Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Re-framing Success...

I've been doing a little soul searching and self reflection as of late. It's all been triggered by some changes and stresses that just seem to be part of this middle aged life. I might share some here. I might not share them all. One of the things I've realized in the process is that I need to be better at spending a little extra time taking care of me. Not just the physical me, but the mental me. I'm trying to spend a little time on Sunday afternoons  not just getting our house and family ready for a new week, but recharging myself for the week ahead. Self-care Sundays have begun. and I'm happy to say this, so far, has been one of my favorite views in that process.

And now, back to the planned thought for this post...

- - - - - 

"Change is the only constant in life," isn't that how the saying goes? For much of my adult life, change has been really hard for me. That fact is kind of ironic considering change was a pretty regular part of my childhood. I had lived in 10 ( I think) different houses and attended 8 different schools (6 elementary schools, 1 middle school, 1 high school) by the time I left home for college. But then again, maybe it was repeatedly having to face the discomfort that came with those changes that made me a generally "change adverse" individual. As a shy, slightly awkward introvert playing the part of "the new girl" so often was not my favorite role as a kid. Even now, as a slightly less awkward adult, being "the new girl" in a social setting causes me quite a bit of anxiety. Or maybe change is just hard, regardless of one's childhood experiences.

Recently the team my library program is part of at school went through the process of looking at our current programming and exploring changes that could help our areas make a better impact on our students' learning experience. Additionally, changes needed to be made to help alleviate some of the teacher stress that comes with serving approximately 950 kids, in 6 grades, spread across 2 buildings. It's a lot of kids. Going into the process we knew change was gonna happen, we just didn't know what it would look like. As is generally the case when faced with unknown change, I turned into an emotional wreck. I worried. And I worried. And I worried. (You know, because worrying makes dealing with change SOOOOO much better.) Regardless of how much energy I wasted worrying, change is happening We now know in general what those changes will look like, even if we don't know all the details of how our programming will exactly look as a result of those changes. Life continues to move forward. I still have a job. And now that I've started to wrap my brain around the possibilities the planned changes could create, I'm even feeling a little excited to tackle the challenge of creating something new come next fall. 

As the whole decision making process was going on, when I was considering the fact that come the end of the process I may not have a job, I did lots of thinking about what I would do if I had to start job searching. It's one of  least favorite tasks, job searching. While I pretty much believe I can do any job that I set my mind (and heart) to, I am TERRIBLE at self promotion. And part of my mental block when it comes to self promotion is the conflict I feel between what I grew up believing was a successful professional life, and the reality of my own professional history. 

Successful professionals choose a field, stay in it, move up the ranks, move up the scale of financial reward, and retire having worked in their chosen profession for the entirety of their career, right? 

That is SOOOOO far from what my professional pursuits have looked like over the past 20 years, which has really messed with my internal feelings about my own professional successes. As such, confident self promoter I am not.

The other day I had a brief conversation with a friend who I asked for some advice, professionally speaking. That short conversation started my mental wheels turning. While my professional successes may not follow the path I would have traditionally used to define success, successes have been experienced. Because of the variety of professional experiences I have over the past 20 years, I've picked up some skills I probably would not have had the chance to learn working only in one field. I've recruited, trained, and managed both groups of volunteers and seasonal employees. I've played a major role in planning and executing large scale events. I've learned a number of technical skills from web coding to Photoshop use to some of the finer aspects of information organization and usage. I've marketed businesses, both my own and those belonging to others. And, I've become a writer. That fact, still blows my mind at times knowing how little I cared for literacy related subjects throughout my educational career.

What I've realized through the process of self reflection is what I HAVE done pretty darn successfully over the past 20 years is reinvent myself whenever the opportunity, or need, arises. And I like to think that not only was a I successful in each of the positions I have held, but that I have left programs stronger than when I first started working with them. Re-framing professional success in that manner has started to help me shift my thoughts should the opportunity for me to step into a new professional position come open. For now, I really am happy and excited to face the changes ahead in my current professional setting. Maybe change isn't such a bad thing after all. 

(But hopefully I don't have to test that theory again for a little while. Baby steps. Baby steps.)


peace

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

#whyimarch...


