12 Questions to Ponder

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Choices. We have many. Even in difficult, uncertain times,WE HAVE CHOICES!  It’s the factor that separates humans from other animals. We have this amazing power to make choices. We only use about 10% of our brain, however within that 10% we are constantly making choices.

Right now I imagine, like my family, yours is trying to weigh the positives and negatives of the choice to send our children back to school face-to-face, or the choice for the new virtual school options being offered by some school districts. This choice is not easy. It’s new territory. Instead of thinking of all of the “What ifs”, I wanted to share some questions that helped my hubby and me think through this choice together.

Questions for Parents:

  • Is our home environment comfortable and nurturing for our child to stay home?
  • Do we have to go to work outside of the home?
  • Is there a parent/guardian/ adult to check in on our child when doing virtual school?
  • Is our child independent enough to navigate 30 minutes of focused learning online at a time?
  • How will we continue to provide in person socializing for our child?
  • What health concerns does our family have?
  • If the COVID-19 pandemic was not present, would we consider virtual school?

I encourage you to include your children in the conversation. The more empowered they feel, the braver they will be no matter what choice you make! (Age appropriateness of course) We are having a family breakfast meeting to ask our 7 year old daughter.

Here are questions you can ask your child:

  • What do you like most about being at school?
  • What did you like most about eLearning in the spring?
  • What do you like least about school? (pre-pandemic)
  • What did you like least about eLearning in the spring?
  • Where do you  feel the safest?

We’ve talked A LOT. We’ve had sleepless nights. We’ve cried. We’ve written out all the pros and cons. We’ve talked with friends who are also making this tough choice. In the end, I honestly do not believe you can go wrong on this choice. You just have to make the choice that you feel is best for your family. At this time. Amid uncertainty. What impact will this one year have on you, your family, your child?  Will it really matter 5, 10 years from now?

We plan to make our choice within the next 48 hours. Maybe you’ve already made yours.

There will be challenges either way. There will be growth either way. Focus on the good. Choose what’s best for your family out of love, not fear. And remember outside of our comfort zone is where the magic happens!

Thank you for reading,

Kristen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PLANT THE SEEDS OF HOPE

One thought, one word, one person, one act of kindness, These are how we plant the seeds of HOPE!

We are living in complex times. Covid 19 Pandemic, Racial Injustice, Political Discontent. I’m at a loss for words that can solve all of these in one larger movement, other than PLANT SMALL SEEDS, AND HOPE!

This year when we planted our garden, we decided not to get starter plants, we decided to try planting seeds and hope that they would bear fruit/vegetables. We are new to gardening and we know that we still have so much to learn! We’ve learned that we can’t control the seeds, but we can nurture them to grow into what we want! I believe this is similar to changing the world for the better.

I have gratitude and respect for the brave activists who are showing up to PEACEFULLY demonstrate and speak out for their beliefs. Please know that while you are doing your part, I’m doing mine too. It just looks different.

I’ve been a teacher longer than I’ve been a parent. I thought I knew a lot about kids and teaching. LOL! As a teacher and a student I’ve always just liked to learn new things. I’ve always tried to plant the seeds for students to want to learn. To question and think. As a parent I’m trying to plant the seeds in my daughter to be a kind person, first to herself, and then to others. Now I’m trying to blend these two things together, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to continue being the change I HOPE to see in the world. The change that I DO see in our world. One person, one moment, one breath at a time.

In our home, and with our friends and family we are having tough conversations. I HOPE you are too! It starts with a question. When George Floyd was killed, I asked my daughter (without her knowledge of anything really happening other than “the virus”) “Do you notice some people have different color skin than us?” She does. She replied by naming her friends and classmates who have different color skin and how it’s so pretty! We all see color. Truth. Color makes our world beautiful. Embrace color. Let it be what helps us see the beauty in our world.

I HOPE we learn from our mistakes, and do better. Good people make mistakes. When good people reflect on their mistakes, and learn to do better, we grow. Truth. Let’s reflect on how far we’ve come as a society, let’s learn from the mistakes, and let’s work together to grow! I’m learning A LOT by asking questions and reflecting on my own thoughts and actions.

I HOPE we work together as humans to be kind, partner in our efforts to educate OURSELVES and others. We are all human. Truth. As this time period is being written into our human history, let’s create more hope, less fear. Together.

Thank you for reading and I HOPE this planted another small seed with you!

