Goal: Focus on the Fundamentals

A lot has happened since I first started this blog which contributed to me going MIA for a little while.  I had a baby and suffered through one of the roughest school years of my life.  A few months ago, I changed schools and grade levels, which was an improvement, but presented a whole new set of challenges.  We celebrated our child’s first birthday and then bought a new house, which meant moving.  So between moving classrooms and inheriting a LOT of stuff and moving into our new house, I rarely know where anything is!  Being inundated with too much stuff, learning so many new routines, both at school and at work, has left me feeling like I am living my life in survival mode.  I actually haven’t felt like I have been living my life at all.  “Survival mode” eventually gives way to “avoiding catastrophe mode” and I think we could all agree that that certainly doesn’t qualify as living your best life possible.  I certainly do not want my daughter growing up watching a frantic mom run around completely scatter brained and just barely getting by and think that is the norm or what being a mom looks like.  I want to enjoy life and enjoy my life with the people that I care about the most!  So what better time than the days leading up to your 40th birthday, could it be to get things back in order?!

Over the next 38 days, I am going to focus on a few goals that may seem far too basic to have much of an impact, but in my mind will create the perfect ripple to bigger and better goals down the road.  After all, if you don’t have a solid foundation on which to build goals, you will be far less likely to achieve them.  I chose a small number of goals to create a well rounded variety, so that I can focus on the “Whole Emily” and not just one facet of my life or personality.  So here we go…

Goal 1: Simplify.  I feel VERY STRONGLY that many of our problems today are due to the over complication of things that would best be kept as simple as possible.  To simplify things for myself, I am going to focus on decluttering both my home and my classroom.  There is just too much stuff to manage and I want to free up my cognitive space to manage things that actually require brain power!

Goal 2: Schedule.  I am going to create a daily schedule to serve as a guideline for better managing time and schedule specific time for tasks that pertain to my home life, my work life, and my business life.

Goal 3: Health. My goal is to drink 120 oz. of water a day and have a consistent bedtime.

Goal 4: Attend to my mental well being. I need to schedule down time to read (for enjoyment) and exercise.

I look forward to seeing my progress over the next 38 days and can’t wait to share this experience with all of my friends!

 

Fundamentals for 40: Battling Back from an Overworked Mess

Forty days from today, I will be hitting the big 4-0. And while I am thankful for every day that I am given on this Earth, I have come to the realization that I am not living life to the fullest and the things that matter most to me have taken a backseat to the demands of work, motherhood, and being completely overwhelmed by the minutiae of TOO MUCH STUFF! I have been running around for God only knows how long (I would venture to say years) in a constant state of crisis management, putting out one fire after the next. My pathetic attempts of preparation, planning, and execution have failed miserably and it has left me in a sad state of affairs. So when the going gets tough, I say keep it simple and focus on the fundamentals! Over the next 40 days I will be setting my goals and rebuilding my foundation from the ground up so that when the big day comes, I will be primed and ready to make the most of 40 and be able to take a moment to enjoy this life that I have been blessed with!   via Daily Prompt: Overworked

So Long, 2014!!!

I don’t know about you, but I, for one, am glad to see 2014 go bye-bye!  Not to say that it didn’t have it’s high points.  After all, I did get married and got to enjoy many special moments with some of the most important people in my life.  My husband finished school and we are looking forward to him starting his career.  Many of my close friends gave birth to beautiful babies whom I get to rock, get my baby rocking fix, and return to their proud parents.  (I am a sucker for rocking babies!)  Every year has it’s ups and downs, which I try my best to appreciate both.   However, it seems that this has been a very challenging year for everyone!  Or am I imagining this?

It seems that all of our instant-gratification, social-media, “looks over substance” obsession may be getting the better of our society.  The victim mentality seems to be more commonplace than those heart warming stories where you hear of people overcoming extreme obstacles, and actually appreciating those obstacles.  After all, if you never face adversity, how else do you learn how strong you are?  I had once considered myself a very resilient person, but have lately felt like a big wimp, who is often brought to my knees by the seemingly never-ending obstacles.

You can locate a never ending list of articles stating the importance of expressing gratitude, focusing on the positive, etc.  After running for and visiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for the last 5 years, I have often felt very guilty for even thinking that my challenges amounted to a hill of beans.  How quickly we can realign our perspective when we think about children staring cancer in the face on a daily basis, or parents watching their child fight through treatment, or worse, losing their battle.  We berate ourselves thinking how people facing cancer would “be glad to tolerate (insert daily inconvenience here)” so we should just get over it and “be happy.”  Expressing gratitude and appreciating the positives in life is essential but that does not mean the same as allowing ourselves to succumb to negative situations.