I recently spent an hour of one of my afternoons volunteering in our school's food pantry. It's open twice a month on a regular schedule, and by appointment if/when needed, as a local extension of the Food Bank of Iowa. One of the women waiting in line was a woman who I would guess is in her mid to late 60s. When it was her turn to gather items she had a few questions since it was her first visit. She also had some age related physical limitations, so I stayed near her to help her as she needed. Her eyes lit up when she saw the case of apples that were available that day and asked if I would help her by picking her out a half dozen or so of the not so nice apples so she could make an apple crisp with them. She said she wanted to leave the nice ones for families with kids who would eat them fresh. At one point as I was helping her, she apologized for having so many questions. She then explained that she was a survivor of domestic abuse and that until her husband's recent death, she had not been allowed to go many places and never alone. She felt overwhelmed by all the choices and she couldn't get over the feeling that when she reached out for something she was going to get in trouble. She was so sweet, and so thankful, and I wish I would have asked her name to validate her as an individual, not as someone's property to control, as she had been treated for so many years.

- - -

I could be the poster child for birth control options given my history of use. I have inserted, injected, and ingested the whole range of hormonal birth control options. I've had side affects from frequent bleeding (every 7-10 days for over 2 years), to a systemic allergic reaction (which made it nearly impossible to pick-up my 9 month old for a couple of days), to mood swings so sever I felt like I was going out of my mind. Frequent condom use tends to give me irritation and UTI infection issues. So after Brea's birth, when we were pretty sure we were done having kids and open to long term birth control, but not sure we were ready to chose a permanent option, my doctor suggested a non-hormonal IUD. I'd have to visit Planned Parenthood to have one inserted, but both she and I (and my close friend who is a physician) felt it was a good fit for my needs. I will admit, I was nervous visiting Planned Parenthood because, growing up in a small town, I had preconceived notions about WHAT Planned Parenthood was and WHO went there. I asked a friend to go with me for my appointment, partially because I didn't know if I would be up to driving the hour home after the IUD insertion, and partially because I didn't want to go alone.

IT WAS THE BEST BIRTH CONTROL DECISION I HAVE EVER MADE!!!

The level of care I received that day was top notch. From the receptionist to the care providers who performed the insertion, I was treated with kindness, respect, patience, and friendly smiles. And as I watched how the staff interacted with every person who came to the clinic that day while I was there, I realized that was just the NORMAL way patients and visitors were treated. Period. While I have always tended to be pro-choice leaning when discussions were had about Planned Parenthood, on that day when I was a patient in one of their clinics I realized it's about SO MUCH MORE than just the hot button topic of PP and abortion services. It's about affordable, accessible, respectful, safe, friendly care for EVERYONE who walks through the doors of Planned Parenthood regardless of financial need, age, skin color, or services required. It allows women who otherwise might choose not to care for their own health needs because of cost, accessibility, or the shame caused by other's opinions, to care for their own health needs.


- - -

Over the past 20 years I have had 3 women in my life share their sexual assault stories with me. Three women spanning 3 generations in age. Three women that represent white, middle class, small town America. Women who were all assaulted by well known acquaintances. Some would have even called those acquaintances friends. Friends who were known not only by the women themselves, but by their families. Women who buried the secret and shame of their sexual assault, sometimes for decades, until their souls could no longer carry the weight alone. Women who have not let their assault define them, but who have gone on to do amazing things. Knowing them well, I know they will continue to do so until their final days.

According to a 2010 survey report published by the CDC, 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime. I'm sure none of the women who have trusted me with their assault story expected to be the 1 in that frightening statistic. I don't know a single woman who would wish to be the 1...or who are willing to extend much trust or respect towards anyone who through their actions, or their words, contributes to a culture that allows that statistic to be the reality for far too many women.

- - -

I have sat down to finish and publish this post several times over the past week as my heart has grown heavier and heavier with worry about the direction our new administration is driving our country. Today's news that will directly affect the education world, a world I have found myself digging into deeper and deeper over the past several years, was the breaking point for me to sit down and complete my thoughts for publication. I need the therapy that comes through the process of reflection for writing.

Since the day after the November elections I have consumed news from a variety of outlets in volumes I would have never dreamed I could consume. Life has seemed a bit surreal over the past 10 days as I've watched the political divide in our nation growing ever wider. As I have watched millions of US citizens, leaders of many other countries, and the citizens the world voice their concerns that mirror so many of my own. As I have watched issues that are important to me, issues that I feel have no business being politicized...education, science, our environment, religious freedom, healthcare, basic rights for everyone regardless of age, gender, race, or sexual orientation...become tick marks in the win column for an administration that seems more interested in "winning", no matter the cost, than respecting the diverse nation for whom they are playing.

