SLOW and Steady Wins the Race

I’ve really wrestled with what to blog about this month. There is so much consternation around “returning to learn” and how things will be for schools in the fall. The race is on and planning is underway. Concern for students’ and educators’ health and well-being is paramount. Can everyone adhere to safety measures if in person instruction occurs? Conversely, there is worry about academic progress (or lack thereof) and other implications for families with remote learning. There are valid points to each perspective, pros and cons galore. Everyone has an opinion and often those are made public (as is the way of our world these days). It can become all-consuming and is easy to get caught up in the swirl of the conversation and is equally easy to be drained by it. It feels like this is no win situation.

At times, I’ve had to step away from social media and the ongoing dialogue. (or even while writing this blog and reflecting on this topic, I had to step away for a piece of chocolate rum cake my sister made me…see how I practice self-care?!) It can become anxiety producing to play through all of the various scenarios. I asked my 10-year-old niece what she hoped would happen in the fall and she was divided. She said, “I want to be at school with my friends and teachers, but I don’t want to have a wear a mask all day.” Then she added, “I don’t think I could sit in front of a computer for 5 hours every day and I don’t really want to.” Additionally, I’ve asked teachers I interact with how they are feeling about the fall and their perspective about the different options. So many of them also see both sides. They love being with the students (their reason for going into this profession in the first place). But also realize the difficulty of ensuring everyone’s safety in the building.

Regardless of how things play out, and it seems like it will be different depending on location, now more than ever the need to attend to self-care is essential.  It can seem impossible to prioritize self-care during “crunch time” but that’s when it’s needed most. It is easy to get caught up in all of the noise and stress of the to do’s and neglect ourselves. I know I’ve been guilty of that many times (and shared about those times via previous blogs). But my encouragement to you is to find those moments to go SLOW and steady.

It can be difficult to do that, while racing (or zooming) through the day. There are requests and deadlines and emails in addition to our own personal anxiety about the unknown future. However, I’m learning new ways to ensure that I go SLOW and steady myself while the world spins around me. I have recently started to set boundaries with my schedule. I am intentional about how many meetings I will schedule in one day or if I have an unusually full day, I lighten the load for the next day. I look ahead and think about how much I can handle depending on the intensity of the meetings at hand. Do I have time built in for a bathroom break, to walk the dog at lunch, to even eat lunch? (sometimes I take a 10-15 power nap during my lunch break if I have a full afternoon of meetings). I have also begun to ascertain my level of involvement in certain meetings. I’ve begun asking if or how much I’m needed for certain meetings? Or maybe I am not needed for the whole meeting? Perhaps I stay for the first 30-45 mins to contribute and then bow out. (But note, IF I do that then I am truly present and participate during that set time). I have also established “hard stops” at the end of the day especially on those days I’ve gone back to back.

Lastly, I’m continuing to work on staying in my lane. I am realizing I don’t always have to “fix” everything (which is completely unrealistic anyway). I’m practicing staying quiet and letting others do some problem solving. I’m finding that I don’t always have to insert myself and not everyone needs to know my opinion and sometimes my opinion really doesn’t matter. It’s good to stay quiet and listen and learn. These strategies have helped me reserve energy and are allowing others to grow and develop as they take on leadership roles.

Last week a colleague said “Lauren, I’m impressed because I’ve noticed you actually do make sure you build in small self-care activities for yourself”. That was one of the best compliments. I hope the same can be said of you by your co-workers. Let them take notice of the ways you ensure you go SLOW and steady, so just like in the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, you win your race, whatever the course.

