Friday Two Cents: Gratitude Journal


 

Gratitude: noun – the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Life is rarely easy. There is always something that happens in your life that throws a wrench into the works. I for one have had some difficulties; I won’t bore you with my issues, but suffice it to say I have been a bit down. But then I read an article from the John Tesh Show: Intelligence for your life: An Attitude Of Gratitude Can Change Your Life! that suggests showing gratitude can help with you feeling better about your life.

They state that if you want to significantly improve your life, show more gratitude in your life. It references 40 different scientific studies, that having an ‘attitude of gratitude” can change you life for the better. They stated three different reasons for this statement.
  • Grateful people are happier. Research in the journal American Psychologist showed that making a list of 3 things that go well every day increased the happiness levels of volunteers. And the longer volunteers continued to write down what make them grateful, the better they felt.
  • Gratitude can also improve your relationships. A study by The National Institute of Mental Health found that people who regularly thank their spouse for doing everyday chores – like cleaning the kitchen, or taking the dog to the vet – have happier, more stable marriages.
  • A final reason to be more grateful: It’s good for your career. Numerous studies show that grateful people have larger professional networks, and make better business decisions. They also get more work done, and are more likely to be helped by their superiors. In fact, practicing gratitude at work will make everybody’s day. A recent survey found that 65 percent of employees haven’t received a “thank you” for their efforts in the last year.
Intelligence for your life (2016). Health: An Attitude Of Gratitude Can Change Your Life!. http://www.tesh.com/articles/an-attitude-of-gratitude-can-change-your-life/
With this as ammunition I have begun writing a Gratitude Journal. I decided to post my first entry to help remind me what I am grateful for and motivate me to write down 3 things that went well that day.

Gratitude Journal

What I am grateful for …
  • My family
    • Loving parents that support me.
    • My sister, brother-in-law and nieces who love and care for me in what I do
    • My extended family, they are a source of strength.  
  • My friends
    • They are great support but mostly my closest friends D & P & M. They have been there supporting me and encouraging me every step in my life.
  • My health – I have lost weight (65 lbs.) and I feel better. It is hard to maintain but I do enjoy exercising and I feel better after I do.
  • My ability to work in a field that I enjoy. I truly enjoy working with children. It is so hard to find a career that does not feel like a job.
  • My artistic talent – I cannot fully express how much joy I get when I express myself through drawing, painting, pastels, illustrating on the computer or writing.  

 

Just a few things that I am grateful for; a very good start.

Friday Two Cents: If Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade


 

This past week in Ontario many elementary and high schools were out for the annual March/spring break. In previous years I have always worked during this week at various afterschool programs, yet this year I had the need to take the week off. I didn’t want to go somewhere far-flung or exotic, I just wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and the students. Don’t get me wrong I adore the children but I was feeling a bit rundown and I needed sometime to be alone with my thoughts. To chill out, ironically speaking.

I decided to take a mini vacation to Niagara Falls and more importantly the Niagara Wine country. I live in the Toronto area and Niagara Falls is only a 1½-hour drive but I have never seen the falls in the winter. Besides I love visiting the wineries in the area for some wine tasting. It would also be a great opportunity to do some drawing and hopefully get inspired.
However Mother Nature had other plans this past week. I left for my vacation on Monday and of course that is the day when a winter storm just happens to blow into southern Ontario.   I am only few kilometers into the trip when the storm really picks up. With high winds and lake-effect snow traffic literally comes to a halt. I continue but the traffic is moving about 5 – 10 km/hr. The slowdown is mind numbing and it is all due to the weather. The truly amazing thing was that after I traveled past the city of Hamilton the weather clears up. It was eerie. On the east side of the highway, the lakeside, you can see the blowing snow and dark clouds yet on the west side of the highway the sun was setting and it was clear. It felt like I was driving through the eye of the storm or at least the edge of it. I arrived at the hotel safely yet the normally 1½-hour drive took 4½hrs!
I was stressed worst then before I left. So much for my relaxing vacation. However I was able to have a great meal at the casino and then soak in the hot tub after. I could feel the stress just melting away in the Jacuzzi. Especially since I could see that the storm had reached Niagara Falls and I was safe inside.
The next day the storm was in full force but that did not stop me. I was prepared with winter gear and I went for a walk to the Falls in the middle of the storm. I was able to get a few nice photos and I was able to talk to a few people who I met there. Yes just call me Mr. Sociable.  

