Believe In Bunnies

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education

Believe Coaching Teacher Life

Default: I Don’t Know

Instant gratification… every answer literally at our fingertips…

We need not retain or think or reflect or discover and when we do, there’s often some glorious person, standing on the sidelines, judging us as weird or a know-it-all or special for having a deep interest, a passion, as sense of curiosity.

I’m reminded of mic-drop moment that Earl Nightingale shares in The Strangest Secret… that men simply do not think.

Please—we’re saying men here in generality. Substitute in “people” before you start man-bashing (or not… it’s your brain).

I watch this phenomenon in my teenage students. When faced with a task or question, they click into “I don’t know” and give up mode immediately. They don’t give themselves moment or several moments to process, think, consider or get curious.

It’s just “I don’t know” and abandon.

I don’t accept that. I reject that and guide them to choose again.

From there, I watch the look of relief and burgeoning confidence.

This happens, almost without fail, when I ask my freshmen to create accounts on a website our school uses to check the originality of their essays. They type in the web address just fine. I show them where the “Create Account” button is… and then they slam on the brakes. “I don’t know what to do here” is the default response for some because, although they are the most internet-savvy generation, they haven’t necessarily registered for something academic, formal, something with “security questions.” They want to give up and they let distraction kick in right away before curiosity and inquiry. It’s easier to just click over to another website than to take 30 seconds to figure this out.

I never yell. I don’t get frustrated. I don’t fill out the registration for them. I sit down beside every student who slips into default give-up mode and say something along the lines of, “I know that you’ve used websites before where you’ve had to log in. I know that if the hottest pair of sneakers was on the other side of this instead of a plagiarism checker, you would fly right through these fields and questions. You already know how to do this. Show me. Prove me right.” I’ve never met a student who couldn’t complete this task. Some need guidance or more time and I readily give them help. But they can all figure it out.

In little moments like this, it would be easy to just yell, “Do it!” or create the account for them… or give them a zero for not having an account. But this way uncovers a channel in their brains, clears the brush from the default path and reminds them that they can. These moments compound to empowerment, resilience, and autonomy that is often overlooked in the default ways we learn to do things.

 

How often do you, dear readers, stop before you even start? Talk yourself out of trying something new, a recipe, an activity, a training, because it’s unfamiliar?

Sure, it’s easy and comfortable to stay right where you are… but you can’t grow there. And I know that you have some amazing feats to tackle and gifts to share.

Working to shift the default from “I don’t know” to “Let’s figure this out!”

Learning… unlearning… relearning.

Much love.

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Believe Bunnies Purpose Rescue

A Problem & A Fix

Loyal readers know by now that I’m the main point of contact for a volunteer animal rescue organization called the Long Island Rabbit Rescue Group.  Earlier this week, we received a remarkable number of emails from people who are looking to get rid of their rabbits. We call this rehoming, but that’s often a soft euphemism. I wrote a post in our volunteer group that day that went deeper than our usual posts there. I decided to save it and share it with you today, a look into that side of my Rescue world.

Here’s what I had to say to our team:

 

Education. That’s how we “fix” this problem.

I don’t tell you any of this to upset you or to anger you. I share with you so we can support each other in our shared mission of ensuring the safety and protection of domestic rabbits.

Today alone LIRRG received emails about 28 unwanted rabbits. 28. Today. On Long Island. Some from “accidental litters” that could have been prevented with education.

These people reach out to us, trying to do the “right thing” by an animal either they no longer want, no longer can care for or were just plain not expecting… but we have no recourse for them. Even if we had a shelter facility, it would be filled by the end of the week. And no, the Town shelters typically do not accept rabbits, as they are not equipped to care for them. Yet the towns and counties still allow the sale. I wonder if our representatives know there is even an issue…

I know where these rabbits are coming from. We ask those who email us and they tell us. None of these people welcomed rabbit(s) into their lives planning on getting rid of him/her/them. But, with few exceptions, they were not given accurate or any information upon purchase. They also chose not to do any research before purchase… but if there was a chance that the shirt I bring up to the register at Macy’s was going to chew my couch and potentially multiply into 15 shirts, I think it would be the staff or management’s job to let me know that.

