perspective

Vulnerability

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“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.”

-Brene Brown

I sat in a training this week that began with an invitation to think about this quote.  Then, we took a moment to write down what vulnerability meant to us and what it would take for us to feel ok about being vulnerable with each other.

I admire and respect Brene Brown and her work immensely.  That being said, even just the word vulnerability makes me shudder.  In the exercise, I wrote about how vulnerability means showing my lack of expertise or knowledge of something, or admitting I don’t know something, or showing my soft underbelly that I try very hard to protect. I cling to my appearance of being intelligent and capable as a flotation device in life.  I have learned in recent years that I mainly choose goals and tasks where I can be almost assured of success.  I don’t like looking stupid or incompetent and I avoid those situations as much as I can.

I’ve also learned through my enneagram that asking for help is not something I am good at (but giving help is!)

Reading Brene Brown’s work and others has me tiptoeing up to bigger challenges these days.  I’m setting goals that are further and further past my comfort zone.  Sometimes, I try things I might fail at.  I have become less comfortable coasting through life.  I’m not jumping at challenges quite yet, but I’m getting better.

When my daughter and I went to help on a farm project recently, it was in response to a facebook post appealing for help. The farmer had taken advantage of several growth opportunities in recent times and managed to find herself overwhelmed with challenges.  She started her facebook post by saying that asking for help was hard for her, but they needed help moving a truckload of gravel.  I messaged her that we would be happy to help.  She was extremely grateful.

Imagine her surprise to have over a dozen people show up to help.  From teenagers to retirees, men and women, all strangers, all grabbing shovels and buckets and wheelbarrows.  We moved and spread two truckloads of gravel in less than two hours (including a 30-minute break to go get the second load).  Far more work done far more quickly than she and her husband could have managed alone. We made quick work of her challenge.

I watched people work together who had never met, just to help someone in need.  All because she made herself vulnerable and asked for help.  Big dreams and big goals can lead to some big challenges.  Big challenges can be faced and overcome, sometimes with a little help from our community. A lesson I need to remember.

What I also learned today is that asking for help also opens up opportunities for others to contribute, to make a difference, to share their own worth. It feels good to help.  For my daughter, an aspiring farmer, it was an opportunity to get an insider’s look at a real-life situation on an operating farm. Perhaps others who pitched in had different motives.  Who knows what moved that group of random individuals to show up, but just by helping we each got something out of the experience.  At times, it also offers the chance for people to let you down, but thankfully with a good circle you always have backup and support waiting in the wings.

When we make ourselves vulnerable, we invite others to step up, step in, and play a role in our lives.  The next time I am in my self-focused trying-to-hide vulnerable mindset, afraid to admit I don’t know something could use some help, I’ll remember to reframe it as offering opportunities for others to shine and share and connect. It’s not wrong to take on a task that turns out to be overwhelming to manage alone at times.  It’s a testament to ambition and big dreams. May I start dreaming bigger than I can handle solo.

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family

That Substitute Sucks

Yes folks I’m the substitute and I suck at my job. Let’s face it. I don’t get paid as a substitute teacher. I didn’t volunteer for the role. I certainly didn’t expect the abundance of emails and stress that went along with the thankless job either. I was voluntold to accept this role and anyone who knows me probably knows that didn’t sit well.

Enter the teen girl. Super social. Loves school. Student athlete thriving in her world. Boom CORONA HITS!

Her world is shaken not stirred. Shaken to the core. She lost her routine. Her social outlets. Her sports. Her teacher bonds. She lost the sounds of the hallway and cafeteria. The roaring of the crowds. The listening ears of her teachers. The safety net of her world. Does that impact her learning and her mental health. Why yes it does!

Why do I need to get up. Why do I need to do this work. This isn’t a school environment. Who is going to help me with math? What about my yearbook? What about the school dance? How do I return my library books? How do I read the book assigned if I can’t get it? Did you realize the boy population of hot boys doesn’t exist in home school environments. No field trips. No chill time at lunch to hear the latest gossip. No flirting from across the room. What no science partner!

To say we muttered through is an understatement. We slitterred by by on a shoe string or even fine hair. Emails to teachers. Online review of grade with a microscope. Loss of cell phone privileges. We tried it all. This kid is not cut out for home school. Not at all. For that matter I am not cut out for the teacher role.