Panoramic view of Niagara Falls during the Winter Storm.

Panoramic view of Niagara Falls after the Winter Storm.

Panoramic view of Niagara-on-the-lake after the Winter Storm.

I for one do not like the winter season. I do not like the cold or the lack of sunlight. Yet I made it a point to not let this winter storm ruin my vacation. The storm lasted about a day and a half but in that time I was able to do all that I wanted.   I was able to draw, read, write, explore and of course enjoy a couple of wine tastings. Call me Mr. Optimist but I simply adapted to the situation I still had a wonderful time. I would imagine that old saying is true…

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  

Friday Two Cents: Who Truly Has A Sense Of Entitlement


 

‘Loving a child doesn’t mean giving in to all his whims; to love him is to bring out the best in him, to teach him to love what is difficult.’ Nadia Boulanger

 

‘The child supplies the power but the parents have to do the steering.’ Benjamin Spock

 

This week I had the opportunity to revisit an old school that I had supplied in the past. I know the students and the teachers. It is a wonderful school and I enjoy going to there whenever I can. Yet I noticed something very interesting when I was there.

Standing on guard for thee

As in every school the morning routine begins with the singing of O Canada and then the morning announcements. The thing that surprised me was that once O Canada came on over the PA system the kindergarten students all stopped their activities and stood erect and sang the entire anthem. This shouldn’t be too surprising yet in many kindergarten classes, to get the students to stand and sing the anthem and not talk to one another is a constant struggle.
This incident made me think about why did these students stand and sing the anthem proudly and in other classes I have to constantly remind them. Is it because the students are older senior kindergarten students? No, there is an even mix of junior and senior kindergarten students. Is it because of the teachers? No, in every class I have been in the teacher is always the first to stand and remind the students. They are the perfect role models. Then what was the reason?

New to Canada

The only conclusion I could come up with was that the school’s student population (school A) was largely made of immigrant families and visible minorities and the other schools’ populations were largely 2nd, 3rd or greater generation families. In those other schools’ classes I had to remind students on a daily basis to stand and stop talking to their friends during the anthem. Yet that was only one of many differences that I noticed about the students from school A. Wherever I went in the school, the older students would hold the door open and use manners when interacting in the hallway. It made me think about the interactions in other schools with a smaller immigrant family base. There were times I had to remind students to please hold the door for others. Say please and thank you and show proper manners such as not burp in public and say excuse me.
Yet right away my mind went to the question of ‘Why?’ Why were these students in school A showing “better” manners and respect for others then other schools? Is it truly because the families are immigrants? Is it because they are from places where staying alive is a constant struggle and living in a country as amazing as Canada is a blessing?
I have and many studies have shown it, that parents are the greatest influence in their child’s life. More than teachers, celebrities or athletes, parents influence and mold their children into the people they will become as adults. It would seem that the generations of parents born in this country do not know or take it for grated, on how lucky they are to be in this country. New arrives to Canada know from first hand experience how difficult it is and the struggles they undertook to come here.

Parents have the greatest influence on their children.

Many people say that this generation of students is entitled and they want things done for them and I have examples of seen this. Yet perhaps people should be looking at the root cause of this sense of entitlement, the parents. Instead of passing off their children onto others and expecting them to teach their child to be responsible and respectable citizens, they should be looking to themselves. It’s their job, their responsibility to instill manners, respect for others and to be grateful for the blessings of living in a wonderful country like Canada. Maybe the people who need to stop having a sense of entitlement and expecting others to do things for them are not the students.

Friday Two Cents: I Will Endeavour To Be More Patient


 

twoCentsOldNew

 

‘Genius is eternal patience.’ Michelangelo

 

This past week many Christians celebrated the beginning of the Lenten season with Ash Wednesday.   In the school many of the kindergarten students enjoyed this with the traditional Fat / Shrove / pancake Tuesday, made famous during Mardi Gras. Many cultures celebrate the beginning of the Lenten season by eating fatty foods just before they give up something for Lent.

