On thankfulness.....

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

On this day of being grateful, I am all too aware how blessed I am and how thankful I have cause to be...

I am thankful for a million tiny kindnesses which give my life a real sense of purpose and worth...

I am thankful for family and friends, both near and far...

I am thankful for learning, and teaching, and growing...

I am thankful for smiles and hugs and high fives, for injokes and letters and packages...

I am thankful for books and blogs and music and films...

I am thankful for food to eat and things to drink, a warm bed to sleep in at night...

I am thankful for the children I get to teach and guide each day...

I am thankful for my health, and my dreams, and my freedom (how blessed to live in a time and place where I get to choose who I want to be, and what I want to be!)...

I am thankful for tomorrow, and the next day, and the next...

I am thankful for songs to sing and kisses to come and night skies full of stars and plans of awesomeness...

I am thankful for past sorrows now forgotten, and future pleasures hoped for...

I am thankful for my ability to count my blessings...

What are you thankful for, friends?

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Singalong Sunday, November 23rd.

1. The Winner Takes It All - Abba.

Oh man. I love this song, in all its melodramatic, OTT, girl-after-a-bottle-of-white-wine-sadness, beautiful glory. It's one of those great Abba songs that always gives me the goosebumps, and I just love how they make such an operatic song and dance about the end of the affair. Metaphor tastic!

So here I am on a Sunday evening, quickly typing a blog entry before hitting the hay. These last two months life has really been getting in the way of blogging (happens to us all, right? ;)), but I am trying to post two or three times a week. I'm trying to keep up with other peoples blogs too...I like the blogosphere too much to ignore it for long!

2. Sorry or Please - Kings of Convenience.

If you haven't heard of KoC, please check them out. They are like Ikea, another Swedish export - quirky, original, accesible, and great fun too!

So yes, life has been busy. Work is hectic as ever and keeping me well and truly on my toes. And then there are the weekends... This weekend was a school exeat, so we left at lunchtime on Friday. I chose to go on a trip with Year 8 for the afternoon - we all headed down to the National Theatre to see the production of 'War Horse' that's in rep in the Olivier.

3. Vital Signs - Frank Turner.

To use a quote from the immortal GPB, I less than three Frank Turner. Such an awesome singer-songwriter. And a lovely bloke to boot.

So, Friday. We got to the National and got to go on a really cool behind-the-scenes tour - we saw all around backstage and also got to see some of the props and puppets that are used in 'War Horse'. Then we settled down for the show. Which was amazing - poetic, inventive, moving. 'War Horse' is adapted from Michael Morpurgo's book, which I hadn't read beforehand. Added even more suspense to proceedings...

4. Miracle - Paramore.

Hmmmm. I don't mind Paramore, but I'm not evangelical about them either. I got this album after a tipoff, and I don't hate it...I just don't love it either. Hmmmmm.

So the show was great, and then I waved the kids off and headed across town on the tube to meet Mattheiu and some of his colleagues for drinks. Good chat, lovely new folk, and just enough silliness. Then chilling, which is only ever a good thing.

5. Because The Night - Patti Smith.

POWER BALLAD! Hee. This is one of the songs I *love* to sing when I'm driving. Genius.

Saturday morning, up and out and rushing for the Bristol train. Made it with, literally, a minute to spare. Just under two hours later I was in the beautiful South-West, meeting the ever gorgeous Mlle Wilson. Tea and possibly nuclear rum cake while watching 'Flight of the Conchords', and lots of catching up in person.

6. Make You Feel My Love - Adele.

Oh, sigh. I love this song. It totally appeals to my soppy girly side.

After a couple of hours Mlle Wilson and I were joined by her friend Steph, who she'd met back when she trained as a teacher. Steph's a bundle of fun, and we all had a blast chatting and bantering and generally being silly. As night fell and the clock moved on we headed to town, and had a delicious dinner in Cafe Rouge (Bavette steak and creme brulee = Om nom nom). And then we headed to the Colston Hall for the main entertainment.

