Practice Random Acts of Gratitude

I have a couple of friends who randomly send me candy in the school mail. Sometimes it’s Sweet Tart Ropes, other times Airhead Extreme Bites. (Yes, I eat like a 12-year-old.) Every time, it makes me happy. It is a simple gesture that serves no purpose except to make me happy.

This week one of you got flowers at work for no reason. It was simply a way for your friend (or your souse or your children or your parents) to say they were thinking about you. To say that they appreciate you. To show you that they love you. And it made you happy.

Random acts of kindness aren’t new. But this week I was reminded that random acts of gratitude are just as important.

A group of our district level leaders showered heaps of unexpected gratitude upon some of their colleagues. They “filled their bucket“ quite literally.

There was candy. There was Coke Zero. There were notes and pictures and genuine, meaningful expressions of gratitude.

It was a simple and unexpected gesture meant to convey thanks. It served no purpose other than to show the recipients that they are appreciated, and I have a sneaking suspicion it made them very happy.

My focus for this week is to emulate those random acts of gratitude. I want to find unexpected and simple ways to let the people in my life know that they are seen, that they are appreciated, and that I am unbelievably grateful for their presence in my life.

Sometimes I think we believe that in order to truly show someone we truly care, we have to do something large or expensive or time-consuming. I think we underestimate the power of small and unexpected gestures of gratitude.

So let me start by saying I am grateful for the amazing people who modeled this for me this week. I am grateful for so many people right now, and I think it’s a worthy goal for the week to find ways to let them know.

Make Your Kids Feel Special

Often the first time students and families get to see the school each year is at Open House or Fall Orientation.  For some, this is the third or fourth or fifth time they’ve been to back-to-school events in a building.  For others, it is their first time.  This is our chance to set the tone for the year, to make families feel welcome and to make students feel special.  

And boy did our schools get that job done.  Teachers handed out Blow Pops that said, “thanks for popping in.”  They had remarkable door decorations.  There were balloons and music and mascots.  It was energizing.

Then on Wednesday we had what is, for me, the most exciting day of the year, the first day of school.  One of the things I like most about working in education is that we get a fresh start every year.  The quote below is one of my favorites.  It is an excellent reminder for me some nights. 

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” Ralph Waldo Emmerson

I think it is also important in education.  Finish each year and be done with it.  You did what you could.  The first day of school is a new day, a new start.  We shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with our old nonsense.  That’s what I want for our students too, a new year, and I want more than anything for them to feel special.

And boy did our schools and our families get that done too.  

Beadle Middle School clapped students in as they arrived for the first day.  Sandoz laid out a literal red carpet.  At Hitchcock the students worked together to develop the rules and expectations for the year.  Disney had a community partner who provided school supplies for their students.  Every single student has what they need for the year.  At Central Middle School a teacher was playing piano and entertaining the students outside as they arrived.  Our administrators dressed in matching school gear.  There were giant yard signs where parents could snap creative first day pictures.  

At the end of the day, when I logged on to social media, I was showered with post after post of those first day of pictures.  Collages of the first day of kindergarten compared to the first day of senior year.  Shots of moms and dads ready for their first day of teaching posing with their children ready for their first day of learning.  You flooded my feeds with pictures of your own children and pictures of your school children being loved and being nurtured and being made to feel special.

And that is what the first week of school is all about!

 

Shine a Light on Others

It’s been a lifechanging summer for me, no exaggeration. You all know this. My daughter had triplets, my first grandchildren. I underestimated the impact this would have on my life and the joy it would bring me. I mean I knew it would be amazing. But until I saw them, held them, I didn’t really KNOW.

I want so much for them. I want them to be healthy, of course, but I want as much for them to be happy. I want them to spend their life in a world that is good and loving and kind.

I want that for you too. And for me.

I have been reflecting this summer on what I want this blog to be. As hard as it is for me to believe, it has been almost 7 years since I started this. When I first launched it, I called it Educator Insights. It was a way for me to share my ideas and my thoughts as an educator.

But I have changed. The world has changed.

I’m not really sure if that’s true or not, but it feels that way at times. The last few years have been heavy. We all know the reasons. It feels all too often that media (traditional, alternative, and social) is feeding a culture of negativity instead of fostering positive discourse and uplifting stories.

I have always believed that Steve Hartman has the greatest job in the world. I still do. He has spent his career telling other people’s stories. Stories of kindness and grace, of love and compassion. I don’t know if it has helped him have a happier life, but I know his stories have helped me have a happier life.

I am starting my 30th year in education. I have had the chance to teach and to learn, to grow and to grow others, to lead and to be led. This summer has been a time of renewal, and I’ve been pondering what I want the next 30 years to be.

And I think I have it figured out.

I want to tell your stories. I want to share the countless examples of selflessness and courage and kindness that I see everyday. I want my voice and this blog to be a place where our faith in humanity is affirmed and uplifted.

The name of the blog has changed. The intent of the blog has changed. I’ve spent the summer watching you all do amazing things, big and small. Next week I start sharing them.

* photo behind the scenes at Joey Winn Photography

 

Our Tribes

I have been blessed in my life. I have family and friends who would and have done anything for me. They’ve shown up each and every time I’ve needed them. They have fed my family when we’ve been in crisis. They have loaned us cars when we’ve had the occasional accident. They have cleaned our house, driven the children places, taken them so we could get a break. You name it, they’ve done it.

Of course it’s the intangible ways they’ve shown up that have meant the most. It’s the phone call after a bad day, the text to ask how we’re doing, the flowers that show up for no reason at all.

They have been there for every single thing we’ve ever needed.

But this week I am reminded of just how big our tribe has been. Besides our family and friends there have been teachers and pastors and neighbors. Such great neighbors.

My children had Ed & Linda, Brian & Brenda, the Savages, the Barbers, the Geigers, now Eric & Stacy and Paul and Terry and June. People who watched out for them. People who would step in and help if needed.

We’ve been blessed.

Our tribes come in many forms. Some are filled with people we see everyday. Some are filled with those we only hear from once and awhile. All are important to us.

Pay attention this week. And maybe reach out to a few those in your tribe who you haven’t talked to in awhile. Life is fragile, and every day is a chance to let the people you love know it!

Silver Linings

A year ago I wrote this blog with a friend. We made the decision that the time was not right to post it. There was too much trauma, too much to absorb to share it at the time. But I found it again this week, and I felt like the time was right. I’m not updating it. I’m not making the verbs past tense. We are still in this. But I am asking that we reflect on a year ago. I showed more grace to others and to myself a year ago. I took more walks a year ago. I found more intentional ways to connect with the people I love a year ago. I think it would be a mistake not to learn from the last year, not to reflect on what matters most, and not to continue living our lives with that in mind.

There is no silver lining to the Coronavirus. There is no silver lining to people gasping for breath or dying alone. There is no silver lining to overwhelmed hospitals or lack of ventilators or health care workers being forced to choose who lives and who dies. No silver lining to any of that. COVID-19 is a global pandemic, and there is no silver lining to a global pandemic.

But in order to fight the spread of the virus, we have come together and made significant changes to our way of life.  Closing bars and restaurants and gyms and even schools has forced us into a more simple existence.  We are making do with less.  We are buying less.  We are running around less.  We are living smaller lives with greater significance.

And that, when the illness and the death and the crisis is over, will be a silver lining.

We are doing less of the things that aren’t really good for us anyway.  Gambling is at an all-time low.  Crime rates are dropping.  Pollution is lessening.  We are giving our children afternoons and evenings off instead of keeping them scheduled from sun up to sun down.

Hospitals are only treating those with the most needs. We are feeding the hungry and providing access for those who can’t afford it.

We no longer judge weddings or funerals by how many people were there or how elaborate the flowers were or how much money was spent planning it.  It’s about the people we love the most coming together in those moments.

Sports headlines are about the players.  They’re about what we miss- people doing what they love and pushing themselves to compete at the highest levels. It’s not about winners and losers.  It’s about the joy of the game.

We are working out for free.  Kids are playing outside without equipment or video games or electronics, using their imaginations.  

Families are spending time together, sitting on front porches, taking walks together.  Parents are focused on their children.  Siblings are talking to each other and playing with each other and recognizing the bond they will always share. 

We are cooking more.  Even if we get take-out or delivery to support our local businesses, we are eating together at home.

We call each other and text and snap and Facetime just to connect.  We are connecting with people who have always been there, but we have been too busy to pause and take the time to see.

All of these are silver linings.  

All of these are things that we should hold dear and take with us into the after.  Because there will be an after.  And if we can learn from this current way of life, there will also be a silver lining.

Be That Kind of Person

Two things happened to me in the last week that boosted my mood almost as much as the sunny weather.

At the end of a long day, after a two hour Zoom meeting, I got an email from a friend. “Your hair looked gorgeous today.”

Day made.

Later that week, I was walking by a woman, a total stranger, eating out on a restaurant patio. As I passed, she said, “That shirt looks beautiful on you.”

Day made.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to be known as someone who is smart and compassionate, capable and kind. But there is something so great about a simple, genuine compliment.

When someone gets their hair done, tell them you like it.

When someone wears a new outfit, tell them they look nice.

I’m not suggesting insincerity. I am suggesting that when we take a moment to make someone else feel seen, valued, appreciated, beautiful, it can make their day.

Be that kind of person!

 

What My Brachial Artery Taught Me


Seventeen years ago this week I almost died. I’ve written about it in bits and pieces over the years, and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so. It was a defining moment in my life.

Because of a genetic disorder, the vessels in my body are weak and prone to tears. At times the tears are minor and easily fixed, in my legs, in my nasal cavity. At times they are more significant, in my brain, in my heart.

