Author Archives: claudiawjohnson

About claudiawjohnson

I am a teacher living in Bangkok, Thailand, where I enjoy Thai people, Thai food, and learning from other people!

Are You Where the Wild Things Are?

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Can you still hear the wild things?

“Thou strange piece of wild nature!” Colley Cibber

Lions, four-leaf clovers, and hairs all have wild tendencies.  Though I love to hunt for them, I’m not in their category.

Wild I’m not, but my thoughts are a different story.

These last few weeks, I’ve been reading Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.  If you haven’t read it in a while, you may remember that the little boy was mischievous.  “I will eat you up!” were the words that sent him to his room without supper.  Wild.

My coffee hadn’t kicked in, but later I truly connected with the author.  The wild monsters tell the boy, “We’ll eat you up.  We love you so!”  Of course, the little boy remembers that he loves his mother so much; he wants to eat her up.  The story is also about needing food.  It’s about a hunger for  love and attention, which we all experience when we’re wild.

A young, wild man found himself in the detention center.  He tried to help people, but soon gave up.  He tried to kill himself, and sat in front of us–a mess–still wild, but hopeless.

I admire some parts of the wild, yet I’m happy most of the time to just watch and shake my head.  Wild.  The animal in the woods that crouches down in pursuit of its prey.  Wild.  The person who quits a job to follow a dream.  Wild.  The broadway actress who pours her life on the stage for her supper.  Wild.  The dancer who choreographs her soul.  Wild.  The little girl running around in my head.  Wild.

Sometimes, I’m wild.  Though I conform and listen quietly, I’m wildly screaming out, “You’re boring us all to death!”  To let it out would devastate.  I’d surely be sent to my room.  I’m baring my teeth when I’m given a job that wastes my time.  It’s funny that when I was younger, I didn’t feel bothered by busy work, but now, my time is short.  I’m limited.  Sowing my wild oats has to be done quickly, within some parameters, but with wild intensity.

There are things about which I’m wildly passionate.  I’m wild to free those who limit themselves with their own thinking.  I’m wild to open a cage to set a prisoner free.  I’m wild to balance the lack of opportunity for the poor.  Wild.  It comes in spurts, but can produce more with consistency.

Like the little boy, I used to dream of being in the wild places.  Can I still, or have I been tamed?  When will I dream the visions of God?  He’s ready, but am I Where the Wild Things Are?

“The more wild and incredible your desire, the more willing and prompt God is in fulfilling it, if you will have it so.” Coventry Patmore

Nooks, Holes, Cracks, and Crannies

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The cracks define the path.

“Sculpture is the art of the hole and the lump.”  Auguste Rodin

Last night I found myself at a funeral, where a thick carpet of grass lay on the platform under the casket.  Tempted to take off my shoes and enjoy the grass between my toes, I actually felt the casket inviting me to visit.

When life is too busy, I walk past the outlines that form the beauty of the day.  I fail to notice the cracks and crevices filled with their carefully selected grout.  I’ve grown accustomed to the beggar needing a piece of bread and the downcast face of a colleague.  The things in life that invite me to experience real joy go unnoticed.

Jesus shows me a life of real contrast.  Even when pressed in by the crowds, he noticed the touch of a woman with great faith.  He stopped to converse with a small man sitting in a tree.  He heard the cry of a blind man begging for sight.  Of all people who could have been too busy to notice, his example calls me to a different kind of lifestyle.

Today, I hope to consider the nooks, holes, cracks, and crannies.  I hope to notice those things put in front of me rather than passing them by.  I hope I’m reminded that life is brief and that a layer of grass is inviting me home.

Like the grass under the casket, it’s the small details in life that create the big picture.  What’s in the cracks and crevices outlines the events that invite me to involve myself more deeply in life.  As Rodin shapes the clay with its holes and lumps, my life should be the same–a work of art shaped by the master artist.

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Happy Valentine’s Day, My Sweetheart!