After losing two friends to breast cancer, in a little over a year, I feel we must revisit the thought of tolerating any and every circumstance we find ourselves.  I can’t help but feel that we would be cautioned to stop taking life for granted.  Life is too precious to continue in any situation that creates prolonged, unnecessary stress.  Does this mean shying away from every challenge in life?  Nope.  Does this mean just quitting every single time the going gets rough?  Not at all!  I am simply suggesting that while in those challenging circumstances, we step back and analyze the situation.  Notice I never said play the victim and complain endlessly about the situation.  Do your best to learn from the situation (because there is a lesson to be learned in EVERY situation), find a way to contribute to possible solutions, do your part to  maintain your dignity, and if the situation still only contributes more negative than positive, PLAN YOUR ESCAPE!  Some things may be escaped immediately, dead-end relationships, toxic friendships, etc., while other things may require more preparation.  You don’t want to ruin your future by skipping out on a job when you have bills to pay, insurance and retirement to consider, not to mention what that looks like to future employers if you decide to just cut and run.  Plus, it would do little to your self-esteem to bail on something you committed to!

Looking ahead to 2015, I am keeping in mind those things that have challenged me in 2014, and doing an inventory of what needs to be changed or eliminated so that I can make the most of my time here on Earth.  By not taking life for granted, I am honoring those whose time was cut short, and hopefully creating a better me, who is there for all of those important people in my life.

Relearning the Hard Way

This has been one of the most stressful and difficult years of my life.  I haven’t posted in a very long time as a result of being so completely overwhelmed.  I consider myself a fairly resilient person and have overcome many obstacles in my life. I accept that there are still many challenges ahead.  I see the value in challenges and their necessity in helping us to realize our purpose or as an avenue for self improvement.  I have found it extremely difficult to sort through the minutiae to understand exactly what my current situation is supposed to teach me.  So far, I have had a few little “aha” moments that I believe will carry me through to see the big picture when it is finally revealed to me.

One important thing I have learned this year is that I love being a teacher.  I will admit that there have been moments in the past that I have questioned my abilities as an educator or whether the negatives outweighed the positives. You can only hear people say things like “I could never do what you do.” or “I don’t know how you deal with all of that.” so many times before you start to question your own sanity!  I still believe in the educative process and that we have the power to change lives and improve society.  However, I think the system is extremely flawed and the perception of teachers in our society needs to shift away from thinking teachers are, single-handedly, the problem in education.  If the general public understood just how little autonomy teachers had, they might start to question why so many decisions and regulations have been put in place with seemingly little to do with what is in the best interest of children and stop spending so much time posting silly memes on Facebook about “that darn Common Core math!”  More often than not, the teacher is the person advocating for your child, spending countless hours trying to circumvent many of the obstacles that have been placed in the way of your child’s cognitive and emotional development, by local, state, and national agencies, who may or may not have any qualifications to do such.  With that being said, I feel driven to find a way to help teachers better serve their students.  We have to find a voice.  When and how I could do this has yet to be revealed.

Probably the most important thing I have learned this year, or perhaps, I have relearned this year would be about balance and taking care of myself.  Life is stressful for everyone these days but you cannot succumb to stress by completely sacrificing yourself.  I learned the hard way, during Thanksgiving break, just how detrimental sacrificing self care can be.  In the past, it was very rare that I would get completely sidelined by illness.  My immune system is usually pretty sturdy from exercising regularly, eating a fairly balanced diet, and enjoying time with friends and family.  However, my seemingly endless and fruitless attempts to “catch up” has only left me drained and sick since the school year began.  When I was diagnosed with Strep the day before Thanksgiving, I realized what needed to be done.  I had to get back to exercising, eating better, being social, and basically finding balance in my life.  I will never be able to see through all of the stress and minutiae, if I don’t take a little time to show myself that I deserve to be treated better.  I want my mind to be clear so that I can be receptive when the bigger picture is unveiled to me.  After all, the teacher in me knows how important physical activity is for optimal cognitive function.

With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season upon us, let us not lose sight of how important it is to take at least a few moments to take care of ourselves.  Your house and holiday plans may look like the most impressive board on Pinterest, but being sick in bed or biting off the heads of anyone who dares to come within a 50 yard radius of you, is sure to devastate the intended joy of this special time of year.

