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Nugget # 111 Life Influences from the Movie ‘Front of the Class’!

Front_of_the_Class_posterHi friends,

Hope this has been a pleasant week for you. Recently, I watched ‘Front of the Class’ which is a 2008 American drama film on the life of Nationally Recognized Teacher & Motivational Speaker Brad Cohen. This Hallmark Hall of Fame movie is based on Brad’s book Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had.

This nugget is one where instead of drawing life lessons, I’d like to highlight some inspiring people from the life of Brad Cohen, who have been influential in making him the winner he is today! Brad never let his challenges with Tourette’s come in the way of achieving his dreams.

At the onset of the movie, we find the 12 year old Brad who lives (in Missouri) with his divorcee mom Ellen and kid brother Jeff; get into all kinds of trouble with his dad as well as his teachers at school because his TS tics are unfortunately misunderstood to be his antics!  He is labelled the prankster and in one rather disturbing scene in the movie, he is made by his teacher to go to the front of the class and apologize for his disturbing behavior and promise that he would never to do that again. Brad’s mum, in her quest for answers lands up in a library where she comes across Tourette’s syndrome in a medical book. Hopefully, she seeks professional advice from a Doctor who agrees on her diagnosis (on the basis of symptoms) that Brad may be having TS but informs them that TS was incurable. In an effort to find others with TS, Brad’s mother drags him into a support group. Here, he finds a sorry group of people who have accepted TS as their disability & surrendered themselves to a secondary existence, giving up any dreams of achieving success in life. The only lesson Brad learns from them is never to become victims of TS like them. award

BRAD’S MUM- WHO ALWAYS BELIEVED IN HER SON & ENCOURAGED HIM NEVER TO GIVE UP HIS DREAM OF BECOMING A TEACHER ONE DAY, Tourette’s / No Tourette’s! * [A word to Parents, never underestimate the enormous role you play in molding your children’s future.]

At the beginning of middle school, Brad gets into trouble with his TS and is sent to the principal’s office who invites him to the school concert. At the end of the concert, (which is disrupted by Brad’s TS tics), the Principal calls Brad up to the stage and asks him to talk about his Tourette’s. He addresses the crowd & explains to them how TS was a disorder of the brain & that he didn’t like making the tic sounds any more than they liked hearing them, concluding that all he wanted was to be treated like anyone else. As Brad uncertainly makes his way back to his seat after his small speech, the school applauds him. It is then that Brad realizes the power of education. At this life- changing moment, Brad decides to make teaching his career.

awardTHE PRINCIPAL OF BRAD’S MIDDLE SCHOOL – who takes the time to talk to the boy about the real purpose of EDUCATION [which is to wipe out ignorance with knowledge]; more importantly, it is Mr PRINCIPAL who encourages Brad to educate the school about TS. This encouraging & noble act of his is pivotal in opening a door to a brand new world for him. Brad made that life changing decision that day – to become the Teacher he never had– *[ A word to Teachers, never get so bogged down by the never ending pending deadlines, futile inspections and heaps of test paper books for correction, that you lose sight of  the real purpose of education.]

As an adult, living in Georgia with his friend Ron, Brad’s primary focus is to get a job as a school teacher. He is used to being asked about his pet dog when interviewers call him & hear his TS related barks. We discover his amazing winning attitude as he answers those queries with humor. However, after being rejected in 24 interviews (because of his TS),we find a rather dejected Brad lying on his couch. It is at his darkest moment that Brad’s step mom visits him. Though he is definitely not pleased to meet her initially, her parting remark that ‘he had a gift to teach, and it was not in spite of his Tourette’s, but because of it ‘ gives him the strength to dream again. award

BRAD’S STEP MOM- Even though Brad does not appreciate her visit and doesn’t even make the effort to hide it, yet I love the way this amazing woman leaves him only after throwing in a spark of hope into his otherwise dismal day!  Many a time, our well-intended acts of help may be ignored, sometimes despised. Yet, we can learn from Brad’s step mom, how to do our bit;  irrespective of the response we get and then, just as she did, leave the place a little brighter than it was before. I’m sure that Brad would agree that his step mom on that day , played a major role in encouraging him not to give up, that too just before his final interview.

