Learning to Be Me: Laugh!

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A few years ago, one of my girls looked at me during lunch and said, “Ms. Pflaumer, you laugh more than any teacher in the world!” I asked her if that was a bad thing. She assured me it was a good thing and added, “I’ve just never known anyone that laughs as much as you do!”

It’s true. I laugh daily. If I don’t laugh in my classroom, I most likely laugh at home thanks to my entertaining feline roommates. I laugh.

Do you laugh? As I’m learning who I truly am supposed to be, I’m certainly holding true to the value of daily laughter. I encourage you to do likewise.

You see, laughter is said to be good for your health. I’m not making that help…LAUGHING is good for you! As I was preparing to write my thoughts on this aspect of myself, I did a bit of searching online. Feel free to check out the articles I found on Help Guide and Mayo Clinic websites.

The first article shares how a good strong bout of laughter lessens stress, triggers the release of endorphins, and increases immune cells & infection-fighting antibodies. In the world of Covid-19 with flu season approaching, why not give yourself a daily dose of laughter? Find a funny friend on social media and follow their posts. Find a daily joke site and sign up for their joke-of-the-day messages. Or, just look for the humor of the day. It’s not hard if you’re looking for it. I mean, I was driving behind 3 white pickups last Thursday on my way to the gym and started chuckling because I found it funny. I laughed out loud when I turned left and the first vehicle coming out of the entrance was a white truck. I found it humorous, so I chuckled.

With my get-healthy-over-50 goal, I especially am a fan of the fact that a good round of 10-15 minutes of laughter can burn 40 calories. Obviously to get this perk, it would take more than white vehicles…or even a joke of the day. However, there are plenty of shows or movies you could watch to give yourself a good round of laughter. Perhaps there’s a comedian you enjoy that you could find on YouTube? Give it a try. The laughter will do you good!

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The second article shares how laughter stimulates circulation and helps muscle relaxation. The next time you find yourself tense from stress or your workload, grab the comics from the paper or read a kids book that’s been written with the purpose of causing laughter. I read kids book daily as a teacher and often times I find myself laughing just as quickly as my third or fourth graders. Plus, I’m sure this won’t shock you, but laughter aids in mood management. Laughter can lessen a down mood or anxious mindset. Laughter is powerful.

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Last week, a new student joined my classroom for part of each day. She makes my heart smile. She has a laugh that is genuine and contagious. While I’m reading aloud, I tend to be a “bit” dramatic and animated. She gets tickled and starts laughing. Her laugh is never a little giggle, but it’s always a belly laugh. I try to tune it out in order to finish the book, but I admit…sometimes, I can’t. I have no choice but to laugh with her. The same happens each day before we exit the room and head to the bus. I say or do something that makes her laugh, and her laugh infects me…and I laugh too. So, if laughter is missing from your daily routine, find a friend who laughs. Then, join him/her laughing.

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Alas, some people need more encouragement with this aspect of life than others. A friend of mine is often in a down mood during and after work. When he’d leave work, I’d ask how his day was and his response was almost always grumpy and negative. So, being Jodi…I would try to redirect his mindset. I’d ask him something positive about his day and generally, he could only say he was leaving work. Then, I’d go to my other weapon…laughter. I’d find a meme or a joke that I though would bring a little grin and send it his way. Sometimes it would work, and other times he refused to allow it to have power over his life-stinks view. But…at least I tried. What about you? Do you have a storm-cloud in your life that could use a bit of laughter? Make it your mission to sprinkle chuckles into his/her day. Let the benefit of humor and laughter have a go at overcoming the grumpiness and stress. It might just work!

Jodi’s Tips to Bring More Laughter into Your Life…

  1. Laugh at yourself.
  2. Find the humor in bad situations instead of reasons to moan.
  3. Write down jokes or humorous stories that make you laugh, so you can enjoy them again later.
  4. Not good at making jokes? Find a joke book at your local bookstore.
  5. Checkout TV shows that make you laugh. [You may need to go back a few years or decades to find ones that are clean enough to share with your children or family.]
  6. Buy a DVD (or download) a show of a comedian you like. If they’re good enough, the same material can make you laugh each time you watch it (just like sitcoms).
  7. Spend time with friends and /or family who laugh. Laughter is contagious.
  8. Know what’s funny, and NEVER laugh at someone else’s expense.
  9. Don’t hold back your laughter; let it roll. (Unless you’re at a funeral….or wedding….or in court.)
  10. Don’t go a day without laughing at least once.
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Grimace or Grin? The Choice Is Yours!

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I had planned to write a different post which I started yesterday. Alas, the events of the day bumped it to later, so I could share these thoughts from my day. You see…I had a choice to make today. Would I grimace or would I grin? That was the question.

Let me explain…

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Last night, around 1:30, I awakened, as many middle-aged people do, for a mid-night restroom visit. As I walked through the house, I noticed a dull throb in the back of my head. Not good. As I ventured back to bed, I uttered a hope that it would simply disappear by the time the radio began to play in three more hours. No such luck. If anything, the dull throb had developed into a throbbing ache.

“Don’t fret, Jodi, you know what to do. Grab some migraine meds before you leave and by the time your kiddos arrive…it will be lessened.”

As I reached for the bottle, I realized…EMPTY!! Not good. I grabbed a sad substitute to take with me in case I didn’t find any in my desk. So, as I left my house…it was with a “woe-is-me” perspective on the day. But then….

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I ordered a breakfast sandwich and Diet Dr. Pepper from McDonald’s. I pulled up to the drive-through window and Ruth said, “The man in the previous car paid for yours.” The grimace was replaced with a grin. How sweet! When I arrived to my room, I learned that a parent of one of my previous students had been in the car. When she noticed it was me, she & her husband paid for my breakfast. A drop added to my bucket…. The grin grew.

Derrick, our daytime custodian, told me if I didn’t find any migraine medicine to let him know, and he had some Excedrin I could try. The grin grew.

Krista, our assistant principal, told me who she was certain would have migraine pills on hand, and sure enough Brittany came to the rescue. She came by my room before her first class to ensure I could battle the raging headache. The grin grew.

