These days, everyone is talking about “self care”.  With the world in a big ol’ state of crazy, the news, the virus, and work days that often go 12 hours or more, we need to keep reminding each other to slow down and just breathe.  Often when I finally get done “edtech-ing” for the day, I finally sit down to relax or enjoy some down time, and then…I notice emails or even tweets from educators who need my help, and I pick up that laptop again out of a sense of responsibility, duty, and maybe even a little guilt.  I really do care for the educators that I serve, and I never want to let anyone down.  I’ll bet a lot of you do the same thing, right?

This past weekend, I tried something new.  I shut down my laptop and logged out of my work email on Friday night…and I intentionally did not look at it again until Monday morning.  This does not come easy to me.  I have a pretty bad case of Need-To-Help-Itis, so some of that guilt trickled in and I wondered who might be needing me that I wasn’t there for.  Watching the news and even social media wasn’t proving to be relaxing…there’s too much division, sadness, and anger in all those places, so “self care” for me definitely meant unplugging.

So I came up with a plan and it’s bringing me joy.  I have decided to be super-intentional about focusing on gratitude, recognition, noticing “the little things”, and finding positives everywhere I can.  Last week, I came up with a fun little idea that does everything I just said, and also that would make me really happy, bring smiles to others, get outdoors, and spend time with family.  It’s like self care-palooza!

First, I bought these.  They’re on Amazon, and it only cost me $6.78 for 100 of them.  They are just small organza bags, 3 x 4 inches, and they come in a variety of colors.

small teal organza bags

Then, I thought about people who I appreciate.  I thought about colleagues who are working SO, SO hard…harder than they’ve ever worked in their lives.  I thought about family members who are just so thoughtful and great at communicating since we can’t be together.  I started to notice people who let me merge in front of them on the road and a waitress who went out of her way for us.  I thought of someone on Twitter who shares all her digital creations for free, and smiled with admiration at a guy who really stopped to pick up his dog’s doo while walking through my neighborhood.  (Not everyone does that…am I right?)  I want to notice ALL of these things…all the acts of kindness…all the signs of goodness that are happening that almost definitely outweigh the negativity we keep hearing about on the news.

Next step…and I LOVE this…I went for a walk in the woods – with my husband!  We just strolled leisurely together as he helped me with my little project.  I was looking for rocks – rocks that were just the right size, not too lumpy, and had a nice smooth side.  Together, we spent a gorgeous fall afternoon hiking through nature, enjoying crisp autumn air, walking, talking, laughing, planning…and collecting rocks.  He really enjoyed it, too.  What a joyous way to spend a day!

I brought those rocks home and washed every single one, and then I got out my metallic Sharpie markers!  (Oooohh la la – who doesn’t love metallic Sharpies!) On each rock, I simply hand-wrote the word YOU, all in capital letters.  Based on how each rock looked, I decided to write that word in either gold, bronze, black, or silver…and for some I even outlined the letters so they would pop!  It took me a few hours to do this, because I was in no rush at all…this was quality self-care time, after all.  I put one rock in each of those organza bags and tied the drawstring closed.  I soon filled a basket with 100 little gift bags…each one filled with a YOU rock.

basket of rocks in small transparent gift bags. On each rock is written the word YOU

So now, of course, comes the best part.  I will be carrying a few with me every day.  I keep some in my laptop case, some in my purse, and some in my car.  Today I went back to work….relaxed, well-rested, revived, and with a positive attitude.  I already knew the first three people who would be getting a YOU rock  – the three members of my team of technology integration specialists!  They do the job I do – working to serve teachers – but this year we’ve been needed to do things far beyond the scope of our expertise, with tons of added responsibilities, and teachers needing us more than they ever have in their lives.  My team – my little department – makes me SO proud and I am in awe of the things they have figured out and the way that they manage so many demands.  Since we went remote, they’ve not only supported teachers and administration, but they’ve somehow managed to do a whole lot of self-teaching and have learned SO much!  Because I can relate to their challenges more than anyone else, they were on my mind a lot this weekend.  These are the friends I was thinking of while I walked through the woods on Sunday, and the first 3 people to whom I wanted to say “YOU rock.”  We all work in separate school buildings, so I’m having them delivered via interoffice mail, along with a little thank you note.  I hope this little surprise package makes them smile…that’s the goal!

Me holding a whole basked of rocks in transparent bags. On each rock is written the word "YOU"

I was walking out the front door of school today when I turned around and went back down the hallway.  There was a teacher who was still there working in her classroom after many others had gone home.  I have been trying to help her with some iPad issues in the past few weeks, and everything is still not quite resolved, but she’s been so patient with me and the rest of the tech department.  She always smiles and is actually grateful for each thing we’ve been able to fix, instead of being angry about what we haven’t yet been able to accomplish.  I appreciate that grace…actually I REALLY appreciate that grace these days!   So before I left today, I stopped at her classroom and handed her a well deserved YOU rock.  Tonight I happened to notice that she posted a picture of her YOU rock on Facebook with this caption:

“Never would have thought a tiny rock would bring me joy but teaching in a pandemic does strange things to you. So I’m paying it forward to anyone out there who may need to hear it. In case no one told you today… YOU ROCK! #spreadjoy #teachersrock”

So for a total cost of $6.78, I hope I can bring joy and appreciation to 100 people by sharing tiny rocks in organza bags.  Maybe awesome people like my friend will “pay it forward”….and this will spread like ripples to many others!  As for me, I will likely give some to complete strangers.  I may send some through the mail.  I will almost definitely buy a few more packs of those little organza bags and keep doing this for a long time because it really is a fun thing to do!  It’s just all about noticing, appreciating, catching someone being awesome and letting them know…YOU rock!