balance, health, mindful

Small Business Hero

I returned to my old neighborhood yesterday. Todos Santos Plaza is located in Downtown Concord, California. It is always an interesting place to spend your time. You can hear BART whiz by. You can experience real metropolitan traffic complete with one way streets and the thrill of the hunt for suitable parking. It offers a nice mix of fun little restaurants, a huge Farmer’s Market twice a week, and yes, sketchy characters and transients. The bums are top notch, and they are wanderers who flail around and stop to yell and speak their minds.  

It was so perfect that the belligerent bum who was yelling obscenities into the street was yards away from me after I pulled out a bunch of cash from the ATM for my hair appointment. I went into stealth mode and entered my car through the passenger side just to keep things exciting. If the kids were with me, the choreography wouldn’t have been as smooth.

I decided to go back to the hole-in-the-wall hair salon and visit Tammy again after almost three years. Tammy is an amazing lady. I feel ashamed that I even attempted to get a haircut or color service by anyone else. I tried my mom’s hair salon (also another hole in the wall), but the owner of that establishment is known to leave customers alone, stranded with the foils in their hair while she goes to “Pick up her daughter real quick”. Mom enjoyed that.

I’ve gone to the high-end pretentious salons that have fancy vacuum systems to get rid of fallen hair very soon after they are detached from the client’s head and are not really anything to write home about when it’s all said and done. Tammy doesn’t pretend. Tammy doesn’t leave her customers alone in the shop. Tammy tells me, “I’ll take care of you, Hon. It’s been long time. But I remember you”.

Shortly after my arrival, she wrestled with the overgrown potted plant that took up a corner of the salon and also blocked part of her price list. She made this effort  just so I could be comfortable in the chair. After a brief consultation, she set me up, and she went to work with the color. I cozied up with my book and occasional wandering eyes.

KB Hair and Nail Salon is Small Business LEGIT. The random 50 gallon fish tank. The Holy Mother Mary. The other two clients in the salon getting a perm and debriefing about Thanksgiving. They were Golden Girls-esque. The gossip. The concrete brick walls that lacked any color and the exposed pipe. Haphazard wires connected a flat screen TV to the wall. A college football game was on, but no one was really paying attention.

To add to the amazing ambiance, the same belligerent bum that I’d encountered earlier even came by! The door was wide open due to the perm fumes, so we got to experience belligerent bum full force at maximum volume. Tammy just responded with, “He knows not to go into people’s shops”. Again, she took care of me. She made me feel safe. Later on, she told me a story about her son that melted my heart and made me think about my future 14-year old son who is now currently 20 months old.  

My hair turned out fabulous (by my standards), and I only paid $75 for cut and color. She made my hair soft and pretty again. After I squared up my payment, she asked me to write my name down on an index card so she can start a file for me about my future color treatments. I appreciated this low-tech method of getting to know her clients.      

Now I truly know the meaning behind Small Business Saturday. The proud owners of small businesses put their heart and their lives into their jobs. They do what it takes to make real connections to customers and clients. Tammy is my Un-Fancy hero. She is the reason that I will go back and visit downtown Concord every 8-10 weeks. Thank you Tammy. Thank you, Small Businesses. The world is full of expectation, comparison, and suffering about it all. The magic of a small business can help keep it all balanced.

Now, as a consumer I have #smallbusiness goals in mind. 


Until then…

What are your favorite small businesses? 


KB Hair and Nail Salon 

Todos Santos Plaza 

classroom, mindful, working mom

That’s The Real Question

The excitement of Back-to-School is making a slow transition back to reality.The reality is that I’m a working mom again. I like to think that I’m a “pretend” stay at home mommy for about 3 months out of the year. I have two kids of my own, but this week I met 25 new ones who will also be under my care until June. Oh yes, I have to teach them a whole lot of things by then too. I think we’re in good shape so far. It was a good week.

Oh the exhaustion. My almost 8-year old and I were enjoying a chill moment on the couch after the first day of school.

“We did it. The first day of school is done”, I said, offering her a high-five.

“I can’t believe it! I can’t believe I’m in second grade! And good job today, Mommy.”

“So how are we going to do this everyday for the rest of the school year?” I was really asking her for some insight on this one. I was tired, and the day was catching up with me.

“Now that’s the real question, isn’t it?”, she responded. Her tone was so even, so calm, and so composed.

Good answer. Really good answer. I’ll take it.

I asked my daughter a silly question at a moment of stress and exhaustion, but her response was real. It was Mommy-like. It was teacher-like. And yes, she may have heard my husband say that a time or two. I have no idea how the year will go, but it started off well. There’s no way of knowing what is to come, and I only have control over what’s happening to me in the moment when it happens. Reflecting back is helpful to some degree. However, I know it’s not healthy to dwell. For now, my brain sees a couple of lists. 


My 14th  First Week of School

Motivations:

  • The custodian told me again that I have the cleanest and best smelling classroom in the school. He thanked me.
  • I implemented meditation in my classroom. 5 minutes of being mindful after recess is powerful. 
  • I heard some healthy gossip at work. A couple of people want to clone me. I do to. I can get more housework done that way.

Meh:

  • I had McDonald’s once this week for dinner. Exhaustion won that round.
  • At Target, I wiped my toddler’s nose with his own sweater in front of someone I ran into. I hadn’t seen her since high school. It was an awkward reunion. Meanwhile, there are 60 boxes of tissue living in my classroom.

Motivation and Mehs are the driving force of life. Compliments and affirmations can really make someone’s day too. I plan on stopping more often to enjoy the moments, even if they’re “meh”.


