Posted in differences, education, mindset, motivation, parenting, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Take the opportunity: band teacher edition

What a fantastic opportunity we have been forced into!

I know that could be interpreted sarcastically; I mean it completely sincerely.

I am a teacher. Sometimes, I am a phenomenal teacher. Sometimes, I am a mediocre teacher.

We all know teachers who have been teaching for a long time, teaching the same thing, plugging along more or less on auto pilot. (As much as auto pilot works in this gig.)

Not now!

We all know teachers who have completely resisted learning/using technologies.

Not now!

We all get in routines, have our way of doing things, etc., even if we’re consistently learning and growing.

Now? Now we have the opportunity to re-think ALL OF IT.

I teach band. I’m in band teacher groups on Facebook where I get and share resources and ideas regularly.

Man. There are a lot of people trying to figure out how to do what they’ve always done, just through an internet connection or a face mask.

Missing the opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s hard. It’s exhausting. It’s time-consuming. And we’re all at square one again. Everyone I’ve talked to feels like a first year teacher.

Being a first year teacher is rough. Really rough.

(I can’t imagine being a first year teacher this year…)

If you’ve been banging your head against the wall trying to make this year like every other year through Zoom and face masks and life-draining expectations, I’m here to tell you—it’s not too late to change the course. Rethink everything. Do something differently. Do everything differently. What do you have to lose?

“But then my kids will be behind!” Behind what? Your expectations for where they “should” be? Your fear of someone else’s judgement of where they “should” be? And by extension, judgement of your competence as a teacher?

There is a global pandemic. Let the expectations go.

Right now, nearly everything is hard for nearly everyone. Stressing yourself out trying to make kids—who have their own laundry list of stresses to deal with—jump through hoops to try to pretend that everything is normal is … well … stressful.

Also, kids have so much less autonomy in choosing how to deal with everything that’s going on, or even knowing what healthy coping mechanisms are available. Do we want to be someone helping or someone hurting? I’m not convinced anyone is neutral now, or ever.

“Band is some kids’ safe place!” Yes it is! It was mine. Does that mean it needs to be as close to what they did last year as possible? You are their safe place. The group is their safe place. Keep the space sacred, but the activities? They can be shaken up.

Take a deep breath, let some of the weight go, and see what you come up with.

Posted in food, mindset, motivation, physical health

Election week: no sweets, no caffeine

I have different relationships with sweets and caffeine.

Caffeine, I don’t drink for wakefulness—I just like tea. When it’s cool or cold out, I like most kinds of hot tea—black, green, white, rooibos, herbal. But when it’s hot out, I like iced tea. Plain old unsweetened black iced tea.

If I drink a cup of iced tea daily (or near-daily) on an empty stomach, after several weeks, I start to get heartburn. At the same time, if I’ve been drinking a cup of anything caffeinated daily for several weeks and miss a day or two, I’ll get a migraine.

In the summer, this is easier because I don’t have a routine. I just loosely keep track of how much tea I’m drinking and I’m good to go.

With school in session in person, I have a routine, and drinking iced tea in the car on the way to work is one of them.

I had already been thinking that I needed to start to wean off the iced tea before the heartburn started again, so I brought less and less tea. At the tail end of last week, the heartburn started and I had lessened my intake enough to avoid a migraine. Good timing.

It’s also gotten cooler, so hot tea is in my travel mug. I’m sure there are non-caffeinated teas that make good iced tea; I just haven’t tried them.

So: it’s my first week in a while without caffeine.

Sweets is a more complicated story.

I have a long history of emotional eating, and that eating is nearly always desserts or simple carbs.

While I’m much less drawn to them than I used to be, if I consume sweets regularly, I want more, and it spirals. Quickly.

Being at home most of the time has been a struggle. I’m finally snacking less. For a while, we were doing dessert more often than usual. “Usual” is once or twice a month. We had something sweet to munch on at least that much each week. Plus I was taking from the candy jar at work. (If I’ve ever taken from the candy jar at work, it definitely wasn’t on multiple consecutive days.)

I decided I needed a hard stop.

In no-sugar 30-day challenges I ran a long time ago, I quit all added sugars in all foods, including dressings, sauces, etc. Not this time. Just sweets. Dessert, candy, things of the sort.

Quitting sugar will yield several positives:

  • I will feel better. Excessive added dietary sugars negatively affect mood.
  • I will stop craving. Then I can use my energy for things other than fighting the urge to eat.
  • I will probably take off a few pounds.
  • Fruit will be “sweet enough” again.
  • My immune system will be stronger. Working in two elementary schools, this is critical right now.

I didn’t intentionally line this up with election week—it just worked out that way.

Many people have told me (over the course of time) that doing something like this at a stressful time is a bad idea. In some ways, they’re right. It’s harder to stick to new things when so much energy is going to the surrounding issues.

But eating ice cream doesn’t really make me feel better (especially because I don’t go slowly and enjoy it) nor does it actually relieve the stress. I can deal with emotions in a healthy way instead of trying to eat them.

Day five. It’s been rough but also so far, so good. I know that in another few days or maybe another week, the cravings will be substantially reduced and it will be easier. Until then, it’s worth it.

Posted in know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, vulnerability

Political ads—a long series of teachable moments

Like everyone (I assume) in the US, we’ve been inundated with political ads.

We don’t watch TV, so that helps. But the volume of postcards has been ridiculous.

In particular, we received a postcard most days for several weeks, telling us the evils of one specific (not presidential) candidate.

If I didn’t know the state-level politics, I wouldn’t even know from all this mail who he was running against.

