Posted in exercise, gratitude, mindset, motivation, physical health, thoughtfulness

Gratitude for more than health

A few years ago, I was doing a 10k and was maybe a little undertrained. (What?! Never!) Was running it with a good friend and we knew we’d have a good time, even if we didn’t have a good time.

Somewhere around mile 5, I got a text from the guy I was dating at the time:

Hey! As you make progress toward the finish line think about how really lucky you are to participate in that 10k. In the grand scheme of things it is pretty cool. It means you’re healthy enough, financially secure enough, living in a place that can safely put on a big event like that. It’s a good way to spend a free morning. Lots of people all over would love to be in your shoes, feeling what you’re feeling. It’s pretty cool. Hope you’re having fun!

I’ve often been grateful for good health and mobility, not just in the context of running. But he added extra layers that I take for granted most of the time.

So if you’re out this weekend, particularly at something you’re maybe less than excited to be at (I’m looking at you, track meet!), soak in some of his good thoughts about all of the other variables that we take for granted to make it possible.

But it’s also a reminder of one of the reasons I move it move it: because I can.


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

See yourself through someone else’s eyes

The other day, I wrote about contributing to my school community. Another great thing happened in that little piece of the day.

I’ve been struggling with many of my classes.

Without getting into too many details, my classes are not your typical elementary band classes, because that approach hasn’t worked with the populations I teach.

“Your classroom is like a petri dish for beginning band innovation,” The Tall Daddy summarized.

But we’ve been in a long stretch of it not working. Or sometimes just not working the way I want it to.

I’ve felt frustrated, demoralized, cranky, ineffective, drained. There have been bits and pieces that I’ve been excited about, and I’m grateful to be in a place where I am free to experiment, but mostly, work is not the highlight of my day. (There was a time when it was.)

So the other day, an outside observer came in, silently hung out for a while, and left.

But before she left, she wrote me a card. Photo of the text is above.

“I could feel a sense of love and excitement for music.”

It’s there. Someone saw it.

I have wondered more and more lately: if my teaching situation was different, would I get my mojo back? Or am I just burned out?

It’s still there.

Thank you, random outside observer, for taking the time to write that note to me before you took off. It gave me more than you know.

(That’s part of why writing cards to people is a great habit.)

On the receiving end, when someone pays you a compliment, believe them. Take a moment and see yourself the way they see you, no asterisks.

I could have read the card and said to myself, “Well, she doesn’t really know me and didn’t even see me teaching band today. If she was here more often, she would know that that’s not true.”

Instead, I accepted the compliment, took it as validation, and on I went. (But the card is still on my desk.)

Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.

And, of course, take a moment to pay a compliment. You never know how much it might mean to someone.


Posted in about me, gratitude, motivation

Making a contribution

This post started as just a Facebook post and flowed very earnestly. It reached a length and depth where I decided to make it a blog post. I was very excited to post it until I got near the end, at which point it felt like useless prattling on. I decided that the feeling was instigated by fear—because there’s a lot of vulnerability in this post—and not because it actually was dull. To help me strengthen my self-assessment abilities, would you give me feedback? Yes, it was interesting and thank you for sharing it, or no, your sudden realization that this wasn’t interesting to a reader was correct. (Yes, that answer will sting, but if it’s honest and it’s kind, then it’s useful. I’m asking to assess, not fishing for compliments.) Thanks!

One of my “things” is wanting (needing?) to feel like a part of a group. While this is a human thing—we are social animals—in me, it’s also rooted in being the black sheep of my family, of being consistently and explicitly labeled as “other” for my formative years.

Being a traveling teacher makes it really difficult to have a work family. (For those unfamiliar, a traveling teacher has their assignment broken up onto multiple campuses. We might be at different schools on different days, we might go from school to school within the same day. Depends on the position and how the schedules are designed. My schedule now has me on each campus for an hour every day.)

I don’t see most colleagues regularly and almost never for more than a few minutes at a time. Depending on schedule, I might not have lunch at anyone else’s lunch time. (Or I might have lunch at a campus where everyone eats in their room.) Being somewhat socially anxious doesn’t help.

So the people around me have work family (their team or the campus at large or whomever) and I pop in and out. This is definitely a part of my life where social media reinforces my “other” status.

(As an aside, I remember the first time a coworker came into my room not because they needed something but just to say hello. It was in 2006. And the first people I hung out with outside of school. Same job. I was full time on that campus, not traveling. That school and the one I’m about to write about are the only two—out of 14 in my career—where a colleague popped in and started a conversation not about work.)

Having the same home school for the past five years helps. I go to teacher work days with the same people every year. I know who most of the people on campus are, and they know who I am. (Well … I know at least half. I’m not so good with classified—they’re not at our meetings. And some teachers I recognize but don’t know who they are…)

Having a home school with friendly people helps a little. While there have been other jobs where I’ve felt more “at home” on campus, that was more a result of the schedule than the people, and I’m grateful to be welcomed into the “family” at my home school, even if I’m the kid who is only there every other weekend and two weeks in the summer.

