Are You Experiencing One Wild and Precious Summer?

By: Shannon Boatwright

Oprah has inspired me. There, I said it. And I know I’m not special with this ‘being inspired’ moment, as millions – probably more – are inspired by the woman on a daily basis. But I have to admit, I’ve been aching to write. I even told my husband the other day, “I want to write a book.” He responded with, “What about?”

My response, “I’m not sure.” I know I have something to share. In fact, I have a lot I could/can share. But where to start?

The other week, my Mama dropped off some magazines for me, which she occasionally will do. When she’s done scouring the pages, she’ll hand them over for me to enjoy. In this case, she left the June 2017 issue of Oprah’s O Magazine. After sitting on my kitchen island for almost two weeks, I finally had a day in which I felt relaxed enough to truly sit down and enjoy flipping through a magazine. This particular day was July 4th. My children were out of town with their father, and my husband and I had the day to enjoy together. No work, no commitments. At first we felt the pressure to go do something, go to the lake, party with friends, do something spectacular and cool on this holiday. But, we gleefully discovered we were on the same page and wanted nothing more than to just relax, do nothing, and enjoy being together. We avoided the South Carolina heat, did nothing spectacular, and loved every minute of it. As we basked in our uneventful day, I read through the pages of the magazine, consistently being pulled in by article after article. By the end of the day, I was in awe at the realization that I could not put the magazine down and had been inspired by not just one article, but so many that I had folded down more page corners than I think I ever have in any magazine. Each writer inspired me to think of things that I want to write about and share with the world in hopes that I could in turn inspire someone, fill their heart maybe, bring a smile to their face. It’s a wonderful, sometimes indescribable thing when that happens. It’s something us writers live for and absolutely love when these unexpected moments of inspiration capture our time and attention.

So what do I share now? Well, the cover of this particular O Magazine issue is all about summer and it wasn’t just the glorious beach picture with Oprah that caught my attention, but the headline that says, “Your One Wild and Precious Summer”. Something about this wording caught my eye and peeked my interest. It wasn’t until nighttime that I got to the article that belonged to this headline. Page 87 – the title page – contained a short paragraph that got me thinking. Then I noticed the asterisk – it’s an explanation, or tease if you will, about that intriguing headline…it said:

“*If you’ve never read Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day,” please do. It inspired this headline, and it will surely inspire you.”

Oprah and your fabulous peeps – Mission Accomplished!

I immediately picked up my phone, Googled Oliver’s poem, and voila! Next thing you know I’m searching for an image of the poem and posting it on my Instagram.

Yep.  I was indeed inspired.

“The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

As I was letting the words, phrases and meaning of the poem sink in, I started falling into that typical human trap of thinking negatively…blah, blah, blah, wah, wah, wah, …

Then, I realize, oh my gosh…Mary, Oprah, I HAVE been living a fabulous summer. What!?

Like possibly one of the first summers in which it actually does feel wild and precious.  

Yes! Quite honestly, I don’t want it to end. I worked so incredibly hard this past school year. Always on the go, always exhausted, always looking forward to better things, better times.

But this summer has been different for me. Not just a regular teacher’s break from the insanely busy school year, but I was actually blessed with the chance of a lifetime.

I’m gonna admit here that I honestly don’t know the words to describe what I hope and pray will not end up being a once in MY lifetime experience… At this point, I still feel like it was all a dream. And I promise you I am not over-exaggerating.

I was graced with an all-expense paid trip to Europe. I traveled through the South of France, all along the French Riviera – shopping in Cannes, Hollywood dream-like dining in Saint Tropez, even a dreamlike visit to Monaco, staying in Sainte-Maxime, France in one of the most gorgeous homes I’ve ever set eyes on, much less visited. I consistently pinched myself in an attempt to remind myself that the whole experience was actually real. Closing out my 9-day journey was a visit to Switzerland – a magical place that totally captured my heart, so much so that I think I will forever fantasize about retiring there. And, the bonus was that I had the privilege of enjoying this adventure with my amazing, sweet Mama – my rock, my truly forever BFF – as we were hosted by most precious, dear friends of hers.

Whew…. deep breathes and overwhelming, heart-warming joy fills me at just the thought of these amazing friends of my mother’s…

Needless to say, I could write novels, even movie screenplays, based on the beautiful things, places and people that I saw and the incredible stories that were shared with me. My heart and mind get overwhelmed just thinking about the fabulousness and preciousness of it all and the true blessing of meeting these truly incredible people.