Until then,

I will tuck a few tissues away somewhere, just in case.

mindful

T Minus 7 Days Until

My mind is officially on repeat with school thoughts. They freak me out, but I’ve embraced them. One week from today, I will be navigating through The Teacher’s Edition of the Sunday Scaries.

I started feeling overwhelmed this week, and my angst was soothed over by a meme that I came across on Instagram posted by @Bored_Teachers.

“You can be a loving teacher with a gentle heart and still listen to gangster rap on the way to school”

-Bored Teachers

Yes. Gangster rap. So good. Although it’s not game time yet, I put this notion into action and I proceeded to blast Big Sean’s “I Don’t F* With You” at the start of my Saturday errands in suburbia. Basic. 

Next week, I will return to my workplace. In many ways, it contradicts my beliefs and goals of being present and awake in the moment. Living in the now is hard. It’s nearly impossible while being an an elementary school teacher.

Lesson planning is centered around a place and time that doesn’t even exist yet. I hesitate to plan as far as 1.5 weeks ahead. Teachers also often reminisce about how amazing or how awful the curriculum was a decade ago. They speak of a non-reality. I feel like I should have regular access to a 40 oz of something to pour out for them. May I add it to my teacher wist list?

It’s all very important though. Best teaching practice depends on thoughtful planning and a strong debrief and reflection on the past.

Finding balance during the craziness of the teaching day  requires the swagger, confidence, rhythm, and beat of my best inner gangster rapper. Vulgarity is necessary and acceptable in certain situations. I’m talking to you, sh*tty broke ass f*n copy machine. 

To all of the teachers currently experiencing a Sunday night stomach ache, push on and power through. The energy and hype of  “the now” during your morning commute complete with your favorite rap, punk, country, or NPR doesn’t have to end when you cut the ignition in the school parking lot. Set it on repeat in your mind until you return at 3:30 (or whenever your contracted day ends).

 

Until then,

How do you hype yourself up in the morning? Who are your favorite gangster rappers?

-Jenn

 

declutter

You Are Allowed One Personal Item

I had one of the dreaded teacher dreams last night. Thanks a lot teacher brain, there are still 16 days of summer left before I begin year 14. At least I got an idea for a post. The following however, is not the scary dream I had. It’s reality. Enjoy.


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my arrival to work in the morning on a typical school day. My teacher bag rests uncomfortably on my shoulder. The straps get all twisted and dig into my skin. The bag itself is overloaded. I have my plan book in there. I like the really cute, thick spiral notebook kind that has all the bells and whistles and stickers and pockets. There’s a pencil bag full of writing tools too. A stack of papers that need to be graded is stuffed along the sides. They might go on an extended ride in the bag for a few days before I can finally sit down to grade them at home. The current novel or picture book that I’m planning on reading to my class is wedged somewhere in between papers and other items.

Of course, in addition, I need my personal purse with my wallet, phone, sunglasses, and other necessities. So now we are talking about some bag inside another bag action happening. Sometimes there’s even an additional shopping bag in the mix that is full of classroom items that I just couldn’t help but buy because they were a good deal.

All of these items hang on my shoulders, forearms, wrists. The collection also includes my lunch bag and the drinking vessel that contains my caffeinated beverage of the day. Sometimes my laptop bag is hanging on for dear life on the tip of one of my fingers. The all important 40 oz Hydro Flask is also either crammed in the teacher bag or hanging on to a different finger, testing the limits of strength and flexibility. Heaven forbid I should become dehydrated during this awkward, imbalanced walk across the parking lot.

Teacher bags2
It’s not as fun as it looks.

If I planned ahead properly, my teacher keys are already around my neck on a lanyard. If they’re not, I have to stop, drop, and dig. Walking up to the entrance of school is quite the production on most days. I’m lucky enough to have my daughter with me because she goes to school here too. Sometimes there’s a mini set of helping hands available for the small fee of a tiny sip of mommy’s iced coffee or energy drink. Oops.    

Once again, a collection of stuff has added an extra challenge, and literally extra weight to one of my daily routines. It hardly seems fair to feel this flustered, as well as experience an ever so slight degree of physical pain before the school day officially begins.

When things get really out of hand, I bust out my rickety old plastic fold-up rolling cart. It’s hideous. My back and shoulders find some temporary relief. Then I have to end up spending additional morning minutes unloading the thing before the bell rings. My back is strained again. No carts or wagons for me, I just won’t do it. Driving up to my classroom to unload stuff and re-parking the car isn’t happening either.

So the big question is, what is actually really necessary to haul to school everyday? I’m not getting any younger, and 40 (*gasp) is around the corner in a couple of years. It would be nice to have a functioning neck and shoulders throughout the remainder of my career, and somewhat healthy posture. It’s not a goal of mine to end up naturally standing lopsided without even realizing it because my body is growing accustomed to being weighed down by bags. Can I possibly lighten the load and eliminate some items?

This school year, I’ll be exploring some new options and routines in an effort to be kind to my body, while also cutting down on the amount of stuff that I cart back and forth to school. Ideas that I’d like to explore:

  • Ditch the actual physical plan book and do the work digitally (scary!!)
  • Be more mindful when buying supplies or items for the classroom. Keep an updated inventory of what I already have.
  • Manage time efficiently during contracted hours and take less work home (I hear the scoffs already)
  • Spy on other teachers in the parking lot and find the ones who don’t carry much at all. Interrogate them and find out how they are able to roll up to school and not look like they’re about to take a week long trip somewhere.

Feel free to comment with some ideas or suggestions on how I can still work efficiently and carry less. Extra points if you’re a teacher! 

Until then, I’m going to enjoy the next  16 days because it’s STILL SUMMER. Many props to my teacher friends and all the kiddos who have already started their year.