Monday, September 5, 2016

Zen Places

As teachers, we are very busy people and our jobs can be just as stressful as they are awesome.  This past week was the end of week 4 of a very hectic school year.  I left school last Thursday tired and with many frustrations.  I was having a hard time seeing past the day, but luckily it was a long weekend with a trip planned to one of my favorite places.   I call these places my Zen places.  These are places where I can calm down, completely relax and let go, and inevitably end up in a positive place of reflection.  I have 3 of these places, and I visit them all at least once a year. 

1. St. Simon’s Island, GA

I am a lover of beaches in general, but this beach/beach town is definitely my favorite.  It is a small little town lined with Mangrove trees and such a laid back way of life.  There are lots of unique little shops and eateries with fresh seafood and local flair.  We always stay at a relaxing resort in a pool-side suite (totally spoil ourselves once a year).  The patio in the pool and lounge area overlooks the ocean and beach.  I love the incredible sunrises and sunsets there, and I ended up taking a lot of Oceanside snoozes on the veranda this year.  So peaceful, so calming, and I was totally able to re-energize.

2.  My Best Friend’s Condo in Minneapolis

I lived in Minneapolis for 16 years after high school, and I love this city!  I still go back at least once a year.  Although I was not able to be in Minneapolis in July for TMC16 because of surgery, I was able to make it up for Sara VDW’s professional development during an annual visit in June.  I am also planning a trip for November again.   Because I ended up as a suburbanite in Atlanta, I miss all the biking and cool eclectic shops, dining, lakes, and theaters that are so accessible in Minneapolis.  Every time I am there, I stay at my best friend’s condo in Uptown, which always calms me the minute I walk through the door.  She is the most artistic and creative I have ever known, and her condo is a reflection of her in every corner- from the colors on the walls, the cool pieces of furniture, to the many plants and wind chimes lining her balcony.   A picture of that balcony is shown below.  Notice the wooden bird wind chime – she bought that while she was staying with me last year in Atlanta.  We had taken a weekend trip to Helen, GA- a German-themed tourist town in the mountains of North Georgia.  I love that she has that one up there because it is perfect for a balcony in Uptown Minneapolis, and an icon of a memorable weekend!

3.  Battery Park Book Exchange:  Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville, NC is an awesome mixture of Uptown Minneapolis and Southern Culture for me.  It is like having an uptown in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains.  The views are gorgeous, the streets are full of life, cool little shops, often live music, and street chess.   My favorite place here, and maybe in the whole world, is the Battery Park Book Exchange.  This place is a combination of used books for sale, coffee bar, and wine bar.  I mean, who could ask for anything else???  It is two stories with room after room and nook after nook of books and comfy couches to sit and read the books and drink coffee. The ambiance of beautiful dark woods and warm painted walls is so relaxing.   I can and do spend hours and way too much money here, but the level of happiness I reach in the 4 walls of this place is hard to beat.  Pictures below are of the inside of the Battery Park Book Exchange I pulled from the internet.

I left school 4 days ago with an electronic grade book that I am locked out of after only being cleared to put in grades during week 4 of school, a frustrating co-teaching situation, and many other loose ends untied.  I am now back from a weekend in Zen Place #1, and I am ready to go back and try new things again this week and see the kids again.  I was able to re-connect back to some of my favorite things I learned over the summer and use in my classroom that I had put into a collage to wear on the back of  a school name tag that I made for my lanyard.  Both of these I made weeks ago, but lost track of waiting for a new laminater and being swept away the first weeks of school.  Tonight I made it a point to crop, print, and laminate them so they are close by to keep me going during times of stress without a Zen place to be in.

One last reflection I made this weekend was that getting last Friday off for my Zen place was not easy to do, but I fought for it because I knew I would need it.  In reflection of this over the weekend, I remembered my former principal at my last school.  He was a leader who believed in balance for students and for teachers.  He never questioned time we requested off if we had the appropriate amount of time allotted for it.  He treated us like the hard-working professionals that we were and knew that we put the time we were asking for off and so much more back into our jobs.  I never realized just how valuable that was until this year.  I mean, I never thought he didn’t care or appreciate us, but I did not understand how much.  I wish I would have thanked him for this, but I am sure I will see him again at some point and do just that!

Teacher friends, never forget to re-visit your Zen places, particularly during the school year if you can, so you can take advantage of the energy it can give you back.  We give so much of our lives to our students and our families and stretch ourselves so thin that it is hard to remember our happiness counts to0 and must be nourished and revitalized from time to time.  Take your time off when you need it – fight for it tooth and nail if you have to –it is so worth it.  Get to your Zen place and let it revive you!!!

Step one:  Stop and identify your Zen places!!!

Step two:  Blog about them and post pictures - so fun!!!

I would love to hear other people’s favorite places to rejuvenate – what are yours?  

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