Sunday, July 23, 2017

Our Keys

Looking at my keyboard today, I wondered if it’s battered surface could be used as a metaphor for my life.

The only key with more wear on it than the backspace key is the “T”.

Many of the keys shine from wear. I almost feel bad for the right-hand keys: they clearly aren’t shown as much love as the left. But that backspace key...life’s all about mistakes. We try, and (more than likely) fail the first time. We have to go back. Sometimes we only have to change a tiny thing. In other cases, we have to do a wholesale slash-and-burn and start back at square one.

I shift a lot.

That probably doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me. Shifting. We change thoughts. We pause. We consider. We have to shift. My husband argues that capitalization is meaningless and should be eliminated. He looks at it from a programmer’s perspective. I come at it from a philosopher’s or artist’s. Shifting is a beautiful thing. It opens us up for my next idea: space.

My right hand gives me a lot of space.

There is a clear circle demarcating where my right thumb rests lightly but continuously on the space bar. I never even realized I keep my left thumb high in the air until a few moments ago. Perhaps my left hand has made a special arrangement with the right one since those left keys get so much work. We do that: we make deals with ourselves and others. We all can’t do it all. Which leads to my last thought.

I need many keys.

There may be favorites but there are few, if any, unnecessary ones. Some keys have very specific and limited uses while others are being called upon repeatedly each and every day. I need them all. I want them all.

We all have a function while we’re here. We all can have a purpose. Maybe I will be the “~” of the world while someone else is the “T”. That’s OK. We each give the world something with our existence.

We all can play key roles somewhere. Where do you see yourself playing the most rewarding role?

Thank you for reading my blog! I am hard at work on a guided journal for diabetics as well as starting to dream of what a second year of Dear Teachers might look like. In addition, I have some ideas for speaking engagement scripts related to teacher support I’m fleshing out. If you’d like to discuss signed copies, bulk orders or speaking engagements please email me at dearteacher2017@gmail.com. I am grateful for your time!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Strange Bedfellows



I realized in my last post that I’d fallen into a rut of using the term “Life” in my blogs over the last month or so. I’m glad I’m finally breaking that. And I’m so glad it’s because of this topic.


I’ve been described as “strange” on more than one occasion, probably moreso lately with my continued interest in things such as KPop. (BTW, the Monsta X concert was great for those with seats that allowed you to see the entire stage and screen. Which didn’t include me. That’s all I’ll say on that subject.) I will mention & thank the interesting people I sat with for the time I stayed. In fact, meeting Ryan was one of those random opportunities that make life so much fun. I’m glad we were seatfellows. I wish him and his podcast with Andrea well!


We’re defined, in part, with whom we spend time with.


Today, that time can be spent face-to-face or across vast distances, spanning many time zones. I look at my daily contacts and am in awe. I could never have imagined the network that I have around me today if I was asked to do so even 5 years ago.


Whether I know you via music, education, diabetes, writing, exercise, books, children, family, schools, work, gaming or remotely some other way, you affect me and I am grateful!


Our networks can grow and change daily.


I recently was given the opportunity to write a blog posting titled Dear Teachers: Don’t Forget To Take Care Of Yourselves for TeachThought, whose #Grow17 conference will be running this week in Louisville, KY. I’ve also been contacted to be a possible source for an article for BetterHelp because of a recent posting on my own blog, titled A Good Life. In addition, I’ve had a ton of fun giving out some copies of my book to some amazing educators in the UK and learning more about them and their work. Let’s not forget my new and renewed connections at a family wedding, outlined in Love...And Life!


Most of these connections were made possible through positive social media interactions. Twitter is an especially amazing tool. I never would have met many of these people without today’s channels of communication.


The tiniest things can change a life- yours or someone else’s.


I look back over my life, and I find a series of moments that my life turned on. It could have done so in vastly different ways had I reacted differently to certain people and/or situations. Did I made the right choices? The best choices? I will never know. But my life has evolved to today’s time and place because of these interactions and I have to thank the people and occasions that have led to today.


We all have these powers to affect another person’s life. We need to be mindful of that as we go about our days.


