 2015

In Indianapolis, they are running their 99th race. Folks are camping out this weekend lighting fires for the hotdogs and s’mores; many are enjoying family gatherings. It’s surely a nice weekend for all this. However, Memorial Day is a reverent day. A time to remember American men and women who have fallen in foreign wars.

Since the Revolutionary War, men and women have died for an ideal, a set of values particular to the masses who clamor to our borders: the pursuit of freedom. Free to pursue a life as we wish, free to worship as we choose. The idea that all human beings are due certain inalienable rights.

There are those who criticize war or certain war efforts. To do so is stomping treacherously over the legacy of those who believed in this freedom. Right or wrong, Americans for more than 200 years have donned uniforms to defend our rights. Right or wrong, we have entered foreign lands to protect the rights of other individuals against tyranny, fascism, and unimaginable human rights violations. To call these efforts wrong is tantamount to saying that freedom isn’t worth it, or that human life isn’t worth fighting for.

Tell that to John Hancock, to Benjamin Franklin, to Paul Revere, to Patrick Henry. Tell that to the mother whose son will never see homeland soil again because an IED exploded under his Hummer. Are you prepared to tell them that their deaths are in vain?

Admittedly, these issues of patriotism, love of country, and love of God our Creator run deep within me. So it is an offense to me when I hear that we were puppets in Vietnam or we shouldn’t have gone to Iraq because we had “bad intel”. Each man and woman goes because we believe in fighting for something dear to us. There will always be bad politics and stupid politicians – regrettably putting our young in harm’s way. But this is not an enscripted armed forces – we put that uniform on willingly. If we die, let it NOT be said that it was for nothing.

Irene Dunne popularized a quote you are likely familiar with: If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

Enjoy the race. Eat up that potato salad. Hug your momma. But remember that you do these things as members of a free country – for better or worse – and do so because men and women died so you could.

Happy Memorial Day!

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Part two to Mediate Like a Monk

As usual, I don’t think of these things until I get feedback.  And with this topic – given that it has religious overtones, the feedback was back channel.

So you think I’ve become a Buddhist, too, huh?  Don’t worry.  I still have my roots firmly amidst Christian belief.  But, I will admit that I find that too often people become adamantly parochial when it comes to politics and religion.  You can hear their volume go up, voices strident and too frequently defensive.  What if we were able to listen, really listen to what people said and just take it at face value?  What if we didn’t always look for hidden values and ulterior motives?

Meditating like a Monk – that is to say, projecting a “‘compassion and loving kindness’ toward others –  is this kind of meditative attempt that produce[s] the healing necessary to overcome empathy fatigue”.  Notice that it says nothing about worshiping Buddha?  Notice that in projecting compassion and kindness you are in effect, loving another human being.  Love.  And that is what Christ Jesus wants us to do.  Love one another.

Not convinced?  Let’s see what Richard Foster in his book called Spiritual Discipline says about praying for others.  (Prayer, by the way, goes hand in hand with meditation.) “…Jesus was ‘moved with compassion’ for people.  Compassion was an evident feature of every healing in the New Testament.  We do not pray for people as ‘things,’ but as ‘persons’ whom we love.  If we have God-given compassion and concern for others, our faith will grow and strengthen as we pray  In fact, if we genuinely love people, we desire for them far more than it is within our power to give, and that will cause us to pray.”

Foster goes on to talk about the importance of imagining Jesus pouring his love out on those who need Him.  We are to imagine wellness, wholeness, love, joyfulness to those who sick, broken, and feeling unloved.  That is the “projection of compassion and kindness” – a picture in your mind of healing for that other person…not an expression of how sorry you are!  So when you say “May God bless you”, imagine what that blessing will look like!

Meditation is often associated with yoga and eastern religion.  Too bad.  We stiff-necked Christians could use a lesson or two about getting in touch physically and spiritually with our Creator and using His power to serve as a healing force in a broken world.  Maybe there would be far less burn out where He sends us to serve.

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Meditate Like a Monk

Two months ago, I turned in my resignation from a job that I loved and hated at the same time. I enjoyed my Christmas break and the down time I knew that I could justify, but when school started again a few weeks ago, I’d felt like the train left without me.

How is that possible? Frankly, the job – and not just this current job, but apparently the one before it, too – finally burned me out. I love education. I love the people, the challenges, finding solutions – but not the incessant, ongoing, never-a-break speed in which problems occur and seemingly never are solved.

If you talk to a Monk, he’d probably say that I burnt myself out. I’ve known for a while that these feelings were coming on. Most notably, the frustration and the fatigue were telling symptoms, but something else crept in about two years ago. I was avoiding people, bowing out of volunteer work and time with friends, and in my private time vegging out with too much TV (In my case, too much news which made the situation worse.) and perhaps, too much sleep. Anything to avoid connectedness.

I’m known to escape into mud whether it be on a potter’s wheel or in a garden. There’s something elementally soothing about those creative pursuits, but both of those hobbies began to be less enjoyable. And, my creative inspiration was dissipating quickly.

I’ve always been curious about meditation and knew from reading various things that it could help with my stress. Current research says that it can reduce inflammation in the body and reduce age-related disease. The Monk would have encouraged me to stick with it longer than the micro-second I gave it. I kept fighting the confabulation of thoughts in my head. Oh, isn’t that what meditation is supposed to help?

I didn’t give this meditation much of a chance, and that’s why I think the Monk would regard this as my failure, not the job.

Oh, there’s no doubt the job will take you under. Teachers, Administrators (of any organization), Social Workers, Health Care Providers, First Responders/Law Enforcement/Fire Protection Employees – all these and more experience such great distress in their jobs. They care about the needs of others. And that’s it. The beginning of the slippery slope. Those that genuinely care about others enough to make it their career choice are especially prone to what researchers are now calling “empathy fatigue”.

I have a career coach. In our most recent meeting, she mentioned that “mindfulness” meditation is something that I should play with in my transition time between jobs. I am facing a forced sort of resting period due to surgery on my right shoulder – read that dominant side. I am prepared to view this as a blessing in disguise as it provides this force down time with which to turn my attention to more cerebral efforts. So Coach M suggested that since I believed that meditation was was a critical lack in my life, I would spend my two months of rehab experimenting with meditation.

A family member shared with me an article written recently in the November issue of Scientific American about the neuroscience of meditation. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison studied three kinds of meditation. I noted that one of them – mindfulness – has been adopted in education. The one that caught my attention is practiced by Buddhist Monks and is called “compassion and loving kindness”. It is this kind of meditative attempt that produced the healing necessary to overcome empathy fatigue. In their studies, “preliminary results showed that after a week of meditation-based loving kindness and compassion, novice subjects watched video clips showing suffering people with more positive and benevolent feelings.” Those that devoted a week that just cultivated empathy alone, experienced more negative feelings and experienced more distress.

It’s not enough to empathize. In fact, coming home to veg out in front of hours of news reporting about the world’s problems was making my empathy fatigue even worse! I kept agonizing over immediate issues then coming home and agonizing over the problems of those I didn’t even know. What a set up!

What’s a woman to do with the freedom of several months of unemployment/semi-retirement? I will be delving into the secrets of the Monks. And, oh yes. I think I’ll turn off the TV, or at least the news.

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