Tired . . . Oh so tired.

I am not sure what is more exhausting: going on vacation or coming home?

I know I do this to myself, with too much to get done before I ‘feel good’ to leave – again my mom’s voice about leaving dirty dishes or laundry plays in my head. And that is just at home.

Striving to get ahead in work projects, even though the trip is a work trip, so that I am not swamped when I get home, I am tired before I started.

Then the trip is to a different time zone. It involves some late night fun and some early morning meetings. I have to live up to my ag teacher upbringing: if you hoot with the owls, you must still fly with the eagles in the morning!

Then there is the mental exhaustion of the ideas and all you are striving to take in. Who knew thinking could be so enervating.

Then the push to get checked out on time and to the airport. Then wait and then rush on the plane. Repeat.

Now, I have wearied myself with complaining.

Chapter two tomorrow!

Until We Meet Again NYC

I had a college speech teacher who I did not really care for, but whose words I remember and still use today – If you do not have a personal experience with a person or situation, you would refrain from having an opinion about it. This has been true for me and NYC.

As I leave NYC, I think about what I was scared or worried of when I came and am forced to confront my own biases and stereotypes I continue to have, consciously or unconsciously, about people and places.

  • I never once felt scared or threatened to be ‘mugged’. While I am sure this happens and I was possibly in safer parts of town, I really assumed I would feel times when I felt unsafe. There was a single instance when we went the wrong direction and ended up outside of a park where a van was providing something to a long line of homeless people. Was I feeling unsafe or just uncomfortable? There was also a drunk man on the subway, but he was a happy drunk and well supervised by his brother and only asked us to sing along to “My Girl”.
  • The people of NYC will be rude. While they do like their car horns, we was treated with the up most respect and courtesy everywhere we went. The city should be proud of its hospitality and tourist industries. Along with all of the security people, these are the true stars of NYC.
  • I was really amazed at the huge differences in wealth that is obvious in this city. I did not truly understand that a matter of blocks or a bridge will quite obviously separate the millionaires from those with not enough to get by.
  • NYC is a dirty city. I rarely saw trash, except for at the end of the day when it was obviously being collected for disposal. I rarely came across foul smelling areas or areas that made me think of a dirty city. Overall, there seem to be programs in place to recycle and for street clean-ups. Even after the huge St. Pat’s parade, when you would think there would be trash, the city only had litter that evening and even then, not much. All signs were gone by the next morning. And we walked over 30 miles across this city, so we were provided with plenty of opportunity.
  • I would never want to live in a city like NYC. Even though I don’t think I would want to give up my open view from my own front porch, after visiting this city, I see its allure. The variety of food, activities, and people would keep you supplied always with something new to try or see.

Overall, this has been a wonderful trip full of formal and informal learning. I definitely need to plan another adventure that challenges me to be real about my predetermined opinions.

Nerding Out: Meeting One of My Favorite Authors!

About five years ago, I read, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. In this book, Gretchen (I am fairly certain she would be fine with me calling her by her first name!) takes a different habit each month in an area she strives to change to improve her happiness.

As I prepared for my trip to NYC and knowing I would have the chance to meet her, I thought about a variety of mindsets that I gained from this book and how much they have changed my life. From the first chapter alone, I busted some of my clutter (still difficult with young boys) and learned to do a one minute tidy-up, act energetically – especially when I don’t feel like it, and to go to sleep earlier. I know these are small habits, but small habits can really impact your happiness.

Try it this weekend. If you have a messy cabinet or island countertop, set a timer for just 1 minute (5 if it looks like mine!) and get all the clutter put in its place or in the trashcan. It is amazing how great you can feel with cleaned off counters!

Back to my encounter. So Gretchen was our keynote speaker. She spoke about the Four Tendencies, which is a book I brought with me for the plane ride home. It was a fantastic presentation. When we better understand ourselves and our tendencies and better understand others’ tendencies, we can communicate much better and be much more efficient in our work together. These are ideas for our work and personal lives. And Gretchen is funny!

Later in the day, it was time for the meet and greet book signing. As I waited in line, I thought about what I should say. Should I tell her I know we would be friends if we lived closer together? Should I invite her to the Lake the next time she was visiting her parents in Kansas City? Should I tell her that I love the book group of women/authors that she is a part of (Brene Brown, Rachel Hollis, Laura Vanderkam, Daniel Pink, Heath Brothers, Seth Godin) of which I know I will fit with incredibly, WHEN I write my best seller?

