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Rappin’ History Teacher

Rapping the Do Now to the Class
As an educator, it is important to engage the learner. What better way to do this than to use original lyrics, music, and humor in the classroom.
Do Now Rap Version: 
As you enter Ms. G’s zone, put away any phones. I’m not here to shout, just take your homework. Take a seat and rock to this funky, funky beat.
Ms G’s on the mic, rocking for her classes. Yeah that’s right. A site. Now check out the board. I’m not here to be ignore. The mic is my sword.
Kicking knowledge in your ear, like a Q-tip but on the smooth tip. My beat won’t sleep. You hear.
Opening your minds to history and law. Don’t drop your jaws, let learning be your saw, tools you’ll never lose unless you choose. Be easy, Jeezy. Yeah, read the board, copy the SWBAT. Don’t be a brat.
Take off any hats. Remember follow the directions. I hope you get the connection. Copy the board, write down the SWBAT.
Let learning be your sword. Everything you need is right there on the board. Do the do do the do do the do do now. You hear me now.
Real Talk

 


How to Conquer Your Pencil

Author: Samantha Thuesen

We all get trapped in the humdrum of life from time to time, which is why it’s crucial for us to indulge in our creativity, but what happens when we can’t get those juices flowing? Katherine Brooks from HuffPost wrote an article called “19 Daily Habits Of Artists That Can Help Unlock Your Creativity.” These habits come from a range of artists: painters, illustrators, designers, photographers. Majoring in creative writing, I feel that these routines can also apply those struggling with writer’s block. Therefore, I’d like to translate a few of these habits to apply to writers, as well as provide some of my own techniques.

(Although writers are also considered artists, I’ll keep the terms “writer” and “artist” separate for clarity purposes.)

Let go of your idea of “perfect.”

“I do have to step back, take a breather, and realize that it is just a project and not the end of the world if it’s not perfect.” –Brooklyn-based illustrator and lettering master Mary Kate McDevitt

This is the first habit listed in Katherine’s article, and I can relate heavily. I tend to be a perfectionist when it comes to my fictional writing; I know exactly what I want it to be, but of course that’s not going to come out on the first try, so I struggle to finish. Great writing does not come right away. It takes months, sometimes years, to go through enough drafts until you’re satisfied with the final product. Let’s say you’re writing something that’s not fiction or something that shouldn’t be a long-term project­—the same applies. It may take hours or days. In either scenario, all you have to do is start somewhere. My Mom always tells me, “Write something, and then you can fix it later.” Mom is never wrong.

Allow yourself to have fun. 

“It is when I find myself playing more than trying that I find my way out of a block.” –New Hampshire-based artist and teacher Aris Moore

This is the second habit on Katherine’s list. One of my writing professors once told my class that your writing is better when written in your own voice. In other words, don’t try to be someone you’re not. In the long run, you’ll have more fun being yourself. It’s alright to be inspired by another author, but don’t mimic his or her style exactly. Multiple authors can be great in their own ways. I once read an anonymous quote that I think applies to this concept: “Flowers are pretty, but so are Christmas lights, and they look nothing alike.”

When in doubt, ask for help. 

“I could easily go around in endless circles with myself, questioning whether or not I’m on the right track with something. I just have to stop myself, and ask for help.” –Milwaukee-based artist Cassandra Smith

This is the tenth habit on Katherine’s list. One of my very close friends is an artist, and just the other day she asked me for help with the arrangement of flowers in one of her paintings. We spent hours discussing different arrangements, pairing each with some metaphorical meaning. Although she didn’t hesitate to ask my opinion, it made me think that sometimes it’s hard to ask for help because we feel that our work should remain our own. I’m afraid to show my unfinished work to others because I don’t want to be criticized, but that’s what needs to happen. This past year I wrote a short story for my school’s literary magazine, and I forced myself to show it to all my friends before submitting it. It was the best thing I could have done. I learned that asking for help does not mean someone else is writing the story for me, but rather I’m being given the opportunity to view my story from another perspective. Sometimes you know what you’re talking about, but your reader doesn’t, and the only way to stay clear of that is to ask for help.

