Calm down.

Never in the history of ever has anyone calmed down by being told to “calm down”. The same goes for people getting better by being told to “be better”. Turns out it also doesn’t work when you tell your body to “get skinny” ’cause I’ve tried and nothing is happening.

So, our bodies and our minds don’t respond to these commands, most people truly hate being told to “calm down”, but people keep resorting to using these phrases that aggravate rather than help.

Instead of constantly looking for the places where we can “fix” people, or help them, or teach them, why don’t we just ACCEPT them? Everyone is on a journey that we know nothing about. They have memories and experiences that mix, coagulate, harden and bond to formulate this person. And this person that is right here, right now, should be enough. Let it be enough. People don’t need fixing. People need loving.

I don’t have time.
You are important to me.
That’s impossible.
It’s going to be hard, you are capable.
I’m not sure you’re ready for that.
Failure leads to success.
Just try harder.
Try another approach.
Stop making excuses.
You got this.

The Sickness

“Sick? I don’t get sick,” I mumble to my husband between sniffles and a good, hearty blow into a Kleenex.
Fine.
It has hit me.
I’ve caught the crud.
“But, I’m strong, not like all these wimpy other sick people. I’ll just make some tea and put on my Big Girl Pants and beg my students to be quiet today. It will be  totally fine. We’ve got fractions to master and stuff, so, I’m going to work.”

Why is it that teachers do this?
Why do we sacrifice our bodies (among other things) just to be at work? Just to do our jobs?
It’s easier to be here than it is to be gone.
Well, that’s true until it isn’t true anymore.

That day I sat in my chair and “taught” all day long. I made it through the day and so did the kids. Really, what I did was sit there, built a tower of tissues, and willed myself not to cry.

The sickness lasted, on and off, for over a week. My coworkers saw how miserable I was and they all painstakingly convinced me I need to take a day off for rest.

Easier said than done.
2 hours of writing sub plans that have the kids doing more than “busy work” for a sub that may or may not even get secured for my absence. (I’m still suffering with guilt from last week when no sub came and my class got mushed with second grade.)
Some say, “Not your problem, don’t worry about it.” But the thing is, it is my problem. These kids are my problem. They are my job! We live in a world where it doesn’t matter how much time, energy, or money it takes from me personally, it is my responsibility to see that all of the students in my room meet 3rd grade standards.
That’s hard to do.
Harder without being at school.
Impossible without a sub.

I took the sick day.
A sub came.
No behavior issues.
Incredible work was accomplished.
I feel better.
The world did not end.

I don’t know who put in a direct call to the Big Man Upstairs but, thank you. I can now resume torturing 3rd graders with equivalent fractions.

Business in the Front, Party in the Back

Who doesn’t love Shari Murphy? Am I right? Am I right? Lemme get a mullet woosh for this gal: *clap* *clap* *clap* Business in the front, party in the back, where is my Camaro at? WOOSH!

But seriously, I had the pleasure of spending my day today with one of my most favorite people. I never imagined meeting someone so powerfully inspirational, real and encouraging as Shari. She puts her subjects in silly, awkward situations that feel totally uncomfortable and a little like Fifth Grade Camp. She makes us wake up, like REALLY wake up, way before it’s socially appropriate. She has the wait time of a ninja and will make your skin crawl and crickets come out of hibernating before jumping in to move it along. Shari makes driving an hour and a half through morning rush hour, haphazardly applying your make up and constructing a sideways ponytail worth it.

Upon meeting Shari a little over a year ago I immediately felt like I had known her for years. She is a consultant for our district and she also puts on workshops for Quantum Learning. Look it up – it’ll be a game changer! Shari is a classroom management guru. She has been able to help me tweak things in my room for optimal learning and optimal fun! She has so much knowledge about the brain and how it processes new information and how learning works. She could show up to these conferences ready to impart all of her wisdom on people, ready to flex her muscle on how awesome she is (because she is) – but she doesn’t. This incredible model SHOWS teachers how to reach new levels by DOING all of the things that help the brain learn.

