Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Never Regret a Smile

I’m middle-aged and just now discovering what that might mean.

I’m not talking about wrinkles or stress or looming AARP mailers. I’m talking about regret. Why do we have stereotypes of freakouts during this time in our lives? If nothing more, it could be for the simple reason that our bodies are innately trying to do what we should be doing all along: regret nothing.

Sure, getting older means you know things. Your confidence grows as your experience lengthens. However, I’m becoming convinced that your middle-aged body's influx of energy is nature's way of trying, in a last-ditch effort perhaps, to get you back into a constructive mindset of growth and exploration: one based in joy, happiness and wonder.

If you can couple that mindset in a healthy way with the wisdom you’ve accrued, what revelations await? It doesn't have to simply result in a frivolous car purchase or destructive relationship choice.

Working as an assistant in an elementary school perhaps helped me begin to regain access to this more youthful perspective on the world where things are more fluid and potentials unchecked. Taking on the persona of a rogue in the classic MMORPG World of Warcraft back in my 30s, then diving into Japanese anime like Bleach and Attack on Titan and now enjoying Korean dramas such as this year’s Signal, W and Another Oh Hae-young and Korean pop like BTS’s I Need U- I've been reminded over and over to just loosen up and look at things differently. To not give in or up or simply endure but to enjoy what I'm doing and not regret it.

Basing your daily activities around the goal of simply experiencing them fully can make you truly appreciate all that you have right around you more intimately. It also reminds you that life is basically pretty good and can be made better by every one of your choices.

My biggest hope today is we all find a moment where we smile with pleasure and regret it not a whit.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hitting the Wall

I cried today.

It was a great morning. My husband and I drove to a local park for a 3 mile run. I was plugged into some great music. The pace was great and the woods and trail were inviting. Quick smiles and greetings were traded with the others along the leaf-strewn path. I was confident: I had this down.

I’d been diagnosed with bronchitis earlier this month and I thought I had conquered it. Today, my legs felt strong and my whole body was moving easily but about a mile in, the lungs started to rattle.

My matching pace became a lagging behind pace. Then a “I’ll catch up in a bit” pace. Then the terrain and wheezing just became too much and I dropped to a walk as I watched him pull further and further ahead. The growing heaviness in my chest was only partially my chunked up lungs. I don’t recommend a cry-baby moment at a time like this. But there I went.

I went because I hate failing but I seem to do it again and again.

Hubby looked back several times- don’t get me wrong. I may have tried to hide my tears and call out that I’d meet him back at the car- I’ve been known for moments of pigheaded pride like that. I stubbornly marched alone, falling further and further into my funk.

Being the generally good guy that he is, he came back on his own and put his arm around my shoulder. He spoke encouraging words: it was a hard trail, you’ve been sick, you tried your best. He asked why I was crying.

I had to admit that I was frustrated with myself. I’ve been keeping my T1D under control. I wasn’t failing because of that. Now it was another part of my body thwarting me. Seemingly laughing at me as it waved its ability to stop me one way or another in my face.

Once I admitted it, his words could sink in. He reminded me that a guy running in the opposite direction had smiled broadly at each of us and shouted “You’re doing great! Keep it up!”. I hadn’t been able to hear it at the time and I couldn’t blame it all on Vixx.

I felt like I failed but in reality, I only did less than what I envisioned as success. If I switched my perspective, I succeeded in ways that I hadn’t even considered. Time outside. Time with my spouse. Time exchanging positive words with him and others. Time acknowledging where I’m at and time accepting the goodness of it.

I’ll get back on the trail soon. I can’t stop trying.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fear and Loathing in 2016

2016 could be characterized in part by 2 very unsettling phrases I’ve heard over the year: “trust the process” and “post-truth”. In my mind, the root of both of these turns of words, and the reason they are so dangerous is this: fear.

