Finding Me Again.

week1aIt is so easy to lose myself when I am in school. I spend so much time working with others trying to find their words and themselves, then I come home and I take care of my family and my house. So when it comes time for me to take care of me so little is less. I gave myself two weeks to wallow in the “I am tireds”. I shared that carbs were my friend. I shared I looked for comfort.

But then I reminded myself the reason the whole “less of me” movement began and it centered me. I HAVE to take at least a half an hour for myself. Iweek2b get to choose how that half an hour is spent. For me exercise is a good way because I always feel better after. Therefore, this week I did that. I didn’t really feel like it always or even want to. But I did it. I came in the door and immediately threw on my workout clothes. This is always a motivator for me because it says do it.

After two days I remembered why it is so important to me. I am more centered and focused with my family and my job when I take care of me first and it isn’t that I had to relearn that. It is more I just have to refocus and recenter again. Calibrate if you will. Honestly, what happens when I do that I am able to get more done, I feel better about myself and I sleep and feel better.

week1cFor me health is important now. I weigh usually in the 140’s somewhere. However, I truthfully would like the 130’s and I wouldn’t be opposed to 125 to 130. The 140’s is the high end of the ideal weight chart. The 125 is the lower end of that and truthfully I want to be more lean than smaller. So until my birthday (I am gonna be 40!!! What?!!!?) I am gonna be hyper focused on this goal. Not obsessive. Not unhealthy. But watching portions, remembering abs are built in the kitchen and eating clean.

I celebrated this past weekend with stuffing my face and eating junk. Monday it was on. I followed my plan faithfully. I worked out every single day except the worst day of fatigue for a teacher and that is FRIDAY. Friday will always be rest day. My eating has been completely on point. The results of those efforts have been large.

I lost 3lbs and 3 inches. In all actuality I lost 5 inches, but I gained inches in my biceps, week1bforearms and calves. I know most of my weight loss was more bloating because I cut way back on sodium. But still it is progress. But always what is more important is that I feel better. My color is good, my fatigue is so much better and my energy levels have sky rocketed.

I had my vegan chocolate shakeology every day for breakfast, I have limited myself to 2 servings of carbs (hardest addiction to break), and no sugar at all other than natural occurring sugars. The biggest benefit of all is the massive amounts of clarity that happens when my diet is strict and clean. It makes it all worth it.

I didn’t lose myself as much as I forgot my priorities for a minute.

Less of Me is a Thing, – MR

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Making it an act of criticism 

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Yesterday as my students and I read our book the author made the proclaimation that to be effective communicators we must live our lives as an act of criticism. Think about that. Think about if you do that. Think about just how deep of a thought that is to an adult. Imagine it in a roomful of 16-17 year olds.

We began with simple definitions of the word criticism and started with examples. But it got me thinking…should we or can we even do this? Or better yet how have I lived my life in this way?

I would like to think this idea unintentionally and eventually intentionally has driven most of my successes because they started with the idea that something cannot or should not be done.

I thrive in a world of challenges where the word no resides. I could list all the times I didn’t like something about my world and I found a way to change it or at least add my voice to it. That to me is living as an act of criticism.

But ultimately that statement means to me is use your voice for something and not to just speak. I feel like I do this, but damn it made me think. It made me want to be sure I keep trying to live that life.

Putting myself out there using my voice for good. For love. For kindness. For truth. I hope I can always do that. Not perfection, but living life as an act of criticism.

Pretty Sure that is Living Outloud, -MR

Honoring myself and living out loud.

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She said to a room full of people, “What do you see when you look at me?” Worried what would come next she continued on in a strong voice, “yes, be comfortable and tell the truth.” She wondered:

  • What if they say you are fat?
  • What if they say you are ugly?
  • What if they just stare because why would they tell you what they truly think.
  • Yes it is that BAD. 