Speak Your Truth

These last several weeks with the protests and the commitment to change racial inequality, social injustice, and police brutality have moved me. It has been heartbreaking to see the loss of life, to hear the stories and experiences of so many and it’s been humbling to do my own reading, soul-searching and reflection on ways I have contributed to this societal norm, even if inadvertently. I have spent my career advocating and fighting for students who attend schools in under-resourced communities but that doesn’t mean I am not culpable or don’t have more to learn or change as we work to establish more equitable practices. Aside from those emotions, I have also been inspired and impressed with the courage and honesty expressed through the peaceful protests. I love seeing the diversity of them, people from so many walks of life joining together as a unified front demanding change. It gives me hope for a better tomorrow for humankind.
In addition to this larger scale reckoning with reality, personally I’ve had my own opportunities recently to speak my truth. I’ve had a few experiences or conversations that didn’t sit well with me. I’ve gone on my own “protest”, (which means walking around my neighborhood to sort out my feelings). I’ve had to wrestle with my truth and find the courage to speak it out loud to others, to honor myself. I’ve had to communicate what I am ok with and what I’m not. Being vulnerable is hard. Being honest about my thoughts and feelings in personal and professional settings can feel awkward. Putting my needs first at times can feel selfish. It isn’t always easy, but it is freeing.
For years, my goal in life (among many others) was to be “Happy and Free”. Generally, I feel like I’m there. But when I’m not “happy and free”, I feel that too. It’s not a good place to be, my stomach hurts, I don’t sleep well, I can’t focus on other things. I don’t like it there and feel unsettled until I return to that space. I think many people share that same experience. They aren’t happy and free. Unfortunately, it is easy to become used to that sense and eventually become immune, unaware and feel stuck. However, you/we, have the power to ensure our happiness and freedom. We become empowered when we say what we need or want. It’s ok, speak your truth. Be honest about what you are feeling. Share your perspective. Have those crucial conversations. What works for you? What aligns to your values, your desires, your plan for yourself? I’m giving you permission to voice those things to others. You have equal value and importance.
Because I’m still learning how to speak my truth, depending on the intensity of the situation I sometimes have to practice. My family laughs at me, but I have even been known to use note cards. I jot down my thoughts/feelings on an index card or in my journal to ensure that I say everything I need to say. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the moment and forget important points I want to ensure are communicated. This technique gives me strength and courage to use my voice. If it was significant enough to write down it also needs to be said. I don’t always need that assistance, especially as I continue to practice and build my truth-speaking muscle, but when I do need it and use it, it helps.
When I’m in my car, which has not been much lately, I sometimes listen to stand-up comedians on Sirius radio, depending on my mood and what I need at that time. Now that our shelter at home has been lifted, I went to meet a friend at a park. On the way, I heard a comedian tell a joke about his pledge to live by the 10 Commandments. He mentioned how easy it is to keep some of them but how hard it is to live by others. He gave examples of various commandments and his effort to abide by them. He shared that he is committed to “not telling falsehoods” and always being honest. He said his approach to this feat is to use a different tone of voice (i.e. sarcasm). It was hilarious! And timely since I’d been thinking about this whole “Speak your truth” notion. Being honest is hard! It takes courage, whether you are one person in a large group of people who all share your view (although strength does come in numbers), or if you are alone, with coworkers, your boss, or your family and friends, standing up for yourself. But speaking your truth for you is necessary and worth it! I want you to also be happy and free!

Reset

If you follow me, you know I write a monthly blog and post it on the first of every month. This is my third blog since the pandemic began and my second one since we’ve been in “shelter in place”, at least here in Michigan. It’s surreal to think that we have been in this stance for over 70 days. In some ways it doesn’t seem possible that two+ months have passed already, yet on the other hand it feels like we have been like this “forever”. In the last couple of weeks, it seems like people have begun to regulate, learning to adapt and adjust to this new way of living. We are used to zoom meetings now (and starting to complain about them, like we did about our in-person meetings). We have become accustomed to donning masks and gloves if and when we leave the house. We monitor the COVID data and celebrate that flattening of the curve and the decrease in daily cases/deaths. And we are acknowledging the silver linings (see March 2020 blog); appreciating John Krasinski’s “SGN” vlog, virtual happy hours, more time to connect with family and friends and binge watching everything. Through all of the difficulties we’ve experienced in these last few months, we have proven our resilience.
Recently, I was asked to record a podcast with an organization with whom I have a contract. During our conversation on the podcast I was asked what I hope comes from all of this. I told them the word I keep using is “Reset”. (I even asked my son, who is a musician, to write a song called “Reset”. He is working on it. I heard his lyrics and cannot wait to hear it once it’s completed).
We are all well aware that life before COVID, was harried and had been for some time. Stressors were increasing, mental health and wellness decreasing. People were buckling under the pressure of expectations and demands. Struggling to keep up was the name of the game. “Busy” was the given answer when inquiring about how someone was doing or how things were going. I felt it, noticed it, disliked it, and thus began Living S.L.O.W..
I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I choose to believe that good comes from bad. I am the type of person who looks for “the lesson”. Why is this happening? What is to be gained from this experience? I have fought to hold to that belief even during this time. Fighting to see the good and looking for ways to use this time to continue to evolve into a better version of myself.
As many states begin to re-open, signaling our emergence back out into the world, my hope is that this is an opportunity for all of us to reset. Take this moment in time to realign and re-establish our priorities. Ideally, we would reset globally, politically, nationally. I would be thrilled if there was a reset academically. As we moved to online learning, did you notice the shift to just focus on the basics? Checking in with every student, making sure they were safe and secure. Did they need food or emotional support? That became our emphasis. Permission to lighten the academic expectations, including no achievement tests and modified AP tests was allowed. We started to pay attention to the humanity of students, their families, and educators. How can we carry this forward in the coming months?
I’m not so sure my grandiose wishes for a complete overhaul of our established systems will be realized, but if nothing else, perhaps we can reset personally. That’s always a great place to begin. What are things you have been doing now that you would like to continue? Have you taken more time to get outside? Taken more walks? Become more physically active? Spent more time with family? Reached out to friends more often and in innovative ways? Developed new hobbies? Read more? Found creative outlets? Become more patient and tolerant while waiting in long check-out lines? Acknowledged people normally taken for granted (cashiers, nurses, teachers, mail-carriers)?
Just like iron is refined with fire, so is our human nature. When push comes to shove, many of us rally. We come together, make adjustments, rise to the occasion, and come out on the other side stronger and better. Let’s commit to using this time, however long it lasts, to establish and maintain the good that has been produced. It is time for a reset!