Those were the three primary habits in Katherine’s article that stuck out to me. Now I’ll share my two habits that never fail to inspire my writing.

Write down every idea, no matter how ridiculous.

Three years ago, I started to write down everything in a journal: ideas, dreams, conversations. I read a story on David Sedaris and his writing process, where he talked about the notebook he carries around with him. An Open Culture article writes, “To the Missouri Review Sedaris described himself as less funny than observant, adding that ‘everybody’s got an eye for something. The only difference is that I carry around a notebook in my front pocket. I write everything down, and it helps me recall things,’ especially for later inclusion in his diary.” This inspired me to carry around my own notebook, and it’s helped my writing substantially. I’ve learned from Sedaris, as well as my writing professors, that it’s okay to take things from your life—conversations and people—because writers are never completely original. You are who you are because of where you grew up and who surrounds you. Therefore, it’s only natural that your writing derives from your life.

Make your characters come alive.

I recently read an Ernest Hemingway quote that really spoke to me: “When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.” This goes back to taking ideas from your everyday life. I have a habit of basing characters off people I know because it makes them more believable. A professor once told my class that he likes to sit in the park and write down conversations he overhears. They’re raw. They’re real. When I’m walking around the store I like to observe what’s going on around me: an older couple complaining about the process of ordering shoes online, a man wearing a Mickey Mouse sweater buying at least ten pillows. It’s kind of creepy, I’ll agree, but observing people is the first step in accurately writing about them. I’ve never seen it, nor can I find it at the moment, but I’ve heard there’s a website you can visit to find out your character’s favorite toast. It’s silly, but it’s an important concept. In order to create people, and not characters, you have to give them likes and dislikes, no matter how miniscule. You never have to write about those likes and dislikes, but they will help you create a real person.

I am far from being a professional writer, so my advice and commentary is not perfect; I have a lot to learn and a lot of mistakes to make. I hope that by following my own advice, I can eventually perfect it. If you’re struggling with writer’s block, try some of these techniques, and read the rest of Katherine’s article to find more inspiration. All you have to do is start somewhere. Write something down, even if it’s a bunch of gibberish. Diamonds are even ugly before they’re cut and polished.

Real Talk

Best Friend Care Package

Author: Samantha Thuesen

It’s important to remind our loved ones how much they mean to us, especially when we don’t see them every day. After saying “I love you,” it’s nice to do something a little extra, whether it be surprising them with flowers, bringing them to dinner, or sending them a care package.

One of my closest friends is away at school completing a summer course, and I won’t be able to see her for two months. She’s on a pre-med track, so you can imagine how stressful her classes are. I thought she could use a little reminder of how much I appreciate her, and what better way than with a care package? A best friend care package.

Putting a good care package together is no simple task; you need to plan. How big should the box be? Should I decorate it? Will there be a theme? These are all important questions that I didn’t ask myself ahead of time. In my defense, I’ve never put a care package together before, but I did learn a few things throughout the process. First, find a box. This will help you determine how many items you can fit inside. I ended up buying all the items first, then scavenging the house to find the right-sized box. If you want to choose a theme, go ahead! I’ve seen people decorate boxes with a certain color, then fill it with items of that same color. For instance, Happy Go Lucky created a “Box of Sunshine.” I chose a simpler route: pink paper and butterfly stickers.

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Next, make a list before you go shopping. I didn’t make a list, but I knew I wanted to fulfill three categories: food, health and beauty, and love. Food is a college student’s best friend, especially snack food, but it’s important to stay healthy. I chose veggie chips, yogurt covered raisins, and of course some dark chocolate. Studies show that dark chocolate helps with studying, and that sounds like enough reason for me.

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Health and beauty comes next. College students need to remember to take care of themselves in between classes and studying. What better way to relax with your snacks than with a nice face mask? Or three.