Many of the students were asked what they would give up and their answers were sweet. One said she thinks about having a pet all the time so she would give up thinking about getting a puppy. Others said they would give up other things but they also asked the adults what they would give up. I do not usually give up anything because I don’t think that I am a bad person so why should I give up something to show how good a Christian I am. Yet in the spirit of self-improvement I said I would think about what I would try to give up.
I thought long and hard and I came up with, I would give up intolerance. I would try to be more tolerant of others. People were happy with it and I was ok for that afternoon, however when I went home I thought longer on the issue of intolerance and what I would want to do to improve.
I discovered that the definition of intolerance is the unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behaviour that differ from one’s own. After reading this I knew that I am not intolerant and I had to rethink what I would give up for Lent. I know that I needed to be more patient with people and the students therefore I thought, being impatient. The definition for impatient is having or showing a tendency to be quickly irritated or provoked.  Yes, I know that I sometimes exhibit some impatience with people so this is a good thing to try to give up for lent and improve on in my life.

geniuspatience

I know that this will be difficult but to put a humorous spin of this, which I normally do; for Lent I will give up impatience. I will endeavour to be more patient, with stupid people.

 

Friday Two Cents: Acceptable Loses?


 

twoCentsOldNew

 

Today I had an interesting conversation with several colleagues. I confided with them that I am finding it difficult to try to reach specific students. I tried different methods but they appear to not work. I also tried asking the students what are some of their own interests to try to reach them on their own level. I implemented their interests in the program and yet they did not even engage in the activates, even though they specifically asked for them.

I am at a point where I have begun to not enjoy being with these students. I mentioned it to some colleagues and they said that they too feel the same way. They said that I should focus on the ones that I can reach and as long as the ones that are not interested are not causing trouble I should let them be. I felt bad at this because I think I may have to do this. I want to help and reach every one of the students and not let them fall through the cracks as it were. However they said that there is only so much you can do and I should put my recourses into the ones that I can reach.
This conversation brought up some of my military thinking about tactical military strategy. Standard tactical military strategy states that a 20% lose rate is considered to be acceptable. This is exactly what is happening in my situation. It is not as high as 20% more like 10% but even that 10% makes me feel sad. I truly am trying to reach them and after reorganizing the group I think I can reach some more. Yet I fear that I have not done enough for those few.
No everyone pays attention.

Not everyone pays attention.

Perhaps that is why I am not enjoying my time with those students. No matter what I do they will be part of that 20% of acceptable loses.   I guess all I can do is push forward and try to minimize the number of loses. I will continue to work with all the students and put my effort into the 90% that is working and hope that the 10% will come around. Yet I fear that in the end there will be a few acceptable loses.

Friday Two Cents: Inspirational Quotes For The Year Of The Rooster


twoCentsOldNew

 

With the start of the Year of the Rooster in the Chinese New Year, I thought some inspirational quotes that personify the up coming year. Every year has specific characteristics that make it unique.  

newyear_rooster2017‘Occupying the 10th position in the Chinese Zodiac, the Rooster symbolizes such character traits as confidence, pompousness and motivation. Those born under the Chinese Zodiac sign of the Rooster are loyal, trustworthy individuals who are blunt when it comes to offering their opinions. Their bluntness stem not from being mean but from being honest; a trait which Roosters expect from others.’

‘Roosters are extremely sociable and prefer being the center of attention, always bragging about themselves and their accomplishments. They continually seek the unwavering attention of others, which can be annoying. Roosters are as proud of their homes as they are of themselves. They’re extremely organized individuals as evidenced by the fact that their homes are always neat.’ (from http://www.chinesezodiac.com/rooster.php)

 

‘It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.’ Confucius

 

‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’ Walt Disney

 

‘One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives.’ Euripides

 

‘Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.’ Albert Einstein

 

‘Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.’ Thomas Jefferson

 

Have a prosperous and productive Year if the Rooster.

Friday Two Cents: America You Did This To Yourselves


twoCentsOldNew

 

It would seem that the entire world is looking to the United States to see the entertaining drama that is unfolding in their political arena. The media in America, Europe and in here in Canada is bringing the public endless coverage of the new president’s actions and his miss steps as they call it. I for one have also fallen for this spectacle and as a student of human behaviour and politics, a particular interest of mine; I could not but take in this phenomenon.

Wherever I look I see people arguing against the new US President Donald John Trump. There are those who do support him of course but for the most part the media has been showing protests against the polices of this new president. I have observed all this and I could not help make connections to other points in human history where something similar may have happened. The transformation of the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire, France in the 18th century, 20th century Italy and Germany and countless other examples. Therefore I began researching and came upon a news video by Andrew Sullivan that compares the writing of Plato’s Republic to the political and social activities of democracy and the current atmosphere in the US. The video is entitled ‘Viewpoint: What can Plato teach us about Donald Trump? – BBC Newsnight’ and I have provided a link for you to view it below. After viewing the video and doing my own research I have come up with an interesting conclusion. All of the people of the United States, whether for or against the New president’s polices or beliefs; have placed this individual into power and I have broken it down into three arguments.  