I’ll possibly, hopefully, eventually share more about this-out of-MY-world start to my “wild and precious summer”. But for now, I thank Oprah and Mary Oliver for reminding me that it’s solely up to me how I live out my all too-short-summer. I have the power to make it fabulous. And though my summer of 2017 certainly got off to an insanely fantastic start, I plan to do my best to “squeeze every last drop of bliss and awe, out of this, my untamed summer.”

As Mary Oliver hints in her lovely poem, life is short! The way I see it, we get one chance to rock it, be our best and truly live it up!  I have a feeling she and Oprah would agree with me.

So how do YOU plan to make the best of it? Let’s start with this season currently in our midst. Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious summer? 😉

Molding Words

By: Shannon Boatwright

One of my incredible, honors drama students was recently accepted into the SC Governor’s School for creative writing. This is not an easy program to get accepted into.  This particular young lady is wise beyond her years and always impresses me with her smarts and her skills. She happens to be a fabulous actress. A natural. I discovered recently that she is a writer and a really good one. I have to admit that I’m sad I did not really discover this talent of hers until the end of her 8th grade year. I too, love to write. I enjoy the challenge of putting words together in such a way that it grabs people’s attention, even hopefully inspires them or makes them think. This brilliant young girl and I share a love for writing, whether writing for ourselves or for others. I love her style, I love her wit. I wish I could share more of her writing here, especially the entry that got her accepted into Governor’s School. But for now, I’d like to share just a little taste with you readers – a bit of a tease if you will. Her name is Melissa Cripe. In the years to come, as she continues to create success for herself, I have a feeling her name will be known. My hope is that she will never stop building on those natural talents of hers and that she will continue to shine and share her artistry!

I am young, I do admit. I don’t have fifty years of experience under my belt, making me see the world in a point of view that makes everything have twelve different meanings, each one worse than the last. I’m not going to spill some philosophy that no one wants to hear. I can’t promise you that you will want to hear this, but I am going to try to make it worth something. Because there are very few truths in the world, and here’s one. Words are just words, no matter how fancy and sophisticated they are. Words can be molded into anything you want, but they don’t have to mean anything. Most of the time they don’t mean anything. That’s what writers are here for. They make words into something that may hold a little bit of weight in society. They make words into something that may mean something to someone. Words are a writer’s paint and paintbrush, music and instrument. A writer isn’t given fancy tools to work with. Nothing to spend a lot of money on and nothing that will improve their writing with its price tag and fancy material. All writers have is words, and dang is that hard. But I am here to bend my words into something that might help simplify this place we call the world. I am only 14, but that means my view of the world is untainted. I say things as I see them, not as I have heard others say they have seen them. So, if my words don’t agree with yours, write something of your own and see where that takes you.

                                                                                                Written By Melissa Cripe

My Muse, My Mina

By: Shannon Boatwright

I recently created a big production with my honors drama students. Typically, in my creative process, music is the inspiration behind my works. But in the case of my Land of Stories show, it was my amazing daughter, my Mina, that was the absolute driving force of my inspiration.

This incredible child of mine was positively smitten by Chris Colfer’s beautiful, fairytale treasure of creative genius, “The Land of Stories” books series. She would read passages and chapters from the books to me out loud with such excitement – saying “Mama, I wish I could just dive into the book and live in the story!” She would hand me the book and demand that I read certain pages. She was absolutely taken with this opportunity to escape into this awesome world with fabulous characters and great adventures. What a beautiful thing storytelling is!

Naturally, we had to have the entire book series, making sure to get the next book as soon as it came out. For her birthday back in December, we even framed the book covers to hang in her room. I wish I could personally share with Chris Colfer the joy he helped to create for this precious girl. I just know that he’d be proud and that he’d adore my Mina and her zeal for his fabulous stories!

I have learned to listen to that voice of inspiration, that lightning strike that demands my attention. When a vision repeatedly creeps into my mind and heart, I know I’m supposed to listen and take action. In the case of my recent big production with my honors drama students, I am so thankful that I allowed myself to be guided by my inspiration and let my little muse, my Mina, capture my attention and fill my heart with her excitement. Thanks to her joy for this incredible book series, I let my passion for writing, producing, and directing mold this special creation. I’m ever thankful for my brilliant girl’s love for fabulous stories and for sharing her passions. And I’m still overwhelmed with gratitude at the outcome: the gift of working with such fabulous people and young stars to make my product a successful reality.