Soon after this, Brad finally gets his break when he gets an interview call from a school who accepts him (TS & all) & is ready to give him a chance. On the very first day, Brad explains to the children about his constant companion Tourette. He brightens their lives by bringing joy & wonder into it. He especially impresses the terminally ill Heather & helps the problem child Thomas. His out of the box teaching techniques are frowned upon at first but later on appreciated. award

THE SCHOOL WHO GAVE HIM A CHANCE- It is the Mountain View Elementary School, Georgia who accepted Brad and saw beyond the Tourette’s – which is the only thing that the other 24 schools who had rejected him had seen. I salute the Board who gave Brad both the courage & the opportunity to prove himself. We later learn that this turns out to be the schools’ best decision as Brad goes on to win the First Year Teacher of the Year Award in the State of Georgia for their School that year.   *[A word to those in authority, to those who have the opportunity to recruit others. Has prejudice ever clouded your perceptions? Do you have the eyes to see beyond the obvious? Do you look down intimidatingly/critically at that nervous/eager interviewee across the table? Wouldn’t it be better to just cut him some slack, maybe even smile as you remember how years before someone else had sat across you from that table &  believed in you enough to give you a chance?]

As regards his social life, Brad’s estranged relationship with his dad is restored & he also starts dating Nancy, who shares similar musical interests. They hit it off from the very start. When asked about whether his TS noises bothered her, she simply says Not when I compare them to the noises other guys make. You know, like, braggers, loud-talkers, egocentric, humor– challenged idiots.  Seriously, no. Your noises don’t bother me at all.” We can’t help but feel happy for Brad who has finally found his match!

awardNANCY- It’s quite refreshing to see someone who sees beyond Brad’s tics & who hears beyond his TS noises. She doesn’t even seem to notice what is obvious to everyone else. On being questioned about this, her reply is simply so profound. *[The world would be such a better place if there were more people like Nancy who see beyond the superficiality & accept/ appreciate people for who they really are.]
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At the end of the movie, like the cherry on the cake, Brad wins the Sallie Mae First Year Teacher of the Year Award for his outstanding teaching & positive role model abilities. His other victories are his Master’s degree; fulfillment of his lifelong ambition (to be dressed up as Homer-the Atlanta Braves mascot) & marrying his sweet heart Nancy in 2006. Now that’s what I call living life king-size!

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Nugget of Life: “Everyone, regardless of ability or disability, has strengths and weaknesses. Know what yours are. Build on your strengths and find a way around your weaknesses.” – Brad Cohen, (Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had)

Have a great week!

Cheers,

Sparky Laurie

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Nugget # 110 Life lessons from the movie Florence Foster Jenkins!

Florence_Foster_Jenkins_(film)Hi friends,

Hope you are doing fine. I just watched the biographical comedy –drama movie Florence Foster Jenkins (starring Meryl Streep & Hugh Grant) and strongly recommend it. The movie is based on the real life story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress and socialite who founded the Verdi Club in order celebrate her passionate love for music. Though a great lover of music and even a talented child pianist who played for the President when she was a youth, Florence had to later give up her career aspirations as a pianist due to an arm injury.

St Clair Bayfield, a British Shakespearean actor is her husband & manager. The couple are very much in love but choose to live separately due to an illness (syphilis) that Florence had contracted from her first husband. According to Mr Bayfield, theirs is more a relation of the spirit. For his other needs, he has a mistress Kathleen Weatherly whom he resides with in an apartment in the city paid for by Florence.

Florence , inspired by an opera singer, has a great desire to sing. She thus resumes her singing classes with her vocal coach, Carlo Edwards (Assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera).  She hires a new pianist Cosme McMoon who is simply shocked when he finds out that though Florence is a terrible singer, both her coach and husband hide that fact from her and pretend that she is a wonderful singer. Bayfield goes one step further and asks McMoon to do the same.