An aortic dissection, a tear in the inner lining of the largest vessel in our body, causes significant internal bleeding and needs immediate and significant intervention to prevent death.

That’s what happened 17 years ago this week. I told that story a few years ago, but today the story on my mind is what happened 3 months later.

I noticed on a Saturday that my arm was cold to the touch. Weird. Sunday was the same. By Monday a friend whose brother-in-law is a doctor told me that I needed to get it checked out. Fine. I’m stubborn, but I’d learned the hard way to check it out when something is off.

It turned out that I had a new dissection. This one was in my brachial artery. I had no blood flow to my arm, no pulse could be found. I ended up in the hospital for more days for this far less serious condition that for the open heart surgery months earlier.

My friend saved my arm.

I know now that the tear in my brachial dissection was a secondary trauma. The vessels in my body were impacted by what happened in my aorta.

It’s all connected. Physical trauma has an impact beyond the original crisis.

So does emotional trauma.

For the last year, we have all been experiencing a trauma. Some people have suffered physically. Some people have suffered financially. Everyone has suffered emotionally.

We can see a light ahead. Vaccinations are rolling out. We are learning how to safely navigate the world.

But there will be secondary trauma. 

As we emerge from the emergency response to the pandemic, we will have to address the long-term impacts. Be it learning loss (or unfinished learning or learning gaps or whatever we choose to label it) or bankruptcies or the very real health issues that are lingering for many, there will be secondary trauma. 

My brachial taught me this.

It also taught me that it can be overcome. It taught me not to spend too much time admiring the trauma. Assess the reality of the situation and get to work addressing it. 

Make a plan.

Get help.

Be honest and realistic about what you need.

Recovery is never really over. We learn how to manage and more importantly how to thrive in spite of (and sometimes even because of) our experiences. They become part of who we are. It’s all connected.

My brachial artery taught me that.

Anticipation

Spring is coming. The signs are everywhere. Ice covered lakes with patches of water beginning to peak through. Piles of snow next to grass turning green. You can feel it in the air.

One bird chirping outside my window in the morning has become several.

Yes, spring is coming.

There is such joy in anticipation, the idea of what could be. For me the weeks before a trip are almost as exciting as the trip itself.

But sometimes anticipation robs us of what we have in the here and now. Tomorrow may be warmer, but today is a gift and whatever it brings should be savored.

This is a fun time in the Midwest. We’ve reached that point where when it snows (because this is Nebraska people- it will snow again), it will melt sooner. One day of crisp, cool air will be replaced by a warm and sunny one.

Enjoy the inconsistency. Soon enough we will be consistently hot and wishing for a day like today.

There is beauty in the transition. If our focus lies solely on the anticipation of Spring, we might miss it.

In my family we are awaiting the birth of triplets. I’m not sure I’ve ever anticipated anything with such joy. Grandchildren! Three of them at once!

The anticipation is fun, but these moments right now, when it still just an idea and not a diaper-filled reality, are fun too. And I don’t want to miss a single moment while I’m still the “mom.”

So layer up my friends. When the sun comes out, take off that coat and put on those sunglasses. Just don’t pack the coat away quite yet. Anticipate what it is coming. But savor what is.

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day? Really Dr. Biden?

Perspective is everything.

I love February because I have had a deep respect for my birthday since a near-fatal health crisis in my thirties. A good friend whose birthday is also in February says it is his least favorite month because of the very weather conditions we experienced in the last week (and apparently again today).

Perspective.

I love Halloween. If you’ve ever read the blog you likely know this. I mean I love it. Not your ordinary carve a pumpkin and buy some candy appreciation. Full on joy for the weather and the sense of community and yes, the candy.

But this week I’ve been enjoying the pictures of the giant hearts that the First Lady had installed at the White House. President Biden said that Valentine’s Day is her favorite holiday.

Valentine’s Day? I have never cared a bit about Valentine’s Day. I mean I do enjoy a sour candy heart, and I have a friend who I used to work with who was always the first to buy the Brach’s original hearts every year. It brought her such joy.

But Valentine’s Day? It’s a Hallmark holiday, right?

But it’s also a reminder to pause and tell the people in your life that you love them. It’s not Halloween, but I can’t really think of a more important thing to do than to pause and tell the people in your life that you love them.

Perspective.

This week I was reminded that every holiday, every day, is a chance to find joy!  Our perspective shapes the way we view the world. Perspective is everything. 

 

 

Worry

There is nothing harder for a parent than when your child is hurt or struggling or worried. It doesn’t matter how old they are, six or sixteen, or almost 26 and about to be a parent herself.

My Beautiful Daughter,

I wish I knew what to say to calm your worries. I wish I could show you one, five, twenty years from now, so you would see how amazing your life will always be. I wish I knew how to fill you with peace about what will be for your growing family.

But life can be pretty overwhelming. Especially right now. I can’t pretend to know how it feels to be carrying three babies at once. I can barely stand the worry that comes with being a mom to two amazing grown women.

Worry has always been part of my life. I am a worrier. Likely I passed some of that (okay maybe more than some of that) on to you and to your sister.

I’m sorry.

Now I wish I had the wisdom to tell you how to let go of that worry.

“Worry doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles. It takes away today’s peace.”

There is real truth in that. I have spent too much of my life worried. I have wasted too many days worried about would happen next.

Next has always turned out to be pretty great!

Try to remember what you were worried about a year ago. Did it happen? If it did, did you overcome it?

Beautiful girl, I struggle enough with my own worry to think I know the answer. But I want you to reflect on what you have already accomplished and overcome in your life. There is nothing you cannot do.

Preparation is helpful. Planning for what you can is helpful. Study and research (and lists!) are helpful.

Worrying is not.

Worry less. It’s solid advice for us all.

 

Patience


There is this moment in the Lincoln Marathon (or half in my case) when you round the corner and can see Memorial Stadium. This feeling of relief washes over you. You’re almost there!

And then you climb 10th Street for what seems like forever. The size of the stadium is deceiving. You think you’re almost done, but you still have to finish mile 10…and 11…and 12…and 13.

Patience.

I have never been a patient person. When I have a task, I want it done immediately. When I have a phone message, I want it returned right away. When I have an idea, I want it to come to fruition instantly.

Honestly, it has served me well over the course of my lifetime. My house is usually clean. My office is usually tidy. I am efficient and effective in my work.

But the older I get, the more the big things in life seem to take patience.

My daughter is having triplets. My first grandchild will be grandchildren! Three of them. It is almost too hard to imagine.

The gender reveal was this weekend. She had known since Thursday (longer for 2 of them), but I had to wait until last night. It was a challenge.

Patience.

If the last year has taught us anything, it is that we cannot always control how long things take. Right now the virus is in control, and we can only mitigate its impact and be patient as the vaccine rolls out. This weekend though, my parents got their first vaccine.  I can’t overstate the sense of relief I felt when my dad sent me the picture.  I have been waiting for that moment for almost a year. 

Now I want to hug them and go to dinner with them and sit next to them on a couch. 

Patience.

Babies. Pandemics. Grief. Recovery. The older I get, the more I understand that the big things take time.

I have never been a patient person, but I’m working on it.  

 

Socials

I remember the first time I heard of Facebook. Katie, a former student, was graduating from high school, and she popped by Central to say hello. I think she was delivering an invitation to her graduation party. She told me about this site where the freshman at UNO could connect and start to meet each other. It was called The Facebook.

MySpace had appeared the year before, so I knew something about social media. The “kids” were all trying to convince their parents to let them have a MySpace…or they were secretly creating them without their parents knowing.

Then YouTube. Then Twitter. Then Instagram. Then Snapchat. Then TikTok.

We joke that once the parents get on board with a new social media platform, the younger people jump to the next one.

It’s true.

I work with children and young adults. I work on curriculum for digital literacy. I work (now more than ever) in a digital environment. Without our devices and our internet and our ability to work and learn and connect virtually, things would have ground to a halt last spring.

But we all wrestle with how much is too much. I have a friend who left Facebook because the environment had become so toxic. I have another friend who left all social media platforms for her own mental health.

But I also have a friend who has a virtual community of people who can share and appreciate each other’s photography. It is a genuine way for him to share his work with people around the world and for others to share their work with him.

I blog. Without Facebook and Twitter, almost no one would read it. I feel support and encouragement and kindness and love when people interact with me through the blog.

How much social media is right?  I can’t answer that for you.  I struggle enough to answer it for myself.

But if you have not seen The Social Dilemma on a Netflix, I highly recommend it. It is thought-provoking and will challenge how you interact with social media.

When my daughter searches for a new vacuum while connected to our WiFi and suddenly I have vacuum ads in my feeds, that’s not a coincidence.

When I step in to Scheels and a Dick’s Sporting Goods ad pops up, that’s not a coincidence.

But without TikTok, thousands and thousands of people would never have encouraged my daughter to share more stories about her pregnancy with triplets after she posted a funny story.

I guess I don’t have the answer except to say that we should all be mindful and reflective of our online time.

Do you need a break?

Is it lifting you up? Or is it making you angry or depressed?

Monitor and adjust!

And whatever you do, do not ever read the comments under articles posted online. Just don’t do it!

Intention


I shared a Maya Angelou quote this week that talked about thriving, and a friend asked me if that was my one word for the year. It would be a good one.

But I have been focusing more on the word intention this year.

In meditation setting an intention is about aligning your thoughts and attitude for the day. It is about deciding how you want to show up in the world. I love that description! It’s not a SMART goal. In fact, it can be hard to measure. But it can impact our lives all the same.