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As the school day began, I asked my class to try to keep our volume and restroom breaks a bit quieter because of my headache. I mentioned how the light above me was “killing me” currently due to the medicine not kicking in yet. They said, “Just turn it off, Ms. Pflaumer, we can just have the other light on.” I was uncertain that would be sufficient, and one of my girls replied on behalf of the class, “Of course it will, if it will help you feel better.” My heart smiled….

Alas, I finished my carrots on Wednesday and my grape tomatoes were finished yesterday for my lunches. That meant…I only had a small dish of cottage cheese and applesauce for today. Laura, the special ed teacher who co-teaches my inclusion classroom suggested, “I could order our lunch from Jendy’s and run and get it while you take the kids to the cafeteria to pick up their lunches.” Yum! A ham and cheese sandwich was a great addition to my cottage cheese meal. My grin grew…

My lesson plans were formulated by around 5, then I was off to my sister’s to share dinner and watch a movie. We laughed and visited while watching Pitch Perfect 2. My grin grew…

Now, I’m home. My cats are napping on or near me. As soon as this posts, I will be getting ready to head to bed to read a couple chapters of my book.

My headache started coming back a bit this evening, but it’s nowhere as sharp as this morning. I hope it’s gone by 5:30 when the radio starts to play. If not…I will have a choice to make. Will I grimace and grouch….or will I grin and look for the kindnesses and blessings? I pray it will be like today….and I will celebrate the day rather than wallering in gray clouds of gloom.

What about you? Will you grin or grimace in the midst of circumstances? I hope you find reasons to grin. If you need one, send me a message, and I’ll be glad to send some positive thoughts your way.

Learning to Be Me: Encourage!

One would think by the age of 50, I would know who I am. However, what I’ve learned during months of self-analysis is that I often times seem to be who others expect me to be. Always trying to be the people-pleaser. Accepted by others. Gaining my worth from the approval of others. I find myself on a new journey of self-discovery….just trying to learn to be me.

So, as I’ve pondered, I’ve decided to save quotes that help identify myself as the person I truly am. I also continue to delve deeper into my thinking in order to better understand who I am…who I was created to be. Today’s post is focused on the part of me I try to use to help others see their worth.

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I shared my personal motto from college in my previous post. This morning, as I was sweating profusely on the elliptical at Planet Fitness, Fox News shared that today was National Encouragement Day. Who knew? Did you? I mean, I never knew encouragement had its own holiday!

Anyway, as I was spending an hour burning calories, I had plenty of time to ponder the power of encouragement. Over the past few months, I’ve received a lot of encouragement. Each comment, note, or message made me smile…spurred me on. With each memory, I uttered a prayer of thanksgiving for the one who took the time to encourage me, whether it was verbally, via FB messenger, Class Dojo, or email.

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God is so good about placing encouragers in my path when they are most needed. Whether it’s the library employee encouraging my exercise posts, my pastor encouraging my ministry to children, a student’s parent expressing appreciation for communication, FB friends cheering me on as I try to exercise more consistently, students spurring me on to create more parodies, a student reminding me to use my hand sanitizer, or my sister & nephew holding me accountable to living healthier….they EACH were an encouragement.

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Then, as I pondered writing a post today, I thought about when I was more mindful of writing encouragement to others. It seems I’ve allowed busyness to sidetrack a personal ministry that I started decades ago. I’ve said I’m going to restart it, but sadly the follow-through has been lacking. Perhaps, a National Day of Encouragement is the perfect time to make a plan to reactivate it in action and not just word? Yes, I try to be an encouragement on Facebook, but I think I’m overdue to make it a more personal ministry again. What about you?

Who have you encouraged lately? Who has encouraged you? As my college motto proclaims, maybe it’s time for you to turn it around. Perhaps, you could take a moment to send a text, email, social media message to that person and let them know that their encouragement made a difference. What do you say? Are you up for the challenge? Perhaps you can use this “national holiday” as the perfect excuse to encourage someone else? It’s not hard; it just takes time. However, it can take 30 seconds or 30 minutes depending on your mode of delivery. You can do it! What do you have to lose?

Don’t get me wrong. It may not be accepted with overwhelming appreciation, but that’s not the point. The goal of encouraging someone isn’t to gain their appreciation, but it sometimes happens. The goals of encouraging someone else are to keep their candle lit, to keep them heading in the right direction, and to fan their flame of hope. Let’s face it…all of us need cheerleaders at times. Be someone’s cheerleader. Why not start today?

So, is there a coworker that seems downcast? Put a card in his/her mailbox. Do you have a relative struggling with something? Spur them on and let them know you believe in them. As an educator, I know the value of a grown student sending a message to let me know that I was a favorite teacher or sharing something they remember about my classroom. Who is that teacher to you? This year especially, teachers need encouragement. What about a pastor at your church? They are walking a tightrope through this pandemic where each choice is judged by those who don’t know them personally. If they open the doors and restart ministries too soon and someone gets Covid and suffers severely, it will be on their conscience. If they open cautiously or not-at-all, they will be judged as having little faith. Let them know they’re appreciated and how God is using them through this trying time.

So what about it? Will you accept the challenge to express a word of encouragement to someone in your life? Maybe even someone who you don’t know well, but you can tell a word of encouragement is needed. You can do this! Become an encourager. It’s a great habit to start. So why not start now!

Not ___ Enough!

Now, before you start thinking you need to send me a pep talk, I want to say this is the voice that “at times” is in my head. She doesn’t scream as often or as loudly as she has in the past. Perhaps it’s true with age comes wisdom? Perhaps it’s experience brings contentment? No clue. All I’m saying is… if it’s screaming in your head, keep reading. If you know someone who hears this, keep reading.

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Not special enough….
Starting as an insecure teenage girl, I learned that by doing came approval. Youth Sunday at church needs someone to share? Ask Jodi. She’ll do it. Need someone to teach a class? Ask Jodi. She’ll do it. Need someone to serve on a committee? Get Jodi. She’ll do it. Want someone to watch your kids? Jodi will, and she’ll even entertain them with her reading skills. I found myself working, trying, pushing, working, volunteering, serving, working to earn the approval of others….to feel like I mattered. Get the picture. Don’t get me wrong…I enjoy each of those things, but I also found myself saying “yes” when I didn’t really have the desire to do it…in order to please others….to be accepted.