We need to get out in FULL FORCE to educate, to teach about proper care, spay/neuter and the benefits of adoption over shopping. Although we are making a difference, the problem is multiplying like… well, like rabbits.

Sure, you rather stay home on a Saturday than staff a table at an education. Sure, you rather text your bestie than email your legislatures. But, I am also sure that you look over at the exercise pen in your family room and know that your rabbit would want you to get involved on behalf of his/her/their furry friends.

 

So, dear readers, maybe you’re not a rabbit owner or lover… but there are some beings in your life that you love, including yourself! In honor of that love and care, do something today to make the world safer and brighter… send a “thinking of you” text, donate $10 to your local animal rescue, treat yourself to a 10 minute massage. Spread love.

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Coaching Healing Purpose Teacher Life

Back to Ms. B

Summer Denise is a legend in her own mind.

I go back to work Tuesday and by Wednesday afternoon, it will feel like we never left… but for the first time in my recollection, I really feel restored, renewed and rested. Yes, it is possible to have two months off from the day job and feel like you haven’t had a break (I’m sure those with human children are nodding emphatically). For me, achieving this restored feeling is all about mindset—deciding in July that I had to slow down, committing to myself to be here now and not barreling into the next project, launch or endeavor! I spent a lot of this summer glued to the couch and more time on the yoga mat than I expected… pleasantly surprised with myself.

In the spirit of transitioning from Summer Denise to Ms. Bertolotti, I want to share with you some of the ways I keep it festive through the school year.

  • Seasons & Episodes: Yeah, it’s weird, but follow me here. You know I love a good metaphor. I count the years and days of school as seasons and episodes. This silly tradition started when I was working towards tenure, as a way to cope with the pressure. I thought of myself as a guest star on a show, probably a long-running soap opera. I had a contract for 183 episodes each season and it was my job to rock the role so well that my character would become a series regular and star. It worked. I’m entering into Season 15 this week!

 

  • It’s not a classroom; it’s a disco: There is always music playing in my classroom, just like there is always music playing in our house. In the morning before the first bell, I listen to whatever I’m in the mood for, usually something heavy. Once the din of 7:28 am sounds, every day has a theme, as follows:
    • Hair Metal Mondays
    • 80s Tuesdays
    • 90s Wednesdays
    • Guilty Pleasures Thursdays
    • Disco Fridays

I’m revamping the playlists, so please share your song suggestions. And yes, I dance in the hallways. Judge all you want… or join in the fun.

 

  • First Day Massage: I book a massage for 4 pm on the first day of classes. I started this tradition in Season 1. If I have a tough day, I know there’s relaxation coming. If I have a great day, this is the perfect cherry on top.

 

Okay, loyal readers, it’s back to my book and my lounge chair for two more days. May the spirit of Summer Denise flourish… see you in 10 months! Cheers to Season 15!

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Believe Coaching Energy Healing Purpose Rescue Teacher Life

Mr. Denise

Get ready for one of the most ridiculous anecdotes I’ve ever shared with you.

You know how there’s always one kid who accidentally calls the teacher “mom” and then gets teased about it for at least the rest of the school year? In 14 years of teaching, I’ve never been called mom. But about 6 or 7 times, I’ve accidentally been called “dad” (and once this year “King” but that was just cute). The second day of school this year, a senior, whom I taught when he was a freshman and a sophomore, passed me in the hallway and said, “Hi dad.” He then stopped, walked back a few steps and said, “I just called you dad.” To that I replied, “Yes, it happens” and we both went about our days.

From that encounter, I started thinking about these verbal slips as more than just a misspoken word.

I am a cisgender female. I wear high heels every day (except on Pajama Day when I don my work slippers). I wear makeup. I have long, layered hair. I don’t have the most soprano of voices but I’ve never been mistaken for a man on the phone. So… what gives?

It’s energy.