Words are Our “Frenemies”

We use words every day.  We read them, write them, say them, think them, and even sing them.  We can use our words as a means of support or as a tool of destruction.  We usually think carefully about our words as we present them to others, but do we stop to consider their weight as it pertains to how we feel about and view ourselves?

It seems that we are all too comfortable with seeing ourselves in a negative light.  We certainly don’t want people to think that we are an arrogant jerk, so instead we diminish any glimmer of positive regard for our self.  When someone tries to acknowledge our positive accomplishment like starting to run, we respond with something like “It was ONLY a mile,” because we know people that are able to run 3, or 10, or 26 miles, so self consciously we think our measly mile can’t really be worth much!  I can assure you that the people you know who are able to run 3, 10, or even 100 miles, were not birthed from their mother’s womb adorned with a fresh set of Nikes on their adorable little feet!  EVERYONE has to start from somewhere.  The most important thing is starting!  The best way to ensure that you will continue with good habits is by acknowledging them yourself!  Sure, you don’t need to contact every media outlet and suggest that they run a spotlight piece on your magnificent mile during the 6 o’clock news, but at least allow yourself to be proud of your accomplishment.

 

I love to run.  I haven’t always loved to run.  Matter of fact, in high school I HATED running.  I didn’t mind running after a soccer ball, but to set out with the intention of “just” running did not jive for me.  I started running around 5 or 6 years ago after a break up.  I don’t know what exactly made me decide to go for that first run, but I sure am glad I did!  The physical activity did wonders for me.  I had so much emotional conflict inside that I didn’t know what to do with, but it would all get sorted out during a run.  I didn’t set any speed records (still don’t, nor do I care to) during my runs, but I would find clarity.  I often said that God spoke to me when I ran, clear as day, and it helped me make sense of things.  I learned that I was physically strong, which allowed my emotional strength to grow, as well.  The weight loss that accompanied my new found hobby didn’t bother me, either!  I am so glad that I started out running by myself because I didn’t have any pressure from anyone to do speedwork or drills to help me improve my time.  It was not a competitive thing for me. It was my time to prove to myself that I deserved to take care of my body and mind.  I thought running was so great that I started recruiting non-running friends to be my running buddies and it became a social thing for us.  Over the years, I have run a gaggle of 5Ks and 10Ks, multiple half marathons, 2 marathons, and 5 St. Jude Memphis to Mobile Relays.  My friends and I would meet on Saturday mornings, at ungodly hours, to do our long runs which allowed us time to catch up on what was happening in our lives.  It was great and I treasured these runs.

As with anything, the more you do it, the more likely you are to become desensitized to it or lose appreciation.  As we continued to improve on our fitness and a 10 miler became common place, we allowed negative thoughts to creep in.  After a while, we put a to stop negative comments, but that is when we got really creative.  If you say it in a joking manner, then surely it can’t be as damaging, right? WRONG!!!  Every single thing you say counts.  I can’t tell you the countless times that I have declared that “I need to get my fat butt in the gym,’ while running various long distances.  Surely there is no harm in that!  Boy was I wrong.

That is the kind of seemingly innocent talk that little girls overhear and becomes the foundation of poor body image, overall low self-esteem, or eating disorders.  What I was doing, without realizing it, was discrediting all of the hard work that I have done, diminishing the obstacles that I have overcome, and making light of the 45ish pounds that I have lost through that hard work.  Today, I am very careful about the words that I choose, whether directed at myself or others.  It can be extremely challenging at times, but it is well worth it.  I think about things differently and while life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, it helps me to see more of the positive things in life by first acknowledging the positive things I have done for myself.

What would happen if we were all kinder to ourselves?  Think about how you refer to yourself and cut out those negative thoughts and see how things change for you.

 

 


“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

-Marianne Williamson


 

 

Taking the Fear Out of Change

 

Do you like change?  Does it scare you?  For many people, including myself, change can seem frightening.  I have learned that it’s all in how you deal with change that can either make it the greatest blessing or the most miserable thing ever.  We can’t reach our ultimate potential if we avoid change at all cost.  In education, we talk about creating disequilibrium, giving students new or different information and students work to regain their equilibrium by storing the new information or reshaping their pre-existing understanding to accommodate the information.  If we know that disequilibrium, or being out of our comfort zone, is necessary for growth to occur, then why does it seem so darn scary to us?

