challenges, dare to be different

Opportunities and Obstacles

Deep breath…..

Sometimes life puts obstacles in front of us to see how we can hold up through challenges. The roars of 2020 were not for the weak in mind, body or spirit. Even the strongest and bravest souls faced some kind of adversity.

Oddly enough any obstacle can be turned into an opportunity. For me one area was coaching. How to coach through a pandemic. An obstacle to some but an opportunity to many. Nothing in a text book that I can recall on how to push through a pandemic, but that’s okay. I figured it out and am working on it daily.

As I coach I also get to share my tactics with others. Today when my efforts were validated, I got to grin knowing 2020 didn’t wipe me out. It showed me how to be resilient. It also made me more aware of the importance of sharing my successes with others. 

I am resourceful. Years of experience. A variety of tools in the tool box and each affords me the luxury of having options. Each option or path leads to an opportunity. An opportunity is what you make of it. Sharing this outlook with others will create a domino effect. 
Take a chance.

And if for some reason you missed a good opportunity, another one will come along, I promise. The key is don’t wait the next time. Seize the opportunity. Discover obstacles. Turn obstacles into non-issues. New opportunities will then keep branching off.

Trust the process.

Take chances.

Don’t be scared to learn from a missed opportunity either. It’s just like a baseball game. You can’t win every game played forever. The odds lead to some losses. And losing is okay as long as you spin it into a learning opportunity. 

My favorite business question is: if you could start over again what would you do differently? 9 out of 10 times there is a list of changes. Those are the strong leaders. Those who can’t see an opportunity from a failure will say I’d change nothing. I have unfortunately met many like the latter.

Let 2021 be a year of you. Your obstacles. Your opportunities. Your chances. Your experiences.

Don’t let Debbie Downers steer you away from chance. A chance is an opportunity for you to be great. I know many who will not take a chance in today’s uncertain times. I stand celebrating those folks as they give me more choices in which opportunity I will take and seize. 

Here’s to living for obstacles and opportunities in 2021 and beyond. Experience life. Your way.

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.

giving

Cheering People On Who Need It

You never know who it might be.

Maybe it’s the co-worker everyone finds annoying because they seem to be so hypersensitive about the pandemic and germs and social distancing and sanitizer.

Maybe it’s the colleague who shows up on time every day to his job, doesn’t necessarily go above and beyond but quietly and dutifully does what is required.

Maybe it’s the person who is constantly cheering everyone else on. Posting photos with wide smiles. Positive quotes.

I know each of these people. And I know they are each suffering in their own ways. Do you know these people? When you look around, really look, do you see them?

Yes, I have that co-worker who keeps his door closed. Who was afraid to come back to work and still has those fears but needs the income and benefits. Who people roll their eyes about in conversation because he wants his room cleaned multiple times per day.

So what did I do? I wrote him a thank you note. I complimented his work to my boss. I went out of my way to appreciate him. He is not having an easy time.

The person who is always positive? Once in a while she gives a glimpse into her struggles. She drops a hint. But then she keeps on encouraging. I see a bit of myself in her. Or the person I hope to be. I try to tell her often how much she is a light in my life. It reminds me of someone like Robin Williams, among others, who seemed so funny and light and full of life. Sometime there is struggle there. Who might be putting on a brave face?

It’s the “in the middle” or “under the radar” people I have been trying to look out for lately. Those who are just going through the motions. Nothing unusual. No big highs or red flags. Maybe they’re just kind of invisible.

How are they holding up? Are they barely holding it together? I worry about forgetting people. I worry about people feeling alone and forgotten. When I text to check in on someone and it’s been a month since I’ve heard, I know I need to do better.

I have the fatigue that many others do. The whole thing is wearing on me. My gratitude muscles are sort of flabby. They aren’t as strong as they used to be. I need to keep reaching, stretching, and extending them.

Look around you. Do you see any of these people? How can you give them a lift, show appreciation, let them know they are seen?