We pulled another one of these pieces of trash out of our mailbox, and The Kid shared what he’s learned about these ads:

“It’s not good to say all bad things about your opponent. It means you have nothing good to say about yourself.”

Good call, little dude.

We expanded that conversation to include other kids being mean and having nothing good to say about you (or others).

“Because they have nothing good to say about themselves?”

Yep. Which doesn’t mean they have nothing good about them, just they don’t see it in themselves.

You know how sometimes, you feel like everything about you is wrong? Everyone feels like that sometimes. But some kids have parents who don’t tell them that those feelings aren’t true, and they start to believe them more and more. Or some kids have parents who tell them that those things are true, which of course is incorrect, but you can’t expect a little kid to know that, and they grow up to believe there’s nothing good about them.

He understood.

Those kids grow up and become adults who have nothing good to say about themselves and instead rely on saying bad things—true or untrue—about others. We don’t need political attack ads to see this daily. We do need to do two things to remedy it.

One: teach children that they’re worthy and lovable, even when they make mistakes, even when they make bad choices, even when you’re impatient—because it’s not about you.

Two: help people who haven’t learned that heal. Whether you think they deserve compassion or not (again, not about you). Because we’ll all be better if more people feel whole.

Posted in about me, motivation

Heat, where have you been?

Posts have been sparse here for a while, and I wanted to check in and give an update on what’s going on over here.

In early August, I joined an Akimbo workshop (put on by Seth Godin) called The Creative’s Workshop. I’ve been writing there daily, which I know doesn’t provide you with anything, but what’s coming from it is a book!

Finally, I’m writing the book I’ve talked about writing for a decade.

The community there is so supportive. Lots of vulnerability. Lots of art-in-progress. Not everyone doing art in traditional senses (writing, painting, music)—people revamping their businesses and websites and all sorts of things.

It’s so interesting, in addition to what I’m getting out of it directly for my work.

But time and energy are both finite, and that plus work plus parenting plus the usual stuff has taken the bulk of my time.

Photography has mostly been put on hold, though I do try to get out and shoot something once a week to have photos on Sundays to share. (I decided not to post on weeks when I don’t have photos.) I didn’t get out last week (hence, nothing on Sunday) but did make a little bit of time to watch another tutorial. I’m several months behind now on that course, but it’s self-paced, and I’m good with letting that go to take advantage of this opportunity.

I’m thinking about taking pictures to include in the book, but really, I need to get the thing written before I tangent to some other sparkly idea.

A year ago, I ended a year of blogging daily. In this workshop, I’ve gotten back to writing daily. When the book is written, I plan to get back here and share daily again. It’s a good habit. It’s a difficult habit, but it’s good and I (mostly) enjoy it.

In the mean time, I have 87 single-spaced pages written and notes for many more.

Thanks for hanging around!

And while I don’t get kickbacks (as far as I know—I’ll edit this if info changes when the workshop ends), I definitely recommend catching this workshop the next time it comes around, if you’re looking to put more out into the world.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, exercise, mental health, mindset, motivation, physical health

Depression prepared me for shelter-in-place

First: this is my experience. It might not match yours.

I’ve struggled with depression for about as long as I can remember. In relatively recent years, I’ve learned how to manage it.

Mine seems to be connection-related. When I feel well-connected to important people, my brain chemicals stay happy. When I feel disconnected from people, my brain tries to kill me. Occasionally literally.

There is a limit to how much control I have over being connected to people. Everyone is busy. There is no village. (This is a highly destructive side effect of our “rugged individualism” and so many of us struggle with it.)

What can I do that doesn’t involve other people?

I can run. High-intensity exercise in general is helpful, but running seems to deliver the most immediate and most reliable hit. People in my circle know that if I’m struggling, an entirely appropriate suggestion is to go for a run. It doesn’t magically make everything better, but it does improve my mood and tidy my mind.

The thing is—I don’t love running. It vacillates between pretty good and tedious, depending on the day. I don’t run long distances. (Two half marathons taught me that 13 miles is too many miles.)

On the other hand, I love how I feel after I’ve run.

Between the couch (or the bed) and the post-run goodness, I have to get changed (ugh), I have to wear socks (ugh), I have to run (ugh), I need to wait until I’ve cooled off before I can shower or change or I will get out of the shower still sweating* (ugh), I need to get dressed again (ugh).

(*In the summer here, it takes at least 20 minutes after coming back in the house to stop sweating, but since we put in a pool, I just jump in after a run and refresh that way and that’s definitely not at all ugh.)

There are a lot of places for this to get derailed.

As a result, I’m quite used to forcing myself to exercise when I don’t really feel like it.

Speaking of “when I don’t really feel like it”…

High-functioning depression requires so much powering through. Getting tasks done when I don’t feel like it is a way of life.

Enter shelter-in-place.

I will not be in a good head space if I stay in my house all day.

I get up and get dressed every week day. This still affords me “lazy Saturdays” if I want them.

The weather was gorgeous when this all broke in March. It was easy to go for an afternoon walk and a run some other time and a bike ride with the family in the evening.

And then it was summer.

Afternoon walks stopped.

I learned to get up and go for a run first thing in the morning. And to do something outside in the evening when the sun was low or set. Whether I felt like it or not, because my mental health depends on it.

This is what I’ve been doing all along. The what and then when look marginally different. When I go back to working at work, running in the morning will stop, because I have a limit on how early I’m willing to get up. I don’t need to worry about that now, though. All I need to know is that this morning, I dragged myself out of bed and went for a run.