7. Man In The Mirror - Michael Jackson.

Do you remember when Michael Jackson man good music? This is a tune! And the key change is golden.

Because last night we went to see one of my favourite comics, Dylan Moran, in standup. he was everything I expected - funny, witty, sweary... A brilliant, brilliant gig and great company to share it with - Mlle Wilson and Steph, Mlle 's boyfriend and some of his friends. Great gig, then red wine and post show chat in a nice bar. Then home for hot milk. :-)

8. You Were Made For Me - Sam Cooke.

Oh, how I love Sam Cooke. One of the best vocalists I've ever listened to... Just sublime.

Then I had an awesome nights rest, before another three hour chat with Mlle Wilson, sitting in our PJs, drinking tea. Mlle Wilson and I call and text and email and msn and write....but there's something so cool about actually seeing someone and spending time with them, don't you think?

9. Hiphopatamus Versus Rhymenocerous - Flight of The Conchords.

Steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeve. Oh man, how I adore FotC - youtube their songs 'Bowie', 'Business Time', or 'Robots' if you fancy a giggle!

Then trains and trains to get home, on a cold and bitter November day. It's definitely the part of November now when I kind of just want it to be December already...

10. Santa Baby - Kylie Minogue

Hee. Lord bless the shuffle function. I've just ripped a bunch of Christmas stuff onto my laptop ready for the festive season....this is just the tip of the iceberg, trust me :-).

So, a busy old weekend. And now, a busy old week to come. So I am off to bed - I feel a decent sleep is in order before another crazy school week!

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Treat sized...

Life is busy and hectic right now. Lots of good stuff happening, lots of stressful stuff happening, lots of interesting stuff happening, lots of silly stuff happening... And as ever, I thought I could do with making myself a little list of the things that make me smile and the blessings I want to count right now. Always good for the soul!

Here goes!

Smiling like a dolphin.

Forres for Christmas and options for New Years.

My job, in all its exhausting, draining, manic glory.

Join Me, and the wonderful, crazy, inspiring people I have met through it.

Christmas plans and preparations (now a mere 5 weeks away!).

Helping people.

Ghetto flat.

Weekends of loveliness past and to come.

Being appreciated.

Long hot baths reading books and listening to the radio.

Really small pieces of cake.

My cosy warm bed at the end of the day.

Cuddles and kisses around the corner.

Playing the 'freestyle!' game with my Year 8 girlies.

Mix CDs.

Really limey Corona.


And you guys, of course.

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Countryside silliness...

I just had the nicest weekend in the country with a bunch of awesome folk (hence the lack of posting!). Fun and silliness and catching up and hugs and chatting and chilling. Aceness, really....

Here are a few pics of a lovely weekend - more words soon!

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"Happiness is not a destination. It is a method of life."

In my classroom, on one of the walls, I have dozens of quotes, quotes that I like, or inspire me, or make me think. Most of these quotes are about kindness, happiness, or wisdom. This may tie in with my personal belief that if you can pull off being kind *and* clever *and* make others happy, you are onto a good thing! So there are quotes from Buddha, passages from the Bible, writings from Roosevelt and Keller.... A real mishmash.

My title quote is up there too and it's something I've been thinking about this evening. It's attributed to a guy called Burton Hills, who I couldn't find anywhere online. So if I've done a Sarah Palin and inadvertently name checked a white supremacist or similar, I humbly apologise and hope you can forgive me. The guy's not even on wikipedia!

So that quote, "happiness is not a destination. It is a method of life", is certainly a quote which I have personally taken on board. For much of my life, I lived in a 'now' I didn't like. I didn't really deal with the present, and the past was a dark and dingy room, inhabited by mess and disarray, haunted by spectres and ghosts and all too real monsters. So I took refuge in the hope of the future, in dreams, in aspirations...