I figured if I DO enough then people would appreciate me. I would matter. Most had no clue these were the thoughts in my head as I tempered my lack of confidence and overwhelming self-doubt with humor and talent. They’re still my “go to”…my crutch. If I was Linus from Peanuts, then my humor & abilities would be “my blanket”. I pondered sharing my struggles, but I would push the thought away in order to protect the “image” of confidence. If I ignored the inner battles, then they would go away. Right? Nope. Nada. #notgonnahappen.

Not attractive enough…
I’m 100% certain that I was/am not the only female to struggle with this one. My teeth aren’t straight or white enough. My hair is too poofy. My weight is too high. I was certain the reason I was “still single” was because men are visual creatures and my “packaging” wasn’t enough to grab their attention. I recall one drive back to Carson-Newman College during my freshman year, my friend Dana was talking about his girlfriend (who I was nothing like). He said, “Jodi, face it…you’re the kind of girl you take home to Mom and then marry. You’re not the kind of girl a guy dates.” I assured him that I didn’t think marriage was possible without dating or courtship. He simply shrugged his shoulders. It seems I’ve forever been a guy’s best pal…the girl he cries about his girlfriend or wife to.

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Perhaps that’s why my commitment to getting healthy hasn’t stuck….because I was doing it “for someone else”. This time, I’m doing it for me. I’m worth it. I need to be healthier. God gave me this body for my life on earth, and I’ve not been a very good steward.

Not worthy enough…
I found this inner battle especially a struggle in the realms of relationships. A friend asked me once, “Jodi, how can I pray for you? What do you need? You’re always there for us, but you don’t tell us how to be there for you.” I was shocked. I couldn’t recall a time when someone asked me that question. If I admitted to someone else my struggles with my self image, then I would be speaking against what God had created. How could I do that? He loved me. He made me. He sent His Son to die for me. How could I speak negatively about His creation? Here’s the thing… Yes, He made me and in a fallen world my body comes with challenges. But…He’s not the one who would choose to go home and not exercise. He’s not the one who had too much junk food in my grocery cart. Those were my choices. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not on one of those fad diets and I’ve not cut anything out of my diet completely. I did Atkins before and lost over 30 pounds, but…I like potatoes….I like bread. That “diet” wasn’t for me. So, I’m just making healthier choices. With the encouragement and accountability of others and my determination to get healthy….I’m hoping these choices stick. With each pound loss and when clothes are looser, I think, “Thanks God…keep me going.”

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Becoming the TRUE me…
Along this journey of “Becoming Jodi”, I’ve created my own motto: “Encourage those you appreciate, and appreciate those who encourage you.” You see, while in college, I started writing notes of encouragement to friends. Some were directed to close friends I cherished while others were mere acquaintances that God prodded me to encourage. I recently realized that I needed to restart that practice. Why? Encouragement matters.

How do I know? Because of those He’s placed in my pathway to encourage me. It was during this past summer, as my 50th birthday was approaching, that I decided it was time to start living healthier. Really, this was long overdue, but slow and steady the journey continues. Knowing how often I’ve attempted to “get healthy” in the past, I knew I’d need encouragement and accountability to keep going. I’m using Facebook to help me with that fact. My sweet friends have been encouraging and some are holding me accountable. For instance, as I went through the library drive-through to pick up a book I had on hold, Ann affirmed my efforts and told me how my exercise posts encourage her. Then, while waiting for my students to take a restroom break at school, Kevin comes by and asks if I’m still walking my parents’ dog (on the days I don’t go to Planet Fitness). Meanwhile, Erin, my neighboring teacher, spurs me on as I drink my gallon of water each day. “Keep drinking more water.” With each exercise post, many friends give me a little cheer to keep spurring me onward. They may only spend a few seconds making their comment, but it matters. It motivates. It encourages me to keep going. Encouragement and accountability matter.

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Not polished enough…
Let’s refocus…my struggle with self-worth wasn’t just in my appearance, but it also manifested itself in my career. I would allow the harsh words of one parent to overshadow the edifying words of many others. I would see the strengths of another teacher and judge my skills in those areas harshly. Now, I find myself in year 25. I still try to improve in areas that I know need polished, but I tell myself “effective” on an evaluation is fine. I know I’m effective. I know my passion and purpose are true, so I need to let those self-degrading issues go. Yet, I admit that a few years in a row my final “label” was “highly effective”. Made my day! However, it also set me up for the feeling of failure when the next year I was 0.50 points away from that “label”. It really means absolutely nothing…maybe a couple extra hundred dollars, but I allowed the “label” to tell me who I was. I allowed the opinions of my administrators to have power over my self-acceptance. You see….I still struggle with that. I still want to be “the best” I can be. There’s nothing wrong with trying to improve yourself, but if it steals your joy then it needs to be put in its place.

Self-Analysis…
Recently, these thoughts have been playing over and over in my self-analysis. In fact, I think these things started stirring last winter when a small group book study challenged me to write 100 positive things about myself. And I failed. I failed miserably. If you go back to my January post called “Toxic or Healing”, you would find a sad list of 15 positives about myself. Actually, they’re more like “mediocre” positives. How could I not find 100 things positive about myself? I mean, the Creator of Heaven and Earth knit me together in my mother’s womb. Was His work sub-par? Nope.

Now, I’m not saying one should be boastful and self-centered, but we should be able to list countless positive things that are true about ourselves. So, feel free to stop reading, but I’m going to attempt to come up with 100 positives about this 50-year-old-lady who loves God. It may take me a while, but I tend to fixate on goals….so I won’t share this post until the goal is achieved. [Started on Wednesday & posted on Friday evening.]

You see, I tend to over-analyze just about everything. Yet, this time, my analysis has been tempered with reality and acceptance. I’ve concluded…..