In a class, one of my mentors Kerissa Kuis, founder of the University of Wellness, taught us a bit about feminine and masculine energies. As the lesson unfolded, I was immediately reminded of the anecdote I opened with. As much as I look, sound and identify feminine, my masculine energies are overpowering. I lead with my masculine, the assertive, the dominant, because that’s what’s keeps me safe and successful. It’s not a conscious choice, but bringing in the feminine and balancing the two needs to be.

It’s yin and yang, but the classic black and white symbol is balanced… and I’m not yet.

There are benefits to my energies as they are currently. I can handle the toughest animal rescue situations with discernment and detach from the emotional aspect. I can put these personal stories out to the world without (too much) trepidation of judgment. My current energetic state is goal-oriented and gets stuff done.

In doing a little research before writing today, I found a great article, appropriately titled “Balancing Your Feminine and Masculine Energies” by Deganit Nuur. If you know me, you’ll read the Greater Yang section, nodding, thinking, “This is so Denise.” I love reading that a way to balance for my energy type is to delegate. I’ve been doing more delegating in my Rescue and business endeavors and I feel great… now that I’ve surrounded myself with incredibly passionate and capable people.

While I have gel French nails and Hello Kitty merch, I might get called dad tomorrow. And I’m not mad at that. My dad is awesome.

In effort to bring some balance in, I’m reading Rise Sister Rise by Rebecca Campbell. Drop me a comment or an email about what you do to bring balance… Much love.

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Believe Coaching Teacher Life

Power & Respect

I’ve nicknamed the school at which I teach “Happy High School,” not to be derisive—it’s truly a happy little place. I’ve been there 11 years. On average there is one fight a year, sometimes in the cafeteria, sometimes in the hallway. Just a one-on-one exchange, not some sort of organized rumble. That one fight usually isn’t so bad and then peace resumes for the rest of the year at Happy High School.

Last year’s fight was a rough one in the standards of our typical altercations. It took place in the cafeteria. The antagonist, a freshman in one of my classes at the time, was suspended for several weeks. Quiet, grew up in a different place, likely not vibing with the ways of Happy High School. We didn’t connect much because the course in which he was enrolled with me was only a quarter long, just 10 weeks, and he was home-bound for a chunk of our time together.

This school year, our same antagonist got into another particularly brutal fight in the hallway. I’m going to call him M from here on because calling him an antagonist, although he technically threw the first punch (and several dozen more), feels like a label he doesn’t deserve. The altercation took place in the English wing (my English classroom is one of the few that is not located in that wing). An English teacher broke up the fight. She’s braver than I am when it comes to things like this.

Both M and his opponent, sophomores now, were suspended from school for 6 weeks. When students are suspended for more than a handful of days, they receive homebound instruction—either their main subject teacher or a tutor from an agency our district hires meets them at the public library for 2 hours per subject each week. M’s English teacher couldn’t take the job, as she works a second job in the evenings. None of the agency tutors were able to work with M either. The boss asked if I would be able to take on the hours. Although the thought of adding another two hours of work into my slammed schedule caused me to hesitate, I said yes.

Our sessions at the local public library were quiet. M did his work with skill and focus. Of course, the life coach in me comes out sometimes… so during our second session, I asked M who his best friend is. His response: “I don’t have friends here.” He said it very matter-of-fact, like he didn’t want friends in this corny little town. I replied that he “could have fooled me,” as he’s often flocked with other boys as they travel from class to class. But I understood him—he doesn’t feel like he belongs. I dropped the conversation right there, got back to the work his teacher assigned.

If only M knew that he had a lot more in common with his colleagues at Happy High School, that so many feel like they don’t belong for various reasons… some just teenage worry and some with more depth.

During our last session, while M was completing some work assigned by his teacher, I scribbled down something I wanted to tell him. At the close of our session, I collected the work to submit to his teacher and took a deep breath. Then I said some version of what I had written down:

When you remember that the only respect you need is your own, then you’ll have all the power you need.

I ripped that scribbled section off of the manila folder, because I knew I’d share this with you. M doesn’t have to fight anymore to prove he deserves respect. And you, my dear ones, don’t need to seek approval or validation from anyone or anything outside of yourself. Respect yourself, empower yourself and there you will find your truth, your happiness.