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Finally, most importantly, comes love. Food will be eaten and masks will be washed away, but love always stays. Originally, I had planned to get a cute stuffed animal, but while walking through the store I came across something even better: Disney pillows. My friend loves Disney, and I had the choice between Genie, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Cinderella, and Ariel. I’m not very good at being sneaky, so I just texted her the characters and asked which one she preferred. She answered Genie, but thankfully assumed I was just taking a Buzzfeed quiz, so no questions were asked. The best part about her picking Genie was that I could attach a little note to him.

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I was walking out of the store, ready to make my purchases, when I came across something I knew I had to get. I was in the book isle, and sitting on a lone shelf was a Golden Girls coloring book. If there’s something my friend loves more than Disney, it’s The Golden Girls.

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Now, not only can she put on a face mask, enjoy some veggie chips, and lean back on her plush Genie pillow, but now she can do it all while coloring some Golden Girls. Perfect. Mission success.

After packing everything into the box at home, I topped it off with a card. And what better than a kitten card? Write whatever you want in your card, if you choose to include one. I wrote a funny poem and a personal note.

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And here’s the final product. Add some wrapping and decorations if you’d like. I wrapped the pillow and coloring book in tissue paper and tossed some pieces of curled ribbon in there.

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All that’s left to do now is send it on its way and hope the chocolate doesn’t melt. Obviously, this care package won’t be for everyone, but I hope it can give you some ideas! Food, health and beauty, and love work for everyone, not just college students. Amy Allender has a great list of care package ideas if you need inspiration! As long as you show your love, in any form, you’re doing it right.

Real Talk

How to Overcome Negative Occurrences

In life, we face many trying times that test our personality. These “bumps in the road” can include situations such as: being laid off from your job, being diagnosed with a chronic illness, or even realizing you are unhappy with where you are in life. When we stand head on with adversity, it is our decision how we deal with it. Some of us may feel that there is no hope of getting better or no chance of improving the situation, but when there is bad, there is always good too. Though it’s easy to act in haste and become consumed by the situation, it is important to stay grounded and stay positive. How can we do this, you ask?
 

When you feel like you are facing a setback, remember to breathe.
Breathing gives us a moment to assess the situation. It gives us a chance to catch up with ourselves. Breathe in, breathe out. Do not allow the situation to consume you. Although it seems like there’s no hope, there is always a silver lining. Inhale the positive and exhale the negative.

Once you’ve calmed down, understand that you’re not alone.
Understanding the situation also brings you closer to accepting the hand you have been dealt. This may take minutes, hours, days, or even years to come to terms with the situation and that’s fine. We are human. It is a part of life to struggle and be thrown at awful situations. It’s how we become stronger. Remind yourself that many people have once found themselves in the same place as you and were able to continue on. If they can find strength, remember, you are just as strong and you can too.

Research what you can do to better your situation.
After accepting the negative occurrence, I hope that there is a burning desire within you to make your situation better. Whether it may be trying the newest medication or changing careers, it’s always important to consider all possibilities and outcomes. As you seek additional information, it may also help to reach out to those who have been in the same situation as you. These people will not only provide you with their experiences, but could offer support and friendship as well.

Once you’ve gathered your information, make the change.
Regardless of what you may think, there is always a way to turn a negative happenstance into a positive experience. It may seem like a daunting task at first, but once you begin to do something about the problem, the less upset and helpless you will feel. More often than not, the first move transitioning between the different stages in life is the hardest part. It will feel uneasy at times and perhaps a little challenging but know that every step makes you closer to your goal.
 

We all know how easy it is to be caught up in problems that seem larger than us. It’s human. It is fine to feel upset, but always remind yourself that it is what it is. You control your outlook and you control what you choose to make of this. Do not allow the negativity of an illness or a situation to be a part of you. Never allow it to consume you. Don’t like how things are going? If you can, change the situation. You will survive, you will succeed, and you will be stronger at the end of this.