 

us_voteThe first argument comes from my research into the eligible voters and who cast a vote for whom. The total number of eligible voters was 231,732,000; the number that actually voted was 128,843,000. As you can see from the chart, 25.6% voted for Trump, 25.7% for Clinton, 4.2% for another candidate and 44.4% did not cast a vote. The quote ‘Democracy is not the will of the majority but the will of those who show up’, has never been more present. For even though he won the electoral vote, which is what counts in the end, there were 44.4% of the population that basically said “Whom ever wins I will accept it.” Therefore the argument can be made that Donald Trump won with 70% of the eligible voters, for the silent majority, by not casting a vote, silently supported Donald Trump. Hence he did win the popular vote.
plato_republic01The second argument comes from an examination of Plato’s Republic. In it Socrates is having a discussion with colleagues about the nature of politics and how the different politic systems can change into another. One such statement that he makes is ‘tyranny springs from democracy’ Socrates. Socrates argues that democracy is formed from the belief that everyone is equal and everyone has the freedom to do whatever he or she wishes. Additionally, the longer a democracy exists the greater the equality and freedoms. Then with all this freedom you thereby become a slave to the system of democracy. For within the system, can there be a limit to liberty?
For with a democracy of this level, private becomes public where anyone seen as an aristocratic is therefore vilified for having more than being equal to the rest and accused of being oligarchs. Slaves will be equal to citizens or foreigners will work as equals to citizens. Animals will also have rights as people. Parents will fear their children for they will be on the same level as their children and the children will have no respect for their parents. Teachers will fear their students. Finally, men and women will be equal with their differences removed from them so that there will be no trace to differentiate them. Sound familiar?
socrates-painting01Then within this unlimited amount of liberty ‘will spring a tyrant’ says Socrates. He will arise from the democracy, from this excess of liberty as a member of the ruling class, the traders or the richest of the classes. He comes out as a protector, a champion of the masses. The protector of the people will have ‘the mob at his disposal’ says Socrates. He is driven out of his class but then brought back in. For then the fears of the people are for him and not for themselves. Then when he ascends he will overthrow the many standing up to him. He then grows his power be disposing of the foreign enemies and for anyone who resists he will call them enemies until they are destroyed.   For this reason then the protector must always be at war. Then the more the masses flock to him the more the people will give up their liberties and thereby democracy reverses. Then the protector becomes a tyrant.
consumerism01With this look into Socrates’ transformation of democracy into a tyranny, laid out in Plato’s Republic, we see that the system of democracy has laid out the groundwork for the arrival of the tyrant. Yet there is one aspect Socrates had not for seen and it is the third part of my argument; Consumerism. Consumerism is defined as ‘the protection or promotion of the interests of consumers; is often derogatory the preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods.’ When a society that values equality and freedom is merged with the acquisition of consumer goods the product is what we see in the United States. If everyone is equal than everyone should be paid equally, live in a beautiful home, have wonderful things that they enjoy. Yet consumerism is also associated with greed. The more we have the more we want. And from this atmosphere breeds the resentment of mistrust in the lower and middle classes of society for the upper class or in their eyes aristocrats.
Therefore when I see the media and citizens arguing on how this could have happened and saying it is not their fault, the evidence is very plain to see. This entire situation is a product of their-own making. “Made in America’ as it were. With the belief in democracy (everyone is equal and freedom for all), yet with the reality of the inequality in the society has created voter empathy that has translated into what we have seen in the United States. Americans only have themselves to blame for this situation. The equation of freedom and equality can be met within a democratic society, yet when you add excessive consumerism into the mix, human nature comes into play and competition for recourses and personal greed muddies the water.
democracy-word-cloud-10093433Therefore what can we take from this lesson. Yes the situation is bleak, but as long as the belief in democracy is still alive, the power will always remain in the hands of the people. Speaking as a Canadian who has lived through a time when the political leaders constantly waged war with everything and everyone, where the leader ruled as a tyrant, the power remained in the hands of the people. Then came the time for the people to make a stand and say what kind of country they wanted. More of the tyrannical regime or hope for the future; the people made their choice for hope. The spirit of democracy will always endure, one simply needs to have the courage to stand and cast their vote for hope.
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