Shari is infuses this all day workshop with a continuous stream of humor, laughing, celebrations, movement and music. All of these things are my favorite things so she is thereby my favorite. Like I said, I feel like we could totally be besties. I feel like this because she shares who she is outside of these 4 walls, she asks about my life, she focuses on what I’m saying, she remembers things I told her the last time we were together. We share a lot of common interests, experiences and personality traits. She makes me feel valued and she understands how important that is to me (and to most people, I’m assuming). She hugs me… *shudder*… and I like it! Most of the time people touching me is a little like going to a fancy steakhouse with a 3 year old – I would just prefer to save the happy feelings for other occasions.

In all seriousness, I end up taking away so much more from my encounters with Shari than just new management techniques, brain based learning strategies, and fun ways to affirm students effort. I leave with a renewed jive for my job, a huge smile, energy to last that long ass drive home and a really great feeling on who I am and why I rock. Thank you Shari for reminding me to do what I do with passion and purpose!

Come Sail Away

I have seen you everywhere lately: The movie I watched last night with a big brother overseas in the military. The song we used to sing together coming on the radio. All this news of terrible attacks flooding my TV and internet browser. An old photo uncovered during Spring cleaning. In my dreams. Getting stuck behind a mom-van covered with Navy bumper stickers. Questions from friends and family about how you’re doing and what you’re up to.

I miss you every day. I think of you every night. I pray for your safety. I wish for your happiness. I am scared. I am worried. I am sad without you. Most of all though, I am insanely proud of you.

I have seen you grow from this pesky punk picking on his little sister into a respectable, astonishing man that works hard to make dreams come true. You are dedicated and strong in more than physical pursuits. You are polite, caring and insanely loyal. You set goals and work your ass off to achieve them, you certainly don’t settle. I still get annoyed with you (especially when you tell me to get my shit together and treat me like a baby). I still think I could beat you up. I still think you listen to the worst music of all time. I still think most girls are not good enough for you. I still want you to know that when you look up at the sky tonight, wherever you are, I am seeing the same stars here.

Big brothers are hard to get along with but impossible to replace. You have been everything to me that you never had to be even when it got tough. I love you.

Eye of the Tiger

Lately I’ve been searching for an adventure. I am looking around each corner, searching under every rock to find an excuse to explore and do something crazy, exciting, and frightening. I am not someone who is comfortable being comfortable.

I have always been this way. I (and I’m sure my parents) thought that I was just reckless. I would abandon all reason and leap from the highest cliff I could find on our family trips to the ocean. I would jump onto anything with a motor and take off without a care in the world. I would try out for new sports, never having had a lesson before. To my mother’s horror, I would sing at the top of my lungs during Christmas caroling. Sparkles, bandages, leotards, helmets and casts adorned my body for most of my adolescence. I have never met a challenge I didn’t like. I thrive in new situations. I throw myself down deep, dark caverns of life so that I can show my muscle by climbing my way out. Think Rocky at the top of the steps – that’s me with just about every avenue of life.

When I’m in the midst of these challenges I berate myself for my continuing stupidity saying, “Dude, why do you always do this to yourself? You had it just fine and you had to go and throw a wrench into it.” I spend a day or so like that, feeling pity for myself and thinking I’m crazy for self inflicting wounds. As I start my climb up the other side of said life adventure I start to gain momentum. I begin to see the top of the steps. I remember the feeling of standing in the sun with my arms over my head, jumping up and down to my own victory song. When I reach the top, my need for adventure, for challenge, for growth is fulfilled and the perma-smile on my face says it all.

Not all of the adventures I seek are so involved. Some adventures are short, like going to the rodeo and wanting to ride a bull and settling for a mechanical one. Others are more involved, like pursuing a Master’s degree while working 2 jobs and planning a wedding. Whatever it is that I decide to take on I jump in head first, fists swinging and I’m ready for one of these mountains to land in my path. I’m ready for another victory lap!