Kristen

Restart

It’s been a year since my last post. I’ve been collecting ideas and taking care of myself. I’ve been working towards my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training. I’ve been teaching and learning. I’ve been enjoying time with my family. And now, for the past two months, I’ve been shifting my course. In this time of quarantine and Covid-19, I’ve been thinking a lot about the paradigm shift of the universe. Sometimes we have to be forced to change, and that time is now. Change has never bothered me, however this is a different kind of change. This is a bigger change. This is change for the better in our world.

In talking with people, many wish for us to return to our “old normal” Some wish to end the stay at home orders, the isolation, and the down time. There are things I miss, however, I don’t believe we are going back to what we knew before. I believe we are being taught how to hit the RESTART button. I believe we are learning how to shift our perspective. I believe we are learning how to be GREAT again.

Hitting the RESTART button doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Think about how many times you have a day that didn’t go as planned, but you tell yourself, “It’s going to be better.” Tomorrow is a new day.” While I don’t diet, diets are the perfect example of “restart”. This is our chance to shift our mindset to one of positivity and hope instead of fear and doubt. Look at the gray areas instead of thinking in black and white. Since that day in March when I was forced to begin teaching online I’ve been mostly excited and inspired.

Let’s relate this period of time to The Great Depression.  I’ve thought about what our grandparents lived through. I’ve thought about the sacrifices that were made. I remember Bop telling us how he gave up putting sugar in his coffee so his wife and children could enjoy some sweetness since it was rationed. Gram told stories about how her family would provide meals to people who helped work for a day on her family’s walnut ranch. And even though there were stories of sadness from that time period, our own grandparents focused on the positive. Focus on the positive. Focus on the good.

In The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu they both speak about how even where there is sorrow and pain, joy lives within all of us. Archbishop Desmond Tutu says, “We grow in kindness when our kindness is tested.”  In the time of Covid-19 kindness has been tested for sure! Out of this, my hope is that we, as humans show more compassion and kindness toward ourselves, which will in turn, create more kindness and compassion toward others.

Don’t be afraid to Restart. What’s one new habit you’ve cultivated in this time?

Thank you for reading, 

Kristen

Enough

Enough.  This word keeps creeping back into my thoughts like a plant growing on a trellis. Enough….Slowly trickling through my brain, into my veins, finally resting in my heart. If we can be still long enough to let it sink in that enough is enough already. I find it entertaining maddening that in our American society, enough doesn’t seem to be enough. In this modern, advanced world, enough still is an abstract concept. We, especially women, have put these ridiculous pressures on ourselves, and expectations that create an unrealistic picture of enough. I believe the men in our world have them too, just different. Can we break the cycle with our children? 

Enough is defined by Mirriam Webster’s dictionary as “in or to a degree or quantity that satisfies or that is sufficient or necessary for satisfaction.” And Google’s  definition is, “as much or as many as required.” Google also offers the following as synonyms for enough: sufficient, adequate, ample, abundant. This last synonym is the one I want to focus on. In our human search for joy, the tendency to focus on “enough” seems to be contrary to the focus on “abundant”. What is abundant or enough for one person might be different for another. Is it really possible that we are enough? Is it possible to stop chasing after more satisfaction, and be still long enough to see the abundance we already have? To be satisfied with what we already have? Better yet, what we already are, as humans?

The struggle is real,  enough rides shotgun with perfection down the road of life. When we change our words, we change our mindset.  I know, so cliche! However, words are powerful. “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Do you agree or disagree? Our mind is such a powerful tool. When our mind is right, our words are right. When our mind is distracted, hurt, or imagining things only our mind imagines, our words get messed up. We choose the wrong words, or worse, we choose the wrong beliefs about ourselves and our journey. We start telling ourselves a different story. 

The true story is this:

Enough IS Abundance

Less IS More

Life IS  Simple

Stop making it so complicated. ENOUGH!!! 

If you made it to here, you’ve read enough, thank you. 

Kristen

 

 

 

Keeping Time

The use of timers isn’t anything new. In fact people have been setting clocks, timers, and alarms for millions of years. So, what’s so different in 2019 about how we keep time? For one, our watches have changed. Do you wear a Smart Watch? Most everything these days is digital, is there still a need for analog? In an old post about how we spend our time, I shared that in education, students are still expected to learn how to tell time using analog clocks. Is this an outdated practice?

