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When a Book Makes You Cry

Do you remember the first book that made you cry?

I do.

It was Message in a Bottle, by Nicholas Sparks.  I read it when my family lived in Coral Springs.  My children were in elementary school, and I remember sitting up late one night in our front living room.  I was the only one awake.  The rest of the house was dark except for the small corner of the room where I’d set up shop for the evening.

Y’all, I had, to that point, read hundreds of books.  I was a voracious reader in my youth; the stories took me away from the angst of teenage-dom.

Up to that point, I’d been quite stoic.

Well, maybe the reason why I hadn’t cried was because I’d never met a writer who could break my heart the way that Sparks did with that book.

Oh, how I sobbed when I read the ending, quietly of course because keeping the kids asleep was kind of important.

I’m just going to be honest with you.

I don’t like watching movies or reading books that make me cry.  I don’t like the headache I get afterward, but I especially don’t like having my feelings trod upon.

That’s why I don’t watch movies or read books about animals . . . especially dogs (except that I did see Benji when I was a kid and whew, what an emotional roller coaster ride that was!).

A few years ago, I happened upon The Honest Truth, by Dan Gemeinhart.  I read it during summer break and cried as I sat at my kitchen table with that book in my hand.  I loved it so much that I read it aloud to my classes that year . . . and the year after . . . and the year after.

Every single time I read it to a class, I cried in exactly the same places even though I knew what was going to happen.

That’s a lot of crying.

Dan has such a way with words; his characters’ voices are childlike but so easy to connect with no matter the age of the reader.

I’m a member of Pernille Ripp’s Facebook group, where someone recently mentioned something about another book Dan had written, Good Dog.

He’s actually written four books (how have I not known this?).  Good Dog is his most recent novel.

I read a summary of the book on Amazon, and I had a little chat with myself.

“Don’t you dare buy this book.  You know you’re gonna cry.”

“Be quiet.  I need to read this so I can tell my students about it.”

“You don’t need this book in your classroom.  You already have books that your students love.”  (I think this may have been the Mr.’s voice arguing with me.  Ha!)

“But I don’t have this book, written by this author.  I know it’s gonna be good.”

“That may be true, but you don’t have to be in the know about every book.  Stop trying to be tough.”

“La la la la la.  I no hear you.”

Add to cart.

Purchase.

Done.

I couldn’t take my own advice.

The Mr. receives emails of all of the purchases on our Prime account, and he walked in from work saying, “What in the world are you doing?”

He knows me so well.

The book arrived a few days later.

Aubie and Molly’s collars in the background

Good Dog is the story of Brodie, a dog who has just died and is stuck between death and Forever.

Yeah.  That should have been enough to make me tuck my own tail and run.

Even that picture on the cover.

Sigh.

I prepared myself mentally, armed myself with Kleenex, and sat down to begin reading . .

The first two sentences made me cry.

I knew it was going to be a hard, hard read.

I read about Brodie getting used to where he wakes up, acquiring words in the process – words that, as a living dog, he did not possess.

Although it was told in short, simple sentences, this part of the book – the opening chapter – held me captive.

Brodie meets other dogs who explain what’s happened to him.  He can’t remember anything at first; memories come back to him very slowly.  However, what becomes clear fairly quickly is that he has to return to Before, where he was alive and with his boy.

Oh my gosh.  His boy.  Y’all, this part made me think of Rooster and his connection with Gambit.

Gambit never left Rooster’s side when Rooster lived at home.  Rooster was his person.  Fortunately, we still have Gambit with us, so that’s where the similarity to the story ends.

Mostly, what I thought of Molly, who you know I’m still grieving for.

This book, and the story of Brodie going back to find his boy, who he senses is in danger, made me smile in some parts, because Dan was wise enough to know that his readers would need some comedic relief to balance out the heavy stuff, and it made me hold my breath in other places.

It’s a book that made me root so hard for Brodie and the fur babies helping him, feel sorry for the bad dogs trying to stop him, and hope for some sort of happy ending that I knew wouldn’t be there because y’all, Brodie is dead.

Sigh.

I stayed up really late Wednesday night to finish the book because I knew that I would need a few hours of sleep afterward – the emotional price too steep for this tender heart.

The last chapter of the book completely broke my heart, and I tried really hard to cry quietly so I wouldn’t wake the Mr., who was sleeping in the other room.

I thought of Molly, and how I wish I could hug her one more time.  I wondered if she, like Brodie, had a hard time letting go of her person.