BrainCaviar

Happy Valentine’s Day!  On this day I usually get mushy.  There’s not much I can do about it.  I’m doomed to live a life of happiness.  Why do I feel this way?  It’s because I’m married to my soul mate.  It took a long time to find him, and I really did kiss a lot of frogs before I found my prince.  Here are my top reasons why I feel mushy today.

I wake up every day with a man who calls himself Brad Pitt. My husband is not cocky.  He is deeply loved and that makes all of us know that we are good looking!

I get to laugh all of my life. If you didn’t marry someone who keeps you laughing, I’m sorry.  Laughter is good medicine, as I’ve said before.  If you haven’t married yet, look for someone who has a lot of fun in life.  I…

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3 L’s of Leadership: How To Lead From The Middle (Or Even The Bottom)

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The 3 L's of Leadership: Love, Laugh, Learn!

Are you a teacher leader?

He systematically walked in and out of every room, disturbing and unnerving all.  The staff braced themselves for the sure to follow email  pointing out negatives wherever he saw them.  Each approached him only when necessary since his whole demeanor screamed, “Leave me alone!”  This was their fearless leader–or was he?

We often think of leadership as the one who holds a leader-like title.  It’s like going around a park seeing labels on trees.  Unless we’re really interested in that tree, we’re not likely to look at the lable.  With leaders, we know when it’s right and when it’s not.  Calling something  ”leader” that’s clearly not is meaningless and unfortunate.

What, then, is a leader, and how might we be one?

Teachers are in a unique position to lead, though they may not realize it.  Think about your own school.  Who is the true leader?  Who do people go to for inspiration and new ideas?  Is there anyone who seems to keep a positive focus even in the middle of all of the negatives?  You too can be that person with perhaps a shift in motive.

Ask yourself a simple what?  What really motivates that person to lead?  Is it power?  If so, it’s the opposite of true leadership which Jesus modeled beautifully for us.  How did his leadership differ from what we see in the typical “leader” we often encounter?  Wouldn’t you say that the true, positive leaders in your school have some, if not all, of the three L’s of leadership?

Love – If we are motivated to become great, me might get a title, but we’ll not likely be the person that the title represents.  Jesus was clear that in order to become great, we must be the servant of all.  We can serve others with a heart full of true love.  That’s how it works.  Each day, we teachers can love our students, our fellow teachers, our bosses, our parent community, and our workplace.  We can do it because our hearts are full of love.  When our motive is love, we will share good things with others.  It won’t be difficult for us.  It will be a natural outcome from our pure motive.

Laughter – Real leaders tend to have a sense of humor.  They take the intolerable things and turn them into bearable situations.  Otherwise, they might have left years earlier.  These leaders don’t laugh so much at the situation, which tends to make things worse.  They actually look for things that bring them pleasure.  Imagine Jesus walking through a crowd and finding Zacchaeus up in a tree.  I think He was quite amused by the whole situation and saw that Zacchaeus needed a change.  Jesus initiated spending time with Zaccheaus in order to change his lifestyle.  Jesus laughed so much with these types of people that the church leaders were annoyed by him.  Yet, He led many to laugh and to love people.

Learn – Most real leaders have an attitude of learning.  They listen to people and yet they see the real meaning in the conversation.  They learn wherever they go and collect jewels which they pass on to others.  They are not know-it-alls, who are interesting at first but wear-off quickly.  Instead, they listen with the heart, and they share practically how to help the other person move forward.  Jesus listened to the woman at the well and offered her life-changing water.  Are we learning from this master teacher?

With these three L’s we’ll become, if not already, a teacher leader.  Imaging a school full of teacher leader who learn from each other, laugh, and love.

How do you lead from the middle?

“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” Ken Blanchard

Day 365: Mission Accomplished! Looking Back At PostADay 2011 Challenge

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This has been an amazing challenge! Thanks for joining me!