I haven’t worn a watch for about 8 years. Then this past fall, I found myself wanting to wear a watch again. I debated whether to jump on board and get a Smart Watch. Then I thought about WHY I wanted a watch again. I am constantly moving from one place to the next, and have to be in different places at different times. I wanted a watch that I could tell time on. That’s it. I wanted a watch that was beautiful, and that would remind me of how precious my time is. I didn’t want a watch that would further distract me from what’s essential. So, I opted for a good, old fashioned analog watch. I chose one that is beautiful because I wanted to add a little sparkle to my daily routine. I chose a watch that would force me to pay close attention to the time. No only did I choose one that is analog, I also chose one that doesn’t have any numbers on it. Each time I look at my watch, I look closely to tell the time and to think about how much time I have to spend on what I’m doing.  I didn’t want to be distracted by emails, alerts, and the such.

Time is the one commodity that we all are given the same amount in a day. By wearing my watch, I continue to remind myself that how I choose to spend the time I’m gifted, is just that, a gift. Am I able to set an alarm on my watch? No, I have my phone for that, and Alexa at home, and a timer on my Smart Board at work. I have plenty of options to set an alarm and to set time limits. But my analog watch is a reminder that each precious tick is a moment I can breathe in and exhale out. Each tick is a second I’m using for good or for waste.

I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong way to keep time. I think everyone should choose to keep time with whatever device works for them. I think you should choose the tool that will help you use your time wisely. My daughter has recently asked for a watch of her own. I’m excited that she feels ready to start keeping track of time on her own. We’ve used timers around our house since she could understand the concept, “when the timer goes off”.  I’m going to let her choose which kind of watch she wants, digital or analog. The concept of time is more important than the tool she uses to keep track of it. The fact that my husband has a “smart” watch and I have an analog should help her see that different tools work for different people, there’s more than one way to tell time.

What are your thoughts? Which tool do you prefer to tell time on?

That’s all the time I have for now, until next time, thank you for joining me on this journey.

Kristen

True North

I don’t know why but this week I’ve been a bit of a grump. My husband is ready for my funk to clear as am I. I’m putting unnecessary pressure on myself because the 4th quarter of the school year is quickly approaching. Try as I might, this weekend I spent too much time worried and anxious about “getting it all done”. I think I know why.

Recently while participating in some professional development I had to identify my leadership style in one of the following ways: North ( taking risks and getting things done), East ( big picture, creative, no clear plan to get there), South ( relationships, make everyone happy), West ( Data driven, like to see the analytics). It was tough to decide on just one because I believe I fall into each of those categories, but in the end, I found myself a true North.

I like to check things off my list. I feel a sense of satisfaction by making lists and crossing things off. And then adding more onto the list. I also can get extremely frustrated with myself for making these never ending lists and constantly find myself “doing” stuff. I can get hyper focused on one thing and won’t be satisfied until it’s completed. Or annoyed if interrupted.

It’s part of who I am. It’s not my favorite part, but knowing myself and recognizing when I get hyper focused I am able to take a step back and re-balance myself.

Being mindful of our least favorite traits can help us discover more about our true self. Something I’ve started doing is to make a list of how these traits can be an asset, in my personal and professional life.

At home, I make lists for what projects we want to do, cleaning and organizing that needs to be done, and general weekly/weekend to do lists. This is helpful to my husband because he doesn’t have to read my mind and he can pitch in and help get things done. It’s made us work together as a team.

At work, I make lists of just about everything you can imagine! What to plan, what needs to be prepped, feedback I need to give, students I need to check in with, emails I need to send, parents I need to contact, and it goes on.

You get the picture. List making is just part of who I am and what I do.

It also might be why I like flair pens and pretty paper!

So in an effort to get past my grumpy mood, I made some lists to get the week started off positively.

To Do: Just Breathe and Be Present

To Have: Sense of calm, it’s going to be okay.

To Be: Myself, can’t deny it.

To Let Go: Fear and anxiety about getting it all done. I do enough.

To Dream: Our mountain or beach getaway we’re saving for.

Thank you for reading and joining me on this journey.

Kristen

Begin, but Finish Strong

 

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Habits. Words. Intentions. What do all of these things have in common?  Our intentions help us choose our words. Our words become habits. Our habits become our life. Just over 30 days ago I decided my journey to become a better version of myself was in need of a new path. I started restarted some habits. I’ve broken past old, destructive habits. I defined and named what was holding me back from using my authentic voice. I found my true voice beyond writing. That’s been liberating!

I recently read somewhere that it’s not about how you begin something, but rather how you end it. The more I’ve let this marinate in my thoughts, the  more I’m beginning to believe that our ending is way more important than our beginning. And I don’t mean this in a morbid way.

