Posted in differences, hope, know better do better, mindset

Breaking barriers

I get an email every weekday morning from “the universe.” Some of them say just the right thing on just the right day. Some … meh.

Today’s tied in to a post that I had a skeleton for already and decided to use the inspiration to fill it in.

“Performing miracles, Heat, isn’t a matter of doing the impossible, it’s a matter of redefining the possible.”

Running a mile in four minutes is an easy example. It was impossible, but once it was done, it was replicated hundreds of times. It’s not easy (and man, that’s fast!), but over 1400 men have done it so far. They just needed permission.

Another that comes to mind for me is climbing the Dawn Wall. In the last year, I saw the movie by the same name (on Netflix—watch it!) and read Tommy Caldwell’s book (The Push) about it. It’s a 3000-foot rock face in Yosemite, a place renowned for climbing. This particular bit of rock had never been free climbed and was considered unclimbable.

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson free climbed it in 19 days (after years of working on it). Not long after, it was climbed in eight days. It went from unclimbable to climbed to climbed in less than half the time in under a year.

Of course, this has application all over life, not just in elite athletics.

Women, people of color, queers are breaking barriers all over the place, which on one hand, is excellent! It’s about time!

On the other hand, it’s not cool or neat or fun that there are so many firsts for women, people of color, non-Christians, queer people. Because it’s 20 freaking 19.

But it does ask the question: what are we “not able” to do just because it hasn’t been done yet?

Posted in differences, mindset, parenting

Kids, birthdays, parties, gifts

Most parents I know lament the amount of stuff their kids have. (Some lament their own as well.)

Most parents I know specifically say that there’s no need to bring a gift to their kid’s birthday party. (This is extra nice when we don’t really know the birthday kid very well and aren’t sure what would be good. And if “they’re really into dinosaurs” (or whatever), it’s still hard to know what won’t duplicate something they already have.)

When the kids were younger, they didn’t typically open gifts at the party.

In addition to all of the drama avoided, gifts opened at home later means that all of the potential negative reactions to having given a card are publicly avoided.

It’s a little trickier now. Gifts are more often opened at the party.

So what to do?

If clutterstuff is a problem and it’s genuinely OK just to bring a card, then it seems that would be the way to go.

In theory, I’d like to have a get-together with The Kid and the birthday kid at a later date, treat them to that as their gift (if there’s an entrance fee, or if they get food). No clutter, no guessing what they like, still something gifted, time spent together. But I’ve found that much of the time, the get-together never happens.

I saw a suggestion for a “fiver party,” where each child brings $5 in a card to go towards a larger thing that the birthday boy wants to buy. It’s billed as being inexpensive and convenient for parents, since $5 is easier and typically cheaper than buying a gift.

But that feels funny. Not entirely sure why.

I saw a post yesterday with a suggestion for a wedding gift: a wallet with gift cards for places to go on dates. Good for applications beyond weddings, really, especially if you want to go a group gift for someone(s) and know places they like to go/eat/shop.

Which got me to thinking that maybe setting up playdates intentionally as a gift might work. (The connection was the collection of future outings as a gift.)

I’m still in the “thinking out loud” phase of this idea. For ease of pronouns, I’m going to create an example for The Kid’s birthday.

We invite who he wants to invite and suggest that in lieu of physical gifts, we’re creating a playdate series. We (both kids’ parents, with kid input) schedule a date and a location, and go from there. They could be to anywhere locally—parks, museums, other activities—and then he gets 1-on-1 time built in with his friends. And maybe tries out a new thing or goes to a new place.

There are logistics in there that I haven’t worked out.

Maybe have a coupon or something in each card, saying where the playdate will be.(Not sure kids care about the date.) But if it’s scheduled, it’s more likely to happen. Or let them pick a where and we can schedule the when at the party.

I do like the idea of one gift from everyone. I don’t know why I feel like that is less comfortable to set up than the thing I was just thinking about.

What do you think?

Posted in about me, differences, ebb & flow, meandering, physical health

I used to be a night owl; now I’m just tired

I was always a night owl.

As a kid, I would sleep until 15 minutes before I needed to leave for school. Clothes on, breakfast in, out the door. Saturdays, I would sleep until 10 or 11. (Marching band at Saturday morning football games killed that.)

Nights were always my best time. Best for thinking, for writing, for talking, for pretty much anything (except maybe sleeping…).

But then I became a teacher. And for decades now, I’ve gotten up way earlier than I would like.

(And yes, I became a mom, but The Kid is also a night owl and has been since Day 1. That has been much less an issue than the gig.)