(last minute addition: in light of the recent events this underscores the need for a reset)

Do What You Can

A couple of years ago a friend of mine sent me a quote that says, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” I have it hanging up in my office and refer to it often, either for my own personal reminder or to impart it to someone else. My understanding is that the author of that statement is unknown, but whoever originated it was on to something!
Initially, as things were beginning to shut down due to the Corona Virus, and people were encouraged to stay home to “flatten the curve”, I thought, “this may be an opportunity for people to go SLOW”. I had the misconception that things were going to lighten up for many of us, especially for those of us who work in the field of education. I knew it was going to be challenging for workers in the health arena (although I didn’t realize to what extent-so let me again say “Thank you” to those professionals). However, I also didn’t realize how drastically things were going to shift for our educators either. It’s been impressive to see the efforts made by so many teachers. I see them working tirelessly to connect with students, ensuring their emotional well-being while also stabilizing and enriching their academic achievement. What I thought was going to be an opportunity to move forward at a more reasonable pace has become yet another break-neck race, complicated by various limitations, including attending to personal familial needs and priorities, along with any emotions; fear, anxiety, grief, that are bound to be felt at this time.
On that note, let me take a moment here, to give you permission to feel your feelings (and to let others around you feel theirs) all without judgment. These are scary, uncertain times. It could feel unnerving to not know when all of this will end. I suspect if we knew for sure that by XX date this would be “done” it would be easier to manage. I imagine we would have countdowns everywhere, “12 more days, 11 more days, 10 more days…” Unfortunately, that isn’t the case and so we continue to move ahead, not knowing exactly where the finish line lies BUT knowing we are making a difference, doing our part, while staying at home. And we will get through this together.
Additionally, there is a lot of grief being experienced. Loss of loved ones, loss of time with family and friends, loss of freedom, loss of milestone celebrations; birthdays, weddings, graduations. It is ok to be sad and disappointed about what we have sacrificed. Take the time to mourn those things. Cry your tears, journal your thoughts and emotions, allow yourself to go through that process. Feel your feelings. It can be healing.
It has been stated frequently, that these are unprecedented times. There is no guidebook for how to transition work, school, life into sequestered states. We are all trying to figure it out as we go. How do we feed hundreds of thousands of children? How do we ensure students have access to technology they need to continue their education? And how do we in some way do all of that while supporting a myriad of emotions? It’s a lot to expect.
As I connect with educators across the state and nation, my encouragement to them is the same. “Do what you can”. That’s all that can and should be expected. We can not give more than we have to give. It can be easy to blur the lines between work and life when you are at home. I noticed that happening to me a few weeks ago. I was working long/late hours, burning the candle at both ends. That lasted about a week or two until I realized, “I can’t keep up this pace and stay healthy.” I now deliberately communicate to colleagues when I’m logging off of work and shifting my focus to family and fun.
It is ok to establish boundaries and to prioritize your own health and well-being. Find ways to protect your needs, give yourself time, even while sheltering in place. You may not be able to make a “Target run” but you can walk around the block. Step away and read a book, work on a puzzle, listen to music that uplifts you. Several friends and I have begun sending cards in the mail to 2020 graduates and/or to coworkers. It’s amazing how giving to others also fills you up. The energy you put out in the world comes back to you. We will be forever changed because of this historic time in our lives. I’m sure life will never be the same. I just hope as we re-set, that our commitment to only “do what we can” stays with us long after our masks have been discarded. Stay home, safe and well!