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  1. I am a teacher who loves her job even on not-so-hot days.
  2. I’m sensible.
  3. I’m an author of children’s books that cause my 4th graders to burst out in laughter in all the right spots.
  4. I’m realistic.
  5. I’m smart.
  6. I’m a lover of figurative language and eager to help both young and old develop an appreciation.
  7. I’m unique.
  8. I’m passionate about things that are important to me.
  9. I’m a good cook.
  10. I’m diligent with my tasks.
  11. I enjoy providing meals for new parents, sick friends, and stressed mothers.
  12. I’m sincere.
  13. I sing.
  14. I’m reflective.
  15. I enjoy writing parodies.
  16. I’m imaginative.
  17. I enjoy teaching kids Bible lessons at my church.
  18. I’m personable.
  19. I love a good pun…or even a bad pun.
  20. I love to laugh and do it daily.
  21. I’m benevolent.
  22. I’m a fine feline mom.
  23. I’m polite.
  24. I’m encouraging.
  25. I’m empathetic.
  26. I can bring stories to life for my students…and the ladies in my Sunday School class.
  27. I’m enthusiastic.
  28. I’m a committed reader.
  29. I’m principled.
  30. My superpower is appreciating a good night’s sleep or sweet afternoon nap.
  31. I’m creative.
  32. I can create “personalities” complete with their own voice and attitude.
  33. I’m capable.
  34. I’m an appreciated dog walker.
  35. I’m faithful…to God…family…and friends.
  36. I am grateful.
  37. I’m a good hugger.
  38. I’m focused.
  39. I’m a fun puppeteer.
  40. I’m optimistic.
  41. I’m a friendly greeter at the church doors on Sunday.
  42. I’m hopeful.
  43. I enjoy writing poetry.
  44. I’m romantic. [One day, someone may find out…]
  45. I’m merciful.
  46. I like mentoring & helping younger teachers and wannabe teachers.
  47. I’m purposeful.
  48. I try to help friends see the positive on their bad days.
  49. I’m supportive.
  50. I attempt to bring joy to others.
  51. I’m animated.
  52. I’m a planner.
  53. I’m cooperative.
  54. I pray for my friends.
  55. I am kind.
  56. I try to maintain a positive perspective…even in the midst of a pandemic!
  57. I’m persistent.
  58. I try to avoid giving up whenever possible.
  59. I’m earnest.
  60. I am a goal setter.
  61. I’m punctual.
    [Unless it’s for my surprise 50th birthday party when I was late due to an unplanned nap.]
  62. I attempt to maintain peace.
  63. I’m humorous.
  64. I can be serious when needed.
  65. I’m focused.
  66. I’m giving.
  67. I’m loyal
  68. I make mistakes, but I own them too.
  69. I’m thoughtful.
  70. I want to make my school, my community, my world a better place.
  71. I enjoy doing & writing drama/skits.
  72. I’m helpful.
  73. I’m a rebel to the stereotypical expectations of this world.
  74. I’m dependable.
  75. I’m a woman of integrity.
  76. I am perfectly imperfect.
  77. I’m joyful.
  78. I’m a devoted church member.
  79. I am talented.
  80. I’m hard working.
  81. I’m a teacher who calls my students “my kids” regardless of their ages.
  82. I’m contagious, as in my faith, my laugh, & my joy. [Thanks, Meridith, for that one!]
  83. I’m a reliable friend.
  84. I celebrate the success of my friends.
  85. I’m appreciative.
  86. I’m a committed employee.
  87. I try to make each day the best it can be.
  88. I’m conscientious.
  89. I’m supportive to my oldest sister Dianna.
  90. I’m the best friend of my sister Sherry.
  91. I’m a reliable and loving daughter to my mom and dad.
  92. I’m the “Best Ant” to my favorite nephew in the whole entire world!
  93. I’m a daughter of the King of Kings.
  94. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
  95. I shine His light on social media.
  96. I’m fearfully and wonderfully made.
  97. I was created in the image of God.
  98. I am blessed.
  99. I’m an original.
  100. I. Am. Enough.

All the Single Ladies…All the Single Ladies…

To be honest, that’s most of the lyrics I know to the popular song. Then, the line “‘Cause if you like it, then you shoulda put a ring on it.” Yep. That’s all I know. I’m sure it won’t surprise anyone who knows me that Beyonce isn’t my usual music choice. Contemporary Christian and country are generally the only genres I listen to. But…this catchy tune…has two lines that stick in my head.

At fifty and “still single” rather than “single again” like many, I’ve thought a lot about singleness and relationships. I’ve sat through sermon series on marriage and relationships that number too many to count with both hands. I’ve seen marriages crumble, but I’ve also witnessed marriages on the brink of destruction flourish and develop stronger than could be imagined. I’ve seen friends change their lives to the point that they seemed like the man in their life had become the sun in their solar system. When the marriage died, I wondered how they were able to regain their focus.

So, along the way of these thirty years when I’d love to have a solid Christian man find me as his treasure, I’ve gained insight. This wisdom isn’t from experience but rather from inferring from the pain and pleasure of dear friends. I hope these bits of truth may help you if you are single….single again…or single still.

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This one should seem obvious, but sometimes it’s a hard truth to swallow. It takes next to no time to send a “good morning” text, “good night” message, or simply an emoji to let you know you’re in their thoughts. If he doesn’t have time for that, he may just not be interested in you for the same purpose you are. You may be dreaming of love and romance while he just wants someone to fill an evening. Value yourself. You are the daughter of a King.

In “Jerry Maguire”, one of my favorite lines was “You complete me.” As romantic as that seems in a rom-com, no one can complete you. Your worth comes from the One who created you. Don’t look to another person for your worth or to make you whole. You are whole! You are wholly loved by the One who died for you. However, I believe it’s perfectly acceptable to hope to find someone who accepts you completely with all your quirks. Perhaps that’s why I’m still single? I have plenty of quirks! Ha.

