Posted in about me, hope, mindset, thoughtfulness

My word

My school district does something at the beginning of each year for staff, to try to give us a common inspirational thing that in theory would carry through the year but rarely lives for more than a week or two.

This year, we were each to engrave a word on a “my intention” bracelet.

It was supposed to be our focus word for the year; we each chose our own.

This is the kind of thing that I get stuck on.

I needed to choose the perfect word. And while I had lots of ideas about what that word might be, perfection is found in a feeling—it’s not cognitive so much.

With many things to work on both at home and at work (I am a constant work in progress), I had many possibilities.

Flow. Trust. Yet.

Focus. Risk. Innovating.

Enough. Believe. Breathe. Margins.

Nurture. Connect. Nourish. Cultivate.

All fit, but none were quite perfect.

And then I read this blog post. And I loved it. And immediately I knew that my focus word is shamash—the candle in a menorah that lights the other candles.

A shamash is not part of my religion. Not part of my culture. Not part of my world in any direct way, really. And yet, it resonated.

I don’t know if I’ve heard the word before. I learned a fair amount about Judaism in and after college when I dated a few guys who were Jewish. I’ve been friends with Carla (the author of the linked post) for a while, and this post was not written this year.

It’s likely that I read it when she first published it and it just didn’t stick. This time? Resonance. Ah-ha! The feeling that I have found the perfect word to remind me what path I want to be on.

Works for me with students, with colleagues, with friends, with family, with strangers.

That said…

There’s a lot of life going on over here. My mental energy is sometimes depleted and often low. I haven’t spent a lot of energy on this yet. Working on it a little. Will continue to work on it. Will continue to figure out what I want it to look like. Hoping that with the seed planted, once the stuff that’s going on now passes, it will have space to grow and bloom.

Shamash. Be the candle that lights others.

Posted in about me, exercise, vulnerability

Discomfort and growth on fake rocks

In April, I volunteered at an event at the rock climbing gym where I’m a member.

It was a bouldering event (short walls, no ropes) which is not something that I had done at all, but there were all sorts of fun, silly climbing (taller walls, with a rope) stations as well—one-handed, an obstacle course, a route made of old (looking) metal things, a “balance the ball on the spoon” route.

I decided that I would learn to boulder so that I could participate next year.

So…they changed it up a bit and are having a series of mini-competitions—all bouldering—and if you enter three of those (no charge for members), you can automatically enter into the Big Event in April.

I was mostly still at the “can’t get off the starting holds” stage of learning.

I decided that once I could climb ONE route to the top, I was going to sign up.

Two weeks ago, I did it!

Last night was the first event after that accomplishment, and so I went.

Let me share bits of “in my head” with you about this.

As I mentioned before, I am a recovering perfectionist. I have always been good at school, but I don’t volunteer unless I’m certain to be right/successful. Failing with an audience is shameful (“I am a failure” vs. “I failed”).

I’ve been working my way out of all of that—so many missed opportunities due to fear—and this event was a GIANT step outside of the comfort zone in the direction I want to go.

(People at Shumway: riding the backwards bike was a big deal.)

Unfortunately, this event is one where you sign up the day of. (I’m a big fan of registering while enthusiasm is high and then feeling obligated when I don’t want to follow through later.)

Shortly before it was time to get changed and leave the house, I sent two friends this text:

I'm scared

(Side note: bouldering isn’t any “less real” climbing than what I usually do.)

I sent a similar one to The Climbing Daddy.

Their responses were perfect:

reply 3

(This is true. There’s never been an athletic community that I’ve been part of that hasn’t been supportive. Running, triathlon, climbing. People are happy you’re into what they’re into, and they’re happy to help. As long as you’re decently pleasant to be around.)

reply 1

(This is true. Much like the above, it’s not making a fool, it’s taking a risk. The only people who would think me a fool—if I were to run into any—are the people who are insecure in their own skills or risk-taking. And their opinion doesn’t matter…)

reply 2

(It was not that long ago that I couldn’t get off the ground—or off the starting holds. But I can now, even on routes that I can’t complete.)

So I changed clothes and went.

I talked to the guy running it and found out what to expect.

I signed up for a time.

I waited a while.

And I climbed.

I made it up the first route.

Someone I didn’t know cheered for me the second half of the route.

I didn’t make it up any more routes, though I tried two several times. (It would have been much nicer to be there by myself attempting those, instead of in a room full of people with much higher skill, but that’s just my self-consciousness.)

Also, the route that I climbed successfully is one grade harder than the one I completed a couple of weeks ago, so there’s that as well. (V.0- tonight vs. 5.8 the other day, for those who understand that.)

All in all, people were either friendly or didn’t take notice of me, both of which were fine options.

