healthy hacks, nature

Porch Sittin’

It was a whirlwind trip to the city. A cozy AirBnB row house was my home away from home. Newly renovated to match today’s modern luxuries inside, but with the charm of the old city neighborhood outside. Street parking was required or you had to park in the alley if you got in too late. I made sure to get the street spot as I wasn’t a  fan of alleys at night.

This is evening there were fireworks scheduled for 930pm. An air show began in the afternoon but lasted to the early evening. There was a lot goign on this weekend. Roads were closed. Weather was perfect for outdoor activities. people were enjoying life outside today. The night was calm. The temps were high 70s. Not a cloud in the sky. Perfect weather for porch sittin’ in between activity.

I was motivated by a woman I saw on her stoop earlier in the day. Not sure how long she stayed out porch sittin’ but when I return home she had a friend. They were giggling, catching up on life and just hanging out: life seemed so simple in that moment. It also gave me time to pause myself and think about how I too enjoyed porch sitting with my nana and aunts in my childhood.

Off I went to grab a book to read a little while there was still daylight. I heard a few jets still passing in the distance from the air show. I heard those passing by on bicycles. I saw a group with motorized razor scooters. A jeep. A motorcycle. Some walkers. Just a couple cars. In between pages I’d pause to listen to the birds chirp. I might have swatted a few bugs too. 

As night came, I flipped the flashlight on phone for a few extra minutes of light to read the last couple pages. The quiet time was good. The environment was very welcoming. The street seemed like and intersection of hope and expectation. The street, the name, the words all crossed my path in different ways in the last 24 hours which was a weird coincidence as I sit on the porch.

Some days we go through life checking off boxes and doing what is expected of us hoping for different results. On rare occasions, we choose to explore or wander. It’s this times when growth happens. It’s not hoping for change that gets you a new result it’s changing yourself or environment that’s yeilds a result. My expectation of myself is simple. I expect to change, often. I expect to grow, as much as possible. 

My porch sittin’ was amazing today. If you haven’t been porch sittin’ in the city take a trip. Find an Airbnb not a hotel. Blend into the community. Eat where the locals eat. Shop where the locals shop. I bet it will be a trip to remember.

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.

perspective

You Can’t Make Me

Parenting and life lessons. My youngest is a senior in high school. With two twenty-somethings, I have had some practice letting go of the reins with my kids. I might be a little more chill about their decisions these days, but that hasn’t come without a lot of years of frustration.

I remember when one of my kids was talking to someone on social media that they shouldn’t be. Waking up at all hours, endlessly glued to the screen. This was many years ago, when it wasn’t quite so usual for everyone to be attached to their screens all the time. After trying so many things, taking away the phone, taking away other privileges, and talking until I was out of talk, I still caught that child up at 3 am, on an old “lost” device, talking to this person they shouldn’t be. Again.

I remember my rage and frustration so clearly, in the middle of that night, and the wide eyes of my kid, completely unmoved by my temper. The look said “you can’t make me.”

There may be few things as frustrating to a parent than the realization that no, you really can’t make them do anything. Not without mental / physical injury or breaking the law. Oh, I wanted to wring that child’s neck that day, but I didn’t. And I remember that “you can’t make me” moment so well.

I remember the time I gave it to my own parents, too. I was running around with a much older crowd, lying about where I was. They went to the place where I said I was one night, I wasn’t there, and then confronted me when I arrived home. I got the lecture, and the “promise you won’t do that again” ultimatum. But I looked straight at my father and told him I couldn’t promise him that. And I am sure, in that moment, when I was supposed to promise, whether or not I meant it, he must have wanted to wring my sassy teenage neck as well. (Sorry, Mom and Dad! Wish you were here so I could apologize to your faces.)

In my adult life, this lesson has smacked me in the face many times. No matter what, you really can’t make people do anything. When you’re left out of a social gathering. When people make decisions that you disagree with or take you further from each other. So many little daily things that happen that may seem puzzling or even hurtful. Here’s what I’ve come to realize:

You can’t make people spend time with you. You can’t even make them want to. People are fickle and messy and unpredictable. You can’t make people thoughtful or considerate. They are or they aren’t, and this changes from one day to the next. Most people aren’t sitting around thinking about how they can make me feel left out or unwanted. Most people are too self-centered to even have that thought. (Or maybe they do, but I’ve realized it’s not productive for me to obsess over other people’s hurtful actions.)

