30 Years Ago…

By Shannon Boatwright

“In one year, 1990 will be 30 years ago.”

Let that thought settle…

If you’re my age, a child of the 70s (or older), really thinking about this fact will make you speechless. I still think of my Mama as being in her 30s, and I’m still in my 20s, and my sisters are still preteens. When I think 30 years ago, I think of it being the late 60s, maybe 1970.

I mean, come on! How does life go by so fast?!

In 1990, I was a freshman in high school. I teach middle school now, and these adolescents I teach think that the 90s were the ancient days way before they were ever born. Mention the 70s to those kids and they look at you like you’re crazy – to them the 1970s are prehistoric.

When I saw this quote:

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it certainly hit me hard, and it hit me during a time when aging had started to really hit me and my comrades of the 70s. My bestie and I had been texting commiserating about how suddenly hormones and age are creating weight gain and a whole host of problems for us, and it’s more frustrating than words could ever express. In the real world for hard working, incredibly busy people, it’s a huge endeavor to be healthy and fit. Huge.

At times, it’s mind blowing, totally disturbing, and flat out ridiculous the things that happen to your body as you get older: things that you never had to worry about when you were younger. You have kids, yet you still feel like a kid in your own mind, but your body is taking you on a roller coaster ride of ailments. It’s just NOT FAIR. And yes, I say that as I stomp my feet like a toddler.

My parents and I were having a discussion with my kids the other night about the first time we ever used the internet. I was a junior in college the first time I ever sent an email! Can you believe I survived the main bulk of my education career without the internet?! I mean, to today’s generation, that is unfathomable. All the information they could ever desire to gain is right at their fingertips. I went to the library.

UGH….ARGH… and…

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Ok, let me be perfectly clear, there are parts of getting older that I truly love:

The wisdom that comes with experience, the positive realizations that come with knowing better, the joy of personal growth, accepting yourself, the recognition of who you are and who you want to be, the beauty of becoming, time allowing you to find yourself and what truly makes you happy, and an appreciation for the people and things around you.

BUT, on the flip side, let me be perfectly clear:

Physically getting older SUCKS.  It’s scary. It’s ridiculous. It’s brutal.

No one ever thinks of themselves as being “old.” In our hearts and minds, we’re still youngins living it up and learning about the world.

Take a deep breath with me.

We can do this. Let’s choose to stay on top of life and not let it or its heavy all too quick turning of time weigh us down. We’ll relish the memories. We’ll laugh at the current youngins in their childlike glory & cluelessness.  We’ll embrace this life that we’re blessed to be living. And let’s choose to do it all with a declaration of acceptance, love, and joie de vivre – never letting go of our own childlike wonder. Instead of letting the idea of “30 years ago” scare the hell out of us, let’s smile at the craziness of life and let the memories fill our hearts.

Through the utter brutality of aging as the younger generations flaunt their innocence, idiocy, and tender youth, let’s stand tall, fight back, and make the most of this journey. As I like to say, let’s carpe diem ya’ll. We must seize the day and make our lives extraordinary, no matter how daggome old we get!

 

Our Lucky Collards

By Shannon Boatwright

img_1063It’s the new year, and we’re all eager to kick start our year with positive thoughts, wishes and goals of good health, abundant happiness, and financial security. One of my traditions is to cook a new year meal that “promotes” and “represents” all these things. Black eyed peas, collards, pork chops/ham, cornbread, and grapes are the staples for our good luck meal. My favorite is the collards. I always like to buy my collards from local farmers: they’re the best, the real deal, and even the most affordable.

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Over the years, family members and friends have taught me all sorts of tips and tricks to making the best collards ever. These tricks range from making sure to wash the collards 3 times (I wash mine 4 times and use some vinegar when I do the last two washes), to cutting the collards into the shape of dollar bills (I like to pretend mine are $100 bills), to putting chunks of ham in the collards as they cook.