Right about now I know some of you (I bet I could even name you) are saying, “uh oh, Heather is about to get touchy-feely.” I promise I’m not suggesting you have to meditate (although I know from personal experience that if you did you would find a calm and a focus that is hard to get without it).

I am simply suggesting that dedicating some time each week or each day to setting our intention, how we want to show up in the world, is time worth spending.

There are many ways to use the term intention. In the Catholic Church, a mass or prayer may have an intention. Often we say “that wasn’t my intention” when we have offended someone.

I am most fascinated though by the medical definition of intention. The term is used to describe the process by which wounds heal. Primary intention involves an incision which is stitched. The healing is faster and leaves less scar tissue.

Secondary intention is what happens when the wound must heal from the inside out. It takes longer. It leaves more scarring.

But it heals.

Our physical bodies have the ability to recover from injury. So do our minds.

If we have intention.

This week take the time to stop and listen to what your mind is trying to tell you.

How do you want to show up in the world?

Live with intention.
Walk to the edge.
Listen Hard.
Practice wellness.
Play with abandon.
Laugh.
Choose with no regret.
Appreciate your friends.
Continue to learn.
Do what you love.
Live as if this is all there is.

Mary Anne Radmacher

 

Be a Light


It’s easy during difficult times to believe that the world is a dark place.   It’s easy during difficult times to believe the worst of humanity.  It’s easy during difficult times to believe that people are no longer good, maybe never were.

But that’s just not reality.

It’s been month after month of challenges, and it’s been a year of witnessing the worst in some people. But it has also been a year where we have seen the best in so many people.

Somehow I missed the release of Thomas Rhett’s song Be a Light in early 2020. It’s now at the top of my playlist, and I listen to it every day.

“Be a light” is very good advice. 

In a world full of hate, be a light.
When you do somebody wrong, make it right.
Don’t hide in the dark, you were born to shine.
In a world full of hate, be a light.

A friend described it to me as “be the good.”  He’s right.  What each one of us can do every single day is to choose to be the good, the light.  I especially like when Thomas Rhett says, “you were born to shine.”  We were most definitely born to shine.

But I want to take issue with the fundamental premise in Thomas Rhett’s song.  As much as I love it, as much as it inspires me every morning, he is wrong.

The world is not full of hate.

The world is full of love.

Look around. Be intentional this week to witness the people around you. Watch for the many, many people who are going about their lives with quiet goodness.

7.8 billion people in the world.

331 million people in the United States.

Almost 2 million people in Nebraska, most of whom are going about their lives with quiet goodness.

Can we do better?  Of course we can, and we shall.  But the world is full of love.  In a world full of love, be the light.

Respect

“Madame First Lady — Mrs. Biden — Jill — kiddo.”

The criticism of the Wall Street Journal Op Ed about Dr. Jill Biden using her formal title “Dr.” was swift. And appropriate.

I have a doctorate in education, the same degree Dr. Biden holds. I could explain the study and research and work it took to earn my degree, but there is no need. The almost immediate outrage to the editorial affirmed for me that people understand that.

I could point out that the people who piled on with comments about not wanting Dr. Biden to be the one working in the Emergency Room are ridiculous. Smart, talented, educated people who earn an Ed.D. do not suddenly think they should crack open someone’s chest.

Ridiculous.

Years after they retire, people still refer to the best coaches as Coach. When you want to acknowledge the best meal you have ever eaten in a restaurant, you refer to the chef as Chef.

It’s about respect.

I have a friend who is a lawyer. He earned his JD. We don’t refer to him as Dr. though. Each profession has a protocol for the language it uses to denote respect. In education, when you have earned the highest degree, we refer to you as Dr.

It’s about respect.

When Dr. Biden responded to the piece, she said that what surprised her was the tone. “He called me kiddo.” When people say the piece was sexist, that’s why.

We can debate whether or not an Ed.D. should use the title Dr. They should. But we should not have to debate that referring to a woman, any woman, but in this case a woman who has earned the highest credential in her profession, as “kiddo” is not respectful.

In my family, we joke that I am a doctor “but not the useful kind.” We joke about that because I have 4 degrees and spent 26 years in school. We joke about that because I have passed comps three times and have written a dissertation. We can joke about it because I know that there is a deep level of respect for what I’ve achieved.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to blog about this. Honestly, I didn’t feel the need. The world jumped on this in a way that warmed my heart and made me feel seen.

But this week my Facebook memory popped up this crazy foil picture. Ten years ago to the day I graduated with my Doctorate. While I was in my Hooding Ceremony, that’s what it’s called, a friend was foiling my office. I mean foiling the whole thing. My stapler. My scissors. There was nothing not wrapped in foil. He sent me the picture during the ceremony, so I could see it when I was done.

It’s about respect.

 

 

 

 

Take What the Day Has to Offer


We used to spend a fun weekend every year camping and playing at Adventureland. We’d drive out on a Friday night and be the first ones in line when the park opened Saturday morning.

Some years it would be in the blistering heat of July or August, and we’d spend the late afternoon cooling off in the pool. Some years it would be September, and the afternoon was for watching the Husker game.

It was always fun!

When you only have one day to spend in the park, you wake up hopeful for perfect weather. We were usually lucky in that regard, but one year it rained the entire day. It was incredibly warm, but it was incredibly wet.

That’s the day I first learned the expression, “take what the day has to offer.”

I woke up crabby, sure the day was ruined. I pouted on the first few rides as the drizzle fell and the bigger rides opened and closed. Finally a wise friend reminded me to “take what the day has to offer.”

And we did.

We rode Saw Mill Splash in the rain. We flipped over and over on The Monster just as torrential showers began to fall. We raced back to the campground, splashing through the puddles and laughing so hard my stomach hurt.

It was a great day!

I was reminded of the expression this week as the sun was shining, and the weather was warm.  I left work to find the most glorious sunset.

Two days later the snow fell and the children in the neighborhood were sledding and making snow forts and having snowball fights.

Take what the day has to offer.

It’s 2020. One day feels so much like the next, and some days feel like it will never end.

But it will.

And in the meantime, we have sunsets and snowball frights. We take what the day has to offer.

 

 

 

Micro Moments of Joy

I stole this idea from a professional development session I was part of this week.  Credit where credit is due. In the midst of one of the hardest weeks I’ve had in awhile, I needed the reminder that life is joyful.

If we look for the joy.

After an accident, I was given grace and kindness.

After I sent a gloomy text, my daughter and son-in-law brought me a pumpkin pie blizzard. He knows the way to my heart.

A good friend sent me flowers to cheer me up. My daughters sent me daisies. They are a vase full of joy.

As I sat on the floor in my living room making phone calls and sending texts about a loss, I was reminded over and over and over again how many amazing people care about me.

Those first 2 deliveries meant to cheer me up before we knew what was coming were just the first of many sent to let me know that people are there for me. So many flowers. They meant the world to me. Every single one of them.

I am surrounded by the most loving family anyone could ask for.

My friend who has Covid is making her bed. If she has to be isolated in her room, she said that at least she could do what she can to make it look nice. Joy! She is the one who is sick, and yet she keeps checking on me.

I won a game of chess. If you knew how I play chess, you would see this for the micro moment of joy it is.

I once wrote a blog after going to a visitation for a friend who lost her mother. Today that friend texted me, and I was reminded that grief is something we all share.

Accidents happen. Death happens. COVID happens.

But in the midst of all of that, joy happens as well.

I know the week will continue to hit me. I know that tears will come at the strangest times. But I also see the text I just got from an old friend checking in on me.

Micro moments of joy.

See the Whole Board

Let me start with a helpful Public Service Announcement. If you have not seen The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, do nothing else until you start it.

There are few things that bring me as much joy as incredibly well done television. The writing, the acting, the gut punches and the heart warming is a great way to spend some time.

While we are at it, if you have not found a way to watch A West Wing Reunion on HBO Max, make it happen.

If you were a West Wing fan.

Which most of you were not.

Something I will never understand. It was the single best piece of television ever created, and while it won every award every year and was critically acclaimed, it never had a huge following.

But I digress.

Both the amazingly successful Netflix show and the perfectly chosen remake on HBO Max focus on chess.

See the whole board.

You can’t win a chess game without seeing the whole board. Your moves. Your opponent’s moves. The best players know what’s coming long before a move is made.

I am not an observant person. More times than I should admit, I have tried to get in to the wrong car.

But I know how critical it is to my work and to my happiness that I can see the whole board. Vision is about seeing a picture beyond what things are now to what they could be.

It is safe to say that people are not living the life they wish they could right now. Travel and gatherings are limited. Thanksgiving was different. School is different. Everything is different.

But see the whole board.

We wear a mask and keep our distance so things can be better tomorrow. We sacrifice a pawn today, so we can find checkmate in 6, 7, 11 moves.

I am not good at chess…yet. But I am learning to see the whole board.

 

Complicated Gratitude

There is never really a question about what to write for Thanksgiving Week. Thanks is in the very name of the holiday. We pause to eat ridiculous amounts of food and to say thank you.

Gratitude matters. We know this. We know that we are more positive and more productive and have less anxiety when we focus on being grateful.

We know that gratitude calms us and centers us.

This year is no different. Gratitude is as important, maybe more important, than in any other year.

And I intend to be grateful this week.

I am grateful I get to enjoy a delicious meal. I don’t need to focus on the fact that it won’t be with all of the people who are normally here.

I am grateful for the work I get to do. It’s a blessing to serve students and schools. I don’t need to focus on the strangeness of this school year.