Never did it cross her mind that the words that followed would ignite her soul. She had an image of who she thought she was and what she puts out there. But she knows all too well that perceptions are realities, so what if they saw that one time she snapped across the room cause she just couldn’t take more. Or what if they noticed she didn’t smile back and wave.

There is a risk to living out loud. I am turning 40 in two months and it has taken me this long to know I love people who live out loud. The ones who say what they are thinking and apologize to no one for being authentically themselves. The courage it takes to be who you are in a world that tells you constantly who to be is a beautiful thing full of grace for me.

It isn’t that I don’t appreciate others that don’t live out loud. It is just I put myself out there consistently and I am not fake about who I am. Rarely do others not know where they stand in my eyes. It is something I value in myself and others.

So as I asked the question, “What do you see when you look at me?” and my nerves tried to get the better of me with all the “what if’s” but then I began to wonder what if it just didn’t matter. Can I change if they think I am fat and ugly? Nope. And do I care if they just stare because they can’t truly say what they think because it is that BAD. Again nope.

And it isn’t that I don’t care. I do. I care what others think, but not to the extent that I stop being me. I live out loud every single day. I honor myself. I honor who I am and who I have fought to be. That was not an easy battle and I am not even sure when I won. But I did win.

The world is a hard, cruel beast of a place and living an authentic life is a beautiful thing. So when she did ask she was proud of whom she had become because they said, “She is herself proudly and doesn’t care what others think.” And she knew she won.

Literally Living Out Loud, -MR 

You mean I struggle too.

IMG_2355I started school August 3rd. I started consuming carbs like it was my job August 3rd. I didn’t stop. I hid them in my desk. I hid them in my home. Sometimes I blatantly ate more just because no one saw the first time. I bargained with myself that tomorrow would be better. That I would try harder or it would start next Monday. Three weeks in and I am tired of it.

For me….. WHEN I EAT LIKE CRAP I FEEL LIKE CRAP. Two migraines since school started and my digestive issues knocked on the door again. The truth here is you do what you know. For me stress means carb load. My last year and 8 months of hard work didn’t matter. In fact, I think it mattered even less because the scale didn’t move. I felt like I got a free pass.

But I know how that works. My metabolism is high. That means I can eat and burn *for now*. But that *for now* is short lived. I didn’t exercise the first week. I won’t beat myself up for it. Last week I exercised 5 out of the 7 days. That was even better. Today my eating is in tune. My exercise is in tune. There is no restart next Monday. The restart is now.

It scared me how easily I could just pop back to my old ways. On Thursday of last week I IMG_2370came home tired, had a horrible day and I opened the fridge and there was a pepsi in there. I grabbed it and popped it open and chugged. I haven’t had a pepsi since January 2015. It was too easy and the temptation was natural. Grab it drink it…chug it. I did. Then I felt horrible about myself.

That was all it took. Friday I was at the grocery store and I was back to myself. Eating my low carb, clean diet. I am not playing that game with myself ever again. Exercise is my way to deal with stress. Not pepsi, not veggie straws and not 1000 granola bars. But I guess sometimes I forget or I want to easy way out.

Word to the wise, there is no easy way out. The only easy way out is through and through it I will be going. Thankfully, not too much damage was done except to maybe my body that needs a small detox. Day four into this and I am feeling pretty decent. Plus a few knee pairs of tights help with the motivation.😉

Proving Less of Me is an ongoing battle, -MR

The land of no where.

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This blog post probably won’t be particularly exciting. It is something that I continue to carve my niche into. I have been a dual credit college instructor for the last 5 years. And actually is probably more like 7 because when I was on campus I never had a class that didn’t have a high school student sitting in it. I also am sort of a unicorn because I also hold a license for  teaching grades 5-12 grade high school language arts. I am literally standing in the middle of  bridge. Sometimes I feel like the gatekeeper and other times I feel like the usher.