We’re stronger together.


That sentence is gaining more and more meaning to me as I continue to use it. I titled this piece “Strange Bedfellows”, but we’re all bedfellows, in some fashion.


The more we seek to relate to others, the more we can get accomplished. At first look, we may think we have nothing in common with a person we meet. By extending our hand and opening up by sharing a bit of ourselves, we might discover a bond or even create one of those life-turning moments. We’ll never know until we try.

We might not be such strange bedfellows after all.

July is half over! There’s still time to order a copy on Amazon of my guided journal, Dear Teachers, for yourself or special teachers in your life! Dear Teachers makes a great gift of positive encouragement for education professionals- if you are an administrator, principal, youth group leader or home schooler please contact me to discuss its potential to support your staff!
Signed copies and special bulk pricing opportunities are available! Please email me dearteachers2017@gmail.com.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Life and Fandom

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It’s time for another KPop concert in my life. Wednesday’s journey takes me back to Chicago but this time to the Rosemont Theatre to see Monsta X.


I’m not going to go on ad nauseam this time around about the personalities, rhythms, voices and choreography that are so enjoyable to get into as I did with BTS (but feel free to check out my blog posts here and here). If you want to be driven on a treadmill or weights session, check out Monsta X’s 2015 song Trespass or this year’s Beautiful to get an idea of what the night will be like.


What I’d like to dive into a bit is the idea of bringing younger interests and ways into our lives. Alyssa, over at Mrs. Geology, has a fantastic blog post from 2016 on this general subject called 12 Ways to Approach Your Classroom Like a Fandom. She bases her arguments around an author fandom, however this concept can be applied to any interest that brings people together. Whether you’re a teacher, parent or just have some teens or tweens in your general vicinity, you can apply some of these tricks in your life to bring you a better understanding of and connections with today’s younger crowds.

Trust me, it’s worth doing. They are some pretty amazing people with impressive skills.
I’m not going to go through all her points from a KPop perspective, but I know it’s a doable concept. My time prepping for the BTS concert included lots from her 12 points. I learned how (and participated in!) fan-created polls, fan art, huge fan projects like purchasing & designing Snapchat filters, rainbow oceans and signs to give out to an arena of over 10,000 fans. Fans create pages and group chats on a variety of social media. Fandoms pool information, funds and even lodging and transportation. They create amazing art and crafts to sell or simply share. All of this on top of learning more and more about the actual artists.

Not to be a party-pooper, but I think one of Mrs. Geology’s last points is very important and the least fun to get across:

11. Set clear boundaries.

Whether it’s from books, movies, TV shows, music, videogames or something else, we all need to step out of our fandoms regularly. We all need and deserve time in Real Life (RL) to connect with the Real World and the people and places that physically surround us. There are problems to solve and greatness to appreciate out there. It behooves us to be there and do.

Fandoms can augment, not replace, our lives.


I’m not saying that our fandom relationships can’t continue into RL. In fact, I’m a firm believer they can become valuable relationships in RL. I’d also like to challenge adults to share their own fandom interests to peers as well as youth. Don’t be scared to do it! Making sure we all go to RL can bring even more people together as we introduce all of ourselves to those around us. At the very least, it can give others the confidence to present their own full selves to those around them. Perhaps more will be fixed and enjoyed because of all that effort.


For KPop concert goers, the dreaded letdown from weak boundaries is called post-concert depression (PCD). I hope all the Monsta X fans (Monbebes) enjoy the night and wake up Thursday somewhat ready to jump back into their lives. I also hope we all have RL lives we can enjoy.

And not just until that next special fandom event.

Amazon's PrimeDay savings on books expires at 11:59 p.m. (PT) July 12, 2017. It's a great time to pick up a copy of my book Dear Teachers. My work is for everyone and anyone involved in education looking for some support and inspiration. $10.99 US for 40 weeks of ideas! For signed copies or bulk orders, please contact me directly at dearteachers2017@gmail.com.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Love...and Life



This past weekend, I immersed myself in a family wedding. What an uplifting experience.