In and of itself “trust the process” can be construed as something quite positive. Our democracy is a system that has run for hundreds of years- we should trust it. We work within corporations and other organizations with rules and codes of conduct- we should rely on them. However, when we actually feel the need to say the phrase “trust the process”, we should take a really hard look and consider. What is triggering it? Why is there enough doubt to inspire the speaking of it? What is going on to erode the innate sense of security we feel when we know (even though it’s not perfect) that we’re in a good place mentally, emotionally and physically?

Oxford Dictionaries has picked the word “post-truth” as the international word of the year for 2016. It’s an adjective to describe public opinion where the public’s beliefs are not based on facts but are based on ideas beyond or outside of actual facts. What can be legitimately demonstrated and proven is no longer important in a post-truth world.

If we can’t or don’t base our ideas and principles on facts, how can we trust the process?

The answer is simple: we can’t. We’d be living in fear and fear can eat us alive. Fear can tear us apart. Fear can keep us from doing anything at all or drive us to the unthinkable.

As we prepare for a new year, it behooves us all to think about what really matters to us and LIVE it. Let’s go BEYOND post-truth and base our actions on truth and love. To every person we meet and with every word we speak, we should act with earnest intention and not in fear, but in truth and love. Truth and love for self. Truth and love for other. Truth and love for us all.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Something New from Socrates

Socrates had something here. Even as I looked out my window this morning in shock at the howling wind and blowing snow screaming through the crimson leaves still clinging to the bushes off the patio, I knew I shouldn’t fight it. I knew I should accept it. I’m in a new realm now and I have to build anew.

Tides turn. Seasons change. The Earth revolves around our star, The Sun, and the night will follow the day as surely as the bread will land peanut butter side down.

Don’t fight it. Build on it.

Sometimes, building the new involves changing our perspective. We can bemoan the cold or look at it as a way for Nature to control all the bugs that pester us during summer. We can shake our fists at the black skies at 5:30 at night in November or consider the deep gloom as a chance to regroup and slow down.

Changing perspectives is relatively easy when compared to the next definition of building the new: jumping feet first into a whole new way of being. Maybe that cold weather is simply too much and you decide to move to New Mexico. Or maybe that job you’ve had for years cannot be salvaged and you must discover a new career path. Perhaps a relationship you thought was the top asset to your well being is cut and you need to re-plot your course toward a totally different port.

The key is to be open to that change, whatever size it ends up being. That’s hard. Sometimes we’re so invested in what was, we can’t see the potential for what could be. Some kids hang on the monkey bars day in and day out not because they really enjoy it, but because they are blind to, or afraid to try, something new. The student, just like any one of us, needs open eyes to see and open ears to hear.

We can each be the mouthpiece for change- for ourselves and for each other. The reward is something new.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Thanks to Teespring for this shirt that keeps popping up on my Facebook feed. Folks that know me know that I’ve been lured into buying novel t-shirts quite a bit this year. I’ve managed to resist this one, but I do have a story to tell about it.

Through some strange alignment of my chakras or planets or something, I’ve actually started to get in pretty good shape this year. I’ve have Type 1 Diabetes since 1994 and given birth to 2 amazing boys so I’ve had my share of food regimes and drives to keep moving, but this is different. I’ve actually started running.

I never thought I’d be able to stay on a treadmill for 3 miles.  I’m still working on *really* running- you know- on paths. In sunlight. Up hills you can’t hit a button to reduce the incline on. But when I first started a Couch to 5K program, this t-shirt’s message screamed “YES!!!!” to me. I honestly didn’t think I would be able to finish my goal. I sat and read through much of my childhood. I had tried this running thing once before as an adult and ended up with shin splints that shut me down completely. I’m in my 40s- I deserve to kick back and relax for a while, right?

Sometimes, life is like that. Sometimes, it really does hurt all over and you can’t do it. What if it’s just that you’re meant to do something else instead? Perhaps it’s just not time for this goal...yet.