I like to cook two batches. For one (my favorite), I just use chicken broth, good ole Lawry’s seasoning, fresh garlic cloves, salt, and pepper. This year we actually had some leftover ham, so I put some ham chunks in as they cooked to add to the flavor. The other batch I make super spicy, with pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic salt, and whatever our favorite hot sauce is at the time –whether it’s Sriracha hot sauce or Tapatio’s hot sauce.  The collards are always my favorite part of the meal because it’s something I typically end up cooking literally only once a year.

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This year I scored a total win with my parents. I actually got my Dad, who has always claimed to not care for any cooked greens, to try my collards. I had to do a little convincing, but he loves spicy things, and I think when he saw my spicy collards cooking, he couldn’t resist. Let’s just say, I got him to come around, and he officially admitted that he likes my collards! Plus, my Mama declared that my regular collards were the best she’d ever had!

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Though there has been a bit of a collards shortage this year due to the hurricanes and cold weather, you can still find some. And guess what, if you didn’t get your good luck new year meal in yet, it’s still January, so you’ve got time! I’d love to hear about any cool, good luck foods you and your family eat to bring in the new year, so do share!

Here’s to a new year full of wealth! Wealth in health, happiness, and money!

What’s On Your Bucket List?

By Shannon Boatwright

img_0946So every New Year’s Eve, I encourage…ok, sometimes I have to force, …my family to reflect. Every year it’s something my sweet Hubby and I do. He sometimes may think it’s a pain, but I know deep down he’s always glad I got him to do it. Most years we answer questions about our year – our triumphs, our trials, what we took pride in from the year and what major lessons we learned, our successes, our memorable moments of gratefulness, etc. We reflect, which in turn allows us to look forward to what we want to become and accomplish in the new year.  The experience helps us to establish personal and family goals for the new year. It’s very special to me and I believe very worthwhile to reflect and gain a sense of peace in letting the past year go and embracing the new year we’re blessed to enter.

So this year, I did my usual search online for some good questions to use for our reflecting, but I couldn’t get something out of my head. A few days after Christmas, my man and I happened to catch the movie, “The Bucket List,” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. We actually caught it at the start of the movie and were able to watch the whole thing together while getting small tasks done.  It’s definitely a favorite movie of mine – a favorite because it really makes you stop and think about your life. So when the time came for my ritual New Year’s Eve reflection questions, I couldn’t get the idea of a bucket list out of my head.

If you know me, you know that my mantra is Carpe Diem. As Robin Williams once pointed out in a little iconic movie called “Dead Poets Society,” life is short and one day, someday, any day, we could be fertilizing daffodils, so we should seize the day and make our lives extraordinary!  I preach this, yet I admit, I’m not always the greatest at living it.  Watching “The Bucket List”  and hearing Morgan Freeman’s character tell Jack Nicholson’s character of the two questions asked of the dead by the gods at the entrance to heaven, “Have you found joy in your life? Has your life brought joy to others?”, well, it really got me thinking.

img_0945So this year, in addition to answering our New Year’s Eve reflection questions, I couldn’t resist the pressing urge to create my bucket list.  After the clock struck midnight on December 31st, 2018, my Hubby and I created our bucket lists, with the idea in mind – imagine we had 3 to 6 months to live, what things would we want to experience and accomplish before we die? It was certainly interesting and eye opening to share with each other the things on our lists. Most importantly, making yourself create a bucket list really gets you thinking.

Barbara Sher once said, “Whatever your dreams are, take them very, very seriously.” So I ask you, what are your dreams? What will you do to make them come true? What things would you want to experience and accomplish if you were given 6 months to live? Is it morbid to think like this? No. Life is short, if you don’t live it, truly live it, it will pass you by and you will certainly die with regrets.  Therefore, I encourage you to take the time to create your own bucket list. I’ll even offer a little extra help so that you can make it a heartfelt, meaningful bucket list. I came across this fabulous blog post by Sacha Strebe titled 12 Things That Arent on Your Bucket List – But Should Be. This is an excellent read that will surely help you really carpe that diem and make your life’s goals extraordinary.