When my email flows fast in the workplace, I too need a break on the weekends. On a Saturday when I get teachers emailing me about next week or what’s missing from this week it shakes me to the core. What, a deadline missed?….not on my watch! And when the weekends blend with the weekdays there is no mental break for her or me. I actually had to ask teachers not to email on the weekend. I get they are doing their jobs but the stress of no break was too much.

The pressure the teachers were put under to go digital and maintain grades of their students was very unrealistic. If I thought my job sucked, I can only imagine what theirs looked like. Again another thankless front line job.

The teen feels like she is confined to a cardboard box with electronics and have to’s. Prison might be better in her eyes. She might even wish she had cafeteria food instead of the health-crazed food I serve.

We are finally on the other side sucking on some freeze pops to soothe our relationship. We made it out without killing each other. We still have our hair and our personalities. We now see sunlight for summer. We see activities emerging with a handful of friends.

Luck had it, she had one friend who drives and has come once a week to visit. She hangs out. They did school work. They made a mess in the kitchen. They giggled. They went fishing nearby. They got ice cream. They laughed. They smiled. They snuggled under blankets. They may have even taken a few naps.

It’s these moments that made corona in a box tolerable. It’s the moments of friendships valued. It’s the patience and understanding of let’s work together to push through. We have each other. This is a life lesson many won’t see and why I chose to share.

Time is valuable. Time is a precious commodity. How you spend your time, with whom you spend it and on what you spend it is important. It may make or break you.

She is also fortunate to have an older brother that pushes her and rewards her with a sub sandwich date to go or Starbucks drive through. Those little acts of kindness help her putter along. She had a virtual community of peers as well but none replaced her in- person interaction.

Toxicity in life can’t be avoided as people in general are messy. However, you can keep it at bay. In the school example above tolerance and patience was needed on both sides but to avoid toxicity the substitute and the student needed a break or many breaks from the insanity or work, work, work mentality. I can draw upon this experience in the future for my own work/life balance.

Life balance of sorts. For me I spent the weekend on the water at the lake. It was a much needed break from reality. No screen time just fun, fresh air and a few people. Sometimes it’s a long walk or bike ride for me. For my teen it may be a visit to the nail salon or an ice cream stand visit.

The point is have the conversation. Make adjustments when needed to push through whatever battle is in front of you. It may be a long battle for an illness or a short battle to get through a project.

Take the word of a shitty substitute. Find a way to blend and mend. Get by how you can, when you can and smile at the end. You will soon say been there, done that. Don’t want to do it again.

I am a one hit wonder in the role of a teacher. Corona better stay away because this chick wants no part of schooling her teen again in this lifetime. Love her to death but don’t enjoy teacher, mom, mentor and so on without support while trapped in my home for unprecedented circumstances with my own work deadlines.

I may be alone in this rant or not but I’m sharing as a method of cleansing my soul of havoc that was wreaked upon it for more than 60 days. I guess this was a life experience I wasn’t fond of.

Until next time. Be safe. Hug the folks you can and keep your distance from those you should. It’s summer time here! Let the adventures and memories begin.

awareness

Swimming Lessons

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Summer, Jersey Shore. Our family reunion.

At night we had dinners at homes by the bay. Seafood, pizza, pasta, coolers of beer, laughter.

All day was sand, sunscreen, and the mighty Atlantic.

We only came every four years. Each time the ocean seemed drastically different. There was the year when swarms of jellybean-sized-jellyfish crowded us ankle deep day after day.  The year I brought my young children and it was just too cold and rough for them to swim.  And I can’t forget the time I was in my late teens and went swimming with my dad.

My dad was disabled my entire life.  His progressive, severe rheumatoid arthritis took him from hobbling, to cane-dependent, to wheelchair-bound.  His broken body betrayed his wandering, roller-coaster riding spirit many times, but still, he always kept pushing his body as far as it would go.

This day, he had probably taken 20 minutes to carefully shuffle across the scorching sand with the help of a cane and a patient cousin.  Slowly, carefully, taking a break every ten yards or so, but he had to get to the water.