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.’ John Wooden

With a great sigh of relief, I’m posting my 365th post this year!  I’ve imagined this day many times.

In mid-January, I was ready to quit posting when WordPress spurred me onward.  They highlighted my blog so that I gained new friends and followers.  My audience is not large, but they are patient and encouraging.  Knowing that someone reads my daily posts keeps me writing.

Setting goals makes life fun, but knowing what goals to set is most difficult.

Here are my reflections (as suggested by WordPress) of completing these 365 days and my reasons for doing it:

  • Why did you start the Post a Day/Week Challenge?  I was looking for a challenge last December when I happened upon the daily challenge by WordPress.  They suggested we get a blog (which I didn’t yet have) and tell the world that we would be posting every day.  That’s how I started.  I told the world that I was starting what I have found to be a very long, but exciting, challenge.
  • Describe the state of your blog at the time you started the challenge.  As I mentioned, I had never created a blog but did have a website when I began the challenge.  I didn’t even understand posting at the time.
  • How did your blog evolve over the course of the challenge? Initially, I wanted my followers to join me in creating something every day.  I tried to challenge the readers to do an activity with me.  Over time, I simply posted about things I had noticed with my camera or during the day’s activities.
  • Did you post as often as you had hoped? Why or why not?  Yes, I posted every day.  On a few occasions, I posted something very simple because of my schedule that day.  Generally, I tried to write a post that connected something tangible with something intangible.
  • What type of blogging strategy works best for you?  I fell into a pattern which helped.  I would first look at a picture and choose my topic.  Then, I would search for a quote about the topic and include it in my post.  From there, I could compare my topic with my thoughts.  I often looked for related links to put into the post.
  • If you could go back to the beginning, what would you do differently? I’m sure my first few posts would be more in line with my other posts.  As it stands, I’m happy with how it went and wouldn’t change it.
  • What are you most proud of accomplishing this year?  I’ve met some great people this year.  I’ve learned to post, and I’ve enjoyed other blogs.  Finally, I completed this daily task all year long.
  • Name 3 great blogs you discovered through the challenge.  I have enjoyed Fruitful Words, Julia’s Place, and Savoring Today.  I felt especially connected to Susan and Julia.  We’ve befriended one another during this process.
  • What surprised you about the challenge?  I found that this daily post made me look more closely at my day-to-day activities.  I started taking pictures of interesting things, and I noticed more of the little details I often overlook.
  • What advice would you give to others who want to blog regularly?  I highly suggest the PostADay initially.  If you can make yourself commit to that long length of time, it will change your daily thinking pattern and make you more vulnerable.
  • What are your blogging goals for 2012?  Basically, I have no blogging goals this year since I thoroughly blitzed myself out in 2011.  I’m in the process of putting together a BrainCaviar for Educators site.  It’s just starting up.  I will not commit to posting daily, but will post at my own pace.

Now, I must thank many of you!

  • Thank you Julia, Ruth, Susan, Cooky, and Brad for being my top commenters this year.
  • Thank you to those who have “followed” my posts.  It made the journey worthwhile knowing that someone was reading!
  • Thank you family for putting up with me during this crazy year when I would have to rush home to finish my post of the day on many occasions!
  • Thank you to the readers who put up with my ramblings and who laughed with me all year long!
  • Thank you  WordPress.  You supported me daily, sent weekly photo challenges (which helped a lot), gave me this free place to post my thoughts, and connected me to a wonderful blogging community.

If you’ve stopped in this year at BrainCaviar, please leave a comment!  I appreciate each one!

Goodbye to this PostADay 2011 Challenge!  I promise never to take another one, but I will pop in at BrainCaviar from time to time and share my latest thoughts…just not every day!

Decent Guys Who Skate

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Birmingham skatepark demolished to make room for the Birmingham Barons.