Is the fear of failure the true culprit?  We are all scared of failing at one thing or another and for different reasons. Maybe it goes back to society’s pressure to be “perfect.”  But, if we don’t buy into the notion of perfection, then are we opening the door to be more accepting of ourselves  and okay with making mistakes or failing at something for the sake of self growth?  After all, the Wright Brothers didn’t exactly get it right the first time, now did they?

Perhaps, it is the fear of success that scares us the most.  If we are successful and do indeed change, we can’t go back to our comfort zone.  We are uncomfortable with the idea of a new comfort zone.  Let’s use getting in shape as an example of this. Let’s pretend we have a friend who is about 100 pounds overweight and is currently inactive.  They wake up one day and decide that enough is enough and they want to live a healthier life.   They live on fast food, several sodas daily (whether regular or diet), and extremely large portions of food at every meal.   More often than not, we take the all or nothing approach or try to find the “quick fix”, either of which is almost assuredly a set-up for failure.  (I say we because I have been guilty of all of these things.) We resort to deprivation diets cutting out carbs, gluten, fat, or subsisting on cabbage soups, all of which are not only unhealthy, but unsustainable.  It has been scientifically proven, a gazillion times over, what is necessary to lose weight, but we think we are the exception to the rule or we just don’t want to wait that long to see results.  In order to lose weight you must expend more calories than you take in.  No one said you had to take in so few calories that you are actually causing metabolic damage, but we go there instead of proceeding cautiously into our weight loss mission.

No one needs to exist on 1200 calories a day and attempt to RUN 3 miles right out of the gate.  You don’t have to empty your cupboards and fridge of every single “junk” food item and fill them with organic kale and tempeh and eat plain tilapia out of Tupperware containers at every meal.  Quite honestly, if I had to eat tilapia out of Tupperware I would probably be the crabbiest person you have ever met! Instead pick ONE thing to change with your eating habits and find ONE way to become more active.  I didn’t say sign up for a marathon next month, I simply said become more active. Go for a WALK 3 times a week, even if it is for only 15 minutes, and work your way up from there.  Don’t start by setting a goal to lose 100 pounds because that is too overwhelming and people tend to beat themselves up if they don’t meet a goal quickly.  Make your first goal losing 5 pounds in the first month.  At the end of the month, reevaluate your progress and set a new goal for the following month.  The more gradual the changes are, the less painful they will be and the likelihood of success increases.  We don’t need to fear success.  We all are worthy of living a better life and showing ourselves respect.

My challenge, for anyone wishing to make a change in their life, is to make your (small, manageable) goals visual to yourself and share your intentions with others.  This increases the likelihood of success by serving as a source of accountability and support.  Feel free to share your goals here and we can work to support each other.  Okay, I’ll start…my goal is to drink more water, 64 ounces, a day and to lift weights 3 times a week for the next month.  I will track this on my kitchen calendar and will reevaluate my goals at the end of August.  Now it’s your turn!

 

Perfect

The word perfect is an adjective that is defined as 1. having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be. 2. free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; faultless. 3. precisely accurate, exact.  These days it seems like we are obsessed with perfection.  Finding the perfect career.  Buying the perfect house and car.  Finding the perfect spouse.  Being the perfect parent.  Having the perfect body, complexion, outfit, and accessories.  The list is never ending.  How do we know when we have reached perfection?  Is there a secret book out there that has the rules or guidelines for becoming perfect?  Is there some sort of standard unit of measurement?  More importantly, why are we so driven to achieve perfection?

There is nothing wrong with striving to become a better person.  We all have areas of our life that could stand some improvement whether it be working on our health or working for a promotion so we can earn more to pay for that fabulous home and car.  Having something to work toward is what keeps us going.  The goal is ever changing and can swing from one area of life to another.  The problem comes when we forget that we are human, therefore innately flawed, and allow our flaws to embarrass us or convince us we should try to imitate someone else.  Every person has something to offer.  No matter how peculiar their idiosyncrasies might be, having the ability to accept and love oneself for who they are at any given moment in time, is, in my opinion, as close to perfection as we can achieve here on Earth.

Why is it so difficult for so many of us to find that self acceptance?  What habits do we adults have that keep us from loving ourselves?  What are we modeling for our children in our daily lives that plant these seeds of doubt in our children.  I would venture to say that we are doing so unknowingly, not realizing the damage that we’re doing, not only to ourselves, but our children and the future of society.  My hope is that we can get to the bottom of it and educate ourselves so we can stop this cycle and end things like bullying, violence, self destructive behavior, and eating disorders, etc. while enjoying a happier life.