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

 

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.

October Again

Last week I made a decision. I was not going to write about October for the 4th year in a row. I posted a past blog and was going to take the month off. But all week October was on my mind, and all week I felt like I wanted to write. Writing is something I truly enjoy, and it has become one of the ways I process the world.

During the week when fun things happen and when hard things happen, I listen for a blog.

I long ago stopped looking at the stats. I write for myself, and I write in the hope that in any given week there may be a message that resonates with someone else the way it has resonated with me.

So once again I am writing about October. I am writing about how I am overcome by the beauty. I visited my sister this week. She lives in the house where we grew up. As soon as I pulled into her driveway, I was reminded why Halloween is my favorite holiday. Her house is amazing. Images of the season are everywhere. It was that way growing up as well.

There is always a week in October when the leaves suddenly shift and begin to change color and fall to the ground. This was that week. It was cold and rainy for much of the week, but yesterday was beautiful. I started writing this outside in our backyard.

Of course today is a different story. Such is October. Such is life.

This month is busy. Always has been in our schools, so it always has been for me. But this month is also state championships and concerts and pumpkin patches and campfires. It is warm and cool and colorful and full of transitions. Embrace them.

It’s conference week. Teachers are finalizing grades and making preparations. There will be staff development, and there will be a long and well-deserved weekend.

This week when I noticed the leaves and when I noticed the stress, I listened for a blog.

And I heard the reminder that the earth is beautiful and that life is good and that while I know that stress and sadness are real, I also know that hope and help are real. October is my month, and I am once again happy to share that in a blog.

Thank You

For the last 2 1/2 years I have been putting my thoughts out into the world in this blog, and it has been life-changing.  I truly see the world in a different way.  I find myself looking for stories, for lessons, for moments that capture my heart.  I find myself saying, “Now that would make a great blog.”  And I am never at a loss for ideas…because of you.

Thank you for being amazing people.  Thank you for modeling grace and kindness and perseverance.  Thank you for teaching me how to be a better person.  Each day, each hour of each day,  I find someone who is serving children, working to make life better for others , fighting for what is right.  People are capable of incredible good.  I am overwhelmed by it.  Thank you!

I am taking a short break from the blog, as I do every summer.  But I will not be taking a break from the search for good in the world.    It is all around us, and we are better when we focus our time on that.

Join the Conversation

imageI’ve been writing for most of my life, but not until January of this year did I ever let anyone read it.  It’s risky to put yourself out there.  You feel vulnerable…at least I do.  This blog has been a wild ride.  People have been incredibly supportive.  I’m not sure I can describe the feeling when someone tells me that they enjoy reading my writing.

But blogging has some dangerous side effects.  It’s much too easy to pull up the stats and see how many people are reading it.  It’s much too easy to get caught up in the number of likes and comments and how many countries I’ve reached.  This blogging adventure was meant to challenge me and to model what I’ve been asking students to do for years.  It was not meant to be an exercise in vanity.

The number of shares I have on Facebook or retweets on Twitter is not the measure of my success.  I’ve committed to writing each week, and it makes sense that some blogs will resonate strongly with others and some will not.  I have a story to tell…and so do you!

Each person has a story.  Everyone has a voice.  I want to encourage others to share their stories.

I am not the only educator blogging.  I am not the only educator on Twitter (@hcphipps).  What I appreciate about social media is the professional network of people lifting each other up.  We are willing to learn from each other and share with each other.  Shares and retweets are a way to affirm ideas.  People have been amazing about supporting me in this journey. My job is to be that same support for others!

Jen Hatmaker (@JenHatmaker) is a funny and thoughtful writer.  I’ve never met her, but I feel like I know her from Facebook.  That’s the power of social media.  This past week when promoting her friend’s online class for bloggers, she said that there was always more room at the table.  Her success is not threatened by other writers; it is enhanced.  My job is to welcome other voices to the party.

If I were to be totally honest (and what’s the point of this if I’m not), there have been too many Sundays spent checking my stats on this journey.  I’m working on that. There have been too many times I’ve compared my number of followers to other people’s followers.  Dangerous!

I have not “gone viral”.  My Twitter followers have not multiplied exponentially.  I am still just Heather, and I’m okay with that.

I am grateful to those of you who have read what I have written.  Your kind words and support have meant more than you’ll ever know!  I can’t promise that I won’t check the stats on this blog too.  It’s part of the fun I have with the process.  But like I’ve said before, it’s about reflecting on my motives.  I want to get better than I was last week.  I don’t need to be better than anyone else.

Many of you have stories that need to be shared.  A few of you should be writing a book.  (You know who you are.)  If any of you feel safer to share your voice because I have shared mine, this grand experiment has been a success.