mental health, Uncategorized

Gift of Words

I’ve mentioned the challenges of working in an elementary school during this time of COVID. Telling the kids to spread out. Masks all the time. So. Much. Sanitizer. Constant changes. One of the reasons I wanted to work in an elementary school is honestly because it seemed playful and fun. That hasn’t always proven true, and this fall has been even less fun than usual.

In typical years, the time between Thanksgiving and Winter break at an elementary school is equal parts festive and frantic. We have 15 days to cram in two month’s worth of learning and celebrating. The schools I’ve been in go all out with decorations, which means trees, menorahs, stockings, and so on. It’s also the wrapup of the first half of the year, so we pile tons of tests in there just to add to the excitement (and panic).

This year was different. Widespread testing is postponed or canceled for the most part in elementary schools where I live. And when I got back from Thanksgiving break there were no trees going up, no stockings… maybe just a handful of stars and tinsel in the hallways. The lights and energy of the holidays are usually palpable when you walk through the front door. This year no one would have known it was December.

My job has changed so I am not telling stories to kids anymore right now, so no Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Christmas tales. Last year I made a tree out of ancient textbooks. I also have a little sliver tree with international ornaments. The kids love these touches. This year I didn’t find time with all my other shifting responsibilities.

Every year has also brought a dress up countdown for teachers, 12 Days of Christmas style. We all wear red one day, silver the next, silly socks on Tuesday, crazy hats Thursday. I wore my tacky Christmas sweater on the right day and I was the only one who did! Most of us are so tired and beat up we are just lucky to be dressed and physically present. December, such a special, silly time of celebration and connection, was just more show-up-and-get-it-done days.

The twelve days also bring treats at times. Hot cocoa after school. Cookies in the mailroom. Pancakes from the local breakfast place. I generally skip all that since too much sugar makes me sleepy. But one morning, when I returned from my morning outdoor duty all dressed up in my tacky garb, a piece of paper caught my eye. It was a paper, to me, thanking me for my gift of flexibility. A quote from Picasso about finding your purpose and sharing it. A short explanation of how I have adapted to every role and challenge this year. An appreciation.

It was a simple thing. A word. An acknowledgement. A recognition that in this crazy time, I have played my role as best I can. And what I do matters. Then I noticed that every teacher’s door in the school had a similar paper.

I made excuses the rest of the day to walk around the building, dropping off items or doing other errands. But what I really wanted to do was see other colleague’s notes – what gifts did our administration identify in them? Kindheartedness. Generosity. Passion. Good humor. Creativity. I nodded my head at each one. Maybe not what I would have said is most important about that person, but each one still rang true. Some of them made me laugh since they were gifts I often struggle with. Efficiency. Patience. Productivity. Focus. Again I nodded, but understood why those weren’t top of mind for me.

This has been a year of challenges. My job has changed at least weekly, sometimes daily. Stress levels have brought patience muscles to their breaking point for many, even me. While the cookies and chocolate are sweet, the gift that meant the most to me was just some words and the knowledge that what I am doing is seen.

Who around you needs to be seen? Who can you lift up with a word or two? Who brings a gift to your life just by being in it? I hope you’ll take a minute to let them know this week. Words are precious gifts.

3Splitz Farm

The Final Countdown

The count was on. 14 days to go. Then a snag. A delay. A gut wrenching delay.

Boom! Flutter. Flap. Bang. A new countdown of sorts. Resetting of expectations. Another hiccup. Another unplanned delay. Are you kidding me?

Reset. Realign. Is that not the story of 2020? Where are my three go to words? Flexible, pivot, agile. I used these words in a whole different scenario. Hello patience muscles!

Another day on the calendar. Another sigh in my mind. Another mind challenge for me to over come. 14 days. 10 days. Are those business days or calendar days? 21 days. Wait maybe it’s 13 days. Is this really happening?

This is my life. My story. Patience. Excitement. Delays. More delays. Pivot. It’s what happens when there are lots of moving pieces, personalities and people in a project. If it doesn’t all kill you, you will definitely be stronger in the end.

Many life lessons amidst my countdown. The long, the short and everything in between has been worth it. The experience. The rustic experience. The new adventures. The new milestones. The new chapters. They all await now that the countdown is in the rear view.

The countdown moves to progress. The progress wheel moves by momentum. Momentum created by the dynamic team assembled to make 3Splitz Farm a brand to know.

Stay tuned for more happenings and be sure to follow online.

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A big story is unfolding. Tidbits and tails to be documented compliments of 2chicksandapen.

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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perspective

Every Game is a Gift

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I looked out over the field, early that morning.

It was a beautiful April weekend.  Still a little crisp in the air, but the bright, direct sun warmed your skin enough.

I thought to myself, it is a perfect lacrosse morning. Right now, we are in the heart of lacrosse season, the sport both of my daughters and many of their dearest friends love. I looked out over the field where both of my daughters played their first seasons of the sport. It should have been bustling with warmups and whistles. Instead, it stood completely empty, the “closed” signs warning everyone away. Corona was in town.

When my older daughter was in high school, she told me that lacrosse was the only reason she went to school some days. In those high school seasons, she fought through injuries of all kinds.  From ankle twists and endless bruises to plaguing knee injuries and surgery.  Most notably, as a dynamic and skilled attack player, she also suffered at least three significant concussions. Because of these brain injuries, she watched many games from the sidelines, cheering her teammates on with all her energy and might while she waited for her head to heal.