Now, don’t be thinking that I’m all emo and need medication.  I’m fine.  Really.  I just have my moments when remembering is so very hard and the missing is so very painful.

You can’t go almost eleven years with a breathing soul and not feel something when that bundle of happy is wrenched away.

Herein is the power of books – even books that make you cry.

Yes, there’s hurting and a whole lot of tears and big, puffy eyes.

There’s anger at the unfair twists and turns and the ugly parts where the bad is happening.

There’s even disappointment when things don’t turn out like you want them to.

A good book, one that makes you cry, should imitate life.  It should get you in your feelings and hurt you where you’re vulnerable.

That’s when the healing can happen.  Sometimes, when we can’t find the right words to match our sadness, a book comes along that does exactly that.

That is why I made myself read this book, even though I knew I’d be doing the ugly cry the entire way through . . .

Until the wee hours of the morning . . .

With a certain fur baby on my mind.

I love you Molly.  You were a good dog (most of the time), and I will never forget you.

“You.  Me.  Together.  Always.”

Choices

It’s summer break, as I might have said a time or two in recent days.

Part of my routine has been to read . . . as often as I can (in between working out, PT, and household chores).

I brought home a pile of books from my classroom library, but I have also ordered a few . . .

I’ve been wanting to read this for a couple of years now; however, I found that I couldn’t locate it at the end of the school year, so off to Amazon I went.  One of my students did her final project on this book.  I hope it’s as good as my kiddos keep telling me.

I had another book delivery a couple of days ago . . .

Thanks to Rebecca for raving over the first couple of books in the Jenny Han series.  I actually had the first two (the one pictured above is the first in the series), but again, one of the books magically “walked” off by the end of the year.

I saw the book, Wonder, on a friend’s Instagram feed and knew, after reading a synopsis of it, that I had to order it.  I suspect that it will become one of my read alouds this next school year.

I am not sure if I’ll get through all of the books that I brought home, but I certainly don’t lack for choices!

That Moment

You know that one of my favorite things about teaching is watching my students change from being non-readers to kids who cannot put their books down.

It’s a metamorphosis, y’all…a process I am honored to witness every single year.

This year, I am teaching two intensive reading blocks.  These kiddos have the pleasure (ahem) of getting read to nearly every day.

This year, we’ve read The Honest Truth (gripping), Stuck in Neutral (nail biter at the end), and most recently Life Happens Next.

The last book is a sequel to the aforementioned one…both written by Terry Trueman.

Stuck in Neutral is about a boy named Shawn.  He has Cerebral Palsy.  Everyone thinks he’s a vegetable.  He’s not.  He has perfect auditory memory and can read, when his eyes will light on text long enough for him to focus on it.  He also thinks that his father is planning to kill him.

Is your interest piqued?  I know that my kids’ were.

So, we read the first book.  I didn’t tell them there was a second book, relishing their anguish at the cliffhanger of the first.

I am evil that way.  It’s one of the fun parts of being a teacher.

Anyhoo, the second book picks up where the first left off, introducing a couple of new characters.

My kids have been mesmerized.  Shawn’s personality comes through loud and clear…sarcastic but oh so relevant as a teenager.

I finished reading the book today, and I decided to share the author’s notes at the end.  I remembered being blown away by the fact that Mr. Trueman based his characters off of people in his own life.

My kids were in awe, and they had great questions about what happened to the “real” people.

So, being the fangirl that I am, I tweeted out to the author.

And he responded.

Don’t you just love being acknowledged by royalty?  In my world, authors rank right on up there with Prince William and Princess Kate.

For real, though.

Here’s what I received late this afternoon…

As I’m typing this, I am literally giddy.  I cannot WAIT to share this tweet with my kids.

It is a moment like this that solidifies their journey as readers…connecting with characters…reaching beyond their own lives in their quest to understand others.

I mean, y’all…you should have seen my kids’ responses when a character in the book passed away, unexpectedly.  The class had begged for “one more chapter.”  I had acquiesced to their request.

And then the character died.

And the room was dead silent.

For longer than a minute.

Until they blamed the gal who had finally convinced me to read that chapter.

Nobody saw it coming.  This would have ranked as a first class blindside on the show Survivor.

The fact that they were flabbergasted was “that moment.”

It was the moment that preceded today’s “moment.”

In the course of the year that I have my kiddos, we string many “moments” together that keep the kids coming back year after year until they graduate.  We often talk about books.  Sometimes, they’ll borrow some from me.  Mostly, our exchanges are about the bonds that we formed while they were students in my class…teacher to student…human to human.

