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.  

 

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.

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.

 

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.

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

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Lulls

As November nears, I am reflecting on a conversation a friend and I had when we were assistant principals together in a middle school.  The beginning of a school year is busy, but there was this magical time after conferences and before winter break where there seemed to be a lull.  We talked about how we should probably be using this time to get ahead.  Once January hits there is almost a feeling of a race to the end.  Things move fast, so it would make perfect sense to use this time to get ahead.

But we needed rest.  We needed time to just be in our school and in our lives.   We needed time with students and teachers.  We needed time with family and friends.  We needed to recharge.  We made a conscious choice not to use the lull to work ahead.  (We made the same decision on snow days by the way.)  We made the conscious decision to just enjoy the moment.

We did not regret it.

Every job is different, even within one school.  People find their lulls at different times of the year based on the work they do or the things happening in their lives.  But it is essential to our overall health and well-being that we find them.

If this is a busy time for you, I hope you are able to find a small lull in an otherwise busy week.

If this is not a busy time for you, I hope you able to enjoy the lull.

Busy is an epidemic.  Once in a while, we need to be calm and be still to be well.

 

The Wood Behind the Arrow

Our city came together this week to acknowledge that we could all use a little more kindness in our lives. #BeKind was a citywide effort to shine a light on the ability of a kind word, a kind action, a kind moment to change things for a person who is struggling…or anyone for that matter.

Our schools were emblazoned with #BeKind shirts and murals and posters and rocks. There were clever videos and social media posts. Parents and businesses joined in the movement. It was everywhere.

But what overwhelmed me was not the cuteness, although there was plenty of cuteness to go around.

What overwhelmed me was the wood behind the arrow. I learned that phrase a few years ago on a visit to Apple. It’s all about the effort, the resources, the wood behind the arrow of an idea or a product. An arrow with no wood behind it goes nowhere. An idea with no depth, no substance, goes nowhere. Last night as we were talking about the day a friend reminded me about the wood behind the arrow.

Yesterday was about more than a slogan. Schools talked about HOW to be kind. There were resource fairs where our students learned about volunteer opportunities. They wrote cards and opened doors and shared things they like about their classmates. There was action, tangible action, to BE kind. There was wood behind the arrow.

I am grateful to the city and school leaders who started the conversations and paved the way for the initiative. I am grateful for the teachers and counselors and principals and student leaders who put real thought and creative energy behind designing meaningful activities for the day. And I am grateful for the simple idea that kindness matters.

Sometimes we think making the world a better place is complicated. And I am well aware that we have complex issues that require complex solutions. But in fact, the world is made better with each individual act of kindness. Act where you are. Smile when you can. Hold the door open. Make eye contact and thank people who show you kindness. Say please and thank you. Assume the best of the people you meet. And never ever forget that “everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

Thank you for being kind to me. I hope I am kind to you. I know that this week was a good reminder that no act of kindness is ever wasted.

Mothers’ Day

My children graduated from college this month.  Both of them.  My older daughter with her Master’s in Speech, Language Pathology and my younger daughter with her Bachelor’s in Business.  Both have jobs in their chosen field.  Both are now, by every possible definition, adults.  Man, I feel old.

Obviously such times bring with them a natural tendency to reminisce.


I’ve been thinking about all of the nights I sat beside their crib and then on the edge of their bed as we said prayers and listened to music.  She’s a Dancer with Kelsey.  Return to Pooh Corner with Hunter.  I’ve been thinking about the times we would jump on my bed and blow bubbles in the tiny pool that lived on our deck.  Did anyone else have a Bubble Duck?  I’ve been thinking about sidewalk chalk and pictures at JC Penney and the zoo.

There was that phase when Kelsey would sneak food in the middle of the night and Hunter would climb out of her crib.

And also the time we let Kelsey fall down the stairs and the time we let Hunter wander off at her own birthday party.  We were far from perfect parents.  No one is.

I miss those perfect, messy, crying, yelling, laughing, sticky little girls.  But I am overwhelmed by the human beings they have become.

Three years ago I was still relatively new to this blogging thing as Hunter started her college journey.  I wrote A Letter to My Daughter during her first week of classes, and I talked about all the things I wished for her.

I hope you are creative and collaborative.

I hope you are willing to take risks.

I hope you persevere when things get hard because there will be times when things get hard.

Mostly though, I hope you enjoy your life.

They are both all of these things and more.

Their road to this moment was not easy.  No one’s is.  There were times when they were scared and sad and disappointed.   There were times when they were broke and exhausted and overwhelmed.

But through it all they seemed to be enjoying the journey.  They laughed and sang and made a lot of noise in the car.  One baked.  One read.  Both danced in a way that you could only appreciate if you saw it.  They were beautiful.

They are beautiful.

I have no wise words of wisdom this week other than perhaps to say enjoy the minutes and the days.  They pass quickly.  But I am comforted by the fact that with each passing year, they are even more fun.  And I am getting a lot more sleep.

Yes, I am overwhelmed by the human beings they have become.

Ask for What You Want

It’s my birthday on Friday!  This will come as no surprise to many of you. I am obnoxious when it comes to my birthday.  I claim a Birthday Month.  I start a countdown as soon as the calendar turns over to February.  I make sure everyone knows that it is coming and that I love birthdays.

I really do.

“Do not regret growing older.  It is a privilege denied to many.”  Birthdays are a reminder of the gift of days, weeks, years.  I do not take those for granted.

But what I have learned over the years is that I should tell people that my birthday is coming up and that my birthday is a big deal to me.

I remember when my daughter went to school on her birthday in 6th grade…excited to see how her friends had decorated her locker.  And I remember the sadness in her voice when she called to tell me that no one had decorated it.  She had great friends who cared about her.  They did not neglect her to be mean or spiteful.  It just didn’t occur to them for whatever reason, and it hurt.

It reminded me of the many years that I went to school or work excited to see how people would celebrate with me.  Or the times I passed a milestone or hit an anniversary of some kind, anxious for others to make a big deal out of it.  And many times, I was disappointed.

I have the greatest family and friends and colleagues in the world.  They are kind and caring and thoughtful. They have never intentionally missed an event or failed to acknowledge something.

But our happiness is often inversely proportional to our level of expectation.  (A wise friend taught me that.)  If we expect something grand, even something good can be disappointing.  Many times we build up what we hope will happen and then we are disappointed when it does not play out exactly as we planned.

That’s on us.  That’s on me.

I have learned that if I want something to be a big deal, I should tell people what I want and set about to make it happen.  I am in control of my own happiness.  I can ask for what I want.  I do not believe that this adage is about maintaining low levels of expectation.  I have never been accused of low levels of expectation.  I expect big!  But I have learned  that secretly hoping others can read my mind in order to “surprise me” with exactly what I wanted is foolish.  Ask for what you want.

My birthday is Friday.  Birthdays are a big deal to me.  What’s a big deal to you?  Tell me.  I want to celebrate it with you.