It is indeed interesting as well as enjoyable to watch the lengths to which the loyal and loving Bayfield would go to hide the painful truth from his beloved that she just cannot sing. Towards the end of the movie, in spite of all their efforts to make sure that Florence hears only the good reviews, Florence comes to know of the negative review of her recital on reading the column by Earl Wilson in the Post. On reading it, she clutches her heart and suddenly falls unconscious. Later, on gaining consciousness, she sadly asks her dear husband who is by her bedside soothing her :”Was everyone laughing at me the whole time?” We can’t but admire his truthful and yet thoughtful reply to her question . He answers: “I was never laughing at you” and adds.. “Yours is the truest voice I have ever heard.”

Life Lesson#1 : We need to speak the truth in love-  It is necessary to soften life’s blows to hearts like Florence’s. (who is actually doing no one any harm). It is the truth that she cannot sing and everyone was laughing at her but her husband replies that he never laughed at her and that he heard in her singing the truth in her voice as she sang with all her heart. It is indeed wonderful to love someone so much to tell them the truth and yet be tactful and gentle enough not to break their heart in the process. This is a skill, which I feel if developed, would easily save a lot of marriages and probably other relationships too. 

Life Lesson#2 : Pursue your passion fervently irrespective of another’s approval – Though anyone would easily agree that the woman’s singing is indeed extremely hilarious, yet we are forced to admit that Florence passion for music is rather intoxicating. Yes, she may lack the talent but definitely not the heart for it, Florence is indeed a true lover of music. Her last few words are one that will echo in my heart forever. It is actually what really prompted me to write this Nugget.On learning the truth that she is indeed a terrible singer, she concludes chuckling… People may say I couldn’t sing, but no one can say I didn’t sing.” After a while she dies peacefully.

How many of us are willing to pursue something so passionately that even if we are laughed at, or even thought of as weird, we would rather do it? Are we ready to laugh at those who laugh at us and say like she did, they may never approve of me but at least they will not say I never did it. Though Florence could never sing like a Nightingale and win applause for her voice, yet she became a prominent musical cult figure in New York City during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Cole PorterGian Carlo MenottiLily PonsSir Thomas Beecham, and other celebrities were fans. How did Florence win the hearts of so many in spite of her clear lack of singing talent? It was probably her love and courage to sing that made her win both their hearts and ours!

drawing-the-love-sign-smiley-emoticonNugget of Life: “Do what you love, and you will find the way to get it out to the world.”- Judy Collins 

Enjoy this video which pretty much sums up this nugget: https://youtu.be/3yFiqdCjNMk

 

Have a great week,

Cheers,

Sparky Laurie

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2018 in LIFE LESSONS, Uncategorized

 

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Nugget # 109 Life lesson from breakfast!

fried-eggHi friends,

Hope you are enjoying 2018!

Many of us, (including me) have our list of New Year Resolutions ready and may already be feeling overwhelmed or defeated with one week already having passed by and not being able to do as planned. I’d just like to share something that encouraged me : I was in the kitchen making breakfast and was quickly preparing an egg. After sprinkling salt and black pepper on the yolk of the bulls eye, I was scooping the perfectly ready egg onto a plate when the egg accidentally slipped and fell onto the stove… I was surprised and irritated with myself at the same time. I dumped the perfectly cooked egg-( now a mess) into the dust bin and quickly wiped up the stove. I then got another egg and repeated the process.This time I plated it with a bit more caution. That’s when this nugget just came to me- I was reminded of how our perfectly made plans may slip and fall for no reason or fault of ours at all, and that’s alright. All we need to do, is just get rid of the mess and restart the process…. Go again!

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breakfast-emojiNugget of Life: “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”- Henry Ford

Wishing you an adventurous 2018!

Cheers,

Sparky Laurie

 

 

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Nugget # 108 Life lessons from Santa Paws 2!

Santa_paws_2_santa_pups

Hi friends,

Hope you’re enjoying the Christmas Season. This week’s nugget came to me as I was watching the Disney Holiday Musical Santa Paws 2. Click here for trailer.

