Saturday, February 16, 2019

New Orleans Marathon 2019- Marathon #11

            I did not think I could do it, but I did! My feet were in extreme pain just two days before. Not to mention that I went to New Orleans with a young, single woman who LOVED NOLA and wanted to walk all over the night before the race....we must have walked at least 10 miles the day before. 

         Not only did I complete it, but I also beat my past three Marine Corps Marathon times! The weather was amazing! it was a warm 60 degrees, with a bit of a breeze. I ran in a tank top and carried 40% of my water. The support system was amazing. The volunteers were all so supportive and even for the last few runners there was plenty of water and even chocolate milk at the end. 

          If you are wondering whether to do this race, I say do it!! it's super flat, it's at a time of the year when it's not too hot yet and it's not too cold. There was a chance of rain and that would have been fine for me, I love running in the rain, as long as it's warm. 

         I have only done one other Rock and Roll race before, it was the DC Rock and Roll half years ago and I don't remember much of it. But this, The NOLA race, was a wonderful race. I was in coral #9 and it took about 7 minutes from the official start for me to cross the finish line.  

Thursday, February 7, 2019

After 20 years of teaching- 10 things that matter

          This post came to me at 2am on a Thursday, a workday no less. But as a writer, you learn that the best writing comes to you and if not written, leaves and visits another unsuspecting soul. It came to me this quiet morning, as I lay curled up in my bed, that I have now been a teacher for 20 years and in minutes a list of 10 things formed in my head and onto my Iphone's to do-list. Again, as a writer you know to always write down good ideas as they come. So here is my list of 10 things that matter.........enjoy.

1. Parental involvement matters, a lot: Okay, this is THE most important one. You want to give your child a HUGE, and I mean HUGE step up in the world? Two words: get.involved. This does not need to mean you need to get them into clubs, or pay for fancy tutors, piano lessons, etc, NO! this means just simply get involved with your child's life. Did you know Keith Haring's dad use to sit him on his lap as a child and they'd draw together? I do not for a minute doubt that his dad's simple act of doing this mundane and simple task was a major factor in his future success. As you see, parental involvement does not need to be complicated, in fact, the more simple the better. As a grown person, we know so much more than this little person we are raising, simply trust your gifts, whatever they may be and give them to your child in the form of doing it beside them and ultimately with them. If you are good at sewing, teach your child how to sew, if you are a creative person, have them help you while you are creating. It does not mater if your passion is folding laundry or doing the dishes, have them join you while you do the things you are good at. If you fish on Sundays, take them along and let them experience your  passion and most importantly you love of life. You see, you don't need to pay anyone to teach your child anything. In fact, paying someone has its benefits; these are nice perks but they are not going to pack the punch your own loving teaching can muster. If you must decide between giving your child things and giving him your time, choose your time, always, 100%. You see, it's to the skill that you are necessarily imparting here. While its important, what is more important is the love, time, energy that is embedded in the act of sharing with your child. Their sense of worth and belonging is strengthened and because of it they will grow to be emotionally stronger, more self-confident, fearlessly outspoken, and yes, while not the main point, skillful, at something. The list of benefits can extend to the moon and back. I could elaborate all day, but to make it simple, you cannot pay someone to do your child rearing, it's a messy and emotionally tasking job but only you, the parent/caretaker, can unlock the many gifts that your time, energy and love can provide.

2. Words matter: We all already know the possible destructive value of words, yet, we often fail to also see its value and potential in saving a child's heart. How we speak to kids matters so much. I'm talking about tone, I'm talking about word choices, I'm talking about loving words, and prophetic statements. As the grown up in a child's life we have the ability to see this child's gifts before they do, let them know you see these gifts in them. "You are so creative", "You see things in people before others, this is such a gift!", "You will be an excellent grownup one day." "Your kind words makes my heart soar". The love, the care, prophetic potential of such words are worth more than words can say, excuse the pun. Somewhere, I read that the way we speak to kids become their inner voice. This really stuck with me and has shaped how I address not only my own kids but also the students I teach. Words, when used with heart in mind, communicate love, care, and a sense of belonging.