I am grateful for my friends and my family. Six feet does not change a single bit of the love we share. A mask does not hide the smile in our eyes, and a screen cannot hide the joy in our voices. I don’t need to focus on the mask or the screen. I need to focus on the people.

I’m grateful for vitamin D and cool breezes and orange and rust colored leaves.

I’m grateful for Airhead Extreme Bites and SweeTart Ropes.

I’m grateful for pumpkin pie blizzards.

It’s 2020. Everything is complicated. But maybe not as complicated as I keep making it.

This week there will be turkey and stuffing and King’s Hawaiian Rolls.

It won’t look like any other year, but I learned a long time ago that every day is a gift not granted to everyone. And I am grateful for all of them!

Gobble! Gobble!

Grace Under Fire


I thought about calling this grace under pressure, but it is really about grace under fire.

I saw it this week. I witnessed someone doing their very best come under fire from someone.

The details aren’t important. It could have been anyone upset about anything. It was the response that made an impact on me.

I was witness to someone who, when confronted with anger, responded with kindness and understanding. She was able to empathize and de-escalate a situation that could’ve gotten ugly. It was a remarkable show of grace.

There were lessons I will carry with me.

Pause. I am someone who likes to get things off my plate as quickly as possible. When I was teaching, if a parent reached out to me, I would call them back during passing period.

Pause. Our initial reaction when confronted with anger is likely not our best reaction. Time is our friend…not so much time that the person thinks you are ignoring the issue, but enough time to allow you to calm down.

Empathize when possible. Many times people just need to be heard, and if they can be understood, even better.

Own any issues you should.

Do not own any issues that are not yours to own.

Apologize when appropriate.

Respond with kindness. This one is the hardest. Showing kindness when confronted with anger is hard.

Grace under fire.

In our day to day interactions with people, there be a million low level confrontations. Grace and kindness go a long way towards making the world a happier place.

Compelling Evidence

I once heard Warren Buffett say that he doesn’t know anything that anyone else couldn’t know if they read as much as he reads. He estimates he spends as much as 80% of his work day reading, and I bet he has long work days.

How much are you reading?

I wasn’t a huge reader as a child. Not like my sister who would hide under the covers with a flashlight reading late into the night. Not like my parents who would sit in our living room all evening with no tv on reading the newspaper and magazines and books.

But I did well in English class, and I had English teacher after English teacher who made an impact on me. They taught me to think and question and express myself.  They taught me to listen and learn from what others had to say.

So I became an English teacher. I hope I had the chance to do a little of the same for some of the amazing humans I got the chance to know in my classroom.

But I still wasn’t a reader.

Then one summer while cruising garage sales looking for children’s clothes and games, I found a book for a dime. It caught my attention. It was a thriller called Compelling Evidence. It wasn’t Shakespeare. It was distracting fiction.

Never underestimate the power of distracting fiction.

I tore through that book, and I have been a reader ever since. My current obsessions are library audio books with the Sora app.  So much distracting fiction right now.

Last week a friend bought me a book.  The gesture meant so much to me. It looks amazing. It’s not fiction. It’s one of those books that will push me and challenge me and make me a better person. I cannot wait to start it.

I guess my point is this…read. Read fiction. Read non-fiction. Read the newspaper and magazines.  Spend a little time in a world made entirely from someone’s imagination or engrossed in a book that will help you become a better version of yourself. 

It might not make us Warren Buffett, but it will distract and delight us.

 

Vitamin D

I got a touch of sun yesterday. It was nice. I’m not talking about the brush of sun you get walking from work to your car. I mean an honest to goodness pinkness of the skin. A little sunburn. There are not many days left to sit outside and soak in the Vitamin D.

Seasons change. Days grow shorter. Tank tops are replaced by sweaters. Time in the sun is replaced by time in front of a fire.

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to live somewhere that is always warm, always sunny. I’ve imagined waking up on Thanksgiving to a 78 degree day. I know there are people in shorts on Christmas (and not just the middle school boys who wear shorts even in the snow).

But I like seasons. I like when the air cools and the leaves change and the sweatshirts come out of hiding. I like needing sandals AND boots. Sometimes in the same day. It is no secret that October is my favorite month and that Halloween is my holiday. Always has been.

But November, with its wild swings from heat to snow, has a special place as well. How could we not love a month most known for all things pumpkin?

I made a decision last year to enjoy the cold. I bought new sweaters and a coat and a really cute hat. I bought some boots. I’m ready to get then back out. I’m ready to embrace the time inside doing puzzles and watching movies.

And I will keep in mind what my friend Amy says about Vitamin D. It doesn’t matter how cold it gets. We can put on a coat and spend a little time in the sun.

It shines in the winter as well.

I hope everyone got out last night to see the trick-or-treaters. The costumes were amazing. I hope everyone enjoyed the bonus hour of sleep. Say what you will about the archaic nature of changing the clocks. I like that extra hour once a year.

Embrace November. Embrace the chill in the air and the smells of the season. Embrace the chance to wear those fuzzy socks to bed and the chance to wrap up in blanket while you read a good book.

And embrace the sun. It isn’t gone. We just have to work a little harder to get that Vitamin D.

Hugs Are Important


When I visited Connor’s school this year, things felt different. I mean there were the obvious changes, the hand sanitizer, the masks, the signs about not using the drinking fountains. But more subtle was the distance between people. When I stopped to ask students what they were working on, I stayed back farther than I normally do. When I talked to the teachers, we were always mindful of 6 feet between us. People are being cautious.

As they should be.

But when I stepped into Connor’s classroom, I had the best reminder of the pandemic. Distance is hard. And hug are important. He has the most amazing teacher. I have admired her for many years. She has a warmth and a caring that is palpable when you step into her room. Nothing about that has changed.

After a brief visit, when I shared that Connor was my nephew and my godson, she told Connor that he could give me a hug.

We both paused.

I was standing far away from him…at least 6 feet. We were both in masks. It was unlike any visit to his classrooms I’ve made over the years. Connor Day my sister calls it. At the suggestion that he could, in fact, give me a hug, we both stopped and looked at each other. We were both analyzing the risk.

As I’ve talked to people in recent weeks about what is causing them stress, one of the most common responses has been the fatigue involved in making every little decision.

Is it safe for my child to go to the neighbor’s house?

Is it safe to eat out on a patio when the closest table is far away?

How will we celebrate Thanksgiving? Christmas?

No decision is easy anymore. We want to be safe. We want to keep the people we love safe.

In that moment, Connor and I had to weigh the options. In the end, with neither of us having any symptoms, having been around anyone with any symptoms, both wearing masks, both healthy overall, we decided to give each other a hug. It was quick. But it was every single thing I needed.

When people ask me what I miss the most right now, I tell them movie theatres and hugging my parents.

I have said before that I would never, ever advocate doing anything unsafe. We have to mask up and avoid crowds and wash our hands. And I can’t hug my parents. And it sucks.

But I can use video calls to stay connected. I can wear a mask and keep my distance and catch up with my parents on their front porch.

And in that moment I could hug Connor.

“Hug” the people you love. It might not be an actual hug. It might be a phone call or a Facetime or homemade cookies dropped off on their doorstep. Find ways to show the people you love that we are still connected in all of the ways that matter.

The decisions are hard, but we can do hard things.

Toxic Positivity- a reflection

Much has been written and shared lately about toxic positivity. Psychology Today defines it as keeping positive and keeping positive only…focusing on positive things and rejecting anything that may trigger negative emotions.

I get the pushback on that. I really do.

We need to fully feel our feelings. We need to cry when we are sad. We need to hurt when we have been injured. We need to be angry when we have been wronged.

It is not healthy to ignore any of those emotions. No one should tell us to smile through our pain or to ignore our hurt.

That would be toxic.

But sitting in those feelings for too long without finding a way through it is toxic as well. Pushing aside the laughter and the joy because it feels disingenuous when we are also suffering is not helping us recover. Avoiding our friends, reading too much social media, and focusing solely on the negative is not the road to healing.

We are all wrestling with months and months of isolation and fear and pressure and anger. There is nothing wrong with feeling negativity.

And there is nothing wrong with focusing on positivity.

I am grateful to the people in my life who have reached out in the last few weeks to talk about this. I knew that re-entering this space would provoke conversation. No one has been hostile or combative. They have simply asked how I reconcile my focus on positivity with all of the posts about toxic positivity.

It is not always easy.

But there is research around the healing effects of focusing on happiness and gratitude. I have experienced it firsthand. And I have experienced anxiety and depression that no amount of positive thought could undo.

We owe it to ourselves and to the people we love to seek help when we need it. It takes enormous strength to reach out for help. “Happiness is a choice” is not always true for everyone at every moment. There is nothing wrong with that.

And there is nothing wrong with spending our energy focused on being positive. We don’t need to apologize for wanting to be happy and for wanting the people in our lives to be happy.

I wish all of this was easier. It is anything but easy. But my plan is to continue to get help when I need it and to continue to focus on being positive and happy.

 

 

You Can’t Cancel Halloween

I have heard so many people speculate on whether or not Halloween will be canceled due to COVID.

I have told each and every one of them the same thing. “You cannot cancel Halloween.”

We can cancel trick-or-treating. We can cancel parties and parades. We likely should.

But Halloween is not only those things.

Yes, when I tell people why it is my favorite holiday, free candy may have a little something to do with it. 

But really it is about the joy and the fun of pretending to be something magical or whimsical or fantastical. It is about spending time outside in the spectacular fall weather and enjoying the sights and sounds of this time of year. It is about carving a pumpkin, making cups full of dirt and worms made of crushed Oreos and gummy candy.

You can’t cancel any of that.