All that being said, if you ever feel that glorious wave of inspiration and it overwhelms your heart and mind, go with it! Follow that road of inspiration and let it take you places and make great things happen! Every time I have followed the lead of my inspirations, I’m always thankful that I did.

My prayer, hope and wish for my own children is that they never lose that ability to be taken by something positive and wonderful, and are never fearful to share their joys and inspirations. And I will certainly be forever thankful to my angel girl, Mina, for sharing her passion for Chris Colfer’s awesome books. I hope and pray that she never loses that twinkle in her eyes and her love for great stories!

How Do You Read?

By: Shannon Boatwright

Alright, so here it goes…I’m going to admit that I’ve actually learned something, as an adult, from a class that I was forced to take. Yep.

I’m a teacher and director of the fine arts. And I like to think I’m darn good at what I do.  I’m a true lover of the arts and currently I get to teach middle school kids how to express themselves. I teach them how to control their bodies and voices to express themselves successfully and portray characters. I teach them the benefits of concentrating and cooperating, letting them experience it. I inspire them to use their imagination. I attempt to create opportunities for students to explore their talents and most importantly, to increase their self-confidence. Unlike most drama teachers, I don’t just teach theatrical terms and unload a bunch of theatre “stuff” on a classroom full of kids in which 95% of the students I teach will likely NOT seek a profession in theatre. I take the opportunity to teach these precious kids the true elements of drama, the tools in the actor’s toolbox – body, voice, imagination, concentration, cooperation – and how to successfully utilize them.  All tools that will help them in EVERY area of their lives, no matter what profession they go into.

Needless to say, I’m passionate about what I do and although teaching in the public school system is incredibly challenging, has aged me considerably and definitely is not financially rewarding, I strive to make a positive difference in these students’ lives. The true rewards come in the success of my students. And I can confirm that those successes, small to some, huge to others, are positively priceless.

All that being said, (and of course I could say more, but on to my point of this blog post…) one of the many requirements by the state was that all teachers take a class called “Read to Succeed”. The instant reaction is, well, naturally and unapologetically, sarcastic, “Fantastic, another thing we teachers are required to do. Another time-wasting, no money-making, not-making-me-a-better-teacher, required THING”. Sorry, but that’s the blunt truth that we teachers are used to. Sure it’s not every time, but daggomit it happens all too often. So yes, pardon me for jumping to obvious conclusions, but all too often us teachers aren’t allowed the time to just do what we do best. All too often we are weighed down with silly requirements and nonsense that tends to be a most unfortunate, serious waste of time.

So here’s the admission – though this required class I had to take certainly did not need to be stretched out over so many hours and could’ve been condensed and simplified, I did learn something valuable from it. Thankfully. “Read to Succeed” is actually an appropriate name for this state-required course. Every teacher uses reading in their classrooms on some level and the truth of the matter is, we take for granted this idea that all kids can properly read when they get to our classes. This sadly is not the case. I’ve known that students read differently, with a different level of skill as they read out loud. My focus has usually been on that skill of reading out loud, applying character and emotion. But what this class has taught me is that we need to help students to think while they read. Hmmmm…. Yes, there’s the key! Forget sounding out words and all that reading “stuff” we’re used to hearing. Students need to learn how to actually understand what they’re reading. Make sense of what they’re reading. Visualize and grasp the content, the story, while they’re reading. They need to think while they read.

So how do you read? What was your reading experience like growing up? Do you remember being taught how to read? Did you experience struggles that you had to overcome to be a successful reader? As an adult do you still have moments in which you read a paragraph and have no clue what it was about? Then you end up reading it 2 or 3 or more times before you gain the focus to take in the meaning? Yea, me too. It happens. Now imagine a student struggling with that same thing, a teacher thinking they’re understanding what they’re reading, and yet a student possibly not having a clue what they’re reading. We have to teach the art of thinking while reading!

I hope you were able to think while you read my blog. 😉

Accidental Blessings

By: Shannon Boatwright

“you deserve to be in spaces and relationships that make you happy. that feed your soul and help you grow. you are worthy of connections that are loving, nourishing, kind, and authentic. so before you settle for anything less than, remind yourself that the places you visit, and the people you journey with through life, should make you feel safe, loved and enough”

– alex elle

Coming across this particular quote was an accidental blessing.