3. How you display work matters: When I started teaching I would always witness teachers threaten to put the art works of kids in the trash if they did not behave. This practice did not feel right, yet, as a young teacher I lacked the awareness to be able to describe why this bothered me. Once you become a parent, it becomes very clear why this is bad. One day, my son brought home a bobble-head clay figure he did in art class and said he was going to throw it into the trash. No matter what it looked like, it was his work and I forbid him from tossing it. I have it to this day. It's one of my favorite little figurines. Products made by children should be treated with respect, whether they are writing pieces, art pieces, it does not matter what the product is.  If you are going to take the time display their work then take the time to make a label, a description. Took any pictures of the process? print them and hang them up too, tell a story of your process in pictures. you don't have a color printer? who cares....hang them in black and white. Did they comment anything meaningful about their work? jot it down, type it up and hang that too alongside the actual work! You don't have to be an art teacher to do this. You do not have to be creative to do this. Come on, we are teachers, we already know how to do this.... do not bother the school art teacher to make you labels....(that is another blog post.....)

4. Emotional intelligence matters: I have worked at 7 schools over the years. In every school I've worked there have been anywhere between 50-120 staff whom we interact with, on various levels, on a daily basis. You will not survive long in a school without emotional intelligence. Humans are messy people. Every single one of us brings to the table our little idiosyncrasies, our triggers, our mental narratives, our biases. Some teachers crash and burn fast without the right tools to survive in such a place. To stay afloat, I try to keep things super simple, here are my two basic rules for maintaining a fresh and positive attitude at work.
* One, DO YOUR JOB, and ONLY your job. Whatever it is you were hired to do at this school, do it to 100% of your ability. If you can do it better than, awesome, but certainly hit that 100% mark. If you are not sure about what your job entails completely, make sure you clarify this ASAP.

* Two, Only CARRY.YOUR.OWN.LOAD. I believe that helping other teachers is absolutely fine and dandy for maybe new teachers and for short emergencies, but helping chronically sinking teachers to stay afloat, and at the detriment of your own sanity, health and professionalism, HELL NO!. This is not helping your students and especially that teacher's students, and ultimately, the kids are who we are here to serve.

5. Community matters: I know this because I have lived it. You can sit and complain that the school you are at is not what you want, but the reality of the matter is that you can be the person that helps make the community you want. Of course, you can always leave one school in search for "greener pastures". I have done this a few times. Yet, switching schools in search for greener pastures is like getting rid of one used car in exchange for another, yes, you won't have the current problems anymore, but others, possibly worse problems, may arise. How we collectively see our roles in the school dictates the school culture. School culture can make or break a sense of community. School culture can be driven and affected by anyone, not JUST the leaders of the school. This is both hopeful and terrifying. Hopeful because YOUR place in this community has so much potential for shifting the entire culture, but also terrifying, for the same reason.

6. Trust matters: When teachers reach a level of trust with one another pure magic happens. Amazing units, creative collaborations only happen when trust exist amongst teachers. This is important for revolving door school systems that hire and fire new teachers every few years do not see how they are poking holes in the very fragile fabric that's need ed for excellent teaching.

7. Self awareness matters: With this I simply wanted to highlight that your NO matters. Like when you are asked to do task XYZ by tomorrow and the person asking has no understanding of your already growing lists of tasks, you speak up and in the most kindest, most polite way say a clean NO. Being able to advocate for your time, your existing knowledge of what your kids need, what you need to do amazing teaching comes with knowing yourself. We will forever tun into people who have NO idea hat we do, when we do what we do, what we teach and how long it takes to plan for these things. For hundreds of years in the past and hundreds of years in the future there will always be other teachers, admin, family that will assume the nature of your job and add to your list of tasks due to these assumptions. Be aware of your needs and limitations, for only then will you speak up to defend them.

8. Our teacher voice matters: Just because millionaires think they know what's best for our kids does not mean they do. The mere fact that they are rich does not make them expect on the little guys you see daily. YOUR VOICE, YOUR OPINIONS, YOUR PERSPECTIVE matters. Become involved with what s happening in schools and become that voice that comes paced with experience, something those business entrepreneurs and millionaires do not have. no, online education is not the future of education, no, fresh young teachers are not better than experienced ones, NO! pay for performance only creates distrust, competitiveness and stress amongst educators, who thought that up?!!!!

9. Stories matter: As teachers we need to begin to use narratives as a friend. Not only do displays that tell the story of the process makes the viewers better connect with the work, but also, embedding what we teach into a narrative helps kids become more fully invested in their own education. I know the important of story through my lack of math skills. Do you know that not one of my math classes actually took the time to explain to me HOW these math concepts were to be meaningful to me. As a result I suck at math. I do! My kids who are on 6th and 8th grade know ore math than me, it's embarrassing. Couching a story, a narrative a WHY will help kids make sense of the world...and maybe better at math.