We’ve lived away from our hometown for almost 20 years and have always been a bit quiet. I tell people that I’m a born introvert who’s learned to act like an extravert for brief periods of time. Growth mindset, right? I still can’t say it’s natural, however I enjoy it more and more as time goes on.


The power in this day became apparent when we were at the ceremony. The atmosphere was relaxed and convivial from the beginning. I’m more of spiritual person as opposed to a religious one. The priest set the tone for me well when his sermon focused on what love looks like in practice. I like descriptive examples, being a visual learner.


I began applying the term in my mind (yes, sorry, my mind did wander, I admit) in more broad terms than marital love. I looked around at the crowd. So many faces I either did not know or recollect only from years gone by. We change. We evolve. But there are some universals to consider.


What is this “love” thing?


I’ve been writing lately on teacher emotional & social support, the type 1 diabetes I have and of the hobbies and interests I have grown to embrace. There’s quite a bit of weight and seriousness (and sometimes complete fluff) to those subjects. I made some connections when I interchanged “love” and “life” in my mind that I thought were worth considering.


Life is passion.


When we’re really living, we are doing what makes us happy and fills our buckets. I’ve said this before: I want a life that I don’t feel the need to take a vacation from in order to escape from it. I wish that for everyone. Living with passion. Loving with passion. Those are huge gifts. Finding  ways to them can be a life’s work.


The passions in my life that I never dreamed of include learning to work with students, running, jamming to Korean pop, writing to and about teachers, blogging and having all this plus 2 children. Your passions will be wonderfully different than mine. There’s such beauty to that.


Life is sharing.


Oh, it’s so much easier to remain silent. It’s so much safer to fade into the woodwork. I have made a fool of myself and probably angered a person or two over the years as I’ve opened up more and more. However, I think I’ve helped once or twice. I've learned and grown immensely. I’ve included my voice with others’ voices in solidarity and I’ve been a voice of dissent that's lead to overall growth in our combined understandings. Sometimes, I do some good. Sometimes, I make huge mistakes. It’s important to keep trying and building.


Couples need to share things in order to build their ties. The same goes for all of us. Life is about making connections and seeing ourselves in others. There was a bunch of giving for this weekend’s successful (and fun) events- well before the wedding day. A reminder: when in doubt, give.


Life is everything and anything.


I’ve touched on it above but it bears repeating in detail. At this wedding, there was a rainbow of personalities, skills, beliefs, abilities, interests and perspectives in attendance. I have my thing. Every other person in that celebration had theirs. As it should be.


We danced. We sang. We ate. We drank. We laughed. We cried. Together.


We came from all directions and regardless of time and distance, shared experience brings us Together.


We’re stronger together. That’s love. That’s life.


Best wishes to the new couple and to all of us through Life!!

Love and life. Teachers love their lives but sometimes it gets away from us. We’re well into July- there’s still time to order a copy on Amazon of my guided journal, Dear Teachers, for yourself or the special teachers in your life! Dear Teachers makes a great gift of positive encouragement for education professionals- if you are an administrator, principal, youth group leader or home schooler please contact me to discuss its value to your staff!
Email me dearteachers2017@gmail.com for signed copies and special bulk pricing opportunities.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Mountains of Life


Everyone has mountains to climb, and if we have good people around us, the climbing is easier and the elevations we’re able to reacher are higher.

Here’s a cool bit: Those people around us? They can be in our faces, in our pasts, or thousands of miles away.

The people “around” us are in our hearts, minds and histories.

I was reminded of this fact in a number of ways this weekend. Firstly, we had a great visit from a friend whom we haven’t seen in a number of years. Physical separation and lives branching with growing families pulled our focus away from each other. It was a pleasure to express and witness everyone’s evolution and current selves.

Next, I received a copy of What’s Under Your Cape? from the author, Barbara Gruener. I knew of her work, but conversations on Twitter led to some great connections forming and an exchange of both thoughts and life facts. Turns out, we both have deep ties to the state of Wisconsin on top of our interests in human development and education! It was a real pleasure hearing her initial thoughts on my own book, Dear Teachers.