So, I thank authors like Terry Trueman who stick their necks out and write about difficult topics to get us to think outside of the box…to ponder on things that go beyond the surface…to pick at feelings we didn’t know we had.

Popular in the Classroom This Week

I snapped a few photos of the books my students finished this week…

The gal who finished By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead was mightily upset at the ending.

The reader gets no closure, and that frustrated her to no end.

I chuckled in understanding because I’d felt the same way when I read the book a couple of years ago.

As I put a new book into her hands, I assured her that she would get a resolution in the end.  She breathed a sigh of relief as she began reading.

The gal who read P.S. I Still Love You is tearing through my books this year!  She is one of the most voracious readers I’ve ever had.  She’s also got an open mind and is willing to read just about anything!  She already read the Lunar Chronicles series…a girl after my own heart.  One day this week, she got to school and pulled out three of my books.  She’d been holding them hostage at home, unbeknownst to me.

I was super proud of the young man who finished Takedown.  He’s one of my Intensive Reading kiddos…a nice young man…quiet.  It can be difficult to get my guys to read.  He’s already started on his next book.  I can’t remember the title.

The gal who read Burned eagerly began tearing into By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead.  In fact, we found a sticky note stating that this girl wanted to read it next…the result of a book talk I’d done the first week of school.

Everything, Everything was finished by a quiet young lady in my first period class.  I had training on Wednesday.  When I returned to school on Thursday, the gal was absent, but the students sitting at her table were quick to inform me that she’d finished the book.  I might have teased her on Monday about not finishing it for me last weekend.  I was eager to steal it away to read myself.

Needless to say, it came home with me.  I’m about a third of the way through with it and will probably finish it in the next day or two and then give a book talk on it.

Taking pictures of my kids with their finished books is a new thing for me.  I plan on putting the photos in my end-of-the-year class slideshows…the uncropped versions.  I cannot wait to see them sit up straighter as their faces cross the screen.  I hope they will be as proud of themselves as I am every single time a back cover gets closed.

The Art of Finessing

Finesse…it doesn’t always mean what you think it means.

Especially if you teach at the high school level.

If you’re old, like me, when you hear the word finesse, you think of doing something with style.

In a way, this sort of fits the new-fangled slang that the kids have turned it into.

According to the Urban Dictionary, finesse means, “To talk someone out of their things. Not stealing persuading someone out of their belongs, or to do you a favor.

Please do not go to Urban Dictionary and look this up for yourselves.  The sample sentence that uses the word is definitely rated PG-13.

I’m just sayin’.

So anyhow, what in the world am I doing writing about a slang word?

Well you see, I tried really, really hard to finesse something from one of my students.

It all started last night when I posted the following picture on my favorite social media sites:

This book had arrived at my house just two days prior, and although I’m already in the middle of one book, I was curious, read the first two chapters, and was hooked immediately.

Rebecca commented on Facebook and told me how much she had enjoyed reading Everything, Everything by the same author.

I got excited because I already had that book in my class, so that’s what I looked for when I got to school this morning.

I couldn’t find it.

That meant one of two things:  1) A student was reading it, or 2) Someone had made off with the book already.

As my first period students began their silent reading today, I mentioned that I was looking for the book, and one of my girls told me that she had it.

Oh my.

I was so relieved and began hatching a plan.

A plan to finesse that book right out of her hands for the weekend.

When reading time was over, I asked if she was leaving it in her folder.

No such deal.

Dang.

I admitted that I had planned on finessing the book when she wasn’t looking because I really, really want to read it.

The entire class started laughing…because I was using their slang…and because I wanted her book.

She did take it home, which really is fine because I still have the newer book to read.

I’m going to have to work on my skills though.  Apparently my modus operandi is not stealthy enough.

And that’s Latin, not slang.

Celebrating Readers

My students continue to impress me with the rate at which they are finishing books.  It seems like a day doesn’t pass when a student stands in front of me and announces the end to another story.

I love hearing them explain why they liked certain characters over others, or why the stories touched their hearts.

As you can see in the picture below, Kwame Alexander continues to be a favorite for my boys, while Jennifer Brown is reigning supreme for the girls.  The Bluford series is also popular with the kids who aren’t exactly in love with reading or get intimated by larger books.

Oh, and the gal who read Lucy in the Sky?  She read Go Ask Alice a week or two ago.  This gal is on a roll!!!