As coping mechanisms go, it's a pretty tame one, but it's still not the best way to live your life. Looking forward to stuff is a great and powerful thing (as I type I'm looking forward to Bonfire Cottage, K:VI, cuddles, the end of term, Christmas, and Dylan Moran. For starters!) but they are not all there is. They are not stopping me enjoying the here and now. Back then, I wanted to get to the next thing. I lived for things to come - that party, that event, that hurdle to leap over. When I got my degree...I'd be happy! When I lost ten more pounds.... I'd be happy! When that guy called.... I'd be happy!

And do you know what? It didn't really work out. No one thing was going to fix me and let me be happy. Because happiness is not a destination. It's a method of life. It's certainly a huge part of how I live now.

I'd say now, that I'm a genuinely happy person. That doesn't mean I face every moment with an inane grin (just this evening I hit a brief low for example - stress, some mean-spiritedness from others, and some worries piled up), but it does mean that my 'mode' is one of being happy. And that's just how I operate now.

I didn't change overnight...but a change happened. It took several years, but it happened. I think this happiness and joy had always been there, but a lot of the darkness and tough times had just buried it somewhat, like rocks on top of gemstones. But now, I like being happy. I like finding solutions instead of problems. I like believing in people. I like counting blessings. I like being grateful. I like telling people how amazing they are. Because I know many, many amazing people.

I also like bed. And that is what it is time for now.

Hope your week is going well!

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Singalong Saturday, November 8th

Oh yes. It's back. Those of you who been visiting my wee scrawlings for a while may recall the singalong posts - traditionally me rambling for a post (on a Saturday or a Sunday, for maximum alliterative title fun) while telling you all what songs I'm listening to as I write. For a muso like me, it's a fun way to write (music's one of my favourite prompts), and at a time where there's been so much change (little earthquakes everywhere) for me a familiar format seemed inviting. Let's go.

1) Ain't No Rest For The Wicked - Cage The Elephant.

I love this song. Proper dirty rock, with a killer hook and lots of attitude. I think this would make an ace stripper song. You know, if that was your bag.

Well "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked" seems like an apt place to start. Life is busy and whirlwindy at the moment, but more in a good way than a bad way. I feel a little like I'm living in a snowglobe that someone's up ended - pretty things flying everywhere! The busy-ness of school, times with friends and people that make me smile, books and music and films, and the light of Christmas shining at the end of the Michalemas term....

2) I Close My Eyes and Count To Ten - Dusty Springfield.

I love Dusty...but only discovered this song a few months back. "We were strangers a moment ago / with a few dreams but nothing to show / The world was a place / with a frown on it's face / and tomorrow was just I don't know." Just beautiful lyrics, and in one of the toughest song arrangements I have tried to learn in a long while.

Claire's Christmas prep is continuing apace. Yes, I know it's early, but during the six weeks of this half-term, I know that I have to grab moments whenever I can - an hour here, 15 minutes there - in order to get everything sorted. Otherwise it's mid-December by the time school is done and I'm sat there with no cards sent, no presents bought, and a huge amount of stuff to do. I'm trying to be prepared!

3) Caring Is Creepy - The Shins.

The Shins are one of those bands I don't really have an opinion on, I must say. They're pretty good, but I don't really get the whole Zach-Braff-Natalie-Portman-Garden-State-best-ban-evah! thing. I mean, this song is good, but I don't think it's actually going to chnage my way of life. Am I wrong?

Ah, 'Father Ted'. I was watching it again earlier. I do love a bit of it, it's one of the shows I'm quietly devoted to. Along with The West Wing. I treated myself to the 7 season set of TWW earlier this week (only 50 pounds from amazon, bargain fans!). Can't wait to get my politics on.

4) What A Difference A Day Made - Jamie Cullum.

Yes. I own some jazz hobbit. What of it? He's good for dinner parties!