Also as a traveler, it’s difficult to be able to do things on campus beyond basic job responsibilities. When I didn’t travel, I spent one or more years as team lead, mentor teacher, testing coordinator, member of the school improvement committee, member of the school’s community council.

(What’s the point of all this, Heat?)

My home school is going through the process of applying to be an A+ school. Because my principal knows I’m a strong writer and am reliable, I was invited to do editing, to help ensure the voice of the application was consistent, even with multiple people contributing their writing. My writing ego was stroked (hat tip to the principal for her solid move there) and I was able to contribute to my campus. Opportunities like that help me to feel more like I’m part of the whole.

Today was one of two days that we were observed as part of the application.

Today happened to be a day in the rotation that I was teaching hip hop. We just added it in January to see if it works with the grade level (I’ve only taught it to slightly older kids before) and with our kids and with the schedule and on and on. It’s an experiment.

The class is small but we’re having a good time, learning a lot. Reading, writing, listening, talking. Lots of thinking/opinion questions. Some great conversations. Periodic temperature check with the kids indicates they both enjoy it and think it should be offered again in the future.

So today, we got to “show off” for the observers. The class itself wasn’t super-exciting to watch: mostly reading questions and writing answers before we had a conversation about them. But it’s something that’s not offered many places and, as I learned later, one of the students gushed to one of the observers about how awesome the class is some time before class.

Besides me enjoying teaching hip hop in its own right, today it got to be a feather in my school’s cap. I feel good being able to contribute more than “the usual.”


Oh! The post I said I’d share today about carcinogens and their ubiquity and the pieces of that puzzle that are on us but shouldn’t be? I’ll share that one tomorrow. For real this time.

And the curriculum I’m using for the hip hop class is called Fresh Beats by Rob Vagi.


Posted in gratitude, meandering


The sunsets in Arizona are pretty consistently amazing.

When I lived back east, there was occasionally a sunset that really made you stop and just take it in, but here, it happens regularly. Almost daily.

After living here for almost 16 years, I’ve not tired of it.

I’m sure the photo I used for this post isn’t the best sunset photo I’ve taken, but after weeks of taking one or more from the top of the bleachers at The Kid’s track practices, I liked the shot through the fence. Something a little different.

It’s also kinda fun to look at all of the pics from all of the weeks and just see how the sunset has changed. Colors, position of the sun against the horizon, state of the trees.

Besides getting a little exercise running the bleachers, my sunset photo attempts give me a little something to look forward to at track practice.

The sunrises here are also phenomenal. In the winter, the sun is just coming up over the mountains as I drive to work. (Always driving; no pics.) I’m not a big fan of being up that early, but it’s a perk of the commute to have that view for the couple of minutes that I travel east.

(By this time of year, I’m just blinded by the sun that’s up but not high.)

Grateful to have beautiful sunrises and sunsets to admire here, even if the sun is otherwise not so friendly for several months each year.


Posted in gifts, gratitude


I’ve been somewhat fascinated with my hands lately.

I have callouses from rock climbing. I love my climbing callouses, which seems odd, but I think they’re just a reminder that I have time and ability to do something I enjoy doing on a regular basis. And maybe a splash of the badass feeling I had making it up that last route last time.

For a while, I’ve sometimes wished I had close up photos of my hand on a hold. It’s often a particular hold; I don’t know why. Usually outside; occasionally inside. I snapped a few using a large rock on the ground once near where we were climbing. My angles were bad, so they didn’t turn out at all as I’d like, but The Climbing Daddy jumped in and we ended up with some that were nice in that way.

My fingers can move in patterns to play songs on a myriad of different instruments. When I play ukulele enough (read: not lately), I have callouses for that, too.

One finger (right hand pinky) changed the course of my college career, which led to so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Another story for another day.

Of course, I use my fingers to type all of these posts. And emails. And social media posts. And whatever other things I type for work or for play.

And I use some of them to write. My book, so far, has been mostly hand-written, though as of earlier this week, there is also now an electronic copy.

My hands grip weights for lifting.

They hold hands. They rub backs. They tie shoes. They please my lover.

They pull the weeds, push the vacuum, chop the veggies, spread the nut butter, stir all the things.

A long time ago, I learned how to give a good hand massage. I didn’t use that skill, and I’ve forgotten. But I think it would be great for The Climbing Daddy and I to learn it, to be able to give some special lovin’ to these amazing hands that do so much for us every day.

(Every time I’ve read that last sentence, I’ve cringed at what sounds like hyperbole, but I truly am amazed by these things lately.)