When Boys Read

I teach a LOT of boys.  In fact, my last block of the day is currently comprised of 15 boys and four girls.  Until Friday of the week before, that number was 17 boys and four girls.  This doesn’t even count the young men in my other three classes.

It can be challenging to find books suited to them; young adult fiction seems to be permeated with “girly” books.

As a result, I’ve been searching really hard for books that will appeal to the young men who grace my classroom each day.  Kids are good at fake reading; many don’t actually finish books but float from one to another because they lose interest quickly.

Thus it is that I’m especially excited when one of my guys announces that he’s finished a book.

This past week, TWO of them did just that, and I had to capture photos.

I’m extra fond of the young man on the left (don’t tell my other students this).  I taught his sister two years ago; she’s a senior this year.  I really like teaching siblings!

He LOVED the book you see pictured.  It’s about a boy who is the only Muslim student in his school.  Tensions run high with the profiling that naturally accompanies such immigrants, and the lead character in the story finds himself in a quandary about how to come to terms when a federal investigation is launched against his father.

My student told me that he felt like it was incredibly relevant to what’s going on in the world today.

Cha-ching!  Connections made.  A teacher’s dream.

The guy on the right, another sweetie with an easy smile, picked up Code Talker after I gave a book talk about it.  He remembered his father mentioning this topic in passing one day.  The book is about the group of Navajos serving in the Navy during World World II who were tapped to send messages to one another in their native language while overseas.  They saved a lot of American lives because of this special task.

I’ve wanted to read this book for awhile.  I’m such a history buff.

Although my student liked the content itself, he said that parts of the story were a little boring.  I was so proud of him for not giving up on the book and seeing it through to the end.  As a result, he’s got background knowledge that might come in handy one day.

Cha-ching! Another teacher’s dream.

My biggest hope for my students is that they will become life-long readers.  With each book that is opened and each story devoured, my kids are certainly one step closer!

Something Magical

Something magical is happening.

I don’t know why this surprises me because it’s a recurring event every year.

My students are reading.

And enjoying it.

They are selecting books they never thought they would read, and they are finishing them.

These aren’t little books either.

They are two, three, and four hundred pages.

They aren’t middle school books but every bit high school level.

Oh sure, my students started out reading the smaller ones, but it didn’t take long for the allure of the pretty covers, enticing plot descriptions on the back covers, and my book talks to lure them in.

I started a new thing this year.  I’ve begun taking pictures of my kids with the books they finish.

A few have been shy, yet they always comply.

Here are a few from this past week…

These aren’t my Honors babies, y’all.

These are my struggling readers.

They are reading books about very mature topics…drug addiction, brain injuries, and school shootings.

They are reading books that feed their imaginations and challenge their thinking about society.

The young man who read Crank wanted to give up a few times.  I encouraged him to push on.  By the time he started getting tired, he was nearly finished, and I wanted him to experience the joy of finishing something.

On Friday, when he finished, he told me, “I didn’t like the way the book ended.”  We then had a discussion about what he’d said.

Progress, y’all.  He’d invested himself in the book and made connections…enough to form a judgment about the plot.

There are so many tough things about teaching…so many things that cause me angst.

The scale tips, though, when I get to walk alongside my precious charges as they explore new worlds…choose books they never thought they would enjoy…express feelings of shock and joy as characters make choices they agree or disagree with.

One young lady, not pictured above…I’ll grab her picture on Monday…finally moved on from Bluford series books to a new book, Scars.

This girl is one tough cookie…probably among the most challenging that I’m teaching this year…but I recognized early on how much she loves to read, and I often have to ask her to put away her book so she can focus on the whole group lesson I’m facilitating that day.

There’s some real magic happening in my room these days, and I am honored that God is allowing me to be a small part of it.

The Power of a Read Aloud

Twenty-two days.

That’s how long it’s been since I’ve last posted.

Clearly, this is getting ridiculous.

Forget the excuses.  I will just say that when I get home, I like to unplug from the world…except for Mondays, when I lesson plan, and during the evenings, when I’m watching various television shows.

So, let’s just get to today’s post, shall we?

Today was a good day at school…for a number of reasons.

The main reason had to do with the read aloud I did during my 4th/5th period block.

After I finished reading The Honest Truth to my classes earlier this year, I allowed my students to select the book they wanted next.  Each class chose something different.

My 4th/5th period class chose Bitter End, by Jennifer Brown.

You guys know that I am one of this author’s biggest fans.  She writes teen fiction that is extremely relevant.  It’s as if she hasn’t gotten so old that she doesn’t remember what a teenager actually thinks.

