The Kindness of Strangers

By Shannon Boatwright

At this point in my life many things have occurred that remind me of the great importance of never passing judgement. The saying, never judge a book by its cover, is one of the truest statements ever. I think the more a person matures, the more accepting they can be of others and the less ignorance gets in the way of reason. It’s a beautiful thing to be in a place in which you’re not so quick to judge and instead open to genuine kindness, care and generosity.

I’ve had the blessing of being able to stay with my parents while my husband and I save up and search for a house that will best suit our family’s needs. Though it is indeed a blessing, it does come with some hardships. One hardship being that whenever it rains, because their home is on the lake and the sewer system needs updating, we have to do laundry elsewhere, otherwise the toilets won’t flush. The quickest, most efficient thing to do is to take our laundry to the laundromat.

My first time taking about 4 loads of laundry to the laundromat was quite the adventure. It was pouring rain outside and I had no idea how the whole process worked, much less how much it would cost. As I struggled to get my loads of stuff into the door, there was a kind man there who held the door open for me each time I floundered in. As I struggled to figure out how to work the old change machine, in which all the directions had worn off because it was so old, there were two incredibly friendly ladies there who guided me through the process and even gave me change. Fortunately I’m not afraid to ask questions and there was always someone willing to help guide me through how to operate the machines.

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Once I finally got settled and the laundry started, I looked around at all the different people in the laundromat and thought about what brought each individual there. Everyone has different circumstances, but we all had the same need – clean laundry! I had been afraid that I wouldn’t have enough change for the dryers. A lady nearby was finishing up folding her laundry and apparently had overheard me talking on the phone about my possible lack of quarters. She came up to me and placed a roll of quarters in my hand, saying, “I heard you mention you might not have enough money to dry your clothes, please take this. I don’t want you to have to go home with wet laundry.” By the time she’d come up to me, I had indeed figured out that I had enough money to dry everything. I thanked her profusely and insisted she keep her money. I left that laundromat with a full heart and a genuine, renewed sense of admiration for the kindness of strangers.

Now I look forward to the people I will meet whenever I have to go to the laundromat and I look forward to the opportunity to give back, pay it forward and be a light of nonjudgmental kindness to others. There is a great life lesson in being a light in other’s lives – a simple smile and a helping hand can go a long way in making someone’s day, not to mention your own. 🙂

The Screen Door

By Shannon Boatwright 

The South. The South in the Summer.

Heavens to Betsy, the SOUTH IN THE SUMMER…!

Imagine those words literally melting off the screen here. Imagine a summer drenched in such raw heat and humidity that when you step foot outside, you literally feel like some dark witch has enveloped you in some evil spell meant to drain every ounce of water from your body, thus melting you to the core.

Welcome to the South in the summertime!

My Uncle Wayne always said, “South Carolina is the screen door to hell!”

If you’re from SC or have spent any decent amount of time in SC during the hottest days of the summer months, then you would totally relate to this statement and laugh as you shake your head in agreement.

I should be used to this heat. I grew up here in SC. I have survived many a summer here at the devil’s front door. But, I tell ya, every year I am astounded at the intense heat. Every year I find myself saying, this heat is just flat out ridiculous! How much longer until Fall?

It’s funny how us South Carolinians seem to easily forget how intensely hot the summers can get. We make it through the coldest months of winter, which mind you, are nothing compared with the cold that the northern states endure, and all we can think about is summertime. Days on the lake, days on the beach, or by the pool, the lovely warmth that envelopes your body like a picturesque postcard from the South of France. It’s something we crave during the cruelty of winter. Yet, if you live in the deep South, it’s something that once it’s here… you say to yourself, what the heck was I thinking?!

lakeI have the glorious privilege of living on Lake Murray in SC. Unless you live on one of the many beautiful beaches of SC, I have to say that days on the lake in SC are always better than days anywhere else in the deep South without water nearby. If you’re close to the lake and blessed to have the benefit of the magical weather that happens when you’re that close to a large body of water, then you know that there is this lovely misconception that it’s always cooler on the lake. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t say misconception, but it seems that just when you think it should be cooler on the lake, you’re still really right there at that screen door, like a dog panting, drooling, very impatiently waiting for the next cool breeze that might soothe your misery for one second.

