Monday, August 3, 2020

Once Upon a Corona Time

Traditionally this is my New Year’s Day...the day schools reopen to prepare for the (presumably exciting) new year ahead. For myself, the educators in my family and our kids, who are students, this day is always a big deal. 

Instead, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, every thing about this morning is different. 

While our coworkers, friends and colleagues return to our buildings, ready to make schedules and lessons my husband and I are working from home recovering from the virus.

Covid-19 is a plundering thief. It’s stolen our health, our joy, our peace, our time, our money, our oxygen, our ability to work, sleep, taste, smell, plan, play, share, learn and be with our loved ones.

On a day when I should be behind the helm of my desk helping, leading, and answering the phones like a boss - I’m home nursing a cough and a sad spirit.

Never have I wanted to work more.

So your conspiracy theory is irrelevant to me. Your anger regarding masks is nothing but noise. Covid-19 is not fake news. Covid-19 is a real virus (like no other I’ve ever experienced) and it is here in our lives causing real havoc leaving us in a complete state of disequilibrium.

And it’s frightening. 

In this moment, I implore you, do not unleash your feelings of fear and anger - over what you’ve lost and what you are losing - on people. Your teacher wants to teach. Your dr wants to treat. Your neighbor wants a visit. Your bride wants to marry. Your coach wants to play. Your clerk wants to be safe. Your small business owner wants to provide.

Don’t be angry at the people.

It’s the ‘Rona who’s a jerk ... not the people.

Instead of starting the new school year with anticipation I’m starting it grevious. 
I’m sad. 
I think we’re all a little sad, too.

So this is what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna let myself be sad. I’m gonna feel my feelings. I’m going to let them be.  I think when we hide from our feelings, or cover them up, or pretend they’re not there we do our mental health a disservice. I think we heal when we feel.  

Covid-19 has stolen (IS stealing!!!) from all of us. 
And you’re allowed to have your feelings about what that means and looks like for your family.
But please be kind.
We’re all hurting. 
There’s a lot to do today...this school year....things we’ve never done before - things we shouldn’t have to do. 
One thing I do know ... we are a resilient species. In my gut I believe that we will
& overcome.

Someday my grand babies will ask me to tell them what it was like to live in a pandemic. So I remind myself what I do today, right now, how I handle this mess is all going to be a story someday. I intend to tell a real whopper. Won’t you join me?

Friday, February 7, 2020

Point of View

Think about how you tell yourself stories.
I don't mean consciously. I don't mean "Once Upon a Time..."

I mean the unruly words in your head. I am talking about the stories you tell yourself about:
  • the woman who cut you off at the grocery store
  • the car that took your spot in the parking lot
  • the tone your boss/coworker/cousin took 
  • the way she sounded on the phone
  • about why they don't call anymore
  • about the way things are
  • or were
The thoughts -in my head- swim around all day long and, really, long past my bedtime. These stories are often full-length documentaries
about what happened,
what needs to happen,
what do do about what happened
or didn't.

And all those stories I tell myself
 - - all of them - - 
are from my point of view

Authors call it POV.

I have a complete story about everything:
the look you gave me
my worth as a person 
my neighborhood
my friends,
acquaintances and strangers.

I form opinions, make snap judgments and create entire stories without any conscious effort at all.
You guys! I make up stories ... all ... the ... time
and all of them
every detail
every observation is all from
my POV.

What if the same story was told from a different POV? 
One more time for the people in the back ....

What if the same story was told from a different POV? 
The story would change, wouldn't it?

And if, there are other POVs then maybe 
just maybe
your POV is not the ONLY POV
and if,
if your point of view is not the ONLY one
then it
is very probable that you are not ... ahem, right all the time. 

Your point of view is a story
but it is not the only story. 

Pause and consider with me for just a moment that maybe your point of view is a little skewed 
and self-serving. 

Or maybe that's just me.

And if I am being honest with you, I would confess that those self-serving, quick to judge stories leave me feeling a little icky.
So when I feel myself - my stories - turning inward and my headspace gets super negative
I know I need to ask myself a very important question,

"What if the story you're telling yourself isn't true?"

This question stops me mid plot twist every darn time.

There are multiple points of view.
There are also all sorts of personalities.
And nuances
and ways of doing things. 

I am so much happier and content
when I remind myself that my way of seeing things
is not the only way.

Maybe we could all be reminded.
I don't want you to suffer. I know you can't help - heck I can't help - that I am the main character in my own stories all the time .... it's what we do. Brene Brown has taught us we don't have to be victims in these stories.


"Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we'll ever do!"

Let's be brave!

I don't want you to believe the lies.
I want your drama to be low.
I want you to live and work and walk in peace.
Next to me.
Let's navigate this life
this story
with a leading lady mentality
where we can do all the hard things
AND be kind.

