Becoming Dust

The last few years have been full of soul searching, what ifs, why nots and personal growth. During this time I faced countless professional disappointments. Well, not countless, because believe me, I’ve counted them, sorted them, held them tightly, and cried many tears over each and everyone. During this time, I’ve also enjoyed many professional achievements. But those achievements I tended to discount as they were fun or creative or seemingly easy.

I missed the billboard signposts for my life. I missed the flashing warning signs along my path. I missed a lot as I tried to force my way into a career field that was traditional and appropriate. But guess what? I’m not traditional or appropriate. 🙂 I’m creative. I’m bossy. I’m incredibly organized and notice every detail. I get sidetracked by seemingly insignificant things like posters left on walls long past the advertised event or miss-spelled words or glaring grammatical errors. I’m creative 24/7 and truly believe with my entire being that every person that is breathing is and needs to be creative.

With all that said, you would think that I would have figured out that maybe my restrictive path might not be the best option for me. But I can also be really stubborn and goal driven and focused. So quitting before I reached the goal seemed like failure. And I couldn’t face that. I’m not a quitter.

And then I read Present over Perfect. Actually, I listened to it while walking and weeding the flowerbeds. And one day it hit me. That goal that I’d been struggling to reach so desperately… WASN’T MY GOAL! I let someone else’s goal become my goal. I let someone else tell me what they thought I should be and I believed it.

But no more. As Shauna Niequst states in her book, “What I’m finding is that one of the greatest delights in life is walking away from what someone told you you should be, in favor of walking toward what you truly love, in your own heart, in your own secret soul.” And that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I know that I have to do something that allows me to be creative.

And then if that wasn’t enough for me to say, OK! I started listening to Lysa TerKeurst’s book It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way Dang. The timing was God’s timing as I was finally in the right headspace to hear what I’ve known for years. I’m going to have to embrace the dust of disappointment so that I can be remade into something even better.

And as an artist, I totally get the imagery of clay on the pottery wheel. I realized after listening to TerKeurst talk about becoming dust and being remade and how on the wheel a potter doesn’t destroy what is being worked on because of frustration or because something was bad… the potter remakes the piece because he knows it can be better! I kept allowing myself to let the self-destructive thoughts take over and tell me that I wasn’t worthy. Instead of looking at each disappointment as an opportunity to evaluate the path and see where I needed to go next, I allowed the disappointments to become mental whips to remind me that I didn’t deserve the opportunities. I would dissect each interaction, each interview, each no and berate my soul time and time again.

Looking at the mosaics at the British Museum

But finally, I realized something. I am not a broken piece of pottery that has no value. I am a beautiful mosaic. Like the incredible mosaics that I saw in the British Museum, I am beautiful and unique and made up of thousands of colorful pieces. My broken dreams and goals are not trash. These broken pieces of my heart help create the incredibly beautiful me.

And the mosaic of my life isn’t even close to being complete. I’ve really just begun. I have new goals and dreams. And interestingly, just like clay that has been overworked and needs rest before being molded again, that where I find myself. And I can finally acknowledge that. And it’s not just okay, but necessary.

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A Trip of a Lifetime

Over the first week of June, Doug and I went to London for our 20th Anniversary trip. It was amazing, wonderful and every sort of adjective that you can think of! We ate incredible food, we visited all of the tourist spots and we walked at least 60 miles.

Traveling with Doug is fun. We get along really well and rarely get cross with each other. After 20 years of marriage, we complement each other perfectly and I don’t take it for granted!

One of the best parts of the trip was our day trip to Grantham and Cambridge. When I was in college, I spent the fall semester of my junior year at Harlaxton College in Grantham, England. That semester taught me how to be a traveler, how to navigate through foreign countries and handle myself in places where English isn’t the primary language. That semester abroad gave me wings for my future.

I’ve always looked to the Fall of 1995 as a special time and I wondered if the reality of Harlaxton would live up to my memories. Well, on Saturday, June 8th I got to take Doug to see Harlaxton. And it was everything I remembered and more.

After spending the morning in Grantham we took a train to Cambridge and joined throngs of tourists walking the streets of Cambridge and gawking at the schools and churches. Cambridge is an incredible city. The highlight of the afternoon was going to Evensong in the Chapel at Kings College. As a couple, Doug and I have spent many, many hours inside churches, but we have never been able to experience something like this together! Even better, because we were quiet, reverent and patient when we entered, we got the absolute best seats!! We sat directly across the aisle from the choir and facing the officiating preacher. It was amazing! The image below is one from the internet as they don’t allow photographs inside the chapel.