 

 

Thoughts on Inspiration

Author: Samantha Thuesen

Inspirational quotes help to guide us through life. There’s essentially a quote for every situation and emotion: loss, happiness, confusion, love. It’s comforting to know that someone else has at one point felt the same as you. I was curious to see what some of the most popular inspirational quotes are so I could evaluate my own personal growth as well as provide additional thoughts.

Here are the “Top Ten Inspirational Quotes,” provided by BrainyQuote.

“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.” –H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

When I read this quote, I think about procrastination. Personally, I always leave things until the last minute, a habit I’m trying to break. That’s more of a literal interpretation. I also like to see this quote as a motivation to change. We all want to change something about ourselves for the better. If we want to be more generous, the best way is to be kind today.

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” –Joseph Campbell

It’s difficult to not plan your life out in your head. We all aspire, and we’re all worried about achieving our goals. Something I’ve been trying to do more of lately is follow life rather than lead it. Of course, it’s necessary to lead your life at times – to be a good person and to make decisions – but sometimes you must be a follower. Whether it’s finding a relationship or being unsure about a career path, it’s alright to see where life takes you.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” –Helen Keller

This is a beautifully constructed statement we can all learn from every day. Helen Keller, being blind and deaf, knew what beautiful was just through touch. In the end, love is what matters, not possessions, money, or your job. In the craziness of your busy life, don’t forget to pause and look around for love.

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” –Jimmy Dean

This is one of my favorites because I love metaphors, especially ones about the ocean. For me, it simplifies conflict. On a boat, (for someone who knows how to sail at least) it’d be common sense to adjust your sails, and to do it immediately (I don’t sail, so I could be wrong). We should treat our problems like this, too. Adjust to the change. Don’t let your ship sink.

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” –Jim Rohn

Like Helen Keller’s quote, this can be applied to your life every day. We’re designed to be happy, so if something is hindering that for you, you need to reevaluate. I will say, however, that I believe in some situations things need to get worse before they get better. As long as you know you’re going to come out of something happier than you were before, you’re doing just fine.

“Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” –Swami Sivananda

I’d say this is a difficult concept to fulfill. We’re not going to love everything we do, but it is true that success comes from hard work, and that work is not always going to be enjoyable. We need to remind ourselves regularly that everything we do is for our future. A teacher once told me something that continues to stick with me. I’ll alter it slightly to avoid profanity: don’t put your name on garbage. You’re representing yourself with everything you do, so do something to make yourself and others proud. Make a good impression.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” –Steve Jobs

I think this quote says everything to the point. It’s been said many different ways, but “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” –Marc Anthony. It’s easier said than done of course, but as long as you’re determined to “keep looking,” there’s no way you’ll fail.

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” –Maya Angelou

Breathing is different than living. It’s important to survive, but it’s more important to be happy, and that means being good to people, laughing, and feeling confident.

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” –Kevyn Aucoin

This is another one of my favorites. Being happy is important, but it’s not the only thing. We’re human, and we’re going to feel a plethora of emotions in our lifetime. “Every morning when [we] wake up [we] can choose joy, happiness, negativity, [or] pain,” but why not choose all of them? It’s what makes us human; it’s how we learn and grow. Embrace all your emotions, all your experiences, and you’ll feel whole.

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” –Rabindranath Tagore

Another metaphor! Automatically I’m in love. It brings such comfort to compare ourselves to nature. The sky is always so beautiful, whether it’s clear or cloudy, light or dark, pink or blue. Our lives can carry that same principle; we just need a new perspective.

Find your own form of inspiration through these quotes; maybe they mean something different for you. We motivate each other through our experiences, so share knowledge, and we can all succeed.

Real Talk

5 Things Chronic Illness Taught Me as a Sister

Growing up with two siblings and family members with chronic illnesses has had its highs and lows. We’ve overcome many obstacles, appointments, surgeries, and therapies together. Regardless of the hardships we have all gone through, we have only made each other stronger. It has taken me over two decades to understand how to be the best sister, cousin, and friend of someone living with a chronic disease. Here are a few lessons that I have learned over the years.