I said last week that I am done focusing on what I can’t do. This is my favorite time of the year, and I intend to enjoy my favorite holiday in style!

I will always make safe choices. I will always encourage you to do the same. We need to maintain distance and wear masks and wash our hands.

But we also need to celebrate and enjoy the things we love the most.

I have seen our students find safe ways to dress up and enjoy an entirely new kind of Homecoming. I have seen our music teachers film the most incredible outdoor concerts, so our students have a chance to perform for others. I have seen example after example of people finding new ways to safely do the things they love.

We are creative, resilient people. And we will not cancel Halloween.

 

Looking in the Mirror

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

No, it’s not Christmas. It’s October. Pumpkin spice, rustic leaves, sweatshirt and shorts weather.

I’ve written every year about October. There is this feeling of warmth and of settling in to cozy things. Hot drinks replace lemonade, and the leaves catch fire.

But there has also been a stress in schools every year at this time. Wrapping up a quarter, conferences, and an end to the honeymoon that comes at the start of every year adds stress. I’ve written about it so many times.

But this year is different.

This year we are mired down by a virus and an election and unrest. This year has been hard…

and I went quiet.

I have not posted a blog since June. Honestly I have been nervous to post. I’ve been worried that my voice in the world would just add to the sometimes angry discourse happening on social media. But writing is how I process the world. This blog is where I am my most vulnerable and my most transparent. Without it, I’ve lost a little piece of myself.

No more.

Has this year been a challenge? Without question. But it has also been filled with weddings and babies and music and laughter.  I have watched Netflix and camped and even saw a play outside with my parents.  I will no longer quiet my voice.

Every single day is a gift…even in 2020.  If we spend our time focused on what we can’t do or what we have to do or what has changed or what we’re missing because of COVID, then we will miss all of the good happening around us.  None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.  We need to live today to its fullest!

For me, that has always meant a pumpkin pie blizzard in my favorite month of the year…and this blog.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” Anne of Green Gables

 

Six Degrees of Separation

I am someone who expresses her thoughts through words, and I’ve been at a loss for what to say.  Our world is fractured. Our connections, already strained because of quarantine, feel further disrupted by the unrest after the killing of George Floyd. Peaceful protests. Unrest. Riots. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “riots are the language of the unheard.”  Google it.  He didn’t just say it once.  He said it many times because it was necessary many times.  You’ll find it referenced over and over because this is far from the first time we have found ourselves in this situation.

I wish this time was different.  I hope this time is different.  A black man or woman is killed.  People express sadness and anger and fear.  Others unite around them.  We move on.  It happens again.  And again.

I don’t know what to say.

I don’t know what to do.

But I know that I have to start with myself.  I know that I have to listen more, read more.  I know that I have to be willing to confront my white privilege, my white fragility, my own racism.  It is time to look inward.

If riots are the language of the unheard, then listening is a good place to start.

I’ve been reminded recently that when our view of racism is limited to the obvious, horrific, blatant examples, we risk missing the larger, systemic racism.  When we rationalize that only a few hateful, bad people are guilty of being racist, we risk missing the larger, systemic ways we could be contributing to the problem and to the solution.

I contribute to the problem, and I can contribute to the solution.

Listen.  Action is critical right now, but action ill-informed is not helpful.

Read.  Action is critical right now, but action based solely on our limited knowledge and perspective is not helpful.

Commit to self-reflection.  Look inward.  Accept that we are all in a different place on this journey, and that we all have a responsibility to seek answers.

We need each other.  We need to find ways to learn from each other and to appreciate each other. Never have I ever been more acutely aware of how much I need humankind.  Six feet apart is hard.  But the idea of six degrees of separation is hopeful.  If we are all linked to every other person by six or fewer connections, then we can tackle these seemingly insurmountable issues.

I don’t know what to do.

I don’t know what to say.

But I am committed to learning and to listening and to taking action.

 

Rest

I’m tired.

I was on a Zoom this week (oh, how I am ready to stop saying that) when a friend and mentor said he was tired.  There was a visible shift on the faces of the people in the meeting.  It was permission.  To exhale.

March 12th seems like a lifetime ago.  The Thursday before Spring Break was intense.  That week the pandemic became real in our country.  The NCAA tournament ended abruptly prompting a string of major cancellations.  We started the week trying hard, based on the ever-changing information available, to maintain a sense of calm.  We tried to keep things as normal as possible as the world seemed to spin out of control.

By Thursday we canceled school on Friday.

And we never returned to our buildings.

But we did return to teaching after break.  We took a day to steady ourselves, to catch up on any needed training, and to prepare for what we now know would be 8 weeks of remote learning.  And boy did we nail it!

Now, it is time to rest.

Parents, you need a break.  Thank you for keeping your children safe and cared for and loved.  Thank you for sorting through all of those emails and making schedules and figuring out the math and the physics.  Please stop comparing your experience to anyone else’s.  Stop judging yourself when you see those Facebook posts of the moms teaching their children a new language or the dads baking cookies.  We never see the full story on social media.  We each had our own unique situation through this, and we all did the very best we could.  You rocked it!  Now rest.

Students, you need a break.  Thank you for not checking out.  Thank you for logging in and checking Classroom and posting to SeeSaw and showing up for stay-in-your car parades.  Thank you for caring about your learning and for stepping up in ways no other students have ever had to do.  Yesterday was graduation day!  Seniors, there aren’t enough words to say how sorry we are that you lost spring concerts and sports seasons and proms and, at least for now, an in-person graduation.  You have all shown strength and courage and grace like no one could have imagined.  You showed the world what this generation can do, and we are proud beyond measure of who you are!  You rocked it!  Now rest.

Finally, I am overwhelmed as I write this to our teachers and our administrators and our food service and our custodians and our support staff, all of whom stepped up in ways I could never have imagined.

More than 300,000 meals have been served.  Five days a week our food service staff has been providing curbside pick-up breakfast and lunch to support our students in this challenging time.

More creative and engaging Meet and Zoom sessions have been conducted than anyone could count.

Concerts were performed remotely.  Auditions and try-outs still happened.  There was a spring play.  Meetings with parents went on.  May Baskets were still delivered, and there was even a field day.

And my daughter, an SLP in one of our schools, taught preschool with her team through her computer.  Can you imagine?

To say you rocked it doesn’t do it justice.  You knocked it out of the park.  Ten weeks ago I blogged that “you’ve got this.”  I had no idea!  Never, ever, ever underestimate an educator!  Thank you!  Thank you for caring so much.  Thank you for never giving up on what we do.

Now rest.  You need a break.

 

 

 

Tony Is Wearing a Tie


…and his name badge

One of the funniest moments on a recent Zoom was when a friend stopped the meeting right in the middle of it and said, “Can we just pause for a minute and ask why Tony is wearing a tie.”  I work with someone who gets up everyday and puts on a dress shirt, a tie, and his badge.  Even though he is working remotely.

It helps him maintain some sense of normalcy in a time that feels anything but normal.

But is there really such a thing as normal?

I want to start by saying that it is okay to not be okay right now.  People are sick.  People are dying.  People are losing their jobs.  People are staying home and feeling isolated or going to work and feeling scared.  

Of course we are not okay.

But it’s also worth noting that it is always okay to not be okay.  We don’t need a global pandemic for permission to feel sad or scared or angry or depressed or anxious.

Or happy.

Usually we are okay.  Sometimes we aren’t.  That’s normal.

This is not a “new normal” as some have called it.  This is just what is happening to us right now.   I think we have a unique opportunity to teach this to our children.  Every day is different.  Some are easy.  Some are hard.  Years ebb and flow, and obstacles arise that throw us completely off course. 

We face challenges, and we overcome them.

If resiliency is one of the things our children learn through this, they will be better for it.  This is likely not the first, and definitely not the last challenge they will face.  Hopefully they will not be on a global scale again, but no one’s life is free of obstacles.

It’s healthy for our children to see us struggle.  It’s normal.  It’s also healthy for them to see us persevere.  It’s normal.  It’s also okay for them to see us reach out for help.  That is most definitely normal.

So wear a tie.  Or don’t.  Curl up on the couch and watch Netflix or go for a walk or eat a giant tub of ice cream.  Or don’t.  Find what feels normal today.  

There was a before and there will be an after. That’s always the case. Today is today.  Take it for what it is.

Honeymoons

When you try something new, there is almost always a honeymoon phase.  The first few weeks of a diet when you are excited to see those pounds fall off.  The first few weeks in a new house when painting and cleaning and organizing is fun.  The first few weeks of a new relationship before you have the inevitable fight.  The first few weeks, motivated, excited, ready to try anything.

And then it gets real.

Now these first few weeks have been anything but easy.  They have been hard.  They have been never done this before, don’t have the skills or knowledge to do this, trying to work and parent and redesign everything we know about quality instruction hard.

But there has also been a joy and an enthusiasm reminiscent of the first few weeks of a school year.  We are setting new routines.  Teachers are getting to know their students in this new environment.  Students want to be there.  The connection is welcome in a world that has felt so disconnected.  It feels a lot like August, the beginning of this new type of school year.

But September and October are probably coming,

There is a dip each year when the honeymoon ends and the real work begins.  Students lose some enthusiasm and other things start to take their focus,  Behaviors increase.  Learning gaps and access and equity issues become more evident.  We will not be immune to this.  The honeymoon will end.

But this is what I know.  Every year without fail, as students disengage and get a little naughty, as parents get tired of studying spelling lists or setting aside time for homework, as the content gets harder and the frustrations grow, teachers shine.  They use relationships to keep students motivated.  They scaffold and differentiate and make accommodations and provide interventions.  They build in days where students just reflect and have fun.  They excuse things and they give extra time and they allow for all of the special circumstances that are always there for our families.  Those special circumstances are certainly there now.