Sitting next to Doug and reciting the Lord’s Prayer and participating in other liturgical aspects of the service with him was something that I will cherish always.

The entire trip was really a trip of a lifetime. We did so many incredibly amazing things.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here… Betsy, Greg and Chelsea with Euro Travel Coach made our trip happen. Months and months before the trip I started asking Betsy questions about how to make this trip the best possible trip. After consideration and thought, I went ahead and booked their Custom Itinerary Planning Plus. It was expensive, but OH SO WORTH IT! Euro Travel Coach asked questions, listened and then booked everything for us from the hotel to Wicked tickets to train tickets to numerous meal reservations. I did nothing! It was awesome. For a control freak like me, that was hard to let go, but dang, they took care of every detail of the trip. So if you are considering a vacation in Europe, you should totally check Euro Travel Coach out. (and NOPE, no kickbacks are coming to me for this advertisement!)

At the end of the day, I loved every moment of this trip. The almost 40 hour trip home because of mechanical problems on the airplane can’t even diminish my joy. Here is to hoping that we don’t have to go another 20 before going to see where Doug spent a semester of his college experience! I just hope the Euro Travel Coach has expanded to Brazil by then! 🙂

What I learned from having my students create a service project for Law Enforcement Week

When one of my friends, the wife of a law enforcement officer, asked if I would be interested in having my students create something for officers to help celebrate National Law Enforcement Officer week, I said sure.

I had no clue what to make and didn’t know how my students would react to me throwing another project at them this late in the school year, but I figured, why not. It’s art class.. we can punt. Hallelujah, we don’t have the dadgum STAAR test to so we can take a few days and work on a service project instead of curriculum.

So we did. I went and bought 8×10 canvas panels and washi tape and started cutting out the names of the officers with my vinyl cutter. I made a sample and showed my students what to do and we got to work.

And here is what I learned.

My student’s cared. A couple cared because they had dads and other family members serving the community as law enforcement officers. But in general my students cared because these officers had made an impact on their lives.

I heard stories that would make you stop and reevaluate everything you think you know about officers and teenagers. I heard stories of compassion in times of trouble, in times of grief and in times of stupidity. Students asked to specifically work on a number of the officers plaques because they had been to their house and had helped them during crisis.

I heard stories of faithfulness and sacrifice.

I watched my students blossom by taking 45 minutes out of their day for a week to focus on doing something nice for someone else. They questioned why we couldn’t do projects like this for all of our civil servants. They smiled more. They were more considerate.

In the end, my students made 80+ plaques for our local law enforcement officers. These signs aren’t perfect. In fact, some are not even close to “good.” But every sign was made with heart and every plaque was signed by a well meaning student with a personalized note.

When we handed off the plaques to the local police and sheriff’s department deputies it was with excitement and a little trepidation. What if they didn’t like them?!

But they did. 🙂

I have to say, the work was worth it. My students may not be the best at drawing 50 stars cleanly and evenly… but they have learned so much about being good citizens and that is worth all of the leaking paint pens and clogged white gel pens in the world!

My path is full of rocks

For the last few years I’ve been working hard on my professional goals and trying to advance my career in public education. I’ve done everything “by the book.” I’ve done the course work. I’ve passed the tests. I’ve done absolutely everything that I can do, even so far as having my research published in an educational administrative journal. And I’ve hit the wall over and over again.

Each time I’ve hit the wall, I’ve reevaluated. I’ve asked myself hard questions and I’ve learned important lessons.

But this weekend, after soul-searching after yet another difficult wall, I realized that I’m going after my goals in a traditional approach.. the accepted approach… the textbook approach.

And you know what?

The textbook approach has NEVER worked for me.

My dad has often laughingly said that I created my own degree plans in college and created my own jobs. And you know what? I have. Why? Because I had to in order to survive.

But during the last few years, with a good job and some, what I thought were attainable goals, I forgot that I don’t fit the box that others want. I gave absolutely everything I had to doing what was expected, traditional and allowed.

And I found that not only does that not work for me, I didn’t get the promotions that I worked so hard for. And I really want to give up.

But I’m not.

I didn’t learn to finally read fluently in fourth grade for nothing!