Be Patient.
Patience is an essential part of being empathetic. The more patient you are, the calmer they will feel. When they understand that you have an extra five-minutes to spare, it can reduce unnecessary stress and possible accidents.

Never Assume.
It is in our human nature to be curious, but it is in our best interest to ask questions. Assuming that someone has a medical condition is never tasteful. If curiosity gets the best of you, open the doors for communication. Take time to listen.

Educate Others.
Most people dislike when they are being stared at or being spoken about. When you sense that someone is staring at another person or making a negative comment, remember that it never hurts to speak up. I have always enjoyed sharing the conditions of my loved ones with others so they have a chance to become more understanding and more empathetic to their situation. By educating others of one’s chronic illness, not only do we reduce ignorance, but we also raise awareness.

Support Them.
One of the worst things in life is feeling alone. Even though we came into this world alone does not mean we can function without support from loved ones. Support is necessary in coping and healing when suffering from a chronic illness. Anything from taking them to their appointment or cheering them on at the Special Olympics, support is always welcomed.

Be Kind.
The simple things do matter. Inform the restaurant you are going to of their dietary restrictions, watch their favorite movie with them, or grab them something at the store just because you thought of them. Those living with a chronic illness do not need added negativity or burdens in their life. Regardless of how your day is going, try your best to surround them with respect, love, and consideration. In turn, your kind demeanor will only reflect you in a positive way.

Just a reminder:
These tips can and should be employed in everyday life. Not only should you treat people with chronic illnesses this way, but you should also treat everyone with the utmost kindness and respect on a daily basis.

#BSRealTalk

Thank You, Stranger

Author: Samantha Thuesen

A stranger’s kindness has always been a sure-fire way to make my day 100 times better. Being nice to a complete stranger shows selflessness and sincerity. After all, strangers don’t owe us anything; going out of your way for someone you don’t know proves how honestly good-hearted you are. If I saw a woman struggling to put groceries in her car, I could just walk past her. She wouldn’t judge me. However, it’s the instinct we all possess to be good that would compel me to help her. We’re all good, but we must take the initiative to openly explore that goodness. I’ve experienced this compassion before, so I want to take the time to thank strangers who have gone out of their way to show me kindness.

Dear Stranger,

You’re an employee at the pharmacy. I was wandering around the store waiting for my mom to finish her shopping. To pass the time, I stopped to smell some candles. You walked out of the backroom, smiled at me, and asked about my day. It was a quick, polite encounter. You walked off, but then stopped and came back to whisper something to me. “There’s some free scents in the front of the store. If you hurry, you can grab one.” You could’ve walked right by me, and I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. You knew that free scents would make me happy, so thank you.

Dear Stranger,

You’re a shopper in line at the grocery store. You had a cart full of items, and I came onto line with just one. I didn’t mind waiting, but you insisted I go before you. Neither of us was in a rush, and you still prioritized my time over your own. Thank you.

Dear Stranger,

You’re a doctor at the hospital. My mom and I were waiting in the emergency room for my dad. You started a conversation with us to lighten the mood, and I mentioned how much I hate parallel parking. Pausing what you were doing, you grabbed a napkin and a pen and came to sit next to me. You drew a diagram showing the easiest way to parallel park, and ensured me it would work every time. Not only did you give me a valuable life skill, but you also took some pain away from the situation. Thank you.

Dear Stranger,

You’re a shopper in line at the store. It was Christmas time, and my brother and I were shopping for our parents. Being such a hectic time of year, I didn’t expect any positivity from anyone, but you turned and offered us your extra coupon. You didn’t owe us anything, so thank you.

Dear Stranger,

You’re a waitress. My family and I were having lunch on Mother’s Day with some relatives. At the end of the meal, you came out to hand roses to all the mothers. I joked to my dad how I wanted a rose. (I am a mother to my dogs, technically.) You overheard and gave me one anyway. It was silly, but it meant something. Thank you.