Let’s take parenting for example. Parenting is the all time reflection of our flaws and our favorites. It constantly pulls us in different directions from what’s easy and comfortable to what’s right and uncharted territory. I don’t know about you, but I’m always asking for wisdom from parents who have traveled the path before me. Even if our paths aren’t the same, I try to learn rather than aim in the dark. But here’s the thing, when we first start out as parents, our children are none the wiser. And really, as we carry on, they don’t know much more than us either. I used to have this awful perspective that it was option 1 or option 2. It was going to be this way or that way. It was going to be black and white with no gray areas. In parenting, in life, there are many  different  colors. Each shade is a combination of what we know and what we don’t know. Sometimes creating completely new colors we hadn’t imagined. The color we end up with when all the “mixing” is done can be more beautiful than any color we could have imagined. What am I trying to say?  What this means to me is that when we finally let go of the “vision”, the perfect vision, an even better vision emerges. So don’t focus so much on how you begin something, don’t even put so much emphasis on how you’re going to get there. Instead, allow yourself the freedom to wade through the murky waters, try different ways, and just don’t stop!

Thank you for reading and for continuing this journey with me.

*Kristen

Reflections and Intentions

When I look in the mirror I see some fine lines, I see a few more gray hairs. I see a very transparent skin that fears everyone else sees right through it too. As I read back over my blog posts of the last year, I didn’t see any of the flaws. I heard my strong voice. I heard my passion. I heard my confidence. I read my story. I read my truth.  

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Living our truth takes courage. Yesterday I attended my 2nd annual intention setting workshop followed by Yoga Nidra. I struggled to complete my vision board during the workshop. It might have been I was distracted by the fellowship and conversation. It might have been that I really needed that time to think about where I’ve been this past year, where I am right now, and where I want to be. The struggle is I don’t have a set destination anymore. I want to live each day with joy.  My personal and professional goals are smaller. I’m not looking to be recognized or applauded. I want to be remembered for little things. 

The little things are what matter and where happiness lives. I had a “small” goal to make something for my daughter. Something I’d never made before. It was hard. With some encouragement and cheering from others, last night after everyone else had gone to bed, I completed the project!  Look for a future blog post about my lessons in sewing.  This morning I was able to present a dress to my daughter that I made. It was a little thing.  It’s not perfect.  She LOVES it!  I love that I did it! I want more of this joy.

Last year I made two vision boards and hung them both in my bathroom so I could see them everyday.  My intention last year was to spend time doing more of what I love. My intention was to bounce back to myself who I felt I’d lost. My intention was to experience more joy in the little things. As I reflect on 2018, I did spend more time on things I love. I’m still getting to know my true self, and I’m finding more joy in little moments. I’d say it was a successful year. 

After I finished making the dress last night, I sat at the kitchen table with my wine and my vision board. It was easy to complete my vision board with no distractions.

2019 Vision BoardI want to get my work done in record time.  I have to say, “I’ve done enough.” and put it away. Even when it’s not perfect.  I have learned that we are stronger together than any of us are alone. I want to collaborate with others. I want to ask for help when I need it, and offer help to others. I’d like to eat bread and eggs for breakfast, however I know that’s only an indulgence to eat in moderation. The two people in the  middle doing tree pose are symbolic of standing tall, balancing, and asking others to help me keep my balance. The macaroons remind me to allow myself to have nice, sweet things every once in awhile. I deserve them. The cartoon in the middle is a reminder to keep up my yoga practice and to breathe. The picture on the bottom left is the vision I have for recreating my bedroom. The sunflower is to remind me to find the sunshine in each day. And finally, Dare to Dream is just that, continue to dream. While my dreams have changed over time, I will not give up on them. 

I have 3 intentions for 2019.

  1. Let go of fear and anxiety.
  2. More positive self talk.
  3. Be open to new friendships and opportunities. 

What are your intentions for 2019?

Thank you for taking the time to read this and for joining me on this journey. Wishing you joy and health in the new year!

*Kristen

Attitude of Gratitude

They say that 90% of what happens to you is your attitude about it. This is true, especially around the holidays. Life is busy and hectic on a daily basis.  Anxiety and panic set in when I was in Target  around October 25th, the Halloween candy was already discounted and the tinsel and 90 foot yard decorations for Christmas hit me in the face! I told myself, “I can ignore this for a few more weeks, let me just get to Thanksgiving Break.” BOOM! It’s now Thanksgiving Break!

