A gift inside a disappointment

I found out that my conference in DC is cancelled next week as the location has been compromised with the coronavirus. My first disappointment came this morning when I learned our Capitol visits would be virtual. Then by noon, the entire conference would be virtual. That means I miss out on connecting with old friends and making new ones. I am not going to spend some awesome time with my MO crowd, which always ends in great conversations, many laughs, and all kinds of fun. I am going to miss the PD and the opportunity for refreshment this conference represented for my spring sanity. And I miss out on exploring DC, something I absolutely love, no matter how many times I visit. Bummer!

But, after I finished my cancelations, I thought about the gifts this disappointment has given to me. I don’t have to leave Sunday morning at four am, but will have a Sunday to plan my son’s 7th birthday a bit better or get going on my taxes or just to take a nap and read all afternoon (we are expecting rain or I would be in my blackberry or strawberry patch cleaning or mulching my flowers beds for spring). I will get to attend some meetings at school I otherwise would have missed. I will not have the four days of backlog work to make up, which also saves my following weekend for more fun options. I will be there for P/T conferences, which I truly hate to miss. Even if parents rarely visit afterschool staff, it is a great time for reflection and making to do lists ta done lists! I will have additional time and brain power to finalize out-of-town events the following week. And I will have three nights home with my husband to sit beside him on the couch and to enjoy his snoring as I sleep in my own bed.

It is all about how I frame this change to my schedule. I can whine about the disappointment or look at the gifts that I typically take for granted and which I would have missed next week if my trip would have moved forward according to plan.

A Very Real Surprise Found on a Ghost Tour

‘If you look at the white floor and the end of the hallways, you may see the shadow.’ Then much louder, ‘Hello! Can you let us know you are here? Can you hit a cell door? We won’t hurt you, but want to know if you are with us tonight.’

The Missouri State Penitentiary opened in 1836 in Jefferson City, Missouri along the banks of the Missouri River as the only prison west of the Mississippi. After 168 years of housing prisoners, the prison was decommissioned in 2004. Today, the prison provides a variety of tourist attractions including the ghost tour I took Saturday night as a part of my mom’s 60th birthday party.

Maybe it was our glow bracelets or maybe we were too loud or maybe we are just too positive, but whatever it was, we did not have any ghosts come to visit . . . that we are aware of! Even though we did not have a visit that night, I can’t help but think about all the souls that once walked those halls and how their stories may still haunt us today.

As a part of the Ghost Tour, the guide shared many stories and accounts of the true history of the MSP. The accounts of the women who came or ended up pregnant while serving their sentence (many were allowed to work at various homes in the area). Many of these women delivered their babies at MSP, and these children grew up in the prison. Even though babies today are put into protective services, many will have residual challenges – physically and emotionally – for the state their mother was in at their births.

Our guide also shared the history of some infamous prisoners like James Earl Ray. Working in the prison bakery, Ray removed the baked goods from a large wooden crate and went out in the bakery delivery truck. Only a few months later, he shot and killed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. How different could our history be if this man had a different job while at MSP – a job which did not allow for his escape?

You may wonder if the ghost tour is the real deal or some act. What I can tell you is I have had a lingering feeling since Saturday night. As I continue to reflect, I realize that there were a few ghosts that visited me. I have truly been haunted by the condition of this prison and that it was only decommissioned in 2004. It really made me think about prison reform and question if we have really come that far in this area of our ‘civilization’?

This tour also makes me fear the ghosts of future students. These are the ones that I interact with each day that struggle in many ways. These are the students that I know need me or one of my staff or their other teachers to reach them. If not, I fear these students are destined to be contained in horrible places like MSP for most of their lives due to poor decision making or the lack of impulse control or an anger that never completely leaves them. These ghosts are very real, but I also know many trying to eliminate any future prison spirits – I walk beside these Ghostbusters in the halls of our school each day.

If you are interested in a ghost tour or a history tour of MSP, check out https://www.missouripentours.com/

Self Care: This should not be considered an oxymoron!

This is a little ditty on a subject that I have found myself speaking on in professional settings. Just like my blog name, I try to Be Real with people and admit that I am on this journey each day and that self-care is something we must always strive toward – there is no end to the journey. The SOL is a form of self-care for me. Hope you enjoy!

Why is it so difficult for people (mirror looking back at me!) to practice self care?

Some say it is women who are so used to taking care of other people it is difficult for them to shift into a mode of self-reflection in this same area.