The next one is in January. Maybe I’ll make it up two routes. And not freak out before it’s time to leave.

As far as stretching my comfort zone? Mission accomplished.

Posted in about me, hope, vulnerability

I’ve always hated Christmas, but…

…I’ve wanted to love it.

It just sucked.

My mom’s love language must be gifts (based on things more than just Christmas). There were always piles of stuff for my brother, sister, and I to open, each in a different color paper.

My earliest Christmas memory, I was 7 or 8. We had ripped through our piles of stuff, and my brother, four years younger, had a meltdown because there was a particular toy he had wanted and didn’t get.

I have no idea what the toy was. I have no idea what he did get. I have no idea what I got.

But I remember being agitated that he had gotten all of these toys—presumably many of which he wanted—and he wasn’t happy.

(At this point in my life, I realize that he was three or four years old…but Child Heat didn’t give him that pass.)

As I grew up, I was religious and hated that the religious significance was drastically overshadowed by materialism—both in the culture at large and in our house.

(Don’t read too much piety into that. I always had a Christmas list and didn’t ever say I wanted nothing.)

When, during college, I became very much not religious, I still hated the materialism.

(I believe that much of the distaste came from other gift-related issues with my mom that were just overbearingly present at Christmas. Another story for another day.)

I don’t remember a time when I felt like I was part of my family of origin, or a time when I wasn’t ostracized. So holidays that are “for family” were torturous.

Years passed, The Tall Daddy and I got married, and I was so excited to have Christmas with his family. They were kind and loving to me—so unfamiliar and welcome—and finally (FINALLY!) I would have a holiday that’s about family with family.

Turns out, they didn’t do much for Christmas. Siblings lived in different states and some of them might get together at some point during that week off, but most stayed home with their kids.

It’s not that those years were bad so much as anticlimactic. (Also, The Tall Daddy and I gigged on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, so there’s that.)

The Christmas after that marriage ended, I had the flu.

The year after that, The Kid and I went to New Jersey. He was four. While we had dinner with a friend and her family, we spent Christmas Day in a hotel room, doing our own thing, just a few miles from my parents’ house.

It was so healing.

The next two Christmases were spent in Florida with The Climbing Daddy’s family, and while the second was not as bad as the first, those are not holidays I care to revisit.

This year … we’re at home. It’s just us. We’re settled into our house. (Last year, we moved right before heading to Florida.)

The Kid loves Christmas and decorations. Always has. The house isn’t totally decked out, but there are more decorations up than if I was left to my own devices. And it looks lovely. He loves Santa (though he’s always known that Santa isn’t real). And, of course, he loves getting LEGOs.

And so I am hopeful that this year, Christmas will be nice. Maybe even amazing.

I’m planning to take some of the traditions from my family of origin—little details that I loved—and hang onto them in ways that fit me now, with good friends. And leave the stuff I didn’t love. And add in other pieces that maybe someday my son will remember fondly as “something we did at Christmas when I was a kid.”

It’s been a long time comin’, but maybe this is my year.

(Also, I’m anxious that I’m putting too much into it and have a high likelihood of being let down. But I’ve pretty much always lived by the notion that the results are best when you’re all in, so………….)

Posted in about me, storytelling, vulnerability

Poking around in your head

Yesterday, I published a post that ended with a question asking about your experience. I’ve asked a similar question a few times.

This is the thing: I’m really curious about the answer.

I’d love to take every single reader out for coffee for a few hours and pick your brain about random things like yesterday’s post. (It’s not yesterday’s topic in particular…)

What’s funny is that without that context, if I actually was at coffee with some random person, I’d have no idea how to start that kind of conversation…or if it’s even too intimate to attempt.

I love poking around in people’s brains.

Some people don’t like their brains being poked around in. More than that, it seems that people think there’s nothing in their brains worth poking around in.

Yes there is, my friends. Yes, there is. You have lived this long. You’ve met people. You’ve done things. You’ve gone places. You’ve developed opinions. You’ve (probably) changed some of those opinions. You react to things in certain ways. You are definitely interesting.

I just need to figure out how to open up those kinds of conversations…

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, meandering, mindset

Perfectionism, skill, imposter syndrome

I am a recovering perfectionist.

For a long time, everything had to be just right. Edit, erase, start over. Make sure there’s always a straight-edge handy. No streaks, no cracks, no chips.

I realize this is fear-based.

I’m better about it. I don’t spend an hour carefully curating which font I’m going to use on slides for public presentations. Find one, make sure it’s good enough (primarily: legible), and spend the time on the real work.

I’ve hand-drawn cards for my students with music notes on them that are not each exactly the same. Someone volunteered to laminate and cut these cards for me, and they’re not all the same size. Deep breath, use them anyway, they still work fine.