I’ve had many friends go through divorce. Some of them initiated the act. Some had spouses who decided to end the marriage. Either way, I’ve seen the pain left behind. Yet, I’ve also seen some go through the pain of a marriage ending, the agony of the family unit being skewed, the self-doubt of questioning everything leading up to the divorce, and then witnessed the healing take place. Yes, I’ve seen the “joy in the morning.” It hasn’t happened in each case, but a few of my friends have risen from the ashes of an ended marriage to metamorphose into an amazingly beautiful or gentlemanly butterfly. I’ve seen how the One who hates divorce will take the child who has lived through the event and transform him/her into a joyful servant of the King. It’s as if through the pain of losing who they were in the marriage they find who they are in Christ. Granted, divorce is not the goal, but God can use the broken for His glory.

You are worth it! Remember that. I need to remember that as well. If you have to fight for someone’s time and attention, is it really the person who deserves you? If you’re like me, you may have been blessed with a keen imagination who dreams of “what if” this person or that person actually saw the treasure that you are? Well, if he’s really the prince that deserves you, you wouldn’t have to imagine. He would show you in his words and actions that you matter. Don’t settle for less than God has in store for you.

Fellow daughters of the King of Kings, in this world of social media, online dating, and all the other bells-and-whistles of modern connections, don’t rush. Take your time. If he is willing to also give his time to you, then perhaps he’s worth the risk. Don’t rush, my sister, and pray for His wisdom and discernment.

So, in the end, I really have no great revelation for you as you seek love, romance, marriage, or a peace about the single life. Each of those have been my heart’s cry at some point. To be honest, some months I’ve gone through all of those as my focus. In the end, I want to be who God has created me to be.

I don’t know what my future holds, but I know who holds it in His hands. The One I call Lord knew my days before a single one took place. I’m thankful that my faith tells me that He knows my path even when I am clueless. I know that my worth comes from Him. I also know that Paul proclaimed singleness as a gift. I’ve laughed at times and thought, “Yep, the gift that no one really wants just like a fruit cake at Christmas.” If it’s the gift He has planned for me, I hope I accept it with as much genuine appreciation as I would if one of my students gave me a fruit cake at Christmas because whatever gift a student gives always makes my heart smile.

In conclusion, remember…you don’t have to be half of a couple to matter! You are a treasure! You can make an impact wherever He has planted you…even if you’re the only flower in the garden.

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Where’s My Cup?

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Have you ever been perusing Facebook or any form of social media and seen a quote or meme that made you ponder? Well, that happened to me this week. I saw this pic, and my mind immediately started pondering its truth or version of the truth. Let me begin with the realization that I agree that we shouldn’t expect another person to make us happy. That’s too big of a weight for anyone to bear. But….it makes me think of the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness depends on the moment while joy is within.

I mean another person can add to your momentary happiness. They can also steal your happiness for the moment by their action or lack thereof. It’s true. Can’t deny it.

However, even when I’m not super-happy, I still have joy. There’s a difference! My joy won’t come from a person…it comes from my faith. Even on not-so-hot-days…I can find my joy as I find my peace that surpasses understanding. Do I have bad days? Of course, but I will choose to find the positive even on the worst of days.

Now, I confess that I’m blessed with a career that I thoroughly enjoy. Granted, I have bad days. There are moments, hours, and sometimes a whole day when things don’t go well or as planned. In fact, in the 25 classes I’ve been “the teacher” to, there have been a handful of years where there have been more challenges than smooth days. Yet, even during those challenging years, I will choose to look for the joy.

A friend of mine works on the line of a manufacturing company. There have been many times this summer when his day hasn’t gone well. As I attempt to cheer him up, I encourage him to find one or two positives. Sometimes, the only positive of the day is getting out of bed and leaving work. It’s a start! Find the positive. If you look hard enough, you can find one…or many.

I’ve had those days. I’ve had days when the positives of the day are the buses have departed, there are no negative messages to reply to, and I get to rest during the evening. Regardless, it’s a positive. It’s a way to find the good in a bad day.

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Years ago…almost a couple decades, I supervised my first student teacher. It was during one of my most challenging years. My student teacher was energetic and perky. The group was challenging. In fact, the group was challenging enough that the administrators told me I needed to stay in the classroom rather than allowing her to experience “full control” with me being gone. Why? Each time I left, chaos happened or someone would get bullied or hurt. After one particularly trying day, we walked back into the building after taking our class to the buses and her face had fallen. Near tears, she said, “I just don’t know what to do.” Knowing that she and I shared the same faith beliefs, I simply said, “You shake it off, come up with a new strategy to try tomorrow, but you NEVER let your job steal your joy.” Several years later, I had the same chat with a different student teacher. You see, I love my job, but not all years are happy positive experiences. Some are challenging and problematic. Both can be reasons for joy….because when that challenging class has a good day….it’s like the Hallelujah Chorus is playing in my heart. I kid you not….and it’s always on key!

So…I write all of this to remind you of a few things…

  1. Don’t let circumstances steal your joy! My joy comes from the Lord.
  2. Always….ALWAYS look for the positive. No matter how small. Maybe someone smiled at you. Woohoo! Maybe a friend sent you a message or gif to remind you that you were in their thoughts that day. Woohoo! Find the positive. It’s there….you just have to look for it.
  3. Finally….remember not to look at your glass half empty. Try to see it half full. If you can’t see it half full, then….just be thankful you have a glass!

Call me Pollyanna…call me naive, but I am the daughter of the King of Kings. So, I will find the sparkle on a gloomy day. I will be thankful for my glass…or my cup. And for today…my cup runneth over!


To Think or Not to Think? That Is the Question.

Thinking from the start…

Okay, so my long-lived joke whenever I show my baby picture is that I was a deep thinker right from the start. To be honest, I probably over-think way too often. In fact, a decade or so ago, a guy that I was dating told me that I tend to over-analyze. Everything. He was right. Still is.

How so? Well, if he didn’t reply to an email, I would ponder all the reasons WHY he didn’t reply. You see, I’m a “read & reply” girl. Even if the reply is a simple “Thanks”, “okay”, or “nope”….I reply. When I try not to reply, I end up feeling guilty. Why? Well, I don’t want someone else to experience the over-thinking experience that I so often go through.

This applies to pretty much everyone concerning everything. You may receive a paragraph, you could receive a long dissertation of all my thoughts, or you could receive the short & simple reply. But….you’ll get a reply.