I think we're looking to be connected
I am
and sometimes my stories in my head stop me from doing that.
I'm working on that.
I invite you to as well.

xo Steph

Friday, March 15, 2019

Where Would You Park?

Chip Gaines, Author

My daughters & I drive the same way to school & work every morning - it's a little Groundhog Day-ish ... same people, same time, same traffic pattern ....

We always notice that one small business, in particular, always has patrons.

Cool, right? We love seeing that in our small town.

However, we noticed the customers always seem to be walking, balancing their packages because the (mostly only) street parking spots are regularly occupied by the same cars.

On a rainy day this week, observing folks maneuver through puddles and traffic, I asked the girls, (making the assumption that the parked cars were employee cars)

"Where would you park if you were the owner?"

[Blank stares]

"Wouldn't you want your customers to have the BEST experience? Wouldn't you want them to have the most accessibility?"

[Blank stares]

Sensing a potential lightbulb moment I pressed on because I want my daughters to be the kind of people who are thoughtful, considerate, wise...aware.

In a world where the news headline is about the parents who pushed their way to the front of the college admittance line, I want to raise people who don't have to push and shove, who can prefer others without being threatened. Who understand that kindness is a sharable resource. And who can see beyond to a bigger picture.

To be able to ponder the question... what is best for the 'us' and not *just* what is best for me.

This is what I think it means to write a better story with my life. With a pen in my hand, I want to the story to be written that I cared for others
and raised kids who know how to do that too
- should they choose.

p.s. also thank you for this great quote Chip Gaines. You and Joanna make the world a better place one shiplap and quote at a time ;)

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

How Defensive Are You?

Give me a D! Give me an E! ... Defense!

image credit Rolling Stone
Now that the Patriots have beat the Saints, Super Bowl fever has officially hit football fans everywhere.
I’m a foodie and a marketing major college drop-out so I spend my time researching nacho recipes and branding trends.
I’m in it for the commercials.
Oh and Adam Levine. #HalftimeShow

Nevertheless, this is not a football article. But can we talk about defense for just a minute? Defense is usually a term saved for athletic competitions but people can go on the defense too. And we do it every day.

You’ve been defensive, right?
Your work gets critiqued ... you defend yourself.
A loved one accuses you of not caring/helping/listening?
You defend yourself.
You get held accountable? Defensive. There are lots of scenarios in which I am instigated into becoming defensive.
It's life.
It is a part of who we are and I imagine it has a lot to do with our will to survive. Innately we’re all trying to survive and thrive and any challenge to that will provoke us to be defenders of ourselves. Lucky for us we don’t have to fight for caves or land or fire anymore. So instead we fight for our reputation or our social status.

When something - anything, really - happens that instigates us to feel the need to become defensive ... whether it's justified or not (because sometimes, if we’re honest, our adamant need to defend ourselves is unnecessary)... it does one thing; it immediately isolates us emotionally.

It’s why when we feel wronged we immediately find someone to agree with us.
Let me create an example: my husband and I share a closet and he becomes critical of the way I organize my side and he expresses to me that he is infuriated with the state of all my stuff.
My response -  I immediately explain to him all the reasons why my side of the closet looks the way it does:
”I need all those clothes”
”I do 100 things every day to take care of this family, I would think those things would count for something” and
”Oh, yeah? Well, talk to me when you remember to pick your socks up off the floor!”

Instead of listening, I defend myself further creating a space between us
that gap becomes dreadfully, emotionally uncomfortable.

In order to avoid the isolating discomfort that forms in the wake of my defensiveness, I must find a way to not feel alone so I look for someone to talk to.
Because if someone would just listen to my closet woes and agree with me, then I don’t feel alone and if I’m not alone
I feel better and if I feel better
I feel right.
So I call a girlfriend, “Can you believe my husband is incredibly clueless? He’s mad about OUR closet when I’m the one who does all the laundry? He knows I need work clothes and casual clothes! It’s not MY fault I need so many things! I swear he has a lot of nerve telling me how to keep my closet!”
To which my faithful friend says, “He’s ignorant! All you do for that family and he’s gonna fuss about closet space!”
And now I feel completely validated, and since I’m not alone - my friend totally agrees with me - the discomfort I felt is gone! "See?" I tell myself, "being defensive about the mess on my side of the closet worked" and I feel - BAM! - justified.

And yet the problem remains.

How many times do we run into similar scenarios?
We’re right?
They’re wrong?
Somebody agree with me.
Are you always right? Really?
Are you quick to be defensive?