Speaking of politics, what about Barack Obama? Just an inspirational day for the world, a beautiful moment in history (and now the work begins!). My kids were very excited. I ahve to say I was hugely excited by the turnouts. It's truly wonderful to see people motivated to get involved and use their voice. I just hope that now we can see a new era of hope and confidence - given the challenges we're all facing rigth now, those traits will come in handy!

5) On's On - Missy Elliot

Wow, rap / hiphop. I used to listen to lots of this sort of stuff, but now it's the exception, rather than the rule. I still appreciate the cleverness of the lyrics, but it's not really my kind of thing as much anymore.

You guys, I'm so tired. I can't even think straight. I'm going to post these ramblings and come back and do songs 6 - 10 tomorrow. Here, it's definitely time for bed!

Sweet dreams!

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Love what you do.

Today, as I was packing up my things to leave work after another long day at school, I got to thinking about my job, and my school, and all the little quirky things I love about it. Like anyone, there are things I can do without in my field of work (excess paperwork, early Saturday mornings and anything involving cleaning up wee or vom spring immediately to mind...), but on the whole I can say I love what I do.

I'm uniquely priveleged to do a job that I have a vocation for, and I know that. Every day when I wake up, even if I think "Man, I'm tired..." or "HOW IS IT 6 AM???" or even if I feel like just hiding under my awesome comfy duvet, I never think baldly, "I don't want to go to work". Sure, I'd rather be dancing or singing or napping some days, but generally I'm happy to get up and go into school.

I love my little classroom, with its primary colours and occasional chaos and beanbags and bright brash pictures done in felt tip, dedicated to "My favrit teecher". I love the kids at our school - they are truly a delightful bunch. When I came for interview one of the things that really impressed me was the kids - they are confident, friendly creatures, and the environment we teach and nurture them in encourages this, I think. We encourage them to try and think and dream. And keep their shirts tucked in and their hair neat, of course.

I like that no two days are the same. I like the range of roles I'm expected to assume in the average day, and the skills and knowledge I'm expected to display and draw upon. For example today I had to be (in no particular order):

A teacher, a nurse, a politician, a PA, a community organiser, an IT specialist, a maid, a nanny, a hairdresser, a diplomat, a secretary, a journalist, a public speaker, a dancer, a football specialist, a singer, a reader of stories (the voices required therein surely making me an actress of sorts), a postman, a handyman, a referee, a cleaner, a treasurer, an accountant, a PR specialist, a counsellor, a listening ear, a fundraiser and many other things that escape my notice on a sleepy Thursday evening as I recollect.

I like the little moments - the stories and hugs and conversations on the drive. The little phrases that kids pick up, the mythology of school (Don't wake the dragon who lives in the cupboard upstairs when we go to get the laptops!). I like that I do something that makes a difference, however small that difference may be. I love seeing my kids happy and safe and inspired.

So while there are other jobs I'd like to try, other challenges I'd like to face, for now I'm happy to simply love what I do.

Wishing you good things.

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God Bless America.

So it's finally here. The big day. A time for hope, a time for confidence, a time for change - a regime change, some would argue. As many of my friends and family go and vote for the next POTUS, I'm thinking of them and praying and hoping that the candidate chosen ushers in a new era for the USA. And if that man turns out to be half the President that President Bartlet was in the first two seasons of 'The West Wing', I will be a happy happy Claire (haha, way to set the bar high! Early years Jed Bartlet was the man. I've just spent a good half hour youtubing old clips from the show and recalling how awesome Martin Sheen's portrayal of a flawed but amazing President was).

Some of my friends will be voting McCain. Others will be voting Obama. I'll be hoping and praying that the choice they make will be the right one for the USA, and the world.

I'm inspired also to see the lines and queues to vote - the real enthusiasm that this election seems to have stirred. I hope that when our next general election here rolls around we can see people equal willing to use their vote and have their say.

I sign off a hopeful woman....I wonder what my next post will have to reflect upon?

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