But most of the time I am from the land of no where. I am affiliated with and represent a university that I teach for. I also represent and teach for a public magnet high school and I remember dual credit existing when I was in high school, so I often have to ask myself why is it that dual credit programs seem to still be such an anomaly. To one side my program is likely the enemy because my courses take dollars from their campuses and I am just a high school teacher. To the other side I didn’t go through a formal education college program so I lack some sort of training in classroom management and human behavior.

So I am petitioning for a new role and that is the one of a dual credit instructor because honestly my role is different than both of those. The reality is there are kids sitting in high school classrooms that need and are ready for more, so why shouldn’t we give them more? Do they not deserve the challenge of a high school college classroom because they haven’t reached a traditional age of a college student set many years ago? My answer is they do deserve more.

Or what about the student who is traditionally targeted for dual credit high school programs? The ones who are first generation. The ones who never even could utter the word college because it just wasn’t something they thought possible. The one who is often in an under served population or lacking in resources in their community. Yes let’s talk about them for a minute. No books in their home. There is usually not talk of tomorrow let alone college. Dual credit programs breath life back into those communities and provide opportunity where there once was not. That is not a bad thing.

Yes you could say I am cheap labor I suppose because I am just an adjunct or I am not a real professor. Or you can say I am cheap labor because the government provides incentives for students to utilize dual credit programs in high school. But the reality is dual credit teachers and programs are providing a college education to students who need and want this and deserve it. Why does it matter where it happens?

What happens in my classroom looks exactly the same as it did when my office was housed on a campus and not a high school classroom. And the education experts that say I don’t understand classroom management or human behavior are welcome to sit in my classroom any day they want. My classroom runs pretty amazingly. My students are learning just as much as their adult counterparts did in my instruction. My expectations in my classroom are the exact same as they were when my email address has an .edu behind it. The one real issue that no one can truly understand is what faces a dual credit student. But I can try and I do and have been.

They have the same will and possible want of any student. But the reality is we are talking about a 16-18 year old taking a college class in high school. I have to walk the tight rope of capability. But guess what folks…that looks similar in a college classroom. Their needs are different yes. But it doesn’t come from watered down curriculum or a non-credentialed instructor. I hold a BA and MA in English. I am also 3/4ths of the way to an MA in Communication. So yea I have the credentials.

I will continue to make the argument the best people to understand where a dual credit student comes from  is a dual credit instructor. Especially  who understand who they are teaching. That’s me. But more than anything I will continue to be an advocate for my students and the people I teach with because ultimately we are the ones who are continuing to carve out this space where we are. The one where we aren’t just high school teachers, or college instructors trying to teach high school.

MR, Instructor to some Amazing High School College Students

 

In the end only kindness matters 

If I could tell the world just one thing

It would be that we’re all ok

And not to worry because worry is wasteful

And useless in times like these

I will not be made useless

I won’t be idled with despair

I will gather myself around my faith

For light does the darkness most fear

Dear readers…school started this week which means I am back to full bladders, tired eyes and brains. It also means my writing is intermittent. It will happen, but I gotta rebound. The other day I promised #3 McDonalds breakfast for her last day of summer break. As I was chauffeuring her and her sister to my mother in laws I realized this was the beginning of my year long marathon of momming, teaching, being a graduate student, wife and all the glorious and not so glorious titles I hold. 

My girls were in the car with me and the temptation to be rushed and hurried was there. Sometimes that throws me into fits of yelling, or apologizing for not being a better mom or not being there enough. I realized never do I show them the positive side to myself in these circumstances…especially the morning car rides. As we got to the window to pay I told the cashier I wanted to pay for the order behind us. I didn’t tell the girls I was doing this and really didn’t plan on it. It just happened and their faces lit up. My #2 smiles big and says, “Oh I have always wanted to do this. I just want to see their face.” 

They wondered aloud why I did this and I responded that a year ago we were making a similar drive and I made the exact same Mcd promise to them and that as I was getting in line to pay for our food another car and I got there at the same time and I was nasty. I was fussing at the car and fussing at girls for running late. They got in line in front of us and ending up paying for our food. I felt humbled and embarrassed and I promised myself I would repay the kindness. I waited for that time and it came. 