Being 50, this week I had the “joy” of a colonoscopy. I had heard horror stories of this experience. Well, the stories were never about the procedure but about the day before. Here…I’m going to shoot straight. The “taste” of it wasn’t the worst thing I had ever tasted, but there were episodes of gagging. Why? No one told me that that the medicine part of the prep made the water change its fluidity. So, as I attempted to take a quick slurp from my straw, I quickly realized I was drinking thickish water. Ugh. I’m the girl who can’t eat pears or coconut without cringing due to texture, so the unexpected thick-water was not something I handled. So, I took it as “Extreme Prep”….instead of Extreme Games. Every 10 minutes when the timer sounded, I would talk myself through swallowing another 8 ounces. Then….prep is over, procedure is over, and I await the results.

I literally just returned home from sharing lunch with one of my good friends as well as my sister’s family. Mexican food, Yum! I walked in and saw a missed call from KDH. My overthinking kicked in. Does that mean that my test results were bad and they can’t leave the news on the answering machine? Should I call? Should I wait? I waited and pondered a good 15 minutes before calling….

And they said….

“Just checking how you did after you went home from the procedure?”

Aw, how nice! Then, I started this post and the phone rings again. KDH again. Oh no! I hold my breath…(figuratively not literally). Woohoo! Results were fine, but I need to retest in 5 years due to family history. Woohoo! Not for repeating it in five years but that the results were clear.

Overthinking. It’s a danger.

Thinking is important, but overthinking can steal your joy. How? Let me tell you.

If a parent has their child removed from my classroom, thinking tells me that if a parent doesn’t want me to be the child’s teacher that my year will be smoother if I’m not. Over-thinking causes me to question every interaction I’ve had with the family in the past to see if there’s something I could’ve done differently. You see, most of the time the request doesn’t have anything to do with me as a person or a teacher but is due to the relationship established with the other teacher.

If I text someone who ignores me for a day or two, thinking says that he or she is busy. Over-thinking tells me that they are choosing to ignore me because I’ve been deemed unworthy (At this point, my overthinking triggers a quote from A Knight’s Tale— “You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting.”).

What have I learned? I’ve learned that over-thinking always causes self-talk to take a nosedive. Rarely does overthinking build me up or encourage me. Overthinking triggers my battle with self-confidence and tries to tarnish my inner joy.

Now, if you know me….JOY is my thing. I try to be Joyful Jodi, not fake about it….but finding the joy even on the rainy day. Over-thinking is like a storm cloud that tries to block the rays of Joy. Alas, I must not be the only female who tends to overthink because…if you Google it…you’ll find plenty of pages to visit. I shall not. Instead, I’ll visit the Word I have hidden in my heart to remind me to…

Let it go, let it go….
Don’t overthink anymore….
Let it go, let it go,
Kick those negative thoughts out the door….

So, here are a few of the verses that I’ve been trying to use to kick out the negative and simply think about the truth. If your mind ever tends to over-think, maybe these can help you too.

Are You Ready?

That’s the question I hear almost daily from someone. Are you ready to go back to school? Well, here’s the parody that I posted yesterday sharing how I want to teach, so in that regard…I’m more than ready.

That question then leads to a discussion of the current situation of reentry and pandemic guidelines. It’s a lot to ponder. In fact, I’ve been pondering it ever since the 19-20 school year ended.

Am I ready?

My room is almost ready. I think I’d like calling it my home if I was a student. Currently, it’s organized, and I’m really going to try to keep it that way. [Now those of you who know me and have been in my classroom, you should quit laughing. It could happen. Maybe it’ll be another positive change for the second-half of my century.]

Am I ready to teach 4th grade?

To be honest, the math and language arts will just be a step deeper, so I’m good there. Social studies has more of a state focus, which should be fun. Between the two of us, I’ve never been a fan of social studies. I remember one year in elementary, my teacher wrote a chalkboard full of notes that we copied. I don’t ever want to do that. I’m hoping that I can add my energy and creativity to help it come to life. Plus, one of the 4th grade teachers from when I was in 4th grade contacted me and is sharing some books and a unit on our town with me. Shoot, if it wasn’t for the pandemic, I was going to see if I could convince the rest of my new grade level to plan a Johnny Appleseed Day with me. I mean, that was my FAVORITE memory of 4th grade. Plus, the newness of the focus will be a great challenge for me. You know you’re a teacher when you become excited about finding and printing pics of the state seal, motto, flower, bird, tree, song, and poem. Honestly, I didn’t even know we had a state song, but you can be certain that my 4th graders will hear it…and we just may sing it because….some kids connect best to music. Science has some topics I’ve never taught in 3rd grade, so that will be another challenge. Thankfully, I have some connections to Hanover College that may come in helpful in those areas.

Am I ready to teach during a pandemic?

No…yes…somewhat..I think so. Clear as mud?

No, I’m not ready to do it, but yes I am ready to do it. There’s this study I participated in last summer called the Enneagram. It pointed out to me that I often let fear guide me. I never really thought about it until I read it. Then, as I analyzed my choices, behaviors, etc…I realized it was true. So, fear is there. Social media and the media itself do nothing to help that fear. So many differing views. So many differing truths. You can find someone saying it’s best to return, someone saying to start virtually is best, and another saying schools should remain virtual until a vaccine is successful. All of those “someones” are experts. All of those experts have evidence. See what I mean?

This morning, our pastor preached on the importance of learning and being lifelong learners. Now, as a teacher, I tell my kiddos that every single year. You’re never too old or too experienced or too wise to learn something new.

The sermon proclaimed that we should learn BIBLICALLY, BODILY, and BROADLY. Biblically is obvious…read the Bible, study the Bible, and learn its truths. The second reminds us not to just learn in our brain but to DO the learning. If we learn the importance of being kind, go be kind. If we learn to cook, share the skill with others by inviting them over, taking them a meal, or teaching them your skills. The final point was to learn broadly. It reminds us that we can learn from all people. Yet, when we learn from others, we must take that learning back to scripture. Now, I am certain that as easily as I can pick some scripture to support going back that someone else could share one that says to protect children and to avoid danger. My point is that….as I hear or read the experts, I know they’re simply making an opinion based on their evidence with their mindset. Me? I strive to focus on three things….