The holidays will continue. Think of some unique ways you can lift people up in these draggy times.

challenges

0 to 100

It all started with a Facebook post.

Just a handful of nut jobs jumped in. Then 200 plus. Now it’s at almost 500 people.

500 people willing to do burpees for 100 days! Starting with 1 on day one and adding another each day. That’s over 5,000 burpees in total. If only 400 people complete the task then it’s over 2,000,000 burpees in 100 days.

That’s pretty nuts if you ask me but I’m doing it anyway and so are a couple of my gal pals. We shall see how we fare. For now I will just journal my happenings as they unfold. Maybe I will finish maybe I won’t.

Day one = done

Day two – easy peasy

Day three – omg there are 32 burpees in my workout so I decided to knock out three before. That didn’t seem to bad so I did four more. That put me one day ahead. Then at night I did five more for one more day in case I slacked on the weekend.

Little by little I’ll chip away. I’ll go ahead now while numbers are low and build as the days progress. Good news is I didn’t die yet.

Update. I’ve been taking a bite out of my burpees when I have a few extra minutes. I’m surprising myself because I really don’t like burpees. Mine are sloppy and they are just not fun. I think that’s why I decided to do this extra work.

8-10-10-12-7-7-6. That adds up quickly. Now I can knock off a big day in the future without my mind struggling with the daunting task of x burpees in a day. Partitioning my work the way it works for me. Bite-size chunks. Strategy wins in my mind. Today I knocked off day 30, day 6, day 14 and day 10. I obviously kept tallies of my smaller numbers that allowed for rest and decided how to record on the calendar.

I could have chosen day 60 because that all adds up to 60 but I opted for variety to make me feel like I accomplished more. Such a mind hack for me! I’ll update again soon as do how I am doing.

working women

A Day in the Life (These Days)

People sometimes ask me if I like my job.

My answer used to be an enthusiastic “yes!” How can I not love a job filled with reading to kids, writing with kids, doing research and helping them grow into readers and learners?

These days my answer is different. Lukewarm, at best. I get up and go to my school every required day. But I am not excited about it right now. What used to be a positive, welcoming place is now filled with “spread out!” and “don’t touch!” Books turned in are quarantined in a special room on carts until they’re safe to touch.

Instead of kids drifting in and out of my classroom throughout the day, they can only come to the media center once a week during their assigned time slots. They come in, stay in line, sit down in the distanced chairs.

They watch my whole, real face tell them a story on video while they browse tables of books with their eyes, not hands. (I no longer have a clerk to assist me, so I “clone myself” with a video screen.) If students want me to open a book, I prop it on a random page then keep moving. When they have their selections they head to the desk. I scan a barcode instead of them typing their own numbers. No touching! Then they return to the exact same seat.

Instead of laughter, the most prevalent sound is the *psst* *psst* *psst* of food contact surface spray. I scrub. I shuffle books. Gloves on. Mask on. Smiling with my eyes as best I can.

I miss my job. I miss spontaneity. I miss special projects. I miss idle chat that leads to great ideas. A few fewer rules. A few more smiles.

A highlight of the week is when I do carside book delivery to the digital learners. Some drop by twice a week. Sometimes I get to wave to the kids in the back seat and tell them I miss them. Last week a parent held up her phone so I could Facetime with her son, waiting at home for more books. I’m not the only one who is missing something.

Or the other afternoon when I had a spur-of-the-moment takeout picnic with my daughter at the park. As I was leaving I heard a girl’s voice scream in excitement “YOU ARE THE LIBRARY TEACHER! YOU ARE THE LIBRARY TEACHER!” Then her little sister, a new kindergarten student, joined in the hollering. We waved excitedly. From a distance. Even with the mask, they still see me and I still see them.

I’m determined to stay positive and try to keep connecting to kids at a time when everything is about separation. When the kids watch me tell a story and laugh at the right parts, I know I am still reaching them through all the rules and rigamarole.

The Roaring 20s, I tell myself. The Roaring 20s.