Moving through JOY

I opened my inbox to find this message: “As one who reminds us to experience JOY and to enJOY each day, here’s a poem for you…”

I sometimes forget that I was created for Joy.

My mind is too busy.

My Heart is too heavy for me to remember

I have been called to dance the

Sacred dance of life.

I was created to smile

To Love

To be lifted up

And to lift others up.

O’ Sacred One

Untangle my feet

from all that ensnares.

Free my soul.

That we might


and that our dancing might be contagious.    ~Hafiz~

Special thanks to the Reading Goddess, R, for reaching out to share this reminder, for sensing my heart, and for singing JOY back to me through poetry. May this gentle reminder spark JOY as you untangle your feet to inspire gratefulness around you today. Be blessed and be a blessing, friends. 🙂  


“We are most alive when our hearts are conscious of our treasures…” ~ Thornton Wilder

This is the gift–to hear and enJOY life’s opportunities every single day. Truly, there is something in every day and in every season to celebrate with thanksgiving as treasures along the journey…to be more aware of what we have, to appreciate again and again all the wonderful things money cannot buy (the wind in your hair, the sun on your face, a child’s laughter, a loving family, and more).

As we wrap up this school year, it’s important to take a moment to focus on things as though we are seeing them either for first time, or in my case as LME princiPAL, for the last time. With 34 years of educational opportunities, it is time to personally move to another phase of this journey called life.

Before I leave this fast-growth learning community in the most capable of hands, please allow a little poetic license to share some final pearls of pirate wisdom and TREASURES…

T = Take time to breathe, to try something new, and to be THANKFUL.  The most precious things in life are always right in front of you.  Trust and be amazed!

R = Remind yourself and others to relax, rejuvenate, rest, and reward.  Play is important for all ages, most especially when you need to recharge your battery and take in the abundance of life each day.

E = EnJOY the ride…the good and the not-so-good!  Expect adventures and entertain a few wild ideas to enhance this big, bold, grand, astonishingly beautiful world.  After all, it’s not the destination, but the journey along the way…

A = Always allow grace to shine forth…hold yourself and others to a standard of less perfection and more grace…!

S = S-T-R-E-T-C-H your mind, mindset, body, heart, and soul to uncomfortable levels.  We often find new possibilities, answers, and options just outside our comfort zone!

U = Understand and forgive others even when they do not deserve it; this is usually when they need your understanding and forgiveness the most…

R = Respect yourself first; respecting others will be easier then.

E = Entertain new opportunities by saying YES…engagement, enlightenment, and empowerment start with each of us!

S = Savor the simple, profound, JOYful moments; these will become the milestones to your personal life story.

EnJOYAll these TREASURES are present in the many JOYs of my educational journey at LME.  One of the surest and most encompassing JOYs comes from the great works and excellence of others around me.  While some may not appreciate the idea of thriving on others’ successes, it is more than enough to have the honor and privilege of being a part of something profoundly extraordinary because I chose the role of catalyst in the process.  We can all be a ladder, a lamp, or even a lifeboat on this journey…here’s hoping your heart is always conscious of your TREASURES; enJOY the journey!

Note:  VanAmGram will become a personal blog on July 1, 2016 and will no longer be associated with LaRue Miller Elementary.


Pearls of Ornamental Wisdom…

A young learner stopped me in the hallway just after announcements:

  • Child:  “Mrs. Van, I have a Christmas Question for you today.”
  • Me:  “Yes?”
  • Child:  “Do you have a favorite ornament on your Christmas tree that is dear to you?”
  • Me:  “Actually, I do, and thanks for asking! What a great question!”
  • Child:  “Will you write about it so I can read it on the ‘puter bog?  🙂

Here goes little friend:  One of my favorite words holidayornamentin the English language is “JOY.”  While happiness is grand, it concentrates more on a circumstance of life–we just “happen” to find ourselves happy because of a situation.  JOY is a deep, soulful emotion bringing delight and gladness–comfort and JOY to the beholder.  There is an ornament I keep close at hand all year (it actually hangs on our tree during the season) with the little word JOY inscribed on the antique snowball.  My Granny B. actually wrote the word JOY on the little ornament the day we had this conversation about JOY.  As always, this was her special way of sharing a “pearl of wisdom” with me.  She was known for doing clever little things like this . . .

As these students were making ornaments today in a workstation during Daily 5 rotations, they were anxious to share the results, which bears this important seasonal question today:  Think of an ornament from your past or present that is dear to you; why does it have special meaning?  Here’s hoping you share your own special JOY and pearl of wisdom with your little one this year!

No complaining today!

One our teachers is known for telling her young learners, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit!”  🙂  It’s her humorous way of reminding learners not to waste precious time complaining; move forward, work with what you’re given, and make it excellent.  I remember my Granny B. saying, “When you complain, you focus on everything else but being your personal best…”

I read an interesting article recently that noted how much images-2complaining costs our country in lost dollars, productivity, morale, engagement, and culture.  We all have things to complain about, but I propose we encourage one another to go on a complaining fast–not because it will make those around you happier (although it will), but because it will help you experience more JOY, peace, success, positive relationships, and better productivity; our staff is on this quest right now with their learners and their team.