As I cumbersomely, pull out all five, yes it was FIVE, books for her to sign, I realized that she might call for security if I started down the crazy train of what I really wanted to say. Instead we chatted about how much the Happiness Project changed my daily habits. Then I asked about her talk and about the questioner tendency (that’s me) and how irritating it can be when I have done the research (a questioner tendency) but then the group still needs ‘something more’ or ‘buy-in’ to make their decision or to come to a consensus. It was a great conversation. Then I walked away, but remembered I wanted to ask about the page-a-day calendar. In 2018, I had the 2018 Happiness Project Page-a-Day calendar. I had to go back.

I was glad I did. I learned that the page-a-day calendar was something her family did, each having something different and often sharing – something my family does as well (Mom saves us the best Maxine jokes). She said it was a lot of work and not a lot of income, but that it was really popular. I don’t know if it is for sure on for 2020, but here’s hoping. And she was glad for the feedback.

From this experience I learned:

  • I need to be careful not to seem like a crazy person! Most people at this conference had not even heard of Gretchen Rubin, let alone read her books and had a page-a-day calendar. Did I mention I am a fan?
  • Reading about someone’s life makes us feel connected to them, but that connection is only one way.
  • I may need to read more fiction.
  • I am not sure exactly what my book will be about, but I will certainly quote Gretchen Rubin somewhere in it and strive to have her provide an endorsement

I would love to read in your comments who you would nerd out with? In other words, who is an author you would pack your suitcase with their books to get them all signed?

Tell Me How I am Supposed to Feel

I am reflecting on my past few days visiting the memorials and museum dedicated to the lives lost and to the heroes who came to help during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Alan Jackson’s song asks, “where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?”

I will never forget my drive to school that day. I lived in a farm house out of town and commuted about 20 minutes to campus. As I got on the interstate, there was an alert on the local radio station that I only noticed because it interrupted the music. A plane had crashed into a building in New York City. I found it strange and horrible for the people involved, but did not really understand why that was such news in the Midwest.

I parked and walked to class, but knew something was not right, even before I went into a building. Campus was not its normal buzz. I would soon see why. Everyone was circled around whatever television could be found. I watched in horror as the second plane hit. Our professors did not know what to do, so they sent us all home. I called work – I tutored for the athletic department – and was told not to come in, but to go home.

As I walked back to my car, I just wanted to talk to my mom. As we tried to sort out what was happening and what she heard on the larger Kansas City news, that is when I was really scared. My mom said that my little brother, who was 8 at the time, often saw war torn countries on the news. He would ask if that would ever happen here? To us? I will never forget my mom saying, “I don’t know what I am going to tell him tonight.”

Visiting the memorials and the museum today, I was reminded of how so many, many people’s lives changed on that day. How many moms and dads, sisters and brothers, and grandpas and grandmas never came home from work that day? How many heroes were created as firefighters, EMTs, and police officers were just doing what they do – serving and protecting? And how many regular people did all they could to help others get to safety, only to lose their lives trying to get one more from the wreckage?

September 11th is day we will never forget. Our students today celebrate it as Patriots Day, honoring those who serve our country and communities. We must all do what we can to educate our youth in what happened on this day, how it changed our lives, and why we cannot forget the price that continues to be paid for our freedom.

And on my return trip home, I will thank each TSA worker for the job they do continuing to keep us safe. The next time I stand in a line waiting to go through security, I remember 9/11 and what we now know, the evil that is in the world, upclose and personally, and that knowledge changes everything.

Baggage

Do you ever think about your baggage?

How difficult it is to tote around? Always moving it from place to place.

And flooring like carpet or craters in the sidewalk make you wish you were a minimalist!

Why do I feel the need for all the baggage?

Can I blame it on my mother with all her warnings to be careful and take extra underwear?

Do I blame it on the fact that it is my first time on this kind of trip and am striving to be prepared for anything?

Do I take the blame myself knowing I cannot stand to be unprepared and really don’t like not knowing or being in control of what is coming?

Do I blame it on my past and not being able to let go of events which impacted my life?

Will I ever have an argument with my husband and not worry that it will lead to a divorce just like my parents?

Will I ever be able to take a compliment and not wonder what people really think that they won’t tell me?

Will I ever really let go of the fear of failure in order to try the unknown that could be my actual path to my happiest and most successful self?

No matter if it too much luggage or a backpack filled too full or if it is my heart and mind filled with the baggage of my past, it is time to get rid of my baggage. 