Silver Linings

It’s impossible to avoid the difficult reality we are facing in our world today. It’s the primary focus of all news reports and updates; the theme and thread of social media outlets and peppered into every conversation; it’s top of mind, as it should be. As a school mental health consultant, working on various contracts, including at the state level, it has been all consuming. My job entails supporting students’ and educators’ mental wellness, which has only been compounded by current events. There are many of us who are working extended days to address the physical and emotional needs of students and their families. (I was going to say working “tirelessly” but that wouldn’t be true. We are tired but also highly motivated by our passion to help others). The pressure and urgency to meet the needs of thousands of young people, while also maintaining CDC guidelines and other restrictions offers a unique challenge.
It would seem natural and justified for any of us to feel anxious and stressed during this time of isolation, constraint, and limitation, in addition to other personal difficult situations, I have recently experienced and I know others have as well. However, during all the chaos, emotion and distress, I have been able to reframe and find silver linings. I hoped that perhaps sharing them in this month’s blog would also help you.
Personally, for someone who is on the road FREQUENTLY, it has been a blessing in disguise to be “stuck” at home. I may feel differently in a week or two, but I decided I’m going to enjoy this travel-free time. No suitcase to pack, or arrangements to make for my being away. No extra miles on my car, which means less stops for gas and oil changes.
I also decided I wasn’t going to panic purchase. I didn’t overstock on toilet paper or cans of soup. I’m going to get and use what I need to sustain myself. I also think this is a good opportunity to eat what I actually have in the freezer and pantry. I’ve cooked more in the last week or so than I have in a long time. Feels good to have the chance to do that.
On that note, another silver lining is eating dinner together as a family. This interruption in normal life happenings is allowing for more family connection time. (and we will also need some time alone in our “separate corners”). I’ve heard that sentiment shared by several others, celebrities citing that on their social media and in phone conversations I’ve had with friends.
Which is another silver lining, I have been able to connect with friends more, through FaceTime, text, and phone calls. We’ve sent GIFs and articles, shared our concerns and perspectives and even some laughs. It’s been balm for the soul to engage in those relationships. It helps heal a hurting heart while bolstering the sense of community, we truly are all in this together.
It’s been refreshing to see so many of us unite across the country, through something as simple as streaming live workouts, to learning about acts of kindness, self-sacrifice, ingenuity, proving our commitment to one another. Teachers emailing to check in with students, car parades through neighborhoods to connect with families, food deliveries or pick-ups are occurring. An increased recognition for what educators experience day to day that parents are now undertaking. The acknowledgement of those health care workers who are on the front lines fighting for lives, and health and safety for all of us. We really can pull together as a human race in troubled times. It fills my heart.
My hope is during this uncertain time, not knowing how things will unfold or for how long, that we can fight to find morsels of goodness in all of this. Not to dismiss the seriousness and need to “follow the rules” in hopes to stave this pandemic off sooner than later, but to remember in every hard time, there is always a silver lining. Stay healthy, safe and well.