But it wasn’t really the repayment I was after. I wanted them to feel what it feels like to do something kind for another when you truly have no reason to. I moved about my busy day and didn’t think about it again until tonight when I sat down thinking about this week. I am glad we started our day and year off that way. I am also grateful to the guy who made sure he let the girls know how grateful he was for our random act of kindness. For that moment during that day we knew nothing other than making someone else happy. It felt good. 

So Jewel was right readers….”In the end only kindness matters…” -MR 

My faith and I.

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That is probably the biggest part of my religion I struggle with? You go to church and you sit next to the family who looks perfect on the outside. They are put together. They just left bible study where their kids did their required reading and mom and dad just made and cleaned up the perfect breakfast at home.

Then you sit next to my family. I can assure you that my house is still messy from that breakfast. And that breakfast possibly looked a little more like pop tarts or sometimes even a left over cupcake wrapper. You may have accidentally heard me mutter the “s” word in church. I didn’t mean to, but I realized # 3 brought my nail polish to church and it spilled all over my purse including my cell phone. My guy and I were probably not talking in the car because he rushed me with my eyeliner and my # 1 is really mad she had to get up so early at 10 o’clock.

See folks I live in the reality. The reality is that that messy kitchen carries with it a lot of giggles and cuddles between all of us. Or that nail polish is reminiscent of our girls night away trip and I was in a rush and #3 stuck it in my purse. Or that I truly believe God loves me for me even if I did accidentally say the “s” word in church. That is the faith I live in.

I am not perfect. My family isn’t perfect. My kids aren’t perfect. What you see on the outside isn’t always what is on the inside. In fact, the inside is chaotic and imperfect. But imperfect is how God expects me to be. I have explained here so many times….I grew up in many different faiths. A grandmother who took me to her church, a catholic father, a converted catholic mother both of whom practiced off and on. A non-denomination christian best friend who took me to church with her. A very impact full Buddhist teacher. Several groups of non-denomination friends and a church and a baptism later. Neighbors, distant family members and friends all had a hand in my religious upbringing. One thing was common in all of them.

Faith. Grace. Forgiveness and Love. That is my faith. That is my religion. It isn’t my job to say you aren’t raising your kids right. It isn’t my job to judge your marriage. It isn’t my job to tell you the best life to live. It is my job to be faithful to my beliefs, raise my kids as I believe God would want me to and practice my faith, grace, forgiveness and love as best I can daily. And I try.

And I understand that fellowship is a huge part of religion and I guess see parts of fellowship different because of the way I was raised with varying beliefs and varying personalities. When my relationships are based on my four pillars of faith I do see and feel fellowship because I know I am in the company of like minded people who believe about the world the way I do and that is everyone matters and has value and all the labels in the world don’t change their value.

I think we just like to complicate it and in those moments when I feel myself trying to make it more complicated or not follow my own beliefs about faith I try and surround myself with people who aren’t afraid to remind me or people who I know will get me through till I figure it out. Those the faithful. I just hope I can and do return the favor.

Till next time. -MR

I hate regret. Maybe this is a problem.

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I am a risk taker. I seriously live off of the idea that something cannot/should not/would not be happening. A little too much. When something comes up and I feel even slightly like it is something I need/want to or should do I feel compelled to do to the point that I basically run out into the middle of the road and flag it down.

I am so afraid of living a life of regrets. Most people are fearful to take make life changes and me I welcome them always. What is wrong with me seriously? I think it is the challenge. I think it is better than sitting in a bucket of your own regret wondering “what if?” I never want to live that life.

So opportunity knocks and I wonder and try like heck to avoid regret. 

-MR

 

 

Part Letter. Part Life.

.February 2007.

“#1 told me today that it wasn’t fair that girls can’t do everything boys can. I mean she was crying and in tears at 6. What she was referring to or where it came into mind I am not really sure. I told her I know it isn’t fair. I went on and we talked about how women make less money than men by 25 cents (dear God I told my kindergartner this?) She thought for a minute, she looked me dead in the eye and smiled and said, “I know.” And the scary thing she truly looked like she did.” 

