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Beyond Family and Food – Five Non-Typical Things I am Thankful for

27 Nov

It has snowed here, in New Jersey, yesterday and our street has been a true winter wonderland.

Thanksgiving. Today is the day when all of a sudden we take time to be grateful for all the awesomeness in our lives. We thank the Universe/God/ the Source/Mother Nature for our families, friends, houses, cars, food, jobs, money, and health.

I am just too busy to count my blessings, and I am the first to admit that. Moreover, when you constantly count your blessings, they stop, well, being so special. Blessings become norm. Things that are norm becomes things that we take for granted. I am not sure what the ultimate time frame is to count your blessings but definitely not every day. I know, it sounds so anti-self-help!

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for five of a very uncommon things:

1. Electricity. Electricity lets me study, write, enjoy movies, speak to friends, stay warm, and explore opportunities. It lets me do my job well, and be a productive student at Seton Hall. Electricity is the bomb. Have a look at some people in India – zero electricity. Definitely something to thankful for.

2. My mother. My mother has always drilled me: I want my daughter to leave this forsaken country (Russia) and go live somewhere in the West (Europe/U.S.). Well, here I am, for many years now, at least 14. And as much as we do NOT get alone with mom, I am thankful for her pushing me to get a better life. She now resents me for leaving Russia and not taking care of her yet I am glad I live far away. I am my own person.

3. Valentina Nefedova. She is my English tutor and the only teacher I had contact with for many years growing up. I was homeschooled since fourth grade yet foreign languages were the only subjects my mom believed in. I resent her for that because when it was time for me to go to college, my gaps in knowledge for other disciplines were tremendous! But, Valentina really had opened my eyes on the subject that I was gifted in the area of foreign languages and that was my absolute strength. I am grateful that such an individual was put into my path while I was little. She helped me, in her own unique way, go out and get a build a better life outside of Russia. She has sewn the first seeds of my “Westernization”.

4. Myself. I am thankful for myself. I appreciate the way I am and cherish all of the decisions, good and bad, that I have made. All the challenges and difficulties I have faced, all the storms I have weathered out, all the obstacles I had to overcome.  I am grateful to myself for being strong. learning from my mistakes, not being afraid to be humble, and persevering in spite of difficulties. I have a long way to go, and there are days when I still crumble and cry and rage yet I always recuperate, dust myself off, and continue on my life quest.

5. United States. I know, I know, let the comments begin. But I love this country. Although an ethnic Russian, born and raised in Russia, I am honored to be able to live, work, vote, own property, travel all over, and even pay taxes here, in the U.S. I am grateful for the ability to use twitter, to have gay friends, to take doctoral courses, to blog freely, to criticize the President, and ask questions of political leaders. I know this country still has SO MUCH work to do yet it has already made such great strides.

Well, here you have it. Now, what are the five non-typical things you are grateful for this Thanksgiving?

Please comment below and have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Monday Gratitude

24 Nov

Good morning,
It is Monday, again. And although this is a short week for me-two and a half days- I am trying to not look forward to Wednesday 11:45am – when we all get off work.
This Monday, I am simply trying to be thankful for this one Monday. Thankful for the fact that I am up, alive, healthy, warm and loved. That I am not hungry or scared. I am safe, living in a house in an amazing neighborhood. Thankful for the fact that I have somewhere to be- my job and my university, afterwards.
Monday’s are tough for me, period. I work for 8 hours then I go to the university and sit through another 5 hours of doctoral classes. Well, you know. For a while, I stopped seeing the forest through the trees and got disconnected from my life values.
Today I will try to e connected to who I really am, and to go through this day in touch with my life values.
Have a great day, everyone!

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NJEA Convention in Atlantic City

6 Nov

This Thursday and Friday New Jersey teachers are flocking to NJEA convention for some professional development, collegiality, technology updates, networking, reflecting, best practices and strategies and, of course, some soul searching with colleagues and presenters.

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I have been to six full hours of learning. Although I feel a bit tired, I just love it! And although I have gone down to Atlantic city by myself, I have met up with a few colleagues, from both my job and my doctoral program.
All of the workshops have been very stimulating but, of course, I have my favorites. One workshop was dedicated to the amazing thing called CHANGE and what steps to take in order to implement it successfully.

Plenary session has been conducted by a world famous speaker from Finland – Pasi Sahlberg. What a fascinating presentation, and so inspirational. There are so many things that Finland is doing right and the U.S. Is doing wrong… For instance, the U.S. looks at this whole idea of education as competition, while in Finland the approach is completely different – they look at wellbeing and success of individual child.

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Hubby has been checking in with me periodically throughout the day. I miss him. I have also been tweeting away any takeaways from my workshops.

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At this moment I am sitting at Atlantic City Bar and Grill that is a restaurant famous for its’ seafood. Guess what I am having? Soft shell crabs, of course!

I am sitting alone. At first I was like “ok, this is weird” but hey, a woman can’t eat alone? It just so happened that no one has been staying for the second day of the convention. Except me.

After dinner, I went back to the hotel. For a while, I stood by the window, brushing my teeth, looking down at Atlantic City. Such contrast. Blinking lights of casinos next to unbelievable decay of half-way houses, run down apartment buildings and empty parking lots.

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My mind and body needs rest. Today was a day well lived. And for that, I am thankful.