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Finding the Beauty Where You Are

Today I found beauty in so many unexpected places:

In the man making sushi. He placed the various ingredients with such care and used his tools with precision. His art was a lunch for others to enjoy.

In the Statue of Liberty. I have always loved the idea of Lady Liberty, knowing my great-great grandparents immigrated from Germany. Today, I learned all of her history and that her beauty is so much more then her carefully sculpted copper skin. That she was a gift to signify friendship is amazing. Then there were so many ways that ‘the people’ made the pedestal and really brought her to the harbor. People working together truly is beautiful.

In the stories told from the bus guide. His heart for his city and the catch in his voice as he told his memories of 9/11. Passing by the memorial pools, tragedy has been turned to beauty.

In the perfect dish with handcrafted gnocchi and watching chefs craft the best food. And I am fairly certain my face was beautiful eating it!

It was the tile of the subway stop and the many incredible churches. Beauty is truly all around us if we just take a moment to enjoy it.

This Little Light of Mine

They realize bright lights don’t need spotlights.

This line from Bob Goff’s book,  Everybody Always, is just the latest line from this book that caused me to stop and think.

When we are focused on others’ opinions of us and striving to impress others through our good deeds or high accomplishments, we, more often than not, miss the point.

When we are really shining –  performing work that is meaningful, spending time with family and friends, or simply taking time to let someone else know you care – it won’t matter who is watching because it was never about those on the outside.

We forget to worry about who the credit will go to and just get the job done.

We stop spending all of our time in the office striving to make our boss proud and instead show up for those who are proud just to know you. 

We take the time to do what is right even if no one is looking.

This line makes even more sense as I sit in a NYC apartment overlooking the Hudson River with the lights of New York providing a magnificent twinkle. If each of those likes had a spotlight on it, it would just be obnoxious, and I would close the blinds.

Who needs to just experience your twinkle this week? Know that your light is enough even if you are the only one who knows it is shining today.

Life is just not fair . . .

I have heard this phrase from others or thought this phrase myself so many times. . . .

When benching a player whose attitude was more detrimental to the team then her talent was useful.

When one son perceives his brother is receiving some special treatment or item that he is not getting at that same moment.

When I have 10 loads of laundry to do, and I haven’t even been home the previous week.

When a friend can’t get pregnant, and is one of the best moms I know.

When I see so many kids who are not treated well or are abused by their parents.

When I have to call the police because a child has not been picked up after our afterschool program and not a single person on the contact list can be reached.

When I have to tell a child that she won’t be going home, but that someone safe is coming to pick her up.

When the child blames herself for the trouble her mom is in.

When she says she doesn’t want to go back into foster care.

That she even understands the crazy system of foster care at her age.

Life is not fair.

Pretending vs. Living

When I chose the name of my blog – Be Real – it was not only a statement, but a challenge to myself to not be another ‘social media perfectionist’, only sharing the ‘perfect’ parts of my life. Instead, I want to be real about the challenges of being a wife, mother, educator, and the challenge to also just be me striving to accomplish other hopes and dreams outside of the roles I play for other people.

Today, however, the Dynamic Catholic Best Lent Ever reflection, https://dynamiccatholic.com/best-lent-ever/lenten-reflections-2019/the-great-pretenders, really socked me in the gut. The final question for the day, “When have you preferred pretending over living?”

That question is deep on so many levels. A couple I will share with you.

When my parents divorced when I was in junior high, I fulfilled the perfectionist role in the dysfunctional family. My mantra was

“Everything is fine. I get perfect grades. I am the president of clubs. I am the basketball star. I don’t know about those people. Oh, yeah, they are my parents, but I am just going to keep my distance from that crazy mess. That is not me. I am perfect. Just look at all my accomplishments.”

When you grow up pretending instead of living, it is a hard habit to break.

I think back over my 10 year marriage. How many times did I pretend nothing was wrong and instead felt the sadness/anger/hurt in silence? And if you actually live instead of pretend, people think you are crazy. You are not supposed to call each other out on something one of you is doing that is negatively impacting your marriage. That is counter-cultural. You are supposed to pretend. Everyone is more comfortable when you pretend – everyone except you.

What about as a mother? How many times did I pretend to laugh at the jokes about my boys being so close in age (11 months 1 week apart #nojudgment) and pretend like it was ‘just like having twins’?