I read Bitter End a couple of summers ago, and I had to put it down at one point because the material was so realistic…so heartbreaking.

The book tells the story about Alex, a high school senior, who falls for Cole, the new boy in school.  He dotes on her until things change, and he begins to abuse her.

My class and I are about halfway through the book (remember that I’ve read it all the way through already…on my own…so I know what’s coming).

Today, I think we were on about Chapter 16 or so, and man, was the scene HEAVY.  I’d read ahead just to make sure I prepared myself for any possible discussion questions that might come up.  I tend to teach more organically when it comes to my read alouds and allow conversations and comments to flow naturally.

In this chapter, Cole really begins to abuse her for the first real time in the story.

My kids were sitting on the edge of their seats, let me tell you.  One girl had started to read the book earlier in the year but had put it down.  A few days ago, she told me how much more she enjoys it now that I’m reading it aloud because of the expression I put into it.

Quite a few times, as I read, they exploded with comments, and I had to stop to quiet them down.

When we finished the chapter, everyone had something to say, and we had a lively discussion.

I was in awe of my students.  Most of this class is comprised of young ladies…strong young ladies who are completely aghast at the doormat that Alex, the protagonist, is allowing herself to be.

Even my male students were indignant!

Yet, among the loud voices in my classroom came softer ones…the gals who suggested that we don’t know what we would really do if we were placed in similar situations.

One girl shared how a former boyfriend had pushed her down and spit on her (she wound up punching him…she’s a fighter, you see).

Then, I heard a gentle question:  “Mrs. Auburnchick, what would you have done?”

Oh boy.

While I try to get my kids to answer their own questions and think for themselves, I knew I had to answer this.

I told her that my broken, insecure, high school self probably would have taken the abuse.  My older, wiser, mama/teacher self would fight back.  It’s amazing what a few years of life experience will do for you.

My job as an intensive reading teacher is to help my students hone their reading skills.  Part of my job involves getting students to read…to explore their feelings about their reading…to connect their reading to their lives, other text, and the world.

Books such as Jennifer Brown’s make my job so much easier.  While we may not be completing graphic organizers, the rich discussions we are having as we read do just as much good and fill in the gap that overworked, uninterested parents create because they don’t know how to have these conversations with their children.

Doing Christmas Stress-Free

Look…a second post in one week!

Go Me!

So, it’s Tuesday night.  I’ve officially been on Christmas vacation since 12:30 on Friday.

I’ve got to say that I think this is going to be one of my more relaxed Christmases in a while.  I think that the primary reason is because I’ve become very purposeful about balancing work and home.  I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating because I tend to be a slow learner and, I suspect, one or two of you might be as well.  Overachievers tend to gravitate toward one another, don’t you know.

Friday evening, before the Mr. and I went to dinner, I did a little DIY project and replaced Rooster’s bedroom door handles.

The door had quit latching, and the dogs were pushing their way in uninvited and lounging in his room when he wasn’t there.  Fortunately, a couple of summers ago, I’d ordered a slew of new door handles but had not installed all of them.  This was a rather fast and easy job.

The Mr. and I spent a few hours on Saturday shopping.  Although it was very cold and our mall is outside, we were able to flit in and out of stores fairly quickly.  We lucked out on a few great sales…one-day only affairs…and picked up nearly the remainder of the items on our list.

We also visited World Market, which had moved from town to the beach a year or so ago.  I love this store but haven’t gotten to shop there ever since it relocated.  I came back with a couple of different vegan/non-dairy teas and a vegan hot chocolate mix.  The hot chocolate…delicious!!!!  Look how frothy it got in the hot chocolate maker that the in-laws gave me for Christmas two or three years ago.  The mug?  It was a souvenir I picked up during our 2011 Alaskan cruise.

I got down to work wrapping, fortified with hot chocolate and football bowl games.

I only got nine presents done before we headed out to dinner, and I was too tired to continue after we got back.

After church and lunch the next day, I sat down and wrapped…for four or five hours…while finishing up recorded episodes of Arrow.  For the record, can the show’s writers please let the good guys be happy for longer than thirty seconds?  Oh, my heart.

I finished wrapping all but three or four gifts…items we were either trying to purchase accompanying items for or items we had to fully purchase.  Still, I was pleased.  The last few years, my Christmas spirit has been lacking, as has my energy, and the Mr. has had to do our wrapping for us.