images-1In his book, The No Complaining Rule, author Jon Gordon offers five specific ways we can actively practice the No-Complaining Fast:
1.  Practice gratitude:  Research shows when we count three blessings a day, we get a measurable boost in JOY and in our immune system to uplift and energize us.  It’s also physiological impossible to be stressed (with negativity) and thankful (with JOY) at the same time!
2.  Praise others:  Focus on what others are doing right.  Praise them and watch success rates increase.  Mistakes help us learn and grow, but for every mistake you point out to someone, give three praises later.
3.  Focus on excellence and success will follow:  Start a success (or what I call my gratitude) journal.  Write down something great about each day; you’ll look forward to creating more success the next day.  Do this with your child each day–start a list on the fridge or a special memo board so the list grows.
4.  Let go:  A dear friend of mine always says, “Let go; let God.”  Focus on the things you have the power to change and surrender things beyond your control; you’ll be amazed when you stop trying to control everything!  This is a tough one for everyone, especially young learners.
5.  Breathe:  Spend time daily deep breathing, meditating, praying . . . all of these reduce stress, boost positive energy, and promote good health.  When you are faced with the urge to complain:  stop, be still, and plug-in to your ultimate Power to recharge.  Teach your child to practice this coping skill daily.

These tips should help you realize you are not powerless; you have the power to choose your beliefs, attitudes, and actions everyday.  I tell learners at the end of our Morning Message everyday:  You have a choice everyday; I hope you choose to make it your personal best today.  Focusing on the positive, instead of the negative complaining, will help you find the faith, strength, and confidence to take on challenges and identify solutions for any complaint…no complaining!  🙂


It’s no secret my favorite word is JOY…our learners know it because it’s something we talk about during morning message—finding our own JOY in simple, everyday ways.  We see the word all over the JOYplace during this time of year; you can find it on ornaments, in greetings, on wrapping paper, or even on the smiling young faces of little learners whose eyes sparkle and marvel at the wonder of the season (and there was great JOY on the beautiful faces of our third grade friends who shared their holiday spirit during “Holiday HoeDown” last week!).

JOY surrounds us, but we must teach our little ones the way to find it for themselves and how to share it with others, thus leading me to a couple of challenging questions for today:  How do you share JOY with those you hold dear during this JOYous season?  How do you convey JOY to little ones who look to you for guidance in finding it within themselves?  Yes, these are tough questions to ponder as you prepare for the coming days ahead…but, as always, may great hope, peace, JOY, and love surround you and those you hold dear!  🙂

JOYful pearls of wisdom…

A 5th grade conversation went like this today:

  • Student:  Here’s question for you today!
  • Me:  Great!  Let’s hear it!
  • Student:  Do you have a favorite ornament that is dear to you, Mrs. Van?
  • Me:  You bet I do and thanks for asking!
  • Student:  Please write about it and send it to our class so we can grade your paper.
  • Me:  Sure ‘nough; consider it done!

Here’s hoping my writing passes their test . . .  🙂

One of my favorite words in the English language is “JOY.”  While happiness is wonderful, it concentrates more on a circumstance of life, a moment in time, or a specific situation.  Happiness is something we can achieve; JOY is something we are given.  JOY is unpredictable–it cannot be downloaded, legislated, turn on with an electronic device, earned, or even inherited…JOY is simply given to us.  JOY is a deep, soulful reaction bringing extraordinary delight to the receiver.

There is an ornament I keep close at hand all year (it hangs on my tree during the season, but is shown here on a sprig of rosemary–also from Granny’s original plant).  This little ornament proudly displays my favorite word, JOY, lovingly embroidered by Granny’s hand.  We had a conversation one day about the difference between happiness and JOY.  This special ornament was her way of always reminding me of her “JOYful pearl of wisdom” (she had a real knack for sharing lots of pearls of wisdom through the years!).  She told me if I was “ever to receive JOY in life, make a way for it to come to you…happiness is great, but JOY is the best gift ever!”  🙂

So, of course, here’s the question for you today:  Is there a special ornament you or your family treasures most and what’s the story behind it?  Here’s hoping you share a JOYful pearl of wisdom of your own this season!

JOYful Friday!

In a recent visit with a student, I was asked this interesting question:  “What is your favorite word, Mrs. Van?”  WOW!  This list is long (I do collect quotes, after all).  Like I shared during our Miller Team Huddle this morning, the one word bringing the biggest smile to my face would have to be the word JOY.  🙂  JOY is an icon of optimism with great hope, faith, and love mixed into it.  We are each blessed with beautiful expressions of JOY all around us everyday, especially on a school campus!  Today is certainly no exception…

We announced our new Student Honor Council after an intense application and interview process for fifth grade.  Congratulations go out to Ryan, Heather, Allie, Cameron, and Rustin.  They took their oath and pledge this morning in front of the entire school.  We look forward to their leadership throughout the coming year.

We also celebrated our All-Stars and the coveted MVP awards this morning during Huddle.  Special thanks to last week’s MVPs, Madelyn and Darren, as well as this week’s MVPs, McKenna, Connor, and Miranda.  These five Miller students have shown extraordinary character traits and qualities across all areas of our campus since the first day of school.  They also have the honor of wearing their own MVP shirt each week (thanks, Mr. Fio, for the design of our shirt; thanks, Miller Design Team for the idea this year!).

Our Panther readers faithfully came this morning and added to the excitement of the day.  You can see MISD Panther, Cody, surrounded by third graders who are grateful for his weekly reading contribution.  Thanks to our Panther players and coaches for this wonderful opportunity each week!  Go Panthers!

We are grateful for cooler temps, some rain sprinkles, and the coming change of the seasons.  Here’s hoping you find JOY in simply sublime ways today and everyday!

Note:  We are doing well on our Fun Run pledges; thanks for your support!  The Fun Run is next Thursday, September 20 throughout the morning.