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.

balance

Life being Lifey

Life is being extra lifey these days. War, weather, mental stresses, financial hardships, on and on and on. It’s everywhere. My work life, my personal life, family friends colleagues acquaintances are all full of it. People are messy in their best times. Now, their messiness is more like a shambles that spills out and spreads all over.

Assume people will get sick, have issues and set backs and not be able to execute. Assume extra tasks, jobs, and responsibilities are coming as a result of the balls that others will drop. It’s just how things are right now. How can I thrive, survive, persist, stay sane in light of these times?

Here’s how I am hanging on for this bumpy ride:

Eat well. There are certain things I don’t farm out to anyone. Nutrition is number one. I own every step of that process from planning it to shopping for it to cooking it to packing it up. I don’t like being off plan and I don’t always make great decisions when it’s left to the last minute, whatever I can get my hands on. I know that eating well makes me feel better and do better. End of story.

Exercise first thing in the morning. The only possible exception is Sundays. Exercise helps me manage stress and gives me a sense of accomplishment and strength right off the bat. Extra boost if I see my friends and get the social sweat aspect of life first thing as well, but this isn’t always possible. Movement always is!

Stay ahead on things, knowing curveballs are coming. Busy season is about to kick up. When I have an idle moment, I try to think about what task I can push one step (or more steps) forward. Throw the laundry in. Clean something. Stock the pantry with two instead of one. Hopefully, when deadlines come or something is needed, I am ready instead of behind the eight ball trying to juggle and patch things together. Being ahead on what I can eases my stress.

Sundays. Sundays are my reset and ready-for-the-week day. I try to protect this if at all possible. It is often the only day I start with an extended coffee time at home. I write. I pull out clothes for the week. I make lists. I try really hard not to drive anywhere further away than 10-15 minutes unless it is a soul-serving adventure. Looking ahead on the calendar, keeping Sundays “sacred” will get harder and harder as fall’s busy-ness kicks in. Even as I write this, my Saturday and Sunday has flipped for this weekend. But I still try to keep one day with fewer commitments. Go-go-go all the time wears me out.

Notice nature. Get out and immerse myself in nature as often as possible, even for a few minutes a day. Flower farming has been amazing for this. I have a couple of hours a week in our field, just cutting flowers, watching bees and butterflies, soaking up the fresh air. I keep our flowers with me at work and home so I see them many times a day. They always make me take a small mental pause and smile.

What could I add? I need to write more often. I need to stretch. I need to meditate. These fall too low on the to-do list right now and I know each of them would help. This paragraph is a challenge to myself!

These last few weeks have been a lot, at times bordering on “too much, I can’t handle it, get me out of here.” There have been times I’ve considered drinking alcohol, which I don’t do. I’ve considered massive carb-and-cheese-laden meals of things I don’t typically eat. These things float through my mind, I notice them, then remind myself what works for me.

“Self care” has been a buzzword over the last couple of years. It comes with these challenging times. Life being lifey just beats many of us down and we need to take care of ourselves. I am a firm believer that you can’t pour from an empty cup, meaning you have to keep yourself cared for before you can care for others. Self care looks different for everyone. For some, it means doing whatever you want, regardless of the craving and what it costs. For me, self care does not mean self indulgence. Sometimes it means reminding myself what my goals are and what makes me feel healthy. A cocktail isn’t self care for me. Or a piece of chocolate cake. Might feel good for a moment, but then I’m left dealing with the fallout from my own impulsiveness.

In the end, I can only try to control my own decisions, my time, and my attention. I have to redirect myself when the decisions others make upset me. Boundaries are ok to set and adhere to. I only have to explain myself to those select few people who warrant it. But for most people, “no” can absolutely be a complete sentence.

healthy hacks

Healthy Hack: Travel Edition

The 2 Chicks have been on the road a lot this summer. So much joy, so much adventure, the occasional stress.

I’ve shared my favorite tips for experiencing local flavors and activities. Here’s another quick tip for life on the go that has saved me stress this summer.

And so, without further ado, here’s my fab tip:

Have a separate set of toiletries. And not just travel sizes.

Extra skin care, hair stuff, deodorant, makeup, brush, toothbrush, sunscreen…All. Of. It.

I actually discovered this hack during last school year. With all the stress and shuffling of schedules, I often went straight from the gym to work. My gym bag grew from just having a very basic set of skin care to the full assembly over time. All summer long, I’ve either taken my gym bag (with toiletries and my gym clothes / shoes packed), or grabbed the toiletries to put in a larger packed bag.