However…

I am also not always a good judge of “good enough” versus “the best I can do right now” (which might not really be good enough).

I was looking through pictures from an old blog the other day. I had shared quite a few recipes, and there was one pic with each … and many of them were not good at all.

These kinds of realizations make it a little bit harder for me not to get thrown back into perfectionism, or into give-up-ism, or just into heightened self-consciousness.

Ultimately, my photography skills are limited (though that’s on my to-do list, and has been longer than I’ve been blogging) and my photography tools are limited (phone, though a real camera is on my wish list).

(That’s why I’ve given myself permission not to have a photo with every blog post. If I don’t have one or can’t relatively easily take one that works for the post, I’m going without. It’s not a photo blog—they’re here to enhance or to attract, but the words are what I’m here for and, I assume, what you’re here for.)

And you see how defensive I immediately became? Oof. Brains are funny. And this post isn’t supposed to be about photography! So then I debate: edit those paragraphs down (or out) and stick more closely to the topic, or keep them in and let it be more real?

Today, real wins. Paragraphs stay. (Sometimes, I choose to stick to the topic more closely.)

This rabbit hole occasionally brings me to this: what is life like for people who don’t have this problem? People who can create the details (like the font, or the photo), and be satisfied with it, and be correct that it is satisfying, and then move on? Or is that one of those things where I’m comparing my insides to others’ outside and everyone who creates anything has this struggle in some capacity? Or am I expecting to be able to do something easily that others have spent hours working on?

That happens with my students. Often. They see that I can play instruments easily. They see some other students who can play their instruments easily. And they assume they “just can’t do it.” When really … they need to put in the time.

I would take better photos with more practice, for sure. Would I choose fonts more easily?

How do you differentiate between imposter syndrome and just needing more skill?

What’s your experience?

Posted in about me, mindset, vulnerability

Some days, I look tired

There’s a new-to-my-awareness probably-MLM line of products being hawked in my Facebook feed.

“Total makeover. Only takes 10 minutes!”

But you know what?

I like my face.

Some days, I have bags under my eyes, because I’m tired. Some days, I’m exhausted and have full-blown suitcases.

I’m at the point where I have creases in my forehead and crows feet next to my eyes.

This is me.

My path has not been easy, and I have the creases to show for it. But I’ve laughed a lot along the way, and I have the creases to show for that, too.

Also, I’ve spent 20 years raising my eyebrows at kids, and I have the creases to show for that.

The last five years have been especially unkind to my skin. Stress is unforgiving like that; age was a sidekick.

This is me.

I could buy stuff and try to cover it all up, but then who you see wouldn’t be me any more. It would be some weird likeness. A china doll version.

I’ve been spoken to pretty harshly for my opinions on makeup.

But really, I wish we could all just like our faces.

Posted in about me, food, mindset

Food adjectives

We need to change some of our language surrounding food.

I do my best not to use the words “good” and “bad” when talking about food. Except when something doesn’t pass the sniff test. Then it’s bad.

“Good” could describe tastiness, it could describe healthiness, it could describe virtuousness.

We’ve made some unfortunate connections between those three things.

If it’s healthy, it’s not tasty, but it’s virtuous. If it’s tasty, it’s unhealthy and transgressive, unless it’s a reward, then it’s not transgressive…unless it’s too big a reward—then it’s transgressive again.

You know those things don’t inherently connect like that, right?

Let’s quickly pick apart those three things.

Tasty

You like how it tastes or you don’t. (Or sort of do, or like it in small quantities, then that’s enough, or wherever it lands on the yummy continuum.) This is completely subjective.

Healthy

It provides nutrients, vitamins, minerals, water that are necessary for optimal body functioning without providing too much (or any) of other substances that are unnecessary and/or toxic.

There is some variation in this because people have different sensitivities and allergies to foods, but there are some basic things that all bodies need.

Virtuous

This is a cultural thing and is completely tied to the first two, but only because we tied them together.

Because the virtue is tied in, when we want to rebel, we can eat a bunch of food that makes us feel physically sick but emotionally satisfied. We can do that often enough that we don’t feel physically sick any more when we do it, but the emotional ties are still there.

Because of all of this, and because of the additional boatloads of baggage emotionally connected to food, I do my best to be specific.

“This food is tasty.”

“I’d like to find something healthy.”

And I do my best to take the virtue out.

What I eat either moves me towards my goals or it doesn’t. Or it doesn’t but I’ve made a decision to let that go for whatever reason.

There’s no use in eating something and feeling guilty about it. Either eat it and enjoy it, or don’t eat it. But that’s starting a new thread for another day…

Posted in about me, ebb & flow

Take a little break

The creeping crud is creeping around here. The Kid has missed two days of school. I’m just starting to get a little stuffy. The Climbing Daddy has been coughing a bit.

