Be Nice

Years ago, I worked with an incredible special education teacher and friend, Nick Stelmak.  He was my in-class support teacher in my fifth grade classroom and we got along really well.  He and I played off each other’s strengths and I think our different personalities were great for the kids.

Unfortunately, Nick died suddenly at the age of 44 and while I remember many great things about him, there is one thing that embodies who he was and what he modeled for adults and children alike – be nice.

Nice. It is a word that we would tell the students not to use in their writing.  It was too simplistic, too common and not nearly descriptive enough. But there truly is power in this tiny four-letter word.

On the first day of school, there are a million things to do and say to the kids to set the precedence for the year.  We had a rough group of students that year and I was going over the typical classroom rules – raise your hand to speak, always come prepared, do not interrupt others when they are talking, etc.  When I turned it over to Nick asking if he had any rules to add, he said, “Yeah. I have one rule. Be nice.”

Nick’s words have been in my head a lot lately, mainly because the anniversary of his death is approaching, but also because of being on social media and reading all of the cruel and heartless things that people say so freely to and about each other while they hide behind a keyboard.  From celebrities to sports figures to teachers to politicians to the president of the United States, no one is safe.  Why are people doing this? Why do they think it is okay to insult others? Why do people feel the need to comment on people’s looks, weight, clothing, hairstyle, boyfriends, girlfriends, political views, personal choices? And why is it done in such a mean way? When people attack others because they disagree with something, things get out of control. Why the attack? It has happened to me by some of my own family members and I am sure it has happened to many of you reading this.

What has happened to us? Why have we become so cruel and bold and mean and disrespectful? Why aren’t we nice anymore? Who do we think we are that we can publicly insult others? Why is it so difficult to be nice to others especially when you do not know them? The fact that there is a segment on a late-night show called “Celebrity Mean Tweets” where celebrities read aloud the cruel things people have said about them, says a lot.  I guess they have a sense of humor, but it still has to hurt to see how mean people can be.

Be nice. That’s it. That’s all we have to remember. Be a role model for others, especially for the children in your life. Just be nice.

A few other phrases we can all live by…

In the words of Frank Reagan from Blue Bloods, “Just because you can say something, doesn’t mean you should.”

In the words of so many mothers, grandmothers, teachers and pastors, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then do not say anything,”

And most importantly, Proverbs 4:23-24 NASB) tells us: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.”

If we could all just be nice, the world would be such a better place. 🙂

 

 

 

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Do It Every Day

On Monday, we remembered and mourned those lost on 9/11/2001.  Many people proudly displayed their flags in honor of those lost in the attacks and to observe Patriot Day.

We see flags proudly flying on the 4th of July, Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day and it got me wondering why people do not fly flags every day? After all, we have active servicemen and women deployed around the world. While we enjoy the freedoms we have here in America and go about our daily lives, our military is protecting us and fighting for us each and every day.  Should we not fly the flag every day to honor them? I think we should.

If you are going to hang a flag at your home, make sure you follow the proper protocols. According to http://www.vfw.org:

Per Federal Flag Code, Section 2, paragraph (a), it is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

There are many other protocols to follow such as never letting the flag touch the ground and those can be found at the website mentioned above.

Each time I hang the flag in the morning and bring it in at night, I take a moment to look at it.  I marvel in the red, white and blue and think of all those who wear the flag on a patch on their arm going into battle for you and me and how Old Glory is used to blanket the coffins of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for his/her countrymen. I say a quick prayer asking God to protect the brave men and women in our military and thank Him for putting such selfless and courageous people on earth. Without them, our lives would be totally different.

A few years ago, a campaign was started called “Green Light a Vet” to honor veterans. Green  is a symbol of hope, renewal, well-being and moving forward.  Many veterans returning from service are struggling in many different ways.  Shining a green light is a simple way to show our local veterans that we support and appreciate their service. It took quite a few trips to the store to finally find a green light to participate in this initiative, but it makes us feel good that if a veteran walks, jogs or drives past our house, they know they are not forgotten.  We never turn it off.

Flying the flag. To me, it is like eating, drinking breathing and praying. It is something I proudly do every day and hope more will too. 20160703_204316.jpg

 

(John 15:13 – Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.)