I’ve juggled these pins (my mind, my body, my food, my insulin, my exercise) countless times already. They have been both my guardians and my demons over the years. I’ve cursed each and every one of them at some point. Right now, we’re all agreeing to follow a common contract- I can’t pinpoint a specific part of the puzzle that sealed the deal. I’d like to think my boys in BigBang might have been part of it. Lol! I’m just grateful and hoping we can all just keep getting along as we are for a good long while.

We each face obstacles along the way. Some return again and again. We can’t give up but we can cut ourselves some slack when a goal pulls away from our reach- when it hurts all over and we feel like dying. Life might be telling us to go somewhere else and do something else first. What might happen if we’re open to “Not...Yet”?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Each Other's Fire

Back in January, I wrote about some of the things that I and my co-workers should be grateful for and why. Here’s a look back:

We have a lot to be grateful for. Grateful for Playworks Coach Jena with her energy and persistence. Grateful for students who play Playworks games like Unfreeze Tag and give each other praise. Grateful for student Junior Coaches who want to learn and work. Grateful for assistant staffing that covers the playground with more than bare-minimums. Grateful for a principal who goes to meetings and who steps in to fill-in any position that needs filling. Grateful for teachers and other staff who embrace ideas like Playworks in their daily activities and who go outside to play.

Inevitably, we sometimes crash. Times change. What interested us previously, becomes tedious or hopeless or even painful. However, there are those people and those moments that touch us in a way that the fire inside is fed a burst of oxygen and WOOMPH! our imaginations are ignited and we again see potential for new and wonderful things.

I can’t order up a dose of rekindling online. In fact, when we need it most, we probably don’t even see the point in looking for flint and tinder. That’s why we always need to be open to being that firestarter! You have no idea when the spark of your smile, hug, text, call or positive comment in line at Starbucks will fall on the waiting kindling of another’s soul to flame up into something beautiful. Remember: you are a part of a great big web of people.

I am your fire when yours flickers.
You are my fire when mine flickers.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Stronger By Falling

A shout-out to City Bicycle Co., in Sacramento, who is cited in the above message that I came across. Powerful words and having seen some ugly road rash from bike crashes, very fitting.

I said in my last post that I would be writing about hibernation. Daylight is getting scarcer and scarcer here in the Midwest as November ticks along. The winds are blowing and the skies are flipping between rich autumnal blue and clotted gray blankets that drive you to make soup and sit in front of a crackling fire.

The natural world is shutting down and the year is coming to a close. Makes you want to do the same. Close up. Curl up. Shut down.


While we can’t really do that, there is something to be said for taking a cue from the seasons. What benefits can we reap if we slow down? If we take a breathe? If we just stop for a little while.

You might argue that the above quote encourages to just keep going. Fall, Get Up. Fall, Get Up. Non-stop, all the way to that glorious light on the top of the mountain which is Success. I say, no.

When you fall off a bike, you pause and take stock. You check yourself, your gear and your bike. You shake the cobwebs out of your head. You figure out what’s wrong and you fix it. Then you take a second to grab a drink and tighten any straps, clips or pins that might have become loose. As you get back on the saddle, then you look ahead with your newly regrouped mind. You adjust your plan and then you take off.

The person who rides down an easy path won’t fall. They won’t risk the wounds others may suffer but where they end up won’t be much of a surprise or a feat, either.

For those who do fall, hibernating won’t help. Running helter-skelter won’t guarantee much, either. However, taking whatever time you can to rethink and make accommodations to where you find yourself before you get back on that bike?

You’ll be stronger for it.

Take the time.

Next Time: Fire

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Choose Your Battles

I liked Prince Ea on Facebook earlier this year, and if you haven’t checked him out yourself, you might want to because he has a strong message and voice.

This one smacked me in the middle of the forehead. It reminded me of a moment in my first full-time job out of college back in Ohio. My direct superior was frustrated with me when I came in from the field one day. He asked me why something happened.  I began explaining with: “Well, I thought-” he cut me off with:

“You’re not paid to think.”