Santa Paws 2 is  a wonderful reminder to us about the real spirit of Christmas. The story is about how Mrs. Claus(wife of Santa Claus) travels to the town of Pineville with the playful Santa Pups who start granting wishes to the children. Things go awfully wrong when a boy named Carter angrily wishes there was never any Christmas. As his wish comes true, we see how his gloom (which is aptly represented by some flying black dust) actually touches his friend first and then his father later and how they suddenly lose their Christmas joy. Carter’s sister (a true believer in the magic of Christmas) asks Mrs Claus what had happened to her brother. Mrs. Claus explains to Sarah that he had caught a Christmas Cold. The delightful conversation follows…

xmas cold song1

Sarah: “A Christmas Cold? How do we make it better?”
Mrs. Claus : “It’s like any other cold, you just help them through it.”
Sarah : “By feeding them soup? And cocoa?”
Mrs. Claus: “That’s partly it ….but a Christmas cold is special, it takes a special kind of treatment to make it better.”
Sarah: “Like what?”
Mrs. Claus: “Umm … like instead of Soup, give him a Hug, instead of medicine, give him lots of love.
Instead of a tissue, give him Christmas cheer. Yes, this is a sickness that is centuries old!
It’s the feeling that makes us lose faith & hope… dear, something we call… A Christmas Cold!”
Mrs. Claus: “Christmas is magic with Glorious Music…”
Sarah: “Heartwarming stories beautifully told…”
Mrs. Claus: “But sometimes we feel kind of sad & lonely… That’s when you’ve caught it, A Christmas Cold!”
Together : “Christmas cold, Oh… how we dread them! Christmas Cold, there’s no joy in town. We won’t let it get us down, No, we won’t let Christmas Cold get us down…”
Click here to hear the whole Christmas Cold Song.

Later we see how the Christmas Cold infects the whole town and how everyone becomes grouchy. Sarah asks Mrs. Claus why she hadn’t caught the cold yet and she replies that Sarah was the strongest believer in Christmas there ever was and that was the reason she was immune to the Christmas Cold which had infected all of Pineville. Sarah then cures her town by singing hope through the radio station.

These are the 2 life lessons that come to my mind:images (1)

1)We are more influential than we realize-  Carter’s wish froze the town and Sarah’s song melted it. Sometimes people may unknowingly steal our joy by thoughtless words or actions and the other way round too. We seldom realize how contagious our attitudes are .So it is very important for us to be mindful of how we affect others. Especially at times when we are feeling low, the best thing we could do (instead of dragging our friend down just because we are blue) is to be a good listener. Who knows ?… if we are open & receptive, some of their positivity would actually rub the gloom off of us!

d93f80a57ded088e6f15c2e43d0954ba--ann-voskamp-liturgical-seasons2) The real meaning of Christmas – In the movie, Sarah was immune to the Christmas Cold only because of her unshakable belief in the magic of Christmas. The Christmas Season is not just a time to decorate our houses with trees, shining lights, stars and bells or a time to bake cakes and ginger bread cookies. It’s not just a festival to drink to and make merry. Or a time only for shopping for toys, gifts and other goodies. But Xmas is the time to become real beacons of light shining brightly where we have been placed and thus lighting up the ever increasing darkness around. A time to replace doom and gloom with purpose and laughter. And this will be possible only when we truly believe with all of our heart that Jesus is the real reason for the Season. 

Animated_Christmas_Stocking_with_Puppy

 

Nugget of Life : “Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing, but also reflecting.”- Winston Churchill

Click here to hear sweet Sarah sing ‘O Holy Night’. This song, I dedicate to you dear friend this Christmas! May the miracle of Christmas fill your heart & home with joy!

Merry Xmas & Happy New Year!

Lots of love & Christmas cheer,

Sparky Laurie

 

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Nugget # 103 Life is an Acappella!

acapellaHi friends,

Hope you are doing fine. This week I’d like to share a nugget that many of us could relate to. Firstly let’s define what an acapella really is: Acapella according to Internet slang refers to “vocal music without instruments.” The first time I heard this kind of music I was flabbergasted. Since then I have been a big fan of all kinds of acapella music.

