Tuesday, October 29, 2013


This morning I was walking from my car to the office. I was mostly looking down, thinking. I wasn't unhappy, but I was thinking about a number of things that weren't particularly happy, either.
* My hip and elbow still hurt from the hard fall I took on Saturday. A part of me thinks I'm acting like a baby since the injuries weren't that bad, but I had just bumped both on the car getting out and was made aware, again, that I am too old to be falling out of cars onto pavement.
* I am behind in several work projects. Some of them I like (the book project with Jeff) and some I am struggling with (readings for a global and cultural awareness/physical science class I am to teach next fall). Some have deadlines (two papers for NCTE next month) and some just need to be done soon (grad school recommendations for former students).
* I was thinking of family birthdays coming up, Thanksgiving, and Christmas--all need me to do something.
* EEK. I just remembered I have stake training to prepare for on November 7.
So, I was walking along, thinking about these things and the cold wind.

When I pass people, I generally look up quickly to give a small smile. This morning, one of those quick looks found the face of a student with a HUGE, genuine smile. She said "Hello!" in a cheery voice. I smiled back. I had to. Her smile was so big that to do anything else would have just been rude. And I felt my spirits literally lift. My face felt stiff, but my spirits felt lightened. I smiled the rest of the way to my office--and I started thinking about smiles and how they make people happy and how they are contagious.

I did just a little inquiry on smiling and found out some interesting facts:
* They have lots of health benefits (including decreasing stress, increasing productivity, and killing pain).
* A smile can increase attention (think of a classroom of smiling students--they would all be attentive!) and improve chances for success, since others see a smile as a mark of confidence.
* A smile can take about three years off your age and makes you more attractive.
* BUT the benefits only work if the smile is genuine. Fake smiles don't use the same muscles (especially around the eyes) and don't have quite the same effect. So, we should try to make our smiles as genuine as possible.

And then I started thinking about things that make me smile. And I thought I would put this link in here (laughing babies always make me smile) and some pictures of some of my grandchildren smiling (they always make me smile, too) with the hope that this post will bring smiles to readers and make them healthier and happier, too! Maybe we can spread smiling around a lot more. Here's a smile for you!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

fall leaves

When I was a little girl in elementary school, I loved to collect fall leaves. I would use them in all sorts of crafts. My favorite use was ironing them between sheets of waxed paper to use for fall place mats.  (I would glue the sheets of leaves onto large pieces of orange or brown construction paper). I don't know what my mother (or anyone else) thought of them. I thought she'd think they were beautiful (maybe they were--but my mental picture of them is a little fuzzy) and that I was creative. Thinking from a mom's perspective now. . .  maybe she was happy for me to be busy?  (I seem to remember I always had to either have a book or a project or something. I wasn't the sitting still kind of child unless there was a book.) Or maybe she thought about the mess. I don't know. I do know that one late fall, I arrived home from school to face a question: What is the smell coming from your room? It turned out to be a bag full of rotting leaves I had collected and then shoved under my bed for use later--and forgotten. I wasn't allowed to bring bags of leaves ito the house anymore.

I hadn't thought of these experiences for years. And then, last week, walking across campus I saw these leaves on the ground:

Something about the size (these are big leaves, like the ones from my childhood) and the shape (maple?) brought all the memories of my childhood leaf-colllecting rushing back. The nostalgia was enormous. How long has it been since I jumped in a pile of leaves, purposely stepped on them to hear the crunch, studied them for the perfect blend of color and shape, made something with them--even a table decoration? A long time. I'm glad I have the memories (and glad they come back), but sometimes I miss what is left behind, too.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

life's traumas

My daughter sent me this picture last night:

It is her daughter, not quite 2 years old, having a little sad time, because, after all, life is REALLY hard when you are one year old.

Seeing her made me smile. I don't know what made her sad--she wanted a cookie and mom said no? she wanted a toy and her sister wouldn't share? she's tired? The reasons seem trivial to me, but they are not to her, and even though I smile, I know that.

Instead, I think of how I respond to some of the things that happen in my life that I am not happy about. They are bigger than not getting a cookie snack or getting to play with a coveted toy. . . to me. But in the eternal perspective, I wonder if they really are that much bigger? Or am I (symbolically) collapsing in a chair with my head in my hands over a cookie? I should think about that sometimes when I am having my own (adult) version of this image. In the meantime, I will keep smiling over the dramatic sadness of a little child.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

looking closely

When my grandson was visiting me, he decided that we needed to be detectives. We had "mysteries" to solve! And we needed magnifying glasses to solve our mysteries! We finally found some after visiting several stores, and we used them to look closely at the world around us. We didn't end up solving a lot of mysteries, but we had fun looking at leaves and bugs and tree trunks.

He's gone back home now, and I've been thinking about how interesting it was to pause and look closely at the world around us. I spent some of last weekend at Daniel's Summit on a retreat with our writing project site. As part of our time there, we walked around the mountain and then wrote about what we saw. I tried to look closely and here are some of the beauties I observed, things I might have missed if I hadn't been looking closely. I wrote a haiku--even though I am not good at them--to push myself to reflect on what I thought about what I saw.

Water warm or cold
bubbles and melts and edges.
Beauty in details