I’m grateful to have Thanksgiving Break. I’m grateful to have a job that I love (no matter how exhausted I am). I’m grateful my  parents live close enough now to see their only grandchild grow. I’m grateful my dad is willing to cook the turkey tomorrow, and my mom came over today to help me clean my house. I’m grateful my hubby gets up at an undesirable hour of morning to exercise before he battles traffic and a long day of work. I’m grateful my sister will be here in a few short weeks. I’m grateful for the many memories of holidays I got to spend with my grandparents and extended family. I’m grateful that even though my parents have been divorced for nearly 30 years, they are willing to break bread under one roof for the holidays. I’m grateful my mother in law is willing to travel and share time with all of her grandkids, no matter how big they are, or where they live. I’m grateful we had the means to get a new deck this year so we can enjoy fresh air and s’mores right in our own backyard. I’m grateful I got out of the house by myself for a few hours. I’m grateful my daughter has friends and knows that she is loved by many. I’m grateful for this life.

Our family entered into 2018 saddened by the loss of my grandmother, while Kevin’s family was still grieving the loss of Bop.  As I look back over the year and ALL that we have to be grateful for, I am reminded that rainbows always come after the rain.  There is always something to be grateful for. There are more peaks than valleys, and more joy than sorrow. Each day is a gift and what we decide to do, how we decide to react determines our outlook.

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions.” -Zig Zigler

I wish you an abundant and happy Thanksgiving.

My Perfect Day Teaching

I know, I know, that word PERFECT is in the title of this post, and it’s the word I try not to use often.  But I need to share  my perfect day teaching that happened recently.  It is easy to get bogged down with the curriculum and all of the demands of teaching, however my WHY, my passion is to inspire students to learn. I want them to devour books so they can always learn and make educated statements. I want them to write so they can share their voice with the world. I want them to be able to see other perspectives, so when they say, “I disagree” or “I agree” they honestly know why. I want them to know that sticking your nose in a book and shutting out the rest of the world can help you relax, calm down, laugh, cry, and explore places you never thought you’d go. How does one do this?

Last week I organized a Genre Book Tasting for my classes. I also  invited a local author who I met in yoga class, to come speak with them and do a mini writing workshop.  Scheduling these two on the same day couldn’t have been more perfect!

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I have a mix of reading abilities in my classes, as does every teacher. I have a lot of really good “word callers” and most are not there yet with reading comprehension. I have students who have only read fiction for the first 5 years of their reading career and now they are faced with being immersed in nonfiction texts. The mere mention of writing makes them gasp because for the past 2 years they’ve been forced to write TDAs (Text Dependent Analysis) that are on the state standardized test. I refuse to let these children think that that’s what reading and writing are all about!!!

AHA, I think I got them hooked! The weather was perfect too, because who doesn’t want to sit in dim lights, eat a snack, listen to Cafe Jazz and browse books when it’s wet and rainy outside?

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By the end of the day, my students were saying they LOVE writing, and they were asking to take the books right off the tables from the Book Tasting! I can’t wait to see my students tomorrow. I can’t wait to read their writing, as many of them asked to take it home over the weekend.  I can’t wait to see how they grow as readers and writers now that they have a new found interest in both.

 

If I’ve done one thing right this year, if I’ve made any impact, THIS is my WHY.  My students will forget a lot of my lessons, but they will not forget the day they wrote a story with an author, and tasted books with their friends!

How did I do it?  It didn’t take much prep because I asked others to help me. About 2 weeks in advance I started gathering what we would need.

I asked our media specialist to gather about 5-7 titles for each of the following genres: Informational, Fantasy, Mystery, Graphic Novel, Biography, and Historical Fiction.

I bought table clothes, plates, and snacks at the Dollar Store. You can have a menu with snacks for different books, however because mine was a Genre Book Tasting, I just gave students some goldfish and fruit snacks to enjoy.

My lovely assistant brought in some Fall scents to make the room smell good.

We brought in some mood lighting to help dim those awful fluorescent lights we have in public schools.

I contacted a local author, Kim Boykin, whose book I’ve been reading. She’s not a children’s author, however she did a great job talking about life as a writer, sharing her process, and leading the students in a progressive story together.

My first class enjoyed their Book Tasting for the first hour, then they met with our author. My second class worked with Kim first, then after recess and lunch they enjoyed their Book Tasting.

I still found that many of my students pick up books at first by the cover, however now I think they understand that you have to “taste” the book before you make a judgement based solely on the cover.  The old saying, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” makes sense to them now.

My hope is that my students will take this new excitement for reading and inspiration for writing with them wherever they go!