We are in emergency remote learning.  We are in triage.  This is not a normal year.  This is not blended learning or online learning as they are defined in a traditional year.  There is nothing traditional about any of this.  No one expects us to cover the same amount of material, to assess with the same level of rigor and accountability, or to perform at the same level of awesomeness that we normally do.

But awesome it has been.  Our students are engaging and working and learning.  Our parents are pushing themselves harder than anyone could’ve expected.  And our teachers are doing things no one has ever had to do before.  Please, please continue to show each other grace.  Please, please continue to show that grace to yourself…and to the big and little people living in your house.  We all need it right now.

Go outside this week.  Sit in the sun.  Pause and reflect.  You have done hard things well.  You’ve got this!

Settling In

 

This has been the single most amazing week of my professional career.  I have seen our schools parade through neighborhoods, so they could see the faces of their students.  I have seen Morning Meetings on Zoom.  I have seen high school science lessons teaching complex concepts.  I have seen art lessons on perspective and music lessons on rhythm.  I have seen math and reading and writing.  I’ve seen history teachers using this as a teachable moment.

Our educators are stepping up in ways no one dreamed possible.  So are our parents.  To say I am proud of the people in our district, and in districts across the nation and world, would be an understatement.  We are stepping up, and we are settling in.

One of the biggest challenges of the last three weeks has been the rate at which things have changed.  Consistency is one of the things people need the most in order to feel safe.  And we all need to feel safe right now.  Just as a leader would set a plan in place, things would change.  Just as a parent or a teacher or a counselor would explain things to a nervous child, things would change.  Change is hard for most of us under the best of circumstances, and these are anything but the best of circumstances.

We are not done with change.  The number of people being impacted is growing- exponentially. But we have settled into a new normal in many ways.  We have reconnected to our homes and to the people in them.  We have found new ways to “eat out.”  We have gotten creative in how we exercise and how we take dance class and how we do school.  It is far from perfect.  No one expects perfect right now.  We are just doing the best we can.

Each family right now is unique.  Some have two parents working in a hospital.  Some have two parents who have lost their jobs.  Some have children in multiple schools or multiple districts.  Some are working from home while they are trying to help a first grader with school.  Teachers are parenting.  Parents are teaching.  No one’s situation is ideal right now.

As we settle into this new normal, grace and understanding will continue to be the answer.

Thank you for trying.  Thank you for providing some measure of consistency for our students.  Thank you for showing the world that together we can do amazing things.

 

You’ve Got This

To say the current situation is fluid would be more than an understatement.  For weeks now, the situation has changed almost hourly.  It is hard to make meaningful plans during times like this.  But plan we must.  Try we must.  Fail at times we will.  (Apparently I was channeling Yoda there.)

Last week I wrote about the need for us to give ourselves and others grace right now.  Well, tomorrow is go time.  Tomorrow we come back from spring break but to nothing any of us have ever experienced.  Tomorrow we connect, inspire and educate remotely.  

Our parents need our understanding.  They might be working from home while trying to support remote learning.  They might not know how to answer questions about physics or how to navigate Google Classroom.  Our youngest learners are not independent and may not be home with their parents during the day.  These are very real challenges for parents who will be doing the best they can in trying times.  They may have lost their job.  They may not be sure how to feed their children.  They may be scared.  If they reach out in anger, respond with kindness.  We may be the only lifeline they have right not.  Our counselors and social workers and psychologists are amazing, and they are ready and anxious to support those families.  There will be bumps in the coming weeks for our parents.  Let’s do our best to be flexible and supportive.  There will be no such thing as one size fits all in the coming weeks.

Our students need our understanding.  They need school.  We are the place they see their friends and connect with their teachers and have Morning Meetings and  Socratic Circles and breakfast and lunch and high fives and fist bumps and math and writing and social and emotional learning.  For some, we are their safe place.  For all, we are their cheerleaders and their teachers.  Our seniors are hurting.  I honestly cannot imagine senior year without spring sports and prom and yes, even AP exams.  Our job is to find new and creative ways to give our seniors those memories.  Students are resilient and inspiring.  Ask THEM how we should move forward.  Reach out to you Student Councils and your Student Leadership Teams.  Let them help re-design the senior spring.  They will be brilliant.  They always are.

Our building and district leadership need our understanding.  Everyone is working tirelessly to adapt to each change and to support those of you who are supporting our students and families.  We plan.  Things change.  We adapt.  Mostly we know that we have the greatest people with the best hearts for kids doing the best they can.  That is all anyone is asking right now.

Our colleagues need our understanding.  The most amazing piece of all of this has been the sharing and the collaboration that has been happening.  This is not a competition.  This is not about who does the coolest thing or who is the best at synchronous learning or Flipgrid.  Everyone is putting everything they have out into the world for anyone to use.  The doors of our classrooms have been opened and the walls have been taken down.  We can learn from each other.  And we should.

Most of all, YOU need understanding.  The airlines say it the best.  You have to put your own oxygen mask on before you can help others with theirs.  This is not the time to strive for perfection.  This is not the time to try many new apps.  Believe me, I know you are getting hundreds of offers for free trials of things.  The ed tech industry has been generous in their offers.  Take a few risks.  Give some new things a try.  But we will all likely be more comfortable with this experiment if we stick to things that we and our students already know as much as we can.  No one expects you to be perfect.  You will push yourself and be critical of yourself more than anyone else.  That’s how educators are.  We want to be great for our students.  But this is a time to just try.  You’ve got this.  We’ve all got this.

Unprecedented


No March Madness. No NBA. No CWS. And on and on and on.

This has been an unusual week. How’s that for an understatement? We watched in confusion and anger and fear as event after event was modified and then canceled. It was almost impossible to keep up with the changes. Planning became more about revising, and business as usual became impossible.

Schools across the world are experiencing rapid and unprecedented change. Social distancing, a phrase most of us didn’t even know a month ago, is leading to school closures here and abroad.

So what does it mean for us, for our schools, for our students? It is indeed unprecedented.

It means that at some point this year we may be teaching online. Learning may move from face to face in a classroom to activities that can be done from home. And while we have added access to devices and professional development around digital learning and SeeSaw and Google Classroom and more engaging tools than I could name, we still rely on contact and conversation and caring to build relationships with our students.

That cannot change.

While we build lessons and make videos, while we design eLearning to teach our standards, while we employ creative assessment measures, we will also focus on our students’ emotional well-being …and our own.

Give yourself, and those around you, enormous grace in the coming weeks. Everyone is walking a new path. Take risks. Try new things. Try again when it doesn’t work the first time. This is our chance to model a growth mindset for students. They’ll understand when our Google Meet flops or our video isn’t perfect. Practice over perfection. They’ll stick with us as we try, just like we stick with them.

I don’t know what the next few weeks will bring, but I know that teachers and school administrators are resilient, compassionate, and dedicated. I know that our teams are working hard to find ways to support, nurture, calm, and yes, educate our children. Never underestimate an educator!

Hello Sunshine


I  am currently obsessed with audio books, and the Reese Witherspoon Book Club (Hello Sunshine) has provided more than its share of entertainment.  The books are great, but it is the bigger context that I appreciate more.

Movies are my thing.  I see them all.  (Well, that’s not completely true.  I am not a horror movie girl.  But I see the rest.)  And Reese has figured out the secret to amazing movies and mini series.  Find the best books.  Buy the rights.  Make the movie yourself.

After the success of Legally Blonde, she made sure to be a producer on the sequel.  But it was Wild where she discovered her current formula for success.  Book.  Rights.  Movie.

Gone Girl

Big Little Lies

Little Fires Everywhere

Something in the Water

Reese has spoken openly about the trajectory of her film career before the formula.  “Mostly forgettable movies.” The scripts she was getting were not what she wanted to make.  So she started making her own films.  Amy Adams is doing the same thing.

There is a lesson for us in the formula.  Less in the formula, I suppose, than in the importance of finding your own formula.

Find your own projects.  Be your own producer.

Sometimes it can feel like life is happening to us.  Like we are less in the driver’s seat and more in the backseat.  Unless I am on vacation, I have never wanted to be the one letting others take the lead.  I guess that’s why Reese and Amy and all of the CEOs and politicians and other strong women saying, “My turn,” inspire me.

Find your book.

Buy the rights.

Make your film.

Still So Much to Learn

When you blog, and your 50th birthday falls on the day you publish every week, there is some pressure to get it right.  I’ve been turning it over in my mind for awhile, adding to a list of “50 things I’ve learned.”

Be kind.

Be curious.

Say yes.

Say you’re sorry when you are.

It’s okay to not be okay.

It is not okay to not try to get better.

Ask for help.

If you want people to remember your birthday, tell them it’s coming.

Floss.

Confidence is not about knowing you will always get it right.  Confidence is about being comfortable knowing that sometimes you will fall down and being okay with that.

Worry makes no sense.  It can’t change the past, and it doesn’t shape the future.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”  Envy of another person will eat you up.

I am enough.

You are enough.

But the more I wrote, the more I realized that I have learned none of this on my own.  I have an amazing family who has been teaching me my whole life.  I have friends and colleagues and mentors who are incredible models for me and who tell me when I’m wrong.  I have gotten many, many things wrong.

But I keep learning.

So instead of working more on the list of things I’ve discovered, I am giving myself grace to acknowledge how much I still have to learn.  I am young.  There is time.