As a young child, I moved often with my family. From the time I started kindergarten, until the end of my elementary school years in 6th grade, I attended 6 schools. So even though I grew up in a mostly white, mostly conservative, entirely heterosexual (as far as I knew), almost exclusively Christian part of our country, I am far from a carbon copy of that environment. As much as I have struggled with not feeling rooted to a past that I can call my "home", I am increasingly thankful that my childhood experiences did much to strengthen by ability to extend empathy towards others. As a shy, somewhat awkward introvert who was constantly finding herself in the roll of the new girl in the class, I know very well what it's like to feel alone. To feel different. To feel like less than those around you. To feel like an easy target for bullies. So while my experiences may be different in both scale and scope, I can empathize with those individuals who are feeling marginalized in today's political environment. I don't have to share skin color, or religious beliefs, or sexual preferences, or anything more than the fact we both belong to the human species, to have compassion for my fellow humans, and to understand how much it TOTALLY FUCKING SUCKS to be bullied simply for BEING.



I marched because issues that directly affect people's well-being should not be political playing pieces for our government's officials to push around in their ever shifting power game.

I marched for the world I am passing on to my daughters.

I marched because I believe in the power peaceful protest.

I marched because I believe love is greater than hate.

I marched because in this crazy world that makes me feel anxious and scared more often than I'd like to admit, I needed to take care of myself mind, body, and soul. I needed to feel, if even just for a few hours, that even in the face of the political chaos swirling around us at the moment, it's gonna be okay.

I marched, because I have to believe that in the end, it's gonna be okay.

It has to fucking be okay...


peace

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A New Cup...

Many moons ago, when I worked for Grinnell College, I got this cup...


I love this cup. It's large. It's heavy. It's red. It's a shape that feels good cradled in my hands. Everyone in my family knows this is Mom's cup.

When we moved to Carlisle, this simple cup served as my daily comfort and connection to a place I had so loved. To a time in my life when I learned so much about myself and what truly nurtures my soul. Over the years it has become somewhat of a security blanket. My security cup.

Santa left me a new cup in my stocking this year...


My kids at school love books by Mo Willems. Mo's books are silly, and witty, and his Elephant & Piggie series are some of my favorite read aloud books. This cup makes me smile every time I pick it up. I have grown to love my little school library space, and although it can be frustrating and exhausting at times,  I'm glad to have a job to go to that I feel makes a positive impact on the students entrusted to my care there.

Admittedly, I have a bit of a thing for coffee cups, so event though we have more than plenty in our cupboard, I could not resist adding this cup to our collection when I randomly ran across it at Marshalls a few days after Christmas...


While different in shape, both of these cups are large, and weighty, and feel good when cradled in my hands. Since being added to our collection, these two cups have spent very little time in the cupboard as the frigid temps of Iowa winter ha required many warm drinks.

It seems fitting that new cups of comfort have made their way into my hands as of late as I have also felt a bit of the fog that has hung over my heart for the past few years starting to lift. During one of the darkest parts of the year, a time when the air is cold, the nights are long, and my inner grizzly wants to hibernate until spring, I've been feeling quite sunny.

I'm sure a lot of people in my life want to roll their eyes and tell me to just "get over it" when I say I don't know that I have ever really found my sunny side since we moved 6.5 years ago. Yes, I know, it's been 6.5 years. I SHOULD just move on and get over it. Trust me, I'd LOVE it if my heart found it to be just that simple. That doesn't mean that I haven't had sunny days. Life has continued to be lived. Some great memories have been made. Lovely people have been added to our tribe. New passions have been discovered. Life goes on, even on cloudy, foggy days.

Two and a half years I ago I stopped trying to "tough it out", realized I wasn't going to be able to just "choose to be happy", and admitted I needed some help dealing with the depression that had been unraveling the comfortably knitted warmth of my life. Clouds had taken over my inner environment, and I needed some help finding the sun. For about a year, I was experiencing brighter days on a pretty regular basis. Talking to close friends about needing some extra support, and getting a little pharmaceutical help in keeping my serotonin levels balanced, helped me to keep a better perspective on life. It helped me more fully enjoy the sunny days, and remember that when clouds blew in, they wouldn't being hanging around forever.