This afternoon, The Kid and I needed something a little different. So we took coloring sheets and colored pencils out back on the porch, sat in the sun, and colored for half an hour.

Half an hour outside in the sun, unplugged, relaxing, together.

Good for the heart, mind, body.

I’m not in a regular habit of relaxing like that, and I know many others aren’t, either.

Take some time to recharge. You’ll feel better. You’ll be a better mom/spouse/friend/employee.

Posted in about me, know better do better, mindset

Black Friday deals

When I was very first starting out as a personal trainer, I used to run Black Friday deals in preparation for New Years.

Eventually, I stopped, and if/when I have more services to offer, I won’t offer deals.

Why?

1- Twice now I have been on the consumer end of “I just bought that a week/a month ago but now it’s way cheaper. The retailer’s response is always “too bad so sad” (my paraphrase). That doesn’t feel good, and it doesn’t leave me wanting to do business with that retailer again.

In my business, I have always been about building relationships and, when practical and possible, community. The above is antithetical to that.

1b- In response to “You could always just retroactively apply the discount”… To purchases back how long? For all purchases or just people who ask? Do I want to establish a culture of people asking me if they can pay less for my services?

2- I price my services in such a way that my clients feel at least like they’ve gotten their money’s worth, or hopefully like they’ve gotten a great deal. I don’t need to discount it.

That said, I do occasionally throw in freebies or discounts for repeat customers.

What do you think? Do you like periodic big sales? Have you been on the losing end of that?

Posted in about me, differences, mindset

You can’t always put on more clothes

I run cold.

If I’m in a room with a lot of people and I’m comfortable, I assume that the majority of the people in the room are somewhere between a bit warm and uncomfortably warm.

This is part of why living in Phoenix is a good choice for me (though the ridiculous amount of air conditioning in public spaces in the summer is an argument against).

Some people run hot.

We’re just different. It’s OK.

I have one or two friends whose temperature comfort zones do not overlap with mine at all. I have quite a few friends whose comfort zones do overlap, but not by a lot.

But the argument I hate is “Well, when you’re cold, you can always put on more clothes. You can’t keep taking clothes off when you’re hot.”

The implication is that by adding a potentially infinite layer of clothes, I would no longer be cold.

Except I don’t buy shoes in multiple sizes to accommodate a variety of layers of socks.

Even with careful planning, I don’t think I could get more than three layers on my legs (stockings or tights under leggings under pants). There have been a few occasions where three layers was insufficient.

More tops than that would be possible, but there are limits.

In all of the above scenarios, the under-layers are the ones that would need to be added for cold (and then eliminated when the ambient temp is warmer), which requires a bathroom or other private space to change and time to do it.

I don’t carry unlimited layers with me in order to be prepared for every temperature occasion. I don’t even carry with me limited but versatile layers. I bring a sweater. (I also keep a sweater and a sweatshirt in the trunk of my car.)

Even if I had a pack animal with me to carry everything I’d need to be prepared for all temperature occasions (would that be considered a service animal? Restaurants and airplanes are some of the worst…), this doesn’t take into consideration parts of the body that aren’t typically covered by clothes: hands, neck, face, ears.

If I’m going to be outside in a cold place, I can prepare for those things, and I can cover them. And I do. (But only if I know or suspect it’s going to be cold. No cold-weather pack animal means sometimes it’s colder than I expected and I’m unprepared.)

But I don’t bring hats and mittens to meetings at work. Or to restaurants. Or to bed. Unless I’m camping.

I do wear scarves sometimes, even if I don’t need a jacket. My neck gets cold. If you’re a knitter or crocheter and want to make a scarf, I’ll happily be a recipient. My current one is a lovely long, thin purple one. Perfect for chilly-but-not-freezing, and made from yarn that doesn’t scream “it’s snowing!” which is nice for both indoors and out. I like to fold it in half and put the loose ends through the loop.

But even if I’m wearing all of those things, my nose is cold.

Outdoors, I can cover it with a scarf. Indoors…?

I’ve seen ads for some little nose cover thing. I can’t imagine very many scenarios when I would want to wear one of those. They look ridiculous, even for me.

OK, all that said, I understand that it sucks to be hot, especially in dress clothes. Even as one who runs cold, there are times that I’m hot. (Summer temps here are always over 115. That’s hot. And as a traveling teacher, I get in my car that’s been baking in the sun multiple times a day. No shortage of hot.) And I’m OK with wearing an extra layer (ONE extra layer) indoors to accommodate people who run hot.

I’m not saying that being cold is worse than being hot. I’m just saying that “just put more clothes on” argument is stupid.

</rant>