Lastly, I read The Healthy Toolkit’s blog for July about journeys. This is a cool group with a strong presence on Twitter (#JourneyJulyHT, #SayYes2Wellbeing and #FFInspirational) that I encourage anyone with interest in education to check out. In addition to a great review of their history and plans,  I was especially drawn to this line:

“Our concept of ‘Healthy’ has grown with us, from our initial thoughts about healthy eating and proper hydration, to healthy attitudes to colleagues, to healthy use of social media and digital interaction.”

We’re on a journey. We connect. We move on. We grow.

We aren’t supposed to drag our journey’s mountains behind us. I could feel guilt and regret for losing immediate sight of a friend. I could be shy and nervous of all the great books out there by people with much bigger ideas than my own. I could choose to ignore the online resources of thoughts available across the digital landscape as too big or overwhelming. But I don’t.

I choose to cherish what was, enjoy what is now and look forward with hope for what is out there waiting to be. We’re all in this together.

We all color and are colored by a multitude of lives over both time & space.


That’s a potent fact with far-reaching implications. By relating genuinely and in unity, we can climb and not carry our mountains.

Summer is reaching its peak. As we journey forward, I hope you consider purchasing a copy of my book, Dear Teachers, for yourself or someone you know who is on an educator's path. Essays, nature photos and space to reflect for an entire school year of support. PLUS a closed Facebook page I will be supporting. Contact me directly at dearteachers2017@gmail.com for signed copies, bulk pricing or to discuss speaking opportunities.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Good Life

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So, as a type 1 diabetic, I have blood work drawn every 6 months. This time around, the one test for overall blood sugar control, HbA1C, was up to 7.8. This ain’t a great number. In fact, it’s higher than it’s been in 5 years- higher than when I weighed enough to be classified as almost obese.

Why am I telling you this? To me, it’s a reminder of a few things.

You can’t take anything at face value.

Anyone that sees me on the street today will probably not make a note of it. I’m pretty generic looking. Average height and average weight- I’m an average looking mom of 2 boys. I exercise regularly. I write down what foods I eat and try to stick to a balanced diet.

No one can see I have a condition that I fight every day. There are no outward signs,  unless someone sees me test or inject insulin, that I have to monitor what I eat, what I do and inject medicine every few hours of every single day.

There are tons of people out there like me. We all have things going on that others don’t have a clue about. It’s a reminder to pass on a smile every chance we get. It’s something we can do to lighten whatever burden the other person may be carrying.

You can always do better.

I look healthy and I feel fantastic. I went through some stuff in my early 40s that made me afraid I would be in pain for the rest of my life. I worked hard and improved. Despite my apparent health now, I’m reminded by this blood work that I can still do better.

Diabetic Warriors (my favorite term) can get numb to the daily grind and we need to be reminded to pick up our game. This doesn’t apply to just us Warriors, though. We all need reminders.

We all need new inspiration to keep our goals in sight.

A corollary to the fact we can do better is our need to get help from others to do so. For me, I should reach out to my health care team to help me gain tighter control of my diabetes. This goes for everyone: getting help from others helps us succeed. It can make the process more enjoyable, as well.

Enjoy your days.

I could get depressed about my numbers or ticked that I have this stupid condition in the first place. I choose not to, though. I choose to find ways I can enjoy getting and staying in shape. I choose to spend time each day doing things and being with people who fill me with joy and purpose. I’m not rich with money but I am rich with the satisfaction of who and what I am.

To me, that’s a very good life.


The above essay was inspired by my current work on a guided journal for Diabetic Warriors, which I hope to release in 2018. This will be the 2nd in my Support & Inspire series, following Dear Teachers. Which reminds me! Summer will fly by, so if you are or someone you love is a teacher, please make sure to order your copy soon!! Dear Teachers also makes a great gift for your staff if you are an administrator, principal, youth group leader or home schooler as described in this post. Contact me at dearteachers2017@gmail.com for signed copies and special bulk pricing opportunities.