And if you need help getting started, I’m here for you. Much love.

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Believe Energy Healing Purpose Young Living

Why. My Young Living Story.

Why… because I can’t not.

Ooooooooo the English teacher just rocked a double negative!

Because I don’t define myself as an English teacher. I am not my job. But society will try to force you into labeling and identifying as what you do.

That never sat right with me and, for years, I wouldn’t tell people my profession. It felt like one of those Halloween masks from the early 80s, the plastic ones with the uncomfortable, thin elastic band around the back and the barely-there cutouts for breathing. They don’t make those masks anymore… for a reason.

Like those masks, the school system feels stifling to me. The prospect of working at this job for 30+ years as is, following everyone else’s way, put a literal lump in my throat and a clawing in my stomach. Try feeling like that every day. Maybe you already do…

I needed something else, something different. But I didn’t have a clue what or how.

I could resign myself to keep at what I was doing and consequently feeling how I was feeling or I could make a change. I didn’t think I could or should change my job. I decided I could and would change myself.

I remembered how much better I felt physically and mentally when I practiced yoga after graduating from college so I found a yoga studio near our house. There, I met my acupuncturist. During our sessions, she used Young Living oils. I was feeling more and more peace with every healing I experienced.

I couldn’t take those needles home but I could take those little brown bottles with the colorful labels home. I ordered a Premium Starter Kit. I enrolled in Essential Rewards the next day. I ordered a kit for my father the next day. I was all in.

The more at peace I felt, the more energy I had, the more people began to ask what changed. There was no missing and no denying that I’d shifted.

I shared about the oils and products just like I would share about a delicious new restaurant I found or a hilarious new show I stumbled across. Some friends wanted what I had. I was in business.

From this business, I’ve found community. I found people who are authentic. I can say, without hesitation, that I am happy. Happy… a simple word for a multi-faceted concept. If I, a woman who was in physical pain from emotional conditions, could feel happy, vibrant, powerful… how could I keep that from people?

I share Young Living because it led me to feeling free, free from the pressures placed on me by a system that doesn’t serve me, from pressures that I placed upon myself to be the best to have the best and to never take off the mask of achievement. Like I mentioned earlier, those stifling plastic Halloween masks have been banned and are long-forgotten. Through the community of wellness, purpose and abundance that I found in Young Living, I learned to take off my metaphorical mask and to breathe in the real me, a real space in this world to grow and flourish. Today, my mask is off and I face the world, and myself, with authentic happiness.

I want to see you with a smile on your face that rivals the one on mine right now. Believe in your happiness.

Come with us.

You are worthy.

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angels Believe Energy Healing Purpose

Eight Arms

Half of my back is covered with an octopus tattoo. He’s reaching up at an anchor that is donned with a crown. I had the anchor and crown done in November 2011. The octopus came to life over several sessions spanning from February to August 2018. It was only today when I realized what it means to me.

When people I ask, I just mumble something about liking octopuses. My memory flashes back to the Veruca Salt album cover for Eight Arms to Hold You, the golden octopus with the crown, and the album cover (actual vinyl album that my parents had) for Jefferson Starship’s Red Octopus, the red heart with the octopus arms… I’ve been drawn to the imagery for decades.

I got the anchor and crown done as a tribute in a way. My dad bought his first boat when I was 11. He worked so damn hard for his money and having such a luxury was a big source of pride for him—a symbol of back-breaking work and commitment. The anchor for that piece of my life and the crown for me, the princess turned queen. I got a massage shortly after that tattoo healed and the massage therapist taught me about chakras, the root and the crown, as she thought my tattoo was symbolism for that. At the time I didn’t know anything about chakras. My subconscious sure did.

Last winter, when it was time to continue the tattoo journey on my back, I told my master artist to wrap an octopus around the anchor, to go as big as he wanted. I gave some color input and left the rest up to his mastery. I thought it was just thematically correct and in line with my connection to octopuses. This morning, as I sat at my nearly-clear (finally!) desk, day four of a four day weekend, ready to take on lesson plans, rescue emails, prep for Cyber Monday in my wellness business and catch up on course work for my University of Wellness certification, I got a lump in my throat and realized: I’m trying to be the octopus… but I’m six arms short.

