challenges

The Off Season

I am a teacher. I work from 8:00 am (or earlier) until 4:00 pm 190 days a year. During those hours I am a role model for little kids, a good colleague to my co-workers, and so on. What happens when I head out to stores to do errands after school?

As an elementary school teacher, I honestly still watch myself a lot of the time. I know I could look up at a store or restaurant and see little eyes looking up at me with an incredulous squeal: Mom, it’s Dr. Friese!! This has happened many times. For that reason, I can’t be cursing or loading up on margaritas when I am out and about, especially within a certain radius of my school.

This self-censorship of sorts extends to social media. I rarely post anything except for very “innocent” family or fitness updates. I stay out of photos where drinking or other grown-up activities are involved. I don’t post political content as much as I can avoid it. I have just a handful of select parents who can see what I post. Otherwise, I just refuse most of those requests, but I am still aware than many people could be looking. I sit through legal presentations each year that share examples of teachers losing their jobs because they post themselves doing legal, adult things online that a parent used against them. Better safe than sued or jobless is my mindset, I guess.

Some comments lately had me wondering if this is fair…as a teacher, I feel expected to hold up some sort of rated-G moral standard no matter where I am. The other roughly 14 hours a day and 175 days a year I am not at school, I often mentally steer away from situations where I can be captured doing “inappropriate” things. But is it fair to expect that I’ll just be basically angelic most of the time? Is being a teacher what I do or who I am? Who gets to decide?

Others close to me have been in this situation lately as well. A friend who is a nurse had a family member go through a medical crisis. She wasn’t completely happy with the way all the care was going and let the staff know it. She wasn’t ugly or unreasonable as much as firm and inquisitive. She was told she wasn’t being professional. But her role in this situation was that of a family member advocating for her parents’ health. Does she have to be a professional even in her personal life?

What other jobs seem to carry the expectation of acting a certain way 24/7/365… am I always a mother? A father? How about the captain of an athletic team? Do I have to behave “as a captain” even in the off season? What does that mean? If I am a forklift operator or a chef, I don’t have the weight of those jobs following me around all the time. How about an athletic coach to young people? A politician? A priest? A police officer? Why do some jobs or roles become identities and others allow you to clock out and just be who you are?

I don’t have solutions for this. It just troubles me how some jobs or roles are seen as 24/7 while others can be left behind when work is over. It’s not even the highest paid people who can just shed their professions at will. Some onlookers use these roles as a weapon when they don’t like what you are doing. (Heaven forbid you’re a teacher and post something with spelling errors!)

In the end, we are all just human, with likes and dislikes, flaws and foibles and lives outside of our work. Just a few early morning thoughts.

challenges

Just Disturbing

the threat. The hoax. The stir. The anxiety.  And everything in between. It was a late evening during a weekday and an email popped in from the school about a threat. One that was being worked by leadership. No worries just a heads up.
Then the text messages fly in. The social media posts hit. One of which is below. So many families opting out of school for safety. Some arriving late. What to do? Thankfully we had a preset dental appointment so we would miss the crazy of the morning.

9:30 we arrive at school with a tardy note in hand. It’s an unusual site. 6-7 cop cars and suvs representing various law enforcement. The sound above is actually a helicopter. What is going on? We pull into a spot to park in case we arrived during a lockdown.
We call a few families to see who is in school who is not. As we sit and adjust to the chaos we hear a boom! Maybe it was the echo of a dumpster slamming shut but it was all we needed to hear. After that boom, we immediately thought gunshot and left the parking without a moment to spare.
School could wait for the next day. My child was anxious. My child was unsure if school was safe. Heck I was like what just just happened. I wrote a note the next day to excuse her for being out of school. I was honest. I noted the above. It wasn’t excused. It wasn’t a valid reason. Are you kidding?
That day I’d say more than 70% of the school was out based on vehicles in the parking lot, parent confirmations and minimal traffic before and after school. Would you think the day should be excused? Would you have sent your child if you faced the scenario I did?
I have been scratching my head about this topic for weeks. I finally jotted down this post. There were many other crazy social media posts of concern. In the end I think what is this world coming to. I value each day and hope I never have to witness a mass shooting or catastrophe at a school. Although those are my wishes, I know deep down it’s possible especially in today’s climate.

adventure

It’s in the Details

A surprise picnic. The weather wasn’t great. We didn’t even really know the area. The option to hike it in would have been too much to carry.

A friend scouted a park with a pavilion. We wandered in tandem with the vague directions we had, then finally stumbled on the spot.

The coolers, tucked in the back of the jeep for hours, and boxes and bags were ported out. Then the spoiling began.

A white tablecloth was the foundation. Topped by a fall-themed tablecloth with muted hues. Draped with care over the metal picnic table. Then, fancy bamboo plates and utensils. Yellow napkins folded at each place. Then, the finishing touches…jewel-colored velvet pumpkins that later doubled as party favors / remembrances for each of the women there. A fall candle bought brand new for the occasion, glowing and sharing a hint of apple scent. A table worthy of special guests. Even out in the middle of the soccer fields and playgrounds. Then, a build-your-own lunch spread courtesy of Trader Joe’s. Nothing too fussy. Just nibbles to try.

In recent years, I have grown to love surprising people…not in the sense of surprise parties, but more about delighting people with over-the-top unique details. Whether it be decorations, unexpected custom cookies that match their party theme, party favors that make people giggle, artist-created invitations, or a meal fit for a queen, it feeds my soul to make people feel special and make occasions memorable. People are worth celebrating.