Want some context? Monday I did the traditional teacher purge of clothes in my closet I IMG_1962 (1)made an awesome find. I found a binder with probably 300 pages of writing altogether. I wrote this story about my # 1.

As I read those words I cried. Not the sad cry. The super proud moment where I thought oh my how did I not see it then.  My (almost) 15 year old cares more about politics, equality and ethics than I ever even thought of when I was even 20. She is a 15 year old in a 30 year old body. Sometimes we have to tell her to chill out. But I love it so very much. I do wonder what that momma was thinking back then. I did always make a pact to real talk with my kiddos, but telling my 6 year old that women make 25 cents less on the dollar then men….??

My girl. My # 1. My mini-me is going to be 15 Friday. 15. Gonna be taking driver’s ed and driving. Gonna be leaving my house in four years to go to college. A college she has been stalking for a long time. A college far away from me. Woah. So in honor of that and her….

My dear sweet baby girl # 1- 

How is it that you are going to be 15? Weren’t you just that tiny little girl in kindergarten that came home crying that someone was mean to another girl in school and it made you so upset. I hugged you and said, “Baby girl, what did you do?” You responded, “I didn’t know what to do. I sat there.” I I asked you how your stomach felt when that happened and you said “funny, why?” I told you that God gives us those feelings because it is sign we need to do something. We went through all that you could have done. I didn’t realize it then, but those stories are numerous. Story after story of you with your heart on your sleeve. 

I hate to tell you baby girl. You got that from me. It is a burden sometimes, but I am so proud of how far you have come. And no that doesn’t make you immune to your own sense of meanness. You aren’t perfect. None of us are. Sometimes you say things you shouldn’t or react in a way you will regret. But this is where I would like to remind you that we all make mistakes. Say I am sorry. Say it a lot and say it with meaning. If others can’t accept your imperfections. Hug them goodbye and don’t be afraid to move on. 

Notice I didn’t say it won’t hurt because the reality is that it will. Sometimes it will hurt a hell of a lot. Sometimes it will hurt so much you will want to compromise who you are and please don’t ever do that. There is no one else in the world just like you. If there is anything I ever want for you (or your sisters) in this life it is just that. Be okay with being uniquely you with your scars, imperfections and I am sorrys. Also always remember that “funny” feeling in your stomach. It is there for a reason. 

You were our first so of course we made mistakes. Gosh we made (and will continue to make them) with all of you, but with you I know you got to see me royally screw up (look above 6 year old 25 cent comment) over and over. Often you were front and center and I am sorry for that. And when Daddy got sick and had his surgery you had to step up and be an adult sometimes even though you were so young. And yea it changed our lives and made things feel a little more scary, but woah look at how close we all became because of TN. It wasn’t fair and isn’t fair, but trust me baby girl I got this. We got this. We got you. 

Daddy and I figured it out. Sure we will make mistakes and no it won’t always be perfect, but spread your wings, make silly mistakes, strive for some imperfections because now is the time. You have us to fall back on. You will always have us. The time will come when you get to go out into the world and be an adult. Please don’t take yourself so seriously now and be sure to spend many late nights up with your friends giggling, fighting, singing because that is how you know you are living. And yea it is okay if you like a boy. But it is also okay if you don’t. Life is meant to be lived not on the sidelines, but right the heck in the middle of that game. 

Yes you may trip, you may fall and you may want to quit. But don’t do it; it is who you become after the fall that makes life worth living. And can we just take a moment and thank God for Daddy. He lets us keep our head in the clouds and shooting for the moon, but he keeps us grounded and reminds us that home is safety and comfort. Home is where we get to fall down and figure out our way up. 

