Tag: holidays

The Difference Between Optimism and Gratefulness

….and how being grateful might not save the world but it could save your sanity.

Christmas is difficult sometimes.

I don’t mean some Christmases are difficult and some are not. Every Christmas season there are moments that are difficult. Sometimes those moments are subtle and fast like a cold whisper-kiss across the cheek. Moments like the one where you want to add that one extra thing to the list for the kids and realize you can’t because you didn’t get a paycheck this week because you got a stipend check last week for training and training isn’t work so you don’t get anything on payday. Yes, that whole thought happens in a minute and it gets processed as a heartbeat of disappointment and it passes.

While my example is financial, I am sure manymanymany other people have similar moments of frustration. Maybe they are centered around family, maybe they are centered around friends, maybe they are centered around something personal. My point with the example above is not that I am poor, my point is that we all experience moments that are jarring to our personal version of Holiday Spirit™ happens to be.

I think of an optimistic person as not having those dark moments. They are somehow able to circumvent that moment of pain in between seeing something and feeling the disappointment. It could be nature, it could be nurture, it could be both, it could be neither. At this point I’ve come to believe optimism is an inborn trait. Those of us who were not born with it can come close with (I feel close to optimistic. Your mileage may vary, of course.) by cultivating a grateful heart. The way I define a grateful heart is stopping to notice the good moments and not letting them roll off into the pile of meaningless things that happened during the day.

For example, I received an email today that said (in part) “Your kids are lucky to have you and [Mr. Brickie].  They will go far with that type of love in their background.” (I’m not lying. Someone actually said this to me. I have the email. I HAVE PROOF.)

When I read that, my heart felt fuller almost immediately and a few overwhelmed tears might have spilled out. I took a moment to just be in that moment where I was amazed someone would think that about me, about my kids, even about my grumpy-butt husband. I spent another moment being thankful that person took time out of her busy day to share that positive thought with me. That is a priceless moment that keeps me warm against the moments of darkness and pessimism that come and go throughout not only the Christmas season but the whole year.

I keep those moments, those words you have been kind enough to give me in conversations, in messages, in emails. I keep them in my mind and in my heart on a little shelf and take them down when I’m feeling shaken and scared, angry and not good enough.

Cultivating gratefulness is not just about seeing the moment when the moment happens and having the feeling in that moment. It is keeping those moments on a shelf in your heart to combat the other moments that can bring you down. An arsenal of weapons where the ammunition is beauty, love, a kind word, or even the memory of a hug.

Weapons that can destroy the darkness. Hold back the pain. Create a dam of positive emotion that can be unleashed when it is most needed.

Warmth to combat the cold.

“Teacher Gifts” would Bankrupt Me!

Last night my kids wrapped teacher gifts for their teachers.

One gift for the main classroom teacher and one for each math teacher because they both go to math for an hour a day. Also because they are math teachers and I think that deserves a yearly prize because it’s awesome.

My kids were wrapping and having fun and using all my Japanese Washi Tape (<– Look! I figured out how to use Amazon affiliate links!) and I was starting to feel bad. I knew they had more teachers and here I was only taking care of one more than the bare minimum. In what I can only call a moment of total insanity I got all bubbly and asked the kids, “Hey kids…how many teachers do you have a week?”

They went down the list and it looked like this:

TEACHER-GIFT-HELL

I left off room moms and the other volunteers because I was like, “Oh, let’s not go all overboard, now.”  I also only added the one vice-principal because I’ve interacted with her many, many times. I totally left off all the main office workers and the janitor (who gives out Pokemon cards and really kind of deserves a gift because he’s a cool dude.) There are probably at least twenty people not on this list who I could give a gift card and they would feel they were getting recognition they deserved for their hard work!

So if I wanted to get everyone the bare minimum (A $5 Starbucks “Have a cuppa on me” card) I would have to buy the Super Size Value Pack with (hold on, it’s early and I totally need a calculator, I’ll be right back) 32 gift cards.