Click here to hear the first acapella song I heard. It’s made from an old Hindi film song. The song was brilliantly remade using sounds made by voice, mouth and body only. Can you imagine, there are no musical instruments used in making it! Amazing right? 🙂

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This week I’d like to share how much we too are like Acapella singers in our life as we do the many roles handed over to us- a daughter/son, a sister/bro, a spouse, a parent either by choice or chance, a homemaker / a career person, a friend, a writer, teacher, story teller, a cook, a cleaner, a singer, a believer… the list goes on endlessly…. And we can keep adding or subtracting from it. Just like how in acapella, we mainly sing vocals but simultaneously we also imitate the other instruments or sounds to give it the effect of hearing the original track , in life too we may be called to play several other roles in addition to our main role. Just like the acapella singers focus one by one on each sound and then synchronize it with the other sounds similarly we need to give our 100% dedication to each role assigned to us and do it with a spirit of excellence. Later on, we will be able to manage our time and prioritize the things according to their urgency. Sometimes we will have to postpone or even drop some activities from our list in order to live a balanced & stress-free life. Many times we may have to even sacrifice certain privileges just in order to see a smile on another’s face. At these times it may be tempting to ignore ourselves or others, the optimal method is to be able to know when and where to draw the line. Prayer & planning as well as delegation & brain storming with friends & family helps us to do this. Once we have drawn a blueprint, it is essential as far as possible to stick to it. However we need to be flexible enough to incorporate changes as we move along.

downloadThe final result will be the acapella where our different roles are played out successfully & now we can hear the lovely song played in our own unique version. Surely, there will be mixed responses and reactions to the music of our life but as long as we have tried our best and even enjoy or like what we have done, we can lean back and nod our heads to the trendy beat of the song we have always loved!

Click here to hear Pentatonix singing Mary, Did You Know?

guitar-smiley-emoticonNugget of Life: “Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest. Heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from Heaven to the soul!”

Have an awesome week!

 

Cheers,

Sparky laurie

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2016 in LIfe, Uncategorized

 

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Nugget #101 Life lesson from a 92 year old woman!

wondaHi friends,

This week, I’d like to share a wonderful poem gone viral on the Internet. Its wisdom from a 92 year old woman. The best part of being ready to learn from her is that we can learn in a few moments what took her 92 years to learn! 🙂

                                  The Giftwrap & the Jewel by Wonda B Goines (https://youtu.be/2YxCR2a-sxI)

 “I looked in the mirror and what did I see, but a little old lady peering back at me
With bags and sags and wrinkles and wispy white hair, and I asked my reflection,
‘How did you get there?’
You once were straight and vigorous and now you’re stooped and weak, when I tried so hard to keep you from becoming an antique
My reflection’s eyes twinkled as she solemnly replied, ‘You’re looking at the gift wrap and not the jewel inside.
A living gem and precious, of unimagined worth
Unique and true, the real you, the only you on Earth
The years that spoil your gift wrap with other things more cruel, should purify and strengthen, and polish up that jewel
So focus your attention on the inside, not the out
On being kinder, wiser, more content and more devout
Then, when your gift wrap’s stripped away your jewel will be set free, to radiate God’s glory throughout eternity.'”

Friends, all we have is a maximum of 70 , 80 or at the most 90 odd years. And who has any guarantee of that? If we were to breathe our last breath today, could we say without  a shadow of doubt that our jewel was so well polished that its sparkle actually lit the way for another? Will there be even a single person who would say with tears in their eyes that we had made a difference in their life? Friend, that’s what life is really about! That’s when we have ceased to exist and started to live!

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Nugget of Life: “Leave nothing but footprints, Take nothing but pictures, Kill nothing but time!”

 

Have a pleasant week!

Cheers,

Sparky Laurie

 

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Nugget# 97 Life lessons from Baby N!

while-we-try-to-teach-our-children-all-about-life-our-children-teach-us-what-life-is-all-about9Hi friends,

As I was pondering on what to write this week, my one year old said forcefully “Sha”…I had heard baby N  say that word before and was wondering from where he had learnt it. I said “No Shaa baby… don’t say Shaa..”  But he continued to repeat it over and over again. There were many words that I had been repeating and reciting to him and he was learning; but here was this expression …that he had effortlessly picked up….and was repeating.