Here’s what I know....nothing ever changes without first examining our beliefs. Author Mark Manson states “Openness to being wrong must exist before any change or growth can take place

Soon, maybe even before today is over,
heck, maybe before you’ve even read this entire article,
someone will say something to you that doesn’t match your preconceptions.
That doesn’t make them wrong - I mean they could be -
but maybe it’s an opportunity for you -
an opportunity if you’re open.
A chance to learn
to grow
to change
to feel that sweet feeling of not having to have your emotional fists up all the d@mn time.
Because when you’re not on the defense you’re on offense.
And you know that’s where the points are scored
and the matches are won, right?

"Go Team! Go, YOU!"

Also, I'm making these nachos!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Sink or Swim?

Being brave isn't the absence of fear. Brave is what you are when you're looking fear in the face.
I posted some videos on my Facebook account last night of Abby swimming in her second high school swim meet, ever.
Let me tell you about the backstory of those videos.
Abigail has previously swam YMCA club swim.
And she loves it!
This year, upon entering high school she was interested in improving, swimming against tougher competition, and .... she was incredibly, almost overwhelming, nervous about it.
This fall, she and three other student swimmers have banded together and are trying to organize a girls swim team for their high school.
Which if you've ever tried to start something from the ground up is very, very difficult. Now imagine the resilience required for 4 high school students to tackle these waters. (See what I did there??)
There are walls, and red tape, and grown-ups and insurance issues and mindsets to overcome.
Am I right?
They've addressed the Board of Education soliciting support.
They've talked to admin to discuss options.
They've not been granted official team status yet
they organize their own practices and schedules.
They enter events as individuals but work as a team.
They've designed their own logos and proudly wear their gear to school.
They work hard. Swim hard.
They hold their head high.
I drove the girls on Tuesday to their first ever high school swim meet. The atmosphere on the car ride up was jovial. They sang and laughed and snapped (Snapchat). However, when we pulled into the parking lot of the school I heard Abby say, "How are we here already?". I looked in the mirror and her face was utter terror rubbing her palms on her thighs. It was clear she was having a very anxious moment.
The van got silent.
We parked and unloaded our gear.
The walk to the building was like a gauntlet.
Slowly they marched sneaking anxious peaks at one another.
One teammate stopped, leaned over, put her hand on her knees and began to breathe deeply.

You guys, I have never been more proud in my entire life.

These 4 students were arguable embarking on one of the most nervous encounters in their lives.
And yet they pressed on. They. Pressed. On!
They got in that pool.
And ... and they did awesome!
I don't mean like "The moment was awesome!" - although it totally was. I mean they literally entered their events and swam awesomely!
They did not get laughed out of the pool.
They held their own.
They took 4th in the 200 Yard Free Relay - in VARSITY (not bad for 3 freshmen and 1 senior)!
And my Abby had a personal best (30.58) in the 50 Free.
THAT's bravery.
Bravery isn't not being scared.
Bravery is forging ahead when you feel scared.
Bravery is being afraid to try but you trying anyway.
Bravery is holding your head up when your heart is racing and your palms are sweaty.
Bravery is public speaking.
Bravery is meeting new friends.
Bravery is pushing yourself to do better.
Sometimes bravery looks like diving into unfamiliar waters knowing there's a good chance you may sink ... or swim.
p.s. The success of these 4 gals is shared wholeheartedly with the other swimmoms & swimdads, the high school admin team and friends and loved ones who are lending their support everywhere we go! It really does take a village!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Word of Advice for Teachers

I had teachers.
My children have teachers.
I'm married to a teacher.
My daughter became a teacher.
I work for teachers.

I think I’ve earned a voice regarding teachers. I have a little something I’d like to say…

You are very important.
You may not feel important.
You may not have recognition.
You may not have parent support
or feel like you have admin support.
You may wish you were younger, the kids were better, and the parents more involved.
You probably don't have all the supplies you need.
And you probably had a tough day. Or rough week. Or need a stiff drink.
I know.
But don’t surrender your calling.
And please don't stop caring about kids.
You good teachers - - you who work with kids, skip lunch to help kids, make phone calls home, adapt lesson plans for different learning styles and stare at the ceiling every night plotting new seating charts  ... you men and women who are DOING IT RIGHT NOW ... listen!
You wouldn't let a student give up on a mastering a skill - don't let yourself either.
Push. Work. Stretch. Grow. Forgive. Try. Fail. Get up. Teach. Repeat.
Standards be damned . . . don't stop because it is hard.
Because all good things are hard.
All the really good things are worth digging for.
Sweating over.
Falling into bed at the end of the night exhausted for.

My kids need you.
My neighbor's kids need you.
They need love and guidance and skills and the leadership that you - and only you - can bring into their lives.

You are a teacher.
You are important.
Keep up the good work and I appreciate you.

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