Oh, how my dad loved the water.  It was the one place he felt free.  He could float, glide, swim, and move unencumbered by the lumps, aches, and pains of his joints.  In the water, he would float, belly, toes, nose bobbing above the waves, his smile as wide as the unending coastline.

The beach was its usual crowded and the water its usual choppy.  If there was a yellow flag warning, we didn’t heed it.  Nothing could keep my Dad from his floating freedom in the briny sea. My Dad and I descended the steep wet sand and out we went to swim.

We floated.  We talked.  We dog paddled.  We enjoyed the sun.  Minutes passed, or was it hours?  Time to head back in for a sandy snack. We looked up and the coastline was distant.  Farther away than I had thought it would be.  Much farther. So we tried to swim in, but no matter what we got further and further away from the shore.

The waves, once so joyful to float over, became relentless.  We were tired.  Our arms and legs were no match for the tides dragging us out.  I was staying under a bit longer each time than I should have.  Panic started to set in.  We were running out of solutions.  Fear set in. Fear took over our minds.

My Dad was still floating but he knew we were in trouble, too.  He was struggling to stay afloat himself.  My Dad, a better swimmer than I, was still no match for the undertow.  He wanted to help me so much, I am sure, but he could hardly help himself stay up.  How could he help me when his own life was in trouble? Both of us were running out of energy.  If I grabbed onto him to give my body a break from the effort, even though he was better in the water, we both would surely drown. Our will to live was dwindling by the minute.

Wave to the shore, he said.  So many of our family were watching us.  So I waved, flailed, used every ounce of strength to try to signal.  How can I tell them we are in trouble?  I screamed. Crossed my arms, all kinds of signals. My dad doing the same. Nothing worked.  They all just waved back, likely figuring we were just having fun with my dad’s swimming skills, well-known in our family ranks. My cries of “help us” got lost in the ocean breezes. Our cries were in plain sight but could anyone hear us?  Was anyone even listening? Nobody understood our fear.  No one seemed to care.

It seemed like hours but my dad’s cousin Tom finally figured out we were in over our heads.  He bravely swam out and somehow dragged us in from the riptide.  I still remember an aunt screaming “smile!” and snapping a photo as we slumped out of the water, past exhaustion.  No one knew we had been within an inch of drowning.

Fast forward twenty-something years, this story hits me in new ways in my daily life. Am I now the one on the shore? Are people struggling right in front of me that I pass by, unknowing? Are they at the brink of drowning and I miss their signals?

I think of my father.  The better swimmer.  How much he must have hurt inside, knowing he couldn’t help his daughter without both of us losing the battle against the breakers.  How can you help someone who is drowning when you are are not fully afloat yourself?  When you are pummeled by the endless waves, just trying to stay afloat?  A lesson in this.

I can point and draw attention. Signal to those who might be able to help. But will they hear the silent or distant cries? If I wave my arms will that make a difference? I can keep her company like my Dad did for me…  Keep her calm. Try to set her mind at ease in the middle of the fear I know well…the fear of the ocean getting the best of me and dropping into the unknown. Keep paddling.  Don’t give up. I know you’re tired.  Help is coming.

I can make suggestions, try to guide her toward the shore.  Keep working until someone with the strength comes out and meets us, or we find our way back to steady footing.  There’s no happy ending if we both drown, so I try to be a lifeguard the best I can, in the literal meaning of that word. Even the best swimmers get in trouble sometimes.   Every lifeguard wants to save everyone in distress, but the lifeguard also has to stay afloat herself.

In life we have to swim daily. Sometimes the waters are calm and other times they are dark and stormy.

In life we all need saving at times. Sometimes it’s life saving medical treatment for an ailment. Sometimes it’s saving from a bad relationship. Sometimes it’s saving us from our mind, troubled past, or even financial stresses.

We must all remember life is always worth living. Today, tomorrow, and the next day. If you ever think ending your life is the only choice it’s merely the only perceived solution to an insolvable problem. As somebody who was saved, somebody who is a lifelong helper, I am shouting out to the ocean and the world to say don’t give up. Somebody is coming to save you. Don’t let fear take control. Wait another day. Do the doggie paddle of life. Think of my Dad. He was handicapped, wading in the water and he didn’t give up. I didn’t give up because of his spirit. You don’t need to give up either.