“I consider skateboarding an art form, a lifestyle and a sport.” Tony Hawk

With the recent demolition of the downtown skatepark in Birmingham, Alabama, one might question the city’s prejudices.  Baseball certainly has its place, and Birmingham enjoyed the season when Michael Jordan brought more fans to see the Barons.  However, in choosing the new location for the minor-league ballpark, we’ve demolished the site where Birmingham’s skateboarders go to get noticed and hopefully to become pro-skaters.

Other than monetary gain, our stereotype for skateboarders might be a part of the problem.  We often see these guys as a bunch of vagabonds who wish to destroy the town by riding the stair rails, doing drugs, and plastering graffiti on downtown brick walls and tunnels.  Who cares about them anyway?

So I ask you, dear Birmingham, where will these skaters go now?  The Birmingham Railroad Park built what they considered a skatepark, and since it didn’t meet their needs, the skaters made their own park right across the street.  This park, however, included appropriate ramps, bars, and rails that the skaters could use to practice tricks, jumps, and grinds.  In essence, they made a place to contain themselves so that they could get the practice they needed without vandalising the city.  They don’t require an audience like the Barons, but they do need certain types of equipment which were not considered by the Railroad Park.

Since I was born and raised in and around the Birmingham area, I consider myself in the know about our city.  My son, however, is just now developing a love for Birmingham since he has spent his years in the big city of Bangkok, Thailand, where he enjoys skateboarding with many of his friends in several of our public parks.  He has worked with our slum ministry and loves helping people.  He is a decent guy who skates.

Birmingham, would we consider a place where both minor-league baseball players and minor-league skateboarders could both excel and practice?  Could we once again look past your prejudices and see the skateboarders as a group of decent guys who skate?  Could we provide a place for them just as we are providing for our baseball players?

We’ve worked through difficult times in the past, and here’s another chance for us to shine.  What do you say?

Day 363: 5 Things To Throw Out Before the New Year

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This chandelier once lit a beautiful hall.

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” A.A. Milne

If I could walk back in time, I’m sure I’d catch a dazzling view of this ritzy theatre with shimmering lights, people parading in their Sunday best, and lots of anticipation for a romantic evening.  As it stands, there are two families waiting to see a cheap show.  The chandelier hangs but is partially lit.  The adjacent golden fixtures are putting their green faces forward with the energy-efficient, yet ugly, bulbs.  All good things must come to an end, but this one is fighting to its death.

What could be a more perfect time to get rid of those things that no longer dazzle?  The new year is around the corner, and I love change that I initiate more than change initiated by someone else.   To get myself going, I checked out two e-books from the library and both are telling me to throw things out.  One says to Throw Out Fifty Things while the other tells me I’ll need to demolish the old in order to start with the new.  Both authors have great ideas.  Both are challenging me to rid myself of too many things.

Here are five things that I really must throw out before the new year:

1. Throw out the junk food – I talked about this earlier in the year, but all Halloween candy must now be thrown away.  If we don’t at least start eating healthy in the new year, when will we ever?  Even if we don’t keep it up daily, we must start somewhere.  My friends told me about a lady who has lost so much weight they don’t even recognize her.  I surely don’t want to go that far, but it is now time to address this stomach bulge.  Are you with me?

2. Throw out the idea that I can’t accomplish what I start – In the second book I’m reading, I’m hearing that one of the best ways to complete a task is to understand the motivation behind it.  If we know of  a reason to accomplish the goal and it has a long-term positive impact on life, we are more likely to accomplish it.  I challenge each of us to choose a great goal and write down the reason we want to accomplish it.  Then determine how that will impact a positive future.  Let’s try it.

3. Throw out the broken things – If I haven’t fixed them yet, I’ll need to fix them now or throw them out.  These intentions can hang around and keep me bogged down.  The quicker I rid myself of them, or fix them, the better.