Family Matters

Today I got to spend time with family. Is there really anything better? I love being around people who drive you nuts and make you wish you were adopted (oh, I am? I forgot). They complicate the simplest things and frustrations soar with each decision that has to be made. Like, who will ride with Dad to Grandmas? Do you want dinner now or later? Is leaving at 7:45 too early? Did you remember to take a shit this morning? I want donuts and I want them now!

Okay, obviously these things are exaggerated (except the pooping thing). I truly do love my family and my in laws. This special Easter mini-trip was especially wonderful because we got to spend it as a whole unit with Grandma and everything. It’s not often we can all gather in the same place at the same time (and everyone leaves with all limbs still attached). Being with people who love you for you is a wonderful environment. Family accepts and encourages your weirdness, your predictable eggs benedict nature, your 1,000 cases of diet coke because they were on sale, your hard-headed love for a school you didn’t go to, and your desire to play devil’s advocate on literally every topic ever.

My family is not mine by blood. They are mine by marriage and they are mine by choice. Every time I am with these fools I am reminded of how lucky we are in this life to get the chance to make connections and explore human interaction. I share so much love with these wonderful people who are so different from me and yet so similar and familiar. We get the chance to teach each other and grow with each other. I truly don’t know if there is a better way to spend a holiday all about new beginnings than with the family I chose to start a new chapter of life with.

The Grateful Red

Wanna know whats cool about college sports? Everything.

March Madness has maddened our family. The Wisconsin Badgers lost this evening and my husband lost a piece of his heart. He was screaming and jumping and fist pumping and there may have been a few tears shed. My husband is a die hard Badger Basketball fanatic. Like, lunatic but because it is a sport thing it’s filed under fanatic. I just consider him a lost cause.

We watched the game this evening with other like-minded fans. We gathered together as a family at Union South at the University of Wisconsin campus. We shared cheese curds, brats and beers. We all wore our Badger red. Everyone cheered when Vito Brown shot his downtown 3’s and everyone booed when Ethan Happ fouled out. We cried, “Dammit Nigel” and we shouted “SHOWEY!” in unison. There was never a room so full of unison and passion as the Union South was tonight. This is why I love college sports.

I often foul my husband for being a raging Badger fan rather than a spouting Sun Devil but I cannot keep up the charade when I myself fall victim to the powerful force of camaraderie and sportsmanship. You want to join in with the shouts of glee and the cries for help. It’s infectious. The feeling of being unified by one common interest transcends age, gender, occupation, race, religion, political preference, and economic status. When it  comes to being a Badger fan, one just is. There is no explaining and there is no reasoning. It runs in the blood, it runs in the beer, it makes America great again.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

If you could invite anyone in the world, dead or alive, to be your dinner guest whom would you choose?

I ask this question to many of my friends, my family, regular bar patrons and even acquaintances. It’s a great conversation starter and it tells you a lot about a person. It’s a question that gets to the heart of someone without being too probing. When you pose a question like this a person is more likely to reveal bits of themselves because it is their story to tell and not an interview question to answer.

My husband and I decided to go out for dinner tonight mainly because we were both feeling too lazy to cook the pork I had pulled out of the freezer for us. Normally I try to avoid going to the restaurant/bar where I work when I am not on duty. My husband LOVES going there but has learned to avoid asking if we can go because it’s usually answered with an eye roll and a “no thanks”. Tonight, I suggested we go there and the look in his eye told me he was pleasantly surprised.

We had a really great conversation as we drove the 20 minutes to the restaurant and enjoyed each others company as we sipped our first cocktail (yep, I said first because this gal doesn’t have work tomorrow!) The patrons at this restaurant are really something to be bragged about. I felt like I was at home the minute I walked in. Now, it might be different because I work there but I was greeted with smiles and waves and hugs and “hey are you working? go get me a beer”‘s. The girls that were working were happy to jab jokes back and forth with my husband and I. They asked about our recent trip and we asked about their family news. I loved every second of this familiar interaction with friendly faces at this “it’s totally like Cheers” bar.

I was pleasantly surprised when a coworker and her daughter sat down next to us at the bar. We had such a wonderful evening catching up and chatting about everything under the sun! We laughed, we worried, we confided in one another – it was a reminder of how wonderful relationships cannot be worn down with time apart.