After making her way through the recruiting process, she earned a spot playing in college.  There were many ups and downs, but she made it to the college playing field.  I was so proud to see her play at that level.  But just a few games in to her freshman season, she took a hit to the head that knocked her out for several minutes.  She lost some of her memories.  She couldn’t stand bright lights our music louder than a whisper.  She was just not her usual sharp self for a while.

Days off the field turned into weeks and months.  Her college freshman season ended and even though there were a few glimmers of hope, she finally got to the point where she realized her playing days were over.  Yes, she could continue coaching and being a referee, but she would never pick up her lacrosse stick competitively again.

God, I loved watching her play.  She was such a competitor on the field.  It was amazing to witness and cheer for her. Seeing that end too soon was devastating for us both.

My younger daughter has taken her own path through lacrosse.  She has great talent and has loved the sport for many years. She was just finding her footing in her first full varsity year when corona came to town. When I ask her these days what she misses most about school, she says lacrosse.

Each of them, in their own ways, now have “lost seasons.” Seasons that should have been played. Goals that should have been scored. Laugh-filled bus rides that should have been ridden. Late night meals with teammates that should have been shared. Wins that should have been celebrated. Defeats that should have been endured. Lessons that should have been learned.

Coronavirus has served many of us lost seasons. Weddings, holidays, so many celebrations shifted, even canceled.  I think especially of high school and college seniors in their final months of school, what should be a time of togetherness, of celebration for them and their supporters. I hurt for them, even though the changed celebration doesn’t change the effort they put in or the elation they should feel. If you know someone who has a lost season because of corona, I encourage you to reach out to acknowledge that loss. Most of us don’t quite know what to say, but just being there to listen and recognize what is lost may be a help.

An unexpected concussion ended my daughter’s lacrosse career too early. From that time I knew, every game is a gift. Every time you get to step on the field or out on the stage or wherever you do what you love…every time you get to do that, it is a gift to be cherished and a challenge to be embraced. When we emerge from this, I hope we are changed in a way where we remember that.

dare to be different

Life’s Penalty Box

Growing up I knew about the penalty box. That’s where you got sent in the hockey game when you committed a foul of sorts. Bad behavior I would say in the heat of the moment.

I wanted to go into the penalty box. Maybe not to stay but I wanted to. I told my parents I wanted to play hockey. At the time I was enrolled in figure skating and I was decent and my training partner ended up going to the Olympics years later so I will say I was okay. But in figure skating girls had to wear white skates and sometimes they had fur on them.

I wanted pads, a stick and the black skates like my brothers and the neighborhood boys I played in the street with. My mom was horrified. Where would I dress out? In the hockey room silly…that was my response.

My mother’s response was absolutely not. A locker room is for boys only. They have jock straps and male parts. No way she said. This is the first time I learned about equal opportunity. Despite my mom’s resistance she let me do it. Play hockey that is on the all-boys team.

I’m sure the coach hated getting the token girl but they couldn’t say no because there wasn’t a girls team! Hahaha I thought to myself then and I giggle about it now as well. I had to change in the ticket office season after season. The window office that you pay money at but it had a wood piece covering up the window when I had a game so I could change. Little did I know I was receiving an accommodation because I lacked a penis.

I started on the C line (or the crappy line). I had to show my worth and do everything the boys could do in practice. And oh I sure did. I made it to the B line and then the A line. That’s when I became respected as a contributor. I liked reading my name in the paper each week for goals scored.

I moved on to baseball, not softball. Another no girls allowed club. I tried out for little league team. The powers that be wanted me to play triple-A instead. So I went and whomped on all the little boys and my coach also coached football so he said I’d like her to come play for me. I was excited. Bigger pads and a new sport to conquer.

Only there was a big but. My mom threw down the gauntlet. She said no. No more boy sports. I think she was horrified where my dad was thrilled. It ended up working out okay as high school was approaching and well, I hit my glow up. It worked out better for me to be one of the guys but look good in a dress too so I just went with the flow. How funny is it now that I can be one of the guys but still look good in a dress?!?!

Now as an adult I smile when I see the all-girls hockey teams at the collegiate level, when I see girls crossing over in male dominated sports. Why? Because it prepares the young girls for adulthood.

I fight for a seat at the man’s table more often than I’d like to admit. It sucks but I don’t back down. I have to check the box on applications stating I’m disadvantaged in business meaning I operate a women-owned business. There are so many eyebrows I raise as an adult that are not that different than when I was a kid.

I love my male counterparts, don’t get me wrong. I love their energy, their strength and their abs most days. I do however appreciate a level playing field if we have to compete. That could be a scaled weight in a lifting competition. It could be fair treatment in a business loan application. It could be a fair shot at a head coach position vs. an assistant. I mean you can see this all the way up to the presidency.

The world has come a long way but surely has a long way to go to even out the playing field. Today’s post is all about the modern day sexism that surrounds us all in one way or another.

This post was titled life’s penalty box for a reason. I said I liked to see what it was like to be in the box. The box is full of life lessons. They will be there tomorrow, they are there today and they were there when I was a kid. I embraced the challenge of the box when I was kid and am doing so now as an adult.

Heck I even go in and out of the penalty box within the four walls of my own home. Which gender is expected to cook, clean, do laundry, bring home the bacon, and attend parent conferences? Ahhh the penalty box is somewhat like Pandora’s box.

Since this is a 2 chicks blog site I am entitled to such a rant. Xoxo to any males who read this.