10. Drama. It does not matter: This goes right along with emotional intelligence above, but I felt it needed its own category. As a teacher, you will witness lots of drama over the years. Make no mistake, dramas are driven and fed by very specific people, they don't just happen. If you are a new teacher pay attention and quickly learn who is stirring the pot of drama. If you are a seasoned teacher, well, you already know these people. Stay FAR away from Mrs. Gossip, Ms. Complainer, Mr. Everyone-sucks, also, stay way clear of Mr. Kids-these-days and most importantly, as an art teacher, I stay far, far, away from Mrs. Can-you-make-me-me-a-quick-sign.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Marie Kondo helps me find relationships that "spark joy"

          I Marie Kondo'ed my closet yesterday. I absolutely love my new closet; I can find everything and anything I need in seconds, even in the dark for those mornings when I have to work early and no one is yet up! But, I also feel like I "tidied up" in my own personal life this year. I held each relationship close to my heart and asked, "Does it spark joy?" and painfully sifted each accordingly, at times, not in very conscious ways.

        I have found that no matter how much you may adore someone, love alone will never guarantee that the relationship will function smoothly, or even survive. If a relationship begins to have piling unrealistic expectations, and/or accumulating unresolved gripes, and/or incredibly painful exchange of words, and to top it off, both sides are terrified of addressing the proverbial, "elephants in the room" (each time an "elephant" is present,) not much can be done to save it, sadly, not even love. For this reason, I have come to view arguments as the relationship's way of "taking out the garbage". Arguments should not be feared, should not be avoided ever. My husband and I argue quite a bit. Not in a yelling way, not in a mean r a violent way. We both argue our points passionately and openly and we always come to some middle ground in the end, most times within half an hour. We use to argue a lot more, not so much anymore. But when we do argue these days we both have instinctually learned not 'hit below the belt', which pretty much means no psychoanalyzing the other, and not touching on known triggers, which we all have by the way. When we apologize, and we both always apologize, we truly let it go from that hug moving forward. It's like setting a reset button. 

          It's quite easy actually, and now that I have done the tidying up of my home, I can see how it also helps in tidying up my heart. Every single person in our lives either sparks joy within us, or not. I have so much love for everyone in my life, past and present. The love pour out of me and into the world and makes me feel connected to everyone and everything, that is always a constant. But each person in our life, no matter how I feel towards them, also brings up a set of feelings in each of us, that matter A LOT to our daily sanity. When my actions and words are congruent to what's in my heart, which they always are, and I am still seen/defined as either broken, angry, or sad there is very little I want from those interactions. We get the freedom to define ourselves ONLY, and no one else. The minute another feels free to tell you your worth or define to you who you are to you, and without your permission...., the relationship is no longer conducive to success. 

            Been practicing wild acceptance of myself these past few months. The premise is 'what would happen if I were just me to everyone, would they still love me? or would they require me to become their version of what I should be. I am all the things I have ever been accused of and more. I am so tired of trying to be other people's versions of me and feeling miserable for always failing them. Who wants to always be wrong? Despite my "horrible failings" I have found a tribe of love, finally. It's what they say about used clothes, one man's garbage, is another man's treasure. Instead of feeling shitty always that I am not who others expect me to be, I will simply be me and see who sticks by me.... it's been wild..... but lots of new adventures await. At least it's not a lonely journey. 


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

5 reasons I LOVE Topos

I have found the love of my life....topos. All runners want to find that one sneaker that feel amazing, and I found it!! 

I have 3 paint of TOPOS that rotate on my runs. I have decided to list all the reasons I am in love with these shoes. 

1. My toes have space to not only not feel crowded but they can also move around freely, and I don't have narrow feet, I have regular feet. 

2. The women's colors do not one in stupid traditional female colors. The shoes are easy on the eyes. 

3. The rock plate on the shoes bend with my feet. At least you don't feel like your feet have to conform to the shoes. NO!! the shoes conform to my feet 

4. They are made to last. I have run in them for many races and they do not show signs of wear and tear as fast as other sneakers I have used. The shape the sneakers also remain true to form no matter the abuse. I am used to having sneakers that start tearing away at the edges, so this is a nice change!