One of my favorite radio stations is q93.5. I follow them on Instagram. This past Sunday they posted this quote by Alex Elle, wishing everyone a good morning. I had no idea who this Alex Elle was. In fact, upon first read earlier in the day, I thought, maybe it’s from some of the DJ’s named Alex and Elle? Later on Sunday night, before diving into a load of stressful work, I treated myself to one more scan of Instagram, secretively hoping for some uplifting inspiration to help lift my head out of my state of overwhelming work and life stuff. I allowed myself to read the q93.5 Instagram post again and really soaked in the words. I thought, wow, this is lovely. This is gold. Priceless truth for your life.

I immediately knew I needed to find out who Alex Elle was. I Googled the name and came across this site  www.alexelle.com – a beautiful discovery for sure. Come to find out, this Alex Elle is a brilliant writer, a woman who shares her passion for life, love and healing through poetry, narrative writing, storytelling…At first glance over her website and blog, I have fallen in love with her positive spirit of hope, self-love, healing, and positive living. I immediately signed up for her email newsletters of encouragement and plan to follow her blog.

My accidental blessing of coming across this incredible woman’s amazing work as I simply sought out a quick escape before trudging through required, aggravating school work, has enriched my life. I only hope that I’ll continue to pursue her encouragement and let it help build the strength that I know is within me. If I could do what she does and have the means to dive into my writing, share my own personal journey, and spread joy, love, encouragement and hope into others lives, and actually make a living at it, I WOULD TOTALLY DO SO!

Here’s to praying that my accidental blessing will lead me to wonderful achievements. I know I’ve already scored by discovering a gorgeous mentor in Alex Elle. We’ll see where life leads me. I certainly agree with what she says in her quote. Amen, amen and amen to that one. I’m ever thankful for the priceless people in my life that come to mind when I read her words. As I scan over her other words of encouragement, I am reminded of the power within – the power that we have to make great things happen for ourselves.  Hmmmmm…maybe God and the universe is trying to tell me something? Maybe it’s time to pursue new goals and make greater things happen so that I can make more of a difference in other’s lives as I enrich my own?

Sharing Your Talents

By: Shannon Boatwright

I came across a very inspirational video on Facebook. It happens to all us Facebook users from time to time and we’re actually happy that we clicked the “watch” button.  This particular video really tugged at my heart strings, totally produced tears and made me do some deep thinking. Some of you may have seen it, too. It’s a video of a precious, most talented young lady on Romania’s Got Talent.

I didn’t realize how many countries have these types of talent television shows! In this particular clip, although the song is sung in English, not a bit of the spoken dialogue is in English, yet you’re still able to totally get the intensity of the specialness of the moment.  This amazing young lady has no arms or legs, but proved herself a total superstar. What an all-around beauty! I honestly still don’t know the history to this young talent’s story. I still need to research it because I’m curious how she got to the point in her life to be on the television show, as well as what she is doing now.

Upon watching the video though, I immediately knew that I wanted to use it as a teaching tool for my honors drama students. I knew I should take the opportunity to give them some inspiration and a good reminder that life is too short not to follow your dreams. Interestingly enough, the topic of this singing, keyboard-playing talent’s song is about following your dreams. It’s emotional to see grown men crying as they hear this young lady perform. If watching the video is so incredibly moving, I can only imagine how touching it is to see her perform in person.

For me, this performance served as a reminder that we should share our talents. Too many of us do things that we love, whether it’s something with the arts or any other interesting talent, and we tend to not share it. We get joy from doing whatever it is, yet most of us are too insecure, shy or scared to share our talent with others. I told my students to imagine if this special girl had decided not to take that leap of faith and share her love of music despite her challenges. She could’ve easily given up and not taken the risks, but she decided to share that joy that she gets from music and when she did, WOW! Hundreds, thousands, millions have been inspired thanks to this brave young soul sharing her beautiful musical abilities. How thankful are we that she did!

So the lesson is, if you have a talent that brings you joy, please consider sharing it! It just may bring joy to others too and inspire them as well. 🙂

Are You Exhausted?

By: Shannon Boatwright

I’m exhausted. I’m so tired, it hurts. Why is this? I ask myself all the time, why does it seem that I’m always so worn out physically and mentally? It’s that time of year for me, when my world is rocked by deadlines, school requirements, performances,…some of my greatest career accomplishments tend to happen during this time of the year, so yes, I’m overwhelmed and overworked. But after so many years of feeling this way, I’m beginning to get really frustrated about it. Is it just the fact that I’m a teacher? Or is it just me? Is it because I’m an over-achiever?

sleepless_every-woman-blog

I have a terrible time sleeping. I literally cannot shut my brain off. I don’t take medication to sleep, and I probably should, but I’d really rather not! I’m sure if I could actually get good, restful sleep and a decent amount of it, I’d feel so much better! But heaven forbid I actually be able to achieve that. Most unfortunately, a good night’s sleep is totally foreign to me these days.  I live in constant fear that I’ll get sick because I know my body and mind need rest. But I’m stumped when it comes to figuring out the right formula to actually achieve this.