I have faith in the One who created me, who gives wisdom, and who will walk with me whether I’m on a mountaintop or valley….whether I’m in a cute classroom with tables, a rocking chair, and desk groups… or if I’m in a cute classroom without tables, rocking chair, or desk groups. He will be with me in that classroom.

Being a part of several education groups through FB, I read a lot of great ideas for education and can ask for advice. However, I’ve also been inundated with opinions. Some of those opinions are written with a heart of love and concern while others are written with more judgment and anger. Those opinions that are overwhelmed with fear are ones I try to bypass. Why? I know how fear can take over, so I need to put it in the corner. I need to stick with the hero of the story…and that’s my faith. My faith tells me to be obedient to the calling placed on me, and to have faith that regardless of where the path leads….that He’s got me.

Peace. You don’t find a lot of quiet peaceful moments in a school. The school day is often filled with laughter, loudness, and learning. I’m good with those three things, but I also know I’ll need to rely on a peace that surpasses understanding. A peace that comes from the Prince of Peace.

Some of you who read this will think my head is in the clouds and I’m not looking realistically at the year ahead. You can think that.

Some of you may think that I have it altogether and you can learn from me. Not really.

Some of you, especially those of you who know me, will probably think this sounds very “Jodi”. Well, obviously.

This morning in our Bible study class, one of the ladies asked about the upcoming year and how I thought I’d get through it. My reply sums up my thoughts.

“There will be plenty of prayer in my classroom to get me through the journey.” So, I ask you, pray for the teachers and students who are venturing back into the school buildings. Pray for those families who choose to learn virtually and the educators who will be differentiating instruction through a computer. Pray for those families who are giving homeschooling a chance in these uncertain times. Pray that the pandemic won’t be able to overthrow the learning. Pray for government that supports education. Pray for loudness, laughter, and learning to fill our days….

Well, maybe go light on the loudness.

Oh Be Careful Little Fingers…

Remember this song? I do. One day this past week, it started playing in my head, but my parody-minded-thoughts added a new verse that I’m sure would’ve been included if it had been written in the current age. What’s the verse? I’m glad you asked.

“Oh be careful little fingers what you post,
Oh be careful little fingers what you post,
For the Father up above is looking down in love,
Oh be careful little fingers what you post.”

Why did this pop into my thoughts? I’m sure you can guess. I see some things that are posted on Facebook and think, “Why post that? They’re just stirring up judgement and hatred.” Don’t get me wrong. There are most certainly times when we must post something that others don’t agree with. However, I believe that even when we post things like that we should do so respectfully. The teacher in me so often times thinks, “Now, Barney, is that really the character you want people to see in you? Read it from the perspective of someone who disagrees with you. Would they see your opinion or would they see your judgement and sarcasm? Would they see who you are? Or would they see someone who’s being disrespectful and opinionated?”

Then, you come across memes. Some make me laugh hysterically. I mean, I love a good pun. Seriously. Love them! Puns are fun! Yet, again, memes can so often times take a hateful turn. Is that truly the testimony you want to profess to the social media world? If your mom wouldn’t smile seeing it on your page, should you post it? Better yet…for those of you who share my faith, would Jesus agree with your meme’s message?

As a teacher, I’ve had countless college students learning and growing their instructional skills in my classroom. There are two teacher-lessons I often share with those college students. First, I advise females to bend over in front of a mirror. I tell them to realize whatever they see in the mirror is the same thing students will view when they bend by a desk to help a student and to pick their attire wisely….or be ready to keep their hand up on their upper chest to avoid issues. Secondly, I tell them to check ALL of their social media. Whatever you’ve liked, shared, posted on those accounts may be seen by potential administrators or even students and their parents! Have you posted a picture that you wouldn’t want seen by a student in your class or his grandma? Believe me…parents check out their kids’ teacher’s page to “see” a glimpse of this person that they’re entrusting their child to for a good chunk of 180 days of the year.

Plus, back many a years ago, a friend told me to try some Christian dating website thingy. Not the ones that cost money, but one that was supposed to let you connect with like-minded people who share your faith. I remember a guy from Carrollton being “matched” with me, and he started sending me messages. I replied. He share comments and platitudes that reflected that he was a Christian. Being the analyzing person that I tend to be, I found him on Facebook to get a glimpse of the real person. On his wall there was so much profanity and promiscuous content that I quickly realized that there was no connection possibility. Granted, that may not have been his “true” self either, but his posts portrayed a character that I certainly didn’t aspire to connect with. Be careful little fingers what you post. Don’t be fake but don’t create an image that isn’t who you are.

Of course, this sentiment doesn’t stop with social media, it can also go with emails. I remember a few years back, I accidentally printed a black & white paper on our color printer. This is a big faux pas when you have been told time and time again to not waste color toner. When I went to the copier and didn’t find the said assignment, I realized what had happened. I found the print out laying on the counter and someone had written a reprimand on it without signing it. I was miffed. I mean, I did it unintentionally, but whomever wrote the reprimand meant to write it, but they didn’t have the gumption to sign their name. I stomped back to my classroom (Okay, I didn’t really stomp, but I was highly irritated and hurt by the comment.) and started typing an email to send to the staff. By the end of my writing, a colleague came into my classroom. I relayed the situation to him, and he read my email. His reply replays in my head anytime I write a reactionary response to something, “Okay, you’ve written it. Now delete it.” Since then, I’ve written countless emails and made a multitude of posts that have been deleted. Why? I’m glad you asked…

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I find myself saying what GOOD will this do? Will this make someone laugh? Will it bring a smile? Will it help teach? Will it speak the truth in love? Will it point someone to Jesus? Will it start a positive conversation? Will it create a calm dialogue? If not….hit delete.

I don’t want to the be the reason that someone has a hateful view of God. I don’t want to burn the bridge of a relationship where I could shine His light. I don’t want to change someone’s smile into a grimace. If my words, memes, or “shares” will do those things, I choose not to post. So, I hit delete…a lot.