Charged Up

I just returned from a quick trip to Florida with my youngest sister, to sell our dad’s house and the “love of his life” corvette. It’s a beautiful machine! A 50th anniversary edition with all the bells and whistles, kept in an insulated garage, and was driven only once a week. It even has a trickle charger to keep its battery functioning. You can imagine our surprise when we arrive to the house, preparing to sell both items, to find the car is DEAD! Upon further investigation, my sister finds the trickle charger on the opposite side of the garage. You may already have assumed this but, it is impossible to keep the battery life full if it isn’t connected to its charger. Funny how that works (or doesn’t work), huh?
Of course, we all know the importance of keeping our phones, laptops and other devices charged. I see people hovering around outlets at airports all the time, and often I am one of those hover-ers. My motto is “plug in while you can”. Which was what I’d planned to do while returning home from another recent trip (the week before the Florida trip, mentioned above). Being the multi-tasker I am, I scheduled a work call while sitting at the gate and was chatting away, while also digging in my work bag so I could plug in my phone. As I continued to talk and dig, I got a little more frantic. You know the scene, I’m pulling things out, looking and re-looking, until the grim reality hit me. I left my charger, plugged into the wall behind the bed, in the room where I was staying. UHHH!! I had even told myself that morning, “Grab your charger now or you will forget it”. And sure enough…the self-fulfilling prophecy came true! So, I cut the call short, knowing I needed to save battery power. I had a connecting flight through Atlanta and well, you just never know. I sent texts to my kids and a few others, telling them I would be “off grid” for a bit because I had no charger. Even though it was a little anxiety provoking at first, I quickly realized it was also kind of nice to be forced to “unplug” and conserve power, for my phone and myself. (And I also went into “power saving mode” on my phone…didn’t know that existed. That’s a benefit of having millennial children.)
Those two situations reinforced in me the importance of chargers and how much we depend on them. However, it also made me notice, that we don’t necessarily take advantage of those same charging opportunities for ourselves. There are numerous situations we face daily that can drain our battery, lowering our energy level. Emails, texts, phone calls, deadlines, requests, to name a few. Co-workers, bosses or kids who need attention are never in short shrift. There is ALWAYS something to do or someplace to be or someone who needs something. But often we don’t prioritize ourselves. What about your energy level? Where is your trickle charger? Is it connected? Or is it on the other side of the garage? Do you “plug in while you can” to whatever restores you? As often as we are aware of the battery life of our electronics (or corvettes?) I encourage you to notice your own personal battery life. What percentage are you on? Are there ways you can conserve energy? Can you go into “power saving mode”? What can you do to recharge?
For me it can be as simple as sitting in silence for a few minutes. Or perhaps it is stepping away from the computer to clear my mind for a moment. It could be saying “no” to “one more thing” even though it’s so easy to default to volunteer mode, offering to help in a myriad of situations. Through all of the shuffle of running a business while helping care for a senior (my dad) and care for a senior (my daughter), I am learning to ask for help or even better yet, let others do for themselves. I’m trying to wait (the “W” in SLOW) before I jump in to “rescue” or respond. Taking a minute to determine if whatever it is that lies before me, is something I have the time or energy to take on. Frequently, I can be my own worst enemy, self-inducing expectations that are not realistic or fair or even kind to myself. (Albeit perhaps they are possible but are they necessary?) I’m releasing the pressure I put on myself to be perfect or the first to _______ (fill in the blank). I’m learning to be ok with saying “no” or “maybe later” or “that won’t work for me right now”. I’ve also begun asking people, “how urgent is this request? Can this wait tomorrow (or next week)?” It’s amazing how often that question stops people in their tracks to evaluate the actual level of urgency related to the particular task. So often we are in “immediate response mode” that we don’t realize it may not really be that pressing.
We get to decide how much of our own battery we use up in our lives. It is ok to plug in (or unplug) and recharge. It is ok to put yourself first and take some down time. Look for your trickle charger, connect to it and watch your energy come back to life. You’ll be zooming down the road, just like that gorgeous vette, in no time. (and then you should take another break)