There are always people who care. Some may not see the signs in plain sight. You might need to establish a drowning sign. A key word. A hand signal that is universal. Don’t delay – make sure your tribe knows your drowning symbol whether it’s at the beach or closer to home in daily life.

Suicide is real. It impacts those near and far. It does not discriminate. It’s impacted my life and this is my offering of hope to those I may know in need, those I may never know are struggling and those who already lost the battle. I honor you by sharing my story today.

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author moments, perspective

The Story Within a Story

Every story has a hidden story within. The why or the why not of the subject. Maybe the storyteller shared the hints, maybe they didn’t.

For example, I may write a blog post or story that shares a fun adventure but within the story is another story of personal triumph for a person on the journey with me. Maybe it’s even highlight a memory that is meaningful to me yet just a unique story to another. That is the beauty of storytelling.

In our last book we invited children to be authors with us. We did this intentionally. We wanted to provoke learning without telling them they were learning. We wanted to promote creativity. We wanted to share our love for writing. You wouldn’t know that from the book cover, but we left hints all around the book. It’s one of the coolest author notes we share with kids when we read and engage at book signings. Talk about a wow factor. It’s the story within the story.

Often times online we invite our readers to join us on the adventures we write about. We invite, provoke, engage others to do more with what they have. Be a better version of themselves. That’s a story of inspiration from within the bigger story.

Maybe my co-author is writing about something she wants to share and it includes her vantage point. Could there possibly be another vantage point within? Maybe you have to find the hidden door to find the message. Maybe that is her hook within her story. Of course there can be a story within a story, maybe even more than one story.

For each post we write we have many who like, some who don’t like and others who just breeze through the content. Whatever the reason or the season for the read, whatever the outcome is, we enjoy sharing our stories as authors. It’s what we choose to do.

We write our way. We leave clues in one post that may link to another or maybe not at all. We may write about the same topic yet it seems so different based on the voice we use or the vantage point. We may provide a visual or maybe we don’t. No real rhyme nor reason to our madness rather we just create what feels natural much like any other artist.

Our blog is a glimpse or a snapshot of us, not a biography or novel. For a tell-all you will most likely need to purchase our upcoming publications. Our blog space is a tool. A tool to motivate and share who we are with others. Today, tomorrow, and in the future.

Our interests will change over time as will our appearance and influences. This is another reason to check in with our site often. We change like the wind. We bend and flex with life. We share the ebbs and flows of life, even the tough stuff.

Since we are talking about a story within a story, I will share the inner secret of this post: bravery.

We are brave enough to share to the level we do. We are exposed. We have readers from Serbia to Japan and beyond. We are forever thankful for all of our readers (see our reader map below). We have friends and family who read our posts. We may even have business and professional colleagues who see us in a different light on this site.

To visualize the magnitude of our bravery: We could be on a plane and somebody notice us but we not notice them. This is a level of fearlessness that many will never encounter. For that, we share our story of boldness, bravery and unwavering sense of self with the wild and tangled web called the internet. The super highway of today.

We invite readers into our world. We are depositing a piece of us for our future grandchildren to read and learn about. There may be secret clues or passages within but you don’t get the full Monty online. We save the juicy stuff for the books and unfortunately we charge for those.

Until next time.

friendship, perspective

Dear Friend

I see you.

I hear you.

I feel your pain.

I also see your inner light shining bright

With sparkle from within.

The shine that’s unique to you.

Your internal flame.

Your bright spirit.

You are special.

One of a kind.

Your life is important.

Your life is important to me.

Your life matters to others.

Today may seem like everything’s going wrong

But tomorrow is a new day.

The sun will shine bright just like your inner light.

You will radiate just like the warmth of the sun in the new day tomorrow.

Can’t wait to see what you conquer tomorrow.

Tomorrow is the next step to your new adventure.

Keep pushing yourself to new beginnings.

Each day you have the chance to soar to new heights.

You set the limits, not others.

Don’t stop believing in yourself.

I won’t stop believing in you.

Thank you, Dove chocolates, for reminding me to go left when the world says go right.

This post goes out to all my friends who need this sweet message.

This post was brought to you by Dove chocolates, a little reminder with dessert.