Then in August 2016 a BIG storm rolled in on a very scary, very surreal night I never expected to experience as a parent. For weeks we were in emergency clean-up mode. As is the case with any rebuilding after a major storm, recovery takes time. Sometimes there are set backs. It was a rough, rough, LONG year and my inner emotional environment did not fair well through it all.

(I have not written much about this particular struggle mainly out of respect for the fact it is not only my story. In fact, I feel a bit uncomfortable talking about here because I don't want to give the impression that the storm, and the after math, were about me. I only mention it because of how the events of that 6-9 months have affected my own mental/emotional well-being.)

There are a lot of areas of life when struggle and failure does not bother me for very long. As confident as I can be going into just about any adventure I decide to take on, failure does not surprise me. Self sabotage much? Yeah, probably. I will own up to that. And when it comes to most failures in my life, I'll own up to those too.

Failed business? I could have done more to promote my services.

Failed friendships? I'm sure I said something or did something to push the other person away. (I mean I even think I'd be exhausting to be friends with!)

Financial struggles? Yep, probably largely my fault as the keeper of the budget and payer of the bills.

That being said, I think I've always been able to accept my weaknesses and failures because there's one area of my life where I've generally felt like I totally have my shit together...being a mom. So when something happens that makes you question every decision you've ever made related to something you felt like you generally really do pretty well, your world kinda falls apart. In my case, a huge dark cloud hung over my inner world for a very long time. A cloud full of sadness and frustration and anger and worry. In hind sight, I should have probably been a bit more responsible for taking care of my own emotional needs as we worked on making repairs in the structure of our family. I should have probably participated in some counseling to help me find some peace, and keep perspective, with all that was going on.

Slowly over the past few months, that dark cloud has been lifting a bit. With time, we've been able to repair much of the initial damage created by that storm. There will always be scars, but life has gone on to find a more comfortable rhythm again. The general mood in our family environment, the center of my life, the holder of the dearest parts of my heart, is lighter. I'm starting to remember what it's like to have more sunshine in my life. Part of welcoming those sunnier days is simply accepting what has happened in the past is the past. Those events can not be changed and lessons have been learned. What we can look forward to is the potential of the future of finding a new place of comfort in the present.

It's kinda like being open to adding the comfort of a new favorite cup, or two, to the cupboard.


peace

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Silence...

I've been thinking a lot lately about silence.

  • As an introvert, silence can be a healing hug when the world is overwhelming me.
  • As a conflict avoider, silence can be a place of safety and comfort.
  • As someone who hopes to offer well informed, thoughtful contributions, silence is often a space holder to allow me to gather more information before joining a conversation.
  • As a teacher of children, silence is often needed to hear the real problem or feeling a student is trying to communicate during a time of distress.
  • As a yogi, silence is the place that allows my body and spirit to speak, hear, and understands its needs and truths.

So much good can come from simply observing silence in life.

Since November 8th, I've been thinking a lot more about the other side of silence. About the unintended messages silence can send in times of distress or conflict. About the darker side of what silence represents.

  • I've been thinking about all the times that I've used silence as a safe, comfortable option to avoid facing conflict, only to feel as though I have fallen short of honoring the beliefs held near and dear to my heart.
  • I've been thinking about when I've interpreted another's silence as disinterest or apathy at a time when I've needed suppor or explanation.
  • I've been thinking about how choosing to stay silent can send a much stronger message about who we are as individuals than words that are intentionally spoken to craft an image of us as a person. 

 Since November 8th, I have consumed more politically based information than I think I have the entirety of the rest of my life. I've read mainstream news. I've read information produced by liberal outlets. I've read information produced by conservative outlets. I've read the blogs and words of well known individuals, as well as those who are not so well known. I have read information covering general issues. I have read information addressing specific issues. I have read information that left me feeling angry. I've read information that has left me in tears. I've read information that has lifted my spirits and confirmed my belief that there is so much good in the world.

As I have considered why I have this sudden obsession for consuming information in an area I normally avoid like the plague, I can only come up with 1 explanation: I'm trying to make sense of, and find comfort for, the feelings I have felt since waking up on Wednesday, November 9th in a country that elected Donald J. Trump for president.

Fear.

Sadness.

Disgust.

These are my true and honest feelings when faced with the reality of America's decision. Feelings I have sat with in silence to observe to be sure they are pure and true.

Feelings not tied to policy ideals or to party alliances, as some who are happy with the outcome of the election would suggest.

Feelings that are FAR from me simply being a sore loser.