Running Fast vs. Living SLOW

Is it just me or does it feel like we hit the ground running after the holidays? Typically, it feels like we ramp back into “reality” progressively. I have also noticed the last few years, how hard it is for me to unplug, whether I’m going on vacation or just getting some time off work. I have to make a conscious effort to not check email and to intentionally step back. It can be difficult. I worry about “Who will handle that situation?” “What will happen in this circumstance?” “What if someone needs me?”. And then of course all the emails to respond to when you get back. BUT once I do finally unplug, I find it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to plug back in, which is unusual, since I really love my work. Someone said it’s because of my age, which could be a viable explanation. I especially noticed that process this year. I was enjoying my quieter days, slower pace and felt resistance to jumping back into the rat race. It made me wonder, like I have at other times, do we really have to move as fast as we are? Why are we running so fast and so frequently? Why is there so much time crunch and pressure to meet deadlines or make things happen? Where did that shift come from? And when? Has it always been there, and I am just realizing it? I think it has to do with technology and our expectations. There really is very little “excuse” for something not happening “immediately”. We are living in a world of instant gratification. I think everyone senses it, adults and students alike. It can be hard to wait, be patient, go slow.
I am convinced it does not have to be like this, at least all the time. And I am pretty certain I am not the only one feeling this way. I’m hoping to start a mini revolution. I’m asking others to join me in the fight to slow our roll. I’ve had some re-awakenings to the importance of taking a bit more time to respond or react. In fact, often when I’m in the spin and going in fast forward mode, I end up making more mistakes, which ends up creating more work and taking more time (as well as adding more emotional duress or stress, and none of us need any more of that?!) There have been three distinct episodes in the last couple of weeks when I should have taken a moment to regroup and rethink before responding. And because I didn’t do that, I ended up causing myself and others discomfort. It can be a downward spiral from there, I feel upset, so I don’t sleep well or eat healthily. I fret and am not able to give my full attention to whatever task is before me for the day. I can be edgy with others that aren’t involved. It is not a happy way to live and is the opposite of self-care. Those situations were a good reminder to slow down.
Not only have I recognized it in my own life but because of my renewed awareness, I see it in others around me as well. People make rash decisions which unintentionally impact others, which in turn, effects those peoples view of themselves, which can influence their job performance or work outcomes. Can you think of times when that has happened to you? Perhaps an administrator didn’t think through a decision thoroughly and there were repercussions that trickled down to you and your colleagues. That seems to happen frequently. Or perhaps you react quickly to a student in a way that discourages them, they withdraw and don’t perform as well academically. It can set off a chain reaction.
I believe the same can happen if we do the opposite and pace ourselves more intentionally. It could be as simple as taking a few breaths before responding to a student, an email, a parent or a colleague. Maybe you just ask someone to give you some time to think about how you want to handle a particular situation. (i.e. “Can I get back to you tomorrow by noon?”. Perhaps you could ask the decision maker for clarification on why they made the decision they did? (i.e. “Can you help me understand how you came to this conclusion?”) That approach could also help them to slow down and rethink as well. OR you learn something new about their decision-making process, which could help you feel better about it. Another approach to help us go slow, could include setting a deadline that feels more reasonable for you. ( Such as “I’m happy to do this for you. I’ll have time to work on it and get it to you by Friday.”) We may not always have the luxury to incorporate these strategies, but I believe we have opportunities to use them that we may be missing. Please join me in committing to ourselves (and helping others) join in on the Living SLOW mission, so we don’t have to run so fast.

New Year, New Me

As some of you know, in the month of December, I launched a spinoff of Living S.L.O.W.. The new business, AchievHER ™, offers products for women to encourage a focus on self-care, empowerment and inspiration. It’s been an exciting process to see this come to fruition after months of dreaming, brainstorming, planning, meetings and sample development. And as with many new things in life, it has also been an opportunity to learn and grow personally.
It takes a lot to cultivate one business, launch a new one, raise a family and help support an ailing parent (oh yeah and it’s also the holidays, which always adds “extra”). Those were my circumstances heading into and throughout December, which provided plenty of opportunity to practice self-care (or perhaps better yet, TEST my ability to practice self-care). Fortunately, having just come off October and November which consisted of more than usual travel, I had begun to get better at capitalizing on brief moments to take care of myself. And like I say frequently, if I’m touting the importance of self-care to everyone else, I need to be doing it too.
My first AchievHER order, was a success! Many of my friends and family supported the launch and numerous orders were made. I offered two colors with two quotes. People could purchase a pair that say “2020 Vision” or “New Year New Me”. People seemed to love both quotes, but especially resonated with the “New Year New Me” pair. It was so exciting to see the orders coming in! Until… the material ordered by the original identified manufacturer came in and they were HORRIFIC! Unquestionably unusable! Immediately, I had a million panicked thoughts flooding my mind. “These are horrible! I can’t use these. But what choice do I have? Maybe everyone will like them. I don’t have time to order others before the holidays.” BUT instead, I made a choice to SLOW down, take a breath and I found the courage to say, “No. These are not ok. Send them back and we will work with someone else”. Of course, that prompted a mad dash, and an alternative was found. However, this time, I didn’t breathe or go SLOW and made a poor business decision. I had the printer move ahead with mediocre alternative material. I left that meeting with an uneasy feeling and I couldn’t shake it. I kept processing and trying to rationalize or justify my decision, but at the end of the day, the reality was, I wasn’t true to my intended vision and I settled. Now I know, that when I settle, I feel unsettled. Maybe you have felt that too. That queasy feeling when you know you went against your gut or values. It’s easy to feel defensive and try to avoid or disregard what your instincts are trying to communicate. I was tempted to ignore my feelings but instead, I regrouped and figured out my plan of action. Then I was able to get a good night’s sleep and the next day take responsibility with all my brand-new customers (who fortunately were friends and family) and set things right. Even though I understand this is all part of the start-up of a new business, I am learning many important lessons.
One thing I noticed through all of the flurry (albeit excitement) of launching this new arm of Living S.L.O.W. is that if I am not careful, I can lose my voice. Or in other words, I can forget who I am, what I want/need and be true to her. I imagine that can easily happen to others as well. I know according to many of my twitter feeds and per my daughter’s stories of educators in her school who, as the break drew closer, seemed to be hanging on by a thread. The days before a holiday break are a perfect storm, time starts to wind down, student behavior winds up, and pressure to finish a particular lesson or unit increases, all while the teacher’s energy to do it all wains. We kick into default mode, the spin begins, and we forget about us. It is easy to do, neglect what we value or settle for less than, instead of being true to ourselves.
So, as the New Year begins, I am determined to continue to work on going SLOW, staying committed to my values (the “S” in S.L.O.W.) and using my voice. I hope the same for you as well. Together let’s determine that regardless what the new year holds, we will be strong, empowered, healthy and full of self-love. It’s a New Year, be a New Me! I have some undies you can buy as a reminder… (#selfishplug)