This also extends to presents I may drop on porches on a random Tuesday. Life is a challenge for many. Why not make people smile?

I hope when they pull out that pumpkin each fall they smile and remember a great day, and someone who cared about them enough to plan something special. Spoil people a little sometimes. They are worth it.

dare to be different, fitness and nutrition

Sense of Direction

It’s true, I’m getting older.

As I age, I notice that certain things are starting to deteriorate. Today’s example: my sense of direction.

When I was young, I would read Atlanta’s Creative Loafing newspaper every Thursday or Friday. I’d check out the list of festivals, events, art openings, even new music releases, and make my weekend plans. I’d pull out my mom’s Atlanta road atlas and set on my coordinate spree to map my weekend adventures. From these jaunts week after week, year after year, I got to know my way around Atlanta inside and out.

These days, I can hardly find my way around my little suburb without waze or google maps. If I’m somewhere without service, I get nervous and often guess the wrong direction. Such a change. It may not just be due to aging. Maybe more a combination of getting older and over reliance on technology. Still not a change I like, no matter the cause.

I spent the past week in a confusing condo building. Actually there were two buildings connected by bridges and corridors. There was also a parking garage. None of the connecting floors had the same number. Walk through a hallway from one building’s first floor and suddenly, without stairs or elevators, you’re on another building’s third. The garage was a totally different mess. I felt lost and disoriented much of the week.

After a couple of morning condo workouts, I went to the gym one evening to make sure I could find it from our room. The next morning I spent a half hour with dumbbells in the gym. After I was done, I decided to test myself and make my way back to the condo from the gym using stairs instead of the path I already knew.

I walked into the stairwell. When I opened the door, I was surprised to find an old man, slightly hunched over, standing at the bottom of the stairs. He was short with groomed gray hair. He wore a cotton t-shirt, athletic pants and tennis shoes. He was there to exercise. He smiled at me.

Good morning, I said.

Are you still moving every day? he said,

Yes sir, I replied. I want to be sure I can move for as long as I can, so I try to do it first thing every day.

Good for you, he replied. I do the exact same thing. Keep it up. It’s so important.

And with that, one floor up, I walked out of the stairwell. He kept walking up the stairs. Up. Up. Up. Moving. Ascending.

It was like the (living) ghost of Christmas Future. Letting me know that taking time to move, for me, is what will keep me moving long term. I can feel confident when I get up and make my physical and mental health a priority each day. What others think of it is none of my business. My approval is what is required.

Did I find my way back to the condo? Happily, yes. And taking that different path gave me unexpected landmarks and signs. I’m heading in the right direction. It was a roadmap to the future I am heading toward, nimble and purposeful.

challenges

Profound Moments

Sometimes change is good. Sometimes change represents turbulence. Sometimes change is just what we need.

Turbulent times is reflective of my past 48 hours. I won’t recap all the proud moments, but rather share a glimpse as part of being honest with life. Change is in the air whether I like it or not.

Death. The loss of a family pet. Over 12 years of life on earth is a solid age for our pet. She experienced life. She moved with us. She made memories and put smiles on the faces of many. She outlived health challenges and life expectancy on her end as well as offered support to others during health scares.

She was a replacement dog of sorts. One that greatly resembled a dog that passed too soon when the kiddos were young. She quickly became more than a fill in dog. She was a family member. From the long drive to pick her up to laying her to rest. We will cherish the memories. We were so lucky to have a dog like Lucky.

Goodbyes. Family came to visit. The first visit in what seems like years due to the pandemic and other environmental conditions. So much of the family dynamics had changed.

People age. People re-marry. Kids become adults. The visits of yesterday no longer resemble the visits of today. Nonetheless time together is refreshing. Goodbyes are never easy. Sometimes even emotional. Goodbye today leads to hellos again soon.

Change. Time for change. I’m opting to change my scenery in a portion of life. A shift of sorts but a kickstart in another way. With this decision amidst my turbulence I confirmed a change is good. Not one specific reason rather the time is good. There may never be a perfect time for change but if change feels good one needs to own it. Changes spurs growth. I’m always ready to grow. Stepping outside your comfort zone normally yields the biggest results.

Technology. Ugh the phone died. A lifeline gone. A necessity in today’s world. The changing of a phone however is the one change in life I loathe. Transferring contacts. Making sure all email accounts are synced. Do I remember all the passwords that need to be re-entered? So many details. So much time wasted reassembling my technology life that all seems to fit in the tiny phone. The tiny little phone. My life is condensed to this tiny little phone. Sigh.

When I actually think of how much information is in this little device I just shake my head in disbelief. Despite the disbelief there is so much value tucked away inside the little box of sorts. I am very thankful for the photo reel that takes up residency on my phone. Or in the cloud, accessed by my phone. All 19,000 pictures. It always allows me to revisit memories from hours ago to years ago. A simple scroll that is crucial at times. Technology wins despite temporary inconveniences.

Struggle. Facing adversity head on. Discussing difficult issues openly vs. sweeping them under the carpet. Sometimes this is good for the soul. Other times it’s a struggle for reasons x,y,z. Either way I faced my challenge head on. I waited patiently to discuss issues when emotions were not high. Options were weighed. Life moves on.
Turbulent times may weigh us down from time to time. Turbulent times offer opportunities to grow and learn. Through life struggles, lessons always appear. For today I’m happy to have turbulent times. This equates to living in my eyes. This post is dedicated to lady Lucky and all the bones and treats she enjoyed in her years on earth.