Later that afternoon as I was clearing up after lunch, I noticed baby quickly crawl into the kitchen and pick up something from the kitchen floor and put it into his mouth… “Sha”… escaped my lips as I ran to take that particle from baby’s mouth and quickly dispose it off. That’s when I realized to my utter amazement the source from where baby N had picked up his new fav phrase! shocked-smiley-emoticon

That set me thinking…

1)How often when we act mindlessly or sometimes due to preoccupation with many things, we may  respond in a way that may not even be aware of.

2)People who look up to us often catch the things we least expect them to and so we have to make a deliberate effort to be intentional (as much as possible) with our words as they do influence others.

To continue the story,  I couldn’t help laughing out aloud as I watched my lil one’s mischievous grin & sparkling  eyes as he was enjoy repeating “Sha” every time I tried to make him stop.

Let me apply this nugget to our life. Whenever we find imbalance in any area of our life, we usually think of change. To facilitate this,(full of good intentions) we make resolutions as we decide to strengthen our will to say “NO” to the addiction (be it food, TV, sports, work, people, shopping, drugs etc) Ironically, though we may succeed initially, it is only a matter of time that we will soon get tired of resistance & throw in the towel.

By doing this, we repeat the mistake that I made when correcting my baby. While correcting him, I had tried to make him stop by focusing fully ONLY on what needed to be changed. Unknowingly I had drawn both of our attention to that which we actually needed to forget. Was it any surprise that he remembered that word perfectly? The right way to correct baby was to teach him another word or to distract him or to entertain him with something more interesting that would make him forget what he was repeating. The same thing applies to us. Sharing  below some practical tips to help us overcome old habits /learn new ones.animated-smileys-thinking-20

Sparky Laurie’s 10 Rs to either learn /unlearn something: 

  1. Reason – Prepare a Declaration of Freedom for ourselves by listing the reasons why we choose to break free from that habit or learn a new way of life.
  2. Remind – Keep a print out of the Declaration (mentioned above) in front of us to empower us as we realize that we have chosen to break the power of the bad habit over us and be its slave no more/ Or work intentionally towards the goals we plan to achieve.
  3. Replenish – When we are tempted (to give in or give up),we could think of an appealing alternative action that we could engage in rather than use that time and energy in combat.
  4. Relate –  Seek a support system, for instance call up a favorite friend/parent/ relative  and converse about anything else except our struggle. No matter how many times it tries to creep into the conversation, switch gears. Give it neither our attention nor our time.
  5. Repeat- Say aloud, “I am made for better things than this. I will live my life to its fullest.”
  6. Review – Make a bucket list of the impossible things we would like to try in our life time. Even updating it when we hit our lowest point would uplift us and bring us back on track.
  7. Relax-Take a break, go out for a walk, breathe slowly. Get some sunshine. Feel the breeze. Smell the flowers. Thank God for life.
  8. Refresh –Do something for brightening up someone else’s day. Give someone a lift, smile at a passerby.
  9. Rejoice- Watch a Madea movie and laugh out loud… its wisdom and humor all in one!
  10. Recreate –Everyone is made in the image of God and He has deposited a part of Him in every one of us. Our gift is that which we could naturally do, that which brings us joy, that which excites & invigorates us. “That which honors God, blesses others and delights your heart, that is your calling, that’s your gift!” Discover and cherish your gift.

Coming back , I distracted baby N to see and enjoy a few other things and finally he stopped what he was initially saying. And just when I thought I had nailed it , ….guess what?  …..Baby N says out aloud…. “Sha…” LOL…. 🙂 ….well, I guess that’s going to take a little more time!

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The same may be the case with many of us as we try to overcome or learn new things. Always remember that No matter how many times we fail, each time we emerge stronger if we determine to learn and persist.

baby-pooh-icon-emoticon-032Nugget of Life : “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”- Socrates

Have a fun filled week,

Cheers,

Sparky laurie

 

 

 

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