My Complicated Relationship with February


Sometimes people refer to it as the F Month.  We are deep in the gray of winter.  The cold has set in hard, and the sun rarely peeks through the clouds.  In schools we have conferences and staff development and plays and basketball games and wrestling meets and Board meetings and on and on.  It’s a busy time.  And spring seems a long ways away.

Gloomy.

But it is also my birthday month.  Birthdays are a big deal to me.  (Many of you know this.)  I am grateful for getting old.  As they say, it is a gift denied to many.

I got a text from a friend Saturday morning wishing me Happy Birthday Month.  I got the first of what I know will be a daily email from another friend wishing my Happy Birthday Month.  People are so kind and so thoughtful and so caring.  Birthdays are a reminder that our lives are filled with people who love us.

It was also warm this weekend.  The sun was shining, and it was fun to be outside.  There was still plenty of beautiful snow with sun bouncing off it, but you could feel that winter would not last forever.  I know it’s far from over, but we got a taste of it.  It will come.

See why I have a complicated relationship with February?

So much bleak.

So much joy.

I blogged in November about embracing the cold.  I was committed to enjoying my boots and my coat.  I was eager for the snow.  My attitude was good.  I wish I could say that I’ve never wavered from that attitude, but that wouldn’t be true.  Too many days without sun gets to most people.

But February is here.  Spring is near, and it is a leap year.  One extra to celebrate.

Courteous


Polite. Respectful.  Considerate in manner.

I work with someone who is very courteous.  I work with many courteous people, but one in particular inspires me to be more polite.  I was in a meeting with him this week, and he got up in the middle of it to close the blinds in the room.  The sun was shining in someone’s eyes.  Not his eyes.  Someone else’s eyes.  He didn’t close the blinds to help himself.  He closed the blinds to help someone else.  He didn’t comment on it.  He didn’t make it a big deal.  He simply got up and did it.  I’m not even sure anyone else noticed it.

It shouldn’t be old fashioned to be polite.

It shouldn’t be unusual to go out of your way to hold a door.

It should be commonplace.  It should be the way we all behave.  Polite and respectful should be the norm.

I am not venturing into conversations about politics or social media or any of the many other things around which we could discuss civility.  I am truly just talking about the way I want to behave on a day to day basis with the real people I know and with whom I spend my time.  I want to be more polite, more respectful, more considerate in manner.  I want to do small things without being asked, without expecting thanks.

There is great strength in quiet graciousness.

 

Cloudy Skies


My drive to work takes me up a hill heading east.  Depending on the time of year, I often get a firsthand look at the sunrise.  Some mornings the sunrise is beautiful.  And some mornings the sunrise is downright spectacular.

Have you ever noticed that the best sunrises (and sunsets for that matter) happen when we also have the best scattering of clouds.  Of course there is science behind the sunrise.  When the sun is closer to the horizon, the blue light scatters and the red light comes through.  The real magic though happens when the sunlight bounces off the clouds.  Pay attention the next time you see an amazing sunrise.  There will also be a healthy number of clouds.  I am grateful for those clouds.

Like in life.

There have been plenty of times in my life when I have wished for clear skies with no clouds.  Life can get complicated, and it is human nature to wish for clear skies.  But none of us get clear skies all the time.  Life happens.  In those moments it can be helpful to remember that the most beautiful sunrises come when the sky is filled with a healthy scattering of clouds.

As we move into the second semester of the year, a time that usually goes faster than I can comprehend, I wish you clear skies.  Of course I do.  But I also wish you the perspective of the sunrise.  The clouds in our lives are often the reason the sunrises shine so brilliantly.

 

 

 

 

Embracing the Cold


Fall is my favorite season. As the temperatures cool and the leaves start to turn, my heart is happy. Pumpkin pie blizzards and high school football. Shorts and sweatshirts. Light jackets and hoodies. Halloween. It’s the best time of the year.

But this week I watched the last games of the season at Buell Stadium. I started planning for Thanksgiving. I drove through snow.

Winter is coming.

This year I am trying something new. Instead of complaining about the cold, I am working hard to embrace the new season. I bought a new hat. I broke out all of those tiny bottles of hand lotion as the air turns dry.

I read this week that if you choose not to enjoy the snow you will have less joy and the same amount of snow.

It’s a good point.

Winter is for curling up on the couch with a fire roaring binging Netflix. It’s for reading those books that have been piling up on the nightstand. It’s for going to bed early and taking naps.

If the sun is out for fewer hours, maybe we should be too. Maybe nature is telling us this is our time to rest and to recharge.

This year I am trying very hard to embrace the cold.

Time moves fast enough. There is no reason to wish away a single season.

Be a Brad

Kid President is back. After a well-deserved break from the spotlight, Robbie and Brad are back to tell stories of awesomeness. And my heart is happy.

There is a reason we all fell in love with Kid President. We needed him. We needed his joy and his energy and his unwavering belief in the goodness of people. We needed to be reminded that we are all awesome! (And that corn dogs are good.)

Everyone needs to go back and watch the original Pep Talk.

And everyone needs to watch this preview of things to come.

Robbie says that people ask him all the time how they could become a Kid President. His response? “Get yourself a Brad!”

Brad is Robbie’s brother-in-law. Kid President was Brad’s idea. He came up with the idea for many reasons, but mostly, he says, so he could spend more time with Robbie.

I think when I was younger I wanted to be Kid President. I wanted to be the one in the spotlight. Now, I want to be Brad. I want to be the one who shines a light on other people. I want to be the one who finds awesomeness in others and helps them tell their story.

We make the world a better place by focusing on others. We shine brightest when we are helping others shine their light.

Kid President is everything I want for the young people (and the not-so-young people) in my life. He is the embodiment of hope. And Brad, he is the heart and the magic behind it all. Not in the spotlight himself, but shining brighter for the light he is helping others shine.

”Make the world a little more awesome!”

Be a Brad!

How Are You?

I have a conflicted relationship with the phrase, “How are you?”

As a social norm, the phrase is like saying “Bless you” after someone sneezes. It’s a habit, expected almost, but it doesn’t actually mean what we say.

“How are you?” is a real question with a real answer, one that we rarely take the time to hear.

It’s important to ask people how they are doing. People want to be heard, to be known. We can brighten someone’s day by asking and by giving some of our time to really listen to the answer.

Don’t take a greeting for granted.

This week when you ask someone how they are, wait for an answer. If it’s not the right time to really talk about it, consider “Good Morning” instead.

You Are Loved


A friend asked me this week why it all has to be so hard, and I honestly didn’t have an answer for her. But it is. Life is hard. Not all the time, not even most of the time. But some of the time life is very, very hard.

I think we have to be honest about that. I think we have to acknowledge that sometimes we are sad or angry or overwhelmed. Sometimes we are scared. Sometimes we feel alone even when those we love surround us. Life can seem almost unbearable at times.

We can feel that way and still be positive people.  We can acknowledge that and still know that life is good and things work out.

Today I just want you to know that you are loved. You are valued and treasured beyond understanding. You are seen. You are known.

Today may be hard, but it will get better.

Today you may feel despair, but you will feel hope.

It might not be tomorrow, but hopefully soon. Just know that it will get better.

There is help. There are people in your life who will listen, and there are professionals who can support you whenever you need it. Asking is not showing weakness. Asking is showing enormous strength.

There are lots of questions in the world that I cannot answer. There are so many things I do not understand. But I know this. You are loved. You are seen.

Lift Each Other Up


A few weeks ago my daughter shared that she is being intentional about telling other women when she notices things about them. Instead of just thinking that they look nice or they handled something well or they went out of their way to do something kind, she is telling them.

Twice in the last week I had another woman tell me than she liked my outfit. Total strangers. It felt great!

I need to be more intentional about lifting others up.

Friday night I had a teacher thank me for pushing her outside of her comfort zone. She is the one who embraced a new challenge, and she was thanking me. It made my week.

I know that this advice applies to men and women alike. But sometimes the universe seems to be writing this blog for me, and in the last two weeks it has been reminding me how important it is that women support each other and lift each other up.

My daughter shared that she is focusing on this. Then a friend posted this the very next day.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt

I will never be as pretty as she is.

Her hair is so much cuter than mine.

She is smarter than I am.

I wish I was as clever, as thoughtful, as successful, as fit, as beautiful…as she is.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

All I have to be today is the best version of myself. All I have to aspire to be tomorrow is an even better version of myself.

You are beautiful.

You are smart.

You are capable beyond measure.

You matter. And you are loved.

Thank you to all of the people who have built me up over and over and over. My goal is to do that for others.

TSA Pre✔️

I love to travel.  Well, I love to explore new places, but the actual getting there part is not much fun.

I decided it was time to apply for TSA Pre✔️.  It’s a straightforward process. You apply online, then you get an appointment time to go in for fingerprints and a background check.

Of course right now the Omaha office is technically closed.  It “closed” August 1, but TSA is giving them until the end of September to find a new location.  So there aren’t any appointments being scheduled after September 30th, and the appointments up to that point are almost impossible to get.  So I was a walk-in.  Here’s how that works.  You arrive at the office, sign-in, and they try to work you in between the appointments that are scheduled every 10 minutes.  If a scheduled appoint time arrives, they go ahead of you.  It can be quite the wait.

I learned all of this the first time I stopped in.  The mood in the waiting room was ugly.  The tension was palpable. The woman working at the desk, frazzled and frustrated from a day full of cranky people, walked me through it.  She also told me that the first 30 minutes and the last 30 minutes of the day have no scheduled appointments.  Those are your best options.

The next week I tried again.  I arrived 15 minutes before they opened.  I was first in line.  Looking good.