Here’s to creating an amazing bucket list, checking things off of that list and living life to the fullest! Happy New Year!

“Becoming”

By Shannon Boatwright

Michelle Obama said it and said it really well when she was asked by Oprah why she named her book Becoming

41eRuKxPb3L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_ “Becoming just summed it up. A question that adults ask kids – I think it’s the worst question in the world – is “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As if growing up is finite. As if you become something and that is all there is. I don’t know what the next step will be. I tell young people that all the time. The truth is, for me, each decade has offered something amazing that I would have missed out on so much. So I’m still becoming, and this is the story of my journey.”

This is taken from Oprah’s magazine, the December 2018, Volume 19, Number 12 Edition.

I enjoyed reading this article so much. So much because I could relate to her whole point of “becoming”.  As individuals, we’re always learning, growing, experiencing, gaining new interests and passions – becoming a different and hopefully better version of ourselves as time goes by.

It’s wild…I certainly never thought I’d relate to a first lady, but the truth is, being a teacher right now at this point in my life’s journey, I catch myself saying to every class I teach, “I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! And that’s ok.”

As a Drama teacher, an exploratory teacher, I teach well over 100 students every day, every 9 weeks. With each new class, I have them fill out a questionnaire that is all about them and their favorites, along with a few extra questions, including, what do you want to be when you grow up. It’s my special way of getting to know each student and hopefully find an opportunity to relate to them on some level and connect them to each other via their favorites and possible similarities.

BUT, I always make sure to make it very clear that their favorites will change – possibly from week to week or even day to day, as well as ‘what they want to be when they grow up’ will change and that is totally ok!

I always share my own stories as I attempt to connect with my students…

When I was in elementary school and a Brownie (similar to a Girl Scout), I was on the Mr. Knozit Show – our very own South Carolina, WIS TV show starring Joe Pinner. My Brownie troop went and I was lucky enough to actually get to talk to Mr. Knozit!  And guess what… he asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I immediately responded with excitement and pride, “I want to be a dancer!” He responded with, “Oh, like Fred Astaire!?” I looked at him like he was crazy and quickly responded with, “No, like Leroy, from Fame!” Very telling of the times – it was the early 80s after all. It was quite the comical moment looking back – I’ll never forget the look on his face as he looked confused and then quickly went on to the next kid.  A great sitcom moment actually. Anyways, at that point in my life, more than anything in the world, I wanted to be a dancer and if anyone asked me, that was always my response.

Until…I saw the 1986 movie, Space Camp.  Upon seeing that movie, my sights changed dramatically. More than anything, I wanted to be an astronaut! I was so inspired by that movie, it changed everything for me. I became so passionate and serious about wanting to be an astronaut when I grew up, that my parents saved up money and actually sent me to Space Academy in Huntsville, Alabama. It was the summer after 7th grade and I thought I was the coolest kid EVER. I was going to the real Space Camp and I was going to be an astronaut just like the characters in the movie.  So I get there, I’m totally enthralled and thought every aspect was out of this world super cool. I got to experience similar things that I saw in the movie. I was able to get into a contraption that simulated walking on the moon, simulate different missions into outer space, build rockets and…well, let’s just get right to the point and say that although it was a priceless experience I’ll never forget, after two weeks of hardcore space training, I discovered really quickly that I was not good at science and math. Definitely not my strong suits! I was good at making friends, collaborating and “pretending” to be a science and math wiz.  In fact, I was smart enough to pinpoint the really intelligent kids and make sure to partner with them so I could have a successful mission and do well! But by the end of that two weeks, I instantly knew that I no longer had any desire to be an astronaut. But I did know that I wanted to “act” like an astronaut. Now that was intriguing! THAT was something I could do. 😉 Yea, let’s just say that apparently it was the acting in that good ole Space Camp movie that was really igniting the passion within me.

