challenges

Shattered

My daughter got a cameo on the big stage…a chance to play on the field of an NFL stadium. Only five minutes. A handful of plays. But I knew it would be an experience she wouldn’t forget.

Of course I had to go cheer her on. We traveled to downtown Atlanta, a far cry from our suburban home. Waze dropped us in a part of town I didn’t know that well. I felt pretty good that we found free parking on the street about 8 blocks from the stadium. We pulled in and walked to the game.

There was a clear bag policy and I forgot my clear bag. Ugh. I grabbed my wallet and cash from my purse. Not sure why…I usually wouldn’t take all that in my pockets, but I figured better safe than sorry.

We took in all the sights and sounds of an NFL game. We cheered when she passed to a teammate who ran it in for a TD. She made her mark.

Flash forward to a couple of hours later. A rain storm had hit. I don’t really care about NFL football so we headed back to the car shortly after halftime. We passed a car about 10 spots away from ours that was going through their trunk, etc. as we walked by. I didn’t think anything of it. Then, as we approached my car, I noticed debris all over the sidewalk. The first thing I saw were my daughter’s faces. Their buttons from years of playing sports. I was so confused. Why were they on this wet sidewalk? Then, toiletries. Those were from my gym bag. And then I looked up to see my passenger side window, broken. Shattered. It took a minute to set in. A smash and grab.

I had been robbed.

Too many details to share here about what got taken, what got overlooked. (They skipped all my gift cards, took my airpods…) Things that were valuable to me that had no meaning to the thieves. There were at least 10 cars that had the same thing happen on this block. Some got hit others got missed. I assume it was because I had bags on my seats. I called the police but they did not come. So we drove the long chilly January air conditioned highway home.

As we drove, I said out loud all the things I was thankful for. They didn’t take those gift cards or my triathlon medal. They didn’t take my awesome stadium blanket or some other valuables I had stashed away. I can only figure they were after cash and easy sellables. Probably addicts.

I was thankful I did not walk up on them while they were doing this. I was thankful my car was otherwise unharmed. I was thankful I am not in a position where this setback would be a real mental or financial hardship. I am SO thankful something whispered to me to take my wallet! It could have been so much worse. I really was not shaken or shattered inside. I can only attribute this to my mindset work and knowing to keep losses in perspective. I would not have responded this way a few years ago.

In a few days, with the help of my family, my car was fixed and all of this was in the rear view. Am I glad it happened? Of course not. But I am grateful my life pushes on. Building your mental and physical muscles matters. I remembered this quote from Dutch Bros. Something I aspire to. There are still a handful of people and situations that can get into my mental fortress, but not nearly as many as there used to be.

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.