Dear Stranger,

You’re a shopper in the parking lot. My mom and I pulled in, looking for a spot. You saw us and directed us to an empty spot near the front of the store that was out of our view. Your kindness amazed me. It wouldn’t have been a big deal to park farther away, but you still went out of your way to make life a little easier for us. Thank you.

Dear Stranger,

You’re a security guard. I was getting some M&M’s from the vending machine, but they got stuck (of course). I was doing my best to gently shake the machine without causing a scene. You were doing rounds around the building when you came over to see what was going on. I just laughed, expecting a shrug. However, you looked around (for security cameras I’m assuming) and started shaking the machine until my M&M’s were freed. You’re fantastic. Thank you.

Not only did these strangers make those days better, but they also inspired me to perform my own acts of kindness. Compassion is free. Imagine how beautiful the world would be if we all took one moment to brighten someone’s day.

“Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” –Anne Herbert

Real Talk

Find Success: Reverse Poetry

Find Success

By Samantha Thuesen

You will fail.

And I cannot imagine that

you will amount to something.

We all believe

Everything happens for a reason.

But that’s not true.

Failure is inevitable.

You will find that

Success

is better than

Happiness

Life will teach you that

You are alone.

You should never think that

You have a purpose.

Everyone is against you.

It’s silly to think that

You have a future.

Now read it backwards.

Reverse poetry can be read forward and backward, both ways having a different meaning. Here’s another reverse poem called “Lost Generation,” which inspired the above poem I wrote.

Lost Generation

By Jonathan Reed

I am part of a lost generation

and I refuse to believe that

I can change the world

I realize this may be a shock but

“Happiness comes from within.”

is a lie, and

“Money will make me happy.”

So in 30 years I will tell my children

they are not the most important thing in my life

My employer will know that

I have my priorities straight because

work

is more important than

family

I tell you this

Once upon a time

Families stayed together

but this will not be true in my era

This is a quick fix society

Experts tell me

30 years from now, I will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of my divorce

I do not concede that

I will live in a country of my own making

In the future

Environmental destruction will be the norm

No longer can it be said that

My peers and I care about this earth

It will be evident that

My generation is apathetic and lethargic

It is foolish to presume that

There is hope.

And all of this will come true unless we choose to reverse it.

When I was introduced to this kind of poetry, I was immediately captivated. Not only does it encompass two meanings, but it also requires very specific language; the words need to work together to be both positive and negative. This only enhances the beauty of reverse poetry: you need to take the good with the bad.

“Lost Generation” taken from: www.scientistsfortomorrow.org

Real Talk

Forgetting the Illness

A few weeks ago, I had a phone conversation where I was asked if I know of anyone living with a chronic illness. I thought about it for a few seconds, checked people off in my head, and replied with a no. During that exchange, my brother came off of his mini-bus from school. I made the universal signal of “be quiet” to him as he walked up stairs. A few minutes later we were able to have the same verbatim chat as we do every day.

“Hi Sarah.”
“Hi John.”
“Did you have a great day Sarah?”
“Yup, did you?”
“Yeah.”
“What’d you have for lunch today John?”
*Insert hot lunch of the day here*
“That sounds good!”

That weekend I accompanied my brother, John to his appointment in NYU Langone’s Laser and Skin Surgery Center of New York. While seated in the waiting room, I scrolled across a photo of my sister participating in this year’s Spartan Race. Our conversation over dinner one weekend popped in my head when she said, “I should write ‘MS Warrior’ across my stomach for the race.” One of my eyebrows lifted and a wave of realization came upon me. I remembered that the two people who I am closest to are living with a chronic illness.

I sat still for a moment and questioned why I hadn’t said anything when I was asked if I knew anyone with a chronic illness. I know that it wasn’t because I was ashamed of them; I love telling people about my brother and sister. In fact, I could spend all day talking about them. I ended up assuming that I didn’t mention them because I’ve really almost forgot. I have grown to see beyond their chronic illnesses. The waiting room that I was sitting in was just that. Another room in our routine of hospital visits for John. I grew up going to Yale New Haven Hospital and New York University Hospital just like my younger brother did, but in a different way.