“Other” Families

Family means different things to different people. For me, family is everything. I grew up in a traditional family of four in the small town of Clinton, New Jersey.  My dad worked and my mom stayed home until my brother and I were in school full-time. She then worked only during school hours, so I had the luxury of seeing my mom before I went to school and when I got home.  We went on one or two family vacations each year, (usually to Wildwood Crest) and spent a lot of quality time together playing all kinds of games – both board games and imaginary ones. It was an amazing time in my life.

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Always Ready

Brrrrrrrrr!! Whoooooshhhh!!  After yesterday’s temperature reaching almost 70 degrees, winter has returned. It is in the 40s with wind gusts up to 45 miles an hour.  I was up half the night listening to the wind attempting to shake the house and everything in it.  When I woke up and looked out the window, tree limbs were being tossed around like a ship in a storm. I said a silent prayer that none of the large branches would come down on our cars or house! So far, so good!

This wacky weather in New Jersey is making outdoor activities difficult.  I try to walk our dog, Scraps, every day at least once a day.  He is a terrier with a lot of energy! This morning, as I listened to the winds and watched the weather on TV, I pondered whether or not I would be taking him today.  Scraps seemed to sense my hesitation and almost immediately, his ears perked up, his tail started to wag and he looked at me with an expression of pleaing, “It’s not that cold! I’m ready! Let’s go!  It’s just a little wind! What’s the problem?”

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So, as usual, I gave in and bundled up. There seemed to be enough time between the strong gusts that I could at least take him around the block.  I opened the door and put out the American flag as I do every morning, making sure it was secure. Scraps was anxious to get started and started to pull to being the walk. Almost immediately, I regretted not putting on my gloves.  It felt like it was in the 30’s again.  Ugh! I pulled my hat down further over my ears and started moving.

The neighborhood was littered with garbage cans since today was garbage day. I shivered a little and pulled up the zipper on my coat to my chin. BRR!  Scraps, however, was trotting along without a care in the world.  Wind? No problem!  Cold temps? Don’t be a sissy!

A few minutes into our walk, a gust of wind came and blew the top of a garbage can a few feet in front of us, just missing him. Scraps pinned his rather large ears back (I guess to keep the wind from blowing in them) stopped, lifted his leg on a tuft of grass and kept right on going, happy as ever.  For a split second, I considered turning around but then realized that Scraps is like that in any kind of weather. He is always ready to go for a walk. It could be 100 degrees out with 90% humidity (and yes, it does get that hot in NJ) and he is ready to go.  It could be snowing and even sleeting out, but he is always, always ready for a walk.  If I was willing to take him, I bet he would even walk in the pouring rain (well, maybe with his coat on).

I once read an article that we should try and be more like our dogs. It focused on their love of play, long amounts of sleep and being a loyal companion.  I would like to add one more thing to the list – to always be ready to walk/exercise and truly enjoy it as much as he does!  No matter what!

 

Whoops!

Earlier today, I wrote a post about Lent.  In it, I described the three disciplines of Lent (fasting, prayer and almsgivig) and what I was going to do to fulfill them.  I am not sure why I felt the need to share what I was going to do, other than to possibly inspire others to participate more in the prayer and almsgiving and not just the fasting.  However, after doing more research on Lent and arguments for and against observing it, I came across this from the New Testament:

 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be            seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in              heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with  trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”             

                                                                                                            -Matthew 6:1-4

Whoops! After reflecting on this scripture, I decided to delete the earlier post since it pretty much went against this. Whatever we do or do not do in Lent and in life is between each of us and God.   I guess sometimes we just need a reminder. At least I do!

 

Always Loved

The older I get, the more I realize how fortunate I am to have always felt loved, not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day of my life.  I have been blessed with many things in my life, but by far, the greatest blessings I have received are the people God has put in my life.

My first valentine was my dad.  He always made the day special by getting me a box of Russel Stover candy – the one with the deep red cellophane on top. I remember it having dark chocolate, milk chocolate and one piece each of a pink and yellow chocolate. I loved each and every one and loved my dad for making the day special!  My brother later played a role and would give me stickers for my sticker collection or a small box of chocolates. I remember one year when I was in my 20s, I had just broken up with someone and my dad and brother sent me flowers at work.  I broke down in tears and still have the card they sent.  It meant so much and cheered me up right away!

In elementary school, my classmates were my valentines. We gave each other valentines to put in our decorated paper lunch bags. I fondly remember giving and receiving Scooby Doo valentines along with the The Flinstones, Barbie, Transformers and Strawberry Shortcake! Yes, I am dating myself!  I don’t have many memories of Valentine’s Day in middle school, other than one boy giving me a flower, but he was not my boyfriend. In high school, I only had a boyfriend my junior and senior years and remember getting pink and red carnations at lunch in the cafeteria. Such a romantic place to get a gift! HA!!