A sneak peek

I can do it all, but I can’t do it alone. I’ve tried to go it alone, resting on adages like, “If you want something done right, do it yourself” and expecting little to nothing from others. It’s time for me to open my two arms and welcome the support that’s around me. I’ve been cracking open, just a bit here and there, to let the help in. Today, I surrender. Universe, I’m welcoming the support with open arms.

I can have the strength of eight arms, if I’m open to the help. I’ll let the big guy on my back remind me of that. Much love.

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Believe Bunnies Purpose Rescue

Same Old Story

For the longest time, I wouldn’t tell people I was a teacher. There were just some things about the job (or at least how I was doing the job) that didn’t align with whom I feel I am. Now that I’ve committed to daily personal development, I proudly say I’m a teacher. The job didn’t change; I did.

In most settings when I meet new people, I don’t mention that I am an animal rescuer. On the completely opposite side of why I used to run away from the label of teacher, I hide rescue from “strangers” because the conversation all-too-often goes badly… like it did yesterday.

I was at an event where I met dozens of wellness-minded women and we had tons of fun trying natural skincare and makeup from Young Living. The ladies at our table started to connect and share contact information. In searching for me on social media, one of my tablemates came across the title of my blog. She looked up slowly and said, “Bunnies?” to which I said, “Yes, they are my life’s work. I help run a rabbit rescue.” Her response, “Do you want a rabbit?” Cue the lump in my throat and rage in my heart. Here we go, again.

Why… how… why does it seem like everyone I meet either has a rabbit they don’t want or has some horrifying story about a rabbit that they, their cousin or their neighbor had when they were younger? And why do people think I want to hear those stories?

This woman was very well-meaning and I knew the outline of her story before she even told it, the same story I read in emails 15 times per week (or more). Her daughter came home with a rabbit one day without discussing it with the family. Now, no one takes care of the rabbit. I assumed she was talking about a child, but no, her daughter is an adult with a child of her own. The grandchild is the one who wanted the rabbit in the first place. The daughter is the one who purchased a living being who requires special care and lives 10-12 years without doing any research or thinking about long-term plans. They have 3 dogs at home. Daughter and grandchild are moving and don’t plan to take the rabbit. I quietly listened as I tried not to fling an all-natural face scrub across the table.

When she was done, I made a comment about the 10-12-year commitment her daughter made when getting the rabbit. The woman next to me whispered in my ear that she used to do dog rescue and sympathized. I referred her to rescue groups local to her, gave her some care tips and changed the subject as quickly as I could.

So I struggle with keeping my Rescue life quiet to strangers. I don’t want to hear this same old story from people looking to dump a rabbit. I don’t want to hear about the hutch bunny your neighbor neglected during your favorite childhood summer. I want the neglect to cease. The only way we are going to stop the abandonment and suffering is education but it seems like most (NOT all) of the people who want to rehome their rabbits are just looking to flake on a responsibility they chose. Where’s our sense of integrity? Our follow-through? Our commitment? Maybe I expect too much, in some people’s eyes. But on behalf of our fluffy, big-eared friends, my expectations will never be lowered.

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Believe Bunnies Purpose Rescue

Linus

My business mentor the incomparable MP reminds us often to “keep the main thing the main thing.” If you’re a loyal reader, you know what’s at the center of my vision board that hangs above the center of my desk. If you’re new here, I won’t keep you in the metaphorical dark. At the center of my vision board it says: Domestic rabbits are safe and protected.

That’s my main thing. That’s what my heart beats for. That’s my life’s purpose.

Yesterday, I helped coordinate the rescue of Linus. I share his story with you today in hopes that one day that sentence in the center of my vision board comes true.

Here’s what I wrote for the Long Island Rabbit Rescue Group’s Facebook page:

Some days in Rescue are more difficult than others. We don’t share these stories and pictures to make you angry or sad; we share these stories to increase awareness, in hopes that no more rabbits have to suffer like Linus is right now.