Never in my life had I classified either of my siblings as a person with a “chronic illness.” Although my brother has a port wine stain on the left half of his face, I’ve grown to see past it. As for my sister, she looks strong and healthy, making others assume that she’s medically sound. When in fact, she was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis while my brother was born with glaucoma and Sturge Weber Syndrome. When I picture them, it’s not their illness that I see; I see them as John and Marie – just as they always were.

I believe that occurrence was a reminder for me to be more empathetic and understanding, not only with my siblings, but to others as well. It’s easy for us to get stuck in our own thoughts and actions where we can sometimes forget about the ailments that our loved ones face each day. As family member of two siblings who are chronically ill, I believe I should ask more often, “How are you actually doing?” Like, “How does your body feel?” “How is your heart, your soul?” Just because people look fine from a glance does not always mean that’s the case. It important to remember that not all chronic illnesses are visible, which is why we must treat each person with kindness. We never know what obstacles others must face on a day-to-day basis.

5 Ways to Stay Positive

By Maia Gromadowski

When living with a chronic illness, it can be very hard to stay positive. We may find ourselves focusing on only the worst outcome, instead of the good ones. While living with a chronic illness, it can be hard to stay focused on the great things in life if an illness is constantly bringing you down. So here are five ways to stay positive while living with a chronic illness:

  1. Accepting Reality

Everyone, whether living with a chronic illness or not, tends to waste a good amount of time-fighting what is real instead of taking a moment to accept reality. When we fight reality, especially a chronic illness, life can grow to be very hard and depressing. If those with a chronic illness slowly learn to accept and work with their reality, the easier it will be to live a smooth and happy life!

  1. Focusing on the Good Days

Even though an individual may be chronically ill, their pain levels will very day to day. One day, you may not be able to get out of bed, and then another day you may find yourself feeling good enough to go on walks or clean the house. When the bad days decide to sneak up on you, just remember that they are not permanent. There will be bad days and good days. Same goes for those who do not live their lives with a chronic illness. When the good days come and go, we need to remember them and focus on them. Because without those good days, it may be hard to stay positive and hopeful!

  1. Keep on Moving Forward

As goes for everyone, life will knock us down, but it is up to us to keep our heads up and keep moving forward. Sometimes our forward steps may not be that large, but as long as we keep on trying, and aim for the right direction, it will give us a better state of mind and positive energy! When we feel that we are moving backward, just keep looking in the direction you want to go in and keep moving forward.

  1. Focus on the Positive

Sometimes we need to realize that we cannot control everything that goes on around us. We can’t control what other people say or how they act. When we are given negative looks for using a disability aid, we cannot control that. But what we can do is control our response. When choosing to use positivity as a response, we can control the flow of the situation. When responding with positivity, you learn to not let the negative energy bring you down. You simply block out the negativity and stay focused on the positive!

  1. Find Joy in the Small Things

Whether it is watching children play, eating chocolate cake, going on a walk in a park, take the time to appreciate the small things that make you happy and make life worth living for. Our society today has grown to be so fast paced, that many individuals begin to forget to enjoy the small things that can make us very happy. We have little happy moments all around us, it is just up to us to see them and enjoy them!

10 Ways to Be Happier

Author: Samantha Thuesen

Happiness is our ultimate goal. We strive to land a dream career, start a family, or make a change in the world. These things don’t happen immediately, and therefore it can be challenging at times to maintain a confident, hopeful attitude. Although we’re not going to be happy all the time, there’s still simple ways to make positivity present every day. So, while you’re out there working to achieve your dreams, keep these ten things in mind to help make the journey a happier one.