Practice What You Preach

19 Oct

As you may know, I work with myself continuously on becoming a better person: more compassionate, accepting, loving, and grateful. I try to consciously spread love around, even if the objects do not display any love towards me (rude drivers, nasty sales people, people knocking o my door to involve me in their religion, etc.). Sometimes I slip into “I just want to let those people know exactly what I think about them!!! [insert angry face here].

This morning, I had an opportunity to practice what I preach (compassion, acceptance, love, and understanding). Continue reading

Autumn

18 Oct

It has been a long time since I have walked around my lovely neighborhood. Since I started my doctoral classes this semester, I have not had ANY time for walks or any other kind of activities for the soul. I admit that my life right now consists of the following three things: my teaching job (which I absolutely love), three doctoral courses (which I also absolutely love), and taking care of the house (wait for it, which I absolutely love).

I have bailed out of our Speak to Me group meeting last night – because of my tremendously complex and huge paper. In reality, there are three papers that are due at the end of the semester: a 10 page essay on the history of American Higher Education, a 10 page literature review on affirmative action policy in college admissions, and (oh God) a 25 page faculty personnel paper… The first one is done. The other two are in progress and I feel like I am in good place with both. But: IT IS SO MUCH WORK!! 🙂

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An abundance of acorns keeps squirrels happy and busy

This morning I finally carved out time for my morning walk and snapped some pictures of my neighborhood as I was walking. Autumn in New Jersey is the loveliest time of year, I am certain. Such crispness of air, slow rustle of leaves, smell of burning wood, colorful decorations on my neighbors’ houses, acorns crunching under your feet, pumpkins everywhere…

I finished my walk with a hearty bowl of oatmeal with fresh apple, honey, almond milk, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Today’s walk has made me realize yet again how privileged I am. And for that, I am grateful.

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Very few cars – still early

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Our street, I love the quietness of it…

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Black bats on our mailbox 🙂

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Lovely foliage on neighbor’s front tlawn

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Ghosts on our property. Don’t worry, they are friendly 🙂

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Pumpkins and mums – what else do you need? 🙂

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Leaves, leaves everywhere! The minute you clean them up, it looks like before! 🙂

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Majestic sequoias on our street

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The sound of rustling leaves is priceless…

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Our own “national park” 😉

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Main Avenue – just love the colors!

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Our neighbor’s awesome decorations. Happy Halloween! 🙂

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A beautiful Victorian on Main Avenue

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The combination of fall leaves and blue sky is astounding

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LOVE their house! 🙂 Haven’t met them yet

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An old tree stump at the intersection

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Our backyard looks so different from summer

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Red berries

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Hearty, healthy, heavenly oatmeal. perfect for any fall morning

Please share some pictures of your town in the fall, I’d love to check them out! Have a delightful weekend!

So stressed…

14 Sep

This Sunday afternoon and…

I was feeling just. So. Stressed.
Continue reading

India and Nepal Adventure – What Have I Learned?

2 Aug

It has been almost a week since I am back home from my grand, 32 day India and Nepal adventure. In this post I will try to asnswer some reflective questions that I, myself, created to help me gain perspective and give you a glimpse into this adventure.

1. What are some of the highlights of this trip?

There are so many! But I think Taj Mahal will always stay with me for it was so GRAND and stately. And I know it’s a real “staple” of Indian culture, however, it was a simmetrical perfection! We were there in a low season so it was not as crowded. I kept thinking: “You have been to TAJ!” How many people can say that? I am lucky, no doubt about it.

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Additionally, thoughout the whole trip, simple people have touched my heart in many ways. A girl standing in the rain, a lady washing her clothes at a monkey temple, an old man reading the newspaper, a young girl feeding a mango to her child, a woman praying… There were so many interesting/intriguing/fascinating photo opportunities! Some photo moments were private but because of my zoom lense, I could stay far away and not interfere with the activities those people were doing. Here are (just some, very few) examples:

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(all these photos are from India)

Bottom line, you can travel to 20 countries, see every single monument, but usually it’s simple people that make your trip all worth it.

2. What are some of the low lights of this trip?

Oh, so many! Logistically, India and Nepal are hard to travel in, with their tourist industry still developing. Overnight train rides were not fun, neither were extreme temperatures! In India we had to wait 1.5 hours for our food to come out. I tried to refrain from whining so I would whine silently to myself. Poverty was a big low point, with people living under bridges, in terrible conditions. No clean water was another one. Lack of opportunity and a fair shot at life – another. Cast system! Children begging on the streets, disabled people trying to get your attention at train stations. Flies! Cow extrement in the middle of the road! Treatment of animals in general!

3. What have I learned from this trip?

Every day I would write in my travel diary how lucky I feel to be an American and to be living in the U.S. I was so proud to say that I am from the United States of America

As a United States citizen we get respect, services, benefits from our government. There is equal opportunity for everyone, a fair shot at life (for the most part). There are laws, regulations and consequences. There is clean water! I can pour a glass of tap water right now and drink it and be ok. We live in a house as big as some embassies in Kathmandu. I can complain and make use of due process. I can make fun of Obama! I can be gay or I can be straight!I can write a blog entry, even though English is not my native language and the blog is bad!  I can take a jog in my neighborhood without stepping into cow feces. I can breathe in a lung full of clean air and I can spend time in the park. My kids can go to school, for free. I can see a doctor any time I feel sick. I have a choice in reagrds to how I want to live my life.

Clearly, my major takeway is being grateful for where I live and for all the amenities I can enjoy on a regular basis. It’s the little things in life that count. Let’s take a moment and thank the Universe for all the things we have, even if it’s tap water.

 

 

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