My mom was my valentine a few years as well. I remember one year, I was dating some yahoo who did not get me a gift for Valentine’s Day. She felt badly for me so she bought me a beautiful silver locket with a rose engraved on it. It meant so much to me and still does to this day.

For a few years, my students and niece and nephew were my valentines.  They would give me valentines and little boxes of chocolate. It was so sweet for the kids to think of me.  Even if I was feeling lonely, their heartfelt cards and gifts always warmed my heart and made me smile.

For over a decade, my girlfriends were my valentines since we were all single! There were a few years where one or two of us had dates, but for many years, it was just “the girls.” And that never stopped us from having a great time! We would go dinner or to our favorite martini bar or wherever we wanted.  I remember one year, we all met at one of our favorite bars and every single one of us wore red.  The bartender referred to us as “the girls in red” all night. Hey, it helped us get free drinks! One of the best times was the year we went to Atlantic City to celebrate.  Our usual night of drinking, dancing, and gambling made it one of the best times! So. Much. Fun!!

When I was 34, I met my ultimate valentine, my husband! Though I didn’t know it at the time, the day we met was the day my life would change forever. Since that date, almost 10 years ago, I met the man with whom I would spend the rest of my days.  I could not have imagined that one person could bring so much joy, happiness and love into my life. He is an amazing husband and person and  I love him with all my heart and soul!

Today is a day about love. But really, every day should be!  There is love all around us but sometimes, I think we forget how much we are loved by our parents, siblings, children, friends, and significant others. I hope each of you feels love today and every day and have a wonderful year filled with happiness, laughter and smiles!

 

American Hero, American Sniper

Tomorrow is a sad day for America.  Yes,  February 2nd is Groundhog’s Day.  But more importantly, it is the anniversary of the death of a true American hero, Chris Kyle.

I remember the day I heard about his killing on television.  I had just finished reading his book a few days earlier and asked my husband, “Did they just say Chris Kyle was killed? I just finished reading his book!”  I was in complete disbelief.  How could this highly skilled sniper, who survived four tours in Iraq be dead? And how the heck could he have been killed on American soil?

We later learned that Kyle’s death, along with his friend, Chad Littlefield, was a result of a mentally disturbed veteran Kyle was trying to help.

Chris Kyle was an amazing and extraordinary human being.  First, he was a US Navy SEAL. The best of the best. The most elite force we have in our military. He survived four tours in Iraq.  He was highly effective at his job as a sniper.  While he struggled between devoting his life to his country and his family, Chris Kyle was able to keep his marriage in tact.  He was able to form strong bonds with his children. He overcame PTSD after his return and he was able to pull himself and his family out of bankruptcy.  He was constantly helping fellow veterans and knew the healing power of the outdoors. These are all major accomplishments and are an inspiration to veterans and non-veterans.

In his book and in the movie based on the book, American Sniper, we are reminded that there is a war going on and that civilians must help and support our veterans. He asks us in his book to give back to our soldiers who give, and give up, so much to preserve our way of life. He only lost two men during his tours and wanted all of the proceeds from his book to go to their families.  While he saved thousands of men, the two he lost constantly tugged at his heart.

From what I have read and heard, Chris Kyle was an amazing human being.  While I never had the pleasure of meeting him personally, I have read and reread his book several times. I have seen how humble he was during interviews and how passionate he was about supporting his fellow veterans.  I read his Facebook posts, many of which are quite humorous! This was a man who devoted his entire life to helping and protecting others.  He was a true hero.

So, tomorrow, I am asking that you take a little time to say a prayer for Chris, his family and all of our veterans. They are still out there. They are still fighting and we cannot ever forget them.

Want to help honor Chris Kyle and all of our veterans?  Here are some ideas.

  1. Go sign up at a local United Services Organization (USO).
  2. Find out of there is a local veterans hospital in your area and see if you can visit.
  3.  Have your children or students make cards thanking soldiers for their service. Look for events honoring veterans and attend and participate in them.
  4. Fly your American flag high each and every day.
  5. Get a green light for your porch and shine it all the time.  A green light signals your support for our troops.     www.greenlightavet.com
  6. Write to your state senators and demand better treatment for our veterans at VA hospitals.

 

John 15:13  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.