If you have someone who cares about you and thinks of you, cherish that in the moment it happens. Thoughtful moments are rare and to be treasured. If someone thinks of you repeatedly, that is truly special. Enjoy it. Relish it.

In the end it is all just data. I just know what I’ve learned from what I observe.

Everything and everyone is optional. Most people and things will eventually move on. When you change your circumstances, it’s inevitable that things and people change. That probably sounds callous. Maybe it’s the stoic reading I’ve done that makes it a little less personal.

Change doesn’t make the people you’ve moved on from less important. Life takes us all kinds of places and there are only so many hours in a day, a month, a year, a lifetime. It just makes every present moment more special. Time and attention are finite resources for each of us. If we can’t make anyone do anything, how are we spending those precious fleeting moments?

fitness and nutrition

Stick it in Your Ears

A couple of months ago I moved from a CrossFit box to a more conventional gym. Many things haven’t changed that much…I still do many of the same movements. I still sweat there most days. I see friends and connect with them there. But there are definite changes as well. More options for machines and movements (but figuring out how to “work in” on a machine is new.) Coming and going without a set class time requires a different kind of discipline. And then there’s the music.

Music is huge for me when I workout. At CrossFit the music was generally ok. I found it funny that different coaches chose different music styles at times. The class I attended had many “older” athletes and attentive coaches seemed to work with that in their music choices.

These days the music isn’t as loud. My new gym has several spots where the music is far away. I sometimes end up chatting instead of singing or dancing along when I’m with my gym gals.

Then there is the rare time I am alone at the gym. AirPods make their appearance. I’ve noticed that pretty much everyone who is flying solo at the gym has headphones in of some kind.

So here’s a new game I like to play…I wonder what they are listening to? This is basically an exercise in stereotypes, I guess. Bro sesh? Jock rock? Girl power tunes? I laugh as I try to size people and their musical tastes up. Once in a while I’ll see people dance a little, shimmy the shoulders or shuffle the feet. Hm. A guy shadow boxing between sets made me wonder if he was pumping up to the theme from Rocky. Then to amuse myself I’ll imagine someone benching with huge biceps listening to opera or country or even theme songs from little kids shows.

At times I wonder if people are wondering what I’m listening to. Would any of them guess?

As I reflect, it’s one of the different things and sometimes hard things about the new setup, when people are all in their own little worlds, listening to their own thing, on their own paths. I like having my own tunes on solo runs or bike rides but at the gym I like having shared experiences and music along with it. I’m thankful this solo song time doesn’t happen too often.

inspire

A Note Card

A card. A hand written note. A stamp. Its final destination: Cape May, NJ. On its way to meet a girl I met years ago. A special girl.

I met her in when she was in 8th grade. She was still blossoming but I saw her shine. She was timid in a way but her quiet swagger made her stand out from the rest. Quiet confidence. A bright, bright future was on the horizon for her. I could just tell she was going places.

Fast forward a few years. I watched her learn to drive. She didn’t need me to pick her up anymore for practice. She got a college scholarship to a prestigious school to play a sport college. She worked hard to grow to an elite level in her sport. Her future was bright.

We stayed in touch over the years. She was from a military family. She wanted to serve. She chose to serve others. She is now in her element. Training for her new role serving our country. She will do great things in her life.

For now I cheer for her from afar. My note card is part of the process. The hand written note to let her know she appreciated. She is thought of. She is missed. She can do anything she puts her mind to.

The note card is signed by a few people she inspired over the years. People she volunteered her time with. People who aspire to be like her in a way. Never underestimate your ability to impact others. 

Young. Old. Near. Far. One can make an impact. Maybe it’s volunteering. Maybe it’s spending time. Maybe it’s a listening ear. Maybe it’s a note card. Whatever it is. Do it! Make time. Be significant. Make a difference. Somebody is watching you and learning from you.

To my girl all grown up in Cape May, NJ, may all your dreams come true. May your road traveled be full of adventures. May you return home safe. May you be the best version of you!

Let’s hope the postal service gets my note card to my girl before she is ready to set sail to her next destination. Fingers crossed.