Traditional approaches to education didn’t work for me as a child. My path to reading and basic math was HARD and I have the elementary report cards to prove it.  The four C’s I got in second grade on the second marking period were disappointing. Staying in at recess in third grade so that I could figure out math problems wasn’t fun.  Having to read into a tape recorder at night and play it back and listen to myself read the words wasn’t easy. But I did it. And I learned to read and I passed my math classes.

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No, I’m not showing you the grades on the inside!

Everyday I could have given up. But I didn’t.  My brand of gifted (remembering pretty much every room I’ve ever been in, including the orientation of the bed compared the window for every room I’ve slept in for the last 40 years..) doesn’t make the standard list of gifted and talent attributes.

What I learned is that I have to fight for myself and be willing to take the path full of rocks. The path full of rocks is often lonely, its tough and you are destined to get scrapped up along the way. But it is worth it, because the view from the peak is incredible.

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So that’s what I am going to do.

I’m setting out on my own path. It’s not a path of manicured grass with a pretty pond. It’s a path of rocks and I’m going to conquer it.

Watch out world.

Educators Need To Do Hard Things

As an educator, it is important to remind myself that learning new things and mastering new skills isn’t always easy. I think educators and those in the business of education often found learning to be easy.. and so we forget that for some, learning is HARD.

So for the third time, I’ve selected the month of May to be my month of hard things… in the form of my Handstand Challenge.

Why? Because handstands are HARD. Because handstands force you out of your comfort zone and require not only that you trust your hands and shoulders to hold you up, but require you to balance and hold your core tight at the same time. In essence, handstands require physical effort and mental strength.

I also really enjoy watching my progress over the month. It fits my grit mindset of 20 times to learn it, 200 to master it. So over the course of a month, I’ve captured my learning process over 20 times (31 to be exact) and I’ve done more than 200 handstands because with every up there are 5 to 10 failures. By the end of the month, I haven’t mastered handstands, but I’ve made a lot of progress!

And interestingly, each year I start from a stronger place. Just like the educational foundation that we hope students have as they are given new content; my handstands are significantly better than last years handstands when you look at the data (date and photo).  Even better, when you go back three years, the progress is quite impressive. In 2015, my day 1 handstand was up against the wall outside of my house. I remember clearly being scared that I would fall, that I would slip, that I would break something!

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But even braced against the wall, I was so proud of the fact that I DID IT!

Moving to 2018, my day 1 handstand this year was in the middle of my living room with no wall to brace me, no helper to stabilize me and no pillow to catch me should I fall. The difference this time was that while I knew the handstand would be ugly, I knew I could do it. In fact, my Day 1-8 handstands are all pretty awesome in my opinion.. even though they only last a second or two!

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Isn’t that what we want for our students? Yes, some learning and some processes are ugly, but students NEED to know that they can do hard things! Progress needs to be celebrated and efforts acknowledged.

When was the last time a student was asked to CHOOSE something outside of their comfort zone that would be hard and then given the tools to accomplish it? And I’m not talking about passing the STAAR (state mandated test) test.. but a student-driven academic goal.

So as I look out at my classroom and watch 150 students pass through my door each day, I tell them about my handstand challenge. I invite them to follow my progress on instagram.. not so that they can make fun of me.. some will no matter what… but so that they can see adults in their lives doing hard things.. things that aren’t in their comfort zone.. things that don’t come easy. Because maybe, just maybe, some of these students will remember my sad attempts at handstands when they are in the midst of their own handstand struggles in life and keep going.

Leader in Waiting

Waiting is hard. We all know that. It’s especially difficult when the waiting is personal. It seems like I’ve been waiting for a chance to be an educational leader for twenty years. The reality is that I haven’t been waiting “that” long, it’s just hard when I know that I have so much to offer and my skills aren’t being utilized equal to my potential.

Nevertheless, I’ve been adding to my education and my resume. I may not be an administrator yet, but I’ve completed my Superintendency certificate.

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I’ve also written another play and have a research article accepted for publication.

One of my friends recently posted a question on her social media feed that I have been pondering.. “How long do you knock on a door before you accept that it is closed?”

I have to say, I can’t help but wonder if the same applies to me. By no means am I going to give up my dream to be a leader. I don’t have to… I AM A LEADER. But the reality might be that being an educational leader might have me leading and serving in an area that I didn’t plan or expect.