Not so, this year!  Despite fighting the crud, STILL, I’ve been pacing myself, doing what I can when I can, resting when I need to, and resuming tasks when I feel up to it.  I even managed to add pretty ribbons this this year’s packages…sparkly additions that the Mr. doesn’t include.

I finished the last few presents tonight, and everything is loaded into bags and ready to be placed in the car in the morning when we depart for Bigger City, Florida, where the rest of our family resides.  We are leaving our pups in the care of a young man who puppy-sits/house-sits when we travel.

Another way I’ve kept the last few days stress-free is by reading.

I’m feeling like a bit of a cheat because I’ve got about four books going right now.  I have NEVER done this before; however, every time I order a new book, I have a burning desire to dive in.

Two books I’m focusing heavily on right now are Library of Souls, by Ransom Riggs (the third in the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series) and Wrestling with Wonder, by Marlo Schalesky.

Library of Souls is as strange as its predecessors.  At first, I didn’t think I was going to like it, but I’ve slowly been drawn in, as I was with the other two books in this series.  I was moved when I read one thing in particular last night…

Jacob is a young boy who, in the first book, accidentally discovers a “loop” that takes him to a world unseen where the same day gets repeated over and over.  The children in this loop have special powers, and they are trying to stay hidden from such things as wights and hollowgasts.  Jacob learns that his grandfather was a part of this world.  Jacob becomes immersed in it and the battle to keep the kids, who he’s befriended, safe.

In the third book, he’s trying to rescue the kids and their caretakers, ancient women, from the people who have kidnapped them.  The process challenges his confidence in his own special abilities, which he’s discovered as the reader follows the story.

I love the excerpt above which maintains that we humans have many talents but miss out on them because we only nurture one or two.

How true is this?!  I know this is probably due to time constraints and the busy lives we lead, but I wonder how much of this isn’t also related to the lack of confidence we possess.  How many times have we thought that we couldn’t do something when, in reality, we haven’t either tried or have given up after trying once or twice?

I need to ponder on this more.

The other book that is really touching my heart right now is Wrestling with Wonder, which I discovered when I read a series of devotions about Mary in my Bible app.  I loved this devotion series so much that I had to buy the book.

It.  Is.  Amazing.

The author delves into the story of Jesus from Mary’s perspective.  As a mother, I can identify with this viewpoint.

Here’s what’s different though.  So many times the traditional stories from the Bible…the annunciation…Mary’s visit with Elizabeth…the birth of Jesus…are all told in such a way that everything is happy, clean, and all glowy.

These scenes are told in words Mary might have used.  Can you imagine being told you are pregnant…before you’ve had sex and gotten married to the man you’re engaged to?  Can you imagine traveling on a donkey or camel when you’re days away from giving birth…how uncomfortable that must have been?  I, personally, cannot imagine giving birth in a stinky barn without a person there who had some medical knowledge.

All of these events are considered blessings, though, and they are, but they happen in circumstances that are the farthest from ideal that you can get.

THIS is why I am loving this book so much.  Life often isn’t pretty.  There is so much sadness…so much heartbreak…so many challenging times.  Yet, God considers us blessed when we endure the events that hurt our hearts and test our faith.

My reading…setting goals (I want to finish both books before the break is over) and being purposeful about setting aside time to read each day…is keeping me centered and helping me indulge in activities that make me happy…that quiet my soul.

A third way I’m doing Christmas stress-free is by exercising.

I keep harping on this, but you need to hear the message.

Working out releases endorphin.  Endorphin gives you a natural high.  You get the satisfaction of having completed something that is good for you.

Although I hurt my rotator cuff when I started Piyo a few months ago, I’m pushing myself through that…through the crud that is still hanging on (hello runny nose that will not stop)…through the soreness from the crosses and jabs that I’m improving my form on.

Despite having to stop today’s video at least three times to catch my breath, I pushed through, as I do each time I work out.  This time I spend each day helps me burn calories and maintain a shape that keeps me mentally happy.

Today’s 40-minute workout…LOADS of calories evaporated…

The videos will be traveling with me, and I will be getting up at o’dark thirty to exercise before everyone else gets up.  I need this time to myself (or with Chicky, who mentioned that she wants to work out with me).

Living life purposely focused on things that are most important is becoming my mantra.  Not allowing myself to feel pressured to be all, do all, and go all places or participate in all things has lifted a huge burden from my shoulders and given me a sense of peace.  I think this is why I’m feeling a bit more Christmas spirit in my heart these days and why I’m especially able to enjoy my time away from work.

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