There’s nothing really magical about it, I guess. Still, it has saved me so much time in remembering all the odds and ends I need on every excursion and adventure this summer. If you don’t have any spares to start with, be on the lookout for coupons and deals. (Some might happen shortly when college students head back to school.) I also stockpile stuff from Clinique free gift offers.

Once you’ve got your set, you’re good to go!

Hope this helps at least some of you with that inevitable travel stress (or the pain of forgetting your toothbrush!)

dare to be different, fitness and nutrition

Have Fitness, Will Travel

“It’s okay to live a life others don’t understand.” -Jenna Woginrich

The older I get, the more that quote rings true. Today’s example: Time away from home. Vacation, business trip, whatever it is. Many use this as a break from their regular exercise routine. Not this girl.

With fitness, consistency is the name of my game. I rarely go a day without intentional exercise. Some might scoff at this. But, I know I am happiest when I get it done, first thing in the morning if possible. It improves my stress level and mental outlook immensely. Those things need to be on point whether I am home or not…(even vacation travel is stressful!)

How do I make this happen? First, I pack exercise shoes. For a recent road trip, I packed CrossFit shoes, running shoes, and hiking shoes. Second, plan for some equipment if possible. On this stretch, I knew I had several nights in hotels with fitness centers. I packed a 25# dumbbell for other days. That’s about all I needed. The rest could be improvised.

Fast forward to my first night on the road. Reliable Hampton Inn. Saturday morning. Up early for coffee and a quick sweat before my daughter’s lacrosse games.

Walk to the hotel fitness center only to find it is closed for COVID. But the sign on the door says we can get in to the LA Fitness next door. Score, since I have my swimsuit and need to train for a triathlon anyway. Until….LA Fitness doesn’t open until 8:00 am on Saturday and we need to leave for the field by 7:30. What to do…go back to bed? Pout? Nope. Open up the Compass trunk and grab a dumbbell, start a timer, and away I go.

Pulled up a “travel” workout from Street Parking that I hadn’t done before. Pushups on pavement or overgrown grass were a no go. So, elevated pushups against a light post would do. Goblet squats with the dumbbell and some taps against the curb. Got sweaty. Got my heart rate up. Did something. Forty-five minutes later, I am good. The next morning, another parking lot workout with hang power snatches and some air squats. Is it perfect? Nope. But I moved and made myself a priority. Mission accomplished.

The rest of the week was a hodge podge. 5 bike miles to a local coffee shop, then back. Kayaking, running, and a couple of actual hotel workouts with pretty nice equipment to boot. Moved every day and felt much better than I would have otherwise.

Would this work for everyone? Surely not. But making my health a daily priority through movement is one of the ways I honor and love myself. Although some in the hotel lobby or parking lot might raise an eyebrow when they see me, perhaps there are others who feel inspired or encouraged to do what others may not. No matter what, I’m doing what feels best in my own skin.

mental health

Unplugged

I recently took three days and unplugged a bit. I put up the three laptops I use and let them go. Microsoft could go do their updates and it wouldn’t halt my productivity. 

Unless a building was burning down, anything on those computers could wait a few days. I am happy to report no fires arose and I was able to minimize my technical needs.

The good news is I survived. I didn’t have any visible scratches or lost revenue when I unplugged. I delegated a bit and I enjoyed a different view of my surroundings. I engaged with new faces. I opted outside even if the weather was not cooperating. I just enjoyed the limited technology.

I didn’t actually put up my phone which means I was still some what connected but that’s a next step and the first step is always the hardest. I did need my phone for purposes such as maps, tickets, touchless payments and so on but that only confirmed how much society revolves around technology. 

Our eyes need a break now and again. On the flip side of the break I am glad I had my phone to capture memories and photos of the beautiful scenery I was in the midst of.

For this unplugged episode I focused on limiting the distractions on the work front. Minimizing the stress. Putting off til tomorrow. Others may choose to be plugged in 24/7 but that doesn’t mean I need to be on always. I can break away. I have a choice.

I got into a few books during this time as well. I gathered thoughts. I generally learned a few new tidbits. I enjoyed a walk or two. I even got swarmed/serenaded by cicadas. The cicadas I could do without though!

Just out there living my life and telling everyone about it. Cheers to all of you near and far.
Today’s post is a virtual shout out to those who read our blog from the great state of Maryland. I enjoyed my taste of the area while passing through.