But I know many men who are also not willing to practice this in a healthy way for fear of looking weak or lazy.

Too often I have also had individuals laugh off comments like, “Does a six-pack/bottle of wine and fill-in-the-blank tv/movie count as self-care?”

In my experience, teachers and others in education have a very difficult time ‘allowing’ time for themselves. However, there are few activities teachers can do to improve their classrooms that are more beneficial than self-care. But first, we must change our mindset in that self-care is something we do on the weekends or vacation. That may be true, but self-care should be daily moments in our day. This can be accomplished in three areas of self-care: relax, refresh, and revitalize.

Relax are those activities that help us get out mind off of what we do on a daily basis. This can include time away from work or an activity that helps us relax. For many, relaxing activities may actually be physical activities that others consider ‘work’. One of these for me is gardening. It is physically demanding, but relaxing and fulfilling when the job is completed.

Refresh is something we do to help us get a new perspective. This can be on a daily basis or something like a conference that motivates or inspires us in a new way. The key to refresh is that our mind is stimulated. I am a self proclaimed PD junkie. One of the reasons I enjoy most workshops/conferences is because I leave with new ideas to implement or try. That new information provides energy to go back to work.

Revitalize involves our physical body. This is self-care that helps us to re-balance our physical system. This would include activities like how we fuel or flood our body in food choice, how we exercise, do we drink enough water, and do we get adequate sleep each night.

What the teaching profession particularly needs to be careful of is that self-care is not only for summer vacation. We often need to relax, refresh, and revitalize multiple times each day.

How do you take care of yourself throughout the day?

Think about activities that motivate you or lift your spirits that you can incorporate into your day. Here are some of mine to get you started:

-funny photo of my boys at my desk that makes me smile

-electric kettle so I can enjoy a cup of Jasmine tea (always have a teabag in your purse/teacher bag) anytime of the day

-favorite playlist on my Apple music – I hope yours is as eclectic as mine.

-taking 10 minutes or 20 – whatever you have to walk the hall or better yet to get outside for just a few minutes and move.

-taking deep breaths – I like 4-7-8 counting (four in, hold seven, eight out)

Keep the ideas coming in the comments. What do you do for self-care?

Laundry Science

As I look at the baskets of clean clothes sitting in my living room tonight, I think we, as a country, need additional investment in laundry science. Sure, we have automatic washers and dryers, but we have not come along nearly as quickly in this area of housework as we have in so many others. If you ever watched the Jetson’s cartoon, so many of their futurist features we can now have in our homes – robot vacuums and dinners done in minutes – so why am I still folding laundry?

I know I should be grateful because I have more clothes in those baskets that many people have in their village, but tonight I am just irritated that my clean living room only lasted the weekend and is now cluttered up again by laundry. How can clean laundry makes my house look at mess – does that make any sense??

So, if you know any intelligent young people with a mind for creation and innovation, encourage them to go into the field of laundry science. Maybe that is the new field of the future.

Celebrating 60

Today is my mom’s 60th birthday. These are 60 reasons to celebrate my mother.