Friday, June 9, 2017

An Open Letter to Support Your Teachers


An Open Letter To Support Your Teachers

June, 2017

Dear School District Administrators, Personnel Heads, Professional Development Managers, Principals and Head Teachers:

You can give your teachers a warm hug of support that will last an entire school year.

A school year has ended and another waits in the wings. If they are at all like the teachers I’m familiar with, your teaching staff is probably hard at work right now closing their books, leaping into days to recharge with family and friends and also exploring a variety of professional learning tools and events in preparation for next year. They never stop.

My name is Susan Baumgartner, and I would like to introduce you to a book I’ve written to help your amazing teachers get a weekly boost throughout the 2017-18 school year.

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Based upon my lifetime of experiences and philosophical thought and 5 years as an elementary educational assistant, Dear Teachers is a guided journal for today’s educator. It contains 40 beautiful nature photos taken by my friend and elementary health room professional, Marlene Oswald, tied to 40 of my own essays on a variety of teacher-specific themes. In addition, there is space each week for the reader to add their own thoughts. An entire year’s worth of experience can be captured in this single, 88 page paperback.

I think of Dear Teachers as a friend that can sit on a teacher’s desk or in their bag, waiting with a positive word or picture at the ready or simply acting as a space to listen as the teacher journals. Some teachers have said they plan to sit down with Dear Teachers on Sunday mornings with a cup of tea or coffee before preparing for their week. What a great idea to embrace!

To assist with the connection of writer, book and reader, I’ve established a closed Facebook page readers are invited to join. I will post additional information weekly and readers may also share if/when they wish.

We are in this together.

I would love to discuss with you ways my book could help you support your teachers. Amazon offers Prime shipping directly to you from the printer. I also have signed copies that we can arrange special shipping and pricing for based on volume orders in the US. UK orders can be placed here.

PD events, in special gift baskets and in tool kits for your teachers or new hires are some of the opportunities my book can be used in. I am also available for speaking events.

I look forward to talking with you and wish you all the best today and throughout the year!

Sincerely,


Susan Baumgartner
Author, Dear Teachers
Twitter: @sbaumgartner94

Phone: (262)787-8770

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Suffer...Truth...Together


The events surrounding KPop superstar T.O.P this week (and beyond) highlight some important facts: we all have problems, we all need to live true to ourselves and we all need people around us who can help us do that.

We All Suffer

I have type 1 diabetes (T1D) and have struggled with depression and anxiety on and off my whole life. I know people with a laundry list of physical, emotional, financial and/or psychological hardships. It doesn’t matter how much or how little money you have. Money cannot buy you out of life’s bitter darknesses.

T.O.P is said to be dealing with some mental health issues. Mental struggles are just as painful as physical ones. Some have argued that they are tougher because they are invisible, therefore sympathy is not easily earned. Having an invisible condition myself (T1D) I can see this as possible. We sometimes want to pretend these things don’t exist. Sometimes we try to hide our weaknesses.

We All Deserve Truth

I’ve become more outspoken about my life, including my T1D, in recent years. Writing this blog is testament to my willingness to share my life’s truths. It’s frightening to me but I feel compelled to live (and share) my real life for both myself and others who may find themselves in similar situations.

We all live within a social structure and sometimes we feel obligated to mold ourselves to that framework’s customs. I believe people like T.O.P feel this pressure deeply. Whether it’s our personal, medical, professional, religious, political or sexual truths, if ours are in serious conflict with the framework we find ourselves in, it will lead to our destruction.

A little flexibility could go a long way towards easing each other's experiences.

We All Need Someone

With all my talk of pain and pressure, YES there is hope. It can be found in each other’s eyes and arms.

We all need a support system. We can all be a part of those support systems. We can express kind words and actions. We can allow others who differ from us to have their space. As long as they are not negatively impacting others, it’s their right. We can speak up and stand up with non-violent conviction when we see others being excluded and wronged.

We don’t need yes-people in our lives agreeing blindly to whatever we say and do. We need people living their lives fully and living their truths fully.  We need people willing to actively try, fail and get back up again to try again. T.O.P needs that just as much as you or I.


Life’s about learning from our experiences. We can do that best when we do it together.