My students of course get a kick out of hearing those stories. And they inevitably always ask me tons of other questions, including why I left Los Angeles if it was acting that I wanted to do. I go on to tell them that my time in L.A. taught me so many amazing things. Though I went out there with the sole purpose of acting, I learned that I had other talents that I was passionate about, along with acting.  I discovered that I loved to produce and direct. I discovered a deeper joy for writing. I discovered that I also enjoyed other jobs within the entertainment industry, besides acting. By chance, I literally fell into entertainment reporting & interviewing, and I absolutely loved it! I realized I was pretty darn good at it. I was intrigued by the challenge of the research and the opportunity to talk with and interview celebrities, sports stars and big wigs in showbiz. Along with acting, this gig, was right up my alley, was so amazing, paid incredibly well and was just flat out super cool.  In my wildest dreams, I would’ve never thought I’d move to California and end up doing a job like that.

And this is when my students REALLY start to question why in this world I’d ever leave that dream gig and move back to SC. Well, another passion in my heart and soul was that of becoming a mother. It meant more to me than any celebrity interview or starring role. So when I became pregnant with my firstborn, I was all about being a Mom. My students don’t really get that and they won’t until they become parents themselves.  But it’s all a fine example of “becoming”.

The definition of becoming is ‘the process of coming to be something or of passing into a state.’  As humans, we indeed transform, we grow, we evolve.  And if we’re lucky enough to recognize and respect the evolution of our self, our becoming, we can live such full, incredible lives!

When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, my angel daughter, Mina, in her toddler years, would say she wanted to be a fairy godmother.  My angel boy, Sawyer, would say he wanted to be Spiderman. They were both very serious about that too. But of course since their preschool days, they’ve moved towards other aspirations. I’ll never forget being at my daughter’s IGP meeting with her middle school guidance counselor where they help figure out what high school courses to take.  The lady asked my girl what she wanted to be when she grew up. Mina had a look of panic in her eyes – she didn’t know! I could tell she wanted to scream it and declare that there were lots of things she wants to do and be. But nowadays the schools want to forge a path for these kids and in order to do that, they always ask that lovely, sometimes dreaded question, as if they have to decide now and stick to it forever.  So I reassure my own children and my students that what we want to be when we grow up changes as we evolve and experience more things in life, and THAT IS OK!

I have a true passion for teaching and hope to have the opportunity to do so, in some form, for the rest of my life. It fills my heart to inspire others and open their minds, so I’m very proud to call myself a teacher. Does that mean that is the finite thing that I want to be when I grow up? Absolutely not. I will continue to grow, to transform, and God willing, use my gifts and talents as I evolve. I am becoming.

Take the Risk, Get Away, Unplug

By Shannon Boatwright

Sometimes a break from the routine is the very thing you need. taking-a-break-quotes-2

As adults, we do indeed catch ourselves all too often thinking or saying, “I wish I could just run away…”, escape the stress of our busy days. I’ve most definitely had that thought, that desire, much more as an adult than I ever did as a child.

When it comes to tech issues, a last result is to always just unplug the device to get it working properly again. But do we think about applying that theory to our own lives??

I recently had the opportunity to get away. And I’m at my very busiest right now – which I know I’ve said that before, but like I’ve also said before, I always seem to manage to top myself each year in the busy department. It’s quite an amazing feat actually. Each year I think, I’ve got it this go-around, I’m not going to overwhelm myself! Ha! Boy do I never cease to amaze myself!

This school year, as I prepare for my big honors drama production, (which is always my busiest time of year, when I feel like I practically live at the school doing production work and rehearsals), I’m also in the middle of a move. I have my show one week and then 4 days later, the next week, I close on my house. Yep. Let’s just say that when someone made an offer on our house and requested the closing date, I literally almost had a heart attack. Dear goodness gracious alive…

So…that being said, to say my life is insanely busy, is definitely NOT an understatement. Let’s just hope that come mid-November I still have some sanity left.

Now getting back to the taking a break, getting away, and unplugging. My precious little sister traveled home from Texas to celebrate her 30th birthday and her request was that her closest girls get together for the weekend at the beach to celebrate.  This special weekend fell right in the middle of the time that I would normally spend an entire weekend working, packing and cleaning. The planner/organizer in me panicked, thinking, “OMG I cannot risk time away just to relax & play, I have too much work to do!” But, the big sister in me thought, “Wait a minute, I only get to see my sister maybe twice a year and we haven’t spent quality time together in years!”