  1. Her love of essential oils.
  2. The fun we have when we swim in the pond.
  3. Her knowledge of cattle.
  4. The memories of birthday parties with so many special cakes.
  5. Her courage at difficult times in her life
  6. Her faith that carries her through each day.
  7. Her ability to make a new friend in a crowd.
  8. Her patience throughout the stages of her kids’ lives.
  9. How she made a station wagon seem cool.
  10. The love of nature that she continues to pass on.
  11. How she taught me how to recycle.
  12. How she could make fun out of mating socks or picking up trash.
  13. Her example in education – just keep going until you reach your goals.
  14. The love of plants that is in our blood.
  15. The way she always needs something to drink and has a glass of tea and a cooler in her car all the time.
  16. How she still does stockings for each of us at Christmas.
  17. The strange gadgets she finds that have so many uses.
  18. The fun gifts she sends in the mail to celebrate the holidays.
  19. The Fathead of herself that she sent when she could not attend Grandparents Day in person.
  20. How no matter what is happening in her own life, she takes time for a friend.
  21. Her strength in starting a career after having a family.
  22. Her expectation of good grades that set us up for hard work and success throughout life (at least with the four older kids – the youngest got away with everything!)
  23. How she gave each of her kids what they needed at different times.
  24. Her love of reading that she instilled in us at a young age.
  25. How she allowed and encouraged our adventures and make believe.
  26. How she allowed my adventures as a young adult, even when they scared her to death.
  27. Her multiple choices of soaps and shampoos in the shower on any given day.
  28. Her ability to listen and encourage through all of our trials.
  29. How her WW diet taught us to eat rare vegetables and liver and other strange food groups.
  30. Her courage in great endeavors like driving a bus and IAing cows.
  31. Her love of good country music – those roots still run deep.
  32. Her talent in canning and freezing and being able to pull a meal out of her freezer.
  33. Her well stocked frig without a spot for anything else.
  34. Her thoughtfulness in being able to offer any coffee creamer under the sun.
  35. Her love for Little Women.
  36. Her obsession with the Royals. KC and British
  37. Her desire to live at Downton.
  38. How she does not like cantaloupe, but the fun when every once in awhile she will try it just in case she has changed her mind.
  39. Her quotes from Seinfeld.
  40. How she shares the really funny Maxine jokes.
  41. Her love of Jane Austen or at least movies based on her books.
  42. How phrases like, ‘Who wants to see something pretty?’ will forever make me smile.
  43. The way she celebrates when she wins a board game or at cards.
  44. How she uses Vick’s under her nose when she may come into contact with foul odors.
  45. How she gave me green bowls for about 8 birthdays in a row.
  46. How she packs the kitchen sink – diffuser, bed side lamp, and much more- for a weekend get away.
  47. That she survived four kids under 5 when she was still quite young.
  48. The fun things we always had at our house like Tang.
  49. How her hoarding tendencies turn into priceless gifts – our toys and books and other treasures.
  50. Her fun little spoons and special cups that make all who are visiting feel special.
  51. Her collecting habit that seems to have come from her grandma and mother and of which she is passing on to me (teacups, teapots/salt & pepper shakers, sampler cups, unicorns – four generations of collectors).
  52. How she thinks of the best gifts for her sisters and daughters. Even if it is the same, it feels special.
  53. Her obsession with small bowls and different dishes.
  54. Her courage to love again.
  55. The many inside jokes we share and funny stories like leaving her sleeping during Black Friday shopping.
  56. How her old habits die hard like hanging clothes on the line.
  57. How she continues to grow my spiritual faith through prayer and example and encouragement.
  58. How much she loves being Mimi CeCe.
  59. How much she is like good wine – just keeps getting better with age!
  60. How much she loves her husband, her kids, her grand babies, her mom, her sisters and brothers and her many, many friends.

Mom, I hope this was truly a spook-tacular 60th birthday!

What Makes a Book Good?

Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. If I have to be inside, then I really need a book in my hands.

I have read hundreds of books, but still have trouble answering what makes a book ‘good’?

My mom and sisters don’t really understand my love for personal development/leadership/self-help/non-fiction works. I occasionally read a popular novel just to have something to talk to them about that doesn’t sound like a lecture. It is not that I dislike novels. I would just rather learn about something I could implement in my own life or in helping others. I enjoy reading for purpose.

I tend to cycle through a series of topics. My husband cringes when I suggest something from a stronger marriage book. This is not because he is against a stronger marriage, but I am often asking him some question that requires feelings. He often volunteers for housework or something else unexpected just to escape what he fears may be coming.

My boys like the parenting books I read (they follow the marriage improvement books in the cycle) if they perceive the book is making me a ‘better/nicer’ mom. If my new mom knowledge will require them to have more responsibility around the house or to treat their brothers better, they will declare it to be a ‘bad’ book.

My staff is usually split when I share the latest research from the book I am reading and how we could implement it in our program. They typically fall into one of two camps. Either they have already purchased the book on Amazon before the end of the staff meeting or they roll their eyes and later talk about how the book may work other places but not for us. Thankfully, the latter group continues to shrink.

I recently read the book, Heartland. It is a memoir about a girl growing up in Kanas in the 80’s. There were so many parts of the book that exactly described my life growing up in Missouri during the same time period and with some similar life experiences. But there were other parts, when the author went into discussions about class, equity, poverty, and politics, which I did not agree with nor think were accurate portrayals of the Midwest. So was it a good book?

I had to land on the positive with this book because it made me think and because I am still thinking about it four books later! I believe it is vital to teach our youth that it is important to read as a way to impact our own behaviors and improve our lives. And that often means we will not agree with everything we read, but should read books which make us think and challenge our own ideas or assumptions.