And isn’t that the sum of life. So much of our life happens in the waiting. I can chose to be bitter about the fact that the “fast-track” to administration has never included me. Instead, I’m choosing to learn more, reinvent myself and ultimately, I will be a stronger leader.

 

Definitive Choices

IMG_0456How often do we choose to live in the land of the wishy washy choice so that we don’t have to go all in on something? I know that I do it. And I’m an “all in” personality.. Big time! But there are areas of my life that I need to be reminded to “go big or go home.”

Over the last two days, I had the privilege to work with a number of  high school one act play casts from the surrounding area as they prepare for competition. During this time, I found myself repeating quite a few concepts over and over to each cast. One of those was to make concrete choices and get rid of the wishy washy decisions.  It is early in their production cycle, so many of the notes I gave were quite useable (I hope!) as they have time to truly process what I said and then choose to use my thoughts or ignore them.

This got me thinking about decision making it in terms of real life.  I personally love making a decision and then going headfirst into a new adventure. I know that scares some. It invigorates me! My problem typically isn’t starting, it’s finishing.  Nevertheless, there are a number of areas in my life where I need to reevaluate my choices.

There have been times that I have chosen to go headfirst down a wishy washy path purposefully forsaking the definitive choice. Sadly, I see that and realize that the window for the definitive choice has passed me by in some areas. Knowing this, I desperately want to stop, and take the advice of business man, Brian Buffini:

“While there is a time to think about a solution, reflect on it and gather feedback from others, there comes a time when you have to forget about input from other people. Be confident in your choices, and stick by them.”

No wonder I don’t have my Christmas Cards ready to mail!

I’m sitting on my couch drinking my second cup of coffee and enjoying a Christmas cookie for breakfast. I thought about getting up and going to work out… but it is the first day of Christmas break and I’m going to just enjoy a few minutes of peace instead. Well, it’s peace-ish..Kylie has already been up for an hour and a half and is talking to me. It’s only 7:30am.

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I had the best intentions of doing more blogging this fall and I really wanted to get Christmas cards made and sent out.. but life has been BUSY! I realize that is always my excuse, but it’s the truth!!

So instead of recording experiences and prepping cards, I’ll just hit the highlights since my last post.

Lexi turned 13!! We had a family party and then she and three friends spent the night at a hotel with an indoor pool and had a blast. I had an adjoining room and one of my friends came over and scrapbooked with me! It was a fun party.

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Doug turned 50!! I surprised him with a trip to San Francisco. We loved it!! I need to blog about our trip…

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We hosted our family Thanksgiving. We learned how to make dressing and played outside. We had a great day of just being together.

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Kylie was in her fall safari themed musical at school. She made her own ears. She is not just creative, but she makes useable items as well. Super cool.

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Lexi auditioned for Junior High All Region Band and made it! So proud of her. It is rather hard to bring home your french horn and practice when you have been on crutches for a few months!IMG_0961

Lexi broke her right ankle the first weekend of September. She has been either on crutches with a cast/boot or in a boot for more than three months. Another MRI was done this week and she sees the doctor the day after Christmas to reevaluate. This is some slow healing.

Then in mid November, Maddie experienced a 50% foot drop. For no reason at all. Just one day her right foot decided to not work. The doctor said that it is a reality of her autoimmune disease. These things will just happen. So she is in a boot until the nerves in her right leg decide to work again. Yes, that means we have two red hair beauties that are almost the same size in right boots. Yes, we stop traffic!

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Kylie got her first pedicure. Our lives are so very busy with Almost Adult 1 and Teen 2 that Child 3 gets shuffled back and forth and back and forth. It was nice to just chill and do something with Kylie that wasn’t school related.

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We decorated for Christmas.

We watched Maddie at the Yellow Jacket Football games. Our football team advanced in playoffs to be part of the final four. It was so cool to watch Maddie and the band perform at AT&T Stadium (Home of the Dallas Cowboys). Yes, Maddie performed each week in a boot!

Kylie got her braces off.

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Lexi and Maddie both had band Christmas concerts.

Kylie saw Santa

Doug and I saw Santa after we ran a local 5k…

We had Maddie’s senior pictures taken. They are amazing and I can’t decide which ones to buy.. and the reality of her growing up and leaving home is setting in…

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And I finished my Superintendency Internship! Along with everything else in our lives! I recorded over 150 minutes of video evidence of me presenting to organizations and/or interviewing district administrators about school districts, I documented over 150 hours of research and service within our district, completed the course work that accompanied the internship and I took the certification test and passed! It is so very nice to have this checked off as complete on my list of things to do!