BUT….

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Bible verses…
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Pictures of my nephew…
Pics of my felines…
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Educational thoughts…
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And Puns!
I post those! It’s a JODI-thing!

Half a Century? Woohoo!

Thinking….

My alarm was set for 4:50 am. Why since I’m on summer break? I’m glad you asked. About 10 minutes ago, I finished my 50th year of living, and I didn’t want to be asleep during this momentous occasion. Plus, both of my parents were awake at this time 50 years ago, so it only seems fair that I experience a shortened night’s sleep to celebrate.

So, I figure I’d start my 51st year of life looking back at the first half of my century.

What have I accomplished?

All my teeth came in way back when, and now a handful of them are royalty….they wear nice expensive crowns.

I finished my first 14 years of education in Madison, IN, then decided to do four more in Jefferson County, TN. Later, I took a few courses at IUS and put it with 18 months of an Indiana Wesleyan University to finish my official coursework.

After four years of substitute teaching, I finally had a school choose me to join their staff. I gladly rebelled from my Madison connection to become a part of the Southwestern staff. My red & white upbringing added a patriotic blue to the mix. [Psst, if you mix the three colors together, you find a lovely shade of purple.]

I finished my 24th year teaching 3rd graders assisting their education from home. I’ve taught at least 500 students. When people ask if I have kids (because people are nosy that way), I can answer, “Yep, around 500 or so.” Because let’s face it, once you’ve been in my class you will forever be introduced to those I’m with as “one of my kids”.

After wanting Mom & Dad to have a 4th kid as a child, I finally became a “Big Sister”. First to Courtney and now to Lacie.

Oh, I also self-published 8 children’s books. There are four chapter books in a series called “Jasper’s Journey” and four picture books in the voice of Jasper.

Okay, it’s early….that’s enough looking back. What about the next decade or half-century?

What goals do I have?

I hope to keep the rest of my teeth from becoming snooty royalty by brushing, flossing, rinsing, and getting my 6-month checkups. I learned the value of the last three of those four things the hard way. Through expensive bills and uncomfortable sessions in the dentist’s chair! [Now, I’m finally to the quick and (almost) painless visits. I even wrote a parody after my first quick cleaning with my first “A” report.]

I refuse to be a teacher who just keeps going like the Energizer bunny without trying to improve or grow. However, I now choose not to spend hundreds of dollar on classes, I opt for online webinars that are free or offered through my SimpleK12 subscription. Yet, I also will attend teaching conferences if they’r offered on a topic I feel is worthwhile.

After 24 years in 3rd grade, I asked to be promoted to 4th. This was a transition that countless classes had requested, but this year I decided….why not. I’m thankful for administration who allowed me to make the move, and I look forward to the new challenge. Granted, I hadn’t planned on starting something new in the midst of wearing a mask, being armed with disinfectant, and being a Queen of Hand-washing, but I’ll roll with it.

I’m thinking I have another 10-15 years left in my career, God willing, so I’ll add another 250 kids to my teacher tree. Granted, I’m certain my memory will fail me at times when I hear, “Hey Miss P, remember me?”, but I will strive to improve my recall.

My second little sister will age out next February or when she achieves her GED. Not sure I’ll start on a 3rd, but you just never know what God has in store.

Currently, I’m not working on a picture book, but I have a folder filled with ideas. I’ve started my next chapter books series entitled “Tales from Two Kitties”. I’m attempting to type up poetry that I wrote in high school and college with a few I’ve written in the last couple of decades. I’ve just finished the first draft of “Lessons Learned Behind the Teacher’s Desk”, and I hope to get it revised and edited over the course of this school year. My goal is to put it into print at the end of my 25th school year. Plus, there are other goals for somewhere down the road in the arena of writing. I would love to give Christian fiction a try….where crime isn’t the focus and romance isn’t the central line. I’m thinking “Single Purpose” would be the series title….and the main character? She’ll be a Christian single who survives the journey by leaning on her faith not relying on a romantic relationship to give her purpose. Who knows…I may even giving writing a devotional book a whirl somewhere down the journey. I mean…I’m a teacher who likes to write not an author who teaches. There’s a difference. It seems authors focus on “one area”, but….I just want to write….so I will.

I left a few things off both lists…so to wrap up….

Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Child, Cat Mom

I have been a good daughter for most of those 50 years. Not all of them. I don’t think I gave my best when I was a baby because I was a …baby. Plus, Mom told me once that my 8th grade year was the year they just had to “endure” me. I tell this to many of my friends when their daughters enter into the challenging teen years. I assure them I turned out okay, so to have faith. I will strive to continue doing so by sharing Saturday breakfast, walking their dog, and doing or being what I need to do to support and love my parents.

I have been a good sister. I mean, I played Barbies with my oldest sister, Dianna, when growing up and would attempt to shoot baskets or play ball with Sherry. Dianna doesn’t live in town, but I’ll try to do better at responding to text messages promptly. Sherry still lives in Jefferson County, so I see her more often. I’ll plan on continuing to do so as this next decade begins. Hopefully, we’ll be able to keep meeting at Planet Fitness to attempt to exercise after Connor abandons us for his senior year.

I am a great aunt. It’s like I was born to be one! Ask Connor; he’ll testify. I plan to still send cards and gift cards to him as he finishes his college education. Likewise, puns and cat pics will continue to brighten his inbox. I mean, it’s our thing.

Plus I’m a child of God. I’m thankful for parents who raised me in church, a dad who shared the plan of salvation with me, a church & youth pastors that discipled me as a teenager, and a church family who encourages me in my walk and appreciates my service to our church ministry. I’ll continue to sing, teach, and greet, but I’ll also strive to dive deeper into His Word in order to be a truer reflection of His love and truth to those I do life with.

Finally, I’m a superb Cat Mom. I’d tell you to ask them, but….they’re napping…on me….while I write. Now, I’m thinking….I’ve accomplished my first hour as a 50-year-old, so I might be due for a nap. I guess this Cat Mom should join her felines for a morning snooze! Thanks for reading my ponderings…