5. No extra padding. My feet move the way they need to move to stay healthy. I get both support but I also get the flexibility to build foot strength over time. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

"The aliveness is staying in a verb"- resolutions of 2019

        I normally have a huge long list of resolutions for the New Year, but no, this year I have two very simple resolutions. Normally, I focus on what I don't want, and list them all, yet, this year I am only focusing on what I do want, and I mean ONLY.FOCUSING.ON.WHAT.I.WANT...nothing else. I want to feel at home in all situations, I want to be surrounded by people who know me, trust me and value me with all my imperfections, I want to navigate doubtless with my intentions close to my heart and be present for my loved ones.....really present. But back to my two resolutions. 

Resolution #1, I resolve to make my comfort level priority in all situations. If something does not feel right, speak up; if a person makes me feel lesser, move away,  if a situation irks me, look at it closer, don't just meek away into mouse-dom. Comfort is the meter by which the instincts speak to one's soul. Whether the people around me understand or not is not the focus. I've come to an age where I can no longer carry both my own expectations of what my life should be and the expectations of those around me of what my life should look like. If there's enough love in a relationship, it will survive the claiming of my own voice, it will allow me to find comfort in my own space. 

Resolution #2, I resolve to make art often, with whatever media, anytime and to make sure to share it with whomever wants to make it with me in whatever way they can participate. I also vow to only worry about making and not to worry about what happens to them after they are made; to give away creativity as it builds and to keep the creative give and take conduit moving to allow for more and more creativity to arise in me. In the past, overly focusing on how my work makes sense to others or in the larger picture has thwarted my creativity. 

         This past year has been good to me, I finished a 50 mile race, I passed my National Boards (which means a huge bonus of $5,000 and a substantial pay increase at work), I ran 775 miles and did over 55 hours of weight lifting. This year I also did some super amazing works at school with my students and have felt the most at home in my body, more than I ever have before. BUT, I think I am just at the beginning of some more great things ahead. I am taking my teaching to another level in 2019, I am running a 62-mile race, I am traveling to 2 states to run races and am going to not feel guilty having fun doing it. I am going to eat better for my body type, yet, not obsess about it, I am going to laugh more, dance more, say yes more and make zero decisions out of fear. So you see, as good as 2018 was to me, 2019 will be MUCH, much better and it will be so because I am in charge of me, because I am choosing the verbs this time. In the words of Poet and author, Mark Nepo, "The aliveness is in staying in a verb." I am the verb this 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Assumptions as walls

       If there is one thing I learned this year it's that assumptions are walls. Assumptions make us blind to what's right before us and it usurps and numbs down our most helpful communication tool, the instinct. Instinct being that very thing that helps us clearly see all that's happening, in 3D, if you may. When we have our instincts fully on, we are paying attention 100% and then some and are able to grasp fully the whole interaction with the other. 

        We often turn to assumptions because they become a convenient way to live life on automatic. There are many reasons assumptions are more convenient; could be that we are in a fast paced world, perhaps, we want to be right and avoid the discomfort of being wrong at all costs, but most importantly, maybe it keeps us from feeling pain or fear, and out of control. When we assume, we don't have to check in, for "we already know", we don't need to ask why, "we already know", we don't have to talk,  we "already know how it'll all go." With assuming, "the other" is this fake virtual other we create that very much resembles the genuine other, with the exception that it's NOT the genuine other. Author, Byron Katie suggests quiet listening as an antidote to assuming, but she suggests the type of listening where one stops participating in the conversation altogether as a way to draw others to open, but also to convince the listener of how much mental noise has been clouding us all along. She likens true listening to a gift you give the other, the gift comes in the form of allowing the "other" to listen to his own thoughts as they leave his lips; in allowing the other to work the correct thoughts out as he speaks, for sometimes we ourselves don't know exactly what will leave out lips before we say it . Therefore, being allowed to express our thoughts is, in fact, a gift. 

           Running has allowed me to fight our instinctual bent towards making assumptions. In order to avoid injury one has to put assumptions aside and really listen to one's body. With every stress, every discomfort in by body I am always seeking THE genuine source; assuming the source may only lead to more pain, maybe injury, so finding the genuine cause to all things inside my body is essential to bringing pain to an end. In general life too, seeking the genuine cause for all things, and not mere assumptions, will always lead the the end of our pain as well.