When I look back at the highlights of the last couple of months, it is no wonder I don’t have my Christmas cards ready!!

So there you have it. I’m hopeful that this spring things might not be quite as hectic and I’ll be able to blog more. I also have some goals for the spring. Don’t worry. Nothing big. No new course work for me.. just goals like “make better food choices” and “clean the bathroom”.. things like that.

Thanks for sticking with me and have a great 2017 holiday season!

The Value of the 4H Youth Fair

I just delivered my girls entries to the Erath County 4H Youth Fair. I am writing this post BEFORE awards happen. On purpose. Because the value of this contest is not in the ribbons and the awards. Yes, they are nice. Yes, they motivate us to get the projects finished. But the value of this contest is so much more than a 1st Prize or Best of Show.

As a newcomer to the world of 4H, we are still learning all about the various contests and opportunities for our kids. I am constantly amazed at the many projects they can participate in and experience. All of the projects, be it painting, drawing, sewing, cooking, fashion, decision making, acting, showing animals and more have actual REAL LIFE applications. Unlike so many of the manufactured and virtual experiences that seem to pull focus because of the glitz and technology, 4H projects and contests make my girls think!! I love that.

So what did Lexi and Kylie compete in this year for the fair?

Well, Kylie is in her last year as a Clover Kid. (K-2nd grade). Kylie turned in three photographs, a drawing, a repurposed craft and a snack! Clover Kids don’t win anything, but they start learning about the rules and meeting deadlines.

Lexi is in the Intermediate division (6th-8th grades). Lexi turned in all 5 categories of photographs, made a textile, a jewelry set and a snack.

So what does all of that really mean?

It means lots of planning, organizing and work on the part of the kids and the mom! Yesterday after school, gymnastics, a band parent meeting and dinner, Lexi had to finish the hem of her cape and both girls had to make their snacks.

Then we had to do all of the paper work and packaging. It would have been really nice to just say the heck with it. But we entered, we paid the fees, and we committed to the process, so it didn’t matter that it was late and we were tired.

You finish what you start!

This morning as I delivered the entries, I was tired. All the parents were. 🙂 But the camaraderie was overwhelming. In so many competitions, it is stressful and everyone is against each other. In our county (and I think 4H in general) the parents help each other. My hands were full, the registration lines were long, and I was running late. A mom who was finished getting her daughter’s work entered walked up, took the bulk from my arms, stood in line with me and helped me get my girl’s entries where they needed to go. She didn’t have to do that. Our daughter’s compete against each other. But that isn’t the world of 4H. I love that.

And here are our entries. Ready for judging!! I am so proud of my girls for their hard work. And I’m so thankful that our community supports the work of 4H and is committed to teaching students that learning is so much more than what happens inside a school building.

 

Goals for 2017

I’m a big fan of setting goals.  Not so much resolutions, as those seem to be out of reach, never gonna happen goals… like never eating sugar again. Talk about a set up for failure. But attainable goals, absolutely!

This also means that my children are asked to consider what they want to accomplish for the year. We are a goal oriented household.  Why? Because as I explained to a family member, if you don’t set a goal how can you evaluate how you spent your year?! Having goals also helps focus your efforts and keeps you from floundering from one thing/event/activity to the next.

So for 2017, my goals are:

  1. 1000 miles of cardio, 2 minute plank and the splits.
  2. Bench press 80% of my body weight
  3. 6 races (1/2 marathon and/or triathlons)
  4. Lower BMI by 15% (yes, this one is going to be tough)
  5. Read all of Psalms, Proverbs, Romans and the Gospels
  6. Complete the course work for my superintendent certificate

The rest of my household created equally rigorous goals for themselves. My only requirement on my girl’s goals were that they had to be something that wasn’t necessarily achievable in January.

We also have to update our Frantic Family board with a new rallying cry. If you haven’t ready 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family, you should!!!  Here is the board from last year.

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What is great about this is that we could look back to the board and see how we accomplished so many of our Defining Objectives!

My plan is to make a pretty board this year! Add it to my list…

So there you have it. My challenge to you is that if you haven’t written down any goals for the year, do it. Don’t get tied up in resolutions. Make plans to achieve your goals!