4. Throw out the overwhelmed feeling that holds me back – I sometimes don’t want to start because my mind tells me I’ll never get there.  Well, why not get started?  That’s the worst part for me.  So what if I don’t throw away 50 things?  I can throw away 5 for sure.  That’s 10% that gets me on a roll.  Today, I choose not to feel overwhelmed.  The goal is mine and not for someone else.  If I don’t make it to 50, I’ll still make it to 5.  Goodbye overwhelmed feeling that keeps me from starting what I want to start!

5.Throw out one fear –  I love what God can do in our hearts when we refuse to fear change.  God never changes, yet He is in the changing business.  If we are to be more like Him, we have to trust Him with our futures.  It’s important to throw out anything that is keeping us from moving in the direction He needs us to go.  Throwing away one fear can get me moving in a new direction.

Now comes the decision. We can keep this beautiful chandelier as it is and let it take up space in our lives even though it is not shining beautifully. We can fix it or throw it away.  Yes, it seems too valuable to throw away, but will it free us of space needed for something more practical?  Will it free us to enjoy life in a different way?

Are we ready to throw away 5 things?  What will they be?  Are they physical or mental?  Please share your list.

Day 362: A Place For Everyone – Lumpini Park, Bangkok

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Find your place at Lumpini Park.

“When I’m old I shall give up writing the big stuff and shall wander round the park thinking of songs.” George Lloyd

We’re pulling out the socks and hot chocolate today in Bangkok.  It’s cloudy with a chance of rain at a frigid 70 degrees, which is quite cold for our city.  Believe it or not, you’ll find all of the street dogs sporting winter clothes and people wearing long sleeves or jackets.  In a tropical city, it’s our cold season which brings on some special events at our fabulous public arena, Lumpini Park.

Whether you prefer running, walking at a hefty pace, sitting for a leisurely picnic, or joining the ranks of one of many exercise groups, you’ll find your place at Lumpini.  I love that people of all levels of society join together for public fun.

On Christmas night in Lumpini, we had the pleasure of hearing the free concert by the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra.  For 30 Baht (around $1) we rented a family mat, sat with our books, and awaited the concert.  In a crowd of about 2,000 we enjoyed the music–or mostly so–since the two men beside us chatted rudely throughout the concert.  We were on the outskirts and therefore also endured the booming music from the nearby aerobics class of about 250 people oblivious to the outstanding concert.

That’s how it is in Lumpini.  So many varieties of events happen at once that one just bumps right into the next.  To enjoy this plethora of activities, hop on over to Lumpini in the early morning or around 5 in the afternoon when the various groups are getting organized.  I enjoy seeing the senior citizens early in the mornings doing Tai Chi and then sipping hot tea over a morning news chat.

For variety, you’ll have a hard time finding a place more accommodating than Lumpini Park.  What’s your favorite hang-out?

Day 361: Things Remembered – Things Forgotten

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A sparkling ornament holds a memory to shine or to put away.

“Every man’s memory is his private literature.” Aldous Huxley

Seeing the tiny elves again drew a smile on my face.  I’m not even sure of the memory I associate with it because it has grown in size.  I don’t know where to start thinking back.  With the ornament in my hand, I embrace feelings of hope, joy, and warmth.

A box of Christmas ornaments holds more than decorative pieces.  As we hang each one, a plethora of memories flow through our heads.  The associations are likely different for each person.

Recently, my children shared how they hung ornaments for their grandmother.  The tree was completely weighed down, yet the memories behind the ornaments were important to her.  None could be left in the box.

Today, we will begin taking down the tree.  We’ll keep the ornaments safely in their places.  What sorts of inspiration will they provide for our new year?

Family – Some ornaments remind me of my family and of the close connections we shared.  It reminds me of simple times when we ate cornbread, cream potatoes, and sat together at the table.  Like an ornament, we choose which memories are best to keep and which ones are best to throw away.

Friends – We came across an ornament of our first year of marriage given to us by a special friend.  It reminded me of a different period of life.  How exciting that time when we were working and learning to love each other daily.  We had another set of friends then.  We are still connected with many of these friends.  It made the difficult times easy to forget.