Savor the Moment

Most of us have just enjoyed time with family and friends, gathered to give thanks and hopefully partook of a savory meal. Thanksgiving is my mom’s favorite holiday. She loves the togetherness of family without all the chaos that Christmas can sometimes bring. Aside from being with loved ones, another highlight of Thanksgiving is the anticipation of the meal. Can you remember the smell of the turkey or ham cooking? Or the look of the table arrangement and set up? Or the taste of dessert, that you were too full to eat but did anyway, (it’s Thanksgiving after all, those are the “rules”)? Think about all the different flavors and tastes, traditional recipes and perhaps some new ones. The sights of décor and sounds of people laughing, kids playing. If done right, it can be a wonderful experience, especially if we savor the moment. Appreciate the company, relish the food prepared, embrace the time to relax and refresh. Take it all in. SLOWLY.
This year more than previous years, I couldn’t wait to get to Thanksgiving. It was a symbol that my harried travel schedule had come to an end. I am happy to report I survived the unusually busy season October and November brought. I was committed to and intentional about, practicing what I preach. I paid attention and found ways to embed some self-care as I traversed North America, training others on self-care. I used my voice to say “No” to things that I thought would sap energy that I needed to reserve for later situations. I established boundaries and spoke my truth, all things I encourage others to do. I would frequently do some self check-ins to gauge how I was feeling, to connect with myself and determine what I needed at that time. Did I need to step away for a few minutes or could I continue to extend myself to others? It was a good feeling to be tuned into myself and my needs like that. I was able to come off of 6 busy weeks feeling tired but not frazzled. In fact, in some ways I was energized by the experiences I’d had, new people I met, validation that educator self-care is desperately needed and I’m on the right path, helping others in that way. I learned to let things go, like vacuuming and dusting (which still need to be done as I type this blog). I also got better at delegating, letting other people handle things that I didn’t necessarily need to be involved in (see previous blog, “Stay in Your Lane). Not only does this approach save me time and energy but it allows other people to learn, grow and take care of their own business. I only took on things that I knew I could manage. I improved my ability to stop and think, turning off default/auto-pilot mode and ascertaining and employing a self-preserving response. It’s empowering to find the balance between serving others while also serving yourself.
There were many occasions throughout the last 6 weeks I was able to savor the moment. Sitting quietly on a plane or in a cab en route to the airport or a few silent moments in my hotel room, reflecting after conducting a training or conference presentation. I really tried to notice those fleeting moments, capitalize on them and make the most of them. Closing my eyes and taking in breaths or noticing the sights and sounds of things happening around me. I am confident those opportunities are around us often, if we just take time to be in the present and enjoy them.
As we head into the last month of 2019, I find myself reflecting on all this year brought. As usual there were highs and lows. Some experiences I’m glad to leave in 2019 and then other moments and memories, I am excited to carry forward to 2020. It is easy to get caught up in the holiday season flurry, scheduling time to be with family and friends, traveling, holiday parties, shopping, cooking and gift exchanging. It can be over and done before we know it. A blur of love, laughter, red and green lights, eggnog and cheese balls. My hope is as we enter this typically harried time of year, we can find time to be with those we love and who love us, as well as, to be alone with ourselves. Make an effort to focus on what you need, take the time to regroup and rejuvenate as you prepare for all the New Year has in store. Savor those moments. You deserve it!