I am sorry (okay no I am not really) you didn’t get the television version of a mom. I may not go to church every single Sunday. I probably cuss too much and I know I shoot a little straight sometimes. I maybe intense, driven and stubborn, but girl I am always in your corner and that you will never have to question. I have always raised you to have your own mind and speak it and if the above isn’t evidence of that I am not sure what is. My faith is strong. My love for my people, my life is so strong it could move mountains and shatter walls. So no I am not apologizing for that. Not ever. 

But if I don’t say it enough I am so incredibly proud of you and who you are. You are gorgeous inside and out and I know you will make a mark on this world in ways that neither of us can even imagine. My request is simple: Follow your passion, love, love, love and love, never ever let anyone tell you, “No, you can’t do something”! (Except of course me. :D) And be kind. Be kind to every human you come in contact with. You have no idea the battle they face every day. Finally, forgive yourself because remember love always wins with you and with others. Love always wins sweet baby girl # 1. 

Love, Your Momma 

And this is where I hang on tight, pray hard and love her up because time is flying and soon it will be time for me to truly let her go.

Thanks dear readers – MR

 

Make Em’ better than when you got Em’ 

I had a student write me a note earlier this year thanking me for all of my heart and time I give to my school. The student mentioned that they didn’t realize what a sacrifice it was until one Saturday they watched as I interacted with my girls during one our weekend events. The letter mentioned that it was so neat to see the love I interacted with them and how similar it looked to the way I move and interact in my classroom. 

That letter has stuck with me this summer. I am keenly aware that being a teacher’s child means that suddenly your sharing a parent with 30-120 more kids a day. And then my girls hit the jackpot with two teachers. At first I was a little embarrassed as if I had sat my girls aside in favor of my school, my job, I care for so deeply. So I just asked them and to hear what my own girls thought of me and my job confirmed what I should have already known. I am doing exactly what I should be doing. I am living my best and most purposeful life and changing the lives of others daily and they see it. They get it. 

Then I had a mind shift. As a teenager in high school I sat in a classroom where I felt broken. I felt ignored and uncared for. I was scared to tell anyone. I made bad decisions and I didn’t ever think of tomorrow. Then a teacher who looked and acted very much like me made me the editor of student publications. A small tiny gift that changed my life and outlook on life  forever. 

I recognize the power I have in that room I walk into every single day and the fact that as I sit here typing this crying reminds me. I teach because of my girls. I teach because there are kids out there just like me that need a teacher like me. Teaching for me looks similarly to my mothering. I teach English and we read great books and we write. But I really teach confidence, overcoming, authenticity, agency, voice and power. I do that because when we find those things we find kindness and love. 

Yesterday at lunch my girls each rushed through what they wanted to be when they grow up. One wants to be a chemist, the other a cake decorator (hang on a hot minute it can change quickly and did a few times while we were there) and the other wants to work at Culvers. They asked me what I wanted to be when I was their age. I thought for a minute and I laughed. They asked why and I said, “I wanted to be a writer. I always wanted to be a writer.” They got sad faced a little and said, “Oh.” 

I said, “wait a minute….why are you sad? I have two degrees in writing. I teach writing. I teach others how to write.” I write every single day. They smiled and one of them proclaimed, “I want to be like you and do what I love, so I don’t hate going to work.” My heart soared. I smiled and said, “Exactly.” 

So yes I mother a whole lot of kids in this world beyond my three girls. It is a part of my calling. I am doing what I am meant to do. I wake up every morning not just going about my life, but trying to make our lives better by making the people  I come in contact with lives better than when they came to me. Leaving people better than when you got them isn’t that bad of a lesson to teach your children.

Sometimes that transformation is learning about commas, sometimes it is giving them confidence in being who they are and other times it is writing a college essay. The lessons I teach every day vary in depth and subject matter. For years I wondered if teaching with my heart was a weakness, but I realized there is nothing better than standing in a room full of teenagers and teaching them to be unapologetically themselves and support them in doing so. They need to see that. I am proud and honored for that privilege, but no more proud and honored than I am to teach it to my three baby girls.