This family getaway opportunity was way more important and special than all my busy-ness!  Though it was indeed very hard for me not to think about everything I should’ve been doing that weekend, at the same time, my heart was full because I knew I was doing the right thing. And now that my ultra-special, rejuvenating get-away is over, I’m back into my incredibly overwhelmed world of to-do lists, must-do tasks and little sleep, but I am ever thankful and grateful that I allowed myself the escape. I am proud of myself for putting my family first and realizing that I’ll cherish that special time together forever.

UnPlugAs adults, most of us don’t do it often enough – we don’t unplug, we don’t escape our busy lives and allow ourselves the opportunity to regroup, refresh and rejuvenate our mind, body and spirit. I was blessed with the opportunity to do a little bit of that with my get away weekend to celebrate with my little sister, and I am so thankful.

Take the opportunity to run away. Allow yourself to unplug. Make quality time a priority. I challenge you to get away from the busyness of your daily life and freshen your body, soul and spirit. It’s so good for you! Take the risk. 😉

How to Stop a Bully

By Shannon Boatwright

Author/Speaker Brooks Gibbs explains bullying in the most simplistic terms: Dominance behavior.

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oKjW1OIjuw)

October is national bullying prevention month. Because I teach middle school drama, I feel it is imperative that I allow time for serious discussion about the issue of bullying.  My students know that I feel very strongly about the topic of bullying –  I have zero tolerance for it.  ZERO.

I make it very clear to my students that I am here for them and that they can come to me at any time if they ever see, hear of or experience anything having to do with bullying. They know they can count on me to have their backs.

Stop BullyingIt’s amazing to me that our society as a whole has all these different missions to “stomp out bullying” and as a whole, we as a society overall are of course against bullying…  YET IT STILL HAPPENS. And it happens all the time! On the website StopBullying.com you can click on the link below to see all the latest statistics on the percentage of bullying that takes place.

https://www.stopbullying.gov/media/facts/index.html

It’s a lot. It’s sickening. It enrages me. To think that humans can be so cruel to one another just blows my mind. And it’s not just with kids, bullying happens among all ages. Jerks are EVERYWHERE. And yes, their cruelty comes from somewhere – whether from a place of jealousy, insecurity, personal hurt, or plain ole ignorance. Either way, though it can be forgiven, it is inexcusable.

I do not take a lot of time showing dramatic videos of stories about bullies and victims, because I feel my time is better spent teaching my students how to stop a bully, how to build their confidence and belief in themselves. Like Brooks Gibbs says, the key word is SELF – building self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence. One of the many benefits of drama involves building those three priceless attributes, as well as empathy. Teaching these kids the ultra-importance of building their strength in self and engaging in empathy is truly a lifelong skill that will make them a better person, not to mention benefit them for the rest of their life.

Happiness Is An Inside JobThe tools that Brooks Gibbs shares are incredible, because indeed when it comes to bullying it’s about power, it’s about dominance and how one reacts to a bully can make or break a situation. Do not give a bully the power. Keep all the power for yourself! Your power will be grounded in your own self-confidence, self-worth and self-esteem. As a teacher, my goal is to build a strong self in these kids. I want them to have the power of believing in themselves, knowing that their happiness is not rooted in what anyone else thinks of them and knowing that the ability to put themselves into someone else’s shoes can be a wonderful tool that creates in them a stronger, well-rounded human.

It is an unfortunate reality that bullies will always exist. Heck, in this day and age especially, with our current state of leadership, the ridiculousness of social media, the sad state of our schools, there are all too many bullies trying to dominate others. So those of us who actually have the sense to recognize this negative behavior and not engage and participate in it, especially need the skills to stop a bully. Whether you have children in your family or not and no matter what your age, I guarantee you will benefit from watching the video link shared above. Brooks Gibbs really hits the nail on the head with this topic and I am ever appreciative that I have the resource of his video to share with my students, my own children, my family, my friends and my blog readers.