HOLY CRAP! That’s $160 in gift cards! 

I can tell you right now I didn’t spend that much for both of my kids on Christmas gifts this year. I’m sure as hell not going to plow out that kind of cash on people I’ve never met but happened to apply for a job that got them in front of my kid. Who is spending hundreds of dollars doling out gift cards like Santa? I cannot even imagine.

The thing is…I wish I could. I think it’s an important job and it is important to recognize the job these people do with children every day. Celebrate the gym teachers, because they play games like Pass the Bacon with the kids. No, I’m not kidding, that’s a real game. Celebrate the art teachers because deciding to be an art teacher these days is pretty much akin to buying a lottery ticket and hoping for the best because of how school budgets are all over the nation. Celebrate the computer lab teacher because she saves you from having to try and teach a child with the attention span of a hyper puppy how to use a mouse without yanking the cord out of the computer.

The librarian at my 2nd grader’s school is honest-to-goodness one of my favorite people on this EARTH. I adore her. I’m pretty sure when I’m 90 and someone tells a story about a random librarian, she is the one I’ll be picturing in my mind. She is everything I’ve always dreamed of in a librarian and I have a total mental crush on her.

Your (and my) Tax Dollars at Work!

I got notes home from both classrooms. If you have kids, I’m sure you’ve gotten these notes as well. “It’s that time of year! Please send in money so we can buy a gift for the teacher!” This year both notes had the amazing distinction of not having an AMOUNT of money to send in listed. So I guess you just send in whatever. I spent a few minutes wondering what the lowest amount of contribution I could make would be to get a signature on the group gift, but then I asked my 3rd grader if she knew what her teacher liked.

“Cheez-Its and M&Ms!” was the immediate reply.

I saw the clouds part and heard the angels sing! You don’t have to send in five bucks for some totally unknown gift when I can (oh yeah, are you going to pick up what I’m about to put down here?) use the Food Stamps to score my kid’s teacher gift. So I got to be that fat mom people hate in the line at the Walmart using her EBT card to buy MFing Cheez-Its and M&Ms. If you were behind me in line you probably thought I was a horrible person and that my big plan was to go home and eat that madness while watching some reality TV and washing that box down with Diet Coke while putting down those reality show women like it was my American DUTY!

Or maybe you’re a decent human being and had no opinion on what I was buying. 

Either way…those Cheez-Its are wrapped and on their way to a (hopefully) pleased teacher.

Our tax dollars being used to make a teacher feel appreciated.
You’re welcome. 

Come to find out her math teacher loves granola bars. I was straight gleeful at that point.

The other kid had a tea drinker and a 100% blank slate of, “She doesn’t ever talk about anything but math.” (but she doesn’t talk about math enough to know what kind of math-themed gift to get, either.” So they get tea sets because if the one teacher doesn’t want it it’s in nice packaging so she can regift it. I couldn’t use Food Stamps on the tea sets (duh) but I did manage to spend a lot less than if I just started sticking five dollar bills in all the room mom envelopes.

I hate participating in the group gift no matter what condition my finances are in. The room mom sends out one envelope, gets all this money back and then buys the gift and presents it to the teacher like it was her gift. I remember the one time one of my kids had a great room mom. Yeah. That was nice. Now it’s a contest to see which helicopter mom can make her blades whir fastest to get the gig.

I was a room mom once. For five minutes. I was told the woman who didn’t get the gig (first come, first chosen, this was not by merit or I’d have never gotten near it) was crying. I was like, “Oh, wow, I do not even want to do this and only did because I was worried no one else would. If there’s someone crying over this she is welcome to it.” What I saw as an obligation this woman saw as…I don’t know what but losing it affected her. Not being room mom affected me too. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders knowing I would never have to plan a craft.

Until Pinterest delivers, I’m not your go-to woman for crafts. In case you hadn’t figured that out yet.

What level of teacher-gift madness do you subscribe to? Do you give something to everyone?