Then the next person arrived and got in line behind me.  Then a father and daughter.  She was wearing a Bennington sweatshirt.  Then another woman.  By the time the office opened, only one person works the first 30 minutes, there were 6 of us in line.

At first we were quiet.  Then at one point the woman asked the girl in the sweatshirt if she went to Bennington.  It started a conversation.  Soon we were all talking.  When the woman arrived to open the office, we were relaxed and friendly.  We greeted her, and we acknowledged that her job has to be a challenge.  There was a visible change in her demeanor.  She softened.

We signed in, and it took about 10 minutes for the lone employee to get us all signed in and then go back and get her computer ready to start the day.  I was first.  In and out in 10 minutes.  The man behind me got in and out.  By then the appointments had started.  I have no idea how long the other 4 people waited.

But I do know that the mood in the waiting room was different.  I know that each person who came in felt something different than the people walking in the week before.

Attitude is contagious.

The 6 of us in line made a choice.  We chose to be kind to each other.  We chose to be kind to the woman who has what I can only imagine is a challenging job.  We chose not to let the line, the inconvenience, the wait, define our attitude.  We chose to be pleasant.  We chose to be happy.  And that attitude spread.

There will be times in our lives when we are not able to happy.  There are for me. In those times, I hope we seek help.

But there are times every single day when we do have a choice.  Choose to be happy.  It’s contagious.

There’s Nothing New to Say

I read two articles this week in a magazine that I enjoy. They were spot on. One talked about the power of movement and exercise in helping people heal from trauma and PTSD. The other spoke powerfully about the need we all have to carve out time for our health and well-being. They were well written, and they resonated with me.

But they were not new ideas.

Far from it.

I’ve read countless articles and books and blogs about the same ideas. I’ve written plenty of them, so what struck me the most was the idea that there is just nothing new to say.

So why write? Why put our voices out into the world if we are simply restating ideas that have been shared time and time again?

Be kind. There’s nothing new about that message.

Take care of yourself. Nothing new there.

Respect people.

Respect yourself.

Work hard at things you love.

Spend time with the people who are important to you.

Nope. Not new.

And yet still worthy of thought and voice. We forget. We hear something new based on what’s happening in our life. We are reminded that the simple ideas are often not simple to live.

Do I hope that someday I will have something to share that leaves an impact long after I’m gone? Do I hope that someday I will find a way to craft a message that inspires others in a way they have not been before?

Of course. I think anyone who writes does.

But in the meantime, I am just happy to share my voice as it is.

And I am especially grateful for all of you who put your voices out into the world over and over again. You have meaningful, purposeful, impactful things to say. Even if someone else has said them before.

And so do I.

Someone asked me recently why I’m still blogging after all these years. It’s been almost 5 years now. That’s a lot of blogs. I haven’t gotten famous. I’ve never had anything “go viral.” So what’s the point?

The point is that each and every one of us has a voice, has a story, and those stories are worthy of taking flight.

Luke Perry

Meryl Streep is in the new season of Big Little Lies. On the press tour the other actors in the series shared stories of meeting her for the first time. They were nervous, star-struck.

One of them told a story of their first encounter. When it was done, he just stood there. Another actor approached him and said, “It’s okay, I saw the whole thing. You did okay.”

The other actors in the show are Nicole Kidman, Reece Witherspoon, Laura Dern, and on and on. And they were nervous, star-struck.

Last weekend I saw the new Quentin Tarantino movie. It is full, beyond full, of big name cameos. Al Pacino, Bruce Dern, Dakota Fanning, Damian Lewis.

And Luke Perry.

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio star in the movie. I can’t think of two bigger actors today than Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. On the press tour for the film, they talked about seeing Luke Perry on set. They were star-struck, nervous. He was the cool kid from 90210 when they were growing up.

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Because we are all just people.

As we start a new school year, our classrooms will be filled with children, young and old, who are nervous and scared.

Will I fit in?

Will people like me?

Will anyone sit with me at lunch?

We are all asking those questions. Student athletes, crossing guards, scholars, freshman, third graders. Boys. Girls. Students. Teachers.

Everyone wants to belong. Everyone, even Reece Witherspoon and Brad Pitt, want to fit in with the people they admire. Our job as educators is to help our students feel safe, feel valued, feel like they belong.

Learn your students’ names as quickly as you can.

Learn what is important to them.

Look for the ones who might be sitting alone at recess or at lunch.

Reading, writing, and math are critical to student success. But so is well-being. As we kick off the year, remember “Maslow before Bloom.” The first days of school are all about building the culture that will allow for the learning.

#BeKind so you can #TeachUP

Be THAT Person


I’m old. I don’t say that to bemoan my 49 years or my aging joints or my grey hairs. I value all of those things. I truly believe that every day is a gift, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to get old.

I also don’t really think 49 is old. I am active and energetic and engaged in amazing work and play so are all of friends. I’m (mostly) joking when I say I’m old!

But I am experienced in my job and in my district. I’ve been around for awhile. I need to be intentional about reminding myself of that because I still feel like the brand new teacher in the oldest secondary school in our district. I still feel like the one who needs friends and mentors to help look out for her…because I do.

But I also want to be intentional about being that friend and that mentor for others. I’ve had so many myself.

Our new teachers reported to work this week. There are a lot of them. Some are brand new to teaching. Some have many years of experience. Some are excited. Some are nervous. Most are probably both. We all feel that way as we start a new adventure.

I want to encourage you to look around as we start the new year. The newest people in our schools are the future. What are we doing to help them get off to a great start?

Our kinders will someday be our 5th graders. How are we building in them the knowledge and the confidence to be our future leaders?

Our JV players will someday be our varsity teams. What relationships are we building with them now so we can have influence and impact as they progress?

Our new teachers will be our veteran teachers, and our new administrators will be our district leaders. How are we mentoring them?

This is an important week. We have the opportunity to welcome new staff and to reconnect with old friends.

Spend some time as we start the new year with those people who befriened you and who mentored you when you were new.  There is still so much to learn from them.

Seek out people who are new and befriend them and mentor them.  They are the future.  They need us, and we need them. Learn from them.  New eyes.  New ideas. New people make us better.

This work we do is hard, but it is made so much easier when someone takes us under their wings.  Appreciate those wings, and spread your own.

The Climb

There’s a reason I stop blogging for the summer. Our minds need time to rest and reflect in order to do their best thinking. Part of what I enjoy the most about working in education is the cycle of the school year. I love the excitement of a new year, and I love the renewal of the summer season.

It also helps that summer vacations are ripe with ideas for the blogging mind.

This summer I got to go back to Estes Park in Colorado. It’s one of my favorite places but getting there (especially when you are pulling a 5th wheel) is quite a climb.

You’ve no doubt heard the expression. You’ve seen it on motivational posters. You’ve probably even said it from time to time.

It’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey.

It’s not about reaching the mountain top. It’s about the climb.

Great thought. Learning, training, improving at anything is truly a journey worthy in its own right. The value lies in how we grow and change and get better as human beings, not in the kudos or in the win. (Although the win feels pretty good when you’ve worked hard for it.)

I do believe that life is about the journey.

But sometimes, it is also about the destination.

I don’t really like travel days. I like to travel; I just don’t like the drive or the flight. Not many do I suppose. It is the price we pay to explore new places, to re-visit old favorites, and to look at the world through new eyes.

And it is totally worth it.

Life is that way. Sometimes we have to do things that aren’t a lot of fun. At work, at home, we have to run errands and do paperwork and spend countless hours on seemingly endless tasks. It is not fun. But the job, the home, the life is worth every second of it.

Yes, many times it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.

But sometimes, it really is about the reward for the effort.

I know that the end of summer can be hard. Hopefully you have been relaxing and playing and spending time with the people you love. Rest is a gift.

I also know that work with purpose and meaning done with like-minded people who you truly enjoy is also a gift. At least it is for me.

Embrace the journey, and embrace the destination. Remember your why and the rest tends to take care of itself.

Do You Ever Need a Montage?

I am trying to become a better golfer. I’ve been golfing for a few years, but I’ve never really worked at getting better. My goal was just to have fun…still is.

In my first year I mastered scooping up the ball as we drove by it in the cart.

In my second year I mastered picking up the ball on the green with my putter. (A friend gave me the right kind of putter which was the key.)

This year I am actually trying to improve my game. It’s a work in progress. Time at the driving range is often frustrating.

It takes time.

I was thinking what I really need is a golf montage. A motivating song. Clips of me swinging and missing. Then slowly, clips of me getting better. By the end of song, I am a master golfer. Just that easy.

But it’s not.

In the real world, things take time. Getting healthy. Training for a marathon. Learning to golf.

There are times, many times in fact, when we just wish it was as easy as a montage in a movie.

But it’s not.

If you are working toward a goal, trying to learn a new skill, walking through some hard times, persevere. It’s not as easy as a montage, but it is worth it on the other side.

The Real World

I work in education. Our goal, our hope is to help create great people. We spend a lot of our time talking about the college and career readiness skills that our children will need when they leave us.

But what about today?

I have spent the majority of my career working in middle school. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been engaged in a conversation about “what they will need to do in high school.” We focus a great deal of energy on preparing them for the next level.

But what about today?

I am not advocating that we abandon our work preparing students for what lies ahead of them. Our world needs nothing less.

But what about today?

“The real world” is not some time in the future. It is not some place where our students will one day arrive.

The real world is here and now, and whether you are 49 or 29 or 9, you are living in the real world.

Enjoy it. Delight in it. Yes, spend some time and energy preparing for what comes next. But each day is gift, and today is the goal.