Hopes – Sometimes ornaments remind us of a hope we have lost.  Perhaps we’ve lost the joy that we once held daily.  Ornaments can trigger a memory that can help us change our present.  Bringing back the hope into our lives can be a gift in disguise.

Dreams – As time moves onward, we often abandon dreams which were either foolish or forgotten.  With each ornament, the dreams we wish to shine up and pursue again can be a treasured challenge.  We can also realize our need to abandon a dream for something even better.  Age and wisdom can help us know which to keep and which to discard.

If these ornaments connect our past and present, they are meaningful.  Yet, if we allow an associated memory to propel our future, then we have captured their great value.

What ornament holds special meaning for you?

Day 360: Thank You! Thank You! To You and to You!

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Thank you, Nadie for your nomination!

“He’s my friend that speaks well of me behind my back.” Thomas Fuller

This 365 day challenge has been a wonderful ride.  I’ve learned so much and have met so many wonderful people.  Today, many thanks are in order.

First, I must say thank you to Nadie at Lil Lady…Giant Brain.  She uses her creativity to encourage others, and I appreciate her nomination.

Thank you Photo Poetics for this nomination!

Then, I must also give a warm thanks to Photo Poetics for the nomination for the Liebster Blog.  Hop on over to the blog and enjoy poetry inspired by wonderful photographs.

As part of these awards, I’ll need to tell you some random things about myself!  Here are a few:

  • Travel – I love to travel and have spent two years in South Africa, my growing up years in the United States, and most of my adult life in Thailand.
  • Art – I’ve never had an art class, but I have a great appreciation for artists.
  • Coffee – I’m a coffee lover.  I like it with milk and medium strength.  Coffee is my best friend in the early mornings.
  • Work – I love teaching.  It’s fun to share new ideas with others who get excited about learning too.
  • Student – I’m a perpetual student.  I love reading books that teach me how to do something new.
  • Goals – I like have goals I’m working toward.  It gives me a direction.
  • Projects – Getting projects completed makes me happy.  I like a project that I can finish quickly because for me, I like the finished piece of work.
  • Wife – I have an awesome husband who puts up with my great need to learn and to change.
  • Mom – I have three of the most awesome children I know.  I guess I have to call them adults now.  I’m proud of them.  They are all creative and love dabbling in many projects like I do.
  • Life – I love God and have a passion to share God’s love with people I meet.  Whatever I do, I hope that others know more about God because I’ve helped point them in that direction.

Kreativ Blogger Award Rules:

  • Thank the person who gave you the award
  • Share 10 things about yourself
  • Pass the award to 6 or more bloggers
  • Copy and paste the Kreativ Blogger Award onto your blog
  • Notify the new nominees

Here are my nominees:

Film is Love – Here, you’ll find some amazing photographs!  I always enjoy the unique perspective I find here.

Indulge, Travel, Adventure, & New Experiences – Lesley will take you everywhere doing just about anything.  I don’t think it would be easy to try more things than this young lady has tried.

3rd Culture Children – I relate to this blog since I also have 3rd culture children.  Enjoy the creative touch at this blog.

Savoring Today – I love the recipes and links shared at this creative sight.  I’m not very creative with food so Savoring Today gives me inspiration!

Liebster Blog Award Rules:
  • Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
  • Reveal the five blogs you have chosen and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Copy and paste the award onto your blog.
  • Request that people you have sent the award to forward it on to their favorite bloggers.

Here are my nominees:

Taking the World on With a Smile – I love the way that Karen puts a positive spin on life.  Stop over and visit her blog today.

Healthful Momma – Here’s a fun new blog that reminds me of the early years with my sweet children.  Give Healthful Momma a visit and send a nice comment her way!

Thank you again for your vote of confidence by stopping in this year. May the Lord bless all of you during the holiday season!

With much love here at BrainCaviar,

Claudia