The One Event None of Us Will Escape

Death has been on my mind and in my life a great deal lately. From just before Christmas when we unexpectedly lost a favorite uncle to many friends, acquaintances, church and community members who have passed on since the start of 2020. This is some of what I have learned.

From my Uncle Bob – always be sure to give one more hug when you say good-bye – everyone could use one more hug. Try to have an easy laugh and keep doing what you love as long as you feel like doing it.

From Mrs. Limbach – as a teacher for 47 years, she never lost her passion – only her partial loss of eyesight took her out of the classroom. Remember to pray for your students and attend as many weddings as you can to be a part of their special day.

From John Wood – even though I only knew him as my friend’s brother, the tribute his friends gave at the memorial made me want to be a better friend. The memories they shared also made me realize how a day on the river or just time on the farm may be worth so much more to our family than some expensive trip somewhere. We can’t forget that who we spend our time with is often more important than what we are doing.

From Boomer – hug my boys and husband every opportunity I get and don’t take life too seriously. If there is a way to make other people smile or laugh, that will never be wasted time.

There have been more that we have said good-bye to in the past couple months as death has visited our small community too often. But even in the hurt, I try to see the lessons as their final gift and to strive to live my life so that my final farewell, whenever it may come, would be my last inspirational lesson.

Dale Brisby or Dave Ramsey? Basically the same . . .

Life with my boys and husband keep me laughing most of the time. Tonight’s laughter reminded me of the famous Abbott and Costello Who’s On First.

My Abbott boys were simply trying to stay up a little longer while my husband and I were planning to watch our next online video in our current course.

‘Why do you get to stay up and watch You Tube?’ whined the first.

‘Why can’t we watch it with you?” asked the next.

‘What are you watching? That David guy?’ asked the third.

‘I told you boys to get your teeth brushed and to bed,’ Dad raises his voice down the hallway. ‘Your mom and I are watching our Dale Brisby videos.’

‘What!! I want to watch Dale Brisby!’

‘Me, too!’

‘That’s not fair! Mom, you said I couldn’t watch Dale Brisby, but you and Dad get to. That is not fair!’ shouted with the explanation of the slamming bedroom door (This son is knocking on the door of middle school and really honing his dramatic flair!)

‘We are watching Dave Ramsey, not Dale Brisby.’ Mom corrects with a roll of the eye.

‘That is what I meant. I get their names messed up,’ Dad shrugs as he comes back into the living room.

Silence from the boys.

PS to reader – If you don’t know these characters, just Google search. Their images are enough of a picture of the vast difference of subject matter!

It is time to confess. I am a PD junkie.

I must be truthful to myself and those I love. I am a junkie. A PD Junkie. I L-O-V-E PD. PD as in professional development or my broader use of the term may just be adult learning. A a life blender, learning for my profession very rarely stays in the ‘professional development’ box. Instead, most of the learning impacts almost every part of my life.

I am very liberal with my love/addiction – workshops, webinars, an outstanding speaker, a great TED talk, a good group book study, an individual book study, a crazy 31 day writing challenge – I love it all.

I am serious. I get a natural high after learning something new. I am like a kid on Christmas Eve, waiting for the next day to begin so I can put my new knowledge to work. I start a powerpoint for a presentation for which I have yet to identify the audience – I know the audience will come and that this message is just perfect for some purpose. I am so motivated by what I have learned that I am compelled to pass it on.

I know my family and staff love being in perpetual life experiments – often the direct result of my new learning. They are not always willing participants, when they are aware of what is happening, but we almost always end up better on the other side.

I know some reading this may think I am crazy. But then again, you likely also signed up for the challenge of writing everyday for a month! I love it when my own-kind-of-crazy becomes normal. =)

I would love to hear what learning has excited or motivated you to grow?

Never a Dull Moment

With three boys there are a few things we are never lacking in our house. Here are a few:

  • All sorts of strange and unpleasant odors, many of which we never find the source
  • Nerf bullets found in many unusual places
  • John Wayne, Sam Elliott, and Tom Seleck westerns on the tv
  • Boots, boots, and more boots
  • Almost always some sort of fighting or picking on one another
  • And laughing. So many funny stories – this is the latest

My youngest son, Judd, had a mishap with his brothers who were throwing a rope. He ‘got in the way’ and ended up with a burn on his neck/shoulder blade. That story was not quite adventurous enough so he told first grade teacher/class today that he got horned by a bull. I am not sure if it is more funny that his stories keep growing or that his teacher half believed him! Never a dull moment . . .