The Southern heat does not discriminate. A majority of the summertime, it’s just flat out HOT, and our kind of humid heat can zap you good, stealing all of your energy, draining you to a worn out crisp. I can’t help but think of all those who have jobs that require them to work outside. I hate it for them. These are people are incredible human beings that obviously have to condition their bodies to survive this type of heat. My poor husband endures this heat daily with his job. As a UPS driver he has conditioned himself to survive working right at the screen door. And yes, those trucks have NO air conditioning. Daily he has to carry a cooler full of waters and use a hand towel to wipe all the sweat not caught by the layers of his uniform. He comes home from a 10 to 14 hour day and is literally soaked through with sweat.

Think of the soldiers that come to SC to train in this heat every day at Fort Jackson, and in full uniform at the weekly graduations from boot camp, in which thousands of family members come to town to experience the southern hot spot that is Columbia, SC. Not only do these soldiers accomplish conquering basic training, they also accomplish literally surviving training at the screen door to hell!

Bravo to all those that are able to successfully survive the South in the summertime!

heat mapThe word “oppressive” has been used so many times by our local weather men and women, that my family and I stopped counting. The words “oppressive heat” are used VERY often around these parts. And of course, SC is not the hottest place in the U.S., but as you can see by this map, we’re still in an area with a very high percentage of oppressive heat.

So as you live out the rest of our summer days, while you’re standing at the screen door, by all means do it with an ice cold drink in one hand, a fan in the other and a really good air conditioner ready to rescue you.

Role Models…

By Shannon Boatwright

We’ve recently celebrated Mother’s Day and I’ve just started a grad class.

These two things got me thinking…

For Mother’s Day, I had the privilege of enjoying a whirlwind of a weekend full of special time with family. I consider my greatest accomplishment ever, that of being a mother. My two incredible children never cease to amaze me and the fact that I carried them, survived giving birth to them and get the honor of helping raise them, well, it seriously blows my mind.shannon

The day after Mother’s Day I began a grad class on the nature and needs of gifted students. One of my first assignments was to take a quiz about Distinguishing Myths from Realities concerning the nature and needs of gifted students. It was definitely an eye opening little quiz.

So between celebrating Mother’s Day and then reading this grad class material, it got me really thinking about the role models in my life. Within the quiz, one of the statements that I had to choose whether I thought it was a myth or reality, stated, “Primetime, commercial television offers inadequate and inappropriate role models for gifted children.” In the response for why this is a reality, it is stated, “Reality: Only 9% of all the new programming during the past decade has had one or more children in the starring or title role, despite that over 17% of the nation’s population is under 13 years of age. Gifted children are also highly underrepresented and typically depicted as social misfits (Ableman, 1992).”

Interesting indeed and definitely thought provoking. Today’s primetime television is definitely VERY different from the days when I grew up watching television. I feel like there were WAY more positive role models on television back when I was growing up.

But instead of battling my way through a discussion on this topic of the current lack of role models on television, I’d like to focus on what this topic stirred in me. This issue, along with Mother’s Day, made me think about all the amazing female role models I have in my life. When I stop and really think about it, I recognize how truly blessed I am to have so many strong, super and spectacular female role models in my life. Ranging from the incredible women in my family, to close friends, to colleagues, to mentors, even iconic leaders, actors and other famous female warriors who inspire me.download

In an age when equality is still a prevalent issue, having positive female role models should be a very important part of your life. We need positive examples that lead the way and inspire us ladies. As a mother, I know I make it a goal that my children see me being a good person, doing extraordinary things, contributing to society, bettering myself and making a positive difference in others’ lives. Like the pride I have in my own mother for being such a strong force of a woman, having a beautiful teacher’s heart and for sharing her awesome talents with others, I want my own children to be proud of my accomplishments and what I do with my own talents and strengths. My prayer is that they’ll be inspired and admire. I could write a book about all the outstanding, female role models in my life and I am ever grateful to be blessed with so many super women to have been influenced and inspired by throughout my lifetime.we can do it

Take a moment to think of all the positive female role models in your life. What have you learned from them? How have they inspired you? Then ask yourself, how am I a role model to others? As intelligent, incredible and strong women, we owe it to ourselves and to those we love, to be a shining light for others.

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.