Music Therapy

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By Shannon Boatwright

Music does so much more than connect people, allow an escape, fill hearts with passion, take individuals on journeys to past moments in time, instigate smiles, movement and singing along…

Music literally can benefit your health in many ways and create healing.

It’s a beautiful thing, the powers of music. I’ve written other blogs about this priceless, glorious thing that is music and I recently keep coming across information that proves that music is indeed therapeutic. The benefits of music are so good for our health that it can help us to heal and keep us healthy.

There is a connection between music and dopamine. The impact of music on the brain is substantial, such that immediate improvements can take place. Research shows that music taps into many areas of the brain, opening opportunities like no other. For example, when Arizona congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, survived a near-fatal gunshot to the head, it was music therapy that helped her regain her ability to speak. She firmly believes music therapy is what helped her to regain the skill to speak.

Another beautiful example of the power of music is the effects of music therapy on those suffering with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  With many of these patients, music therapy helps to soothe their anxieties, give them great comfort, joy and even can lessen their need for meds.  I’ll never forget going to visit my grandmother in a nursing home as she was in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s. She had no idea who I was. It was heartbreaking. But man she could still sing “Jesus Loves Me” and she sang it with pride and joy in her heart, knowing every word. It was an odd, yet fascinating thing to witness.

Music therapy can be used to help people with PTSD, brain injuries, asthma attacks, anxiety attacks, autism, Alzheimer’s disease and even pain management, just to name a few.  In many cases one can communicate through music, without ever having to speak. It’s an amazing thing.

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I remember when I was a junior in high school, I’d had surgery to have my tonsils taken out.  After surgery, my throat was fine, just felt like another sore throat. But I was in incredible pain – like can’t think straight, constant pain – in my jaws. Apparently when they performed the surgery, they had opened my mouth too wide and over-extended my jaws! Now I have a big mouth, but that was ridiculous. In an attempt to deal with the pain, I remember I would play the soothing, passionate music of Yanni as I took a bath and would hold my head under water such that only my mouth and nose was above the water so I could breath. I would focus on the music and the sensation of the water and visualize my jaws healing. The music would take me away. The music allowed me to escape the pain.

To think of it now, what an incredible thing. There is such power in music, if we only allow ourselves to access it!Music-Washes-Away-From-the-Soul-

When I start any new class, I always give the students a questionnaire. The questionnaire is meant to be fun for them – a moment to think about their favorite things, forcing them to consider the things that make them happy, giving them an opportunity to compliment themselves and think about their passions. The assignment also acts as a fabulous way for me to get to know them. Some of the questions involve music – asking who is their favorite singer, their favorite band, what is their favorite song this week, etc. When a student answers, “I don’t really have any favorites, I don’t listen to music.” – my heart breaks. Seriously, it’s like a blow to my core. This kind of response is rare, but it happens. I want to take that child under my wing and introduce them to the wonders and beauty of music. I feel like they are a lost soul that needs to be found and have the opportunity to connect on that magical level with the powers of music. I can’t help but think, shame on this kid’s family for not allowing them to be exposed to the wonders of music. I know every individual’s circumstances are different, but my heart aches for any child that is not exposed to music. One does not have to be wealthy to experience the glories of music. So when I come across any individual that seems to have no connection to music whatsoever, I honestly worry for their well-being.

Music TherapyAnyone can look up the benefits of music, the healing powers of music therapy, and see for themselves all the research and proof. My hope for anyone reading this is that you allow yourself the opportunities to connect to music that moves you. Find the music that fills you up. Experiment with different types of music that speak to you, take you away, give you peace and strength. And the next time you’re struggling on any level, whether with pain, fears, heartbreak, anxiety, whatever it may be, please remember to seek out the magical, healing resource that is music. And if you are trying to help others, remember that music therapy is a beautiful tool that can be used to create healing and comfort.