So I decided to do some research. A healthy living article in the Huffington Post called “How To Shut Your Brain Off When You Just Can’t Sleep,” by Shelby Freedman Harris, Psy.D. gives several tips for those of us with an overactive mind. The problem is, I’m not so sure these tips can or will work for me. For example, one of the tips is to “not worry in bed.” Yea, um, not an option for me! I’m a mother, a teacher, a wife…worry is something I will never be able to get rid of. I try not to let it rule my world, of course, but worrying is a fact of my life. The article suggests that when you can’t calm the worries that plague your mind, to get out of bed. Getting up and going to another room, doing a simple chore, etc may help someone else realize how sleepy they are and enable them to go back to bed and actually sleep, but I guarantee you that WILL NOT work for me! Not only would that wake up the pets and truly give me more to deal with, but if I get up out of bed and start doing something, my body will think it’s time to get stuff done! Sadly, that is a technique that will not work for me in my circumstances.

On a plus side, the article mentions “mental imagery.” Now this is something I do try to attempt when I can’t shut my brain off. They say there’s a reason why people say to count sheep. Something about the repetitive, soothing nature of it. I’m not a math person, so that would just aggravate me, but I do like to use visualization. So I’ll try to envision myself getting a massage or floating on a cloud, or lounging weightless in a glorious, hot tub. Sometimes I am able to actually do this and it helps me get back to sleep. Yet sometimes I work so hard trying to focus on relaxing imagery that my brain engages and leads me to other thoughts that keep me awake. Though it doesn’t always work, it’s definitely worth a try!

They say to write things down, create your to-do list so that you don’t engage in “unproductive worry.” I am a to-do list maker, something major! And, fortunately, this past year, I have found my go-to solution for helping me remember to do things. In addition to hand written to-do lists, I create alarms on my phone to remind me of things that I need to accomplish, whether it’s a simple daily task or something major. That alarm going off on my phone is my little savior at helping me not to fret about forgetting to do something on my list. And I don’t have some annoying alarm noise go off, I use a song that will make me smile or do a little dance as I’m reminded of what I need to do. My family, students and fellow teachers know that if they hear a song start randomly playing from my pocket, there must be something Shannon needs to do. It’s funny, but hey, it helps!

sleeplessI wish I had the time and energy to create an official daily wind-down, decompression time that could allow me to engage in some honest relaxation, distancing me from worries and to-do’s, but some days I don’t have the energy to make that bubble bath. Sadly, sometimes I think of a soak in a bath as more work ‘cause I’d have to prep and clean the tub and in the end, use up more time that I could’ve/should’ve just been in bed sleeping. Pathetic, I know. Ever feel like you put yourself in a position where you just can’t seem to win? Yea, me too.

There are many tips and techniques to help one get better sleep, ranging from drinking a warm glass of milk to turning off the TV and any other stimulating gadgets. I’m a firm believer that the TV should be off and the room dark and calm, but… and yes, another BUT…some days when I have had a really tough, stressful day, I need that TV on, at least for a bit. Watching something light and fluffy can help keep my mind off the stress, so that I
can indeed eventually get some sleep instead of letting the stress consume me. That’s what good stories, whether from a book, magazine, the television, etc., are wonderful for – helping us escape! I could write page after page of tips and techniques. Ha! I wish I had the time and energy to do so, but who am I kidding, my phone alarm has already been playing a Bruno Mars song repeatedly, reminding me of yet another thing I must accomplish on my fat to-do list.

So what are the techniques that work for you? After doing my research, I know that I’ve got to make more of an effort to get more exercise, create a solid routine for winding down at the end of the day and some way, somehow find more ways to simply relax. If I ever figure out the winning equation for shutting my brain off at night, I’ll definitely share. In the meantime, please do share what works for you. It might just be something that could actually help create some zzz’s for us overactive brainiacs!

Here are some links with more info on how to get better sleep.

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/how-to-sleep-better.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/23/shut-off-brain-cant-sleep_n_5161774.html

http://www.youbeauty.com/life/habits-for-better-sleep/