balance, classroom, health and wellness, mindful

The Questions You May Not Ask

Teaching 4th grade will always hold a special place in my heart. California history, particularly the Gold Rush Era, was one of my favorite units to teach. During the first 5 or so years of my career, my grade level colleagues and I would devote endless hours of coordination, fundraising,  and planning to send our students to a 3 night camp in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Gold Camp. It’s what you did when you got to 4th grade. History was learned. Forever memories were made.

The journey to get there however, was EXHAUSTING. Every year, through tireless fundraising efforts, we scraped together enough money to finance transportation for the 2 hour drive up to Sonora, California. What was the mode of transportation? The big blue school bus that could. It wasn’t the most updated vehicle. I remember feeling the engine straining as we traveled up the winding mountain roads (with million dollar views, mind you), while the kiddos with motion sick tummies expelled their queasiness into gallon Ziploc bags. I remember feeling so “done” with the trip even before we got off the bus.

All of the stress and exhaustion always took a dramatic turn for the better when we unloaded the bus, stood on solid ground, and inhaled the crisp mountain air. Things continued to improve when the camp staff and parent chaperones took charge of the program and activities. The teachers could get back to their regularly scheduled breathing.

gold camp
Teacher BFFs 9 years ago. Stuck on the big blue bus.

The ground rules were set, including the most important one. Our fearless camp leader made it known right away.  

“There will be NO What are we gonna…? or When are we gonna?… questions. Ever. Don’t even try to re-frame your questions to not sound like those kinds of questions.”

Best educational rule ever. I sometimes forget how powerful and simple the concept is. Let people (and little ones) enjoy their time as it happens. A schedule is set in place as a guide, but it is not meant to be a spoiler.

I too, followed the advice over the duration of camp and I was able to enjoy it so much more. I learned something new along with the kids every year. The scenery kept my calm levels in check even though I was in the midst of the most stressful field trip of the year. I will never forget the amazing sights and sounds, even during the muddy and rainy years. Nelson’s Columbia Candy Kitchen? YES. Keep in mind though, another ground rule was to not buy the baseball sized jawbreakers as your Gold Camp souvenir. The vistas and feeling of accomplishment after the ditch hike will be a forever memory in mental teacher file. Columbia State Park Cemetery walk? My favorite.

Maintaining the delicate balance of anticipation of what’s to come, and suffering over what you can’t control is a hard thing to do. I struggle with it all the time, through milestones and small moments. Then I remember Gold Country. I remember living in the now, even back then, because that was all I could do in the moment. 

I’ll remember this happy place as a fun, yet stressful memory in my career. I’ll also remember that sometimes I can’t allow myself to ask, “What are we gonna?….” or “When are we gonna?”.

I’ll find out. Everyone will.

Until then…

Maybe I’ll plan a family trip up to The Queen of The Southern Mines sometime soon.


 

http://www.sonoraca.com/

 

https://www.columbiacandykitchen.com/

 

https://www.visitcalifornia.com/attraction/columbia-state-historic-park

 

https://www.gocalaveras.com/location/california/gold-country/murphys-california/

 

balance, declutter, health, health and wellness, mindful, working mom

I Remembered. I forgot.

I Remembered:

to schedule the county health dental presentation

8:15 morning yard duty

to clean the house for the birthday party

to eat breakfast (in the car)

to turn in the time sheet

to make the copies

to buy the milk

the day my daughter was born 8 years ago

to drink water at recess

to say, “Thank You”


I Forgot:

to wash the swimsuits for swim team day

to sign the reading log

to throw away the pee pee diaper

to say,  “Happy Birthday” to a colleague

to go to the bathroom at recess

to gas up the car

to send the email

to speak up

the laptop charger

deodorant for the weekend getaway

to stop and take a breath



I’ll remember more things this week, and I’ll forget a lot too. I’ll receive kudos, and I’ll receive naughty note reminders.

 

Until then,

All that matters is right now. Sometimes that is the hardest thing for me to remember.

balance, health and wellness, mindful

Kleenex Box Donations, Please

Sometimes I underestimate the power of a really good cry. I am fully aware of the healthy alternatives to bottling up my emotions and letting them all spew out at once unexpectedly. Exercise is probably best. Meditation would be next on my list.

But bottled emotion is like convenience food for my mental health sometimes. It’s easy. It helps me move on with life. However, eventually, my mind has to get rid of the waste and the thought patterns that no longer serve me. Bawling my eyes out is sometimes the way to go. It feels good after it’s all said and done. Kind of.

It’s obviously unnerving when a crying fest gets rolling and reaches the point of no return. The other night, my speaking ability reached the ultimate level of talk-yell-crying. It’s a way of communicating that involves trying to FORCE the words out while desperately trying catch breath. Why even bother trying to verbalize anything? Probably because it has to just come out somehow.

Everything that was bothering me just worked its way out in big spurts of jumbled phrases. Sadness and anger fueled the tears. The feeling of insecurity and disappointment in myself and my twisted view of thinking that I’m not good enough kept the waterworks running. Anxiety was definitely in the mix. Exhaustion? You bet. I accessed emotions that I had conveniently tucked away weeks before. My husband was there to listen, and try to make sense of it all. I don’t know what I would do without him.

There has been SO MUCH INPUT in my life lately. Visual, auditory, digital, sentimental, emergency, you name it. Processing it and taking action has been a challenge. Over the course of the last 5 days, I have become so much more appreciative of others’ experiences, struggles, and perspectives. Everyone who is involved in my life has something so meaningful and genuine to share with me. I’m thankful for it all.

And sometimes, I just need time to cry about it. 

The next morning, I pulled it together, threw my hair in a bun and chose to wear glasses and a T-shirt to work. Thank goodness it was College Wear Wednesday. I also skipped a shower. I took all necessary steps to remedy and treat the eye and face puffiness.

I received compliments about my appearance throughout the day. Mr. Custodian noticed how lovely my hair looks when it’s up. A parent in my room said I look adorable, and I informed her it was my “no time” look. She said she wished she could pull it off. My students questioned my glasses, but they liked them (supposedly).

glasses
The “No Time” look

The words gave me the boost I needed. I was noticed. I was acknowledged. I felt loved. However, I am all of the above, all of the time. My husband and my own children are the first to let me know at the start of every day. Sometimes I carelessly overlook it when I’m stressed. 

There are so many people out there who have not found their support system yet. This week I learned that everyone is allowed to be in tune with their mental state, and seek out connection with others. It takes a lot of courage to be on the listening end. It takes a lot to be the one who offers the space to connect with someone who is vulnerable or sad. This message just so happened to be promoted to the students at my school all week. It impacted me as well. Reach out. Connect. Be brave.

Check out the link to Start With Hello Week and the Sandy Hook Promise. I was inspired and my perspective was regained. Coincidentally, it was the best kind of reset and recharge that I needed. 

Start With Hello Week