1. Write down good memories. Whether it’s a funny conversation you had with a friend or something a stranger did that made you smile, write it down in a journal so you can remember it later; it’s therapeutic to reflect on your past, and it can be really funny. When I worked in retail, I wrote down multiple conversations between myself and customers; they range from very pleasant to not so pleasant. Nevertheless, I love going back and reading them because they never fail to make me laugh, and they make for great stories. Things that make you smile in the present will make you smile in the future.

2. Fill your house with plants. Bring life into your home; it will make a noticeable difference in the atmosphere. It’s also good to have a routine or chore to look forward to every day. You may find it relaxing to start your day with watering plants. Buy a watering can that expresses your personality, whether it’s yellow and vintage or pink and shaped like an elephant. Choose your favorite plants. Maybe you want a bouquet of flowers to sit on your kitchen counter, or a cactus garden to sit on your windowsill.

3. Go on solo adventures. It can be very peaceful to spend time with yourself; it gives you an opportunity to explore your thoughts. A solo adventure can be anything from sitting on your porch with a cup of tea to taking a trip to the city. Being alone doesn’t make you lonely, rather it gives you the chance to pay attention to things you put aside when spending time with others; you can figure out what really makes you happy. While spending time with friends, you may enjoy their company over the activity. For instance, I often go mini golfing with friends. I hate mini golfing, but I love the company. While alone, you can hone in on your interests.

4. Read. Books allow you to escape your everyday life for a little while. Find a genre you really like and lose yourself. Books are great conversation starters. You can bond with friends or strangers over your favorite books. Not only are they enjoyable, but they also expand your vocabulary and provide you with life lessons. Sometimes it’s easier for us to deal with situations if we can compare it to someone else, even if that someone else is fictional.

5. Have meaningful conversations with friends and family. Human connection is strengthening. Sharing thoughts and feelings with another person is healthy for both you and the relationship. It’s dangerous to keep feelings locked away; you don’t have all the answers to your problems, and you need to confide in other people. You don’t even have to talk exclusively about personal problems. Talk about the meaning of life or why the sky is blue. Knowing another person on a deeper intellectual level is a great thing.

6. Wake up early. Giving yourself enough time to complete your daily tasks will greatly reduce your stress. Start your day with a nice cup of coffee or tea and watch the sunrise, read a few chapters of a book, or even go for a morning run. Getting into a daily morning routine will stabilize your life. You’re not going to be happy if you wake up late and have to rush every morning, so try going to bed at a reasonable time and you will start each day feeling refreshed. If it’s difficult to go to bed at a reasonable time, trying ending your day with relaxing activities, but stay away from technology.

7. Perform a random act of kindness. Being selfless is a good form of being selfish because it makes everybody feel good. Knowing that you made a stranger’s day better will automatically make your day better. I once volunteered for a Midnight Run, which consists of a group of people driving to New York City at night to give food, supplies, and clothing to the homeless. It was so rewarding to have conversations with strangers and learn more about their lives. If there are any charities near you, go check them out. Play your part in making the world a better place.

8. Keep music playing in your house. Music defines the mood you want your house to set. For instance, classical music is calming. Look for upbeat music to make the atmosphere lively. Singing along to your favorite song while you’re cooking or doing chores is bound to put you in a good mood. It also makes your home more welcoming. If a friend comes over to chat and hang out have music play in the background at a low volume, and it will make for a relaxing environment, like a coffee shop.

9. Reward yourself. It’s alright to splurge on yourself occasionally. You deserve it! If you completed a task for the month, go buy a pair of shoes you liked in the store or a painting you thought would brighten your hallway. If you got a raise at work, go celebrate with some friends or family. We should celebrate our successes because it will make us all more confident and motivated to keep going farther and farther in life.

10. Start a hobby. Hobbies allow you to explore your interests and find pleasure in your free time. It’s good to have something to look forward to after work that isn’t just sitting on the couch. Your hobby can be anything: gardening, coloring, painting, crocheting, scrapbooking, or cooking. Doing these activities in your free time will also make you feel more productive; we often feel that we’ve wasted our time if we sit around doing nothing. Invest your time in pure enjoyment, and you will be happier.

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