Feelings that are an honest response and representation of my inability to support or respect the man who will soon be stepping into one of the most influential and visible offices in the world.

Feelings that align with my disgust for him, not because of a difference in opinion on policy, but because of his bullish behavior and frequently demonstrated lack of respect for the diversity of his fellow human beings.

As a woman, a mother of daughters, and an ally to several women who are survivors of sexual assault, it turns my stomach that a man who has been accused of sexual assault, and who has frequently demonstrated a total lack of respect for women, will lead our country as our next president.

I am sad and worried for those in my life who are gay; for those whose families are a dynamic mixture of nationalities; for those who, like myself, choose to practice a spiritual belief system outside of Christianity, and for the uncertainty that lies ahead in terms of individual safety and freedoms.

I am not naive enough to lump everyone who supports the selection of our next president to his elected office into a group of misogynistic, racist, homophobes, though we can not deny that a number of those very hateful type of individuals have been awfully vocal about their support for Trump. But what I have a much harder time wrapping my brain around is how the silence of those who supported him through this process, how the choice NOT to speak out against such comments and actions, sends a clear message of acceptance of said behaviors. I can't get over how, in the end, maintaining an alliance with party policy beliefs was more important for a large number of our population, including some of own family and friends, than common human decency.

It's a terrible feeling to think people who you love and care for could so easily set aside the safety and respect for certain populations of our fellow humans in support of political policy. Yet, that is our reality. Period.

So for me, as uncomfortable as it may be at times, this election has made me realize that I can no longer choose the safety and comfort of silence at the expense of speaking up about and supporting causes that I feel are important.

  • I will no longer be silent when acquaintances "jokingly" make comments about women. Or about gays. Or about people of color. Or about religious traditions different from his/her own. (It happens more than I'd like to admit.)
  • I will no longer choose to silently support causes important to me because I know there are others in my social circle who disagree with me on hot button topics. I will support them fully, proudly, openly, and without apology so that those who need the support of an ally know they can find a safe place in my presence.
  • I will not silence my intention to create an environment in my home, and a community through my work, that is inclusive, supportive, and respectful.

I will continue to turn to silence for recovery, for reflection, and to recharge, but no longer will I be silent about issues in our society that promote hate, discrimination, and the possibility of the loss of freedoms. No longer will I allow my own fear of discomfort unintentionally send the message that my silence is because of acceptance or apathy.


peace


P.S. After writing this post today, I read this opinion piece in The New York Times, which I thought was brilliant and also features the word silence. I also loved the passion of this piece by John Pavlovitz. And because her writing feels like home to me, I have to share Barbara Kingsolver's words as well. Happy reading.





Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ashamed...

If you are a parent, or even a pet parent, you can relate to the fact that while you always love your kids, there are times in life when you don't like them very much for the choices and actions they make. You spend incredible amounts of energy worrying about them because your heart wants the very best for them always and you know how poor choices can prevent that from happening. Yet as much as you want to protect them, there comes a point where you can't make every decision for them, and you simply have to give them some space to learn on their own the consequences of their actions and choices, good or bad. But through it all, you love them always.

That's exactly how I feel about our country and this shit show of an election cycle we are currently experiencing. I will always be thankful for the blessing of being born in a prosperous, (mostly) safe, and (mostly) free country. Even as a woman, despite the very real existence of glass ceilings, double standards, and general sexism, my life is so much easier than so many other women around the world. But I am far from proud of what is happening across our country in recent days. I do not like America very much right now. It seems that so many have forgotten how to treat their fellow humans, regardless of gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation, with basic decency and respect. People have apparently lost sight of the fact that we CAN actually have differing opinions, even about major issues, and still peacefully and respectfully coexist.

I'm honestly scared of what November will bring. Not only am I worried about WHO will represent our country to the REST of the world (you know, that large planet thing we live on where BILLIONS of other people from other countries also exist), about WHO will be helping to make decisions that will impact our future, but also what our choice of leaders will say about our nation as a society. About how the outcome of this one BIG decision could further divide our citizens on hot button topics such as military involvements, race/gender/sexuality rights, and true religious freedoms. I am appalled by the fact our corrupt political party system has reached a point where the candidates offered as qualified choices to represent our nation are FAR from being examples of the best of what America has to offer to the rest of the world.

I will always love the land of my birth, just as I will always love the places from which my ancestors came outside of this country, but right now I am ashamed of our nation and the character we are displaying to the world around us about what it (apparently) means to be an American.


peace