Now, imagine that scene. I’m a 22 year old, fresh out of college, naive version of myself today- a nervous bookworm filled with little more than youthful exuberance and good intentions- and I hear THAT. For someone who is supposed to be my teacher and leader.

There were a few other red flags within the overall company and within 18 months of graduating, I decided to quit that profession without prospects. There were fights there that I was unable to fight.

Now that I’m waaaay older than that boss was at the time, I can look back and think that maybe he was having a bad day. Maybe, he had some pressures that I didn’t know about. Maybe, that conversation never even registered in his mind as having adversely affected my perspective of him and the company. Or, maybe he was just an ill-prepared person in middle management who should have stuck with a job that didn’t affect the welfare of a whole bunch of people looking for proper mentoring and support.

I quit. I failed. However...

If I hadn’t have quit, I never would have gotten a job in an insurance agency, which started teaching me how to work with and enjoy people. If I hadn’t had taken a business trip at that insurance agency, I never would have come to Wisconsin, where I ended up getting recruited by John Deere. If I hadn’t have made the decision to move to Wisconsin with my husband, we never would have met all the amazing people and done all the awesome things we have since 1998. I could go on with this chain of events but you understand that a TON of choices and people have entered my life after that shattering moment. A battle lost won me who I am today.
Kids literally or figuratively run off on the playground, in the lunchroom or in the classroom on a daily basis howling “I CAN’T DO THIS!!! I QUIT!!!!”. We battle every day to say the right and constructive thing in response- to not be like that former boss. We use tools like Playworks (remember- adults need to play as much as the students!) to keep our spirits up, our hopes alive and to make everyone feel empowered and a part of the team.

That’s the important battle- the one we cannot fail to win.

Thank you for reading.
Next time...Hibernating.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Jumping into the Korean Wave

Over the last 3 years, I got hit with a lethal 1-2 combo punch: Korean TV shows and music, AKA K-dramas and K-pop. I’m here to say that I’m a better person for it. And 20 pounds lighter, as well!

OK, get over your giggles because I’m going to stick with this declaration and make my case. The world-wide wave of Korean culture and arts (even Noodles & Company recently featured Korean BBQ Meatballs with Gochujang Sauce on their menu) that had its very beginnings in the late 1990s finally came to my door during a lull in my Japanese anime binging, I mean, viewing, in early 2014.

I was hooked almost instantly. Thanks to readily available streaming services with rapid subtitling, I was soon diving into all sorts of stories, characters and lives from the other side other world. I was intrigued by differences but comforted with similarities as well. Love, humor, revenge and longing speak to all of us and I thoroughly enjoy watching Korean actors and actresses ply their craft in ways that are substantially less explicit than in the United States television scene. Shows like Kill Me Heal Me, Dear My Friends, Signal and Healer speak volumes about the human spirit.

While K-dramas make extensive (some would say, excessive) use of theme music, I resisted diving into Korean Pop (K-pop) for quite a while. I viewed myself as too old and the industry as too industrialized to mesh well. Perhaps all that streaming helped make this middle-aged woman’s body go south but eventually I realized I needed to exercise regularly again and that’s when I entered this other auditory world.

Knowing almost nothing, I chose a Korean Pop station on Google Play and began thumbing up and down. Some artists confirmed my original fears. Fairly quickly, however, I was blown away by a number of bands that exude energy, drive, intensity and fun that make a workout session (almost) fly by. There are both boy bands (BTS’s Dope, Bigbang’s Tonight) and girl bands ( 2NE1’s Ugly, Davichi’s Beside Me) with tunes that can drive you through a floor, weights or running routine. Bands like BTS have amazing dance moves and English/Korean lyrics that, even when fully translated to English, don’t make you rush to cover your kids’ ears and eyes. In fact, their lyrics can be quite inspiring.

Sharing our lives and daily routines brings us together. We can do that now easier than we’ve ever been able to. Whatever culture it may be, give it a try! You’ll be richer for the experience.