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.

family

Growing Up

My babies are growing up. Some faster than others. My little baby Bear that I picked up weighing just 4.5 pounds is now weighing in at 35 solid pounds. She is full of so much love though. Furry, cuddly, and sweet. That’s how I would describe this little pup. At just a hair over 5 months old, I can surely say she has been a great addition to my family.

My caboose of a kid is ch-cha-changing. Finding her way to adulthood. From learning to drive to scoping out colleges. She is on the move to bigger and better things. Some days I see her more. Some days I see her less. Some days she’s nice. Some days she is a bear of sorts. No matter her mood or her busy life, I keep finding ways to support her in her journey. Some days I cheer. Some days I guide. Most days I listen. Growing up is different for every family member.

My little Teddie girl. My sweet but sassy golden doodle has matured so much this year. From teaching her sister the ropes inside the house and outside to being that tiny little watch dog with a ferocious bark. She tilts her head when you talk to her. She listens. She knows where her leash is. She know what it means when you say outside. She knows when it treat time. She knows when to sit patiently to wait for a reward. She has led by example for the new pup. She had such a grow up year yet she didn’t physically grow at all. 

The first born. Educated. Experienced. Determined. On his way to top of whatever mountain he wants to climb. Chipping away at his goals. Setting his bar higher and higher. Looking for travel to experience new places and faces. Encouraging his siblings. Giving his time to others. Such a great time to watch one grow and become a self-sufficient adult.

Just a little in between. The space before adulthood. The space after high school. The place where you find yourself. That’s where my middle cherub is. In the middle of deciding: 

Where to go

When to go

Who to take with

What to do

Why all these decisions 

When teens know it all and their brain isn’t fully developed, one can linger in the in between stage. It’s truly young adult trials and tribulations. It could be the changing of your major 20x in college. It could be moving apartments over and over again. It could be the revolving door of dating. It could be laziness. It could be any combination thereof. This is not my favorite season of growing up for many reasons.

In the end a mom is always cheering on her babies. From the first poop on a potty to the first sleep through the night for your four or two legged crew. I’m sure my mom has watched me grow up, glow up, fall down, pick myself up, and so much more. In the end I know she has enjoyed the journey as do I.  As I grow I know my life has provided me much. Each baby gave me new meaning in life. New memories. New adventures. New stress. New attitude. Stay grateful. Thanksgiving is around the corner. Celebrate the ones you live near and far. No matter what stage they are in. Life is fragile.

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.

health

Morning Mind Reader

It’s a yelp. And not a small one. A piercing, booming, where-is-this-coming-from-and-how-can-I-make-it-stop yelp.

Even worse. it’s 5:00 am. My quiet, sanctuary time. I’m happy to see our oldest girl when she rolls down the stairs but when she breaks out into that bark it’s a mad scramble to figure out how to make it stop.

It’s a throwback to parenting a screeching toddler. Do they need a snack? A toy? The blue blanket? The red blanket? The swing? Music? A pacifier? A TV show? A diaper change? Long succession of whatever she might fancy. Anything to get the screech to stop.

Her bark is the same way.

Which means at 5:00 I’m scrambling to figure out what she is asking for. I go from serenity with my candle and reading to here, there, everywhere, filling the water and food bowls, taking walks, scratching her back, swaddling her in a blanket…anything to get the ruckus to stop. This never used to happen.

Life being lifey (including an unexpected new dog) and her old age makes her more likely to be all topsy turvy and persnickety. Old girl wants what she wants. Why can’t pups use telepathy or just speak my language? Where’s a crystal ball when you need one?

Sometimes I get it right, but sometimes I run out of choices and I haven’t solved it. I just keep trying. A couple of times she just wanted her person to wake up. I can’t help that. Sometimes she gives up on trying to make me understand. She must find me so frustrating.

Just another glimpse into the lives of the chicks and our pups.

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.