I don’t like going to dinner at my restaurant/bar but I do love the feeling I have when we leave. It’s great to know that you are loved! Where everyone knows your name is the only place for me to be. They make fun of you and build your ego all in one sentence. How did I find myself in a place so wonderful as this?

 

No Husband, No Rules

I love my husband. I love my husband, but. I love my husband, but spending a night alone here and there is really a nice treat.

No one tells you that after you get married (or move in together) there is no such thing as being alone anymore. When you are happy, sad, annoyed, stressed, silly, joyful, angry they are always there. Sure, you can go in another room but that person is still right there existing in your space. And no one tells you that you will miss that alone time that you so badly wished away. Tonight my husband had to work late so I knew I was going to have the couch to myself, the remote resting solely in my hands, dinner plans at my discretion and not a word had to be spoken from my mouth after 4:00 this afternoon. Ahhh it’s like a vacation for my mind.

Now I catch myself feeling guilty, like, I don’t love spending time with my hubby. I totally love spending time with him. It’s just that sometimes I don’t want to make decisions for anyone else after I spend all day making 10,000 of them. Sometimes I don’t want to listen to his golf stories (sorry babe). Sometimes I just want to watch a cheesy love story and cuddle with my pup and not have to share her, the blankets or the air in this room with him.

I picked up Chipotle on the way home from work, cracked a beer, and sat my ass down on the couch and have barely moved since… unless you count the innumerable weird-face selfies I’ve taken and sent to him while he’s in this super serious meeting. My doggie doodle is attached to my side. When I shuffle my legs she grunts and rolls her eyes  (yes she gets that from me). We have both dozed off a few times tonight. I contemplated going to bed at 7 pm and I didn’t even care. My belly is full and my headache is gone. My voice is rested and my desire for sappy love stories is fulfilled.

I wouldn’t want it to be like this every night because I would miss his bad jokes, his sweet forehead kisses, his feet jabbing into my side, when he looks at me and tells me I’m cute with no make up on. I’d miss his laughter, his smile and his profound ability to walk the dog in the rain. But most of all I’d miss sharing the boring moments in life with my best friend. I will be ready for this sweet man of mine when he comes home tonight. I’m rejuvenated and ready for some of his super great golf stories.

Why So Glum, Sugar Plum?

Today was one of those days that I started to feel kinda curmudgeonly around noon for no good reason. As I walked outside to pick up my kids from recess, I was greeted with shouts of laughter and waves and hugs. I’ve only been gone for 30 minutes you affectionate weirdos. But that was enough to stop myself in my tracks. I decided to make a mental note of all the things I was thankful for/that make me happy the rest of the day. Here’s my list:

  • Sharing suspenseful literature with my whole class during a read aloud – you can feel the air sucked out of the room!
  • When a kid makes you have a full on belly laugh!
  • 30 minutes of quiet when they go to PE – ahhh
  • Grading tests and seeing excellent results
  • Exploring and researching things with kids because they are totally interested (today’s topic: space and how space suits are made)
  • Custodial staff that are awesome-sauce!
  • The automatic lock function on my car. Everytime it does it it reminds me that I’m safe.
  • The XM radio stations with no commercials
  • Having enough savings for that $250 car repair bill we weren’t expecting
  • Having enough gas in my tank (and patience in my soul) to go to the repair shop twice in one day
  • Having enough food in our home that it’s okay to throw away that lettuce (and peppers, and zucchini, and tomato) that’s a bit soft. Hey, gimme a break, we were out of town for 4 days.
  • Coming home to the cutest dog in the whole world! Her waggy tail and big eyes makes my heart melt!
  • That DVR function that allows us to zoom through commercial breaks during our fave TV shows
  • A new hot water heater!
  • Lint rollers for when said cuteness spreads its love to black pants
  • A yummy new candle that makes our home smell like… a candle
  • A super cool husband who does endless amounts of laundry
  • And I’m thankful for this slicing adventure because it makes me do stuff like this and my day is a little less glummy. Rock on slicers!