Regardless, I don’t sleep in any more. I don’t do late nights well any more. I don’t consider it a function of aging, as many people do. I consider it a function of repetition. I think if I’d had a job all these years where I could go to bed at 1 and get up at 9, I’d be much better at sleeping later than 6. (And I’d be sadder than I already am that The Kid reports to school at 7:05.)

I’m getting better at going to bed earlier so I can wake up at 6 and feel decent. But it’s hard, because the late evenings have always been My Time, and now they’re sleep time. But they’re sleep time because I need to go to work, not because My Time is at another time.

Adulting would be less hard if my work schedule and my Me schedule were more closely aligned. (I’ve thought for a long time that life in some ways must be simpler for morning people, since life is structured on their schedule much more often.)

It’s also hard, because night used to be when I could focus well and work on things that required a lot of brain power.

Now, I can sometimes get in good evening work, if I’ve gotten enough sleep and the day hasn’t been too arduous, but mostly, I’m just tired. I do the majority of my writing now in the early afternoons, after I’m home from work but before I pick up The Kid at school. It’s not ideal—that’s definitely an energy dip time for me—but it’s pretty consistently available, and I’m grateful to have it.

I do much better writing on Sunday mornings. The Kid is usually with The Tall Daddy, and I’ll often wake up an hour or two before The Climbing Daddy, and I can use that time to write.

But most of the week, I get up and go to work. I can’t hang out and write. (I don’t even get up and exercise in the mornings. I’m not an early-morning exerciser. Or an early-morning anythinger.) I’m not getting up earlier than I already do, because I can’t (won’t?) get to bed earlier than I already do.

So now, I’m not a night owl, and I’m not a morning person. I’m just trying to get to bed early enough to be a well-functioning teacher/mom/wife/friend/writer/exerciser everythinger.

Posted in about me, differences, education, mental health

The glory of having energy at the end of the work day

The last couple of years, most or all of my classes (as a whole—not every individual student) had self-control issues. Inability to stay quiet, to accept directions, to follow through on assignments, regardless of where the task fell on the fun meter. In extreme cases, yelling and swearing. Unrelenting back-talk. Things said to me that I wouldn’t have dared say when I was a kid, nor would I say now to anyone, much less someone with power.

(I teach 5th and 6th grade.)

At the end of the work day, even though I was part time, I was exhausted. The majority of my energy was going to classroom management, and a tiny slice was given to actually teaching. The groups as a whole didn’t play well, though there were individual students who did.

It was draining. It was demoralizing. It definitely did not make my life better.

This year, I have a couple of classes that act like normal classes, which is to say, we can get stuff done. Occasionally I need to redirect a couple of students. There’s always someone who asks a question that I just answered. But that’s all pretty standard.

I can teach and they can learn.

It’s glorious.

I come home from work and have energy left. Things get done around the house. Exercising is easier. I have more patience for The Kid. I have mental energy to think about different ways to teach. (It’s never the same twice, whether it’s tweaked or totally overhauled.)

Having a job that doesn’t suck me dry is a big deal.

Happy to have some of myself back.

Posted in differences, education, mindset

Different perspectives on “easy”

Last year, some of my band classes did a month-long composition activity.

I asked students for written feedback: tell me if you liked the activity or not and why.

Two reports read the following:

“I liked it because it was easy.”

“I didn’t like it because it was too easy.”

Isn’t that funny?

First, that two people used the same adjective in opposite ways.

(I think this happens often.)

One of them: up for being challenged; the other: not so much.

But I also know, because I designed and oversaw the project, and because it was my class, that the student who thought it was too easy was also not terribly motivated. She could have done more than the bare minimum and made it more challenging for herself—and potentially ended up with a final project that she had more pride in.

(There were a lot of reasons tied up in why she didn’t challenge herself.)

Would she have done more work if it had been required? At what point would her feedback have said that she liked it (regardless of why)? Or that she didn’t like it because it was too hard?

I will be more explicit about the possibility of exceeding expectations in the introduction the next time we do the project.

For myself, I’m glad when things are easy when they’re things I don’t want to do in the first place. (Neither of those students is with me again this year, so odds are high on that one.)

I can’t think of an example of a creative assignment that I felt competent doing and did more than was expected, but I can’t think of many required creative assignments that I felt competent doing, either. Competence always came in concrete.

Too easy feels like busywork.

Easy feels like a relief unless the hope was to be challenged…but can still feel like busywork.

Challenging is either glorious or tedious, depending on the task, the emotional investment on the outcome, and the expectation going in.

Too challenging is just frustrating.

So many variables. It’s no wonder we have so many different experiences of the exact same thing.