No. 30: The Tree Beyond The Glass Staircase.

image-6I work in a beautiful building, surrounded by acres of forest. It is truly an enchanting place to teach, and I can only imagine that it must be magical to attend school there.

There is a staircase I use numerous times of day, encased almost entirely in glass, through which a tree may be seen. The staircase wraps around a pole, on which rests a beautiful statue of birds in flight. What seemed like only a few days ago, I noticed that the tips of the leaves were tinged with an orange and yellow glow; now, the tree has begun to show off its brightest, most striking colors. We’re talking colors so bright and vivid, I was stopped by its vibrance.

Dear tree,

If I were to be a tree someday, I would hope to be you. Thank your for reminding me to shine a little brighter today.

Yours in foliage,

Christina

No. 29: St. Francis.

The feast day for St. Francis of Assisi is this Saturday, and while I try to shake some needless Monday blues, I am drawing on his words and legacy as an example. Take a look at that cool stained glass window: how likeable is he?

I have always felt a special affinity towards him and his life of service and devotion. Here’s a saint that shed his shoes and walked around Italy, talking to animals as he went. In a few ways, he sounds like a centuries-old Dr. Doolitte. People still bring their pets to the blessing of the animals on his feast day- the service at New York’s St. John the Divine draws hundreds of pet owners and their animals each year. (Check out some cool photos here from their 2013 service.)

What I love most about St. Francis, though, is his prayer, in which the speaker asks to be an instrument of peace. Sarah McLaughlin sings a really beautiful version that I used to listen to daily when I lived in New York, usually on my walk to the subway.

I hope you find them as inspiring as I do, whatever your personal creed.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

(PS: Image credit.)

No. 28: The Wonder Years.

Over the summer, I wanted a new TV show to go through on Netflix. I love watching movies online, but often just want something short to enjoy before getting to sleep. Enter The Wonder Years. I watched it on and off as a kid when it was on Nick at Night, but never saw the entire series all the way through.

If you haven’t watched it recently, I urge you to go back and give this series another look. It’s charming, heart-warming, honest, and funny. Watching it as an adult, (a term I use loosely in reference to myself!) I appreciate the timelessness of Kevin’s coming of age story. I’m now more in tune to the perspective of other characters in the shows, especially in relationship to historical events. Whether talking about first loves, awkward school dances, and family dynamics, the show really stands the test of time.

Thank you, Wonder Years, for making me smile, whether I’m 8 or 25.

(PS: Image credit.)

No. 27: Pumpkin Flavored Things.

My friend Ben posted on Facebook on Monday:

“Happy Equinox! As the saying goes, if you say ‘pumpkin spice latte’ three times into a mirror, a white girl in yoga pants tells you everything she loves about fall.”

Well played, Ben. Well played. Granted, I insist on waiting unit at least September 15th each year before savoring anything pumpkin, and I’m not a diehard Starbucks person, but I certainly do enjoy fall (and yoga pants). So I’m writing this in full recognition that I may very well be that face you see in the mirror, should you follow through with this superstition.

Dear Pumpkin Flavored Foods,

Although the temperatures in my area may be heating up this weekend, I am delighting at the arrival of fall, and in particular, your arrival. Yes, you: Pumpkin Spice Coffee at Wawa, pumpkin beer, and pumpkin in my oatmeal, I’m talking to you! You are the tasty signifiers of a season yet to come, full of gourds, family, and eating. Thank you for making me smile, not only at your deliciousness, but at that the thought of all that’s coming up.

Yours,

Christina

No. 26: Cathy.

When I started to teach at my school last year, there was a faculty retreat during orientation. (I spoke about Melinda’s contribution to this year’s retreat in one of my first posts.) One woman spoke eloquently after a small group breakout, so much so that I just had to tell her how articulate she was and how I felt my experience was enriched because of her words. That woman was Cathy.

While we have not yet had an opportunity to work together, I have admired her zeal, passion for teaching, and genuine compassion from afar. This week, Cathy and I bumped into each other in the lunch room, when she exemplified this same willingness to give what she can in any way possible. I was truly touched by her words of friendship and offer of support, and it has helped me through a week that presented its typical array of September challenges.

Thank you, Cathy, for modeling the values we try to instill in our students every day. They are so lucky to have you – as am I!

Christina

No. 25: Rent the Runway.

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Note: I do not receive any goods, services, or money in exchange for my acknowledgement of any businesses or individuals. I just want to give credit where credit is due! 

Today is the last post of my Monte Carlo night series of posts, and I wanted to acknowledge a great bit of customer service help that I got. I had never rented a dress before, and a friend of my recommended it, saying that someone she works with swears by it. How Rent the Runway works is this: you find a dress online that you like, you order your size and a “safety size” just in case it doesn’t fit, they send it to you, and you look fabulous at your event. The next day you pop it in the UPS envelope provided and you’re done!

I was thrilled with the dress I ordered. It came in the day before the event, and it even fit perfectly. Fast forward to the next day: after all of the appointments I detailed in the last few posts, I drove to the party around 5. When I hopped out, I had to walk across an unpaved path, and I went to gather up the end of my dress so as to not drag it in dust. Upon reaching for the back, I found that there was a stain in my dress. It was dusty-looking and mostly hidden in the fabric of the gown. I was in sheer panic mode. I know I’m clumsy, but I’m not usually not that bad; how on Earth could I have gotten something on this beautiful (rented) gown?

I emailed customer service once I had a second, and explained the situation. One minute later- I kid you not, sixty and some odd seconds later – I get an email back apologizing for the mixup and offering to refund my card once the dress is back in the warehouse. It was a feeling of relief akin to, oh, I don’t know, finding out you didn’t owe a few hundred dollars to a online dress retailer.

Long story short, I ignored the three inches of dress for the rest of the night, and I felt fabulous. Rarely, if ever, do I get the chance to put on a floor-length gown, so I was going to savor every minute of it. I walked around feeling like part Bond girl, part Miss America. And let’s face it, as a drama teacher, I know: costume is everything. I was happy to walk around playing my part.

Thanks, Rent the Runway! You kept my evening glamorous, despite the threat of stress.

No. 24: Fran.

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Note: I do not receive any goods, services, or money in exchange for my acknowledgement of any businesses or individuals. I just want to give credit where credit is due! 

Fran is the woman who did my manicure last Saturday night. Fran possesses a rare quality: she took a look at my nails (which needed attention, trust me), and said “you don’t need the spa manicure you booked. Why pay more money than you have to?”

In other words, honesty, dear readers, one typically does not find in an upper crusty salon.

She assumed as I was having my make-up done that I was getting married, told me I looked like Cinderella and that I had a beautiful day. Admitting that no bells were in the foreseeable future, Fran jumped into hearing all the details of my upcoming event. After she took me for my appointment, she took care of my much-ignored digits, she told me about her kids, we chatted about learning to do laundry laundry and chores for a bit. I shared about teaching. Quite honestly, I don’t recall the entire conversation because it was so natural. I relaxed, knowing that Fran would take care of me, as she did from the start.

Fran, thanks for making me feel comfortable. It was a reminder that even though I was all dolled up, I needed to keep my feet on the ground.

(PS: Image credit).