It was not like having twins. One could not eat anything and the other constantly stuffed all kinds of crap in his mouth. For three years, I could never leave the two of them in a room alone without something happening. I struggled through, knowing that any day someone was going to call me out as a bad mother, simply because I could not keep up with work, two babies, and a husband who traveled all the time for work. I was comparing myself to many other moms, who I know now, were likely pretending. But I didn’t know that at the time. I just continued to put on the smiling face each day as I pulled on my superwoman costume, which I never actually fit.

When my third son came along just short of three years later, I wanted to stop pretending and live the life I was missing out on. One strategy I used to be present in different aspects of my life was by striving to separate my home/family life from my work life.

I would park my car when I got to work, and then sit there for several moments, trying to get over whatever crazy crap happened that morning with the boys.

At the end of the day, I would reverse my routine striving to leave behind whatever a wonderful coach had said, or the struggles of an upset teenagers, or fury of mad parents, which were all in a day’s work in my position as an athletic director. I did not want to pretend with my family, and I wanted to give them my best, not just want was left over.

As I pulled up to the daycare, I would remind myself that these boys only get one mom and that is me. I am not going to handle everything perfectly, but there are perfect moments like when they all come running to me the second I come in the door, one in my arms and the other two wrapped around each leg – now that is living.

There are still times that I pretend more than I live, and that reflection today, really brought up some memories – some not so great but also some of the best.

It also made me recommit.

I will strive to ‘actually live an interesting life instead of pretending to be interesting.’

I want to live up to my blog name.

I want to be real.

Temptation

I am basing this off of what I learned/was reminded of at church, but even if share other beliefs, temptations are real!

The gospel reading for the first Sunday in Lent is always the same because we need to hear it each year – Jesus going to the desert for 40 days and being tempted by Satan. This reading and the homily that followed really made me think about what tempts me. Enjoy my list and add your own temptations in the comments.

  • Peanut butter M&Ms – if you can eat just one, you must be super-human.
  • The urge to cuss to make my point when I am mad – I was never a cusser, until I married into a family of cussers (or at least that is who I am blaming it on). I am using Lent as a fresh start to stop this bad habit that I hear my boys also doing (YIKES!) when they don’t think I can hear them. A cusser is just not who I want to be.
  • Staying up late, binge watching The Closer, Suits, Project Runway, or whatever other series I currently have on the DVR. I am a night owl by tendency and must force myself to go to sleep at a decent bedtime. This is a ridiculous temptation when I know I will pay for the lack of sleep later in the week.
  • Taking out my lack of sleep on my family – this is when the tailspin occurs. I am tempted to yell at my boys and get mad at my husband about events that otherwise would not typically bother me – dirty clothes not in the hamper, middle son taking F-O-R-E-V-E-R to get ready in the morning, finding recycling items in the regular trash (I mean come on people!). I know deep down these frustrations are occurring due to my lack of sleep, but I am tempted to take it out on someone else.
  • To make excuses – I am tempted to make excuses to tell the person all my reasons why my action or lack thereof is justified and therefore, why I should NOT be held accountable. Almost always, I regret giving into this temptation. Making excuses is not the person that I am. I am the kind of person who owns up to mistakes made or opportunities missed. I am the kind of person who learns from failure and strives not to repeat it. I am not an excuse maker.
  • To judge people – This is so easy to give into, especially when you are in conversations (I think we call it gossip) about someone and then I am tempted to also give my two cents. That is the easy road. It is much harder to say that I do not know the entire situation, but that we all likely need to pray for the situation and do want we can to support our friend. It is so tempting to just chime in with what I heard! But again, I never feel great when I choose door number one – gossiping.
  • To spend more time at work because that is where I feel the most success – I just got real. This temptation I have struggled with my entire life. I continue to work on my life blend and understand more each day how fleeting this life is. My boys only have one mom and my husband only one wife (fairly certain of this) and they deserve my best – not the whatever is left after I give my best to those at work. I was convicted of this when one of my sons told me I was so much more fun at school and must like other kids more than him. He was being dramatic at the time and of course, I told him he was more fun at school as well, but the comment hit me right in the guilt box (it is located in about the same place as your heart, and many of our loved ones seem to know exactly what to say to open it). I really had to examine my schedule and make some changes to give my family my best times as well and the temptation is there each night as I strive to get just one more item off my list or send one more email. Stop the temptation by setting the time you will leave and then do it. Do not bring work home with you. It will only tempt you to shorten your family time even more.

So what tempts you?