Just before the weekend, we received an email from a man who found a lop-eared rabbit who had been abandoned in eastern Suffolk County. After several exchanges, we were able to ascertain that the rabbit had an injury to his mouth, so this case became a priority among the dozens we are alerted to weekly.

With no available foster space, we turned to the Town of Brookhaven Animal Shelter. Like most shelters on Long Island, they aren’t typically set up to accept rabbits but they have been remarkably gracious and generous with helping many rabbits lately. The finder brought this little injured lop to the shelter yesterday just before closing… and the rabbit’s condition was worse than anticipated. He got immediate medical attention and we are grateful to the doctors and staff at the shelter.

He has a hole through his face and jaw. His underside is inflamed and possibly infected. He cannot eat on his own. Our volunteers who met him said that all he wanted was snuggles and kisses despite the pain he must be feeling.

Due to his extremely fragile condition, Linus, named by the volunteers, is spending a few days in a medically-equipped foster home. If Linus survives these critical days, he will be in search of a foster home to help him recuperate.

Someone did this to him. A person, possibly out of ignorance, let him “go.” Now Linus is fighting for his life.

Hundreds of rabbits are abandoned on Long Island every year. Not all are as lucky as Linus to have a second chance.

To donate toward his care, visit http://longislandrabbitrescue.org/index.htm and click Donate on the right.

Share his story. Thank you for your support.

 

 

 

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Believe Healing meditation Purpose Uncategorized

Retreat Yourself

In late June 2014, I wrote a note in my phone of three simple “I am” statements to set the tone for my summer.  Pushing aside the millions of things to get done and ways to make two months off from the day job count, I set these “I am” statements at the core of my desires for that time.  At the heart of all of the “stuff” I had to do and wanted to do that summer, my true intentions were in these “I am” statements.  I typed:

I am

-reading.

-practicing yoga.

-mindful.

I didn’t even know what mindful meant or why I typed it— it just appeared there on the screen.  I am mindful… ok.  Let that sit.

I found a yoga studio near to where we were living.  I signed up for a month unlimited and then another month unlimited.  I took classes 3-5 times per week for the entire summer.  I am practicing yoga…  finally.  For months before that, I was thinking about it.  And I was telling myself that I “should” be practicing yoga.  But I never seemed to quite get around to it.  I let everything else jump the line and take up my precious time.  All it took was setting that clear intention: I am practicing yoga.  Like magic, I was.

I found two teachers whose style and energy matched what I was seeking in my practice and made darn sure to show up at their classes.  I dove all in, as I’m prone to do.  One of those teachers offered free guided meditation after classes, as the schedule allowed.  I stayed.  She shared about her practices, her studies through UMass. Medical School in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and her “real life” applications of these simple-yet-complex practices.  She had something here.  I hung on every word.

A friendship blossomed.  At the time, I hadn’t consciously revisited my note in my phone with my summer intentions, my “I am” statements.  But I was learning about mindfulness, that word I typed without knowing why.  My new mediation coach and friend recommended books that she was reading.  We started to hang out.  We shared this glorious spark of brilliance.  I knew I found a soul sister in Debbie.  Toward the end of August 2014, while rolling up my yoga mat after one of Debbie’s last yoga classes for the summer, I opened the notes in my phone… and there it was: I am mindful.  I manifested a practice, a coach and a friend with three words.  Don’t question the process.  Be open to being guided.  Set the intentions that are in your heart and take the action steps as they unfold.

This past Thursday, I had the honor of sitting at a full-day retreat of over 100 educators led by my soul sister Debbie and her colleague in mindfulness Cory.  They led us through the practices and applications of this life-saving, life-expanding gift called Mindfulness.  They are the real-deal.  I, who often cannot exhale without checking my phone 17 times, did not even check the time from 7:30 am until 4:35 pm.  That’s the magic that Debbie and Cory shared.

We learned about our relationship to stress, how to be with what is here, how to develop our mental fitness… I could go on and on.  I took 17 pages of notes.  But, if I can share only one take-away with you, it is this: replace resistance with curiosity.  Approach your day with an element of awe and wonder.

Debbie, I bow to you.  I am mindful.

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