Take Your Time

October was an unusually busy travel month for me. I was able to attend and present at several conferences and conduct trainings at numerous districts throughout the month. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet new people while also connecting with folks I’ve known for years. Knowing the month was going to be busier than normal I intentionally prepared for what was to come. I anticipated how tired I was going to feel while being on the road and thought about ways I could practice self-care before things kicked in (see blog “Preventative Self-Care”). I also thought through a plan for how to build in self-care during the month as well. I’ve written blogs before about times when things were busy for me and I didn’t handle it well. I really wanted to try to “do it right” this time. I was curious to see if I could practice what I preach when life is exceptionally harried.
I felt pretty confident heading into October. If you read one of my previous blogs, you may remember that my (paid off) car engine needed replacing over the summer. The return of my car, along with health improvements, after a difficult spring/summer had me feeling like I had overcome life’s challenges somewhat successfully. (not to say I didn’t have moments of breakdown, but I genuinely fought to keep perspective and overall did well). Because of all of that, I anticipated this travel season would be easy, comparatively. Plus, I thought, “Surely, I’ve paid my dues for 2019 so I must be in the clear, right?”. Not so fast, sister…. You obviously have more to learn.
While I was out working to support teachers and students (in that order) one school/district at a time, my home life was falling apart one appliance/expense at a time. During one of my stops at home, I realized that we had no hot water. Easy fix, right? Simply relight the pilot light, which I did (and felt pretty empowered about, by the way). But that wasn’t the cause of our lack of warm water. Thanks to google, I discover I probably needed a new thermocouple and enlisted someone to replace that for us while I was out of town, again. (Meanwhile we are going to our gym to shower. Mind you I’m not working out there, just showering?! Probably would have been good to actually USE the gym equipment while I was already there, but…that’s for another blog). The thermocouple is replaced. I return home relieved things were handled while I was away, only to determine there is still no hot water. Which leaves my final option, a new water heater must be purchased and installed during the one weekend I’m in town. Fortunately, I found a plumber to do that for me on a Sunday, and hundreds of dollars later we are back in business. The very next day, as I’m preparing to leave for another trip, I realize our house is freezing. As “luck” would have it, my furnace is now not working. It’s at that moment that I stop and decide I have two choices here. I can have another breakdown, which seems reasonable or I can go S.L.O.W. and take a deep breath and reframe (see last month’s blog). I determine it is easier and more beneficial to stay calm and keep perspective. I begin to wonder, what is the lesson here? What am I supposed to be learning through all of this, as things continue to pile on.
As I’m driving to my daughter’s parent/teacher conferences (yes those also happened during all of this as well), I thought about all the educators who may feel like “things continue to pile on” for them. Just when they have their curriculum figured out, the district changes it. Or they are transferred to a different building. I also thought about people who are less fortunate. Some may not be able to afford a new water heater or furnace repairman (or a new furnace-which as I write this is still to be determined). Things can always be worse AND things also get better! I’m still not exactly sure what I need to gain from all of this pandemonium, but I do know things work out, eventually. I’m grateful for the wonderful, friendly, highly skilled servicemen who helped me. I am grateful for the resources to afford those services rendered. I’m grateful that I was determined to take care of myself, taken advantage of slivers of time to go S.L.O.W., be still, present and attend to my needs.
I believe whole heartedly that if you are aware, in times of normal chaos or even in unexpected heightened chaos, you can find time and peace. It may be while you are sitting in traffic, with no choice but to wait, or on your way to the gym to shower, or waiting for a repairman. Use that time to breathe and reflect on all that is good. Or perhaps you are standing in line at the grocery store or waiting to deplane (why does that process take SO long?!) take a breath, count your blessings and use that moment for you. If we really paying attention, regardless of our circumstances, we can find time for self-care. It’s there, for the taking.